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21 Jun

After a what felt like a very long departure from pre-baby (i.e my ‘normal’)life, the new mama finally ventured out into the world, celebrating her first night off with the girls (J, Z and L)at local eatery Firechief – the freshly baked ‘bun’ stayed home with dad.

Fried Calamari

Having perused the extensive pizza menu – pizzas are served in three styles: authentic naples style, modern artisan ‘hand styles’ and the Australian family pizza (think flavours like the Aussie and Meatlovers) – we were all pretty excited to give this new pizzeria a go.  There is also a good list of non-pizza things to choose from including a few pastas which unfortunately we didn’t get to sample, given the pasta-phobe amongst us.

To start we chose the calamari which comes fried in a light batter and served with a  tzatziki style dip.  Simple and fresh, it was the perfect appetizer ahead of the main event – the pizzas (oh and a side of tomato salad for good measure – light and fresh to balance the carb fest we were about to begin)

Naples Style Margherita

Artisan Funghi

We opted for a Naples style Margherita, artisan hand style Funghi and Calabrese.  The Margherita was my personal favourite – the balance of the sweet and slightly tart tomatoes in the napoli sauce base and the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella was a wonderful combination topped with fresh basil.

Artisan Calabrese

The Funghi and Calabrese were tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The artisan hand style pizzas had a thicker base, which we found to be a bit too doughy – not great if you want to take your time and pick at the pizza because you then end up with one big gooey, chewy mess.  The Naples style was much better.

Leatherwood Honey Pannacotta

Although feeling absolutely stuffed after our carb loaded feast, we all suddenly found new stomachs for dessert.  We ordered three to share (if you ask my DDO counterpart Pannacotta doesn’t count as a dessert…read on and you’ll find why I’m right).

Orange Torta

Deconstructed Tiramisu

We chose the Leatherwood honey pannacotta, Orange Torta and the dessert special which looked like a deconstructed tiramisu.  The pannacotta was light in flavour – in fact it tasted a little like leather, so wouldn’t recommend it.  The Orange Torta was lovely, served with some cream – it was fresh and not too sweet, and the right sort of slightly moist (sorry J I can’t think of another word to describe it) and crumbly texture.  The deconstructed tiramisu was surprisingly good – served in a glass, it reminded me of trifle, except this one was a mix of chocolatey, coffee and alcoholic goodness.

All in all, a great night was had.  Whilst the pizza didn’t exactly blow my socks off, Firechief is certainly a good dining option for where it is, and next time I will try the pasta! (Plus its BYO AND big enough to fit a large pram!!!)


169 Camberwell Rd
Hawthorn East VIC 3123

(03) 9831 1700

Pizza Religion and a Cheekin’ Great Time

2 Aug

Like a Catholic praying to a Saint for a miracle, after today’s Roller Coaster of emotions I can confidently say I can rely on Pizza Religion for my miracle (…and Yes!  Today’s miracle was as simple as putting a smile on my dial!  Today proved to be an emotionally Terrible Tuesday!  Until I settled into the comforting embrace of P.R)   DDO had decided a night before it was time to revisit Pizza Religion – I’m trying to tick all my culinary favourites as frequently as my stomach can allow before I head for NYC – if not just to be extremely satisfied in the belly, to make sure we got to try the much talked about fortnightly specials.

After the disappointment of missing out on the flavour slice that was the special of asparagus, goats cheese, egg & truffle oil upon our last visit, I made sure I made it clear to the masterminds behind my prayers being answered, Kris and Matt, that I was there for the Special.  And only The Special!  They were kind enough to ensure they’d save a serve for me.  Prayers already answered… or so I thought!!

We entered to the ever friendly faces of Matt and Kris, were promptly seated and then, out of no-where, like they’d heard my cries from my day of despair… “We’ve also made the Braised Beef Cheek for you!”  Like music to my ears, my frown was officially turned upside down!! This Braised Beef Cheek had been on my carbo-lovin-Meat-crazed mind since first hearing about it on my first ever visit to P.R.  And – much to the annoyance of the PR crew – I’d been begging/pleading/praying to the Pizza Gods that they bring it back before I go.  My prayers were answered… There is a God (?)

