Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lindt Cafe, Melbourne

Well, it started and ended with this picture... the chocolate eclair that looked like it had been licked.

I've walked past the Lindt Cafe -Melbourne CBD - a few times and marveled each time at the queue of people waiting to get in. Personally I'd rather give my money to passionate, artisan pastry chefs, than multinational companies but I guess I am in the minority.

As a professional food browser (self declared, to PDCs frustration) I took it upon myself to try and work out what all the fuss was about.
On my first visit, I noticed that of the few products that were actually on display, cakes were mostly at restaurant prices ($12-$15) without the extra love and attention you would see a pastry chef put into a plated dessert
ie you get a slice of a cake made in a large commercial slab, for the same price as an individually crafted resraurant dessert.
There was chocolates that had mostly been made in your standard moulds and some interesting sounding ice creams that seemed well priced. Macarons or as they describe them 'Delice' were missing from the display.

I tweeted at the time suggesting that the long queue was reflective of a Max Brenner style frenzy.

A month passes and again I am window shopping at the Lindt Cafe, yet this time there are quite a selection of products on display. The catch is that many of them look not quite right, in my honest opinion.
There's the licked eclair, broken and very poorly filled macarons, cakes with finger prints in the ganache and dried cracked cream. In short the offer was unacceptably poor and yet again, people are queuing like sheep to get into the place.
I don't get it.

I again tweet my findings and am humbled by the many stunned reactions to the products. It's not just a personal food nerd fussiness that's saying that it's not good enough, many people are surprised at the lack of quality. So it's with this fire in my boutique-sweets-loving belly, I email Lindt customer service in Sydney to see if they have anything to say about my identifed 'quality control issues', and as I was expecting there is no attention to detail on the customer service department either as nobody has returned my email.

Oh well, I guess I already knew were I stood with Lindt Cafe, I knew it wasn't for me but I thought they might like our feedback. I guess they are too busy serving crappy products to silly people who are willing to queue for them because they think it's the hot place.
More fool them for paying $6 for the eclair that everyone said "Eww" to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Julie and Julia, and boeuf bourguignon

Any self respecting food blogger knows all about the ones that 'come good'; the bloggers that go on to write about their love of food and actually get paid for the passion.

I've have books by Clotilde, David, Adam and Pim (and Steve, though not strictly a food blogger), I read the mainstream media articles written by local bloggers and cheer on our community's victorious moments at regular get togethers.

So it's with the same interest that I keenly accepted an invitation to the latest instalment of these victories; a food bloggers story being made into a book, that then gets made into a movie...

No doubt, I am the marketing trifecta when it comes to the Julie and Julia movie.
Chick - check.
Foodie - check.
Blogger - check.

So I guess I was destined to love it and I did... well actually I loved it more when I, as a good blogger, (not one of those naughty, unresearching ones that all the boring people talk about) did my due diligence looking at examples of both Julie and Julia's work. Initially, watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child all I could see was a frumpy version of the Devil not wearing Prada, and then that thought morphed into an annoying drunk drag queen that likes to grunt. I was disappointed by her strange acting...UNTIL I watched this and this and this. Now I think Meryl is a genius, close to the god like status Dan Aykroyd has in his interpretation but you'll need to see the film for that clip!

I was fortunate enough to watch the film in the luxury of a big fat lazyboy style arm chair while eating Julia Childs recipe for boeuf bourguignon with creamy mash and sipping Red Claw Shiraz. You can to with a special deal at Victoria Village Gold Class, check it out here.

If you are even half as keen as me when it comes to foodie things, I know you will enjoy it immensely. I think I need to see it again just to pull out all my favourite quotes and scenes... who doesn't remember with excitement their first comment?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thank god for Melbourne markets

I'm still sorting through various holiday photos and found this doozy from my last visit to New Zealand.
Yes, a single celeriac for NZ$13.31!
The week before our trip I had made a celeriac remoulade at home in Melbourne and was craving it again, until I saw this celeriac at a supermarket in Christchurch.
The main sign noted that it was a product of New Zealand so the crazy price just doesn't make any sense. Its $10 more expensive than the celeriac I had brought in Australia.
No wonder none of the kiwis I spoke to knew what celeriac was, I bet these headed to the supermarket rubbish bin eventually once they were too old for sale.
Who would buy this... for $13? Just crazy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Crunchy, spicy fish - Thailand

I've been jet setting about a bit lately and have finally taken the time to go through the huge amount of photos I have on both my camera and iPhone - as I suspected 80% of them are of food!

One of the photos I was excited to find was this fish we ate at a beach front restaurant on Phi Phi Island, Thailand. We loved it so much we went back two days later and had it again.
The fish is what they were locally calling 'seabass'. The delicate white flesh was filleted on one side away from the bone frame, yet still attached, then fried until crunchy on the outside yet translucently perfect in the middle.
The proverbial icing on the cake was the spicy salad on top; prawn pieces, shredded carrot, chinese celery, cashew nuts, green apple (to our surprise!), shallot, coriander and chilli. Dressed in your typical Thai hot, salty, sweet and sour flavours.

This was complimented with what is a more Chinese inspired dish of fresh shiitake mushrooms with choi sum and lots of garlic.

I wish I could eat both these dishes again now. Right now.

Reflecting on these and many other photos, I can't help but notice the beautiful and complimentary plates the dishes were served on. Often, the casual places we ate at the plates would be more perfunctionary bordering on ugly and chipped, this type of thoughtfulness you only usually find at the best of places, not were lunch and drinks for two costs $30 Aussie.

It was evident that there was love in that kitchen and we could taste, and see it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monkey Bananas

Hey, have I told you about the tours I have been doing at Prahran Market?

No? Oops sorry.

Well instead of me rabbiting on, have a look here and here or even better just come along one Saturday! All the details are here.

Now the intention of this post was not the market but these extremely cute monkey bananas that I brought after a tour a few weeks ago.

This variety are my absolute, hands down favourite. Firm texture, even when very ripe and small enough that they are not a meal in themselves as some of those ginormous cavendish bananas can be.

What I loved so much about these hands in particular was the bunch on the right, they were particularly tiny, just minuscule as you can see next to the 20 cent piece.

I asked at the counter as I paid for them, "so, do you have any smaller?" The woman looked at me with the strangest frown and then just absolutely cracked up.
"No, they are the smallest".

I totally believed her.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kaikoura crayfish

Once upon a time*, back when I got married many months ago, we took a short trip to New Zealand to celebrate with the kiwi contingent that couldn't join us in Melbourne for the official party.
A highlight of the trip apart from PDC's mammoth half marathon PB time, was the most lovely cocktail party that was thrown for us, one of the food highlights of this evening was some very special Kaikoura crayfish.

I've been through Kaikoura a couple of times, it's a small town on the north-east coast of New Zealands south island. The thing I remember most clearly is the fur seal colony that lives along the coast there and the linked foodie thing about seeing these seals that explains my keen interest in this town, seals love crayfish and so do I.
Luckily for both of us Kaikoura translates from Maori as 'Meal of Crayfish' - needless to say there is crayfish to be had for both the Aussie tourist and the seals.

