Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show

Do you ever go out to shows, markets, fairs with your other half? And feel niggled that there’s someone looking bored and uncomfortable at your heels whilst you are trying to snatch a piece of chocolate, or talk to the maker about their wares? And then you leave before you really want to?

And that’s why I went to the Good Food & Wine Show last Friday by myself. Best. Move. Ever. (Sorry, Mr Eleanor.) I was wonderfully free to roam about at my will, answerable to no one, sliding an arm in between groups pressed together around stands to pilfer a morsel of cheese, chocolate, olives and more and then disappearing to the next stall.

2016-06 June

Eating with your eyes – Sweets for Tilly

Food envy - maybe one day they'll make a gf version

Consumed by terrible food envy – maybe one day they’ll make a gf version

Cheese Alley

Many a happy hour in Cheese Alley

Matt Moran

Matt Moran in the Good Food Theatre

Wine

Don’t forget there’s food too

This is a tiny selection of the things that went in my mouth:

  • Fix & Fogg – peanut butter makers out of NZ with great ethical credentials, producing real, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter with no ‘dead orangutan’ (ie palm) oil. Get your hands on the Smoke and Fire flavour
  • Grandvewe – this is real cheese, this is what cheese should be. A piece of beautiful soft, wash-rinded Brebichon is awaiting my attention in the fridge.
  • Kez’s Kitchen – I had a disappointing experience with a gf florentine from these folks once, but the gf Vienna eclairs and melting moments are crumbly, buttery-tasting and just delicious
  • Macaron de Paris – the first thing I ate when I arrived was a butterscotch and macadamia macaron. Since the commercialisation of the macaron, innumerable disappointing versions have started to appeared in cafes and delis. So don’t risk it; eat these ones instead – crisp and then soft, intensely flavoured and big enough to make you feel a little bit naughty
  • Nick’s Beef Jerky – I’m allergic to beef but Mr Eleanor was very happy with the 10 flavours sampler bag
  • Smelly Cheese Shop – I can’t stay away from these people. They are the reason I came back with so much cheese which is now stinking out the fridge. With artisan cheeses from all around the world, what’s not to love?
  • Sticky Balsamic – syrupy balsamic vinegar in a variety of fruit-infused flavours which are crying out to be poured over ice cream, but are also fabulous in more conventional glazes and dressings. I wish now that I’d picked up a bottle of the fig flavour, but my arms were dropping off by this point.
  • Hartshorn Distillery – the world’s first vodka made with leftover sheep whey from Grandvewe. Sounds odd. Ok, it sounds a bit yuck, but if it puts you off then good; that’s more for the rest of us. It is smooth and clean with vanilla notes. A really impressive product.
  • Josef Chromy – with both modern, easy drinking and more complex French styles of sparkling wine, a taste took me straight back to the beautiful Tamar Valley and our Tasmanian road-trip
  • Melbourne Martini – it’s an espresso martini in a jar. Only in Melbourne 🙂
  • Gin Fever masterclass  with Four Pillars, a local distillery with a tasting room in Healesville which has been on my list of things to do for a few weeks. We were treated to their Rare Dry, Navy, Spiced Negroni and new Bloody Shiraz gins. These are distinctly modern styles to my traditional English palate, being smoother and a little sweeter. Yes. That’s just what I need. Gin that’s even easier to drink.

The show in Melbourne is done for another year but if you want to go, it’s doing the rounds and will be in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane over the next few months.
But for goodness sake, go by yourself.

Gluten free bread or gluten free polystyrene?

UPDATED

I recently bought a loaf of gluten free bread that was so utterly revolting (like eating crumbly polysterene) that I immediately put the whole thing in the bin. I know! That smarted … a LOT. I should have turned it into breadcrumbs but I was having a tantrum.

Luckily for them I can’t remember which brand it was. But that also means that I might make the same mistake again. So I thought I’d do a quick round up of the gf breads available in Coles and Woolies. I know we all like to think we only shop at local, sustainable farmers’ markets but, admit it, that just ain’t true all of the time. Sometimes you just need to buy a loaf of bread in a hurry.

Coles Simply gluten free bread

Coles Simply gluten free bread

There are loads of gf breads on the market these days – these are the main culprits

  • Burgen UPDATE: a good product, soft and moist if a little cakey in texture, but I’d buy it again at that’s the main thing!
  • Helgas – very good, a go-to product. A good texture, soft and moist
  • Coles Simply – good, a slightly underdone texture (which I love – it’s certainly not dry!), makes great toast. UPDATE: Had another loaf, sort of wish I hadn’t … it was dry, dry, dry. Gives me concerns about about the consistency and QC of this product …
  • Country Life – I think this might have been the offending brand. I’m not quite sure but I’m sure as hell not prepared to take the risk
  • Genius – untested, in the frozen section … and at nearly 10 bucks a loaf, pr’lly not going there!
  • Purebred – my go-to for burger and finger rolls. A fairly good, soft, palatable texture, perhaps a teeny bit dry. The burger rolls sometimes (usually!) have a big bubble of air at the top, but I can forgive that if it means I get to have a burger!
  • Woolworths Free From – quite, quite excellent! Soft and springy, robust enough to make sandwiches and, get this, moist enough that you don’t even need to toast it! I know you don’t believe me, but I wouldn’t lie to you.

However, if you are on the east side of Melbourne I must insist that you make a special point of going to this place:

Just Yummy

It is an entirely gluten free bakery (whoop!) Their bread is so good that the first time I ate it I was a bit scared it wasn’t gf. I don’t know how they’ve done it. Some kind of dark magic perhaps? Don’t question, just eat!