Super Special: Sherry Braised Beef Cheek with Celeriac Puree & Gremolata

As we settled into our wine, it didn’t take long for our 3 pizza’s to arrive.  The Braised Beef cheek was first of my priorities (… meat…Slow cooked!   Livin’ the dream!!)  As this was not meant to be served until the next day, our pizza’s Cheek had only being cooking for a little over 4 hours (normally they leave it on for 6-7 hours).  But coming out on that bed of celeriac and perfectly fresh pizza base, the braised beef cheek was soft as a cloud and fell apart in the mouth with ease!  If you’d ask my DDO counterpart, she’d say it was too rich.  Enjoyable!  But rich!!! I say the richer the better! The fatty in me wishes i didn’t have to share this pizza…

Special: Char Sui Pork Belly with corriander, bean shoots and fried noodles

Next on my plate was the other special, the Char Sui Pork Belly.  Normally I DIE for some pork belly!! And this was enjoyable, what with that fresh corriander to balance out the sweetness of the Char Sui dressing and the crispy noodles to create that TEXTURE bomb with each bite.  Along with all the other elements the pork belly is thinly sliced but generously placed right to the edges.  Well  balanced and very refreshing (…although I would have liked CHUNKS of pork belly as opposed to slices… which would probably translate more like a pork belly souvalaki then a pizza!!  Which is exactly why I do the eating!! and NOT the cooking!!)

Chorizo, Prawns, Chipole sauce & Jalapenos $18

Our last flavour is one of JP’s favourites (and also a meat option) which is a constant on the menu.  Each element of these toppings works so harmoneously.  Spicy, fresh, sweet and the kick of the occasional Jalapeno makes for a pleasant flavour bomb every few bites!

Savoy cabbage, fresh herbs, parmesan, Lemon $7

To help balance our Meat Crazed meal we also ordered a Savoy Cabbage salad.  I’ve always been a strong believer in the saying (or was it a song…?) “You don’t win friends with Salad!” but this was kind of small, and more like a chop salad… which Jamie Oliver makes… which makes it more than okay in my book!! The parmesan slices add for a nice bitey element to the otherwise ‘healthy’ tasting cabbage.  It is a surprisingly inoffensive, if not pleasant, accompaniment to our otherwise flavour/meat rich meal.

As we manage to work through all those amazing pizza’s and come to the bottom of our wine (did I mention Pizza Religion is B.Y.O…), we’re all more then sufficiently satisfied.  Despite this, the “i’ve had a rough day and I need to eat my emotions” side of my brain tells me I need dessert!!

So I convince JP to have a long Macchiatto with me and sneakily order some Jock’s Ice Cream (they sell it by the tub 500mls).  In addition to a selection of Ice Cream flavours, there is also a Pizzette special of apple and rhubarb crumble and flourless chocolate pudding.  Considering I was already kind of forcing the other 2 into eating dessert,  I figured the ice cream (which 500ml tub shared between 3 is nothing….) was the most humane choice for people not suffering my rather unhinged emotional appetite!

Jocks Choc Mint Ice Cream 500ml $8.50

While some people like to base their religious beliefs on faith… a greater power or divine intervention, my belief is not only more substantial, but also instantly gratifying.  Like winning one’s heart through their stomach, Pizza Religion has won not only my heart, but also an undying faith!  Pizza Religion’s Braised Beef Cheek Pizza; my divine intervention!!

Pizza Religion

493 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn East | 03) 9882 2555

Practicing Pizza Religion (round 2)

22 May

People that know me well are well aware of my habit to make too many plans, provide too many options and tendency to have commitment issues.  But on this occasion, it seemed it was my usually solid DDO counterpart that had pulled the cheat.  I, with much envy and resentment had to forego the first DDO visit to Pizza Religion – I’d pretty much heard about the new pizza haven at the same time as N, and we’d discussed when our visit would be, only to find she’d decided on an impromptu visit one night before soccer to which I had 2 hours notice and of course had already made plans! That night we’d reconvened at soccer, and I resentfully listened to her describe what they ate.  Thanks guys.  Way to live my Pizza Dream without me!!