The crayfish canapes you can see in this image I made from two crayfish that my mother-in law bartered for from a licensed Kaikoura diver. Apparently only licensed divers can catch the crays and this guy had more than he needed. (...great to see that smart old fashioned barter is still alive and well)

The crays nearly fell victim to a mornay sauce *phew* before PDC and I decided to take charge and made these ooh-la-la canapes.
The baguette we baked for the croutons was already on hand and we whipped up some mayo quicker than getting in the car to go to the supermarket (if you doubt that, look at my recipe here) the garnish was the tricky part.

An avocado slice and dill was a logical classic combination but never being just satisfied with the easy option I decided to add another flavour combo to the other half.
Persimmons were in season and perfect at the time and I had one waiting for my breakfast the next morning. Thinking about the flavours I decided (with testing on myself, of course!) that the vanilla characters of the persimmon reminded me of a frenchy vanilla sauce sometimes served with fish and the crunch well that went without saying, the decision was made.
So a smear of mayonnaise, a medallion of crayfish (that we had cooked earlier that morning) and then some match sticks of persimmon.

They were gone in a flash. Lucky that cray diver was quicker than a flash

*I opened my blog account and found this as a draft post from what seems like it was from so long ago it was a fairy tale, hence I just had to start with 'once upon a time'.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Perfect beach lunch

We spent the last four days at Railay in coastal Thailand. After 2 days of patchy rain and one hell of a storm (as we should expect, as it is rainy season in the region) the sun came out and I had the opportunity to tan my Melbourne-winter pale legs.

Altering between the beach, our beautiful pool and the bar we managed to find what I thought was the perfect beach goer lunch.

A spicy som tam salad (green papaya bashed with dried prawns, fish sauce, chilli, lime, garlic, peanuts, snake beans and tomato... no doubt more and more as well), served on the same plate with some marinated and fried chicken thigh and some of my favourite sticky rice. Lengths of more snake beans and cucumber where the textural garnish.

Pretty healthy, really speedy and bloody amazing flavours. No doubt I will be recreating this at home in Melbourne come summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coda Bar + Restaurant

I keep starting and restarting this post; how do I describe the food at Coda that actually informs a diner more thoroughly than what I was before we visited?
I thought about what we ate and when, how we ate it, and then thought about the house named roll and how it essentially sums up the Coda palate:

'Coda roll, crisp parcel of bone marrow, ginger, shiitake mushroom and rice paddy herb'

Essentially a spring roll with pieces of bone marrow, shiitake and ginger inside, served with a lemon based dressing and stalks of lemony rice paddy herb. The bone marrow was rich and palate coating yet the dressing and herb add a refreshing acid lift.
I loved this. I love the seamless fusion of the ideas.

All the other dishes we ate were not neat fusions of Eur-Asian ideas such as the Coda Roll. The menu seemed to be split into South East Asian dishes focusing on Vietnam and Thailand or pure French benchmarks such as parfait, tartare and terrine. Yet as you would expect from a modern Australian menu there was Asian produce mixed through the European stalwarts; so oysters served with mirin and pomelo, or ginger in our coleslaw makes perfect sense, to us.

What didn't make perfect sense to me was the powerful flavours of Asia served at the same time as delicate French classics; my MacLeay Valley rabbit cassoulet was absolutely swamped on the taste front, by the in-your-face aromats of mussels stir fried with rice wine, chinese sausage and chilli. Likewise our steak tartare seemed under seasoned (perhaps it was) in comparison to the 'Quail Delight' flavour bombs or the spanner crab, galangal, chilli and lime betel leaves.

Perhaps these are just opening wobbles, we did dine just 8 days into what I no doubt predict will be a very successful business, but next time I will definitely be more careful about asking when my dishes will be served.

A high point of our evening was the amazing service. Mykal -who's face I know from MoVida and his partner Kate were absolutely glowing with pride in their first venue. Our waiter was friendly and had that perfect knack of being there just at the right time (though she had no idea of what the cheese selection was that night - perhaps that's a good indicator of the overriding importance put on the Asian dishes, especially since another person explained the use of the paddy herb with the precision of a biologist).

No doubt with chef partner Adam D'Sylva in the kitchen Asian dishes will be a focus, I just hope to see some balance across the broad range of flavours, tweaks are inevitable in a new restaurant and I am excited about my next visit, some of my most memorable European food experiences have happened in Asia, from artistic artichokes in Dalat to exquisitely matured Epoisses in Hong Kong and my favourite fusion on all, the banh mi. I hope to continue this traditional now at home, in Melbourne.

Welcome Coda.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Persimmons, different styles for different uses

A few years ago I learnt the difference the hard why. But since then I haven't seen the offending (when firm) acorn shaped persimmon that often.

I'm still cautious though whenever I buy one of these vanillian scented beauties.

The acorn shaped style on the left should be soft and a deep orange orange colour when its jellied flesh is ready to be spooned out.

The tomato shaped style on the right should be firm and a apricot orange colour whrn its crunchy flesh is ready to be cut into wedges or eaten as an apple.

Nice and simple.

Oh and thanks to Jess for beating me to the idea...! ;)

The Deanery, Melbourne

Still in catchup mode, I started this last week before my weekend in NZ...

Tonight I headed out for dinner with a girlfriend, we had no real plans but a short list of possibilities. It was too early for our first choice, Coda (due to open properly next week; soft opening from tomorrow) so The Deanery, Robin Wickens new-ish haunt, it was.

So yes, I wasn't in the head space for it but its certainly didn't win me over; food, service, wine, ambiance or value.

I've drank at The Deanery many times and even had a few bar snacks over the years but have never felt inclined to eat there. It feels like a bar and to be honest I guess they know that, that's why when we arrived and asked about having dinner we were advised that we would be "more comfortable" upstairs.

So we are lead upstairs, around a corner to a spot-lit, double set table. We realise that yes, the bar space was definitely more of what we had in mind, yet we are now here and at the mercy of an assortment of waiters. House made bread arrives, oh no this just isn't what I had in mind at all.
If I wanted flavoured bread, I'd go to Bakers Delight...

The night rolls on from here. The food is fine; fancy but fine. The menu is impossible to decipher (and that's rich coming from me) and the dishes we receive though interesting are far from what we could possibly image - maybe that's the point? (My thoughts and pictures are on twitter, here, here, here and here)

Well I guess the ex-Interlude customers (read: older, richer, stuffier, conservative) would like this but from a glance around the empty dining room I guess that's all it will impress, and hey didn't Interlude go out of business? Either we don't get him or he doesn't get us but Robin Wickens food seems more than a little out of touch with the current hospitality climate.

Without nagging on any further, I feel I must mention the service... just strange...
Stiff, a bit pompous ("so, no entree for you?", "just a glass?") and plain unthoughtful. A silly mess with our credit card payments with three enquiries from different waiters and a forgotten scarf left in the center of our table as we sipped digestives in the bar (we were informed of the scarf, by a fellow diner and strangly not the waiter that must have moved it there). I'm not sure what it was all about but I am uncertain who was in charge of the dining room that night and I guess that's my answer.

