Category Archives: Sustainability
From the ridiculously good-looking celebrity chef Pete Evans, together with the man responsible for the legendary ‘beef on toast’, and chicken-skin butter with pull-apart bread at Little Hunter, comes Spanish venue, Bar Nacional, located at Collins Square, the new development at 727 Collins St.
Chef Gavin Baker (ex-Fat Duck…swoon!) is at it again, with inventive techniques, and flavours set to blow your mind and woo your tastebuds. He’s also funny, passionate, and despite being from North Carolina, does a great Cockney accent, mostly when the food comes out, when he exclaims proudly “innit gaw-geous!!” Manning the Josper oven and sending out seriously more-ish plates is Chef Alex Drobysz, who is ex- Bistro Moderne (Daniel Boulud) and Gordon Ramsay, and lovely bloke into the bargain.
My first meal at Bar Nacional was a Monday lunchtime, followed up with a long Friday afternoon/evening session, so I’ve managed to sample almost all of the menu, a fact of which I am infinitely proud.
The menu starts with a Charcuterie section, including chorizo, lomo (beef tenderloin) and 3 types of jamon, from Serrano, through to Iberica and all the way to the mother lode – the Bellota Pura.
In the name of research I did my utmost to slay much of the tapas menu, including
- Choricito – simple little sausages cooked in cider, onion and parsley
- Croquettes of charred brussel sprouts, with preserved lemon aioli. Definitely worlds away from the 70′s ‘boil and serve method’ my mother employed (hi mum, love you but they were RANK).
- Pan con tomate – simple but totally delicious toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomato, then drizzled with olive oil and salt
- Morcilla – spanish blood sausage, and it’s a rich, strong flavour that should be embraced, with a good wine (no problem here)
- Patatas bravas – what’s not to love about potatoes?
One of the highlights of the ‘rationales’ or mains, was the wood-roasted fish. It’s the first time I’ve come across this style of cooking in my travels, and I was absolutely fascinated by the entire process. I even got to sneak into the kitchen and see it being prepared. A trunk of wood is cut into thick slices, which are then rubbed with garlic oil. The fish is laid on the wood slice and roasted in the Josper oven, and when the edges of the bark catch fire, the fish infused with the ensuing smoke . The dish comes served on the wood at the table, with the edges still gently smouldering, accompanied by roasted eggplant. This technique imparts the most incredible, subtle but smoky flavour to the flesh of the fish, and at the moment the kitchen is are working with wood from 8 different varieties of trees, each with their own distinctive flavour characteristics – including orange and almond.
Whilst there we also managed to put away the prawns with chorizo and patates bravas, with peppers and fried egg, and the pork belly with compressed pear and mint. Again, perfectly executed. Speaking of perfect, there are 2 more things that make this place great. The first is the service. The staff are engaging, knowledgeable, and genuinely excited about the food, as well as the wine. Which brings me to the second thing – the wine list. In the words of my esteemed colleague and partner in many drinking crimes, @ladyoenotria, ”it’s BANGING!”. This is the work of sommelier and all-round nice guy Jeff Salt (ex-Golden Fields) who has curated a beautiful selection of whites and reds, including some excellent Cava (Spanish sparkling, or as I like to call it, Prosecco with a sombrero) and some heavenly tempranillo.
They tell me ‘postres’ is Spanish for dessert. At Bar Nacional, it actually means ‘food porn of the highest order’. With Chef Shaun Quade (ex Quay, Royal Mail, Urbane and Biota) at the sweet end of the kitchen, you know you are in good hands and in for a good time.
We need to talk about the Tocino del Cielo – translated to ’Heaven’s Bacon’. This is made with pig fat. Which makes it awesome. Salted maize caramel lies underneath shards of feather-light biscuit, and a lemon sherbert. Oh my sainted aunt. I don’t care where you live. Get up off your chair and get there NOW.
The bitter chocolate liquid cake, with green aniseed olive oil and lemon marmalade ice cream is nothing short of a party in your mouth. The caramel ooze that issues forth from the cake once you slide your spoon into it is smooth, and velvety and I would bathe in that goodness if I could. The lemon marmalade ice-cream is the perfect foil for all the richness – it is tart, refreshing, yet super creamy. I perhaps even recall being told it was made with sour cream, although I may have dreamt that whilst in my food coma. Superb.
