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Day two in Melbourne and I’ve yet to have a $1.50 single origin long mac administered by staff so skilful they also performed risky laser eye surgery from a pop-up food truck owned by the short one in Master Chef with a ‘free range egg’ on a Belgian quinoa brioche. In fact, my afternoon breakfast, or ‘brinner’ as they say, came to:
d) so embarrassingly cheap that when I looked through the curtains and saw their small child that probably lived a small little old terrace house with just one bathroom and a garden that barely doubled as an outdoor entertaining area, that I chucked a handfulful of mining $50s at them and hurried away, ashamed and embarrassed.
It was tasty though and savoury crumpets is something I shall take back with me and ask for at every opportunity and roll my eyeballs derisively and say ‘uh Perth’ when they say they don’t have it.
Anyway ‘voulez vous couchez avec mois‘ – the more things change, the more they stay the same. I was here a long eight years ago doing a marathon, this time I’m doing a 210km ride. I’ll always associate Melbourne with shopping, eating and fucking myself up so badly I can’t walk for a day or two.
More reports of men with heads in their chest and a mystical Pony Fish Island no doubt.
It’s been 20 years since I’ve visited the UK. Nothing personal, it’s just been hard to find the time, what with being so busy and all on the weekends and schedules that never seem to meet up. I can tell you two possibly true things about English food then;
a) it was crap
b) the good stuff was very well hidden somewhere.
I’m happy to report that it’s now very, very good here. Starting with yummy calves’ liver at the local pub when I got here to the Borough Markets the next morning – I don’t know how people don’t spend every day here buying a pheasant or handmade cheese made from, insanely dangerous for Australians, raw milk. And if there’s not enough cheese there, there’s Neal’s Yard Dairy, which is stacked with lovingly made cheese all with tiny signs saying who made them and where and staff desperately keen to find the cheese that will bring you happiness. Then when you’ve done all that you can go and buy a par of jeans at the Paul Smith shop.
Tooling down to Brighton we stop in at Ridgeview Estate, where they’re cranking out multiple gong-winning sparkling white. Brighton itself, once you’ve checked out the beach and played mods v rockers, has more vegetarian restaurants than Australia has vegetarians.
In short, it’s been stunning so far but the important thing to realise is these things don’t happen by themselves. It’s communities organising themselves, people’s labour in creating excellent products and other people supporting them. To see this level of transformation is a fantastic lead in for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference, which is just a few sleeps and and a couple of train rides away.
Imagine if you could to a full day of driving around visiting wineries and such and then come home to find your roast waiting for you like an expectant puppy. Imagine no more. Enter the amazing world of slow roasting.
I’ve been doing a lot of slow roasting recently as a respite from the ‘is it ready yet?’ world of skewer checking. This particular one was cooked for about 7 hours in a gas-fired pizza oven the lowest setting of around 130C.
The prep for the meat is unsurprising and involves making deep cuts into the lamb with a butchers (or paring) knife to make pockets for a sprig of rosemary, a piece of garlic, and a salted caper. Rub liberally with olive oil and season.
Put a cup of chicken stock and/or white wine in the pan and cover with a lid (or foil). You might like to lift the lamb of the base and out of the liquids with a sliced root vegetable, a leek or a rack, but I didn’t bother. The size of the roasting pan keeps things nice and shallow.
Leave in the pizza oven undisturbed. Keep a lazy eye on the fluid levels but as the lid sealed well and the meat does chuck out a good level of juice itself, it wasn’t necessary.
Allow to rest and then carve. And by carve, I mean flake. It’s more like meat from a confit.
As a bit of a bonus, I made a sort of barigoule with it. About half an hour from finish, I popped in some chunks of fennel, capsicum, zucchini, and whole cherry tomatoes with a bit more EVOO splashed OTT. These cooked away for another half an hour while the meat rested.
Make a sauce with it of course.
Dessert was pears, poached in red wine in the pizza oven while we ate. A good piece of advice for poached pears is to make sure you really do reduce the poaching liquid to a thick syrup for an intense flavour – just keep the pears warm and to one side.
If you were wondering about the trip. I stayed at a friend’s house that he’d just built himself (he’s a builder so it wasn’t like one of the less successful efforts on Grand Designs) in Busselton on a canal. The indoor-outdoor kitchen is a really handy combo and I’m trying to bag myself some more cooking there. I’m sold on outdoor pizza ovens and gas just seems so much less hassle than wood. True, it lacks the wood-fired cred and moniker but gains in likelihood of use. Pizza’s made the night before easily passed the droop test and were churned out in quick succession. Need to see if a goat will fit in there.
A bit on the quiet side in Margaret River for the school hols. Lovely lunch at Xanadu and picked up a great bottle of chardy and one of their catering sized bottles of dry red at the always good Cape Mentelle.
Next day was Pemberton – super good bottle of pinot and a chat about Valiant utes at Salitage, marron dinner at the pub, visit to an espalier orchard being built, bit of German V8 hooning and getting stuck on logging roads. Tasty pork pie at taste of Balingup, a visit to the world’s biggest playground when you’re 18 months in Donnybrook and then back home
With issue 15 away, I just had a family weekend at Rottnest and I couldn’t recommend it more.
It’s a rocky outcrop 12 miles off the coast of Perth that’s covered with scrub and salt lakes and tiny rat-like kangaroos that shit everywhere.
Accommodation is ex-prison, turn of the century worker’s cottage, post-WWII migrant camp, or 1970′s unit complex for upper level Soviet bureaucrats. The only vehicles are service vehicles, two police cars and buses. One of them is an aboriginal tour bus and I wonder if they’re too polite to mention that under the ground is the bones of their incarcerated ancestors.