So The Deanery, what can I say.
Pop in for a drink by all means, the wines are reasonably priced but don't be lead up the stairs to the dining room, I don't think you will be "more comfortable" up there.

Oh and even the MasterChef caption writer can spell Caesar (as in the salad) why can't The Deanery? At a diningroom like this, it's all about trust, trust that everyone is as keen and passionate about the product as the diner; this just screams to me that they can't be bothered.

Sorry guys, no wonder the traditional media haven't published anything, maybe I should have followed suit in the "if you can't say something nice..." bandwagon but its just not in my nature.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The last tomato

Could this be Melbourne's last tomato?

Being strictly of the seasonal food camp, it has greatly amused me that my tiny courtyard garden has proven to be so unseasonal this year.

When everyone else was experiencing bumper crops of tomatoes, my heirloom bushes barely had a flower and the fruit that did eventuate died in our desert like heat wave of 40+ degree temperatures.

And now when I should have pulled out the dying vine months ago (but I held out hope for this tiny slowly growing tomato), I have this a gorgeous Black Zebra tomato, my last.

As you can see from the first picture, the vine is totally dead apart from the one stem holding on to my tomato, just grown in a pot in my sunny courtyard in St Kilda.

Weird unseasonal stuff huh!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hutong, Hong Kong

Amnesty Post

This will be the last of my catch-up posts but I think the best.

Hutong was on our must dine list whilst in Hong Kong in July last year; Sichuan food as good as it gets apparently. Didn't need to know anymore apart from the instruction to have a pre-dinner cocktail at Aqua on the floor above.

High attention to detail tables, beautifully lit.

Ornate flatware that has me flipping it to take down the details.

" Green asparagus coated in white sesame"; crunchy fat asparagus with sweet sesame crunch.

" Chilli spiced bamboo clams (razor clams) steeped in Chinese rose wine and chilli sauce"; stunning, powerful flavours. Absolutely the dish of the night, and beautifully presented.

"Drunken crispy pigeon, half a crispy roasted pigeon and half a pigeon poached in Chinese wine"; the most tender of meats, intriguing presentation and pigeon brains to nibble.

"Golden fried pork tendon with scallions and dried prawn roe"; texturally perfect, crunchy, chewy, gelatinous and incredibly rich. Needed half this quantity.
"'Red Lantern' crispy soft shell crabs with Sichuan red peppers"; this dish reminded me of a child's play pen with thousands of balls... find the crab in the chillis.

Even with removing the crabs from the pit of dried chillis, this dish was so hot we laughed and cried at the same time. Perfectly crispy and seasoned well, just not as interesting to the palate as to the eye.

Dessert because we felt obligated but wish we didn't bother. "Coconut three ways(I think)"; bland dull, no passion.

Hutong offered some amazing food, presented in a beautiful manner in stunning surrounds. The service, as with all of our experiences in HK (except the 'western style' service at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon), was shaky at best. Too many waiters, too many strange repetitive conversations, too often.
The experience at Hutong, sets a new benchmark in my mind of how stunning Chinese food can be, elapsing every experience I have of this style of food, Flowerdrum included.

Go for the food and views, and the stunning food porn images you can take with the spot-lighted tables!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This little piggy - the challenge. Six ingredients, simple tools and 30 minutes – COOK!

I wrote this the week after my brush with reality tv, the program airing this week may put all the pieces together...

I’m not very good, at not being very good at something.

So much so, that as I lay in the recovery position (okay catching up on sleep) in my bed after the craziests of weeks, I could not help but think (okay dream) about how poorly I did at my one chance… it wasn’t that hard. Use these ingredients with this equipment and make something delicious.
My self imposed restrictions were to also make something different to the rest of the crowd and make sure I represent myself well by making my food look ‘hot’… well that’s were I stuffed up, you no doubt would say it was fine, if it makes it to tv but it definitely was not inspired.

So with a couple of hours of self prescribed therapy, I reproduced the challenge (nearly) and put myself back to the test.
Could I do it again but better, in a better time, with a better result and a better looking finished dish?

Following the same thought processes of the day I recreated the same dish but here dear readers you get to see how it should have looked, should I not have plated it in 10 seconds (oh god I know; a food stylist plating their food in 10 seconds, what was I thinking??... “Must cut all the pith from my lemon zest”… oh, so we learn!)

So here are the ingredients and equipment (please note, I used a normal stove not a camp stove and am not sponsored by scanpan or global so my Circulon and Mundials will have to do!)

The six ingredients (unnecessary ones not used...), the basic equipment and my 30 minute count down timer

Whipping a mayonnaise (egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, olive oil) with a fork. In the challenge I also boiled an egg as a backup dressing in case the mayo split

Marinating the pork chop

Prepared salad components; cabbage, apple, lemon zest, parsley to be mixed with the mayo, just before serving

Cooking the chop

Resting the cooked chop

The finished dish.
Lemon zest pork loin (well rested and cooked properly this time), apple and cabbage 'remoulade' (well that was a mistake... I'll explain if its aired...), pretty dressed apple bits and a lemon cheek (lets not bring that up either...)

The finished dish with 5 minutes still on the clock. And yes I took all my own photos at the same time!

I think I then ate it in the remaining count down...

Three minutes to go...

One minute to go...

Finished and the chewed bone, that I had cut the loin off.
Wonder what would have happened if I served this? Perhaps I would have actually made it onto the tv.
On reflection I should have eaten it, as we were not served lunch until nearly dinner time.

My Tuna and Bean Salad

Amnesty Post

I make this salad quite often but it has been maing a more regular appearance at my house, as PDC is training like a mad man for up coming half marathons. Lots of healthy protein, low GI, fresh and tastes amazing. All the boxes are ticked.

My Tuna and Bean Salad
1 tin sliced (or at least chunky) tuna - the fancy bottled preserved tuna I brought last week at Mediterranean Wholesalers is at the highest end of the pantry tuna scale
1 tin Edgel 4 bean mix - the other mixed bean brands are too stodgy
1 handful of raw green beans
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
2 stems spring onions
1 hot red chilli
Sherry vinegar
Rinse and drain the tinned beans
Chop the cherry tomatoes and finely slice the green beans, spring onion and chilli
Toss together the beans, tomato, green beans, spring onion, chilli and tuna
Add a splash of EVOO, sherry vinegar and season well
Eat immediately but leave a small bowl in the fridge for a loved one to munch on later.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amnesty Week

So, just as I post about Amnesty Week, a client calls and says they
have a big job for me.
Fantastic. The catch is, they need it finished in less than a week...
I like a challenge. I agree.

But poor Amnesty week will need to become Amnesty fortnight, just as
Claire is doing.

Will be back soon!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

France or Greece? Or is it Australia?