There are some mighty fine Quesas (cheeses) on offer as well – we tried the blue cheese which was served on a wooden board with some fresh honeycomb, a perfect combination of sweet and bitey – my lunch date is not a dessert person (I know, what the?) so he was super happy to get stuck into the cheese whilst I inhaled all the cake.
On Friday nights they also have all sorts of excellent bar snacks – including the decadent chocolate churros truffle, with a caramelised white chocolate centre. This you must not leave without trying. And DO NOT SHARE. They also do a mean Sangria, made with D.O.C vino rosso from the King Valley, Dom Benedictine, citrus, cloves, and cinnamon.
Here are the Twitter handles of the main suspects. Give them a follow if you want to play along at home. Or better yet, get your butt on a bar stool and eat ALL the tapas. I’ll be the one drinking sangria straight from the jug. In a totally classy way of course. Ole!
On Monday night we were treated to dinner at Captain Melville (formerly Miss Libertine) named after the self-styled ‘gentleman bushranger’ who did some of his best work in on the Goldfields of Victoria in the 1850’s.
Located on Franklin Street, near RMIT and the Queen Victoria Market, in a National Trust building, and Melbourne’s oldest pub, Captain Melville is what you’d call a hidden gem.
An open, inviting bar, with polished floor boards, and ample seating gives way to an atrium-style communal dining hall at the rear, with blue stone walls, native flowers in jam jars, giving it a relaxed, modern vibe, whilst still nodding to its rich history. I’m calling it ‘bushranger chic’.
The cocktail list pays cheeky homage to its bushranger namesake, including such concoctions as the ‘Macedon Gang Punch’, whose description reads ‘hard as coffin nails’. Involving rum, lemon juice, agave syrup, egg white, port and Booker’s Fire bitters, this is not something I would have ordinarily ordered, but it did not disappoint, and was a great way to kick off the night.
Our menu went like this:
Masterstock Chicken, coconut, chilli, lime and betel leaf
Slow cooked Wurrook Merino shoulder in brik pastry and smoked yoghurt
Quinoa Salad, asparagus, broad beans, yellow beets, shanklish and honey yoghurt
Bannockburn free-range chicken parmigiana, coleslaw, with hand cut chips
Salted caramel banana split with honeycomb
There was simply nothing not to like about the food. It was presented beautifully, using locally sourced produce, the quinoa salad was the best use of this super food that I’ve encountered thus far, and the parma was perfectly proportioned, with a great sauce to cheese ratio. The extra pork belly slider we squeezed in was also excellent.
This is the kind of place you can go with workmates, a group of friends, or your kids, and everyone would be happy. The large dining hall is perfect for functions, and the food would translate well for large groups.
Head chef, Shayne McCallum (ex Blake’s, and The Botanical) is keen to avoid the ‘gastro pub’ tag, aiming instead for ‘ pub classics at restaurant level’. Dude, you have totally nailed it. Thanks for having us and see you again.
34 Franklin Street
Melbourne CBD VIC 3000
Ph : +61 3 9663 6855
When the Gastronomy guide for the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival arrived in my letter box, the timing could not have been better. We were just about to leave for Hawaii and seeing Ed Kenney’s name featured in the ‘Earth MasterClass’ section, (Huxtable are bringing him out for the event) reminded me that I needed to book dinner at his restaurant ‘Town‘, in Honolulu.
A couple of tweets and a 10 hour plane flight later, we turned up on Town’s doorstep, to a super warm Hawaii welcome from Ed, and settled in to read a menu full of ingredients I’d never heard of. Town, which has multiple accolades and awards to its name, is renowned for utilising local produce and promoting indigenous ingredients. Ed is not only passionate about the food he serves, but where it comes from. He is on the Board of Directors for MA’O Organic Farms, Kokua Hawaii Foundation & Sustain Hawaii. His philosophy is that “Food is the unifying fabric of humanity, connecting us to the earth and each other.” Word.