Other than that, it’s great. Crunchy white beaches just across from the balcony and low 20C sunny winter days.
Friends are next door or just down the road. You can walk or cycle everywhere without having to dice with traffic.
It’s village life without the not from round here are you villagers. Dinners are shared, kids play together, drinks start at noon, books are read and windows are looked out of.
What’s it like? It’s like the idealised caravan park of my youth without the caravan and without the roller rink.
There’s a lot of guff about Rottnest being the holiday spot for the average West Australian. It’s not. It’s actually filled with AB demographic Western Suburbanites slumming it. But it does retain some magic and it’s this – holiday spots are now places for resorts or holiday homes. Resorts always feel like someone else’s place and holiday homes are now more like the home you have in the suburbs. Get in the car, go to the supermarket, get back in the car. I’m just wondering why they can’t create communities like at Rottnest, on the mainland.
Enough of that, here are the baked beans I made.
2 cups of dried haricot beans
1 stick of celery
1 glass of red wine
1 large tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of chopped speck/pancetta
3 sprigs of thyme
Soak the beans for 5+hours and then cook in lightly salted water for half a hour. Finely dice the onion and celery and chop your speck up into small pieces – about the size of your front tooth (adjust accordingly, if you’re a sabre-toothed tiger for example, you may want it a bit smaller – or not. Ooh look out, here’s one now…
no it’s OK, it appears to be dead.)
In a cast iron casserole pot, sauté the bacon over a moderate heat until slightly golden. Then add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the celery and sauté until soft. Add the beans and mix well. Add the glass of wine, bring it to the boil and stir for a minute or so and then add the tin of tomatoes and mix well.
Leave to simmer uncovered until reduced to a sticky consistency or put it in a 150C oven to a similar point.
Season and serve on thin slices of toasted white bread.
If the apotheosis of the Australia Day weekend is wearing the Australian flag like some kind of gormless synthetic textile superman, then it officially does dingoes. However, there is fun to be had on the back of a boat moored off Rottnest, where the captain pops off and comes back with crays. Most decent, very Australian.
Crayfish/Western Rock Lobster with Garlic Butter
1 large boat
1 obliging friend
2 local purple garlic clove, crushed
some celery leaves, chopped
splash of hot chili sauce
1 fistful of butter
Send crayfish to sleep in the chest freezer then slice in half. Clean out the head.
Allow butter to melt in the sun and then smoosh in the garlic, celery, and sauce.
Pop crayfish meat down on the BBQ to sear, then flip over and liberally baste with butter. Eat with mango salsa and frosty cold beer.
I don’t recall enjoying crayfish this much since I was in Playas de Rosarito with a mariachi band for accompaniment.
As someone who finds most delight in Little Britain in the Dennis Waterman sketch and my most vivid childhood dreams being ones where perspective expanded and contracted regardless of retreat or advance, I felt at home with my tray at Freshness Burger on my last day in Tokyo. It would be quite a diet. Wired and hungry.
As I’m not likely to be heading to Paris any time soon, Tokyo would be as convenient a place as any to try the wares of the highly rated Pierre Herme. Pierre Herme is a pastry chef that brings delight to more discerning women than any other, additionally and not entirely unrelated he is also the patron saint of large hairy men who hope to attract the avid attentions of large numbers of women. The shop is in Aoyama, by coincidence, a five minute walk from where I was handily going to pick up a wad of cash. Off I went, found it, and waited 20 minutes out the front anxiously trying not look like somebody waiting for the pub to open so they could have their first pony of sherry for the day (see also clinic, methadone).
I’m not sure what I was expecting, given the praise heaped upon his macaroons I would have been disappointed with anything less than the sensation of a thousand angels brushing their sugar dusted nipples across my tongue in ecstatic unison. Discretely, for such a moment, I was fortunate enough, in lieu of a booth, to have the second floor cafe all to myself. One small potentially embarrassing situation was with the menu with a set containing three items and I wasn’t sure whether I just ordered the set and got all three and looked like a glutton or asked for one and seemed unusually parsimonious. I settled for saying signature set and them mumbling mousse with an airy hand wave that could suggest etcetera if need be.
First to present itself was a small spongy treat accompanying my espresso. Me and the waitress managed to communicate that it was fig and that was the filling with cinnamon of a raspberry sponge thing. The sponge thing actually had the same texture of an extremely fresh licorice allsort and was much enjoyed for it.
The signature set arrived and it was three glasses which could be described as three ways of making desserty chocolate and then putting something on top. The first was coconut milk, tapioca, and passionfruit. The next was coffee ice-cream. And the last was mascarpone with cubes of pain d’epices on top (can’t catch me, Je suis le pain d’epices homme!). This was the best I could distill from the friendly waitress pre-espresso, fig was hard work enough. Mind you not friendly enough to turn a blind eye and let me snap away with my indiscreetly large camera.
And yes it was nice. Since I don’t sensorially respond strongly to desserts and I don’t make enough to appreciate from a technical perspective. It’s like showing the innards of an F1 engine to someone who only knows they’re the things that go broom. Undeniably it was charming, the mousse part begged to be dissassociated with hair volumisers, the other chocolate part was chewy like toffee without being chewy like toffee, and the ganache had the buttery sensual import not seen since…well…I won’t go there again.
As I absentmindedly pecked away, trying to get the spoon to fit that not quite distance to the bottom of the choccy shot glass, in the flicker of light from the leafy mirror I imagined Pierre himself appear in front me. ‘What did you think?’ he asks. ‘Well it was nice’ … ‘like grandma’s biscuits’ we say in unison. I suggest he use some meat or fish and maybe instead of ice-cream he could have a nice rich gravy or perhaps a tasty hollandaise…it would at least make you a little less unsavoury. And as I look up to see the response to my imagined tremendous joke he has vanished and I was back to pecking at my glass under the watchful gaze of the third attendant in the cafe to watch over me.