Amnesty Week Post -written 14th January 2009

Lets stop and smell the Australian culinary 'roses' for a moment...

And reflect on how lucky we are in Melbourne, and Australia, in general.

We have richly diverse cultural backgrounds that has given us an incredible choice of dining options, something that I never give much thought to until I am overseas on holiday and eating the same food everyday.
I do like to eat like a local on holiday, so when in France it's the quaint bistros that get my patronage, in Vietnam the brightly flavoured salads are frequent features, in Hong Kong it was roast goose and in Macau the 'portuguese' custard tarts.

But in Melbourne it could be anything, and that's what must be so exciting and confusing for visitors, there is not one strong theme that I'd call Melbourne or Australian food.

As you may know, if you have read here before, I'm not the type to mince my words and get confused about food, Australian food does have a style of its own, its just that until you have spent some time here, it's kind of hard to get your head around.

I was trying to explain this to some English tourists on the weekend, "Australian food is about freshness; European in the originating idea but with Asian flavour twists and ingredients. We still love comfort style food from the 'motherland' but will tweak it", (who hasn't eaten curried tuna mornay served with a side of fried rice from the local Chinese takeaway - ok in the 90's maybe - but now you are getting the drift).

The point I am making is that our food, the stuff we cook at home is varied, and we are not afraid to mix tradition with modern and throw caution into the wind but the really beautiful thing is that you can also go the other way. You can experience pure examples of what it is like dining in another country without travelling there, which is what I have done recently at Hellenic Republic and France Soir.

Not quite Greece; Hellenic Republic, Brunswick East
I'd had a glimpse of the food late last year and have been killing to get in and try George Calambaris' agapi packed food.

Firstly a warning, Hellenic Republic is frantically busy, but for all you people that like to plan your meals you can book (of which I am incredibly surprised at considering the prices), so I would advise this, unless you are prepared to smile and hope for the best, as a walk in.

The menu is intimidatingly huge, with more than 20 'piata' small plates plus a selection of cheeses and meats. Then there is also more than a dozen grill options such as meats, fish, shellfish and vegetables, some composed dishes such as Moussaka and then also desserts.

Despite this the dishes are very clear about what they are, citing a Greek name and then a English descriptor but for me, ita ll a bit too much like hard work, sifting through, tossing up this combo with that, oh but what if I forgot about this, is it balanced, and most importantly will I have dish envy as they fly past to other tables.

So. We settled on the first of the 'trapezi' menus, a set menu offering a selection from the menu. Some vegetables, dip, seafood and meat with fruit for dessert. The second menu option also included a dessert course.
I knew the food looked good, I could trust it would taste good, yet the value question was the one I wasn't sure about. Well rest assured we walked out two hours later stuffed to the gills; feed watered and relaxed with loud but fun Greek music.
Just like a Greek holiday, yet not nearly as far (well it is a fair way to Brunswick East from St Kilda!)

Not quite France; France Soir, South Yarra
I think I have dined in less interesting bistros in France, France Soir is one of those places that just has me hopping. Moving between the tables as we sit I resist the strange urge to say "merci", yet I can't resist a glass of chilled Lillet Blanc.
Glancing across the menu I don't really need to look as I already know what I will see, typical, down the line classic french bistro fair -just what the doctor ordered! With what has to be Melbourne's cheapest shucked to order oysters, if they are in season I can't go past them, if not -like on my recent visit- the lambs brains or steak tartare become contenders. Even maybe the salade Nicoise.
Conversation is always lean upon arrival at France Soir, as the encyclopedic wine list requires a heavy time investment from PDC but that's fine as I sit back and watch the comings and goings of the humming dining room.
The service is always a bit of a game for me, its just not the same at France Soir if our waiter is not at least a little bit detached from us; somewhat charming, perhaps flirtatious, a little more distracted and gossipy with the other waiters. I nearly expect to see them smoking in the bar as I experienced in Lyon a few years back. Never too busy for a cigarette or a gossip with the other waiters.

Don't let the GFC hold back your foodie travel plans, both of these restaurants offer amazing value and an experience you would have to otherwise travel the globe for.
Lucky us huh!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Baked eggs at home

My non-stick pan is no longer non-stick which means that a quick brekkie at home of eggs on toast, ends up in a mess of egg glued pan.

Keen for some eggs without the mess (or the queues on Easter weekend) I decided to bake some just like I order at a number of cafes around Melbourne.

Baked eggs with double smoked ham, potato and fennel
I made this from leftovers in my fridge, if you intend to do the same just make sure there are enough wet ingredients to dry ones.

2 eggs
2 slices ham
1 roast potato, sliced
4 mini roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 baby fennel, finely sliced, tips reserved
Meridith dairy feta and the marinating oil
toast to dip

Distribute the ham, potato, fennel and tomato in a shallow bowl, small baking dish or large tapas dish
Crack eggs on top and drizzle with feta, extra marinating oil and season with salt and pepper

Bake at 220C for about 10minutes until you can see the whites have set, yet the yolks are still runny, remove from oven and garnish with fennel tips
Perfect to eat just with a fork and toast to dip, whilst reading the paper (or news online, in my case)

Serves one

A clean slate is in order - Amnesty week

I've had a bit of a busy few... well, months.

Eating with Jack has suffered, Twitter has flourished. The immediate satisfaction of tweets has nothing but increased my guilt in lack of quality posts. I think about them, photograph then, even mostly write them; just don't publish them.

Well in an effort to alleviate my continued avoidance of EwJ, due to the post that I 'should' be finishing first, I wish to ask for amnesty. And welcome you to join me, post those stories you haven't quite finished; just the images, list the important bits in point form, do whatever it takes, just get the bloody things up so you/we can all move on.

Otherwise twitter will continue to get busier and our blogs will get quieter.

I pledge posts from Hong Kong, from Sydney, some local food scene banter, a pretty produce picture or two, and even some very belated recipes -some that are so out of season that they are nearly in season again.

Starts tomorrow, now for another few hours of procrastination... see you on Twitter!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The food takes over, the final days

Part 3 - If you haven’t worked it out by my absence, no I haven’t been last minute invited back into the reality tv fold, I’m just a little bored with it. I keep twisting and contorting my words; what is the meaning of all this? What is it really about?
Well I still don’t know, and quite frankly I’m bored with it. I couldn’t be bothered to waste any more time right now torturing myself recounting a week in food hell.
But for the sake of a happy ending, I realise I must share. I know there are unanswered questions (yes, they were all asked of me at the recent bloggers get together). So let’s go, lets finish this off… for now at least. I do have something else up my sleeve for what could be an interesting week in April once this all goes to air…

Day 4 - Wednesday
Today appeared at first to be an interesting day. It had been overheard that the contestants that who had failed at the challenge the day before were up earlier than the rest for a special excursion to an iconic Sydney food destination. The rest of us winners (though once we learnt of their adventures we considered ourselves losers, as we wished we were taking part) were up a little later for breakfast before the studio. As I ate my scrambled eggs and as much tinned fruit as I could stomach, I was glad we could change outfits and more importantly shoes today, the standing, no seats provided, was killing my legs, I just felt so stiff for the lack of exercise.
Upon arrival at the studio we were ferried to our little windowless room that we shared with the chocolate bars and soft drink. Stuffed full from breakfast still, I popped down to the internal café and ordered my uninspiring coffee. No doubt the café staffs are getting very sick of the fussy coffee people in the white aprons!

