Paddock to Plate - The Farm

Wednesday, 24 December 2014



Fresh back from a day of cherry picking (yes, I did that) in a beautiful part of the country called Young. I felt three things: happy, refreshed and stupidly full (pick one, eat one right?!). No matter that it was a balmy 35 degrees outside and a bucketful of cherries seemed to get heavier by the second. Armed with sunscreen and an iron will, no cherry tree would get the better of me and an hour and a half later, I think we were rewarded handsomely.

Today I thought I'd share with you a little clip I stumbled upon. It's produced by The Field Institute, the foodie group who publish Field Guides to Local Produce as well as the Locavore Edition. Now, in collaboration with Palate magazine they're branching out with The Farm. This is an exciting project launching in Byron Bay in the new year. Owner Will Cotterill and Mark LaBrooy (the latter a chef from Three Blue Ducks) are working together to open a farm shop and restaurant, taking the very best from what's grown on the acreage. With a tinkering soundtrack by Eleven Magpies and images of pristine  farm land - it's enough to make you want to pack up and go.


A quick glance on their website and you can see that their vision is   rather an ambitious one - a restaurant for close to 100, macadamia and avocado orchards, hundreds of chickens, a piggery, apiaries and a cheese processing plant are just the beginning. For those looking for a tree change, The Farm is a great place to start and draw inspiration. Following in the steps of Rohan Anderson (Whole Larder Love), Rodney Dunn (The Agrarian Kitchen) and Matthew Evans (Gourmet Farmer) The Farm is championing local produce and all its perks. Now we have something to experience for ourselves, and right on our doorstep. Cheers to that.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!
xGourmand

Moon Park

Saturday, 20 December 2014


On an unassuming corner block, fringing the dodgier end of Redfern is Moon Park. With a name like that, you probably couldn't get any more Korean if you tried. And that's the aim, to deliver a decidedly modern and refined take on Korean cuisine in the heart of Sydney. South American food and BBQ was a bit of "a thing" some years ago, now there has been a resurgence of Korean venues with Ko&Co, Kim and Danjee leading the charge. Hello, kimchee and soju!  

Sea urchin and black garlic on seed biscuit. The first morsel to land on the table - a rather beautiful amuse bouche that ticks all the boxes. Salt, texture and delicate - you must have one each!

Once you ascend the winding staircase to the first level dining room, one is met with a pared-back fit out with accents in dark timber and tables winding around the outside verandah (surprisingly noisy). It's small, cosy and has homely vibe (a.k.a. wouldn't you love this to be your dining room) which suits to a tee. The front of house staff were great and really added to how enjoyable the meal was. The overwhelming feeling of the place was of a 'calm', perhaps 'before the storm' yes but everything was handled with efficiency and a smile. What more does a diner want?    


The dynamic duo in the kitchen: Ben Sears and Eun Hee An, both of whom are alumni of Claude's Credit: Anna Kucera for Time Out Sydney

The food takes traditional Korean and elevates it with stunning results. Small share plates are the name of the game, because you'll want to try a bit of everything. If one was feeling rather indulgent, you could take on the tasting menu which is the chef's selection from the menu. Vegetarian options abound and are pretty much encouraged. Everything looks enticing, just ask for some recommendations and you probably won't be disappointed.  

Charred eggplant, egg custard, pickled garlic scape and lotus jorim (left) and cauliflower with royal pine nut sauce, ohiji and charred ssamjang (right). Every element contributes something to the dish. The egg custard was wobbly and delicious with the lotus root

Bibimbap: oxtail and rice, walnuts, kohl rabi and cured egg yolk. Perhaps one the of my favourites. Underneath the layers of garnish was a delectable mix of perfectly cooked rice and meltingly tender oxtail. I would go back for this, in a heartbeat. You can find the recipe (and all its secrets) published at Gourmet Traveller

1/2 a BBQ holmbrae duck with blood sausage, pine nut and perilla leaf kimchi. The main event, the duck was cooked slightly under, the fat not quite rendered enough. Admittedly we were in a bit of a RUSH (first world problems) so probably couldn't allow enough time for the duck to rest etc properly (all those tedious things). I am certain under other circumstances they would have nailed it

DOLCE (Sweeties)

"Moon pie": prune, muesli marshmallow, ginger jelly and white chocolate pudding. Totally winning with this one. A bit of this and that but even better when combined. The ginger jelly and white chocolate pudding were subtle in flavour and definitely not too sweet (something I greatly fear!)