I pay. It was around $25, not a ridiculous amount by any stretch but I then go and spend a similar amount downstairs on three macaroons, a couple of chocolates and a Pierre Herme tattoo sheet, hoping perhaps, his charms might rub off on me.
Hello. Yes I’m in Japan and my first night didn’t end up at an izakaya or shouting at people but since my friend Andrew had a nice new apartment and Danny promised he’d bring a bottle of French Sparkling Rose, and Uyen would talk loudly and keep us amused and I had a litre bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, perhaps I could dinner and I did. A stop in a Tobu Department store got us a fillet of katsuo, a slab of squid, ten crab claws, and four 50gm steaks, a sweet potato, some shiitake and a few greens. The katsuo was seared just on the outside and sliced, the squid scored and lightly cooked and then that went on a bed of lettuce and spanish onion with a dressing of soy, mirin, cider vinegar, ginger, garlic chives and sesame seeds.
The sweet potato was diced and slowly roasted with olive oil and rosemary. The asparagus and the nanohana(?) was boiled and tossed with a little seasoning. The crab claws were dipped in milk and then dredged in flour with salt pepper and togarashi and then deep fried. The wagyu steaks handily came with cubes of lard and it was cooked in that a bit close to medium than medium rare. Sauce was a jus made by sauteing spring onions and two finely chopped shiitake mushrooms in butter and then reducing some red wine and straining. To bring up some bite and for a geographical nod I grated a little fresh wasabi in there and glossed it up with a little butter. Assembled as above and it was quite lovely. The nanohana had a slight bitterness, the sweet potato was, well sweet, from slow roasting and crunchy, the steak was unspeakably tender and the crab lifted it all from being meat and three veg. The steaks sizes weren’t going to impress anybody at Sizzler but you have to wonder if we couldn’t just eat less and enjoy it more. No? Uyen has great fractal eating habits and would reduce the plate to ever decreasingly sized but equally proportioned servings which was impressive.
Dessert was perfect strawberries with a splash of balsamic and yes well it was an evening without fault. Andrew captured it better than me and he’s got a few lovely pics amongst many here, here, here, and here.
It’s a good thing, and it’s all good, and it’s a good to have friends, and its good to enjoy good things. But you know this.
Shipping out to the orient for a brief sorty. Action saw a nasty flesh wound last time, so wish me well me lovelies.
Sydney is a big place. Big. BIG. big. Large. Like Madame DeFarge. All knotty, uppity and out for revenge. [an account of the journey there]
I’d present a coherent food experience but the trip was decided on a few days before we left so no meticulously planned set of reservations for my moleskine notepad. Melbourne is all streets and cafe reccomendations, Sydney is all celebrities. Closely regarded monomonikered – Bill, Neil Kylie, Tetsuya; they don’t have KFC, they have Sander’s (you must try the chicken). I managed to knock off two. Bill and Kylie.
Bill Granger, Bill’s, Surry Hills
Bill has more than one place, A revelation which made for a hasty humid sweaty walk along Oxford Street to Surrey Hills to meet the Sydney food bloggers for brekky. First thing I have to say is that the great thing about meeting fellow bloggers is that you can conversationally cut to the chase without those awkward “so what do you do” type forays where you end up talking about house prices because you both assume that that’s what the other person wants to talk about and instead talk about stuff like skinning rabbits. Lovely bunch of people. Hello Sarah and Duncan, Sue and J, and Saffy who organised it. I was a bit sad to let them go and had to make up some story about wanting to go to Central Station so we could follow Saffy around. The food. No sign of Bill with his daughter on hip but Toni did have his famous scrambled eggs. They were good but a bit milky and underwhelming after the build-up I heard. The ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter were extremely good though and if there’s a gripe it’s that having to get bacon on the side is like having to pay for tomato sauce with a pie. Just saying.
Kylie Kwong, Billy Kwong , Surry Hills
There are no reservations so you just rock up and wait at the pub until they call you. Ideal for chancers like us. We got there a bit after six and there were just two people sitting at a table doing business like stuff and waiters standing around. I was a bit hesitant to enter thinking it was closed but no we were just the first and within half an hour it was full.
Kylie was actually there but spent the evening sitting there wondering if she should come up and talk to me and what she’d say once she did. Eventually deciding she’d probably feel like a wanker and settled for a smile and a nod when she caught my eye.
Great great great food. To get a wider range as there was just the two of us we went for the Kylie banquet. Only about $70 a head and great value since we sat on mineral waters after swearing off alchohol for 24 hours after too much sparkling and beer.The great thing was that it didn’t end up being like a dego, it was just a lot of dishes that didn’t look any different in size to the a la carte. We had
[checks notes on back of Newtown Beauty Therapy flyer]
steamed oyshes w/-ck mm; scallop wontons + crown; kingfishsashim; cutthefish-dried pork-lapsun; mussels in black bensau with garlic oneu size mantdy; sillu tofu ws hh peas br?l; duck; spqer;
All extremely good and extremely smart. Lots of looking over at other tables to see what they were having. Mucho ribboning and clever combos of core of ingredients with a menu that was obviously very personal rather than arch. The quality of the ingredients like the kingfish and the oysters and the tofu and seasonal touches like peas. The cooking was spot on and things like the cuttlefish just right. The duck was very arresting with large slices of orange and length of cassia bark on perfectly crispy skin. So impressed I bought the cookbook. Staff were great and knew their stuff. Vibe is a very imprecise quality bit the vibe was good.
