Sunday, November 22, 2009

A relationship through food.

I'm no fancy food critic so I'll let these photos tell the story of our dinner.



The Wife and I went out for dinner on Tuesday to celebrate 8 years of being married. Not too shabby. When we first got married for our anniversary we would go to somewhere like Maleny or Montville, get ourselves a lovely little cabin and relax for a weekend.

A feature of the weekend was food. Because the money for the trip was tied up in the cabin, I would try and cook something special. I think the best dish I'd ever cooked was some Spatchcock, stuffed with new potatoes. I'd picked this recipe because rather than the traditional oven all this cabin has was a toaster oven. I showed some mates on the back deck the night before we went. "what the FK are those?". "Baby chickens". The boys fell on the deck laughing at my tender little birds but they tasted delicious.

Once we purchased lantanaland the need to go for a weekend away with beautiful natural views and a spa dissipated somewhat, considering that sums up our place nicely. So we started going out for dinner someplace nice. Songbirds up the mountain at Tambourine was our first pick and it was a spectacular meal, with a setting and service to match.

This year I returned to a restaurant Birmo had suggested for a place to take some clients to for lunch, Fellinis. It's on the water just near seaworld and the view with the lights over the boats, with the flicker of lightning in the distance of the massive storm on it's way was very romantic. The service from the middle aged Italian gentlemen was polished beautifully. I loved the way he politely dealt with the typical coastie wannabie high flyers by gently rebuffing them for trying to scam a window table "those are reserved sir, perhaps here would do." He was then treated like a blow in. "I've been on the coast 14 years and never seen you mate!" "well sir I have lived on the coast for twenty years and I've not seen you either."

We got some duck ravioli to share as entree. I always worry when I make ravioli that the pasta on the edges are too thick texturally, but they are exactly how the chefs here did them. The butter and sage sauce was devine and they took the edge off nicely.

My spatchcock and The Wife's veal with mozzarella and eggplant was for mains. This spatchcock could only be described as brilliant. It had a salt and pepper crust and had been cooked in some type of press but was still fantastically succulent. I devoured every bit except for the one which I swapped for the veal. The veal was tender and the eggplant and cheese silky. I immediately wanted to come back to have that as well.

In fact Fellinis is like that, one of the places I read the menu and not struggle because there is only one or two things I like, but I struggle because I'd need a week of dinners to have the things I MUST try. I like trying new places, but if I just want to take someone out for a nice feed, I'll be coming back here.

The night was finished off nicely with an insanely thick and rich mocha from the chocolate cafe next door. Worth every overpriced cent of six bucks!

MF from the iPhone

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Odd Ingredient

I've got a mate who lives for the fishing down here in Tas. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, mad for the trout. Loves it.

The thing is, he loves stalking the things and catching them more than he loves eating them. Not that he's averse to fanging the odd salmonid, no -- but that sometimes, he hooks one or two more than he can readily eat on his own.

Thus it was that this morning, roundabout 0930, my mate John E swaggered proudly into Chez Flinthart bearing a plastic shopping bag with a couple fish in it. One of the two was a respectable half-kilo or so of trouty goodness. The other was a very fine kilo-plus piece of fish, and John was of the opinion that there was no way he'd be able to do justice to the big bugger.

So, for the price of a decent cup of coffee and some friendly conversation, I acquired one very fresh, wild, lake-bred Rainbow Trout. I promised Natalie I'd cook it for her that evening, after I got back from ju-jitsu training. She was well chuffed.

Unfortunately, I forgot we'd raided the larder heavily for the visit from Dave Sag the night before, so I had to improvise a little. And yet -- when the regular ingredients aren't to hand, is that not when the really good cook starts to improvise?

And so I repaired to the herb garden:

That would be nasturtium, right there. A beautiful, vividly coloured flower that grows rapidly in many climate conditions, on a creeper endowed with broad, flat leaves. The flower itself is edible, as are the leaves, which possess a very nifty sort of peppery, lemony kind of flavour. It's quite strong on its own, but you can do all kinds of things with it if you're careful to balance it out.

I grabbed a half-dozen leaves or so. Then I pulled some lemons off the tree, and went back inside. First, I threw some basmati rice in the cooker, with a little turmeric for colour and flavour. Next, I chopped up an avocado, a few leftover roma and cherry tomatoes, a little chili, and a nice spring onion. That lot got mixed together with a bit of balsamic vinegar and just a dash of sesame oil, and set aside.

