Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Fourth Wave of coffee has arrived!

Some time ago I took the mickey out of the notion of these, so-called third wave of coffee shops by comparing them to the humble chippie in this post.

I love my coffee, don’t get me wrong and I drink enough of the stuff to perhaps label myself a ‘heavy-user’ but on occasion I’ve found myself rolling my eyes at the earnestness and well quite frankly, the absurdity of some of the nuances of this new coffee mania.
So imagine my surprise when I ambled into the local servo to see a shelf stocked with these newfangled ‘Hot-Cans’ of coffee featuring Cafe latte, Mocha and Chocolate.

It appears that the Fourth Wave of coffee has arrived.

‘What are these?’ I enquired of the sales person behind the bullet-proof glass.
‘You shake ‘em, they get hot and you neck ‘em after that’
‘How do they work?’ I ask
This is met with the internationally recognised gesture of a shrug of the shoulders which translates roughly as ‘Fuck Knows?’

I study the can and am intrigued with its magical promise. It reminds me immediately of that patented grommet in the imported cans of Guinness which work by releasing gas which then froths the beer when you agitate the can but in this case, the contents gets hot.
Hot-Can has developed a special double chambered aluminium can which contains the beverage in the outer chamber and holds water and calcium oxide (quick lime) separately in the inner chamber. When the button at the bottom of the can is pressed, the water mixes with the quicklime, starting an exothermic reaction that heats the contents of the outer chamber in less the 3 minutes by 50-55°C to give you a piping hot drink.

Eager to see and taste for myself this wonder of modern science I followed the instructions for one of the few times in my life. Amazingly, the can warms up considerably as it promises, I was amazed but my suspicions of its taste were yet to be convinced otherwise.

I poured the contents into a cup and saucer and puckered my lips for the initial sip. The verdict?
Cafes of the world breathe easy! This Fourth Wave of coffee is a fizzer. It tasted like very sweet instant coffee made with condensed milk and was, in my opinion quite awful.

Drinking this has made me already start anticipating my first real coffee tomorrow morning, real espresso and quality beans-I’ll stick to the second wave.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A cautionary tale for bloggers

One day a plucky observer decided to put his thoughts into words.
“I’ll write a blog!” he said!
He began that very night and typed and typed and typed.
Pretty soon, a body of work emerged
“No one is reading!” he cried into his pillow
He asked around and yes, everyone was just too busy to read his blog
But one day, after a particular post, a comment appeared.
Eagerly he read it.
“Oh, No it’s nasty!” he said, before deleting it
“I don’t want nasty comments thankyou very much Mr Internet!” he said
But then a few similar comments started appearing like these:
“I’m disappointed that you don’t like me” said one
“I don’t read your blog but what you’re saying upsets me” came another
“I don’t like what you are suggesting” opined yet one more.
He felt like he was being muzzled by an audience who apparently were not reading?
How curious.
He thought and thought and thought about it.
Then the light globe over his head combusted with energy and a single word morphed into shape
‘Wankers!’ he thought
The end.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Has this ever happened?

A hypothetical situation.

I’m a prominent restaurateur who has traded for years before I decide to expand my business and open another restaurant. Investors get involved to help with the capital needed for the growth and everything seems to be going swimmingly.
Without apparent notice and due to what I explain away as a downturn, an unforseen circumstance or a leasing disagreement-or whatever, the new restaurant closes its doors and is liquidated.

In this process, the investors and suppliers lose the monies owed to them and staff now unemployed, lose all their entitlements

The next day I dust myself off and continue trading in the original restaurant despite the unpaid investors, the suppliers being left high and dry and the jobless staff as if nothing had happened.