Elvis’ Birthday Night Tribute at the Empire somewhere near Newtown
Lovley night. You don’t have to be young to be in a band you know. The drummer looked like Dennis Lillee and didn’t miss a beat. The organist looked like he’d just stepped off minding the door and kept scanning the room for someone to drag out into the street no doubt. The lead guitarist looked like he’d fallen asleep after a Bachelor and Spinster’s Ball 15 years ago and was awoken, befuddled at first, for this very gig. The MC made we wish there were more cabaret style Singing raconteurs in around these days. John Kennedy was a taller skinnier deeper voiced Nick Cave with better sidies and a more kinetic pointing style. Outstanding. Headliner Dave Graney was shit. Like being at Kim Il Sung’s Karaoke party. Did the cold spoon by following upn a rousing everybody up on stage singalong of Viva las Vegas for all the other artists with Are You Lonesome Tonight.
Stranger’s Dining Room New South Wales Parliament House
This was the best for lots of reasons. Firstly that I would be having Sardinian style Roast Suckling Pig at a venue supported by the NSW taxpayer. The bits of pork from the flesh of each rib tasted that much sweeter and the crackle that much cracklier with the though that it might inspire a hundred speed dials to Alan to have whinge about how they only had beans on toast for lunch. No really thank you, as a little person, it was a special honour. The other thing was that it was a rare opportunity as the staff cafeteria was out of action so it was open to staff and they’d just got a new chef who was great. The place was abuzz with talk of suckling pig even at the bar where I picked up a bottle of Keith Tulloch 2000 Semillon. The decor is decidedly 70′s but they’ve got this great colonial style tableware with gold trimmed plates and everything bearing the emblem or the stamp of NSWG. I didn’t think to nick any but if they ever have a garage sale, I am so driving back over there. Cappucino and a dessert of Baked Apple with an Orange Glaze and a Blood Orange Sorbet. All fabulous and all for not much more than a meal at Cocklebiddy. Thank you New South Wales, here have some resource derived export revenue.
Three fave places: Kinokuniya bookstore, Dinosaur Designs, and DEUSexMACHINA. Fucked if I could find a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow anywhere. 5 000 0000 copies of Ayn Fucking Rand though.
You HAVE to do the Sydney by Diva tour where you are driven around the city in a bus with a drag queen for a hostess. It’s hilarious. My cheeks ached. Goes the classic sites like the Opera House and Bondi with bits on local history, tells you where to meet a feller (anywhere with bushes it seems) and where you can wash your hands, very personal at times – I was touched (but not as much as the Canadian guy). Lots of champagne and cheezels if you’re in economy and you get to do a choreographed routine.
And that’s most of it, shouldn’t have left it for five years. Worth the drive. Cheers to all the nice folks I met and caught up with.
And Sydney and back. The 4000km journey there was like following a long line of wool to a tangled ball at the other end. Sydney is a baffling city and deliberately so. In Perth you don’t feel like you have any urgency to go anywhere at all. In Melbourne you can be taken anywhere by a tram or a train ride and once there, there’s more than enough for an easy wander. Even Tokyo, with its messy back streets and baffling subway maps, breaks into an orderly series of circles and lines that will take you where you need to be. Sydney you can’t go anywhere without feeling you’re unwittingly involved in a transportation krypton factor – roads turn into bridges and toll roads, walking will get you on long roads and no one train seems to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Even the beaches aren’t the long stretches of sand and water they are here but a series of bays, separate and distinct. And on top of this, there are about 70 places you need to go to. So I don’t feel I was able to get much done there, but maybe that’s the point. Sans-seriffy.
Day one started early, filling up the 121 with our stuff, a double swag that shared the boot and the back seat and the three of us. We had no idea how far we were going but the lack of a goal places the present moment in an amiable context and we did make it as far as Cocklebiddy by sunset. It had rained since Southern Cross. We stopped in at the Cocklebiddy caves in spite of finely tuned instincts that driving on a poorly marked track in a small car off the highway for 11km to visit a large underground cave after a day of as darkness settled may be unwise. Simon went in, we waited so at least there’d be somebody to inadequately explain what we were doing to rescue workers. He emerged disappointed but that’s darkened voids for you. Rain meant shelter and we stayed at the Cocklebiddy roadhouse motel. They seemed to be in a hurry to get to bed but we caught the kitchen and I enjoyed bangers, mashed potato and egg at a cheeky $17.50 (Cocklebiddy prices is now a standard measure of food prices). No point in sleeping in and the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse hadn’t opened yet (despite the early night) so a 100km or so drive to the next roadhouse for a full tank of petrol, a coffee and bacon and egg burger and an elevated view over a tree filled slope that opened out to a spotted plain and then 90 miles of curveless road. By mid-morning we were out of Western Australia and the border village was, unusually covered with water.
Flat scrub but a view of the ocean then the cliffs of the Australian bight. A nasty tear from when we detached from Antarctica – no loss really. Ceduna, famous for oysters, was our first town for a day of driving and after passing through quarantine we stopped for two dozen oysters and a glass of wine at the Oyster Bar. Despite tourist info radio’s suggestions, we didn’t stop at the tyre place or the pharmacy but instead drove down the coast past Smoky Bay to Streaky Bay which made me think of bacon. We had enough sunset left to walk the wooden pier, have a few Coopers and a meal of a mixed grill and oysters kilpatrick (cheap as it was tasty) at the pub that faces it, and then wander around the caravan park looking at the pelicans. Streaky Bay is still the place you had holidays when you were a kid at, it should be frozen in time for posterity (or gotten into to make a killing on development).
