Sunday, November 29, 2009
Nigel & I first met in the kitchen of Soulmama, a huge vegetarian café on St Kilda beach in Melbourne & it was Nige, a Tasmanian, who perhaps planted the first seed of curiosity into my head about moving to Tassie. He must have convinced himself also as he & Meredith arrived not long after. We worked together again at Peppermint Bay before Nige went off to follow is passion for baking & worked at the Summer Kitchen in Ranelaigh for a good while, even appearing in the ‘Passionate Apprentices’ documentary.
For many customers Nigel was the face of the RVL & rightly so, for there isn’t another person who has put so much of himself, his skills, his passion & his hard work into the place over the years.
Nigel is a quietly determined person of great integrity & strength of character. He has helped shape the food & service at the RVL toward what I believe is a quantum leap to what it once was & he has done so humbly & earnestly & I owe him a great debt of gratitude for his efforts. I will miss him.
I wish Nige & his family all the best & good luck for their exciting new adventure down South.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Should kids be allowed in restaurants? If you were Paul Lynch, former iconic Melbourne restaurateur, you would snarl ‘no’ through your Cuban cigar. If you were the Judge presiding over the infamous case a few years ago, you’d arch your eyebrow & say ‘yes’ & smack that hammer down with a flourish. Either way it’s a hot topic.
Having children of my own I can especially relate to the rare times that my partner & I escaped to enjoy the luxury of a meal, sans enfant. It’s correct to describe it as an escape though & I feel that perhaps some of us resent the appearance of children in the dining room because it is we ourselves who get to BE child-like at the restaurant. Think about it. You arrive, you are pampered, you choose what you want, you order people around, they obey without complaint, they love you (at least love your wallet) you eat & you drink. It’s a fantasy & it ends when the bill is presented & you have to go home to reality. Perhaps when kids are around it somehow robs us of our chance to be the centre of attention?
I will confess that I actually don’t mind kids in the dining room both as a punter & as a professional BUT other people might & this may affect their experience in a negative way. This gives cause for concern, they may not come back. Sure children are a part of society but if you have your own & want a quiet night without them, are you unreasonable because you don’t want to suffer the children of others?
A point to clarify, not all kids are a drag in the dining room. However the ones that are, can have an effect like a nail down a blackboard. What to do?
There’s a real sense of irony when the harshest critics of the appearance of small people in the inner sanctum of a dining room do a back-flip as soon as they have children themselves. The glare that was once aimed at the guilty parent daring to bring little Charlotte into the hallowed gastro temple is now reserved for the neighboring customer who dares to complain if toddler Jackson rubs butter on their cashmere. From how dare you to How could you in nine months. They are as insufferable as ex-smokers.
OK, that’s more serious restaurants covered, what about more casual eateries? To me it’s true to say that these places are fair game to encounter children. Why though do many present the most unappealing grot masquerading as the dreaded ‘Children’s menu?’ Observe the unholy trinity of nuggets, fish & chips & spag bol. Sort of says it all really doesn’t it? Do these restaurateurs & chefs have kids? More poignantly do they feed their offspring the same shite every time they go out? Why is it that time after time the kids menu is the most unhealthy & unimaginative?
One theory is that its there just to appease & shut them up with a deep-fried dummy. Also I think that some parents secretly spoil their kids with the fried choices that THEY actually crave. You don’t believe me? Well check out how many chips Mum & Dad scoff whilst little Josh looks the other way! He soon learns that fried food is a valuable commodity indeed. So valuable in fact, that his Mummy & Daddy will steal food from their own flesh & blood! He then realizes he has to eat them quickly & as a result, ends his meal before his parents get theirs. Naturally, he gets bored & fidgety & starts to complain. This causes them to get anxious & other diners start eyeballing them until the awkwardness sets in. Soon Josh is screaming around the tables with the sauce bottle on his head, the parents pay the bill & leave to the relieved sighs of the other eaters. The self fulfilling prophecy at work, remember that when you pinch a chip next time!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A flask of Bushells, a sanga, some fruit & some choccy,
The snug fit of the polar fleece, too hot for the car.
