Saturday, April 21, 2012

Things I must eat on long service leave

From the sea:
Razor clams
Oysters from the Atlanic

From the beast:
Black pudding
Pig's ears

From the trees:
Cox's orange pippins
Chestnuts (but I think it'll be the wrong season)

From the oven:
Soda bread
Eccles cakes
Cornish Pasties (my auntie makes a mean one, and she lives in Cornwall!)

From an udder:
Stinking Bishop
Cashel Blue
A nice bit of Wensleydale

From a vendor:
A deep fried Mars bar

I'm going to flick through my battered ~ well used, not deep fried ~ copy of Jane this arvo, just in case I'm missing anything. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Long service leave

We are about to go on an extended break. A month. Where? Japan and good old Blighty, and Ireland... and maybe Scotland and Wales.  Having only been to the UK in the depths of winter, and then not for ahem... 25 years, what luxury to be going in the spring.  Which led me to thinking about travel arrangements and where a travel agent fits in these days.  Seems like the agent is good to book tickets, but in terms of accommodation, it's all right there in front of you on the internet thingie. And if you like research, as I do, it's positively pleasurable to undertake. Not only can you check out interiors and exteriors (google maps street view), but then you can plot how far away your pied a terre will be from where you want to visit, and more importantly, eat.  And with a the burgeoning blogosphere, your info will be up to date.  I spend Saturday arvo interrogating a great blog called LondonTastin, which alerted me to a restaurant which sounded like a must try. Fay Maschler has very recently given it a 5/5 and the consensus is 'Get there before the Michelin men.' It's called Dabbous, and a few click later, there I was looking at its menu. And yes, indeedy it looked great. A few more clicks , and a delightful response from Charlie at reservations; I believe we have secured a table for lunch.

And as for dinner, top of the list is St. John, Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail establishment in Clerkenwell. It's a matter of yards from where we are staying, so off went the email. Another delightful response from the reservation team. Oh no, it's Lizzie's Diamond Jubilee and everywhere worth eating at will be closed.  A quick email to Nic at Flight Centre, and it's fixed. Flights two days earlier. (Couldn't have done that if we'd purchased tix on the internet.) Another email to onefinestay, and our apartment stay can be extended to accommodate our new arrival  time.

And a hotel in Japan? Easy. I have a friend who is a Qantas stewardess, and know where they stay on their layovers. 3 nights booked easy as pie at the Hotel Mercure Narita.

And Peter at Souvlaki for the Soul has a hot tip for dinner in Japan.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Now, to interrogate other venues and beds.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The new retail

I have an interest in paper cutting as an art form. It's one of the many things I'm interested in.
Yesterday, a friend of mine shared the work of a paper cutter, whose work I knew, on FB.
I told her about another paper cutter. From a link on the second paper cutter's blog, I found an extremely beautiful blog by a Cuban-American artist. The Cuban artist, Elsa Mora, has the best About  I've ever seen on a blog. Her work is sensational.
I became a friend of the Elsa's on FB. You can too.
Today, Elsa posted pictures of new necklaces she was making with an opportunity to reserve one.
I did.
It became a reserved item on Etsy.
I paid for it via Paypal.
It'll be here soon.

This is my new necklace

Conventional retailers wonder why they are in trouble.

This retailing experience was: easy, interesting, engaging, , personal, exciting, educational, cultural
The product is: beautiful, skillful, original.
The vendor is: talented, witty, gracious and efficient.

When was the last time you had a shopping experience this good in a bricks and mortar store?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Like water for chocolate

I now know what magical realism tastes like, thanks to spice genius Ian Hemphill of Herbie's, a spice merchant we are lucky to have in our midst.  While putting together a kit to start my Mexican cooking journey, I came across Herbie's Spice Dust, which is included in his Mexican Spice Kit.  I didn't order the whole kit, but I did order the Spice Dust. Dust is indeed a perfect name for it, because it's magic, like Ooffle Dust of fairytales and South American epic tales. It sat on the counter like it contained gold, almost too fearful to do anything with it. But Herbie had the perfect solution, a melting moment recipe to which I added two teaspoons of the magic. It's the sultry, sexy, voluptous taste I've been looking for all my life.  Generally I'd take a piece of cheese over something sweet, but this is heady stuff, like when a perfume that you adore hits you right in the kisser, and you're just bowled over.
It's a wild combo that somehow works,  Old World, New World, undertone, robust and fragile. A taste to make you tear up in a confusing visceral way. It's so absolutely not modern. Does that make it post-modern, or a window to an earlier time? And I'm not suggesting it's musty. But speaking of musty, the only things missing are musk and saffron.