Much excitement at going to Iron Knob, the most amusingly named place in the world for my money. More so than Poochera, which was the first town we went through which is only slightly amusing it if you imagine it as a metal band for Japanese children’s characters. More fuel and we’d picked up a hitchhiker – a small finch wedged in the grill. Iron Knob has the first peaks after much flatness so the anticipation was killing me. Sadly it is one of the most depressing places in the world. People seemed to live there but the place was empty and it seemed that every last piece of value had been dug out and shipped elsewhere. Port Augusta was the first large town and if the if the Eyre Peninsula is the body and Adelaide on the the arm, then Port Augusta is the armpit. We grabbed fish and chips and Simon had his piece nicked by a local and we thought perhaps this wasn’t for us and got out of South Australia to NSW and Broken Hill.
Broken Hill is NSW’s answer to Kalgoorlie and after house of concentrated flatdullness we had our hopes up. The faded signs for Mario’s hotel that we passed were true and we booked in at the Palace Hotel. Famous for being in Priscilla Queen of the Desert it’s value comes from every available space on the wall being painted by an aboriginal artist with a landscape or the ceilings by Mario himself with Aphrodite and the Garden of Eden. Nothing coheres – logs, stuffed animals, mermaids all in a gorgeous 19th two story pub that started as a coffee parlour. A $12 t-bone and two bottles of wine at the Barrier Social Democratic Club followed by port on the wide wraparound balcony on the Palace. A cachet of happiness was built for the last 1100km or so to Sydney.
Flatdullness returns quickly and then the hills build and we’re in rolling agricultural area. Dubbo. Orange. And then Bathurst. I turn in a respectable 6 minutes and 9 seconds on the Mt Panorama track, joining a line of Australian motoring legends. The Blue Mountains see rain as a feature of three of our four travelling days and the vista is zero. Dinner at Katoomba, I finally have a cappucino and am unhappy with cocoa on the top and vow to ask for it not to be there in the future. A risotto is a meal without chips. And then down the hill to Sydney and that’s enough for now.
We’ve made it to Siddonme. A great 4 day 4000km dynomeditative journey from the ocean to the ocean where the trees shrank and then disappeared and the land went up and then down again, susbsisting on proteins, starches, and fat. Perth-Cocklebiddy-Streaky Bay-Broken Hill-Sydney. More questions than answers. Why do only Western Australian roadhouses have toasted ham and cheese sandwiches readily available? Do they really kill drowsy drivers in South Australia? Why do the residents of Port Augusta think it acceptable to take a mans piece of fish and help themselves to au handful of chips? Why is a place called Iron Knob, depressing? Is the Social Democratic answer cheap T-bones and pokies? Why doesn’t Orange have a great big orange? A salute to the 1997 Mazda 121 which was neither particularly uncomfortable nor did it miss a beat in getting us here. How’s Sydney? I’ve already been told off in a choccie cafe for taking pics. Pah!
Driving over to Sydney on the 2nd of January and should arrive there somewhere between the 7th and the 25th. Eschewing the practicalities of space and speed, we’ll be travelling in Simon’s groundbreaking piece of early nineties curvature in car design, the Mazda 121. To console myself I’ll be thinking Apollo capsule or being buried alive. Actually I have happy memories of when the this car first came out and being taken during a party by the nice young lady owner on my insistence to get a burger at Bernies while in the thrall of hallucinogens. It seemed to just hover silently – maybe we really just sat in the car with the lights on for 30 minutes. Has the magic stayed? I’ll have 5 days to find out. Already there are tensions about camp food.
Anyone got any hints for Sydney? I was thinking of Tetsuya but the peals of laughter as I tried to book a table at this short notice would break my heart. But I’m from Perth didn’t get me into the Espy in St Kilda but admittedly it was phrased more along the lines of “but I’m from fahhhcking Perth, cahhhn yah bahhhstard, maate”.
While travelling Wysteria, the lovely pony, will be in charge. No messing about. She has a magnetic hoof which can draw iron out of people’s bloodstream causing anemia and listlessness.
I might try to get pics up of the five course NYE dinner party for 11 but in the mean time here’s a box of fine young spatch cocks.
If I were to tell you that I’d flown to a place where I’d eaten Macadamia Nut Chicken Kiev, been served drinks by an East German woman in her underwear*, enjoyed a performance by an acoustic guitar playing female singer supported by a cellist and a harmonica player over vodka tonics, went gourmet food shopping where we bought unpastEurised French cheese, attended a seafood dinner for 500, drank French beer with lamb cutlets, and had capers and olives with Little Creatures in a sunny beer garden; where would you say I’d been?
Oh hang on I just told you where I went in the title, didn’t I?
Must work on these “well think again” travel show style intros.
*there’s a set up for a rejig of an old joke for the taking.
Sorry, haven’t posted for near on a week but I’ve been batching learning how to peel an artichoke taking team portraits for the Wembley footy club interviewing Curtis from Surfing the Menu for Spice Magazine faffing around with MySQL and movable type Perl stuff with the wrong manual catching up with a friend who went overseas with a partner and came back without one being the first person in 6 months to order a pepper vodka and tonic dancing badly making boozey black olive and sheep’s cheese scrambled eggs with a garnish of rolled and sliced flat mountain bread practicing In My Head driving 350km to a fancy dinner in a shearing shed at a yabby farm blagging half a dozen bottles of wine meeting trout farmer and biodynamic wheat farmer judging a best comment post for Santos and all with Barracuda in my head. Might pop some more piccies here later.
