I’ve got a golden ticket

I got a table at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck while it is in Melbourne during their 6 month period starting from February 3rd.

Yes. You read that right.

I’m not Charlie Bucket in this story but rather the tap dancing Grandpa who gets to tag along and go for the magical ride. One of TimmyC’s work colleagues got one of the very few congratulatory emails that offered him a table for four at the very highly anticipated restaurant. Not just any table, the chef’s table, the one where you can view everything from behind the scenes, which has not been offered before at any of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants.

I get the opportunity to visit the Willy Wonka factory equivalent in the fine dining culinary world where Oompa Loompas are replaced with wait staff direct from Bray, instead of the chocolate room there are signature dishes like ‘Sounds of the Sea’ and instead of leaving blue and round, I’ll be just round and rolled out the door after a 4.5 hr dining experience that money cannot buy (but they’ve still managed to find a price tag). The Fat Duck will have only 14,000 people to experience a “gastronomic journey of history, nostalgia, emotion and memory” during their six month stay in Melbourne.

I cannot wait!

Trust me, I was doing the Grandpa Joe dance when TimmyC was telling me on the phone that we got in on a table!

What’s in season: February

In season: February

 

Vegetables

borlotti beans (fresh in pods), butter beans (aka yellow beans, aka wax beans), green beans (aka french beans, aka string beans), beetroot, red cabbage, green cabbage, capsicum, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, lettuces, shiitake mushrooms, onions, peas, sugar snap peas, potatoes, pumpkin, silverbeet, snowpeas, spinach, squash, tomatoes, turnips, witlof, zucchini

Herbs, spices and aromatics

basil, chervil, chillies, coriander, curly parsley, dill, flat leaf parsley, Italian Purple garlic, ginger, majoram, mint, oregano, rocket, sage, spring onions (aka green onions, aka shallots – not eschallots), tarragon, thyme, watercress

Fruits, berries and nuts

achacha, almonds, gravenstein apples, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cardinal grapes, honeydew melon, loganberries, nectarines, oranges (Valencia), William pears, Buerre Bosc pears, pistachios, raspberries, rockmelon, rhubarb, strawberries, watermelon

What’s in season: January

 In season: January

 

Vegetables

beans, green (aka french beans, aka string beans), green cabbage, red cabbage, capsicum, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, lettuces, cultivated shiitake mushrooms, onions, peas, sugar snap peas, potatoes, pumpkin, silverbeet, snowpeas, spinach, squash, tomatoes, turnips, witlof, zucchini

Herbs, spices and aromatics

basil, chervil, chillies, coriander, curly parsley, dill, flat leaf parsley, Italian Purple garlic, ginger, majoram, mint, oregano, rocket, sage, spring onions (aka green onions, aka shallots – not eschallots), tarragon, thyme, watercress

Fruits, berries and nuts

blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, honeydew melon, loganberries, nectarines, oranges (Valencia), raspberries, red, white & black currants, rhubarb, rockmelon, strawberries, watermelon

What’s in season: December

In season: December

 

Vegetables

Asian greens (bok choy, etc), asparagus, beans (green, flat and butter), green cabbage, capsicum, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, cultivated shiitake mushrooms, onions, peas (sugar snap), potatoes, radish, Silverbeet, spinach, snowpeas, sweetcorn, tomatoes (at last!), watercress, witlof, zucchini

Herbs, spices and aromatics

basil, chervil, chillies, coriander, curly parsley, dill, flat leaf parsley, garlic Italian Purple, ginger, majoram, mint, oregano, rocket, sage, spring onions (aka green onions, aka shallots – not eschallots), tarragon, thyme, watercress

Fruits, berries and nuts

apricots, cherries, gooseberries, grapefruits, loquats, mangoes, melons, oranges (Valencia), papaya, passionfruit, pineapple, plums, raspberries, red, white & black currants, strawberries

What’s in season

With the warmer weather approaching and everyone opting for BBQs and house parties rather than restaurants, people should be buying fresh local produce and take advantage of what is in season.