Patbingsu: pear, red bean, shaved milk ice, burnt honey & bee pollen. This mushy bowl of ice is to be devoured in a matter of seconds (before it becomes a sloppy mess). A nice combination of ice and very Asian ingredients to make a refreshing palette cleanser

The quiet appreciation across the dining room, speaks volumes and the service was an absolute delight. I'm always on the look out for little restaurants like this, little gems I file away in my head. Maybe it's just me but some of the ridiculousness about securing a table for dinner these days has made me a bit non-plussed and perhaps even wary (beware the hype machine!). I just want to eat out and enjoy...it's really that simple! One of the lovely things about this place is its originality. Not many restaurants are delivering such unique and elegant food as this. Moon Park takes the essence of Korean food; balance of flavours, carefully thought out presentation to give us a distilled version of the original. Definitely worth a visit.

The minimalist but sleek dining room - job done. Credit: Anna Kucera for Time Out Sydney

Thanks for reading another instalment!
xGourmand
Moon Park on Urbanspoon

Ester

Tuesday, 9 December 2014



Ester, supposedly an organic compound but there's a bit more to it than that. Taking the Sydney dining scene by storm last year, Mat Lindsay's Ester has already been named Restaurant of the Year by Time Out. The praise is coming in thick and fast and so are the punters. Ester is running white hot - and it doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. It was my third time lucky, trying to get a table and that is absolutely no exaggeration! It. is. getting. ridiculous. Why Sydney, why?


Ester, rather luminous a.k.a. the failings of my point & shoot

To be fair, I'm just going to put it out there and say Ester is good. Very good. I'm always astounded by the quality of restaurants that Sydney is producing, not just now but for the past few years whilst I've had this little blog. Even after travelling a wee bit, I always come back appreciating Sydney's gems (or should I say, gold mine?) just a little bit more. Having booked a month in advance (aye, with a heavy heart), and for a special occasion (naturally) - we were inclined to order the set menu. If you can stomach that much delicious food, you should definitely go the whole hog. It's well worth it if not for the generous portions. A veritable feast awaits.

Golden arches, indeed. Photo credit: Peter Bennetts for Architecture AU

Ester's origins were rather transformative (to say the least), with Anthony Gill Architects doing up the space from its humble origins as a loading dock (er, wow). With references to an old Greek taverna, it holds just enough industrial elements to cry out 'modern'. Ester sits on Meagher Street in Chippers as a beacon of light, bringing joy amongst the hipsters crowding the inner west. Thing's ain't looking half bad either; with neighbours in Brickfields, Freda's and  The Chip off the Old Block. Why not let the good times roll?

Roasted oysters (left) and duck and pistachio terrine (right). I could have oysters anytime anywhere, lightly roasted - they tasted quite different to what I'm used to (but in a good way). A few weren't too game on the terrine, I was just trying to save room for what lay ahead...

The menu certainly leaves on intrigued, to say the least. Reading as a quizzical list of ingredients - it serves as a checklist, rattling of some soon-to-be favourites. Already Ester has a few signature dishes, including their roast cauliflower which is a must-order, okay? Mat Lindsay's pride and joy sits as the centrepiece of the kitchen, a wood fired oven which is used to great effect throughout.  Most plates are designed for sharing and are the perfect accompaniment to some fine glasses of vino. No doubt you'll be craving to try more by the end!

Pippies/cabbage/nori butter. An early favourite, for sure. The tiny amount of meat (for all that shell) was coated with nori adding another element from the sea. A lovely and light dish.

