Friday, June 27, 2008

Gastro Tourism Begins With a Bang!

Back to Uni and Winter School, the first day back was wonderful. After our morning lecture we headed out to McLaren Vale to visit Producers of McLaren Vale: Tori Moreton and David Arbon, passionate regional producers and growers of growers of mostly dry grown and organic fruits farmed for flavour making wine, olive oil, preserves, vinegar and apple cider. The two enjoy sharing the good life, with hands on gastronomic toursism experience offered using only regional produce from McLaren Vale and the entire Fleurieu Peninsula.
This is the courtyard view that welcomes you as you enter - the limetrees are just surreal and it looks picture perfect - something out of a movie! It was a truly beautiful day and a remarkable afternoon...

A fireplace was lit when we arrived adds to the old world charm of McLaren, while the sleek furniture, precise angles and large French windows add a contemporary touch.

Tori had lunch prepared, and we sat down to a 'Shared Table' ... a rustic meal that was absolutely delightful.

Crusty, freshly baked bread was gorgeous with Tori's very own pressed pungent, peppery, rich olive oil with a neon shine to it. She had a green salad pf letuce and one of wild rocket, parmesan and pear tossed up.

Heather is seated on the left, Peter in the middle and Tori on the right.

A hearty tomato based soup with sliced duck and cannellini beans finished off with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and topped with deliciously succulent black olives and almonds. The perfect winter lunch! Warming and delicious while not too heavy...

We continued learn more about Toris gastronomic tourism business over some local Blue Cheese and Quince Paste. Yum - mo!

The best truly came last - this cake was mind blowing! I mean the depth of flavour - WOW! I was just bowled over by the zesty, fruitiness of the orange bits in the cake and how moist and delicate it was. I mean it tasted as if there was semolina in there binding it together, with the distinct richness of pure almond paste, but Tori said she had used no semolina just almonds!! Now we're talking quality ingredients - and well I had one piece and stopped right there.

This expresso was just what we needed to perk us up and help is into the car for the hours drive back into Adelaide.

Cari shows off her ring! Yes, this girl is getting M-A-R-R-I-E-D! Her boyfriend of five years popped the question in Sydney and they celebrated by the Opera Bar with a glass of bubbly! How romantic is that... Congratulations to the happy couple!!!!!

Architect Max Pritchard has cleverly designed a luxurious space that inspires creativity. There is endless amount of energy and activity that flows through, and with an attached processing room, commmercial kitchen, cellar and dining rooom wrapped around a Spanish style courtyard, well there are so many things to try, uplive and experience.

We all bought a bottle of her fabulous olive oil with the deep peppery charachter and well we all took home a preserve to sample, and will probably exchange notes during the week. I took home a fig, almond and honey jam and Amy got a fig and cardamom. Sharil tried the mulberry and peach - soooo hard to choose they all sound delish!

Rundell Mall Food Finds...

Waking up late in the afternoon and wandering outside on a chilly day there was nothing more enticing than a big cup, no correction, mug of coffee and a comforting, filly, wholesome meal. Well, as I hit David Jones I caved in at the sight of a beautiful looking Cornish Pasty - not knowing what I was getting myself into!

This perfectly good looking pasty was and is a terrible mistake! Anticipating biting into the thick, buttery pastry to let out a little bit of steam and savour beef mince and veggies with a light seasoning... I was all ready and well after two mouthfulls and no traces of any meat - I was well, disturbed! I set it down and well prodded, poked and well... take a look for yourself - NO MEAT - NO FUN! Meagan is NOT happy when you give her a vegetarian meal - and def not if she is paying for it!!! I took it back and complained - and apparantely they make Adelaides best pasties! Yeah, right!
But the day picked up - as I discovered this doughnut haven!!! Yipee - finally some decent doughnuts Down Under!
These doughnuts aren't as light as Krispy Kremes, but hold their own! And they have a nice selection, need to go back and well do more sampling to give a more informed, indepth opinion though! And boy was this a deal if ever - a cuppa and two glazed doughnuts for $4.00! Now we're talking!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Will Write For Food

Dianne Jacob's guide to the food writer to be is realistic to put it mildly. While the exercises are handy and train you to write with a goal of being published and focusing your energies rather than using the writing as an outlet for self expression Jacob's left me down in the dumps. For a while I contemplated whether this was what I really wanted - to be a food writer and critic! And well, its more than clear, since the age of twelve I have had my sights set on becoming an acclaimed international food writer, hoping one day to have a column in the New York Times! Hmmmpph, Jacob's advice in a nutshell: Don't quit your day job or find a rich husband! Darn, too late for the first one and well the second ... interesting!

Almost French by Aussie journalist turned novelist Sarah Turnbull made for great, easy reading especially since the book deals with Turnbull's move to France and coping with cultural differences. Since she writes with her native, Aussie viewpoint it tied up a lot of loose ends for me in terms of trying to understand quirky Aussie ways of life!!!
Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was rather slow to unfold but after the first two chapters I was sucked in and loving it! Wow - what a read! Something that anyone interested in knowing how the entire crazy world of cuisine functions, the dirty tricks of the trade - Bourdain's lets it ripe - all secrets are let loose! I loved this book and feel even more inspired and enthralled by the entire restaurant business and eating to be happy! Cheers, Bourdain - your a genius!

