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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Melbourne :: EARL Canteen

Pork belly, belly BELLY!

I love pork belly. Wrapped in a lettuce leaf, pulled from a fully roasted pig, in thin little strips with my eggs...mmm. Pork belly for my pot-belly. I started my morning wandering around the city aimlessly - while Sydney was full of sites and happenings, Melbourne is a city of wandering and observing. Street art, monuments, off-beat cafes, budding artists performing on the streets, culture, culture, culture. That's Melbourne. Quite possibly the most satisfying city to just wander and discover.

Who goes into a library when on vacation? I do!

After a few rounds around Chinatown and Greektown, I found myself at their state library. I spotted it the day before, and it was immediately on my "must-explore" list from the interesting statues on the outside and the overall grandeur. Loved it!
It was full of wonderful books to explore - works from Leonardo Da Vinci (see right), a Torah from the mid 19th century (top left), and Qur'an from West Africa (top right) were just some of the few examples. I especially loved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the mid 1900s - it was the first "mechanical" book designed for adults. I really wanted to reach in and play with it...but I suppose the glass is there to keep grubby hands like mine out of historical artefacts. 

Library Architecture
The overall look and feel of the library was amazing - can you tell that I'm a big nerd? Really. If this was in Toronto, I wonder how it would influence our inclination to just lose ourselves in studying. It was perfectly quiet, wonderfully bright and open, and I loved how I could just climb higher and higher for great views of both the city and the library. I also thought about how nice it'd be to clear the tables out for a gala.

Anyways, afterwards I made my way over to EARL with one goal in mind: Pork Belly Sammy.

Pork Belly
Crisp skin Otway pork belly, apple, cabbage & fennel coleslaw, wilted silverbeet, baguette

I must say - as a lover of sandwiches I am a strong believer that the bread is just as important as the filling. While the pork belly was certainly O-M-G worthy - deliciously moist and flavourful with crispy skin on the outside - the baguette was unfortunately hard and stale. EARL, come on! That's like searing the perfect steak and slopping cheap ketchup (excuse me, tomato sauce) all over it. No. No, no, no. 

The skin was crackling, the belly was moist, and the coleslaw was delish - if it wasn't for the stale bread I'd put this on my "must-eat-in-Australia" list. A salted caramel macaron was also tried - it was on the brittle-side. I did not have it with a cup of tea, which my friend claims is a precursor to a true macaron experience, but to be honest I don't think that I'm a fan of these little desserts. They're so pretty, but too sweet for my taste. Oddly, I've only tried them from Ohio and Melbourne - not Toronto.

I rather liked the openness of EARL - bright, airy with lots of business-types chowing down on sandwiches.  The guy behind cash was quite friendly, but the gentleman (his manager? not sure?) was a little less so...the fact that I was wearing a backpack, shorts, and a tank probably didn't help. The clientèle were not pretentious at all. I was there in a tank and shorts, and chatting with a suited up local about Melbourne and what to try while wandering. From there, I set off for more roaming :-)

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