Cipro Pizza al Taglio

Thursday, 24 October 2013



Okay, so my head is spinning. I think I've been staring at this pizza gif for too long. Hello! I'm writing about a little luncheon I had in Alexandria on the weekend. It was an unexpected dee-light. Yet another on the list, Alexandria seems to be gaining popularity of late; booming with cafés like Bread & Circus, Kitchen by Mike and the notorious Grounds of Alexandria - and 2x Bunnings (for all the DIY optimism that a weekend brings)! There's another kid in town, by the name of Cipro Pizza al Taglio. Opened by Khan Danis, Angel Fernandez and Catherine Adams, this trio are the kitchen alumni of some of Sydney's best including Rockpool and Flying Fish.

Oh yeah, pizza flashcards. I apologise for the crappy quality of this thing… Unfortunately I don't exactly have the technological prowess to come to grips with .gif creation! ;)

Cipro is housed in a rather large complex on Fountain St and is neighbours with Bread & Circus. In a light + lofty space, Ann Ronay from SFN Constructions has delivered the goods with a casual Australian spin on the Italian pizza joint. So perfect for all day dining - and now open for dinner (plug)! Greeted with cheery service and a long glass cabinet displaying their wares. Enter: pizza.


When in the area… grab a slice (or many) and run, or stay and soak this in. Photo credit: Broadsheet Sydney


If you want to buck the trend (or you're giving the Atkin's a crack) and order à la carte, there are a number of seasonal offerings including some mean salads as well as daily specials - like this one:

Fritto misto: fried seafood and vegetables with crispy polenta and aïoli. 


And now, back to the main event. Each pizza is pre-pared but baked to order. Here's the mini roll call:

Mushroom, artichoke, thyme, fontina and parmesan - I just had to show this one again. Xmas came early this year! My absolute favourite ingredients all on a hot slice. 


Whilst I'm re-living this, you should be living it. Capisce?

The rest (no slouch either):
Pork sausage, peppers and olives - peppery goodness. Heat tempered by the fontina from the previous. And ginger beer.

Pork ragù with ricotta salata finished with rocket - by all accounts this one was better than the pork sausage… check for yourself ;)

Pork and veal meatballs, eggplant, provolone and basil - pork again?! Yes. This one was pretty as a picture with the eggplant slice framing those meatballs.

DOLCE (unmissable, okay)

The ladies next to use ordered the Strawberry Mascarpone Tart, served up on a Wedgewood cake plate. I was swooning, and it looked incredible. However, I couldn't pass up the op to try Adams' flourless chocolate cake that every critic has raved to high heaven about. Challenge accepted (gleefully)!

Decidedly moussey, this choccie cake is ALL about texture and the dark chocolate pulls back the sweetness. It's hardly a cake at all, but something ethereal. The freshly whipped cream just seals the deal for me

Housemade gelato: vanilla, milk chocolate and passionfruit. Quite mellow in flavour the vanilla beat the others hands down. Not quite as good as Gelato Messina though ;)

You might be thinking, "No one wants to see that…" But may I just emphasise to you just how bloomin' amazing that cake was?

Despite a brilliant lunch at Cipro, I have a small axe to grind. Price hikes. Yes the food is good, in fact some bits were GREAT but is it justifiable to increase prices by 30% within months of opening? I know everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment, none more than the hospitality industry but I frown at the prospect of paying $12 per slice of pizza. That hurts. Winning best "Bang for Buck" in the 2013 Sydney Food Awards by Time Out Sydney was probably just very bad timing. Maybe a pizza happy hour could remedy this? ;) 

Signing off…!

With those misgivings, Cipro is still definitely a goer.  The crew have definitely got the formula down for excellent pizza and desserts for a rollicking good meal. Terry has awarded the place 14/20 in his Good Food piece which is a whole hearted thumbs up in his book. Better check in.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon

Pei Modern @ Marque

Saturday, 19 October 2013



For one night only, our Victorian neighbours crashed one of Sydney's best restaurants. That would be Mark Best's Marque in Surry Hills, an establishment I have been dying to try (this seemed like a good enough excuse). It's Good Food Month you see, a veritable collision of talent from across the world and the food that Aussie's can be proud of. Best has forged a splendid career in what started as a little restaurant on Crown Street and branched out to open Pei Modern in Melbourne. Under the supervision of Head Chef Matt Germanchis, P.M. has been very well received, being awarded the Best New Restaurant in the Age Food Guide 2013 and a hat to boot. 