Shortly we were shuffled into the studio and saw the first of our small victories for the day; rows of stools! Cheers of excitement rang out as you would expect from a class of children in an underprivileged school, we could sit today. But a waving red flag crossed my mind, if today is so different from yesterday and the day before, that we get stools for how long will we be perched and is it the opposite hell to standing in the same spot? The answers developed slowly, painfully slowly as we sat all day in the same position being animated about food we could not see and judging that we could not hear. So much for the opportunity to learn from others mistakes.
Lunch crept up on me today, it must have been the excitement of a stool that filled in a few hours, as next thing I knew I was presented with another cold lunchbox filled with another chewy roll and more of the same as yesterday. The chocolate basket also featured packets of jubes today and the soft drink, well, how exciting can it be?

The afternoon rolled on with more of the same and we were shipped back to the hotel by 7.30pm, I immediately got changed and headed to a local gym to have my treat for the week, a pound on a treadmill. The cardio theatre was full of news of the bushfires that didn’t mean anything to me at the time; I was still under the impression that a few houses were lost and people missing. Returning home to Melbourne a couple of hazy days later, brought the rush of exhaustion and grief for the week of Victorian horror that I knew very little about.

Sweat laden and finished at the gym yet still strangely wired, I headed to a late night book store in Paddington, were I pretended for an hour or so that I was at home flipping through some new cookbook purchases in my lounge room. As a tool of fantasy food porn, my couch and some cookbooks was not too far off the pinnacle of my desire. A now sleepy but hungry cab back towards the hotel reminded me I was in Sydney, and in the same neighbour that I called home for a few years, I asked the cabbie to detour to Goulburn St and I reminisced about my experiences in Sydney over a bowl of combination short and long soup and a Tsingtao beer at BBQ King. Finally dinner. Followed up on the short stroll home, by a cup of bitter chocolate sorbet from Gelatissimo, so rich it reminded me of being in Spain the year before. I love how flavours can alter your mood.

Day 5 -Thursday
Today brought with it the knowledge that it was the final challenge for the competition so far, and the excitement that nobody was going home, so no unnecessary bag packing this morning. Breakfast was losing its appeal, same stuff different day, but at least I could put together a nourishing meal that satisfied my some what deflated food soul and stomach.
Today became known in polite circles as the day of the pig, some won and some lost and I can tell you whom the biggests losers were and that day it was definitely the judges.
Fancy tasting some 37 combinations of the same ingredients, some cooked only an hour before, some cooked a lengthy six (yes, SIX!) hours before tasting/judgement. I sincerely felt sorry for the judges, no wonder we didn’t break for lunch until 5.30pm (thank Christ for the scrambled eggs this morning), the main driving force behind the breaks – the talent - were full and so, not interested in eating anything more than what the queue of plates in front of them.

Now at this stage I want to briefly depart from my little food world here and beg of you, should you actually get to see my finished dish on tv, please don’t hate it, just feel sorry for the judges that ate it 6 hours after I prepared it, it had a brief encounter with the fridge, a sheet of paper towelling and a spray bottle, but how is anything to look or taste good when its that old. Unfortunately I was judged third last…

The most interesting thing about the extended filming today was the sugar doing the rounds, bags of snakes materialised from thin air, (is the natural confectionary company another sponsor?) Cokes were guzzled, cherry ripes were nibbled at, and all while our second victory in two days waited for us in the lunch room… the boxes were gone and the items were plattered in like groups so we could pick and choice the components we wanted, the bread was room temperature and the salads cold. In a nut shell, a victory for us, nag power does work! Our keepers were using our strategically wired chests for good not evil (this time at least).

A few more hours of filming saw us then head back to the hotel. The feeling was quite jovial, no one had just been sent home and we were all in the same boat in regards to our topsy-turvy feelings about the final judgement the next day.
Feeling heavy headed, I complied with the opportunity for a beer at the pub across the road. We tried not to talk about the pig, but she kept rearing her head. “So would you have done it differently?”, “How boring was that one, and they loved it”, “I’m sick to god of talking about pork chops, lets talk about bolongese…” ha!
As can happen when you’re exhausted emotionally and physically, one beer became two and then I bailed quickly before it was suddenly four and a hangover to boot the next day.

Not being bothered to actually travel anywhere for good food (note; another out of character foodie experience), I headed into Chinatown in search of chicken soup for my soul. I stumbled across a shiny looking Vietnamese pho joint and stumbled in. I knew just from looking around that it just wasn’t going to be mind boggling good; those moments are saved for scary looking hole in the wall places at 11pm when you are lost in Hanoi… The soup was fine, but what did I expect. Melbourne has coffee and Vietnamese food, Sydney has Thai and lots of top-end dining. Lets not compete on these, we know they are facts. I can live with it, and love it.

Day 6 - Friday
My soon to be determined last day as a guest of the production company was a jumble of emotions. I had a feeling it wasn’t right and that I’d be going home (the to-be-selected Top 20 were staying another night for briefings etc). I had reflected and realised that I had got my tv ‘persona’ all wrong. I should have done the challenge differently; I hadn’t performed within the guidelines expected of me…
It was also the earliest rise of them all, up at 4.30 to be in the foyer by 5.30am all packed and ready to go, breakfast was to be served by the infamous catering company at the studio. Oh I wished I hadn’t said I was bored with it yesterday now!
Well after, let’s just say a little hiccup, with our arrival and a hour plus wait in an idling bus outside of the studio, we finally arrived and were shuffled to our room. In came our breakfast, egg and bacon rolls. Sounds alright? Well it funny enough as if they were trying to amuse me for one last time we were served rolls with egg, and, rolls with bacon, yes individually and in the same quantities that you would expect if they were together; one piece of bacon and a table spoon of scrambled egg, separately! The cook that put these together must have been a robot to not have worked out the error. Some of my fellow contestants, took the liberty of putting the components of two rolls together for themselves, and then others blindly took an empty roll and then complained of the lack of anything but greasy bread. It really was quite funny. I positioned myself with my ordinary coffee and watched for entertainment as this happened over and over again until more rolls were delivered –correctly filled- just mere moments before we were whisked out of the sugar room.

