Monday, March 31, 2008

House filtered carbonated water, would you pay for it?

Food miles is a topic that is fairly new to our mind sets, yet I don't know about you but I am now extremely conscious of where goods that I buy come from. I read labels, ask retailers and shop at farmers markets or (try) and grow my own. Yes, perhaps I am going a bit 'green', or maybe I’m just a bit more aware. I have even had installed - at great expense - a water filter onto the sink at home so that I no longer feel justified buying bottled water because it 'tastes' better.

I have recently read a few interesting bits and pieces about bottled water and the ethics of it, so was inspired to share when I read Terry Durack’s latest blog post on the same topic. He explores the shocking idea of being served free tap water happily in a restaurant and, the idea that I really like, house filtered and carbonated water.
It sounds like a smart way for a restaurateur to back up the locally sourced, ethically produced mantra that is more often coming from their kitchens. I think it sounds like an idea waiting for some smart person with a fancy soda stream (remember those!) to make a killing. The restaurateur is happy as they can still make money from the house filtered water, the diner is happy as they get a great, ethically produced reasonably priced product and the environmentalists are happy with less unnecessary freighting.

I think it is a win-win-win.

Another piece I was reading in Dumbo Feather, was an interview with Didi Lo one of the developers of the marketing marvel Another Bloody Water. He was talking about selling rights to his branding and filling ABW bottles around the world with locally sourced spring water… now we are thinking!

What do you think of the house filtered carbonated water?

More importantly, would you support it, instead of buying the import?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Guilty pleasures

Ok Ok, it's gotten to this. Last week I had deemed I just wasn't going to finish this post, I had even crossed it of my "Must post" list. But I have the guilts, I promised.

So here it is.
My Pick for February (Erhh!) recipes

Frangipane, fig and raspberry tart

This tart is actually quite quick and easy to make. I used some pre-made pastry that I blind baked flat onto a tray, like a square pizza but you could do it a bit more conventionally if you like with pretty fluted edges in a tart pan.
I just made this up as I went along from the idea of a basic fruit tart with a moist frangipane base.

Figs - the honey and black styles look great together
slivered almonds -untoasted

100g butter
120g caster sugar
200g almond meal (ground almonds)
2 eggs
4 tbsp brandy or a matching fruit liqueur - I used half brandy and half Chambord (a French wild raspberry liqueur)

To make the frangipane
Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the almond meal, eggs and brandy

To make the tart
Blind bake* your pastry base
Spread the frangipane over the base of the tart and then decorate with the figs and raspberries. I liked the look of the figs so left them chunky in quarters but you could also play around and slice then and make a stylised arrangement.
Sprinkle with the slivered almonds and bake in a moderate oven until golden brown and the fruit has started to seep a little.
Serve with a dollop of double cream, perhaps whipped with some extra Chambord

*Blind baking is were you cook off the pastry before the filling is put on top, this ensures that it is cooked though and crispy at the same time as the filling. Just simply line the chilled pastry with baking paper and top with some rice or dried beans, so as to weigh the pastry down. Bake in a moderate oven until it is light brown. Remove the baking paper and rice and you are ready to go.

Fig and star anise jam (or is it more like compote?)
Star anise is a heady, fragrant spice that is an elegant match with sweet honey figs. I'm not sure exactly what to call this, I didn't use a thermometer or anything chefy, I just cooked it until the consistency was right. I deliberately left the fruit quiet large, as I like my jam chunky, I want to actually see the fruit.

Figs - as many as you can handle
raw sugar - a third of the weight of the figs
two star anise wheels
lemon zest and juice - try about half a lemon per kg of figs

Cut the figs into quarters or eights
Toss with sugar, star anise and zest in a large saucepan
Gently bring the figs to a simmer with the lid on, discard the star anise
Remove the lid and cook without stirring until it is a little pulpy and the juice is thick and jammy
Add the half the lemon juice and taste, its should be sweet but with a slight tang and a fragrant hint of the anise
Spoon into a sterilised jar and chill

We have nearly finished the figs now. I have enjoyed them on crumpets with some goats curd, the sweet and savoury combo made me think of dessert, yet this is a perfectly healthy breakfast.