Crispy pig's tails (left) and calamari/peas/green goddess (right). What that final ingredient was I had no idea...but have since done my research - a tangy dressing made with lots of fresh herbs. The calamari was cooked well and gelled together well with the other elements. The pig tails were tasty, for what meat there was (warning: bones)!

Cauliflower/almond/mint. A ha! So this was what all the fuss was about. A whole roasted cauli served with almond sauce, roasted almonds and mint. Quite impressive but also sneaky - was the half head thrown in the fire for the 'wow' factor? Nevertheless the flavours work really well, the slightly charred and textural cauliflower is a nice pairing with almond. Over boiled brassicas be gone!

Fish fillet/onion/saltbush (left) and chicken/garlic bread sauce (right). For the final two savouries you can't fault the cooking of the protein. It's nice to see the use of Australian natives (in saltbush). The garlic perhaps doesn't come through as hoped, but a little smear from a roasted garlic clove fixes everything

LA DOLCE VITA

Salted caramel semi-freddo, dusted with black sesame sugar. Sharing is caring, but perhaps not the case here. Dive in - before it's GONE. Another recipe to poach from Gourmet Traveller

Ester has certainly added a dash of excitement to the dining scene in Sydney, just as Berta, Apollo and Nomad have also done (the list hardly ends there either...). Ester's made a cracking statement, all with their trusty wood fire oven and the team should be immensely proud. The food is the perfect stepping stone short of fine dining; the communal experience that we've grown to adore. What could be better than having a rollicking good time without the fuss? If you feel so inclined to recreate your Ester experience (because let's face it, you've already had a hard time trying to secure a table); catch the recipe for their famed roast cauliflower here on Gourmet Traveller. Make Ester your New Year's resolution.

"Three milks" - cow's milk panna cotta, sheep's milk yoghurt foam and goat's milk dulce de leche 

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Ester on Urbanspoon

A Film About Coffee

Monday, 1 December 2014



And here we have, a visual interlude. I'll be the first to admit it, I love to harp on about coffee. I constantly find myself in pursuit of the best - wherever I go it's sort of an unofficial mission (and a heap of fun. See here and here). It's a drink that most Aussies will claim to be an expert in, and to be quite honest - we've got it pretty good Down Under. Coffee can be one of many things - the push to get up and go, a quiet moment shared in the afternoon or a battle cry against a hectic day. Filmmaker Brandon Loper has produced a film paying homage to that which we hold dear, A Film About Coffee.

A botanically inspired poster

Tracing the organic origins of the humble bean to the slow-mo pour over into your glass (at your favourite hipster café) every shot is to be savoured. This is an ode to the power of coffee across the globe - in culture, trade and economics. Journeying from Honduras and Rwanda to New York, Tokyo and Portland; Loper's goal of capturing the world of specialty coffee has been stunningly realised. Now drip, chemex and espresso fiends alike can enjoy this on their screens - it's the stuff of a coffee aficionado's dreams. View the trailer below or the film is available for rent or purchase online here.



Thanks for reading!
xGourmand

Morks

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


For many years now, Canberra has been turning out some respectable Thai food (thank you Lemongrass and Zen Yai). With menus that rely on the classics like pad thai and chicken satay, there's plenty of wiggle room on the restaurant scene. Enter Morks, a new restaurant joining the hoohah on Kingston Foreshore. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am quite astounded by the transformation that Canberra has undergone over recent years. It's almost a wholly different city, now rated as one of the world's most liveable. Who'da thunk it?

BBQ Pork bun. Something I had been looking forward to trying out. The pork belly was quite delicious, all in a perfectly soft bun. The addition of the desiccated coconut made it extra special. David Chang eat your heart out!
Moving from humble beginnings in Foley six years ago, Morks has found prime position in Kingston and is happily reaping the rewards. The team at the helm are siblings Mork and Benn Ratanakosol who lead the kitchen and front-of-house respectively. If you wondered about the name, you have it! A google search of "Morks" quizzically brings up Robin Williams in a bright red onesie (from a 70s sitcom). The dining room at Morks is spacious with a functional fit-out in subdued black and grey tones with spherical lanterns to spice it up. 