Back to the kitchen

A trip to Central Market was in order. With a one week break before Gastronomic Tourism - my next module commencing and no travel plans, it was time to get the wok out! I have never cooked Salmon before and figured what better way to learn than by experimenting. So, thats exactly what I did - unfortunately it was not as easy as I imagined. The fish can be hard to handle as it tends to flake easily. It needs to be filleted thin enough to cook through instead of just searing on the outside like mine did. I had to really get innovative with this dish. The stir fry bit came out well though and on the whole was tasty... The hokkien noodles were delicious something I will use again for sure.

Next up, I decided to try cooking up some mussels, and this is easy! No worries here! And I just love the taste of this particularly shellfish. I bought about 500g and divided into two, cooked one batch in marinara sauce with Italian herbs and served with a creamy, style pasta.

The second was an Asian style Sweet Chilli with Coconut Milk Mussel Curry with braised veggies... and voila:

Here it is all plated up with some boiled white rice that went perfectly, absorbing all off that lovely rich creamy, gravy.
Using beef strips that are suitable for a stir fry I decided to go down the curry path again. This afternoon was really chilly and there was nothing more than a warm broth of noodles and meat that would cheer me. Into the wok went some red curry paste, onions, garlic and ginger; minced, lemon grass, torn kafir lime leaves, fish sauce.

Having seared off the beef in the Thai curry paste I added some chicken stock and coconut milk and let it bubble. Then eggplant cubed and diced, mushrooms and brocolli. Served over some Egg White Noodles I slurped away all afternoon...

Service Please - Greedy Goose

Having settled into Adelaide comfortably and with one semester out of the way I figured the time was right to get some work experience in the restaurant biz. Melbourne Street that is just off the corner street from where I live on Finnis Street is home to The Greedy Goose, winner of Discovery Channel, Travel & Living's show 'My Restaurant Rules' in 2005, which is still going strong.

I managed to impress Steven Firth the manager with my comfort talking about food and I guess my obvious passion for all things gastronomic helped as well. After a brief interview, handing in my resume and well a couple of sessions going over the menu in detail and lots and lots of breifing of what my job in the service industry would entail... the next few weeks I was a wreck - my confidence levels took a beating, I was unsure of myself, constantly doubting whether I could pull of serving a table and not messing things up! After a month now, I send people off with smiles across their faces, thanking me for a wonderful evening! Yippeee.....

John Hall the Chef at the Goose is simply marvellous - here are two of his entrees above the Southern Blue Fin Tuna Ravioli Provencale, Semi Dried Capers and Tapenade with White Balsamic Dressing. Below is the signature dish also an entree: The Vincisgrassi Maceratesi - Cepe, Proscuitto Lasagne with Truffle Oil.

The Assiette of Rabbit: Roast Crown, Poached Loin, and Roquefort Ravioli with Polenta and Miso Sauce. I will let this picture do the talking.....

For something sweet the Lemon Pannacotta is to die for...

And this is me after a long night, hanging up my uniform and my white glove - it is silver service after all!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mesa Lunga and Sex in the City

June 5 meant two things - wrapping up our Food and Drink in Contemporary Western Society and of course the release of Sex and the City, the Movie!!! Yippeee - Cari, Amy and I had our tickets booked and were in the mood for a night of high rollin', hitting the movies in style to catch up where Cari, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda left off six years ago!!! Heading in with some bubbly (the cosmo's were being served in plastic glasses and ready in jars - I just could not do it! Sorry!)

Cari elegantly chugging bubbly out of a plastic glass .. We had to conform to the rules and swap glass for plastic before enetering the movie theatre!

We wait in anticipation for the movie to begin - it started about 45 minuted late because of some technical issues - typically Aussie!

The movie was fabulous - I loved it and we were all famished with the delay and all - it was finally time for some tapas! We walked across the city, ( very long walk I must add in 3 inch stilleto's Sex in the City style!) to 140 Gouger Street and popped into Mesa Lunga to enjoy a Girls Night on the town.

Cheers - Amy with her ginger beer infused cocktail, Cari with a Dirty Martini that the waiter had never heard of (that should give you an idea of his expertise with the bar and service!) and I decided in keeping with the Spanish theme to try the Rosada Sangria with blushing fruity tones of peach - not bad at all! We ordered several tapas to sample and well chomp on - coz we were bloody hungry. We started with the Chorizo picante (spicy Spanish sausage with olives and almonds).

This was my fav - the Gambas al ajillo (prawns in sizzling oil with chilli and garlic), the sauce at the bottom of the pan was wonderful - just wished there was more bread to scoop it up!