Judgement day brought a new room, set up with prop furniture that I am familiar with from those overpriced hire companies. Weird bright vases with no flowers, OTT stuffed cushions, it’s meant to be comfortable yet if anything I’d feel more comfortable now in a cement room and a hard stool.
Today I’m feeling emotional, I think it’s the lack of sleep catching up with me, I am watching the people I have come to know quite well, get told yes or no. Most cry, which makes me strangely teary as well. It’s not like me, I should have found this inner sook earlier and perhaps I would have gotten a more positive response when my turn came in front of the judges. Again, you may not see me; my shoes were the real star that day, if you see some killer black platform numbers –their mine!
Lunch was a blur of party pies (without the party) and sadness for the very emotional room. Poor form by the production company saw people bribed with access to their phones, so they would talk on camera to their loved ones. Others stood firm and denied the immediate access to family and waited to talk off camera later. Others that were on a dip of emotions, tiredness and far too, too, much sugar balled and wailed for the cameras. I to my embarrassment had a couple of tears, mainly because the waiting room could not believe me when I said I was going home, not selected.

As I sit here now, I’m so grateful at this confusing moment. Perhaps the judges did me a knowing favour, I’m not sure but should I have been given a thumbs up it would have been a very big ethical decision to accept or not.

Dumped at the airport with four hours to wait for our flight home (don’t worry the lovely Qantas people altered it for us), some people were mad, some relieved, all exhausted. To appease my now very dry sense of humour, we were served some dinner of steamed-rice-and-brown-curry airline food on the way home. The world can be a cruel place.

A while has past now since my brush with reality tv, I have remained in contact with a handful of people and have recently learned of the happenings in the Top 20 ‘house’. I feel absolutely relieved in the knowledge, that I don’t need to wake up in the morning with a camera crew in my face… or deal with bullying games/tactics. Thanks George, Gary and Matt; you made the right decision, it’s not for me.

The highlight of my trip funny enough, happened at the airport on the way home, the weary judges (all from Melbourne too) awaited their flights. We jovially chatted like real people comparing notes from each side of the fence. I asked my loaded question, so what were the judges eating while we ate all this? Well the answer surprised. Just the same as us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Home made (better than) chips

Five easy steps to chip success

1. take these gorgeous, addictive potatoes and boil too many a couple of days earlier

2. crush then with the palm of your hand, until they look all arty like this

3. drizzle with olive oil, heaps of Murry River salt, pepper and some thyme from the garden

4. bake on 220C until they are golden brown, crunchy on the outside and a creamy, fluffyness on the inside

5. try not to share too many!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 3, as evil food takes over

Latest update to Good food equals love, bad food equals...?
Warning this is a long one so settle in, there will now have to be part three as well.

Day 3- Tuesday
Breakfast was more structured this morning and the tables where the food was stashed in stainless steel trays the day before, are now neat buffet warmers in a row.
I eat as much as I can of the provided scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast, filling up on some protein to make it through the day. I was now cautious from experience that it could be a traumatic food day, but also cautious that I had done no exercise for 3 days and didn’t know when I next could actually move more than back and forth to the studio loos.
Again today, lunch was served in cute the little lunch boxes. I was hopeful as soon as I saw them but my catering experience instantly told me that the chances that we would be having the same lunch as yesterday would be minute. (The caterer enjoys the opportunity to ensure the diners palate is kept wondering or tortured, whatever the brief maybe… and yes I was questioning this brief by the end of the week!) The boxes felt cold to touch as I picked it up, again not a good sign. As I gravitated back to the same table I lurked at yesterday, I took a peek inside and it wasn’t good news. There was a small chewy baguette with some processed meat, two mesclun leaves and too much seed mustard, served freezing cold obviously straight from the fridge, a rather strange salad of chickpeas, cannellini beans, spring onion and wait for it, chopped mushroom. The salad was squished into the box next to the baguette and dark brown, mushroom ‘juice’ had stained that side of my already unappetising roll. On top of the salad in the same box was an individual quiche that easily was the saddest attempt at something edible in a while. The French would riot in the streets if they knew how badly their classics; baguette and quiche, were being abused. I picked at best, ate the meat out of the roll and headed for the fruit basket. The crunchy nashi pears from the day before were gone (yes there was some smart foodies in the room) and some uninspired red delicious apples were in their place…
I stood staring at the table, realising that I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway and I was actually eating out of boredom and the fact that ‘food’ was put in front of me, something I rarely do. I decided to instead play coffee Russian roulette, so who will be my barista today…

Later that afternoon as my appetite did actually appear, I was tempted by that evil chocolate basket, I took “a break and had a kitkat”, the first for a very long time and reminded myself why I usually don’t bother, I ate it and was still unsatisfied but now also guilty that I had given in to the sugary dark side. I ‘mentally noted’ my out of character incident and convinced myself that I must be stronger and find the good(ness) in what’s offered for lunch.
Tiredness is setting in as I realise its already pushing 5.30 and it doesn’t look like we are going anywhere soon but to my surprise we were back in the bus heading to the hotel by 8.30pm.
Feeling like I have an early mark of such, as soon as my feet hit the street I am thinking about were I can head for dinner and end up convincing two other exhausted yet wired ‘Top 50’ to join me for some tapas at Bodega, in Surry Hills for some late dinner.
As I lay in bed later that night, I realise that an hour and half at Bodega has readjusted my outlook. A familiar feeling place, such as a restaurant, has made me feel somewhat normal again (or was it that extra glass of sherry helping?). Talking about food, drinking wine and some good company; yes that’s what I have missed.
Oh and I did taste some rich Bolognese sauce before lunch today, perhaps it was all the speculation about its ingredients that turned me off my meal, actually no on second thought, it was the lunch!

The end to this sorry saga to come over the weekend. Was I tempted to the dark side again, will it cause me to cry for the cameras, or was that just a 4.30am rise with 4 hours sleep again?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good food equals love, bad food equals…?

Last week would probably count as one of the craziest of my life, up there with packing my belongings in my car and driving across Australia with a guy I’d only known for a few months… luckily 11 years later he ended up becoming my Permanent Dining Companion –PDC. So I got a good thing out of that craziness, but I am still trying to figure out what good thing I got out of last week… and trust me it wasn’t a foodie experience, though perhaps it was meant to be…

Without going into all the gory details (you can read about that on other blogs –just google!), I realised the cold hard truth about my relationship with food. Apart from thinking about it for a living, I treat good food, the food I feed myself, family and friends, as evidence of my love.

For example, if I was to have you over for dinner, I’d plan a meal that I know you would like because of your personality, i.e. a busy person, with not enough hours in the day would appreciate a 12 hour braised dish. A friend that doesn’t get out to as many restaurants as they may like (god, who does!!) may enjoy a reproduction from my favourite restaurant.

Good food, takes thought and love to get right. I also realised that the food I feed myself allows me to be me; if I eat well, frequent my green grocer and fishmonger, chat at the bakery and get enough exercise I feel well, healthy and satisfied. If I don’t… well last week will happen.

So, I spent the week in Sydney as a guest of a fancy television production company – yes, you can no doubt work it out – one that is making, what I thought was a cooking show for amateurs.
Fantastic I thought as I applied, a chance to talk about food to a wider audience than PDC, my friends, work colleagues and you my beloved Eating with Jack readers. (ok yes, I do talk about food a lot, but thought this may give me the opportunity to talk with more(!) people about more(!) food)

But the sad truth was that I have never, for longer than I can remember, felt more dis-attached from food than when I spent that week in Sydney, supposingly working on a food program.
I think I have worked it out though, there was no love; we ate badly, doing long very boring hours, doing no exercise apart from frequent toilet runs (to cut the boredom!) and just felt like cattle bussed in and out, with very little contact with the outside world. And wait for it – shock horror – no phones as well!