The AE86, aka Toyota Sprinter, aka Toyota Trueno is a two-door hatchback imported into Australia for just a few years from 1983. The appeal of it lies in it being a small light car with rear wheel drive. If you’ve ever had to resort to doing donuts in reverse (hello Holden Camira) you can appreciate the advantage. This has made the AE86 a supa- dorifuto car of culty choice. The engine is a DOHC four cylinder Toyota engine which has seen faithful duty in Corollas but now with the added charms of an after-market turbo. Small mammal sized exhaust is not mandatory but is recommended. It is fun because the tyres go sqolk! the turbo goes fwoooooooooshcha and away we go.
Crafty‘s fellow Chris asked me to come along on an AE86 cruise somewhere and I said yes for reasons stated above. First though was morning tea at theirs and the small matter of my first book singing for Digital Dish. Buy one and I will personally come to your house dressed like obi-wan-kenobi and sign your book. Two and I will maintain a distance of no less than 50m from you and your property. Crafty has flash new deco digs and a fountain and while having toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, tea, and brownies, I committed to building a deck at our place.
The idea of a cruise, is you meet up at a pre-designated spot and the get given a route to drive to with designated stops at shopping centre car park for modification related banter. A dozen or so AE86s showed up. It’s very easy to engage people in conversation when they have a topic at hand they’ll happily talk about in great detail. I always find enthusiasm interesting and much better than the usual circling around general topics for a common interest. East took us to the hills and from the hills along Mundaring Weir Road through the state forrests.
Stop in another car park and then decide to leave the pack and go back for a beer at the century or so old Mundaring Weir Pub. The places heaves on a Sunday and time is needed to wait for food and the sad circular journey of the sheep on a spit had yet to reach the end of its journey. It was a beer and a packet of chips and out of there, getting a jar of home made pickled onions on the way out.
Guilford burger place (Alfred’s?) hadn’t opened yet which triggered not only hunger but my usual funk on Perth’s general lack of non-shite burger places. Over the Swan River and decided to give Bassendean a try on an off-chance there was something and there was – Pierre’s Kitchen. The pic doesn’t show the rest of the shop which resembles a lunch bar but the place is the golden standard on restaurant finds – kinda slummy, cheap, and delicious.
I had the buckwheat crepe with prosciutto and mushrooms for $8 and thought it was tops. And then the day was over and Chris dropped me home from where Toni and I met up with Rob and Manas for a bite to eat and a beer at Little Creatures . Manas then put us out of our misery [in joke] with her easy/very tasty home-made orange cake with marmalade sauce which we had with a Lamont’s cleanskin.
[coda] umm we should get out more, learn new things, and recognise that you don’t have to spend big bucks to have a good time.
I’ve a flu crapping on me and work is getting to the “bees! in my head!” stage so I’m not feeling very posty, yet I tire of looking at the cheese and ghekin delight. So yes something from the crypt and here are some pics from Cullen Wines from my trip down south a couple of weeks ago. Deserved though, newer wineries and restaurants have drawn attention away from this stayer but I was glad we stopped in for the first time in many years. We just had entrees each and can’t remember being so satisfied with such a relatively small lunch. The Pinot was a bit sharp for what I like in Pinot and, inexplicably, I didn’t do any other tasting.
The last pic is to further amuse Crafty for making me a rocking good Mapron.
It amazes me how something as fundamental and important as bread could be so widespreadly crap. It’s as if the miracle that is television were filled with shite programmes that were there just to give us the stingiest tweak of what in, a time of heroes, might be regarded as entertainment. I am inspired and I would now like to officially build up the hopes of candlemakers out there that they are next on the list for my affections.
The bread is great, the simple breadmaking principles are sound and I’m sure the German baker there knows an extremely long German word that translates as: the possibility of creating an excellent product in accordance with one’s principles and enjoying it, but I didn’t ask. I wish I knew what it was. I would use it often.Much to nod your head at here. They don’t bake at night because it’s not worth it. The wheat is stone milled (in Corrigin!). The rye bread eschews the use of wheat for pliability. Inside, the natural light was filtering through, the smell of flour was everywheree, and the jarrah fired volcanic stone bread ovens were glowing for the afternoon. We may have to reconsider how “best” a thing sliced bread really was.
Special place, great bread. I bought two of the last few loaves. The rye was topped with boiled free-range eggs and some mashed avacado and served as an impromptu snack. The white “wave” loaf was had with ostrich pate and also used to soak up the gravy from the venison knuckle stew I made. More on that soon.
Yallingup Woodfired Bread is on the corner of Biddles and MacLachlan Road, Dunsbororough and word has it, is that it’ll be available at the Freo markets soon.
I’ve been neglectful of Perth things of late, too self absorbed and obsessed with making it on the world stage. I’m finding now when I walk down Perth’s main street, strangers will shout out “Hey Spicey! Where’s all ya foreign mates ya farkin’ wanker?”. So here we go, a collection of not so famous places I’ve enjoyed.
A Little Moorish Cafe
Robert and Manas took us along here and it’s a good thing they did. Otherwise impossible to have stumbled upon in the recently carved out East Perth, we found their selection of Moorish tapas and grilled food joyous and the subtle combination of spices showed great care. Came out to about $20 a head for food. I brought along a middling Tasmanian Merlot but if the dinner had been wrapped in lager on a hot night it would have been heaven.
10 Eastbrook Tce, East Perth 9225-7880 – in front of the “lake”(it may be closed for a short while for renovations so ring to check)
Phi Yen Vietnamese Restaurant
This is where I’ll usually head off for some pho if I feel like a walk for lunch from work. It makes the best noodle soups I’ve had in Perth and its duck soup is great. Stopped in here with Robbie and Vero on our way to see Nick Cave. The menu is an interesting split of Vietnamese entrees and Chinese restaurant mains. The broken rice with egg and pate was my fave and new love. BYO and wasn’t much more than $10 a head I think. Can’t go wrong really.