I quickly decided the way to get the most out of this visit was to ask Ed to feed us his favourite dishes until we fell into a food coma, and he was only too happy to oblige. He started us off with the ahi (Hawaiian tuna) tartare served on a risotto cake, with balsamic vinegar, which was superb, both in texture and flavour, and came at us soon after with the cured opah (Moonfish) with pa’ i’ ai (made from taro root), watercress and persimmon which all worked beautifully together. Our extremely sweet and friendly waitress Randi patiently explained each ingredient to us and answered my incessant questions throughout the meal.
The salad came full of avocado, papaya, butter lettuce, pecans, and cucumber, and was served with a ‘green goddess’ dressing (apparently a West Coast US staple but again something I’d never heard of, typically containing a range of fragrant herbs, spring onions and mayonnaise or similar). I’m offically a fan.
We also tried the hand-cut pasta, which was served with a south shore he’e (octopus) ragu, and it was a knockout. I probably wouldn’t have ordered this if I’d known what it was, simply because I couldn’t imagine how you could execute it – more fool me and lucky I wasn’t in charge of the food selection, because this was one gorgeous, rich, hearty bowl of goodness. Slightly salty, beautifully textured with silken ribbons of perfect pasta.
We then had some more opah, this time served with farro, roasted root vegetables, purslane and salsa verde which was moist, sweet and delicious, as was the mahi mahi dish, served with local veggies, limu (Hawaiian algae) and meyer lemon. Then came the extremely sensational shinsato pork chop, served with an ulu (breadfruit) mash and bitter greens. I was only a little mad with Ed that he’d left this til last when I was already getting full because this was some of the best pork I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE. Juicy, tender, with incredible flavour, and the breadfruit mash was like velvet. Oh my. I needed a little rest, and another glass of wine whilst contemplating how I would finish this plate. (I privately congratulated myself at this point for wearing a loose-fitting dress). But finish it I did (I had help), and then it was on to dessert – obviously utilising my altogether separate ‘dessert stomach’ to fit this in.
The meal lost none of its momentum in the ‘wow’ stakes when it came to the dessert. We were spoiled with 3 different dishes – the beautiful satiny buttermilk pannacotta was first, made with local nalo meli honey and served with fresh tropical fruit, and some figs from the tree right outside the restaurant. We then tried the ‘financier’ (from the friand family of French baked goods) made with browned butter and almond meal, and served with prunes which had been stewed in Earl Grey tea, and some whipped creme fraiche. I’m still dreaming about this fluffy treasure 3 weeks later. The piece de resistance for me however, being a self-confessed chocoholic, was the stunning salted dark chocolate pretzel tart which had wafer-thin slices of candied tumeric on top. The tart base was made up of crushed pretzels, offering its saltiness as the perfect foil to the rich, smooth dark chocolate filling. The tumeric was hot and sweet all at once and it just rocked. This was a flavour explosion of the highest order and one of the best things I have ever put in my cake hole.
I cannot rate this restaurant highly enough, and it was truly one of the highlights of our visit to Hawaii. The hospitality at most of the places we ate was excellent but Town’s waitress Randi took it to a whole new level of awesome, to the point where when we left we were hugging her goodbye. For me, Town feels like that place that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you’ll feel right at home. And I can’t wait for Ed Kenney to come Down Under in March 2013 so we can return the favour, take him out and show him our town.
“Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always”. Amen.
I’ve already outed myself as a card-carrying member of the Joost Bakker fan club, after visiting the Greenhouse in Perth in 2011, and then hanging out daily at its temporary cousin at the Melbourne Food and Wine Fesitval in March this year (see here) so it will come as no surprise that I’ve been waiting eagerly for his latest project ‘Silo by Joost’ to open its doors on Hardware Street.
Silo is setting the benchmark for a waste-free sustainable cafe model – there are no bins, milk is delivered in bulk, flour is milled on site for all their baking needs, and of course all the suppliers are local, organic and seasonal.
The kitchen is headed up by Douglas McMaster, who holds the Young British Foodies award for ‘Most Irreverant Chef’, and you can watch him at work as the kitchen and communal table are all part of the same space, giving you an up-close and personal introduction to your meal. Currently on the breakfast menu are coddled eggs with mushrooms, house-made muesli, porridge, toast, shortbread, and yoghurt, not to mention some sensational chocolate treats (breakfast dessert, anyone?). Silo are also doing evenings from Thursday to Saturday, with salads, grains and soup, and a nice selection of good local plonk including beer, wine and cider.