Could this transpire?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Envy

What is it about kitchens that make some of us filled with equal parts of lust and insecurity? Does a great kitchen replete with a bristling armoury of shiny appliances and gadgets actually improve one’s cooking ability? Do you ever notice the fancier the kitchen is often correlates to how shite the cook is that owns it? Some of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in people’s homes have emerged from the most humble of kitchens; the opposite could be said from the most luxe of kitchens.
In what seems a lifetime ago, we did a massive reno on our house complete with the kind of kitchen I deluded myself into thinking I needed. Let’s just say that my love affair with stainless steel was ground out of me by three pairs of perpetually grubby toddler’s hands. I also learned that despite the deafening noise from the shiny exhaust canopy it’s sucking power was questionable at best and that the expensive European oven was like having a twelve string guitar, Its spends half its time out of tune and you spend the other half trying to tune it. Lying exhausted on the couch every evening, my hands swollen from hours of polishing the surfaces of the kitchen I sombrely resolved never to get sucked in again.
Fast forward to the present day we had decided to renovate our kitchen and bathrooms. Browsing through what I like to call an ‘Unobtainable lifestyle magazine’ I was astonished by intoxicating page after page of alluring kitchen hardware. Powder coated baby blue Aga’s, Moss green Smegs, burnished tap-wear, frosted glass cabinets and my bottom lip quivered…Butler Sinks!
My wife recognised that look on my face and snatched the mag from my hand, threw some salt over my left shoulder, did three hail Mary’s and burnt that unholy magazine at the stake. It was a close call.
Months later we had decided on a modest makeover of sorts. Work began quickly and before we knew it the kitchen was a shell. Though we were aware of what was about to take place the reality of having no oven, work benches and the usual accoutrements of the kitchen momentarily left us a tad underprepared.
Once we jettisoned the mind-set that we were missing these things we found our cooking shaped by the sandwich press, the microwave and the kettle very liberating. In fact the ease and speed that our reduced repertoire was able to be conjured was such a revelation that I briefly imagined our new kitchen with only these three items in it.
Cooking with these basics is a lot like being in a caravan or tent on holidays with all that breezy nonchalance that being on leave can permeate.
It’s this feeling I try to recall when I get home stressing about what I’ll end up cooking for my family and their particular and peculiar tastes, rules and cant-eats.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Lingua Franca of the auteur and the critic

In Graeme Blundell’s column today I was transfixed by the notion of the Lingua Franca of film critics toward auteurs and that space-in-between, that chasm between the G.P. and the High Artz. That Space-in-between really intrigues me.

“Films do reflect the society in which they are made.” David Stratton, ABC Film Critic

“Don’t take away our critics! We filmmakers need them as a bridge. The critic is the link between us and the audience.” Filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci

“In the Arts, the reviewer is the only source of information, the rest is advertising.” Guardian Film critic Derek Malcolm

“The only thing we can do is bring attention to lesser publicised films that are worth watching; we have little to say against the might of the Hollywood publicity machine.” Margaret Pomeranz, ABC Film Critic

“Today everyone’s a critic; you see them in cinemas writing their own little reviews to their friends before the credits have finished rolling, if not during the film.” David Stratton, ABC Film Critic

“I would like to think that the serious critic, and we still have some in Australia, brings an informed background, an intellectual history, to their discussion of films.” David Stratton, ABC Film Critic

“It’s really easy to substitute filmmaking for cookery and realise that not only is the world changing in terms of critiquing but also this is a universal tone that could be bolted onto all artistic endeavours and the language would still be the same.” Steve Cumper, Indoor Soccer player

Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Tassie a premium food producer?

It’s an interesting conundrum and one I think might not be limited to Tassie. It’s the issue where a supplier of a product is unable to keep up with the requirement of said product as demand continues to outstrip supply.
It’s that double edges sword that many small artisan producers feel when word starts spreading about their product. They go from wondering when the next sale will be made to stressing if they’ll be able to keep up.
Many producers start out idealistically wanting to combine a passion for food with the lifestyle they have chosen and many decide from the outset to remain small.
This poses a problem for those wanting to use the product because of the difficulties in obtaining it so often they look elsewhere for more regular supplies and eventually the original Tasmanian producer gets overlooked.
These producers face a choice: invest heavily in plant and equipment and often going into major debt to do so or risk being ignored in the wider marketplace.
Some producers are content in supplying an enthusiastic local market which is a boon for businesses like mine but long term their sustainability is questionable without some sort of growth. Another factor in gearing up supply is that more money is needed for distribution and costs rise incrementally often making the product simply too expensive for the domestic market. This in turn leads to a backlash of sorts and the ironic situation where the locals who initially supported and spruiked the product end up being priced out of buying it.
In a report I read a few years ago about the mainland public’s perception of the food stuff from Tasmania two key points struck me. I was surprised to learn that many people do not necessarily equate food from this state with the clean and green image. In fact, salmon, oysters, lobster, apples and cheese were the primary associations people made. Whilst these usual suspects might not be so illuminating it was a surprise to me that this clean and green image was not the main link to perceptions of food from Tasmania, so where did this come from? Was it just an assumption?
The other point was that Tasmanian food was not being appreciated in the market place as being a ‘superior product’ which really shocked me.
In the media much is made of the superior currency of Tasmanian foods yet the ‘usual suspects’ that I mentioned earlier, having been sold en masse have done a bit of a disservice to this image. Salmon, apples, oysters and cheese have all been commoditised and sold in supermarkets all over the country, diminishing their status as premium and perhaps validating the state as a budget supplier of comestibles.
I think this is a grave mistake.
In my opinion, Tasmania should be marketing itself as a super-premium supplier of produce of the highest order. In order to meet the demand for our produce perhaps we need a re-think about how we can support, sustain and grow these markets with the help of a clued-in government department?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poaching staff is pinching staff