Fortunately, I am still seeing figs at my local grocer, so there is plenty of time to enjoy them in these ways or hundreds of others.
What a relief, I'll sleep easier tonight having these figs off my mind.

Friday, March 28, 2008

GA&S follow-up visit

I can't help myself.
Last night was my second visit to Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons and it was just as inspiring as the first; the prawns just as crunchy, the room just as awe inspiring and the staff just as friendly.

A couple of new things to report back.
1. Don't be put off by the no reservation policy, just be smart and organised. The six of us dined at 7pm last night (Friday) without any difficulty. PDC and I arrived 20 minutes earlier informed them of our group arriving and sat back with a campari until we wandered through to our table.

2. The tiles create no noise issues in the dining room. I noticed that the black ceiling above the tiles is actually sound proofing panels.

3. I saw much more of the menu last night and the quality is all there with each dish, just watch out that the pasta dishes are particularly generous in comparison to some of the others dishes.

Dishes that should be on your do-try list...
Gamberetti with aioli- I'm addicted (see my last post)
Cacciatore, soft cured salami - you will never find salami that has been this well looked after
Pea insalata with shallots, mint, basil and air dried ricotta - who doesn't love fresh peas done simply
Farfalle pasta, braised game, porcini, peas - rich, sticky and moreish
Chittarra Arrabiata with crab, chili and served in a paper bag - dramatic and generous with the crab
Luigi Guffanti Stracchino di Capra - Italian goats milk washed rind, intense!
Zampone Pigs trotter - because I believe Bob Hart, but didn't have room for such a rich dish
Coteletta crumbed veal cutlet - looked perfect, especially for the boys that like their meat
Clams casino - this is really a style of dish, but I'm sure the pun is intended. Perfect to share.
Crab Panini - on the snack menu, i haven't tried it - yet, but the staff are raving
Zuppa Inglese - old fashioned English trifle to share, pretty as a picture

And lastly, for dramatic effect, drum roll please...

Richard Thomas fromage blanc - the most sweet cows milk young curd I have tasted. I could have spooned it straight to my mouth if I wasn't meant to be sharing it. Our waiter selected this for us to share with some warm mixed olives and salumi. This is a not to be missed product, served chilled, drizzled with EVOO and some picked thyme. Just delectable.

So don't be put off by any of the banter, forget you are under the same roof as the casino (enter via the promenade) and enjoy one of Melbourne's newest and smartest dining rooms, there is plenty to love.

NB. I mentioned quietly in the comments of my last post, but Maurice sent me a "Grazie mille" email during the week. I was impressed at the speed and street-smarts of a restauranteur to track down my post and say thanks. It's left me pondering this week about the restaurant industry and their gradual acceptance of the 'new media', the ponder has resulted in me realising that they are starting to find us, it's just the smart ones that are in first!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns

Yesterday morning we popped into Baker Chirico on Fitzroy St, St Kilda, in the hope of getting some of our favourite fresh bread. As we pulled up and I saw the crowd, it occurred to me that I was about to throw myself into the crowds of hot cross bun hunters.
Baker D. Chirico is considered one of Melbourne's best places to get quality hot cross buns, I know that Babka on Brunswick St, Fitzroy also do some beautiful ones with rind and fruit.
A few loose buns were still for sale, no doubt pre-orders were substantial at Baker, we secured the last four buns to take away.

Toasted for breakfast this morning with a big cup of strong Irish breakfast tea, we enjoyed the dense spiced buns with fresh soft sultanas, lemon rind and signature brown crosses.

Perhaps these for now and then some Easter eggs later. Umm, happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons

I'm not the type to visit a new restaurant too early in the piece. I appreciate that things can be difficult in the first few weeks and even months. I know I have been there.
Yet I was compelled to visit Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons (GA&S), as soon as possible. I have been anticipating Maurice Terzinis new venture eagerly. I didn't live in Melbourne during the Cafe e Cucina days, but was in Sydney working close by when Otto took Sydney by storm. I then moved to Melbourne as Icebergs and North Bondi Italian Food tackled both ends of the famous beach. I have the cook book, I saw him speak last year, and yes I am a fan.
I dined at GA&S last Sunday and left in awe of the experience, I haven't posted until tonight as I didn't want this to be a gushy post, yet I can't help myself.
GA&S doesn't take reservations, this will make and lose them some friends. I like the casual philosophy behind the idea, a great place that I can turn up to and eat, even if I have to wait. Anticipation is a virtue.
Before I jump straight into the food, you really need to get an understanding of the space. It is inspired, extremely well thought out, sexy and moody, the lights are theatrical. I had a design-y friend on the phone this afternoon, wax lyrical about the space. She dined last night and was didn't even mention the food until I asked specifically, it was all 'positive and negative space', 'Italian fittings', lights, toilets... the list goes on. In a nutshell we both thought it was hot, I just didn't have the words she had.
But I do have the words for food and eat we did. The menu at GA&S is huge and for the uninitiated this can mean intimidating. I find the same thing at Rockpool just up the fiery promenade, too much to select from increases the risk of missing out on 'the' dish. The imaginary one that I know, once I am stuffed I'll see go pass to another table and I will have order envy.
But this didn't happen at GA&S, we just ordered heaps.
I loved the oregano dusted school prawns, they reminded me of the crispy fried seafood I had at Cal Pep, the prawns seasoned and fried whole, were well spiced and crunchy the aioli was delicious but not required they were perfect just on their own in their kitch little black and gold basket with checked red napkin.
When you go, and you should, make sure have to some of the house salumi. Made by Robert Marchetti with the Vecchiet family, we tried the culatello but I'd eat any of the sliced to order meats from the rather fancy looking glass cabinet.
We also tried the Alba style raw ox; a roughly cut tartare with swiss brown mushrooms, a serve of the angry crab pasta baked in a paper bag and one I could not go past, Clams casino; some pippies, vongole, surf clams and periwinkles sauteed with cured pigs cheek.
Then there was also..., ok yes we ate a lot, it was all fantastic.
Maurice wasn't at the restaurant the night we were there (hopefully he was resting his broken foot) but I doubt we could have been looked after better than we were. Ari Vlassopoulos a reliable friendly face of Melbourne restaurants, kept a careful watch.
I have no doubt that GA&S will become an iconic asset to the Melbourne dining scene, just looking around the night I was there, the hospitality faces are already onto it, and they know a good meal.
I'll be back shortly, I need to get through the rest of the menu and just as it was the first time, I just can't wait.

Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons
Crown complex (access via the promenade under the highway)
ph: 9694 7400

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Giant couscous salad

Correctly known as moghrabieh, yet I think giant couscous sounds more fun and needs less explaining. A style of couscous originating from Lebanon, these are much larger and are commonly cooked into brothy soups. I love that they are easy to prepare, textural to eat and look remarkably modern to serve.

Giant couscous salad with pinenuts, lemon zest and pomegranate
Moghrabieh -they swell to double the size so judge accordingly to how much you want as a finished salad
chicken stock (use vegetarian if you prefer)
toasted pinenuts
a lemon; zested and then juiced
pomegranate seeds
spanish onion
red chilli
Extra virgin olive oil
Add the giant couscous to enough stock to cover and gently simmer until it is just cooked, a little al dente as the Italians would say is ideal
Drain and while still warm dress with 1/3 lemon juice to 2/3 EVOO, salt and pepper and the roughly chopped herbs
Add all the other ingredients and toss together, taste for extra lemon juice and serve at room temperature

Perfect for a balmy evening like last night.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Safeway tells fibs

"The only fresh baby corn in Australia", Safeways claim on a current television commercial
No, I don't shop at Safeway (unless it is for cheap Coopers)

The new ads on tv for Safeways baby corn make me furious, I am not usually this easily mad but when a multinational takes advantage of a dumbed down eating public, then I get mad. Don't get me wrong, I am sad that people are some what dumbed down about food now, but it is the truth, my great grandmother and grandmother cooked from memory, I don't know if my grandmother even owns a cook book; apart from the Aussie house wife classic "The Common Sense Cookery Book" (and doesn't that title just sum it up...) People now generally have very high food expectations and very low skills or basic knowledge to cook from, it is sad.

I digress, Safeway do not have Australia's only baby corn, I brought some this morning at Gasworks market, and to further thumb my nose at Safeway, I bet mine are fresher and not in unnecessary packaging.