The fish itself, already nicely cleaned by John, I stuffed with a mix of shredded nasturtium and spring onion, and a layer of lemon slices. Then I lay some nasturtium leaves on a piece of aluminium foil, and put lemon slices on that. I salted the fish nicely, and lay it atop the lemon slices. More lemon slices on top of the fish, and more nasturtium leaves over the top. Wrap the foil around nice and tight, pop the fish in the oven to bake at about 170 for... umm... long enough, and the result?

Well, I peeled back the foil and the fish smelled fantastic. The nasturtium leaves had formed a tight wrap, holding the lemon slices next to the fish itself, helping to steam the whole thing. The pepper flavour of the nasturtiums combined beautifully with the salt, the lemon and the spring onions to provide a really fine lift for the tender, flaky fish itself. Placed on a bed of yellow rice, topped with a generous helping of the improvised avocado salsa... and yes, I had just enough leftover Dalrymple chardonnay to wash it all down.

Life's good. Grow nasturtiums: they're cool.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Belated Melbourne post

Been very, very slack on the writing front, so much so that I hadn't written up one of the best meals I have ever had. I had to go to Melbourne for work, we ran a competition for some butchers and they had a day of touring shops and manafacturers in Melbourne and I hit up some Burgers for a meet, greet and feed that night.

Guru Bob and Barnes suggested a little Sichuan Chinese place in one of Melbournes iconic laneways, convinently placed about ten metres from our hotel. When we got there Barnes was jumping out of his skin with excitement, promising hot and spicy dishes galore. The butchers were not so sure, they liked anglofied Chinese, but this seemed a lot more challenging. Naut arrived about the same time as the first beers and we got down to ordering.

If like me, you like spice and pork, you would have been in heaven. There was a lot of pork on the menu and I think we ordered four differrent types. Slivers of warm pork in a soy and sesame dipping sauce was a revelation, just warmed through and beautifully tender. The milder twice cooked pork was a favourite of my butcher mates and the dried fried beans were popular with everyone.

However the top dog was the spicy pork ribs. Tender in the middle with a crisp cumin and chilli crust it was unlike any pork I have ever had and I've eaten a lot of pork. Barnes and I tucked in like zombies at Stephen Hawking's house.

I've had a good surf of the web and can't find a definitive recipe. One of the folks on Twitter suggested a recipe but I must be missing something because my attempt was a long, long way from what I had in that little laneway.

It was fun to see the Burgers, even though Havock quarintined himself, unsure if contact with my long hair and beard would give him a dose of QLD FKN FERALS disease.

The next day I went for a wander though the Viccy markets. Wow. I can see why Melbourne looks down its nose at us when it comes to food. Brisbane has nothing like this, not even close. Most of the delis at the markets looked like they had superior range than most Brisbane delis, at least in the area that I can comment on, smallgoods. The fresh fruit and veg was of the standard of the Powerhouse markets, but this was an ordinary Thursday morning, not a Saturday. Having this type of standard would definetly foster a greater food culture, hell I found it inspiring after a 14 hour day and four hours sleep.

The one thing that dissapointed me about Melbourne? The coffee. It wasn't bad, just no different to Brisbane. The best one I had was almost as good, but not quite as what I'd get at the hole in the wall at the Merlo factory. And I went to a coffee shop reccomended by Bob and another local coffee nut. Where was my liquid gold in a cup dammit!

MF from the iPhone

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brisbane bloggers, assemble.

When I ran the live music venues I would talk the ear off anyone about live Australian music. Blah, blah, blah, if you weren't into music I'm sure I was very boring company. Last Tuesday, EatDrinkBeKerry organized a meeting of brisbane's finest food bloggers at Bar Barossa and the people running it are as passionate about wine as I ever was about live music.

Kerry and Darren had organized a great night, a winemaker, Marco, and a wine wholesaler ran us through about eight wines, talking about the type of wine, why this wine differed from others in the same category, what winemakers looked for in their grapes and in their wines and other tasty little tidbits. I was much more interested in the fact that Marco and his family make their own prosciutto, which I am very keen on trying to do myself, despite the challenges of a qld climate.

To me honest Kerry and Gastronomy Gal have a much better write ups on the wine than i can attempt. The food was OK, nothing in the same league as the Sichuan Chinese i had the next night (more on this later), but it was the passion for the grape that will keep people coming back to this venue and if have any, any interest in wine, than make the time to visit, chat to the staff and be prepared for a lively discussion.

It was great to meet the varied group of people interested in food and writing about it. We all came from different angles and have different ideas but the shared ethic of sitting round a table and eating is pretty strong. I've put some of the blogs in the blog roll so check them out if you are into food and if I have forgotten you, let me know and i'll add it in.

Heres to the next meeting, Natascha Mirosch has already suggested a field trip!

MF from the iPhone