Thursday, November 27, 2008

The craft of service

One relationship is broken and another fails to launch, its been a tough week for service in my dining shoes.

About six months ago I wrote about a newish place that I had developed a relationship with - a trust.
I go there, I eat and drink. I enjoy the staff and their service. The location is convenient for me, I therefore can and do go regularly. But the relationship has been strained recently, I have had a few patchy experiences, PDC has had worse. I went there again the other day, a little cautious now, it seemed great and then it all went sour. It was wrong, they just didn't care, the service was appalling, and not even rude just absolutely careless.

I'm sad and angry, I had recommended this place, I have spent time there, but I just can't justify going there again - perhaps ever. They have been given many chances, but the culture has changed (perhaps reflecting on other bloggers at the time, its been like that all along?).
It's broken, it's over.

Another local relationship this week didn't even get off the ground.
A highly reviewed pub dining room, recommended strongly by friends (to their embarrassment, when we all dined together), the service was uneducated, untrained and strained. The staff didn't know better, the management didn't respond to my calls for love (ie clearing my own table to the bar and asking for dessert and cheese menus).
The food was good, even great in parts but was let down by the service and some faux pas like kitchen oversights, such as uncooked soggy chips or the lack of bread being offered.
I wanted to form a relationship, to become a fan like my friends, but I can't.

I can not and will not tolerate bad, uncaring, inconsistent service. I can not support managers and owners that think people don't know better or don't care what another 'number' in their business thinks.
I'll patronise places that make me feel good about being there, places that value my relationship with them... it goes both ways and I have been given nothing back.
Its over, and it never began. What a sad week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MoVida Next Door

I'm loathed to do it from a point of view of balance on my little blog, but the truth has to be told.

My Dish of the Month for October is an inspired tapa from MoVida Next Door. The reason I am so torn is because my very first dish of the month, back in September last year was from MoVida, before the little brother next door was born.
I hate the imbalance of two dishes of the month from the same group of chefs, but the food tells me it was the best that month and trust me it was fantastic. So I can't deny it...

October Dish of the Month - Cantabrian anchovy with fresh curd from MoVida Next Door
A crunchy, golden breaded, anchovy served on top of a disk of fresh curd (so perfect you could still see the drainage hole marks from the mould) a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil $4.50 each

PDC and I dropped in for a bite, late last month, just before I went across the road to have a look at the über savvy Greenhouse by Joost.

We had been warned by experienced Next Door addicts, to be there very early and be prepared to wait for space - even a 6pm. So there we were, at 6 on the dot and managed to secured the last free spaces for what I am sure would have been the rest of the evening.
We managed to eat our way through most of the offerings but the anchovy and fresh curd has been lingering on my mind ever since.
So much so, I just had to phone and ask some questions so I could give you the full run down (this is definitely a first for Eating with Jack).
I spoke briefly with Dave Roberts the head chef at MND and was very pleasantly surprised to learn that they make the fresh curd every morning in the kitchen. Just normal pasteurised cows milk (though he said they would like to use sheeps milk in the future) and a little rennet left at 38C in moulds and then voila, fresh curd. Topped to order on a rustic looking plate with the fried Spanish anchovy.
Next time I'm ordering two, actually maybe three!

If you haven't been to MoVida Next Door yet, you really must.

Monday, November 17, 2008

School prawns and fresh garlic

So what do you cook with this?

The freshest, hot enough to make you squint, garlic.

The most vividly fresh, green school prawns.

If you love simply prepared produce as much as me, you make...

Crispy fried school prawns with PDC's "forget tomorrow" aïoli

Inspired by Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons, but they would never be brave enough to serve as devilishly, vampire repellent aïoli as this is.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ugly furniture seals fate?

Has China Tea House on Chapel St, South Yarra closed down already?

It's been open since May and scared me off because of its hideous furniture and fit out, and a menu that features Thai and pan Asian flavours with a Cantonese focus - ie yum cha daily. Well not today anyway...

I have been curious about this place after reading the glowing reviews here, here and here. I was terribly tempted to twist PDCs arm and head there for some dumpling action tomorrow but unfortunately it was closed lunch today and again dinner tonight and they are not answering the phone, not very positive signs for a trading restaurant.

Perhaps that furniture has scared off more people than just me? Have you dined there? Does an awful fit out disturb you as much as a good one inspires me?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Umm, it's nice but a bit sweet...

Quote of the day, and possibly my year.

Today I did a cooking demonstration at my local market, Prahran; it's a regular gig that I am finding fun and love chatting about food with shoppers.
Part of my recipes today were some Anzac biscuits that I prepared and baked.

A lovely old lady approached and a politely asked if she could taste, as she threw her hand forward towards the unbaked biscuit tray.

I tried to protest, "no they are not baked, have one of these" gesturing towards the rack of warm chewy cookies.

She didn't respond.

Did she hear me, I question internally.

"No, no they are not cooked" I more pointedly reason, again no response, and then she had the disk of biscuit dough in her hand.

At this stage, the thing is I could yelp and wrestle her (a 80 year old fragile women) for the oat and coconut mix or just let her go with a smile.

I did the second. And turned away as I giggled to myself and another shopper, as they watched in amazement at the cute audibly challenged woman.

"Umm, its nice but a bit sweet" the lovely lady assured me, as she tootled off munching on her cookie dough.

"Did she just take from the unbaked tray", they asked.

"Yes" I smirked, "perhaps have these baked ones instead".

Monday, November 10, 2008

Legumes for Spring

This year, after a bummer crop of selected goodies last year, my small garden is planted with quite a potential banquet of fruit and vegetables.
This image shows the beginnings of my sugar snap peas, planted straight into the dirt, I also have some baby heirloom tomatoes, cavolo nero and silverbeet in punnets still getting enough strength for replanting. I shot these from seeds purchased from Diggers, a great site for those keen to grow varieties that your local garden shop has never heard of.
In anticipation of a successful harvest of sugar snaps, I recently cooked with some beautiful in season fresh borlotti beans. You can have a look at them and my recipe here.
Bring on the warmer days and I'll have more beans than I can handle; if only I can keep the pesky possums away.
The water pistol seems to be working...!! ;)