Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Four days, four cafes . . .

Had a great four days down at the island, with a focus on both literary and culinary pursuits. An interesting development was the reading of my complete manuscript by one of my friends, Kath, who's seen bits and pieces of the story since the beginning. Anyway, she was keen to read the latest rewritten section and offer comment -- which she did -- but then she somehow convinced me to let her read the rest of it. Right to the end. Rough and raw with scribble all over it. Terrible stuff, all of it. The first person other than me to actually get to the [ENDS].

This was, as you might imagine, rather daunting for me, mainly because it needs so much work. I am focusing on adding layers of texture as well as tightening the plot and deepening characters, so to have someone read the 'crap stuff' was not what I had in mind. But she caught me in a weak moment -- it's so nice to have someone actually read the material that I've slaved over, even if they read it about 100 times faster than I can write it -- and I relented. This allowed us to have some discussions about where the whole thing is going (is it a trilogy?) and how the rewrite of this book at least is going to pan out.

So now I have more of an idea of where a potential sequel and even a third might head, and I feel excited by the prospect of exploring these characters further and making sure they get their full journey.

I managed to do some actual writing, but not a huge amount, primarily because we were too busy exploring the culinary offerings of Cowes. Day 1, three of us went out to breakfast to a cafe called Mad Cowes, where I had my usual poached eggs with spinach, mushrooms & grilled tomato. This is my standard 'healthy' breakfast, made a little less healthy but very yummy by dollops of basil pesto on the grilled tomatoes. And coffee of course.

Day 2, Kath left us and Sarah and I went to the Phillip Island Food store for lunch. This is, I reckon, the island's best kept secret. It's in the heart of the main Cowes shops, near Coles, and specialises in gourmet food cooked on the premises. I've heard its lemon tarts are widely sought-after for entertaining, and the rest of their cakes and salads look amazing. Anyway, we had homemade enchiladas with Greek salad. Absolutely divine, with naughty, mouth-watering flaky pastry. We topped it off with a shared slice of the famous lemon tart with coffee. The cafe is complemented by a gourmet grocery section, which sells local wines, fancy cheeses, plus top-shelf gourmet teas, pastas, olive oil etc. Very chic.

Day 3, and Sarah and I ventured out to Silverleaves General Store and Cafe, which required us to get in the car. This is an old-style cafe, also serving food cooked on the premises, specialising in old-style food, like devonshire teas and ploughman's platters. We had afternoon tea, hence shared a serving of scones with raspberry jam and whipped cream. Lovely. There are also some grocery sections, selling wines and preserves etc.

Day 4, and our last day, so we decided to make the most of it. We ventured to Infused, surely the most upmarket restaurant in Cowes. Its lunches are in the same style as its dinners -- very upmarket indeed, but we threw caution to the wind and enjoyed ourselves. We decided to order in the 'tapas' style, ie multiple entrees to share. This allowed us to have a little bit of a few different delectable dishes: olive bread with olive tapenade and mushroom-stuffed roasted capsicum; steamed spring-onion dumplings with chili jam; rocket, pear, feta and olive salad; salt & pepper squid with pear and ginger salad. Each dish was superb, accompanied by a glass of pinot noir on my part, and beer on Sarah's. We sat out in the sunshine at a rustic picnic-table, eating this amazing food. A fabulous way to end the weekend.

So now I am home and back down to earth. Chenna is pleased to be home, since she can now go outside again, but I can't help thinking it would have been nice to stay down at the island for just a little longer!

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