The Kingston Foreshore precinct, am I advertising this or what?! Source: restaurant.australia.com

The menu is a great point of interest, bringing together the best of  the beloved Thai classics with some contemporary dishes all marching to the beat of the same drum. The feature of a 64 degree egg may leave some unconvinced but the flavours are all there. I also appreciate the Pokemon reference in the dessert Jigglypuff (it's just so fun to say!), a lemon and lychee sorbet. It's a young team and the mood is kept light-hearted, all whilst maintaining their  food credentials.

Exhibit A: red duck curry with crispy rice cake. This is a massive departure from the Thai that we have grown accustomed to and that can only be a good thing. The duck was nice and tender but tended on the dry side. The curry sauce was just the ticket. A very generous portion size

I must say one more thing about the service. It ended up being quite hysterical, but in a good way. Making a rather late booking for a largish group, we were relegated to a table outside (fair enough). What we weren't counting on was the precipitous drop in temperature that night, leaving us to shiver in our coats and scarves. However, the front of house staff were a delight, happily shifting portable gas heaters all around us. We proceeded to eat our meal in what felt like the Fort Knox of heating. We literally had to extricate ourselves from the table, not just because we were spectacularly full...


Rainbow trout, tamarind reduction, fried onion, dried chilli and witlof. The wow-factor of the trout was literally lost on me. Where was the fish? Tucked under a delicious layer of rich tamarind sauce and fried shallots. Perhaps slightly overpowering for the trout, the dish still tasted great

How excitement. Morks spells great things to come for the nation's capital. Putting a modern spin on Thai cuisine is perhaps exactly what Canberra needed. What you see now are restaurants and bars that aren't afraid to flirt with the boundaries. There's a new sort of energy and exuberance that fills the air and it's infectious. My faith has been restored that "the hole" is filling up, and pronto.

"Back in my day" this space was Source: Morks
Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Morks Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Snapshot: A. Baker

Tuesday, 18 November 2014



A. Baker is a jack-of-all trades it would seem. Opening from 7am through 10pm, it wears the hats of restaurant, café, bar and bakery. Occupying a part of the New Acton precinct (which was destroyed by fire in 2011), this area now plays host to a entertainment and dining hub. A. Baker is a venue that seems to tick all the boxes, offering a frequently changing menu showcasing local produce and wines. Chefs Adam Bantok and Bernd Brademann are in charge of the kitchen offering dishes such as slow cooked Cape Grim beef cheek, Bredbo asparagus, peas & pickled mushrooms or a dish of Tumut River trout, smoked corn, lardo & sorrel. It all sounds rather enticing...

A sample of the pastry cabinet. A lemon meringue tart (fluffy peaks of lightly torched meringue, um hello?!). It gets me every time...

In case your were curious, A. Baker proudly lists online all the producers and providores from whom they've sourced their ingredients and wines. Sounds like one hell of a shopping list. Another big ticket is their bakery, with their house made sourdough and a selection of pastries available daily. Come for brunch or perhaps in the evening for a visit to the bar downstairs to kick the night off - or Parlour Wine Room is literally metres away. All day dining venues such as this are blurring the boundaries between restaurant/café and bar. I think that suits us just fine! 

The rather versatile dining space catering for brekkie, lunch and dinner

The design of A. Baker is certainly a talking point. With basically a blank state to work with, DesignOffice has turned the space into a functional dining room and bar on a lower level. Evidence of the fire still marks the bare walls adding an extra flicker of character. The open kitchen acts as an arena where all the good stuff happens. Industrial and chic, the space gets the job done and feels hopelessly trendy. 

The stairway down to the bar, punctuated with black and steel

The original interior which had been gutted by fire has been retained giving an abstract-painted kind of effect

Did someone say sourdough?! A. Baker is also the perfect option for the busy work crowd who can duck in for a quick coffee and takeaway lunch

A. Baker is yet another restaurant to add to the burgeoning Canberra scene. Things are definitely looking up for our previously sleepy capital. Focussing on great design, and bringing together the very best produce and wines of the Canberra region - you can't really go wrong. Perfect for any occasion, A. Baker really is a chameleon. Make tracks.

