Words for a Cause

Friday, 27 September 2013

A few weeks ago I was approached to do an interview with Elizabeth Taylor (for real), the woman behind many of the Organic Food Markets across Sydney that we almost take for granted on weekends. I am grateful for this opportunity  to voice my opinions on farmers markets and the importance of food provenance (how solemn). It harks (yikes, grandma) back to the post I wrote on Farmers Markets many moons ago that you can find here. But here are my responses, originally posted on the OFM Blog on Bloggers

Being suckers for branding and names we LOVE yours.  How long have you been blogging and what was it about local markets and produce that started you on this journey
Thanks very much! The City Gourmand started on a whim back in July 2011, so it's had a few birthdays already, which is difficult to believe. Being one of those annoying Asian girls that take a photo of nearly everything they eat, it was almost a natural progression into the blogging world. It's essentially a visual diary of the food that I love to eat. Don't be fooled by the blog title though. Yes, I love fine dining in the iconic cities: Barcelona, London and Sydney of course but sometimes the best food comes from your own kitchen. 

An über styled version of the possibilities...Farmers' Market risotto with zucchini and their flowers Source: Taste.com

One of the best things about the food scene is the emergence of farmers' markets that have sprouted up in the most convenient locations. The Kings Cross Organic Food Market just so happens to be my local. It harks back to the days of our grandparents who would visit the markets several times a day, being without modern refrigeration. Today food travels halfway across the world to reach our shores (the concept of "food miles") defying the natural seasons. Yes, you can have pomegranates any time of year except it has travelled all the way from Afghanistan to ours shores. So the philosophy of Buy and Eat Local is actually a compelling one. What's more, we can support Australian farmers directly, cutting out the middleman. There is something special about forging a relationship with local producers or farmers. This is something that I am passionate about and write about regularly (see here).

In the shadows of the iconic El Alamein fountain (shaped like a dandelion) the Kings Cross Organic Farmers Market takes place each Saturday in Fitzroy Gardens. Photograph: El Alamein Fountain by Max Dupain c. 1962. Source: NSW Environment

What is it in particular about markets such as ours that need to be embraced and nurtured from your point of view
Well first of all, we need to spread the word about organic farmers' markets! They may not be as convenient as big chain supermarkets but your shop will certainly be fresher and of higher quality. Organic fruits and vegetables have a certain stigma attached to them, namely the price tag. The important thing to remember is you don’t have to try and shift mountains. One or two organic items per week and you’re well on the way to improving your wellbeing. Another thing is to be adventurous! Don’t be intimidated by weird or wacky ingredients. Though the Sydneysider's food vernacular is rather impressive, there are things that we automatically tend to steer clear of. Try your hand at cooking offal or a new heirloom vegetable, like kohlrabi! And if in doubt, ask the stallholder – their passion for their produce is infectious!

Or, you could always plant your own ;) Image: Little Veggie Patch Co.

Through your writings and observations, have you noticed a trend of the way people are now shopping where perhaps they are making their weekly market shopping more of an outing rather than a dash in and dash out type experience
It is true that people are ridiculously time poor these days. Life often tends to get ahead of us. An early morning visit to the local markets can be such an enjoyable experience and it’s a great way to catch a few rays. Indeed I have noticed that the markets have become a bit of a forum for families, pets and farmers alike, it is incredibly social. So the new routine is this: arrive and make a beeline for a coffee, grab a brekkie egg and bacon roll and then peruse at your leisure. Or maybe a few quick fire rounds of Guess Who if you're in KX! I tend to buy as much as I can be it meat, fruits or veg from organic producers and supplement my shop at a grocer only if I have to. The farmers markets are a wonderful way to slow down, if only for an hour or so and I think that many are realizing this.

<Insert day> long lunch, three words that bring joy to my ears! Photo: Kinfolk Volume V via Sanctuary blog

What is one of your more favoured meals to prepare using fresh produce bought at market
On a lazy weekend, stay true to the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid). With minimal interference to such lovely ingredients you can make an amazing spread for lunch or dinner. In the same vein, I love making ‘Market Bruschetta’ with bits and pieces I’ve bought from the market. Anything goes really…A few slices of sourdough, prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil et voilà! I’m making myself hungry just typing this!