I never remember what is in season, but I avoid buying fresh produce from overseas. I came across a handy guide from The Food Co-op that I thought I’d share with everyone so we get the best of our local fresh produce.

Mr. Papa Peruvian Street Food Catering

I’m sure you all know by now that we had Mr. Papa cater TimmyC’s 30th birthday party.  I’ve never had catering done for anything before but Carlos and his team made it super easy! I just let them know that papas (potato) and chanchitos definitely needed to be on the menu and everything else just had to be delicious and unique. And it was!

This is more of a food porn post more than anything.

Mama’s Chilli Bar Chilli Bar with 3 of our signature chillis- Huancaina (crackers cream, smoked chilli), Street Chilli and Pebres (lime, coriander and garlic).

I love this little guy, it always looks like he is greeting me when I make it to the front of the line when lining up for Mr. Papa!IMG_6272.JPGSoft Drink Station in vintage jars

Inca Kola (Peruvian’s favorite soft drink) not pictured and Passion Fruit water (Traditional recipe). They set up a chilli station as well as a drinks station complete with cute little glass bottles and straws.IMG_6289.JPGThere was a bit of a suction issue with clumps of pulp getting stuck but the passionfruit water was very delicious and refreshing.IMG_6273.JPGVegetarian CausasIMG_6281.JPGI am loving their new chalkboard trays.IMG_6280.JPGGrilled Chicken Anticuchos Andean spices marinated Skewers served with huacatay sauce.IMG_6276.JPGObviously some people couldn’t wait for me to take my photo 😉IMG_6274.JPGVegetarian skewers with vegetarian causas for all my vegetarian guests. Carlos was very accommodating for all our guests’ with dietary needs.IMG_6279.JPGPeruvian Tequeños South American style Spring rolls stuffed with braised beef cilantro and cider. IMG_6287.JPGHow cute are the mini fryer baskets! I loved how all the food was served differently and conveniently. The different vessels were so cute!!!IMG_6288.JPGEmpanadas South American Style handmade pies. The filling was a little dry but lucky I had sauce dripping on top of mine.IMG_6290.JPGGolden brown and beautiful.IMG_6293.JPGArroz con mariscos mini serves seafood rice. This was thrown on the menu at the last moment but I really should have chosen it to begin with, if no one ate seafood I would have eaten all the boxes myself.IMG_6294.JPGIMG_6295.JPGChanchitoMini Pork belly Sandwich pork belly patiently cooked for 24 hours, sweet potatoes and South American salsa Creole served in artisan Peruvian Bread. Of course one of the biggest stars of the day was the chanchito, it is sooo good.IMG_6297.JPG

IMG_6296.JPGYou can see that I grabbed a chanchito mid empanda but I couldn’t risk not getting one. In the end there was plenty chanchitos to go around and we were able to have one each later that night. IMG_6299.JPGThe Mr. Papa team came, set up, cooked, served the food, cleaned up as they went and then proceeded to clean everything to the point you couldn’t even tell that you had a party besides the fact that you have a full belly and very happy guests. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for any function and I know their calendar is booking up fast! There was talk of a food van in the future, I hope it happens and I get to stalk their food truck.

If you haven’t tried their food, I suggest visiting them at Beer Day Out Canberra this Saturday 8 November. Where: Old Bus Depot Markets – Kingston Time: From 1 pm

 

Venue: Mr Papa Peruvian Street Food Catering

Email: mrpapa.au@gmail.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/mrpapaaustralia

The Wedding Collection – The National Gallery of Australia

I hadn’t considered The National Gallery of Australia for wedding venue and I can’t remember exactly what I was browsing that made me think to go to the website to enquire for a tour of the space and eventually a food tasting but I remember it hit me like a eureka moment. I was very impressed with the photos that I had seen on their website and I couldn’t wait to see the space in person.