So naturally, I had to go!  N made a booking for 7.30pm a week later, and I could barely contain my excitement!  We walked into a bustling little pizza shop full to the brim of Pizza hopefuls.  My heart almost sank seeing the place so full, as we were 15 minutes late.  The long bench at the front of the shop was already occupied, with 3 empty seats at the end.  Thank GOD!  Despite being RAGINGLY busy, our table was kept, we were seated with a smile and 3 wine glasses were brought to us for our BYO (amazing!)

The menu is very simple, and the focus is on the pizzas.  Although they do also offer 3 entrees, 3 salads, a pizza special and dessert.  We decided to go with an entree, and a pizza each (so that we could all do swapsies).  Semolina crusted calamari came first served on a bed of rocket and fennel salad.

Semolina Crusted Calamari w Rocket & Fennel Salad $10

The Semolina crust made for a wonderfully light, crisp coating to a fresh calamari.  My only gripe was that the calamari rings were a touch on the petite side… but thinking back, they are kind of perfectly sized so that you don’t fill up too much before the main event!

After a little discussion we decided we HAD to try the special (which we were informed later is changed fortnightly … oh WAIT until you read about the next special) this week was asparagus, walnut, goats cheese and truffle infused poached egg.  YEP! Asian’s LOVE anything with an egg.  Even Pizza!

Asparagus, walnut, goats cheese egg & truffle oil pizza

This arrived with our other 2 pizza’s, but despite it’s pale looking toppings (and being sans meat) we all had to try this one first.  Can I just say.  This was hands down, the most pleasantly surprising slice of Flavour nation!  With each bite you get the perfectly crisp base, touches of bitey goats cheese with that silky egg and then occasionally punches of crunch with the roasted walnuts!  I’m in HEAVEN!

To follow was the Pork Sausage Pizza.  (Ah YES the meat section of the meal begins!).  Whole chunks of pork sausage are scattered around the pizza, with slices of fennel, apple and cabbage cutting through the salty goodness of the sausage.

Pork sausage, chilli, fennel, apple and cabbage salad $18

Last but not least, the Pepperoni Pizza.  This looked amazing.  Generous layers of sicilian salami atop a layer of goats cheese and that refreshing garnish of fresh mint.  Although I did find myself having to sprinkle severe amounts of dry chilli onto each slice… but thats me!   Excess is the key to success!!

Sicilian Salami, Tomato, Goats Cheese, Fresh Mint $17

So after an entree, a pizza each and some friendly banter with the owner, I find myself rather reluctant to leave despite my bulging belly!  The owner has just informed us of the next special on the cards and I instantly have food envy, even though I just ABSOLUTELY LOVED tonights special – but who am I kidding?  I say love, but how much could I really commit to loving anything that is essentially of the vegetarian variety!!  (And yes, the new Pizza Special is Braised Beef cheek – a la Movida styles!! Actually salivating as I type this!!)

So in a lame attempt to continue consuming despite my food coma, I force the others to share a Chocolate pudding with me while I also finish my meal with a long Mac.

Flourless Chocolate Pudding

This warm pot of chocolate indulgence (… flourless though… practically guilt free.  Right?!)  was actually rather delicious.  It was just the right size to be shared, and you crack through the slightly firm top to reveal a silky, warm runny chocolate-lava center.  Perfect cake to sauce ratio, not too sweet, but definitely a little… well… a LOT excessive after the glorious CARB-fest that had just happened!

It is true what they say, that patience is a virtue.  And even though it took me (a whole) extra week of patience to fulfil my Pizza Dream, it didn’t even take until the end of the meal for me to plan my next visit.  I never thought it would happen, but it seems I’ve finally found something to commit to.  I’m no Longer an Atheist.  I’m officially a Practicing Pizza Religion.