Out front: Pei Modern in Collins Place, Melbs Source: Daily Addict

I'd seen pictures of the restaurant interior but hadn't actually stepped inside. If you didn't know where it was, you could easily stroll right past those curtained glass walls. Funnily enough the front door was locked, making entry slightly awkward. A simple table clothed dining room with egg shaped lamps adorning each table, we started the night with house purified sparkling water (and a glass of orange wine for myself). Next came that pillowy soft bread tucked in a cotton basket. If I hadn't been there for an 8 course degustation a.k.a. gastronomic blowout I wouldn't of held back - but lucky I did.

Salumi & chicken liver parfait. Popped onto out table like a picnic lunch, that bloody parfait was PARFAIT. I mean, the texture was so rich and creamy, it definitely got the palate going. The prosciutto dissolved in the mouth. I would have to say the the salami was a bit thick but yum none the less

Smoked tuna, goats curd, pomelo - this one was possibly my favourite. A delicate and light entrée this dish was very 'Quay'. The tuna was so lightly smoked, it was really like a straight sashimi, putting all those tuna nigiri I've had over the years to shame. For shame!

An eggy panorama: asparagus, egg and ash. What a way to supplement the charcoal intake (yep, it's real). I had hopes that my yolk would explode and ooze all over my 'asparagoose' but it was slightly overcooked! Dang 

Brought to the table by Best himself, another personal favourite: rockling, white beans & boudin noir. The broth was so clear and cleansing, right before you get a hit of salt from the blood sausage all washing over the fish. A well conceived dish

Duck, treviso, fermented blueberries. A pretty palette from this dish. The duck was cooked well, complemented well with the warmed blueberries and radicchio. The stems of the treviso were rather thick and chewy, are they meant to be consumed?

Hanger steak, beetroot & caramelised yoghurt. Being the 6th course I was really starting to feel it (luckily they spaced out the courses a little). For such a tricky cut of meat to perfect, this steak was gloriously charred on the outside but so tender (and rare). The yoghurt was akin to a dijon mustard without the 'up the nostrils' heat

White chocolate ganache, sorrel sorbet and mandarin. The white disc of a wafer disappeared with a 'puff' on the tongue. There are parts of this meal that I will rave about in weeks to come, one of them being this sorbet. The degustation had come to it's climax and was now floating back down. Like a sigh on a hot afternoon, this sorbet was like a dream (fresh az')

Does this even need words?! Spice doughnuts, whey butterscotch. Oh lordy lord. The crème that was tinged with mandarin was a lovely touch. Only a little morsel to stave off guilt.....

Magnifique! There we have it, a lovely evening by Pei Modern, hosted by big brother Marque. The night had a decidedly casual feel to it, despite the fine dining setting. The food speaks for itself - I'm just glad I got to sample it.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand Marque on Urbanspoon

In the Pantry

Friday, 11 October 2013



There are two things that I couldn't do without: coffee and chocolate. The best way to start and finish the day and a speedy remedy for daily stresses. This will be a rather 'express' post from me today. I thought I'd share with you some of the goodies that I've got stashed on the pantry shelf. Many of these items I've sourced from Farmers' Markets around the traps. What are some of your essentials?

Clockwise from top left: Merlo Coffee Private blend beans, Farmer Jo Spring Bircher muesli, Rylestone Cudgegong extra virgin olive oil, Henry Langdon Chai Latte, Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate, T2 Good Morning tea blend

Coffee: I must say I've found it difficult to jump onto the Nespresso wagon that has been the 'thing' of recent years. It's just like Apple, once you've started you're bound for life. I've really enjoyed trying out different coffee blends at home. There's something almost ritualistic about grinding the beans yourself and setting up the stovetop cafeteria to bubble away for a few minutes. For many years I used a Bodum plunger out of habit but the cafeteria is streets ahead, just short of a full espresso machine get up.

Muesli: short of becoming a stockist for Farmer Jo's products, I've tried pretty much every flavour they've got going. The Spring Bircher has come up trumps - it has something to do with the whole macadamias I'm sure. The best way to prepare is to soak 1 cup of muesli with 1/2 cup cloudy apple juice and 1 cup natural greek yoghurt overnight in the fridge. Serve with fresh cut fruit (blueberries look great this season). Top tip: Pecora Ewe's milk yoghurt is just incredible

Preparing the FJ Spring Bircher, made with love by hand. Dried fruit has never looked this good! Source: Farmer Jo FB

Olive oil: rancid, tasteless imports be gone! This year Rylestone's Cudgegong EVOL won Gold at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Whatever that is, it sounds impressive. This is an oil worth tasting with naught but a scrap of bread as its medium. Little General is another Australian company that I sing the praises of. Who knew that olive oil could carry such complexity of flavour? :)

The team from Little General Olive oil at Pyrmont Growers' Market Photo credit: Australian Traveller

Chai: this is a relatively new addition to the larder, but now indispensable. Perfect for late afternoons when you're looking for a warm drink but don't want to be bouncing off the walls after your third espresso. This chai latte blend is possibly the fairest of them all. The company have sure learnt a thing or two over the past 150 yearsCafés take note, it is divine.