It was the very last tasting out of the venues we were looking into and the Event Manager Vince Azzopardi said that we were saving the best til last and I was hoping he was right. I wanted the tastings to get better and better and what we have tried so far had been pretty fantastic.

The very beautiful Gandel Hall with exquisitely detailed with gold-leaf doors and red ironbark floors.20140503-121113.jpgI thought the set up for the tasting was a bit odd with Vince joining us in tasting the food, but maybe it is one of the perks of his job (that would be awesome!). A table was set up all with wine glasses and white linen in the beautiful Gandel Hall. I felt bad when I had to explain that TimmyC and I don’t drink wine then someone swooped in and cleared the glasses away while filling up our glasses with sparkling water to which I had to turn and explain that we didn’t drink sparkling water either with an apologetic look on my face. We are but simple people… When it comes to beverages. 😉

The head chef of The Big Group company Mickael Renou, brought out our dishes and explained how he prepared each dish. There was a lot of slow cooking processes and thought to compliment the flavours of each dish. He had a lovely French accent and although I might not have understood everything, I liked listening to him speak *giggle*.

There was something else that I didn’t expect. Each of us received a smaller version of each of the course and placed in the middle was the full-sized portion of each option which we also got to eat. Needless to say with TimmyC barely pulling his weight, I was getting a bit full after eating 2.5 courses times two.

We chose from Autumn/Winter dinner menu.

Entree~
Salmon and prawn raviolo with caramelised fennel, wilted spinach, lobster oil and sorrel.  After trying to get the perfect shot of the beautiful food, it was no surprise that my raviolo was cold. There would be a very small window where this would remain hot to warm. By itself, the raviolo was okay but it came to life when I rubbed it in the lobster oil. For me the edges of the pasta were a tad too thick if I was nit picking but TimmyC really enjoyed it.
20140503-123115.jpg
Soy roasted pork belly with salted pork crackle, apple and celeriac puree, Bok Choy slaw, veal jus. When I ate my smaller portion I didn’t really get a soy flavour, it wasn’t until I ate the full-sized portion did I taste it. I liked the little crackle hat that was extremely crunchy and the puree complimented the protein flavours really well. The bigger portion of pork was very thick and meaty but was very tender and moist.
20140503-123055.jpg
 Our individual portions were plated really nicely.20140503-123044.jpg
The full-sized portion of the pork belly. I thought the sauce plating was a bit messy but was probably could not be helped with the runny nature of the sauce.20140503-123132.jpg
 A close up of the tender pork.20140503-123523.jpg The full-sized portion of the raviolo. I thought the sauce plating was a bit messy in comparison to the individual plated portions.20140503-123143.jpg
Mains~
Roast fillet of beef with a burnt carrot purée, potato terrine, caramelised shallots and sauce bordelaise (GF). Beef is a real crowd pleaser at weddings so we couldn’t go past choosing this dish to see how they would execute it and let me just say, it was wonderful. The meat was cooked very well and for someone who doesn’t love carrots, I really loved the burnt carrot puree. The potato terrine was probably a tad dry but I smothered it in the sauce to make up for it. The sweetness of the puree and caramelised shallots just enhanced the salty beef flavours.
20140503-125020.jpg
Our individual plated ports of our main course.
20140503-124102.jpg
Roast duck breast and confit leg with sweet potato Skordalia, green beans and Honey jus (GF). I was going to town with these purees and mashes! If I don’t love carrots but I loved their puree, just imagine the excitement in my eyes when I placed a mouthful of sweet potato (which I love) in my mouth which just had a tad bit of citrus. Mmmmm! The duck was okay, not the best I’ve had. I much preferred the confit duck leg over the breast which I found chewier and had less duck flavour.20140503-125030.jpgSuch a sexy leg!20140503-125133.jpg A close up of the very intense and rich sweet potato puree. I couldn’t fit any more of my meal in because I was getting full fast and I felt bad for the other guys having to wait so long for me to finish but I tried to eat as much of the mash as I could.20140503-123927.jpg
Dessert canapes~
When these came out I thought they were absolutely adorable!!! We were introduced to the pastry chef but I didn’t really catch his name but I think he did a fabulous job with these.
I love the beautiful slate tiles that the canapes were served on.
20140503-125152.jpg
 Buttermilk Bavarois, slow roasted plum and toasted almond (GF). This was ridiculously delicate and I’m not a huge fan of stone fruit in my dessert but it went together perfectly! The toasted almonds gave it an extra dimension in texture and flavour. This is my favourite pick out of the dessert canapes.
20140503-125207.jpg
Chocolate dipped peanut butter semi freddo. You couldn’t hold this for too long before the chocolate would start melting on your fingers but the delicious flavours of peanut butter and chocolate going so well together, I doubt that anyone will have time for that to happen. The perfect subtle taste of peanut butter meant that it wasn’t overwhelming and sticky on your palette.20140503-125226.jpgPistachio crème brûlée with a Gianduja biscuit. Believe it or not, this little beauty had a little ‘toffee hat’ that I love in brulees. It was the cutest little morsel I’ve ever had as a dessert, it made my body spasm with excitement and it took me a while to bring myself to eat it. I love how they have developed this much-loved dessert into a canape. The texture was silky smooth but I thought that the flavours of pistachio paste was too intense for my liking.20140503-125236.jpgA close up to the inside of the brulee.20140503-125404.jpg
The Big Group have been catering for the National Gallery since November 2012 and I’ve seen some amazing set ups for functions throughout the year including the pop-up Wedgwood Tea Room and Mother’s day high teas.