The colours of the heirloom tomatoes are just killer, and they taste unlike any other tomato you've ever tasted. Yes.

If you had to sum up the “vibe” of shopping at local produce markets in 5 words what would they be
These aren’t necessarily ‘vibe’ specific but community, buzz, abundance, delicious and feast!


And now, for a rather lengthy (but not waffley) P.S. ...

Continuing on with all this goodness there are a few great campaigns being run this month and next:

1. Just Food (a start-up on Pozible)

Image credit: The Locavore Edition

A bit of a team effort between The Locavore Edition and the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, Just Food (how many hyperlinks can I put in this sentence?) is the documentary that they had hoped to make, thanks to crowd funding and the undeniable powers of social media  Well, that little idea is now coming to fruition - the target amount of AU$25000 was reached, a measly 3 weeks into the campaign! 

Growing healthy orange trees is hard work. Killing them is even harder.
Short documentary produced for the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Funnily enough, I was actually at Eveleigh Markets whilst Costa was filming this trailer with the crew. (Get) Right in the thick of it! There are 7 days to go (deadline 3rd October) and the extra money will go towards supporting Australian farmers across the country in getting their stories out there. Pledge here before time is up my friend.

2. Give a Fork!

Image credit: Sustainable Table

Apart from the snazzy title, Sustainable Table will be launching a week long campaign (7-14th October) encouraging the general public to host their own events, raising money to support developing sustainable food systems. Sadly, the idea seems quite fantastical in our modern society. In the event's inaugural year, seafood is on the agenda. The documentary The End of the Line is a great crash course on the topic of overfishing.

Trailer for documentary, The End of the Line tackling the subject of overfishing

If I have whet your appetite for ethical choices and generosity then my work here is done.

Thanks for reading, and pls donate!


Saturday, 21 September 2013

It's a mere hop, skip and a jump away from home, but there are plenty more reasons why I've returned to Popolo for more. Situated smack bang in the Rushcutters Bay Advanx complex this all-hours restaurant will sate your hunger any time of day. Co-owners Flavio Carnevale (wicked surname) and Fabio Dore have made a restaurant for the people (hence its namesake) and boy are they onto something. Originally from Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point, they may have flown the coop but they didn't get very far!

Day or night, Popolo's is a great all-rounder. Credit: Anthony Reginato

The beauty of this place is that it can be whatever you want - a restaurant chameleon, who would've thought. Brunch, bar or fine diner - Popolo ticks a myriad of boxes without breaking the bank. What with the thick accents of the front staff (I'm sorry but some things were completely LOST on me) and the no nonsense approach to cibo Italiano, you are almost transported to a far-off piazza, which just so happens to be next to the Lexus showroom...No matter. 

Here's what to expect in the food stakes:


Flippin' fregola: toasted pebble shaped pasta with calamari, prawns and mussels, tomato, chilli and orange zest. Generosity with seafood always deserves props.

Luncheon at Popolo: Flaminia pizza (left) and Strozzapreti ('priest-strangler'!) with suckling pig ragu (right). The pizza is topped with tomato, fior di latte, ham and artichokes - the latter being one of my all time favourite pizza ingredients. The crust is a wee-thick and bready for what I'm used to, pizzas can easily be shared. Easily. I needed a pasta identi-kit to figure out what that pasta was. Could not remember for the life of me! Thank you Cook's Thesaurus ;)


Paccheri pasta with swordfish, eggplant and fresh cherry tomatoes. This was a lovely neutral kind of dish, nothing smacks you in the mouth but all the elements work harmoniously. A very enjoyable main

Galletto: roasted spatchcock (left) and Pesce: market fish (right). Letting the protein do all the talking, all you need is a snippet of fennel, a light purée and a squeeze of a lemon cheek, done skies.