Chocolate: trust me when I say I've searched high and low for the perfect dark chocolate. The G&B's 85% version comes pretty close. It has a richness without being bitter, something that has eluded me before (trying super dark chocolate). Reviewed in Good Food earlier this year, it was rated the best out of 20 different chocolate bars in Oz. 

The bearded Mast Brothers from Brooklyn have received a lot of press, not just for their craft chocolate but also their artful packaging. Rococo from London is also comparable Photo credit: Mast Brothers

Tea: empires have been built on the stuff. Not only a national past time but big industry. T2 has been a mainstay of my gifting for many years now. Loose leaf tea is like a godsend to me. Supermarket teas look to me like ashes sitting limp in paper socks. There's nothing like a robust tea to get you started in the day. Or paired with a scone it signals a time to unwind, relax and sip daintily or some such.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand

A Long Lunch with Matthew Evans

Friday, 4 October 2013



Sydney's Good Food Month has kicked off with a bang, and a spit roast. Oh yes, you read right. This momentous (and lamby) occasion was to mark the release of Matthew Evans' a.k.a. Gourmet Farmer new memoir, The Dirty Chef. His latest book documents his bold tree change from bustling Sydney to the tranquil of the Huon Valley in southern Tassie. And what better way to enjoy the October sunshine than a lamb spit roast and a long lunch? Warning: this post is not recommended for vegetarians.


Taming the Beast: this was our welcome. Hot fat drips into the coals and plumes of smoke puff back at you, tauntingly. Want a piece of me? [That was rhetorical, obviously]

Our luxuriously long lunch was hosted by The Commons, the 'local eating house' of Darlinghurst. A venue much suited because of their philosophy of sourcing food locally and knowing its origins. Ethical food choices are what they are all about and this is a message that Evans' also endeavours to get out there. Much of the produce from the lunch was sustainably sourced by providore Feather and Bone, whom you can find at Pyrmont Markets. I've written a bit about these ideas in a post that you can find here. Glass of La Zona prosecco in hand, you can't help but enjoy the surrounds!

The outdoor courtyard at The Commons, home to the spit roast lamb for this afternoon delight.

We were in for a looong lunch, 4 courses of a sharing style menu designed by Matthew in conjunction with the Commons kitchen. A veritable Spring feast i.e. the best. Here's my photographic rundown... Bon appetit!

Fried local zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and herbs. Plump and stuffed with creamy-as ricotta, these babies were a delicious and crispy starter

Charcuterie board (left) and Chicken liver crostini (right). The charcuterie by Feather and Bone included bresaola (a favourite amongst us), prosciutto and salami - cured meats that were surprisingly sweet and mellow. I'm a bit of a closet paté/terrine fan so this smooth liver crostini was lovely

Grilled mackerel stuffed with salsa verde. A sustainable fish course presenting a vibrant green hue. This was one of my personal favourites, with a squeeze of lemon and a smear of aïoli the little mackerel packs a punch

The mackerel (left, ain't it pretty?) and right, seasonal vegetables - a warm salad of asparagus (new in season), heirloom carrot and broad bean

Le pièce de résistance: whole 2 week dry-aged biodynamic White Suffolk lamb from Lynden Farm, Oberon NSW. Carved up with expertise by Matthew and Grant from Feather and Bone. Boom.

The lamb, in case you were wondering was the star. Rather tender, rather crispy skin, rather amazing. If we only had one plate for lunch, this would be more than enough. But no, we've gone for seconds and thirds and fourths...It makes me smile :)

For dessert we had a cheeseboard of Marrook farm biodynamic Brinawa (Tilsit style) cow's milk farmhouse cheese but this was the main event: blood orange, polenta & olive oil cake with mascarpone. Oh boy, this was a thing of beauty. The occasional crunch of the polenta grains was a nice textural touch.

Three glorious hours later we were nursing our food babies and listening to Matthew tell us about the highs and lows of working the land (he now has 2 farms to keep him busy) and a sneak peek into his upcoming project (which smells a bit fishy, hint hint). Evans is as down-to-earth and hospitable in real life as he seems on our TV screens. This afternoon was a wonderful feast of ideas, great food and good company. What more could you ask for?

Evans' new memoir, The Dirty Chef - a rather curious title indeed! I've got my signed copy next on the reading list ;)

Thanks for reading and Happy Long Weekend!
x Gourmand
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