A map, a book & a National Parks sticker all paid up!
The road South, winding & with every curve, expectation.
Through hamlets, houses, washing lines & roadside fruit stalls
Poverty, fleetingly glimpsed, reflecting three generations not knowing work & sometimes school
We are deep into Ute, ammo, bait & ice-country.
Roadkill intensifies & we do the giant slalom to avoid it.
A single flowered memorial of a car crash victim flashes by, outnumbered by the native cadavers that precede it.
Near it, steely stares peer beneath a No Greens windshield.
Etched with suspicion, faces of prejudice & hardship. It resonates.
The road beckons & we are soon delivered into the theme park of a symmetrical green woodland fantasy.
The columns of trees, poised, balanced & coiffed, remind me of a model train diorama.
Beaming from billboards, the propagandist smiles of timber loving actors watch over us.
I’m tempted to scrawl graffiti for the first time in my life. A single black tooth would be my act of civil disobedience.
We press on deeper until we pass through the imaginary turnstiles & this ersatz forest finally loosens its surreal grip & morphs into something more ancient.
The chaos of the authentic woodland swallows our little car & something from within ruptures from me, ballooning skyward, released.
I imagine looking at it from high above, like a little burring zipper unfastening a large velvet curtain of emerald
The blur of jade, windows down & inhaling to bursting point, the wonderful dizziness follows.
And with an exultant grin, split from ear to ear, I put my head out into the rush of wind & rapturously scream!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Deus ex Machina
Vintage local footy tops
The Birthday party, Died Pretty, the Necks
Thick rimmed spectacles
Old school pubs
Flirting with their children’s hot teacher
Newspapers & their supplements
East West 101
Talkin 'bout my generation
Precision home brewing
Pork pie hats
Fitzroy, South Melbourne or Footscray football clubs
Eric Bana’s ‘Love the beast’
Susie Porter, Juanita Phillips, Abbey Cornish
Safe ethnic food that doesn’t make one fart (too much)
Classic European automobiles
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Bred free range
Ok so they spend only the last weeks of their lives outside & may have come from free range parents
I’m sure it’s not a hut designed by Glen Murcott!
Define cage please?
This is supposed to make me feel better?
Grass flavoured pellet fed
Grass flavoured pellets; you’ve got to be joking
A contradiction in terms surely
Whose hand-a robot’s?
Cushion-caged battery hens
Soft padding makes a cage sound better-I don’t think so
With proximity to free range
What does this mean? Every second day they go outside?
Free range-caged-they choose
You mean they choose a cage because its shelter rather than going outside?
Grass controlled diet
What, they aren’t allowed to eat too much grass?
What the hell does this mean? Whose habitat-a factory worker’s?
Frozen is frozen
A safe or better choice
Safe? From what, veggies grown in soil, scary! Better, for whom, big food multis or me?
Sustainable caught Patagonian Tooth fish
I don’t think so
Net caught fish
Err, are they kidding
Dolphin friendly tuna
Dead Dolphins are not friendly or grateful, they are dead
Green & net fishing shouldn’t go in the same sentence
Hmm, they might be aware but what are they doing about it?
More like green un-conscious
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It's an interesting fact that the Kingston area is greatly under serviced by any decent eating places. This is also surprising as Kingston is supposed to be one of, if not, the, fasted growing municipality in Tasmania.
I have been told from an old salt, a long time resident of the area, that it is also a deeply conservative & devout enclave of Lutheran values. Whether this has anything to do with the dearth of eating houses is not clear but perhaps these values are well represented at council level & in particular, planning & licensing?
That said, it did manage to rubber stamp the absolute mish-mash of Cashed-up-Bogan style, Channel Court though?! The busiest place by a country mile is a Gloria Jeans franchise, I don’t get it?