It's like:
a piece of hand woven silk
1930s velvet
amber beads
a Moroccan laneway
Frida Kahlo
a Sufi poem
Aladdin's mother's kitchen

 If it were any more sensous or thought provoking it would be illegal. It's so incredibly cross-cultural, because it's only existed in our dream before.

Ian, I salute you.

This photo is the closest I can get to the way it makes me feel.

And I absolutely have to go on Herbie's next spice foray to India. In the meantime, I am  going to attempt to make a solid beeswax perfume with it. We'll see how it goes with ground spices, but I may need to do it with essential oils. Ian, you may have to help, if you wouldn't mind.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Yes, but why?

Especially at €290 per kilo. Sausage casings filled with acrylic paint.

Touching myself

So, I finally throw it in with the big city, pack up the last of it and head back home to the coast, where the corn is as high as an elephant's eye.  Therein lies the problem. The corn, in our absence, has developed mildew. So what do you do? You start pulling it out. And the next morning you wake up looking like Elephant Man's next of kin.

Retrace steps ~ pulling out corn, fondling marigolds, packing lots of cardboard boxes, hives, pollen. WTF is going on?

After three days of the Itchy & Scratchy Show, I finally succumb to the doctor's surgery. (Or else I would have torn my face off).

And given it's localised to where I have put my hands on my face, the verdict is pollen allergy. Dammit. This happened once before with the old Robyn Gordon Grevillea, a lovely plant that a lot of people have a problem with (Please excuse dangling participle).

So, a bucket of cream, some anti-histamines later, and I can continue to unpack boxes whilst slurping on a shiraz. Because I have to tell you, the idea of becoming allergic to red wine was almost too much to contemplate.

I've used this photo of Chrissy Amphlett, because when the doctor (who I might say, was a cross between Senator Penny Wong and Lee Lin Chin, two women worth being crossed with) announced it was only where I'd touched myself, I nearly wet myself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What's it got to do with food, Part 3

Having treated myself to a house cooling present or two, I'm now moving on to the new house. A fifties fibro down the coast. We have a yellow lacquered front door, and these two treasures from StuffAndJunque will fit right in.

What have they got to do with food? Dunno. Someone come up with an answer for me.

What's it got to do with food, Part 2

While up in the big smoke, I spied these at Bev's Remnant House. I love going in there. Bev MacInnes is warm and friendly and interesting and interested. With a lifetime of design and theatre experience I always find I spend at least an hour yakking with her.

These are pretty damn stunning. Strong cotton quilted bags with leather handles. Stunning fabrics, and the handles are exactly the right length to be able to carry the bag on your shoulder. You won't find them anywhere else. And I believe there's only 9 of them available.  I think one of them has my name on it, so there might only be 8 by the time you get there, so spit spot, get a move on.

A fantastic overnight hold all, and what's it got to do with food?... It's a marvellously stylish shopping bag, great for the market. Do yourself a favour and pop into 722 Bourke Street, East Redfern now.

The perfect His/Hers Valentine's Day gift

Over at instructables there's a DIY tutorial for this perfect Valentine's Day gift, including a downloadable pdf to take into the kitchen with you. Brought to you by instructables member kaptaink_cg and worth sharing. Kaptaink also has a fab DIY for anti-3D glasses, for those members of the cinema going public who don't want to share in the 3-D experience. Excellent! That said, I'd love  to see a photo of the bacon roses in 3D.

Monday, January 30, 2012

House Cooling Mermaid

Today I received a beautiful gift from my friend and neighbour Marg. We have been neighbours and pals for about 5 years now, and often share an even beverage in our respective pocket handkerchief sized yards in the inner city.

My partner and I  decided to throw in inner city life, for one on the coast where we can grow our fruit and veg and generally chill out a bit more. It's got its advantages, it's got its disadvantages, but on balance we love it. So we have finally severed our residential ties with the city and sold our house. Up in the big smoke to pack up our goods and chattels, Marg and I were having one of our said evening beverages when she gave me this:

Isn't she absolutely gorgeous? Marg said she needed a home closer to the sea.  Thanks hon, she will be much loved, and used often. Here she is in the big smoke waiting to go south and wiggle her tail in the ocean.