Potential wedding venue: National Gallery of Australia

Caterer: The Big Group

Time of tasting: 1pm

Price of tasting: $120.00 pp.

Brickworks- Spendelove Bistro & Bar

—–31st Dec 2013 —–

A wonderful cafe; chocolate sweets store; coffee shop that sells aromatic beans from around the world; a trendy store that sells all my favourite brands like elk, polli and Aesop; a florist; fresh seafood store with a Japanese sushi store attached; a butcher; a baker; (a candlestick maker?) a deli; an ice-cream store and Wheel and Barrow all in one area. Needless to say, if I lived in QLD I would be at Brickworks all the time.

The first stop before we bought all the essentials for a NYE BBQ was breakfast at Spendelove Bistro & Bar. It is best not to buy food when you’re really hungry, so it is the smarter way to shop. I browsed for something a little different on the breakfast menu and our friend reminds us all before we order that we are going to Sizzler for lunch so this was just to whet our appetites.

20131231-172246.jpg

20131231-172450.jpg

Chai latte ($4.20). A really smooth and creamy chai latte topped with a lot of nutmeg.

20131231-172500.jpgBanana pancakes caramelized banana, maple syrup ice cream ($17.90). I don’ know how long the pancakes had been sitting at the counter for, but needless to say it was a while judging by the melted ice-cream puddle.

20131231-172511.jpg

20131231-172520.jpgZucchini and haloumi fritters with lemon, smashed avocado on turkish bread ($16.90) mushrooms ($4.00 extra).20131231-172531.jpg

Cheese souffle three cheese souffle tomato chutney, spinach, chargrilled bacon, crispy speck, confit tomato ($19.50). I have never in my brunching years have ever seen a menu item like this. The soufflé was warm, delicate and cheesy. Mixing the soufflé with spinach and some salty pork was a really good mouthful. I preferred the speck over the bacon because it was something different and was much crispier. Even though the aim was not to get full, I would expect to at least be a little full after paying almost twenty dollars.

20131231-172542.jpg

The cheesy interior.20131231-172556.jpg

Kids pancakes buttermilk pancake topped with maple syrup and ice cream ($12.00). The pancakes were nice and I would probably prefer the kid’s pancake over the OTT adult version which was $5 more for some banana.

20131231-172614.jpg

I really love the space here and while I was at the cafe, the staff were really friendly. They had a great extensive breakfast menu but some items will fill you more than others.