I am still tossing up how to prepare mine, if I stop eating them raw. Perhaps sauteed with anchovies and then melting on top some butter, perhaps slightly pickled and served to nibble on, maybe even... its not important. The important thing is, please don't believe what Safeway tells you about food.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bone marrow, again

Oh I just can't help myself.
I had so much fun first time around, I've now eaten this dish again, in Melbourne and again it was attributed to Mr Fergus Henderson himself.
No tricks, it was not at the European again and no, I did not have the pleasure of seeing Fergus cook at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
So where did I eat his dish of roast bone marrow with a parsley salad and croutons, a la 'St John'?
Any ideas?

I eat, I drink, I work - I do all of that...

Anybody, that has even glanced this page before knows that I am passionate about all of these things, some times the order can get out of whack, but hey that's life!
So it's with pleasure that I let you know that I am a featured blogger on the new hospitality web site

The site features interesting bits from other bloggers like me and what will become a hospitality jobs listing site, no more waiting for Tuesday to find out; who wants, what where - if you get my drift... if not just have a look for yourself.
Happy readings

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Eclectic produce this week

Fresh nuts are one of the most beautiful things, just like the almonds a few months ago, the flavours are delicate and colours bright. I am usually also surprised at how inexpensive they are, perhaps people don't understand how much of a special delicacy they are and how little time they are around for. These are brand named kiwi berries, essentially just that, mini kiwis with no fury skin, just pop them straight in your month, oh and incredibly cute!
The erratic weather has made my watercress go crazy, it's now trying to grow out of the base of the bay tree pot and into the wild of my untamed garden. Not enough yet for a salad, but a very pretty garnish or a grazing nibble while watering the herbs.
Enjoy the weather while it lasts!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

My Gourmet Traveller Experience

What a week!
It was with a healthy dose of nerves that I turned up for my first day on shoot with Gourmet Traveller, the experience I won on Menu for Hope.
I have to say the nerves lasted five minutes and then I was in the thick of it, and loving it.
I met some fantastic people, Emma Knowles, Gourmets Food Director was lovely and even prepared lunch for everyone the second day. Adelaide Lucas, (assistant food editor), that spent most of her day preparing the recipes from scratch, was inspiring in her speed and ability to answer my questions at the same time. I also quickly met Lisa Featherby (food editor) as she popped in.

On the shoot also was photographer Will Meppem, quiet yet very effective and props stylist Megan Morton, whom was fantastic at sharing some little secrets along the way.

The shoot was for the upcoming May editions cute little cookbook, the one that is attached to the cover each year.
Over the two days the team shot about 15 food images and a few extras that would be used for those pretty pages that the recipes or indexes may end up on.
Having worked as a freelance food stylist, I have some experience in a professional studio but I have to say nothing I have experienced before was like this. Emma and the team worked in the most harmonious, collaborative calm the entire time. No strange stylist techniques were used apart from a bit of bluetak (and that was not even on the food...), the food is as real and delicious as it looks, nothing was 'mucked' with just pure good food, very well cooked and styled and photographed with the utmost care.
I was truly impressed at how 'cheffy' the food was cared for, (it should be noted that both Emma and Adelaide are qualified chefs), the processes they went through involved also giving the recipe another run through to make sure it works perfectly for readers.
The image above is a shot in action, multiple angles were considered, over head is what is happening here, with the 'props' cream in a bowl, napkin and side in different balanced positions around the 'hero'.

I can't thank the entire Gourmet traveller team enough and of course Anthea Loucas the Editor for donating the prize.

Please feel free to fire off any questions that you may like to know about the shoot, I would love to share as much about this as possible.
The rest of my week was spent back in Melbourne mostly involved in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events. The Masterclasses have been inspiring, I can't wait to tell you about it, and tomorrow is Out of the Frying Pan, about food and the media. I attended last year also, and found it to be of the highest quality of food discussion, tomorrow the strange thing is that I am participating as a panelist about food blogs along with Ed and Stephanie. I know a few food bloggers will be there, so I look forward to some support from the audience, wish me -us- luck!

Edited - 4th March

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A new me

Welcome to the new fancy looking Eating with Jack, a little less perfunctory and a lot more stylish.
Designed by the gracious Susie at Bluebird Blogs, who has been putting up with all my anal requests (still perhaps a few more to come as well, sorry Susie!).

So what do you think?