Now, you may well blink and miss my presence on the program when it goes to air in a few months, as no doubt I was not interesting enough to cry and freak out for the cameras, or slice my fingers open with a knife or throw hot oil down my chest (a great plan though, now thinking about it! ;) But since this is my food blog and I like to share with you the stories about what I eat, I chronicled my meals at the stone face of reality tv… so here it is (but remember if you want to apply next year – and why not, you may have that certain little something more than me - make sure you byo everything!)

Day 1- Sunday
Breakfast out with PDC, before he ships me off to the airport at 10am
Economy airline food, “no thanks but can I have some water please”.
A post briefing beer at a local pub, as I watch some of the younger ‘contestants’ hoe into a bucket of KFC. The food snob in me is already out, but if I’d known perhaps I would have stashed a piece for dinner the next night!
Early dinner/late lunch at Spice I am, you can see my post from last year here and soon I’ll post images from this experience, needless to say as good as its always been.

Day 2- Monday
Rise at 5.30 to preen for the cameras, breakfast to be served at 6.30 before the bus departs at 7am. Well what a debacle for the poor hotel. Obviously they hadn’t been told that 50 plus hungry anxious people would be arriving for breakfast at the stroke of their opening time.
Very little food on display, no plates and bug-eyed staff running around. I’ve been there, I felt sorry for them and grabbed what I could and headed around the corner for a coffee from a chain store. (1st out of character foodie experience of the trip…many more to come) Mental note to self, must remember that I am in Sydney and ask for strong, warm lattes at all but a few known ‘safe’ destinations.
Lunch served in our little retreat room was the best of the week. Individual lunchboxes, with mountain bread wraps, frittata and Caesar salad. Served with a very large basket of debaucherous chocolate bars of every kind, enough softdrinks to sugar high a primary school and a basket of fruit that was barely replenished during the week. An urn for instant coffee and tea bags in paper cups sat in the corner mostly unused.
After lunch I headed down to the internal café (unfortunately run by the same catering company) and ordered my Sydney latte (ie “a small, strong caffe latte, just warm please”) not scaringly bad but a life plummeting jump from my usual Wall 280 one everyday.
Dinner was a disappointment in many ways, especially the thought that they were feeding us so we could keep filming; the hotel was not a likely destination anytime soon. As we queued into the room we were offered “lamb, or beef curry” on closer inspection, as I stood aside, the options were actually labelled ‘lamb rogan josh’ and ‘beef curry’ so much for choice. Two very similar dishes, served on plain steamed rice with under-done carrot and zucchini chunks in a plastic takeaway container. I looked at mine with despair, ate the cubes of brown meat in brown sauce, the crunchy, unseasoned vegetables and pushed the rest aside. The basket of chocolates and lollies doing its evil work on the room, as kit kats and cherry ripes replaced the bland dinner so many people pushed aside. As a martyr to this blog, I selected the other meat option as a taste comparison, ate the dull vegies and made a cup of plastic tasting tea. From the highs of lunch and the first day of filming to the lows of dinner and many more hours in the studio to come, we finally departed for the hotel at 12 midnight, a cheeky 17 hours under-our-belts for the first day. A kitchen worthy effort.

Days 3-6 to come. Including a small victory in the lunch room, many, many more lollies. Oh and wait for it... what did the judges eat while we ate this? And a hopeful contender for my dish of the month.

Next installment in a couple of days. Promise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is it?

In the spirit of the Slow Food Gastronomica Trivia night on Monday -that I unfortunately missed- I stumbled across a very interesting piece of produce at the market today.

I had no idea what it was, do you??

PS No, its not a frazzled underdeveloped tomato (like the ones in my garden!) or a fancy Thai eggplant...

Please leave guesses in the comments!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Handmade Help Cook Book

A very exciting idea has just popped into my inbox, that I just love and hope you do as well...

Handmade Help is looking for contributions to a cook book that they are putting together in aid of the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.

They are looking for contributors, people with recipes to share. As a food blogger this is something I have lots of and the ability to shout it from my proverbial blog 'roof top'.

Check out the details for contributions here and here and please take a moment to copy out a favourite family recipe and send it in.

Please also help out by sharing this information on your blog, at your work or amongst family and friends.

More contributors the better. Lets help replace lost recipes to those affected and raise some money for them at the same time.

Thanks for your help.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where the hell is Jack??

Missing in action, but now recovered...

Full news to come on Monday with some fun Sydney based food stories to share.

Now if only I had time to make it to Universal; bugger Bodega and Spice I am will have to do... with guest appearances by some of the most inspiring food people I have meet in a while.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Macarons at Noisette

If you have the patience of a saint these macarons from Noisette, could be the best available retail in Melbourne.

You see, the problem is that a macaron needs time after being filled (I can't remember the time 'rule') but enough time for the filling to meet with the shell and they become one. The outer shell is the gentle crunch and then the base of the little disk is moistened by the filling, soft and a little texturally chewy, almost.

I've had some devastating good macarons at Laduree in Paris and also in Melbourne at the first food bloggers banquet, courtesy of Duncan. And these were fairly close, if only I could wait until the day after I brought them, as they were too 'fresh'.

A great little piece of Paris in Port Melbourne; well priced breads, great small petit four style sweets and fantastic macarons - for patient people only.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A 'hot' salad

So what to cook when you don't want to cook?

What about a hot smoked trout salad.
This is some of my 'lazy' cooking, a bit of an assembly job really but done with a balanced, kick your taste buds into gear flavours. A just can't bear to eat dull, boring food. Life's too short.
Whole foods are an important part of what I eat day to day but like all other normal people I have a soft spot (visible at bad angles! ;)) for dark chocolate Tim tams or those kettle potato chips.
Note to self: must find a smart way to convince Mr Run Half Marathons, aka PDC, that we don't need them in the pantry, especially since I have been making a concerted effort for our 'Fancy Party' in a couple of months.

Any way we are actually here for the hot salad, and god Melbourne was hot today and this salad made it feel a whole lot saner!

Hot smoked trout salad with taramasalata, baby pink eyes and fennel

About 100g smoked trout, flake straight off the fish skeleton
1 tbsp taramasalata
1/4 avocado, chunky bits
1/3 lebanese cucumber, sliced
1/3 baby fennel, shaved with your vegie peeler, tips reserved for the salad
A bit of spanish onion, sliced as fine as possible
1/2 a baby cos, rough shred

splash of sherry vinegar
larger splash of EVOO
A squeeze of lemon

A soft boiled egg
Baby potatoes (baby pink eyes rock), steamed
sugar snaps, steamed

Smear the taramasalata on your plate
Toss the salad together with the dressing ingredients and season
Serve over half the smeared taramasalata, add the other seasoned bits

Eat with a glass of 'far-too-cold-to-be-kosher' Beaujolais

Bring on tomorrow, 43C again!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

MoVida Next Door - the making of my October Dish of the Month

You may remember my Dish of the Month from October, a crumbed Spanish anchovy on a disc of impeccable fresh curd from MoVida Next Door.