Venue: Spendelove cafe

Address: Shop 11, 107 Ferry Road Market, The Brickworks, Southport, QLD

Phone: (07) 5527 0255

Website:http://www.spendelove.com.au/

Spendelove Bistro & Bar on Urbanspoon

The Pancake Place

The Pancake Place might seem like an unusual choice for dinner but they have an extensive savoury crepe menu and then there are some people who still act like they are five and choose sweet pancakes for dinner *looks at TimmyC*.

This establishment has been in Port Macquarie for more than 20 years and it brings much nostalgia to those who used to come here for a treat as a kid, not because it is still open and serving delicious pancakes, but because the decor, friendly hospitality and uniform have not changed much since.

20131230-081730.jpg

20131230-081737.jpg
If we are going to do a kid indulgent meal, we may as well complete it with an iced caramel ($6.50) and iced coffee ($6.50). It is very nicely decorated with cream, ‘tv snacks’ and sprinkles.
20131230-081806.jpg

Large stack of 3 pancakes ($14.90) with extra ice cream ($1.50) and extra syrup. Thick fluffy pancakes that have never disappointed. I’m glad that we got an extra scoop otherwise I don’t think they would have gone far enough for three pancakes. I also like how if you want extra syrup they leave it with you at the table.

20131230-081817.jpg

20131230-081823.jpg

Gourmet crepes~

Each savoury crepe comes with a soft roll with delicious butter. The meals came out at lightning speed, drinks and water came out within minutes of ordering and in less than 10 minutes all meals were on the table.

20131230-081745.jpg

Bologneseprime ground beef with onions, mushrooms, garlic, tomato and red wine, topped with a mild cheese sauce (lite bites $16.90).

20131230-081832.jpg

20131230-081842.jpg

Chicken and asparaguschicken, mild cheese and asparagus with our creamy wine sauce (lite bites $18.90).

20131230-081850.jpg

Mexicanprime ground beef with chilli, capsicum and beans topped with melted cheese (lite bites $16.90). Obviously not authentic, just an Australian Mexican version complete with Doritos corn chips. I chose a small one so I could fit in sweet pancakes for dessert but even after eating the small one I was stuffed. Lite bites just mean there is less filling. The salad was very bright filled with unusual things such as kiwi fruit, watermelon, zucchini, red cabbage, pretzels, tomatoes, pineapple, canned fruit and fresh strawberries.

20131230-081909.jpg

20131230-081916.jpg

Always fast friendly service here at the Pancake Place, but I think that the savoury crepes lacked a bit of salt and flavour having only used very mild cheeses and the ‘cream of the crop’ choice on the menu would be their sweet pancake options.

Venue: The Pancake Place

Address: Clarence Street, Port Macquarie, New South Wales 2444, Australia

Phone: (02) 6584544 They apparently don’t take reservations during the peak holiday season, it is a first come first serve basis but we didn’t have any trouble getting a seat for dinner.

Pancake Place on Urbanspoon

I still call Australia home…

It has been a whirlwind experience during our trip in China (Zhuhai)- the cultural differences, dining etiquettes and price differences are astounding.

I have been living it up during the past few days getting multiple massages (very thorough and done with good technique), soaked in lots and lots of novelty hot springs and detoxed in saunas at a very cheap rate. I even got a hair cut just for the hell of it (hair wash with a 15 minute fabulous head massage, hair treatment, hair cut and blow dry was less than $16 AUD!!!). Everything here including the food is so much cheaper without compromising on quality and taste. Although I have enjoyed myself thoroughly, I did feel bad for the staff who work so tirelessly at such a low income comparatively to Australia.

20131110-105326.jpg

Being away from home even during this short amount of time has made me think about how lucky we are to have our quality way of living as well as appreciate our clean our air (so many smokers here) and clear blue skies. I miss you Australia but I won’t be coming home just yet, I have some unfinished business in Hong Kong and some exploring to do in Macau.