Croquetas - I was not entirely exicted about these when we ordered them - but they were fantastic little deep, fried bombs of bechamel sauce, and when you bit into the crisp outer shell the creamy, white sauce oozed and melted in your mouth - heaven!

We moved onto some Sepltre Barossa Valley Red Sparkling Shiraz that was suprisingly full bodied - really good wine I thought and relished our chirizo and anchovi pizza.

We eneded up drinking two bottles of red between us and then heading to Cari's for some Shemay Belgian Beer - there's a first time for everything!

Stoking the fire and feasting on Stragonoff

As the temperature falls and the nights get more chilly it's the perfect time of year to throw some logs into the fire, cuddle up in a chair with a blankey and watch a couple of sausages and meat cook up on the barbie. Unfortunately my friend Paul has been going through a 'green' and 'healthy' conundrum and bought veggie sausages! You ask what these are - and trust me you just NEVER want to know. Whoa, I mean my expectation levels were not very high once I discovered the sausages were made of tofu, carrots and other veggies minced together - but boy these so called sausages are bad news!

The fire provided considerable warmth and set the mood for the evening. There were roasted potatoes, a large bowl of salad and some garlic bread and well some very sweet wine that Andrea shared with us. After dinner we roasted some marshmallows over the fire on sticks and in a way I returned to my childhood of bobbing around the kitchen with my sister shrieking and licking gooey, sticky marshmallow off my fingers! I love the nostalgia that food so effortlessly has the ability to evoke anywhere, sneaking up on you at the most unsuspecting of times!

Straganoff is classic winter fare - and my purchase of Black Pepper Organic Egg Noodles from the Barossa Valley have been sitting on my shelf begging me to use them. Sliced beef rump steak, sauteed some onions, mushroom with a bit of garlic went in with the rest of my my mother's secret strag marinade, sorry can't reveal all my family secrets here guys! Instead of heavy cream I used some light sour creme that worked very well.

Voila - a hearty lunch of Beef Straganoff with Black Pepper German Egg Noodles on chilly afternoon, and the view of the beautiful birds taking a drink made it all the more pleasant!

Freshly rolled lasagna sheets, complete with home-made Bechamel and Meat Sauce

Amy gets to work really getting into that dough and kneading it thoroughly. This is just a combination of water, flour and eggs... and a heavy arm workout from Amy!!!

After about twenty minutes of effortless kneading Amy has achieved the correct consistancy to roll out her homemade sheets of lasagna.

How perfect does that look? I was totally impressed by her ease in the kitchen and ability to well - work wonders in no time!

In between all the hard work we sipped on some red Cari picked up on a recent trip up to McLaren and snacked on some soft brie, local pate - cracked pepper, honey seasame and creamed salmon mousse with mini toasts...

Cari also put together a carpaccio of zuchinni that was delicately herbed and served with a dollop of creme fraiche and parsley and Murray River salt. It has a brilliant rose sheen to it and a large grain like rock salt that looks great on the table in a pretty little bowl.

Ok, and it was back to work for Cari and Amy as the blanched the tomatoes in preperation of their homemade tomato sauce the base of the lasagna. For the meat sauce the chefs for the evening choose some Spanish sausage meat that they removed from the intestine casing and added in some mince beef and mushrooms that I ran out to get. In went various spices, some traditional Italian herbs and then there was cinnamon, nutmeg and other more creative aromatic choices that Amy added in that infused a unique, vibrantly warm flavour.

With all the extra bits cut off from the lasagne sheets Amy fashioned out some homemade papardelle or 'pasta rags' as Cari calls them that were re-freidgerated to be used later. Amy put together a wonderfully hearty meat sauce and continued to create a thick, creamy bechamel sauce. It was three hours before the entire lasagne came together and another 24 hours before we got to dig in...

We trotted up to Jackies with two pyrexs loaded with ultra, rich perfectly put together lasagne and I was thrilled and excited at the prospect of sampling the braised Italian style rabbit stew. Jackie put it together using a recipe from Chianti - a local Italian restaurant. Jack's cracked upon a bottle of sprakly Shiraz and so the evening began on a fun note...

A simple salad of tomatoes, torn basil and boccocini drizzled with premium Olive Oil, Jospeh I'm sure - absolutely delightful!!! Where's that wabbit?!? Jack's bugs bunny was wafting through the air - the sensational aromas really got my stomach juices going....

Amy takes up the ultimate Iron Chef challenge from Bob (Jackies husband) and is all ready to win! She takes a crack at chopping an onion in 20 seconds and impresses us all! Go Amy!

The table looks gorgeous with the lasagne, fresh salad and the rabbit stew all laid out waiting for us to sit down and dig in...
The rabbit was truly the piece de resistance - the meat just tender and pink on the inside and with a delictate flavour. The key though to eating rabbit is really going in quickly and relishing it while its still hot. The meat tends to get straggly when cold. A hearty gravy of tomatoes, onion infused with red wine and mild spices enveloped the rabbit and gave it just the right amount of texture and moisture. Ohhhh.... what an evening!!!