Plenty of us new to the State are scratching our heads in wonderment why we don’t have this or don’t have that, particularly when it comes to good restaurants & cafes in the pretty country towns we flock to at weekends with our minted copy of ‘Country Style’ under our arms. On the mainland there are many examples of restaurants & cafes thriving in the satellite towns around the capital cities. Having said this, there are also many whose rosy dream to open a ‘little place in the country’ has turned into the nightmare of cliché. A few antique shop items arranged by a Shabby-Chic hand entwined with a rustic haute barnyard menu does not always a successful business make. Opening a business in a country town appealing to the aesthetics of a moneyed & leisurely city clientele is usually avoided by the very people who live in the town. In other words, your livelihood when the holiday season is over. They also have to deal with the biggest problem that I hear about all the time, finding staff., we in Tas are not alone with this issue.
Here in winter, people hibernate; often they just don’t go out. Also there really isn't a lot of money in rural Tasmania & the South is no different. It’s not too long a bow to draw to say that for many, the discretionary dollar is just not spent on meals outside the home. Take a look at the main drags of Kettering, Snug, Margate, Huonville, Cygnet, Geeveston and Franklin et all at 8pm on a winter’s night for a reality check!
Until we get a massive population increase I feel it will remain so.
With all this in mind, it takes a very confident person(s) to open a restaurant or cafe with this as a backdrop. That’s why we should support those brave enough to have a go but also let them know when they haven't got it right.
Why don’t you do a Channel & Huon Crawl?
Blue= new ownership
Start at Brookfield Vineyard, on to Pear Ridge, stop off at Seafood De Mayne, drop in to The Farm Gate Cafe in Kettering, follow up at The Mermaid café also at Kettering, then on to Peppermint Bay, followed by Fleurty’s then on to Pecora at Grandvewe, spin around go up the Woodbridge Hill to the café at Hartzview Wine Centre then on to Cygnet. At Cygnet go to The Lotus Eaters, The Bottom Pub, Red Velvet Lounge, Divinge & The Apple tree cafe. Now flat foot it to Huonville, go over the river toward Geeveston. Go to Café Kyari, turn around toward Franklin & visit the Aqua Grill, Franklin Woodfired Pizza & the new Turkish café. Petty Sessions, Melaka & the Franklin Gallery Café. Back in Huonville go to The Huon Manor, Café Moto, Granny Lews Organics, The Boathouse, Home Hill Winery & DJ’s.
They’re all there having a go.
Despite these places closing a few newbies have popped up. The old Post Office in Dover(mostly pizzas) Masaaki for sushi in Geeveston, The Lady Jane Franklin hotel in Franklin & Great Southern Pizza in Cradoc.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
I am hoping it will be revealed why other people are compelled to put themselves & their opinions out there into the ether on a topic that is always going to be fundamentally subjective & thus attract a differing of opinion. It takes a fair amount of courage to stick your neck out & put your views into the public arena especially when much of the response is often anonymous. Bloggers are aware of this double edged sword yet still many forge on despite it. This is not to say that negative comments don’t at times sting & occasionally their disapproving words fatally wound a blogger who calls it a day, discouraged & licking their wounds. Its pretty difficult to adequately prepare oneself for the extremes of opinion & the way that it is delivered, often in very personal terms. It can be quite distressing. Yes you can delete such comments but this skirts around the issue of censorship & many bloggers feel that there is way too much of this already happening in old media. You just hope people will play fair.
Speaking for myself, I do it because I enjoy writing & I like reading, however I don’t get enough time to exercise the latter as frequently as I’d like to. My blog happens to be mostly food related but I occasionally delve into other areas.
So why do people blog? I have a theory or two.
I think the immediacy of it is very attractive & sits comfortably with the notion of instant gratification that some of us have enthusiastically embraced.
Then there’s the chance to get your voice across to a wider audience that pre the net, was almost impossible for the everyday person. Posting bears witness to the fact that you are alive, somewhere out there, living, observing, questioning & thinking.
It also connects to the notion that we all like to be anti establishment to a degree or in the least that we are not part of the herd. A fair amount of blogs are devoted to de-bunking the conventional message that printed or other media convey. Many bloggers though ignore the paradox that their message is just another version of the multiple truths that are out there.
In my case, the self gratification I enjoy as I post is almost onanistic in its own sad & guiltily self indulgent way, perhaps meant to be enjoyed in a room with the curtains drawn & followed by a melancholics remorse! Each post a ‘little death’! Just kidding!