Happy House Cooling to Me or But what's it got to do with food, Part 1)

What can I say? I'm moving away from my beloved house of 12 years. While packing up, and  trawling around my fave blogs, I found this at A Beautiful Mess, who found it at Anthropologie. It's from print artist Sarah Ball from Natchez, Mississippi. I had to have it as a memory. (Good justification, huh)

What's it got to do with food? Well, I'll eat while wearing it, and probably drop my dinner down its front. That's what.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bamboo shoot pong

There's something about the odour of bamboo shoots I just can't stomach. Don't know why but every time I have them, I get a whiff before putting them in my mouth and that whiff puts me right off. I googled it, as you do, to see if I was alone or not. It appears I'm not the only one. I don't have an aversion to strong smelling food, but there's just something about them that turns my stomach. There's a whole lot of people here who also don't like it.

My latest run-in with them came while test driving the Marion's Kitchen's Green Thai Curry. It was all going swimmingly. The curry paste was fragrant, the dried additions were zingy... And then the pouch of bamboo shoots had to go in. I'd never actually realised before that it was THAT SMELL that I didn't like about quite a bit Thai food. I did what Marion told me and added it. Didn't rinse them, just put them in, but somehow now they are overriding all the other deliciousness I had before.

I'm not having a go Marion, honest, I think what you've done is great. Much nicer than anything else out there, but oh god, I desperately wish I hadn't added that pouch of BS. Water chestnuts? Maybe. But really, I don't think Marion's kit needs that fourth pouch. The product is good enough. Make it a vegetable suggestion, but please, don't make it compulsory.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Food trucks be damned ~ Half baked potatoes and some taco's (sic)

Random is right. Oh for fuck's sake, Sydney. The government sanctioned, highly licensed, let's do it by tender for the good of the city, food truck. You've missed the point. And I quote "Trends evolving into concepts." What a load of rubbish. Does this city have an original idea in its head? Remember Harry's Cafe de Wheels. It was our first food truck, and now the same city has ensured there's not a wheel in sight at Harry's.

Everybody in this video appears to be preparing their food in a restaurant kitchen. Oh, of course, that would be the audition. Not a food truck in sight. So is the city providing the truck? And good luck with parking in this burg.

And you know, it's not about NYC, it's actually about immigrant groups in LA finding a way of serving inexpensive but good food to folks of their homeland, or if they're not from the homeland, at least they like eating.  And they were convenient. The trucks were regularly moved on. It was kind of secret, it was about exploration, and throwing caution to the wind, and finding something 'other'. And finding great inexpensive food.

Will an Ethiopian/Sudanese/Greek/Maltese/whatever cabbie feel good about going to one of these places? Can they afford it? That's who these things should be for. Jeez, remember the kebab/donut van.

This all looked pretty My Food Truck Rules to me. Thank god there's an app. And I'm so pleased it has the impramateur of the Daily Tele. Phew.

But rest assured, all will be okay. Apparently the city has a Late Night Economy Manager. And the people who have chosen which food trucks will be parked on the bike path are mainly journalists. We are in safe hands.

Don't get me wrong. Food trucks ~ go forth and multiply. Take loaves and fishes into the 'burbs. Park outside the local Meriton building on Friday night, but please don't become an overpriced restaurant on wheels in George Street or the Rocks, or you've missed the point.

Will the trucks be going any further west than Chinatown? Nothing should be over 10 bucks. And please, could the Late Night Economy Manager  ensure that the apostrophe in more than one taco is removed!

Melbourne, at this point, is laughing its head off. Sorry for the rant, but I hate to see a good thing dumbed down.

We are not alone

It seems to me that the most printed three words in the English language must be "Made In China" (MiC if you're texting) or "Product of China." Not just traditional Asian food products and non-edible items, but just about everything ~ food, appliances, clothing ~ being the big three. I certainly try and avoid many Chinese foodstuffs, particularly after the great melamine in the milk episode which until  this very moment, I didn't realise included Cadbury's Eclairs! And in the realm of chain store clothing, it's almost impossible to find an item that doesn't contain those three words, including our 'very own' Bond's. And for crying out loud, it appears that even eBay has been overrun with products located in China. (Beware the postage rort.)

So how to avoid it, if that's your inclination. Well, food's not too hard. Keep anything processed to a minimum. Be vigilant around fresh food labelling. And I'm not singling out China here. I don't want an American lemon for crying out loud! Australian laws require fresh fruit and veg to display country of origin.  It gets tricky when  you're buying an Australian manufactured product made from "local and imported ingredients".

