Monday, July 28, 2008

Dishes of the Month - June and July, opps!

The end of June got a little crazy and well here I am with Dishes of the Month for both June and July. Funny enough, they are both steeped in French tradition yet could not be a world further away from each other.

I should explain...

A trip to Healseville in the middle of June, was as always an opportunity to eat at the Healseville Hotel were I have a enjoyed many fantastic meals over the years. This time was no different, if anything I think it was the best yet.

The dish was actually dessert and as I have mentioned before I not much of a sweets person yet I'm a sucker for a tarte Tatin. A classic French upside down baked tart of apples, this was a quince version with fruit from the local region.

June Dish of the Month

Quince tarte Tatin with almond milk sorbet -Healseville Hotel

Slow cooked fragrant quince baked with a soft almond frangipane and a crispy puff pastry base served with a scoop of a nutty and light almond milk sorbet

My Dish of the Month from July was from Dalat, Vietnam. Now, I usually strictly eat the local food when on holidays but recommendations lead us to the cutiest little French bistro and the most amazing artichoke of my life.

July Dish of the Month

Poached artichoke
(yes, as simple as that) -Le Cafe de la Poste, Dalat Vietnam

I took a bit of a educated gamble ordering this, I knew that lots of artichokes were grown locally, they were everywhere at the market, so hence in season and the Dalatians take artichoke very seriously as they have a local artichoke tea. The artichoke was very traditionally prepared, perfectly poached so the leaves can just wiggle off and served with a side pot of red wine and mustard vinaigrette.
The eloquent way to eat the artichoke is to pull off the leaves one by one with your fingers and dip into the dressing and then scrape the flesh off the leaf with your teeth as you bite in. As you slowly eat, -this can take some time- you will reach the middle and the main fleshly part that should be eaten with a knife and fork. The best artichoke I have ever eaten.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Catch up...

Well, my planned postings have not eventuated. But that does not mean I haven't been thinking about it; I have a camera full of images and a mind full of posts, and now its catchup time.

Yum Cha or Dim Sum is a favourite past time at home, so in Hong Kong it was a must. I had loss sleep in the lead up thinking about it; where is the best place? Will it be as I expect? Will it be carts? I'll explain further in my Hong Kong piece, but this was my favourite dumpling of the trip. A vegetarian number with mushroom, bamboo shoots, water chestnut and chives.

A great way to start the day, a Vietnamese coffee with 'milk' - condensed milk and ice. Not quite a caffe latte at The Wall in St Kilda (we miss you!!) but pretty delicious and a definite coffee kick. A snorkeling boat tour lead to an interesting offer, fresh sea urchin that the divers would collect for us. Probably illegal and perhaps a little unethical but a proposition that we could not deny. A plate of raw urchin some onion and a lime and salt pepper mix. Intensely rich and a hedonistic treat.

After holidaying in Vietnam three years ago, I was eager to have one of these creme caramels again. Generally available at carts in the evening the better ones are from the little dessert shops with access to ice. There the caramel was turned out and topped with crushed ice, a coffee syrup and condensed milk straight from the can. I could eat five if it didn't seem greedy.
A very pleasant surprise was the Louisiane Brewhouse on Nha Trang beach. Beers are brewed on site by an Aussie and served in several styles. I enjoyed the ginger beer (alcoholic of course, it is holidays!) flavoured with fresh ginger and a little lemongrass. Great ginger beer in a style that fits with the local food, perfect.

In Dalat, in central Vietnam, we undertook a regional tour that included one of the many coffee plantations in the area. This is ripe bean (yet harvest is not until November), the red outer hides two halves of the green coffee bean. An extended post about all the sights is on the way with highlights as wide ranging as coffee and tea, to some very hungry silk worms, mushroom farms and beautiful flowers.

I promise to work on the Dalat and Hong Kong stories, I'm really looking forward to sharing it with you. Must pop off now for some fiery Thai for dinner and hopefully not too many tears!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Portuguese custard tarts in Macau

Foreign occupations of countries can only be good for one thing, the sharing of food cultures…
Having not been to Portugal these have to be the next best thing to eating them on the home soil, the best in Macau.
Soft custardy centre, delicately crispy pastry shell with a distinctive swirl on the bottom from the hundreds of layers of pastry folded onto itself.

Holiday update

Wow, it has not stopped until today, when I spent the day snoozing on the beach in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Dining in Hong Kong was remarkable, I have an extended post on the way featuring a breathtaking Hutong (breathless because of beautiful food and intense chilli action!), a high attention to detail L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and gamey roast goose. Yes I finally got there!

All up in the next day or two, but sorry off now to eat some more lychees from the market, these ones got me started in Hong Kong... and now I can't get enough.