"Homemade" tiramisù, yet another dessert destined to be served in a glass (so that all may gaze in wonder). I was expecting a little more to be honest, more of everything - chocolate, coffee soaked savoiardi...As you can see, they were a bit heavy handed with all that cream (however light as anything). Ratios aside, this thing was very edible

Caprese al Ciocolato (left) and Semifreddo (right). Chocolate & almond cake, creme anglaise, citrus. Hazelnut and vanilla semifreddo, amaretto sauce, berries.

Popolo has had a hard time juggling all that good press of late. Named Time Out Sydney's Best Casual Diner 2013, and awarded one hat/star by both the Good Food Guide 2014 and Gourmet Traveller's Restaurant Guide 2014 - most have cottoned on to this little place. It's a southern Italian gem, let me assure you. Oh and you can make bookings. Thank Christ.

Thanks for reading!
Popolo on Urbanspoon

Snapshot: Sydney cafés II

Monday, 16 September 2013

On a drizzly Monday afternoon, I'm happy to be relishing in the great indoors. I thought it was about time I did another café post seeing as they're starting to number in the squillions across Sydney. Today I'm jotting a few things about a Sydney café that needs no introductions, receiving a toque by the GFG 2014 in its first year of opening (scoring 15/20 by T.D.). 

Kepos Street Kitchen

96 Kepos Street, Redfern

Sprouting up in the old Strangers with Candy Restaurant site on the Waterloo side of Redfern, Kepos Street Kitchen is already winning praise with locals and the media. Chef Michael Rantissi, formerly of Bathers' Pavilion is at the kitchen's helm, adding some Middle Eastern flair to the expansive café menu. Another thing worth mentioning is that they are also open for dinner Wednesday - Saturday. So for a reasonably priced night out i.e. mains under $30, KSK is a good bet. If you can get a table that is!

Jill Dupleix rates it: Soft baked eggs and tomato shakshuka, coriander tahini, sourdough $15. A signature dish of sorts, this is a fantastic way to start the day. Oozy baked eggs and a fair whack of paprika, plus carbohydrate for mopping up is mandatory.

Tucked away on a leafy corner in Redfern, Kepos Street Kitchen is the place to be rain, hail or shine. Photo credit: Kepos Street Kitchen

With a pared back interior, KSK welcomes you with open arms and a rather impressive spread of cakes and other bakes on the front counter but more on that goodness a bit later ;). It really is a miniscule place, with the kitchen hidden in what looks like the garage. Be warned that on weekends you could be in for a bit of a wait, it gets rather packed rather quickly. Early is probably best if you can even fathom setting an alarm for a Saturday...

It's curious that I've tried coffee from the Grounds without actually having been there. For the record, it ain't bad but I refuse to queue up over an hour for breakfast!

Tunisian style seared yellow fin tuna, eggplant, tomato, cucumber, egg, potato, harissa dressing $19. This is a very generous portion size and ideal for sharing (or stealing). The tuna is largely left alone which makes it all the better. Lashings of fresh herbs liven it up - a perfect choice for luncheon

Steak sandwich, caramelised onion jam, wilted spinach, aïoli, roasted tomatoes $19. Something would be amiss if there wasn't some sort of burger or steak santa on the menu. This one is on the larger side, so an obvious for the guys. That melty cheese is making me weak at the knees.

You know me, I couldn't resist a little early afternoon tea...

If I was motivated enough to have this photo printed and framed, I'd do it. I'm already reminiscing about this cake (cray cray!!!). A triumph at the hands of the pastry chef, this hazelnut torte is crowned with strawberries and cream and chockablock with hazelnuts. So incredibly good without drowning your palate in sugar. Give it a go, I dare you.

KSK churros, salted caramel. Call it overkill if you so wish but I thought this was rather unmissable from the menu. More shell than anything else, the churros were good though could have been a bit fluffier on the inside. The salted caramel thing is a total fad thing but I went with it that day. 

This is a particularly hedonistic close-up. Enjoy.

If I had my way, I could probably eat my way through the day at Kepos Street Kitchen. Rantissi does a brilliant job of lifting the reputation of the neighbourhood café. Good coffee, great food - it really is a simple formula but often so difficult to execute (in this economic climate, amongst other things). The rave reviews about KSK certainly weren't lying. Take a gander, have a taste.