Clothes ~ a no-brainer, buy vintage. It's cheaper, cuter, and utilises an existing resource. A lot of the labels will still be intact, and you'll be able to find out what CITY it was made in. Whatever your style, you'll be able to do it. And if you think you've got no style, I guarantee you'll find it.

I have nothing against something being from somewhere else, per se. Let's face it, an exquisite bohus jumper from Sweden, is all the more beautiful because it comes from well... Sweden. But therein lies the difference. Provenance.  I will seek out Vietnamese fish sauce (it's different to Thai fish sauce) and when I find it, I rather hope it was produced in Vietnam. And curry powder. Happy for it to be made in India.  Hey, happy to buy oyster sauce from China. Provenance.  (As an aside though, I've always wondered by some clever dick didn't start making it here in Australia when our oysters looked too ugly for public consumption one year.) But orange juice, where sometimes the only Australian component is the bottle and the water. What's with that? I just went through my pantry reading labels, and now I'm curious as to exactly what "Product of Australia" actually means...

Now I know, courtesy of the Victorian state government:
‘Product of Australia’ means that significant ingredients must come from Australia and most of the processing should happen here too. A ‘Made in Australia’ statement may only mean that the food was ‘substantially transformed’ here and that a certain proportion of the production costs were incurred here. These definitions are currently under review.

Hmm, that last sentence intrigues me. Are they 'under review' in a good way? And what are those unempirical terms 'significan' and 'substantially transformed' mean?

Or should I just put this away, forget about where it was made, and concentrate on HOW it was made? Treatment of labor force, safety in workplace, right to organise. It's a minefield I tell you. And if I'm going to be a good citizen, more research is definitely required.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Killing a number of birds

So here's what happens when you get randomly generated advertising combined with bullshit spammy promotions. (I include this post on this blog because spam used to be considered food). While playing a word game via facebook, these two images popped up on the bottom of my screen.  How random! And how hideous. And there' s probably not even an actual person responsible. What is one supposed to do with it?
a.  Make a donation before taking off on the luxury scoff-fest cruise,
b.  See if said luxury cruise is available to the Horn of Africa
c.  Hope like hell cruise captain doesn't have mullet, is a coward and flirts his away across the high seas.

I think b, don't you. The luxury cruise to the Horn could be then attacked by pirates, money and food taken from ship could assist hunger crisis, and cruise ship line could think about whether to pay ransome for mullet-headed captain.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Back to the Future?

Ingredients, techniques and products I can live without in 2012

Basil-fed snails
Popcorn shoots
Aero shots ~ a breathable  Caffeine and Vitamin mix in an inhaler in packing that a cross betwen an asthma inhaler and a bullet.

The first from Volt ink, the second in Gingerboy, the third, a product I think the world might be better off without

And I never want to hear the word sous-vide again!

The Futurist Cook Book is starting to look not so silly after all. Let's face it, it's only a matter of time before  Diabolical Roses (Red roses, battered and deep-fried) turn up on a menu or Master Chef... Proposed as a side dish or contorni, I can actually imagine them as a desert or sweetmeat, in a fine tempura batter with icing sugar and a rose petal confit on a big white plate... NO, what am I saying. Further interrogation of La Cucina Futurista is definitely required. A Futurist dinner party may be in order. Oh, the irony.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Gingerboy's pantry

I am just in the process of indexing gingerboy for for eat your books and am up to the Crispy Yellow Curry-Marinated Garfish with cucumber and cherry tomato salad, which I am advised serves four as part of a  Shared Plate meal. So let's face it, this is not a grand main course, you'll want to be cooking a couple of dishes like this. But it has THIRTY-SIX ingredients, count them 36! I'm sorry, that's just plain silly. Even one of the cocktails has 10 ingredients. Somehow, I don't think I'm  going to be cooking much from this after all. And the combination of the book's design, which I had thought was mysterious, is now starting to appear plain old menacing.

UPDATE:  I just need to vent....

This book is going to be the cooking equivalent of Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time... Everyone's going to have it and no one's going to use it. It is SO obtuse!

You know the sort of book... Take a cup of the marinade on page 262, add it to a pork fillet, then make the salad which also has components from pages 260, 282, 127... You get the idea!

Already one recipe has 36 ingredients... including popcorn shoots. I mean, really!