Pizza Religion

13 May

The recent Italian style pizza craze has spawned a number of pizzerias – some good (DOC, +39, Supermaxi), and some just downright bad (if Pizza Hut can do it, anyone can right? WRONG!).  So when I spied Pizza Religion on the way to work one morning – in a rather unassuming position in a part of Hawthorn East devoid of any retail presence – I was at once excited and suspicious (more the latter).  However when I then saw a review of the place in The Age my excitement elevated just a little.  So it was on a cold and wintry night that we arrived at Pizza Religion to get our carb fix and see if the pizza made the cut.  Verdict? Absolutely – I am now a true disciple of Pizza Religion!

Now don’t get me wrong, the night was not without its hiccups and waiting 45 minutes for a pizza is generally not acceptable by anyone’s standards, let alone on a freezing night and the 3 of us being placed right next to the door that leads out to the toilet, meaning Miss E had to stand up everytime someone wanted to go.  But the personalised service – not to mention that pizza – more than made up for those shortcomings. In any case, we are told that the large courtyard will be ready just in time for winter (which has clearly arrived early this year) and will be well equipped with rain protection and heating, making space for more pizza disciples (which I am not entirely sure that I am happy about).

Pizza Religion Menu

We got off to a good start with the Arancini of the day – today it was a tomato based arancini, perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and gooey inside – the perfect antidote to the winter blues and a sign of more good things to come. At this point its full marks with 3 gold stars!  Flagging down someone to take a pizza order proved difficult – even though there is probably seating capacity for not much more than 20 people in the space (including one table outside on the pavement), the place is clearly a local favourite with a steady stream of takeaway orders – so at this point its lost 1 gold star.

Pizzas ordered (one each – Mushroom, Lamb, Chorizo) we settle in to chat about the day, take bets on which pizza will come first (the table will accommodate only one pizza at a time), watch helplessly as JP has a sneezing fit and learn that if you can’t sneeze, look at a light and the sneeze will come (thanks Miss E for the random fact of the day).  30 minutes later, we have finished our rather large bottle of mineral water, JP is ready to eat the table and/or storm out, Miss E has RSI from standing up every 5 minutes (probably an exaggeration but its what it feels like) and I am beginning to think that this was the biggest mistake (there goes another gold star) and the pizza could never be good enough to make up for this terrible experience.  Oh how wrong was I.

Mushroom Pizza

The first to arrive (as we all predicted) was the mushroom pizza.  On its little wooden board, it’s nothing to look at really – lots of mushrooms, just enough cheese, on a thin crust – but once you take that first bite, you will be converted!  The crust is the perfect thickness, perfectly cooked with just the right amount of give in the dough so that you don’t feel like you’re eating paper – its at once crispy and soft in all the right places. The velvety mushrooms and gooey cheese melt seamlessly in the mouth into a river of flavour.  1 gold star reinstated!

Next comes the lamb – and boy there is a lot of lamb on that pizza, accompanied by a sprinkling of fetta on a base smeared with olive tapenade.  The lamb is thinly sliced and quite mild in taste, balancing out the saltiness of the fetta and olive.

Lamb Pizza

At this point, JP has forgotten about the wait, devouring his share and talking about which ones we’ll try next time and plotting the best strategy to get in and out quickly (order early and pick it up on the way home is what we’ve landed on).

Last but certainly not least is the Chorizo.  Hearty chunks of Chorizo, jalapeno and prawns on a tomato base, this really is a party in the mouth – and a fiery one at that. If you don’t like spicy food this one won’t be for you – my mouth was set on fire temporarily – but for people like us who like it hot, then this might just become a firm favourite.

Chorizo, Prawn & Jalapeno Pizza

The spice of the chorizo, the heat from the jalapenos and the sweetness of the prawns meld together perfectly, and again on that crisp in all the right places base, I have found my (Pizza) religion again!

All gold stars reinstated and a few more thrown in for the service – throughout those excruciating minutes waiting for our feed, not only is our suffering acknowledged, but the staff are extremely apologetic, gifting us a second bottle of mineral water and almost refusing the tip at the end!  I can’t wait till the next feed!

Pizza Religion

493 Tooronga Road

Hawthorn East

(03) 9882 2555