Even after writing about it late last year, I couldn't stop thinking about making the cheese myself, it sounded so easy but I knew, as it is with things like this, it's all in the technique.
If I was going to be able to make it I'd need a good mentor and I knew just the people.

So as the perfect excuse, I called the incredibly hospitable people at MND and asked if they would show me, and how nice are they... they agreed, in fact Michael and Dave were charming.
This video is a joint project between myself and the passionate people at I eat I drink I work, of whom I've know since I was a featured blogger last year.

I had so much fun planning and filming this, I hope to do some more in the future.

I hope you find this as inspiring as I do...,

...oh and a little disclaimer, my sincerest apologies to the people of Spain and all Spanish speakers around the world... my pronunciation of the dish even makes me wince!

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's that burning sensation? Chilli and mustard explained...

I used to always buy New Scientist magazine but slowly over the years replaced it with food mags, and more food mags. Something caught my attention in the first edition of the new year and I purchased a copy - my first for years.

Flicking yesterday I came across my favourite section, The Last Word were readers can write in and ask questions about "everyday phenomena". One particularly had me ah-ha-ing out loud...

Hot to Trot
Mustard and chillies are both hot, but the burning sensation
from a chilli stays in the mouth for ages while the sensation from hot mustard
disappears in a few seconds. Why is this?

Answer 1 (written in by another reader and edited by NS)
The chemical mainly responsible for the burning spice in
chilli peppers is capsaicin, a complicated organic compound that binds to
receptors in your mouth and throat, producing the desired (or dreaded)
sensation. Capsaicin is an oil, almost completely insoluble in water. This is why
you need a fat-containing substance like milk to wash it away - watery saliva
doesn't do the trick. On the other hand, the compound responsible for the hotness
of mustard (as well as horseradish and wasabi) is called allyl isothiocyanate.
This chemical is slightly water-soluble, and can be more readily washed away
into the stomach by saliva. Further, the chemical in mustard is more volatile
than capsaicin so it evaporates more readily, allowing its fumes to enter the
nasal passages (explaining why the burning sensation from mustard is often felt
in the nose). These fumes can be easily removed by breathing deeply, a useful
strategy if the sensation becomes overwhelming.

Another response also added this information about capsaicin
It is soluble, however, in alcohol, which raises the question: which came first, the lager or the vindaloo?

So to summarise...

If you are like me and love a chilli kick but can't deal with the elongated pain, drink beer, wine or if its really bad go for the vodka!
Now if I only knew that when I was in Thailand a few months ago, perhaps I would have been tempted by the Sang Som rum.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Melbourne Food Bloggers Barbie

If you haven't already heard, Duncan, Sarah and Thanh have organised a bit of a barbie and get together for local food bloggers.

You can read all of the details here, let us know if your coming and make first dibs of what food you will be bring to share. I'm making some Thai style fish cakes with a knock-your-socks-off dipping sauce.

So don't be shy, if you have a food blog and are up for a chat, come a long and meet us. We don't bite, or at least on Saturdays!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Roast goose in Hong Kong

A friend is heading off to Hong Kong soon and I was ranting wax-lyrical about of food places that must be visited.

The friend politely retorted but "I didn't read about this on your blog..., or did I miss it?" Well I was put in my place, yes, caught out in my own blog back log.

So in an effort to validate my recommendations - and thinking about this I really should post a list of Paris and Barcelona, so I don't have to keep writing it out - please may I share with you roast goose in Hong Kong.

We made a fleeting visit to Yung Kee in Central just before we jumped a ferry to Macau. It was meant to be a more relaxed affair with the opportunity to savour more of their menu over an extended meal but courtesy of Qantas we drank free champagne instead.

Yung Kee is a bustling multi-level building in the expats section of Hong Kong, lots of very steep hills and roads, but lots of spots to stop in for a drink and snack to refuel.

We were served these century eggs and pickled ginger as a complementary appetiser, a generous offering, that no doubt many tourists would waste.

The yolk was softer and I had seen in century eggs before and had a green tinge to the charcoal grey colour. They may look scary but the firm jelly texture and the thick, rich, creamy yolk are just to die for. The ginger perfectly cuts this richness, if its all a bit too much.

I love the idea of the techniques involved in this... image discovering it for the first time, what a game person it was to try eating it! But I guess there are lot of foods like that, the percebes I ate in Spain a couple of years back were hilarious, especially when you read through the comments of the post... we ate some bits we shouldn't have.

But I am getting off track, we were here for the roast goose and here it is.

Texturally the flesh was quite firm with glossy lacquered skin on top of a little layer of viscous fat. The exciting thing about roast goose in comparison to roast duck, is that you get so much more breast meat on the larger bird, a definite thick fillet of flesh between the skin and rib cage.

I've eaten goose many times before but cooked in a French method, so I was not surprised at the coarseness but increased flavour of the meat, but did think that the skin could have been a little more blistered and crispy.

Next time in Hong Kong, I'd perhaps seek out a less touristy goose destination but was none the less, pleased to be able to squeeze this experience into our trip. I should also note that the staff worked the space like clockwork, friendly and professional and extremely unhindered by our request to mind a mountain of luggage while we ate. Thank you!

Next backdated post is the best cheese of my life, at Atelier Joel Robuchon. Oh, I can just taste it now!
And perhaps even my yum cha round up, three days, three experiences and not even close to my benchmark experience 3 years ago... in Vietnam.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What are they talking about?

I happened across this article tonight, one of the most uninformed, professionally written pieces in a while...
I guess, why try and understand the reasons, just bitch about it. Perhaps Jordon should get a blog, they say we don't know what we are talking about, and the the SMH paid for this.

A quote from the piece about why restaurants don't take reservations. She just doesn't 'get' it.
Restaurants do this because they can.
Supply and demand is a more persuasive principle than customer service. But
it's also less reliable - and it looks like the tables might be turning on the
hospitality industry.

This person does though, published in the SMH today.

Why are non-food writers entering into these types of waters? Some people seem to agree with Jordon, my question is; but why do they wait then?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Australian Food Twitterers?

I've decided that I need to become a bit more techi. There is an expectation when you have a blog that you actually understand how all this stuff works, I don't, I just love food but have decided that I should give twittering a go.

So as they ask, what am I doing now?

Have a look at the column to the right of this, and have a look.

Apparently it's addictive but I'm not in the habit yet to send in my moment by moment food experiences. I've noticed that other international food bloggers are uploading 'what am I doing now's' every few hours!

I'm yet to find other Australian food twitterers.
If you're one, say hi and I'll follow your every meal... perhaps maybe I am addicted!