213 Bulwer St, Northbridge 9227-1032 -just off William Street
Aida Egyptian Cafe
Aida is one of the few places where you can still get Middle Eastern coffee after the sad demise quite a few years back of the “long and skinny” with its rugs of Arabian Nights and kangaroos. They have meal specials for $10 each. Last time I had a tasty fuolmedanos – egyptian beans cooked with garlic and lime served with pita bread. They also apparently have belly dancing on Saturday nights and if you tell them your name is Georgeff, you’ll get a free Bulgarian lesson from the manageress. The place is filled with gorgeous hookahs and you can have one for the evening with various mixes. I might just get hepped up on coffee and apple smoke one evening and imagine I’m on a giant mushroom then. Doskoro!
283 William St, Northbridge 9328-7677 – corner of Aberdeen.
My last night in Tokyo, several days of frantic eating, drinking and shopping had ground me down to the point where not even the shop based joys of Shibuya could stop me from wanting to throw up and go to some quiet dark place. Not the ideal prelude to a final evening in Tokyo but I was ahead on points. I fell upon the mercy and wisdom of tokyo goat who had so far provided a roof over my head, a camera in my hand, and a suitably undisciplined voice of reason. Destination was an izakaya in Ikebukuro that had a big door but with a little door. Through the rabbit hole then. Personally I expected to be clubbed on the head but all turned out much much better.
Reading a Japanese menu is always a challenge, so I usually pick the easiest to read one’s first and interpret/guess the rest at my leisure. First from the specials menu was hanpen (fish cake), and kurogomadoufu (black sesame tofu) served with a sprinkling of sea salt. Quite delicious cold with a savoury pannacotta texture.
The beers finished and we moved quickly to the business end and some sake. Asking the waitress she recommended one, Ginban sake from Toyama, but eventually confessed to not having a clue but we thought we’d try it anyway, the place was clearly good enough to take a punt on their sake list. Bought by the glass, a 1.5 litre bottle is bought out and poured into our o-choko overflowing into the small laquer masu it sat in. Lovely dry and clean.
The vegetable dish arrived, I’m not sure what it was but it was written as ninnikuyasai (garlic vegetable), tasting more like spring onion, grilled and served with (dengaku?) miso. Tsukune, yakitori made from minced chicken, which came out unusually on a paddle. Fish next and the choice was hokke (atka mackeral). This is a whole fish flattened out and then grilled. Very Japanese but so often done very badly, typically luke warm after having had the life cooked out of it. This one wasn’t, it was beautifully moist. The scattershot menu choice of the Okinawan dish of goyachamporu( bitter melon with eggs, tofu, and bacon) had the many textures and tastes in this dish blended well.
Next sake, Hakkaisan, which is possibly the best regarded sake in Japan. We had the Genjou [looks at scribbly notes flower? Seymour?] and the Shibori. Both smooth and tasty but the Shibori’s taste was boosted by the higher alcohol content. We had half an hour to enjoy them while our takenoko chahan (rice with bamboo shoot) slowly cooked in front of us. And we finished with this, miso (goat is right, the good stuff is subtle) and the Tengumae Ginjou sake. Being good sports, the staff let us finish off the bottle, bless.
And that was that, we squeezed our way out of the door. To have such a wide range of food, done so very well, in charming setting with friendly staff and good company capped and exceptionally good trip to a wonderful place.
Teshigotoya has a website and a map here.
The three exceptional photos here were by the talented and prolific Andrew Mc Lucas, the first guest photographer here none less. There are still more pics of the night by two snap happy Aussies at Flickr.
Japanese food is not healthy, but it is catholic.
Catholic as in broad-in-scope rather than capital “C” Catholic*. Healthy food is eaten as a matter of course rather than interfere with the making. The secret to good Tonkatsu ramen is fat. Fatty fat pork fat giving it its creamy deliciousness and delightful adipose globules. It is the Eastern cousin of the Cassoulet.
A goat recommended eatery in Ikebukero with the big shoes of the best ramen I had ever tasted. There was a queue. We had a couple of beers and watched in awe at the counter of some of the finest ramen kitchen performances we’d seen. The stock lovingly distributed into the bowls and the remaining bits of lard returned to the pot. Noodle strainers given a whiplike flip and constant shouting and repetition of greetings and orders. To say nothing of the complex personality dynamics – alpha man, side kick, the gimp, and then the obi-wan came out. The ramen? Superb. Ramen joy. I loved the soup and was impressed by the doneness of the eggs, with a slight gloss of life still in the yolk. Some dipute about it’s actual name, possibly Tonchin, but there’s a write-up in Tokyo Walker Plus
This place in Harajuku is another fave but I can’t remember its name and can only say its across from Fujimama’s – a kind of ex-pat lets do brunch fave spot. [It's "Komen" - thanks Chika!] A line to wait here as well but I found it a little underwhelming when we got in to find the cooks just quietly going about their business. They did have gyouza, which I’d been hankering for and when I tried one there was an audible food pornographic grunt. Nice. The ramen stock here tended more towards fish for its kicks and this usually comes from dried bonito shavings called katsuobushi (not to be confused with katsuoboushi – a kind of headpiece made to resemble a fish for certain ceremonies). Not quite as silkily pleasurable as tonkotsu ramen but the garlic chips were a nice touch we thought.
*No offense, I would find an all male culinary group run buy a septuagenarian who had never eaten, taking it’s authority from a 2000 year old word of mouth cooking guide with most of the stuff written by the sous chefs, a dandy thing.