~~Loving the unsecured wifi...


The Amazing Race detours in Ho Chi Minh – Vietnam

In the style of ‘The Amazing Race’ we clamber through the sticky airport; international arrivals then to the domestic terminal and search the tv screen boards for the next flights to Phu Quoc or Nha Trang.
Having just missed the last flight to the island of Phu Quoc the decision is made, Nha Trang here we come… yet we have nearly three hours to kill until the first possible standby seats may be available. So we take, as the say on the Amazing Race ‘A Detour’, otherwise know as a stopover lunch in Ho Chi Mihn city.

Dumping the bags in storage at the terminal, and with a recommendation from an American sounding Vietnamese girl as she coded our bags, we jumped in a cab and head towards the Reunification Palace and what was promised to us as a local lunch spot “Not for tourists”, was the deal, “I eat there many times, it’s great”. Sold.

We are off, on the scooter and car horn filled streets, zig-zagging our way towards lunch, 25 minutes and a few grey hairs later we are standing out the front of an old colonial style house with a bamboo garden around the outside and what later turns out to be the prep kitchens for a large menu of simple Vietnamese dishes. Seated inside at a large thick wooden table I am excited, the food shooting past looks amazing – fresh, vibrant food – and lots of locals tucking in. Luckily the waiters are happy to play along and be patient with our guide book language skills.

Three dishes and a couple of Saigon Specials later we are satisfied, the suggestion has been fantastic. A salad of lotus stems with prawns and pork was garnished with prawn cracker spoons and had a side dish of a caramel, sticky chilli dressing. Delicious.
Next was a DIY number; some spiced prawn mince around sugar cane sticks with a plate of rice paper, some salad and herb leaves and slices of cucumber, star fruit and little squares of soft vermicelli noodles. A little bit of everything, a snug wrap and a dip into the nuoc cham dressing makes a bright fun dish, that PDC and I have instantly added to our barbeque share food repertoire .
The last dish was Banh Xeo; a favourite from the markets in Nha Trang that we experienced 3 years ago. A crispy pancake filled with meat and seafood, bamboo shoots and herbs, served folded with more fresh herbs and salad leaves and another dressing featuring chilli, fish sauce lime and sugar.

Total cost of this leg of the race
Banh Hoi Thit Heo Quay Cuon Banh Trang (DIY Rolls) 48 000 VD
Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit (lotus stem salad) 42 000 VD
Banh Xeo (pancake) 24 000 VD

For the grand total of $12 Australian, including beers, water and tip.*

Quan an Ngon
138 Nam Khoi Nghia C3

Back out onto the street we hail a cab and head back to the airport. Mission complete, detour successful, tummies in-check and satisfied. Now to that plane to Nha Trang, and dinner to worry about.

*Out of interest, one Aussie Dollar is equal today to 15500 Vietnamese Dong.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Free Billecart Salmon Brut or roast goose in Hong Kong?

I must boast, I flew to Hong Kong yesterday, but my flight was delayed by nearly three hours.
We were given a voucher for food at the airport to tide us over for the wait, but all I could think about was that nothing was going to replace the roast goose I should have been eating on my arrival in Hong Kong… so we had Champagne. It was only just midday on Saturday but hey, we were on holidays!

More news to come from Hong Kong
~Lots of yum cha (dim sum in HK)
~Tomorrow night is L’Atelier Joel Robuchon. Will it be as good as the Paris original that I visited last year?
~Tonight is Hutong. Many food writers that I respect think that this place was overlooked for the Top 50 restaurants of the world list (it would be the highest ranking Chinese if listed) I’m looking forward to the chilli of Hutongs food, to clear out the head cold I developed just before the trip, just typical!

Stay tuned…

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cumulus Inc, Flinders Lane

A friend tempted me to join her on a quick lunch at the very newly opened Cumulus Inc. last Tuesday.
In a nut shell I loved it, yet look forward to going back for dinner when they are a little more settled in, unfortunately they are still waiting for their liquor licence, (when I enquired when they were expecting it I was told “three weeks ago”), it's all smiles for now but this is far from an ideal way to open your business.
If you must head in immediately, as I had to, try the salted cod soup served in a glass with chilled parsley foam on top. It settled like a good Guinness as the two layers became one.
The Wagyu bresaola with threads of celeriac remoulade, is also worth seeking out, but don’t miss the 12 hour roast pork. Belly meat with soft melted fat and crispy skin served with picked watercress and some slivered poached lemon rind and flesh.

The room is all about attention to detail and the gorgeous features such as an iron bar, beige tipped Thonet chairs and clog coat rack, reak smart designer. I’m looking forward to seeing the room in the evening to get the full effect of what looked like, just as well thought out, lighting.