Lunch on-the-go: slow cooked pulled pork pie with vegetables. The pastry was flaky and divine, the filling nice and chunky. All topped with house made tomato sauce. A rather posh meat pie indeed!

Side salad of baby spinach, radish and Spanish onion dressed in a light vinaigrette

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
A. Baker on Urbanspoon

Snapshot: Brodburger

Thursday, 30 October 2014



In 5 short years, Brodburger has reached cult status in Canberra. Basically, the burgers are reveredI've never heard a bad word against them. What started out from humble beginnings in a fairly dodgy (luminously) red caravan, Brodburger has upgraded in a pretty major way to take up residence at the Canberra Glassworks in posh Kingston. The very clandestine act of purchasing a burger at the edge of Lake Burley Griffin was certainly one way to win some adoring fans (and raise a few eyebrows). The other thing is that Canberra can get bloody cold. Did I already mention that? YES. A roof and heating is definitely a good thing. Opening for lunch and dinner 6 days a week - there are many hungry mouths to feed (hundreds, in fact). 

The original Brodburger. A half pound flame grilled beef patty with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and spanish onions, homemade aioli, swiss cheese (but take your pick) and tomato relish. And let's not forget those French fries (reminiscent of Macca's fries but with less guilt)

So what's all the fuss about?  Them burgers of course! For a face sized burger (no kidding), this is your place. Go when you have a bit of time up your sleeve because you're in for a wait. But before you know it, those red baskets are plonked in front of you and pure joy ensues. Dig in to that thing, with the beef so succulent and the juices running down your fingers. Isn't there something so glorious in that moment of abandon?! The bun is fluffy soft and rather sweet. The salad, the perfect ratio so as not to detract from the patty and super fresh. I was so distracted I even ate the raw onion. If you're up for the challenge (or a glutton), give the Broddeluxe a crack (it's a monster). The burgers are pumped out here as if life depended on it. Come and get your fix.


The new and improved Brodburger, now catering for the masses (no joke). Source: Weekend Notes

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Brodburger on Urbanspoon

Mocan & Green Grout

Friday, 24 October 2014



Spring is the in the air(!) and like a moth to a flame, I've found myself straying to the nation's capital once again. Canberra really is a magnificent place at this time of year (and during Autumn for that matter) and what makes it even better is the hipster revival that it has undergone in the past 18 months. With several new hot spots on the map including Kingston Foreshore and the New Acton precinct things are looking up in the ACT. Recently dubbed the best place to live in the world (although I beg to differ when you're scraping ice off your windscreen in the dead of winter) and with a write up in the New York Times, the sleepy Canberra of old is making a name for itself. My next few posts will attempt to explain why. 

A cappuccino keeps the grumpy away. Lapping in the sunshine on a Sunday morning is what it's all about.

Mocan and Green Grout (there's some sort of accent there somewhere) has stayed the course since 2011, with ever increasing popularity from the early morning cyclists to non-chalant Bohemians. Starting out as a hole in the wall (basically), they have come a long way now with a dinner service to boot and a bonafide waitlist to get a table (say, whaaat). Perched on a corner of a fancy apartment complex in New Acton, Mocan & Green Grout makes a fair go of serving fair trade coffee and sourcing local produce. Eggs from the South coast, anyone? They also make bikes, if you're into that kind of thing. 

Sun drenched and lovely, the front is a hodgepodge of greenery. The vibe, genuinely laid back

Let's face it, this café is inescapably small but the wait is brief as the turnover is speedy. There's no need to join a mob ready to swoop, like there is in the big smoke (atrocious). It's all rather civilised and relaxed, the people watching is a bonus. The café features reclaimed materials along with commissioned artworks, fostering local creative talent. Kind of like chilling at a friend's house, but appreciating the extra effort that's gone into the coffee and eggs ;)

There's only one word for this and that is: cosy. A place where the kitchen and dining space happily blend