Having said this, to me blogging is a very solitary activity. This is also ironic because the very nature of writing, in this case about food, has bought me into the orbits of many other similarly inclined people.
Anyway enough of my blogging self analysis, are there any questions you might like to convey to the group of Tassie Food bloggers? I'm sure it would add to the days discussions.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
In that last posting really let of some steam & I feel better for it! Stephen got me thinking when he enquired what were some of the excuses used & boy it bought back a few painful memories! Having said that, enough time has passed to make me feel less violated & I can actually see the good in people, er mostly.
This excuse is usually delivered by a distant relative or long suffering & embarrassed parent. “Sorry he has had to leave the country-immediately so he won’t be able to come in today-or ever”. Like is this guy a secret agent? Is he wanted by Interpol?
This one plays the biggest sympathy card. The person usually phones & tearfully explains that their Grandma, who they were incredibly close to, has carked it. This means that they will not be able to come back to work,....ever. I know of one person who must not have any relatives left on the planet, they've dropped like flies it seems.
Then there is the ‘Mystery Illness Syndrome’. I won’t be able to come back to work because I have an extremely rare case of Zimbabwe Fever. How did you get this in Chigwell I am left asking? Often though, they bob up one week later in a cushy nine to five job.
Then there is the pedigreed slouch with the impressive CV. If they do a runner it usually has something to do with the fact that they ‘can’t compromise their standards’ or other such nonsense. They realise that they can’t ponce around for long before they are asked to cook something or do service. Often they end up looking way out of their depth, so in order to save face, they bail.
Oh, then there is the Calamity Jane. I have mentioned this person in a previous post. They have one inexplicable disaster after another requiring more & more time off until they just vanish, who knows maybe abducted by aliens, who knows it’s possible?
Then there is the ‘Personality clash’. I will not work another minute with so & so. It is hard not to hear these words & think of a petulant child refusing to do chores. This one is one of the most lame excuses & almost always used when an individual is not coping, out their depth & in over their head.
The Druggie or Alco. Against your better judgement you will hire one of these when you are cornered. You know that one day Mr X will have vanished without trace & Miss Y is still coming down from a bender. Often I expect to see their pictures in the Missing Persons list on the Cop shop wall, at least that might explain something?
The, ‘I ate something bad’, excuse. Sure we all get food poisoning from time to time. How many dodgy Kebabs has the late night shop in Sandy Bay been responsible for? OK a couple of days off at best-but leaving work over it? Talk about Kebab-aphobia? More like work-aphobia!
I am resigning, effective immediately, due to a broken heart. My girlfriend went to Thailand & had an affair with someone. Truth ne known, she never left the airport, she shagged the Taxi driver on the way to Club Med & I am devastated. What the?!
Then there are those who just don’t give a shit. They will not even be bothered to concoct a story yet alone hang around to deliver it. Whatever!
I could go on but fell free to add your examples. gg
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
To avoid some traps for young players I feel compelled to offer some advice observed from way too many hours in the rough & tumble of profession kitchens.
Chefs & how to spot them in their natural habitat
Points are given (out of ten) for each species that you may have inhabiting your kitchen, a low score is excellent, a high score should have the alarm bells ringing.
The Pedigreed Slouch, also know as The Know –all, or Mr Europe: First thing that you notice is its casual air of superiority. Its C.V. is a long & littered with all the right names. Once working it makes repeated & ill timed references to previous methods in other, better kitchens. Like some sort of defense mechanism, the Slouch will, when under the pump, start a frenzied monologue of how things were done at Le Manoir Quat Saisons whilst getting deeper & deeper in the shit. Usually this ends with the Slouch being rescued by an apprentice & then promptly walking out shamefaced.
The Meringue Chef: This one is easy to spot. When the inevitable mayo, custard etc is being made usually to test it out, The Meringue Chef will proudly display its plumage. It starts by asking anyone within hearing distance, especially apprentices, ‘What do you do with the egg whites?’ When the customary answer of ‘Oh, just chuck ‘em out’ is heard, the M.C. ‘Tut, Tuts’ loudly & then follows with, ‘What about making a meringue, or something?’ At this point anyone hearing this must give it every egg white in the building & let it make meringue. This will last until the M.C. learns that everyone else is about to go on a break except it. This scenario lasts for about two days when the M.C. either morphs into a common garden variety chef or leaves.