Silo is run by the irrepressibly enthusiastic Danny Colls (ex Cafe Racer, Postal Hall, Liaison, Federal Coffee Palace etc). If you happen to catch Danny at Silo he’s more than happy to give you a tour, and the passion he has for this latest venture is infectious. It was also lovely to see the same staff who worked so happily at the Greenhouse at MFWF this year, serving up breakfast at Silo the morning we visited, every bit as excited about this beautiful new venture as I certainly am.
I’ve been banging on about green smoothie goodness for a while now, and here by popular demand is a post dedicated to the what, why, how and where of it all.
Green smoothies are quite simply the result of blending ripe fruit and raw leafy greens together with water.
I like to add lots of other good things to my smoothies, like chia seeds, LSA mix, coconut oil and flaxseed oil, gubinge and maca powder. These collectively do great things for your system like help lower cholesterol, increase metabolism, maximise nutrient absorption, balance hormones, enhance memory function and much more.
In Victoria’s own words, green smoothies are good for you because “greens are the most nutritionally dense food available on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and phytonutrients. What better way to consume them than in a delicious green smoothie? The fresh ripe fruits dominate the flavor of the greens and the absence of any fats maximize the absorption of the nutrients. These two factors make the green smoothie the most epic nutritious concoction the world has seen to date. Adding even one cup of green smoothie a day to one’s existing diet can dramatically improve anyone’s health. And the best part is, nearly everyone already has what they need to make a green smoothie sitting around in their kitchen right now!’
Another health benefit of the green smoothie is that unlike juicing, you actually retain and consume the fibre which is essential for a good digestive system and helps eliminate toxins from the colon.
A really handy tool recommended to me by a mate is the iPhone app from Raw Family, which gives you ideas for green smoothie combinations, as well as the nutritional value of each of the ingredients – you can get the app here.
So down the the basics – how do you make a green smoothie?
You’ll need a blender, some water, and whatever (preferably seasonal) fruit and fresh leafy greens you fancy.
The types of greens we eat at home (and grow ourselves) are: spinach, lettuce, bok choy, choy sum, kale, and silverbeet (chard). And if we don’t grow it, we buy it from the lovely folk at Ceres, or at one of our local farmers’ markets – see here for your nearest one. We also like to shop at Organic Gertrude in Fairfield, who are kind enough to provide information on where all their fruit and veg comes from, and you can see how many food miles your goodies travelled to get to you!
You don’t need a big garden to grown your own vegies – friends of ours have built an amazing greenhouse on the balcony of their apartment, and we’ve gone down the permaculture route, using existing wine barrels containing our lime and lemon trees, and have planted all our greens around the base of the citrus plants.
<Insert local produce rant here> I’m passionate about supporting local business and farmers, and avoid buying fruit, vegetables, meat (or dairy if I can help it) from the supermarkets. I’d rather know where my food comes from, and thanks to the most excellent work from the good folk at the Victorian Farmers Market Association, as well as the Locavore Edition with their Field Guide to Victorian Produce, it has never been easier or more enjoyable to connect with your local producers and get your food on the the day it was harvested. There’s also the added bonus of being able to sleep at night, knowing the wonderful people who spent their time growing your food are being fairly paid for doing so. <end rant>
Which fruit you select is entirely up to you, but the ones we have had the best results with include bananas, pineapple, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and some dates for extra creaminess. We try at all times to utilise what’s in season, with the exception of pineapples and bananas which we use year round.
It’s important not to overdo it on the fruit, since fructose is still sugar – but a few well chosen pieces will have your smoothie tasting super-delicious, and you won’t even realise you’ve just drunk a cupful of spinach. And take it from me, if my 7 year old is happy to drink one of these bad boys every single day, then you won’t have a problem downing some of this green goodness!
It’s usual to start with the fruit, so roughy chop your fruit, only peel the obvious ones like bananas etc, core your apples and pineapple etc, take out pips from peaches and so on. Add fruit to the blender jug with at least 1 cup of water. Now is the time to throw in all your awesome additions like the chia seeds, coconut oil etc. Start blending, and once it’s nice and smooth start adding your spinach, lettuce etc. Cucumber is also a fantastic smoothie ingredient. Again, don’t peel it.