And now a quick recipe to whiz up in minutes, literally

KSK Green Tahini recipe from Delicious magazine (April 2013)
Suggested to be served with felafel or to dollop on that lush shakshuka! One batch makes a 3/4 cup

2 bunches coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup tahini paster

1. Whiz coriander and lemon juice in a blender until combined
2. Add garlic and tahini, then blend until smooth
3. Season with 1 tsp sea salt

Have fun and thanks for reading!
Kepos Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Ume (Eat Art)

Saturday, 7 September 2013

If the Eat Art Food Truck were to have a stationary cousin, Ume would surely be it. Opened in 2012 by husband & wife team Kerby Craig and Hiroko Muranishi, this Japanese establishment has taken over the old Bistrode site on 478 Bourke St (talk about prime real estate!). Ume, translating to plum in English has achieved quiet success in true Japanese fashion earning a well deserved One Chef's Hat in the 2014 SMH Good Food Guide

From an inconspicuous shopfront in Surry Hills hides this dynamite Japanese restaurant - who'da thunk it? That cherry blossom mural is the real deal, beautiful.  Photo credit: Ume

There's no need for white tablecloths, the vibe is decidedly casual but there is room for a bit of a Saturday night dress up. Muranishi does a fantastic job navigating the front of house staff. Every table gets your undivided attention, all delivered with a cheery smile. Crack open a cold Kirin or be adventurous and go for a tokkuri of premium sake (and burn from the inside). Perfect for date night, if you ask me!

Now, to the business end:

This dish needs no introductions, it has been splashed proudly across all forms of media. Seared scallop carpaccio: soy brown butter, finger limes, young sorrel, dulse (red seaweed). A dream to look at and a dream to eat, if you're into raw molluscs (I pretty much polished off the whole thing...whoops). The flavours here are completely harmonious and the herbs/roe add a nice textural overtone (off I rant). Order this dish okay, I BEG YOU.

The 'Shiki no salad' is definitely no slouch: roast heirloom carrots, fried brussel sprouts, dashi custard, wild herbs, soy & ginger dressing. This dish was certainly an unexpected pleasure. The health benefits of Brussels sprouts are properly nullified by chucking them in the fat fryer but OMG YUM. The dashi custard was a brilliant addition to a total work of food art. Bow.

I mean, come on. How can you even eat that? It is too gorgeous, the Tako: Fremantle sustainable 'giant' octopus, shio koji potato, baby sun rose, pickled lime juice and soy. I really like the idea of the small plate at Ume, feel free to order a bit of everything - or let the kitchen choose by doing the 6 course degustation for a measly $80. You'd be a fool (like us, actually) to say no!

Wagyu 'sukiyaki style' (Ryugin 2010): David Blackmore Wagyu 9+, yaki dofu (grilled tofu), shimeji, nasturtium, soy-mirin reduction, onsen tamago (boiled egg). By this point we were a bit soy-sauced out (if that's even possible). The flavours were quite mild but after a while all the soy-based dressings started to meld together.  As an aside, who knew that wagyu marbling scores went up to 12? Not I. Have a squiz at this truly impressive pdf about Wagyu Grading Standards. Scary stuff.

And to round off the evening, a spot of DOLCE:

The dessert known by one name: Mandarin. Mandarin tofu, frozen green tea, dehydrated cocoa mousse, mochi, mandarin sorbet. I'm sorry to say this dish was a bit of a downer. All the elements ended up a bit confused on the plate and didn't necessarily suit. This is a classic example of the contrived constructed/deconstructed (which is it, pray tell?) dessert.

Making moves in a shoe-box. Ume keeps doing its thing with minimal fuss, which provides a refreshing change from all those hipster taco/burger joints spreading across Sydney like wildfire. It just shows you the power of 'trending', doesn't it. Photo credit: Ume

I must say, my dinner at Ume was thoroughly enjoyable. For the most part I was getting good vibes, especially from that delicately flavoured and balanced Japanese fusion menu. Props must go to the Craig and his kitchen. It's a great spot to keep in mind. Welcome to the 'hood Ume, enchantée.

Thanks for reading
Ume Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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