Like many industries, attracting, training and retaining staff in the hospitality industry is an ongoing challenge. This is a field known for its peculiarly high turnover of staff to other establishments and also those who exit the industry altogether for a variety of reasons, the unsociable hours being a major factor.
One of the unwritten laws is that it’s very bad form to poach staff from other businesses.
Sure, no-one leaves a job because they are happy with it and some people might even seem ripe to approach but I reckon actively luring staff away from a rival business is a double edged sword.
In the corporate world it’s called head-hunting and it might be very flattering for the intended candidate which is completely understandable. However I don’t know of any operator who’s been on the receiving end of losing a vital staff member to wish it on another business person.
It takes much energy, time and money to shape your team into the kind of unit that you can rely on so it can be quite demoralising to lose such a vital staff member especially to what might be called ‘the opposition’.
‘Well what can you do, if they want to go and the offers suits them better then really you just have to suck it up’ I hear you say. I agree, but what goes around tends to come around.
Firstly as the poacher, you are pitching to a prospective candidate so remember that you are virtually ‘selling’ the position to that person translating as they have the ‘power’ over you and you need tem more than they need you. This can be advantageous in the short term to a degree for the incumbent candidate but that honeymoon period soon lapses and can become tiresome after a while.
For the poached, you might find yourself ostracised from your former place of employ and your relationships tested as now you work for the opposition. Formerly easily shared confidences might now be replaced by an uncomfortable and awkward uncertainty as mutual business issues arise. Also you might even be regarded as a kind of mercenary without any perceived loyalties, your duties sold to the highest bidder.
This reality has two sides as your new employer might have tucked away in the back of their minds that one day you could go somewhere else if a better offer came your way. This can influence and colour your relationship, each party not quite sure if the other is looking to move or be moved on. Either way much energy is taken up with this superfluous speculation and guess what? This focus takes you away from your core business.
In my opinion it’s never a good idea to poach staff. Wait till they leave and are free agents then all bets are off.

Fruit that is ready to drop is always sweeter than that which is plucked prematurely.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm having trouble commenting on other sites

Hello everyone, this is a cry for help. Everytime I go to post a thoughtful, erudite or mostly lame comment on someone elses blog it ends up being:

a) re-directed
b)it just vanishes!

I'm starting to feel very left out of the conversation!
Can some tekky person please explain!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Eating meat

For those of you pondering why we eat meat here's a poem from Jane Legge

Dogs & cats & goats & cows,
Ducks & chickens, sheep & sows.
Woven into tails for tots,
Pictured on their walls & pots.
Time for dinner, come & eat
All your lovely juicy meat.
One day ham from Percy Porker
(In the comics, he’s a corker)
Then the breast from Mrs. Cluck,
Or the wing from Donald Duck.
Liver next from Clara Cow
(No it doesn’t hurt her now).
Yes, that’s legs from Peter Rabbit
Chew it well, make that a habit.
Eat the creatures killed for sale,
But never pull that pussy’s tail’
Eat the flesh from ‘filthy hogs’
But never be unkind to dogs.
Grow up into double-think-
Kiss the hamster; Skin the mink.
Never think of slaughter dear,
That’s why animals are here.
They only come on earth to die,
So eat your meat & don’t ask why.

Eating Meat and Eating people, Jane Legge

Monday, October 03, 2011

Shanks but No Shanks

It went like this:

‘You be surprised how many place use ‘em’ said the cheeky sales rep with a smirk.
‘Really?!’ I asked incredulously
‘Yea not just the little places short on space, but places that have got larger kitchens’.
I shake my head in wonderment.
He continues: ‘They come in at under six bucks a pair and some places sell ‘em for $28 to $30, bitta mash on the side, some frozen peas and carrots and Bingo!’ he laughs.
I shake my head, ‘Why do they buy them, I mean how hard are they to cook?’ I ask rhetorically.
‘Convenience I reckon, just nuke ‘em for 15 mins or so, cut the bag and serve,’ he says cheerfully.
‘Well sorry mate’ I say, ‘I’ll always cook my lamb shanks from scratch thanks’.