The Burn-Out: Usually lean, wiry & slump shouldered with recessed bulging eyes ringed by dark black lines, five day growth bristling over skin of a deathly grey pallor. Its uniforms are usually grimy, jaundiced & putrid smelling. The Burn Out infects all who come in contact with it with the fetid aroma of defeat, malice & cynicism. Should anyone thus be infected, remove them immediately from the kitchen & make them watch chirpy Jamie Oliver videos.
The Job-Hopper: Can be confusing to spot as initially it can appear to be an incredible find. Sadly cracks start to appear usually when you are busy/short staffed/under pressure etc. the Job Hopper will take offence very quickly & start to find fault with the position & or business & once it digs up a nugget of justification, whoosh! It’s off1
The Gold Nugget or the more common Garden Variety Chef. These are EXTREMELY RARE. Once spotted it is to be protected at all costs. It will always understand you, be there in the tough as well as the good times, work hard & has the best demeanor. Importantly they have a real passion & talent for cooking & are genuinley interested in what they do. They make up for all the other
species short comings.
The Hack, also once known as The Cowboy: It has the potential to do irreversible damage your kitchen. From the smallest of tasks, The Hack has a way to cut even the sharpest of corners. It will never set up adequately, order properly, execute the dishes as intended or keep the place clean. It has learned a cunning & canny way of saying what Owners want to hear in order to stay in the shadows. It usually gets found out when the other chefs tired of carrying it, revolt in a nasty show of solidarity.
The Eager-Beaver: It is like a breath of fresh air. Always chipper & enthusiastic, the Eager-Beaver has an at times manic display of good cheer. This can be a little disconcerting & wear you down at times but its sunny presence in the kitchen balances the scales nicely.
The Calamity Jane: This species is quite tricky to uncover. Firstly it busies itself with making itself indispensable, as if making a nest. Then when securely embedded it reveals its true self. It starts by asking for time off due to an unforeseeable event. Then moves on to leaving early on a regular basis because of a crisis at home. Just when this behavior becomes intolerable it has a major calamity requiring yet more time off. Whilst you are sympathetic, the excuses become more & more fantastic until it no longer resembles what you had originally employed.
The Substance abuser: This species can actually cut the mustard which makes it even more disappointing that they frequently let the side down. Often when they are needed most, say a busy night, will be the exact time it chooses to get Munted the night before. Like a sixth sense the Substance Abuser has an innate ability to determine when they are needed the most before succumbing to a drug fuelled bender.
The Bully: Foul tempered & nasty, The Bully stomps around generally miserable in any environment. It loves to bait & attack waiters. It has to be constantly monitored & another person must always be present when observing it to witness its frequent tirades of belligerence. Probably the nastiest of then entire species & to be avoided at all costs.
The Rock Star: Works at all the new hip places, knows all the movers & shakers in the industry, the photographers & the foodie journos. Never last long in any kitchen as it has a tendency to avoid any kind of kitchen work at all costs. It is sharply dressed, well kitted out with all the right hand forged knives but sadly never lives up to its hype. The culinary equivalent of 'The difficult second album syndrome'.
The Mad Proffesor: Always wanting to add a foam this or an emulsion that especially to a recognizable dish like bacon & eggs. Does not know when to leave food alone. Always tinkering with dishes & adding things that frankly will not go together. Gets super annoyed when its overwrought & overwhelmingly intricate specials get overlooked by customers just wanting a nice steak please.