…a while getting things sorted and transporting myself but get the hell over to the flickr studio of the Tokyo Goat. You’ll be glad you did. Satellite goodness, go! Pathe-Spiceblog presentations soon.
It’s 2:30am and you’ve been drinking since lunchtime and when you finished up by making up words to Jethro Tull and saying goodbye to the others and setting off on your own because you are independent bar finding man. But the bar you knew wasn’t where you thought it was and when you do find it you’ve seen too many places with men in suits and their head resting on the bar fast asleep and you see your immediate future self and think fuck it and pull the pin and grab a taxi. You know the suburb so you go there and drift off and on as the Taxi takes a few back streets and you’re near and you see the shop that’s next to the road that you walk home to. You get out while the taxi driver asks if this is where you want to get out and then you get your bearings. Mental 360 map around Origin Bento to get back and no road works, there are four possible streets and none of them are it and the narrow squat of two and three story buildings don’t give any line of sight. It wouldn’t be unusual for there to be two Origin Bento shops in a similar area. Start to panic. Tokyo is fine if you know where you are going, but it’s a labyrinth and no standards of north and south work with road curvature. Usual instinct driven place finding instincts just fall away. Lost. Fuck. It’s not a time to be wandering around on the off chance of finding a landmark. You have one point, you try to find another and ask a homeless guy where Meijiro station is. He takes the time to explain it in three different ways. You go straight and turn right and walk. You can work backwards from there. Walking, it’s another Origin Bento, the pieces fall into place, you turn right and you’re on the road to your home while you’re here. There’s a light on at the door and it’s unlocked and there’s still that bottle of duty free whiskey to help wth relief. Pics later, I’m off to bed.
Take 3. The post that refuses to post. I’m getting it this time. Jidori chicken shop in Nobeoka. Cooked by placing the meat directly on the coals. Not cooked on coals when raw. Ha! We scoff at salmonella salmonella scares and enjoy our chicken with Akakirishima shou-chu made from a special purple sweet potato. Lovely, moist bouqet with hints of peach. The shops’s kanji translates as “storm boy” but the shop master assures me it’s from the Sylvester Stallone movie. Good for them. We like our shops small, hidden, and excellent.
Very happy to accommodate requests from readers and there was a big cry out for pantie vending machines in Japan. Took some finding but here ya go. Drinks *and* undies!
On a happier note, here’s a photo from a local mum and dad style izakaya. Some of the specials are on top of the counter and the sashimi is kept underneath. Behind at the top you can see the menu items written on narrow wooden boards hung on nails. In a sushi bar, they’ll turn them around as the respective fish runs out. Underneath the menu items are the “bottle keeps” usually more associated with bars and “snacks”. The owner’s name is written on the base and when they come back their bottle is taken out for them with a nominal charge for ice etc. The bottle keep is a good way of keeping regulars and here, instead of the usual whiskey, they have shou-chu. Shou-chu is a kind of spirit and more popular in Kyushu than sake, it’s made from sweet potatoes. A little on the booze side but a taste is acquired after a couple. A good mix of food but the standout was fishcakes with squid legs in it. Superb.
Apologies, just a couple of pic only posts from Tokyo as I’m out of typing action from a faintly riduculous karaoke related injury. At a karaoke box, last song of the night, 2/3 of the way through nailing “Debaser” and the glass partition I was leaning against gave way and I followed it – falling a metre onto my back. Bit of claret, distressed karaoke staff, a trip in an ambulance and over a dozen stitches in my right hand, back, and head. Lots of laughs at the hospital at my stretchy smurf hat they gave me and when I dozed off on the table and started snoring. Kudos to the hotel staff for not blinking an eyelid when I came back at 2am just wearing jeans, shoes and bandages. All in all aok, could have been nastier, and learnt that there are worse things at karaoke than having to wait your turn.
Back (I lived there for seven years) to Japan for a fortnight. I’ll be freelancing in Nobeoka at a takoyaki stall for a week and then to Tokyo for some shopping and feasting. I’ll try get a few posts up but if you tire of blogminder tetsujin28′s head crushing efforts, there’s always Flickr.
Possibly locked in for buying someone a camera, and definitely for pics of vending machines, but if there are any requests let me know. I’m thinking of mercy calls for hard to find albums.
How I love EoMEoTE. It is to food posting, what the electric starter is to engines.
I say this because last Monday I was in a plastic dinghy, in the surf, with a rope start outboard, listening to the whir and gasp of an engine that was doing nothing, as the waves rolled in. Why was I doing this? Because a few hundred metres offshore, were the bounty stuffed crayfish pots we had put out the day before under even more calamitous circumstances. A pump of fuel and a weedy rumble, off we went and at the end of the rope we found nothing we hadn’t seen 15 hours before. Never mind.
Breakfast then became pancakes and bacon and, as Carita had prepped the poaching liquid as per the previous day, poached eggs. I suspect she knows enough about the vagaries of fishing to have not prepared soy sauce and wasabi or whipped up some lime butter. The poaching liquid – the addition of a splash of balsamic, some parsely and two whole chillies. Does it make a difference? I think it does.
Toni is the egg poaching expert in our house so I deferred to her advice on cracking the egg into a ladle and gently lowering it in. A poke to test doneness and served with buckwheat pancakes and the toast that had lain in the oven under crisping bacon.
Was it crayfish?
Did I care?
As is often said:
You cannot eat your dreams,
for the taste of marshmallows,
becomes the mouth of feathers.
Round Up: I’m the Alex Winter of EoMEoTE! Fixed.
Oi!: Who’s the cheeky Netdisaster monkey?