Listed below are some ‘beginner’ combinations to get you started – once you get a feel for it, you’ll know what works and what you like, so just experiment and have fun with it. Just remember to rotate your greens and don’t eat the same ones every day. There are many to choose from, so it isn’t hard to do.
1 cup berries (any kind), 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/4 inch fresh ginger, water
1/2 bunch lettuce, 1 cup strawberries, 2 bananas, water
2 big handfuls mixed baby greens, 1 pears, 1 mango, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 handful of spinach, 2 bananas, 1 apple, 1 cup water
1 cup spinach and 1 pear, 1 cup water
Once you’ve cut your teeth on these, start getting stuck into the chard, kale, choy sum, etc. You’ll love it!
Some more great recipes from Victoria Boutenko, can be found here. There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to green smoothie goodness, and everyone has recipes to share so get googling!
Here are a few to get you started:
The Greenhouse by Joost has been delivered into my lap so to speak – assembled literally outside my building, so that I pass it 3 or 4 times a day. I’ve been delighted to be able to sneak a quick piccolo in each morning before work, and just soak up the green-ness of it all, enjoying the warm welcome of a cheerful team who appear as happy to be there as I am, as well of course as admiring the work of infamous Iron Chef/Perth Greenhouse/Danish master shoulder-rubbing Matt Stone and his killer ink. For a more detailed post on the actual Greenhouse concept see my previous entry here.
Lunch has inspired a second post, just simply because I love it, it’s too pretty not to take pictures of, and I can’t get enough of the place.
We started off with some sublimely refreshing drinks, a house-made lemonade and a ginger ale, served in the ubiquitous jam jars, and decided between us to have the spicy chicken, with quinoa and yoghurt, and the pumpkin, chickpea tagine with green chilli yoghurt.
Both were bursting with flavour, fresh, spicy, healthy and quite perfect in their simplicity. Gorgeous.
Oh, and did I mention you can buy the lovely dishes, coffee cups and glasses at the counter, and take a slice of the green heaven home with you? The philosophy behind the design, according to the man Joost himself, is presenting food in pots and terracotta makes you think back and connect with how your food is grown and where it comes from.
They also have organic cotton t-shirts for sale, emblazoned with ‘green’ messages, including the one I bought which says ‘Imagine buildings that grow food’. Imagine indeed.
If you’ve been anywhere near Queensbridge Square on the Yarra River this week you would have seen a hive of activity as the Greenhouse by Joost was built for this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
Today it is open, and is a magnificent homage to sustainability in its entirety.
From the building materials used, to the food sourcing and production, to its furniture design, it is a lesson in green awesomeness. And the coffee is ACE.
Chef Matt Stone (from the Greenhouse in Perth) will be cooking up a green storm, with a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu using only fresh local ingredients, so local the wheat is being milled on site, and the yoghurt and butter is made from organic milk and cream delivered daily.
There is a gorgeous rooftop garden and bar overlooking the river, full of plants for the kitchen, and herbs line the exterior walls in terracotta pots in a vertical garden. The electricity comes from unrefined canola oil, the walls are formaldehyde-free plywood and the glue is made entirely from soybeans. This place is so sustainable they’re even harvesting human urine to use as crop fertilizer for a farm in Daylesford. I’m probably a little more interested in this than I should be – if you are similarly fascinated, you can read more about this in detail here.
Joost Bakker is the visionary architect of the Greenhouse space, having created the original back in 2008 in Federation Square in Melbourne, and then creating the whole restaurant in Perth.
He is quite simply my HERO, and I’ve never been so proud to be Dutch!!
As anyone who knows me can tell you, my 2 biggest passions are food and sustainability so this has me jumping out of my skin with excitement, much like I did when I first visited the Greenhouse in Perth last year.
The calendar of events for the Greenhouse over the coming weeks is nothing short of senstational, naturally the dinner with great Dane Rene Redzepi is sold out, however there is a veritable smorgasbord of other options to whet your appetite.
I’m booked in for lunch with Rosa Mitchell, for some homestyle Italian cooking on March 14th.
You can view the whole timetable here.
There’s even a free iPhone app for the MFWF which you can download here.
Get involved Melbourne, this one’s going to be HUGE! Much like my waistline after all the eating I’m going to be doing. Buon appetito, y’all!