The Jamie Wannabe or the Ben O Donahue minor: Come into kitchens with the specific aim to become a celebrity chef at all costs. Actually its surprising to see them in a kitchen at all as they are usually found at casting calls for the next reality TV cooking show, ready to sob at a moments notice & plea to stay on to fulfill their dream of becoming a celebrity, I mean chef
The Provenance monk-Can be tricky as they will not cook anything that has come from beyond a self imposed radius of their kitchen. This could be difficult should their kitchen be located in any CBD. Note* the smaller the radius the more hard core they appear to be. Score 5
The chef farmer: Like its above cousin, it will bore everyone to death by recounting how it saved a rare breed from extinction, made its own mangy smallgoods, grew its own edible weeds from seed & hand churned its own butter from milk from its own cow. They are deluded in thinking that this stuff has never been done before. Yawn. Score 5
The Owners relative-very dangerous these. Will observe every move you make, copy every recipe you write & report it all back to the owner. When they feel they have gleaned enough information to get rid of you & save a bucket load of cash in your wage, you'll be summoned hence forth. If they show up at all, its best to gather your things & move on . score 10
If your kitchen has an average score of 6 & above I’m afraid you are out of you depth & must seek immediate help or you might already be in the throes of despair.
Should your score fall between 3 & 5 you are on the right track but work is still needed to help spot potential hazards in the future.
If you have attained a mark of 2 or below, you are a skilled chef watcher, a true master & are sitting comfortably, knowing everything is under control in your kitchen.
Monday, November 02, 2009
I will do my best to sensitively navigate around the delicate subject of foods that cause flatulence. If you subscribe to the clichéd popular view of the day & are of the opinion that men are infatuated with farting & its effects, then you must be amazed that this blog has resisted, until now to mention it.
I will point the finger (please don’t pull it though!) squarely at Sir G who lampooned my dreamy aromas post by chatting about the ill effects of his bean brekkie & his attempts to hide it using his missus’s Chanel no 5. I chortled at the image & subsequent recollection of too many similarly themed instances that I have experienced.
My loyal & loving wife has been pushed to the edge of endurance many times over our relationship after a night or two of ill advised combinations of foods & beer resulting in the house smelling like Roturua on a still day. Once in the middle of the night, I woke up to see her naked form, bathed in moonlight, bent down & desperately trying to retrieve air from the small opening of the locked window, as the room, I was told later, smelled like a zoo. I know I’ll cop it for this, but this image still makes me giggle! That’s the conundrum, farts are funny & to sound like J’aime from Summer Heights High,
‘ I’m sorry but it’s true!’
They aren’t so funny for the passive victim I agree, but until there’s a cure, we all live in hope.
My daughters have sadly passed through that milestone of once giggling at Daddies botty-coughs to now running screaming from the house. A recent glace at a text message intended for one of their friends abruptly confirmed their shifting allegiences, “Is your Dad a pig too!” it said. I take comfort that the boy still falls over with hilarity at each earsplitting expulsion; it brings tears to both our eyes! My wife shakes her head with disbelief when I tell her that blokes will go to their graves still finding farting amusing.
Soon after this incident & my wife insisting that I partake in some lifestyle choices that don’t rob her of oxygen, I began a diligent search & collation of all the grub that caused me to excessively expel flatus. After a grueling & arduous age I finally narrowed it down to a solitary item, the singular & guilty cause of this foul act & it was…Food!
Actually, for ages I thought that not properly cooked chick peas were a main contender, as were cabbage, salami, salted peanuts (a family heirloom, cheers Dad!) rich meaty braises & stewed onions. Since then I have found that un-cooked garlic can fire up the most disturbing results. Of course the one common ingredient that must always be present to give the consequential outcome the required pungency is of course beer.
In my case it happens to be a rich, darkly malted stout. Either way a recipe containing any of the above items should be kept in a locked vault with the other biological weapons of mass expulsion, never to be opened!
I had a thought, perhaps as a courtesy to those contemplating a future intimate relationship with another, people should wear a necklace of sorts describing the foods that bring on this dastardly condition, you know like an allergy indicator? Taking this a step further, maybe in the future a holographic image might be projected at ones side like an omnipresent reminder of what could occur. I wonder what it would be like to be shadowed by a hovering bag of Ord River Chick peas & a bottle of Coopers Best Extra Stout? Maybe it’s not actually a turn off?
Upon reading this piece to everyone this morning my wife succinctly demonstrated the divided opinion on the topic, with her astute comment. ‘Why waste your time writing about farting?”
Some people just don’t find them funny, go figure!