Smashed egss, mushrooms, Goats curd, black garlic. Just a few of my favourite things rolled into one dish. The black garlic was a rather funky addition, roasted and creamy (one only wishes there was more!). The eggs were just the way I like them, runny enough so the toast can mop up the rest

Fried eggs, chorizo, corn, avocado, hot sauce. Another rendition of a brunch classic, the chorizo was cooked well. The avocado features as more of a purée, dotted daintily on the plate

If there's one thing that's reassuring about Mocan and Green Grout is their confidence in doing their own thing. Starting out 3 years ago, they already have a head start and the queues speak for themselves. The food is exactly what is says and isn't pretending to be anything fancier; simple with a streak of refinement. Do be wary though that the wait for food during peak times can be somewhat drawn out (be patient though and it will pay dividends). What's nice at M&GG is the lack of pretension or hype which can make Sydney brunches almost traumatic (I simply refuse to wait 1.5 hours for breakfast). Don't be disheartened if you can't don't get in because that's the other thing, there are now options!

The herb garden right at the entrance, freshly picked and in your breakfast!

My fascination with signs and typography continues; no doubt this one was hand painted, with love

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon

Public

Monday, 13 October 2014



Public is leading the charge on Brisbane's dining scene. Championing a shared plate revolution in the Sunshine State, this smartly placed restaurant has retained one chef's hat since its opening in 2012. You wouldn't know this place was two years young, with a rather snazzy interior and a nice energy which certainly exudes from the kitchen. Set on the first floor of the 400 George St skyscraper, this is a fancy departure from the laid back vibes that scream Brisvegas. Public is here to shake things up and prove a point.

A modern, rather sedate venue by day. At night, the mood lighting strikes (again) and the requisite taxidermy animals make a bold show of it Source: Time Out

Chef Damon Amos is obviously a man of few words because the menu is positively monosyllabic, and not in a bad way. Share plates are the name of the game and each dish is listed as a few ingredients, letting your imagination do the rest. This style of food is instantly recognisable and perfect for groups. What you get is a happy union of ingredients that aren't traditionally paired, with the inclusion of a few oddballs like Black ants and sea lettuce (where does one acquire such things?). Keeping the diner on their toes, which I like. The result is that Public is a jack of all trades, for a quick drink and pre-dinner snack or a full blown banquet - anything's possible. And as a location for private functions, it's an emphatic yes (from me, anyway).


Public Nuisance. Fresh strawberries combined with cucumber and elderflower, Beefeater gin and sparkling wine. A rather refreshing sup in a champagne saucer i.e. old school. Those who know me understand my devotion to gin as a beverage

Beetroot, cumquat, dukkah. Side dishes are notoriously boring but this one was a side for the ages. Beetroot done several ways with a smattering of powder. A cumquat puree at the bottom, dukkah and labna. Everything you could possibly ever need

Prawn, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sea Lettuce. A delicious prawn dish, the sauce at the bottom had this beautiful rich, nuttiness (thanks to the peanuts, duh. Greatness!

Texas brisket, soft tortillas, chilli sauce. This one's a bit of a crowd favourite, slow cooked beef brisket with coleslaw and soft tortillas. This is an eat with your hands and juices-dripping-down-your-arms kind of affair. An extra  splodge of chilli sauce and I'm in heaven. Be sure to try this one

What's nice about Public is that they lose the pretension that so many restaurants down south are infamous for. The food is absolutely not to be sniffed at, with flavours that are bold and playful. Let's not forget the plating which is all about detail adding different textures of ingredients. And the relaxed atmosphere is there, from the moment you're welcomed to when last drinks hit the table. Even now, it's difficult to get a reservation at Public; we were lucky enough to secure seats at the bar on a weekday. Here they are, doing their own thing in Brissie and building a reputation for themselves. It's kind of refreshing.

Duck egg, truffle, toast. I had inadvertently requested extra truffle to be served on this rather posh piece of toast. The dish ended up being dense, but enjoyable (without a doubt). Be sure to soak up the runny egg yolk with the bread. The truffle itself was unmistakable, like a homecoming!
Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Public on Urbanspoon
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