Flavour matching

As of last month we’ve been in ‘Straya for 4 years. A few days after we moved into our new house, a friend of mine came to visit for a week on his way around the country.

geography-875350_1280

Whilst I was still reeling from leaving my job, family and friends, moving house, moving continent, shipping my cats across the planet, finding a new house, moving into that, and trying to find another job, he was in full tourist mode and had done stacks of research.

Oh, and he’s a bit of a foodie.

So one day we ended up at the Richmond Hill Larder. I love that place! They have a proper cheese room – the kind where, when you walk in, you’re hit with the smell of a thousand fusty gym socks. It’s amazing!

They stock a massive range of cheese, a great deal of it from Europe. Which is just as well. ‘Straya has, er, not historically had a great reputation for cheese. Things are getting better in that department though: Milawa Cheese Company, Red Hill Cheese, Blue Bay Cheese and Main Ridge Dairy to name a few.

goats cheese

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a post about cheese. Although I’m sure you can understand why I got a little side-tracked 😀

Richmond Hill Larder does a wine and cheese matched tasting plate that my friend and I shared. There was one combo that blew my mind: goats cheese and champagne. It was freakin’ phenomenal. The cheese elevated the wine to new heights; the wine made the cheese into something new.

That’s when I started thinking about flavour matching, but was interested in it from a scientific point of view – why is it that aspects of some food match so well, or contrast so perfectly? I read Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Hervé This. Ok, so that was a bit too much science and not enough food.

But then I found this site:

logo-foodpairing-pink

You pick an ingredient and the site will identify which ingredients combine well based on their aromas, on the principle that ingredients match when they have aromas in common.

But it turns out this principle only really address half the topic. It works on the basis of European cooking where like goes with like, but in Asian cooking, ingredients are matched on the basis that they contrast: the old yin and yang

Yin_and_Yang.svg

Daily Mail: Why do Western and Asian foods taste different?

Nature: Flavor network and the principles of food pairing

I did NOT know that – how interesting!

Matching ingredients on the basis that they contrast is not my cultural background, but I try to give the salt/sweet/hot/sour some consideration when dreaming up my week’s menu. There are some flavour matches that I’ve bumped into along the way that have blown my mind. And they look so inconspicuous:

  • Goats’ cheese and champagne – just go to the Richmond Hill Larder, just go. You can thank me later
  • Mushroom and truffle – keep it simple with a heavily mushroomed risotto liberally doused with truffle oil
  • Rhubarb and orange – get the orange into a rhubarb crumble wherever you can: a little juice and zest on the fruit, perhaps some Cointreau, or mixed peel in the crumble mix
  • Coffee and maple syrup – coffee crème brûlée topped with a maple syrup crack

I was thinking about the coffee maple syrup crème brûlée the other day. I’ve never made it and I’m not likely too. We just don’t ever have puddings. I realised that I’d rather have a drink than a pudding. Actually I’d rather have a cocktail. Oooo! A coffee and maple syrup cocktail – now you’re talking.

Will report back on Friday!

Diet discrimination

Yesterday I went for lunch with a friend to one of Melbourne’s iconic cafés. Yes, of course it was hip. Menu was of the usual Melbourne style. Whilst not marked up as such, several items did not seem to contain bread, plus they offered gluten free bread as an extra so I thought I was set.

We both went for the crayfish sandwich in an ashed bun. But when I asked that mine be made with gluten free bread, the response was:

‘Ah no, it’s a signature dish sooooo …. ”
‘Oh, OK,’ I said brightly. (I snap to positive not negative.) ‘What about the kingfish?’
‘Yep, that’s gluten free. You won’t be disappointed!’

When it arrived

a jewelled plate of heirloom tomato, beautifully ripe avocado, a symphony of herbs and a few small but perfectly poached pieces of kingfish, with a scattering of potato crisps

it was indeed a sight for sore eyes.

And then I looked at my friends little mountain of a sandwich – a golden bun (with a little dusting of black shit on top – I guess that was the ‘signature’) and a piled-high creamy crayfish filling.

And I felt discriminated against. I do realise that this is a teeny bit of an overreaction for this particular circ. I’m not being asked to eat in a different dining room, or being insulted or abused …

To makes matters worse, my friend mmmmmm-ed her way through her sandwich but I realised that mine was both lacking in flavour and calories. I would reckon on about 250 for the lot. That’s just under 10c per calorie.

I had to have a piece of cake when I got home.

Well, I guess it’s not all bad then!

Zero waste kitchen

waste

If you search google for “zero waste” and “zero waste kitchen”, as of today, you will get 2,270,000 and 7,270 hits respectively. The zero waste ethos is a hot topic and folks are starting to look more deeply at how this concept can be applied to the kitchen.

I would liken zero wasting to veganism. To achieve a truly zero waste kitchen, you need to be committed, driven and have plenty of time on your hands. But, as with vegetarianism, waste reduction falls on a continuum – from the thoughtless and wasteful who use disposable plates and cutlery on a daily basis (yes, those people really exist) to the truly admirable likes of Lauren Singer, a young woman whose last 2 years of landfill waste fit into a single mason jar.

Trash is for Tossers

But every little bit helps and I guess each of us just need to decide where we fall on this scale, and do what we can to reduce our contribution to that revolting global pile of trash, and minimise our impact on the Earth’s precious environment and finite resources.

Although I absolutely NEVER throw away food – those carrots can be soaked in water to restore their vigour, cut the furry bits off the cheddar, loose veg at the market never go in their own plastic bag – I consider myself a complete amateur when it comes to waste reduction.

I’ve gotta start somewhere, so I think it’s time for back to basics – every time I open the kitchen bin, I will ask:

What did I do to create that waste?

I’m sure from that will fall some obvious waste reduction ideas. You can find helpful advice for ingenious and resourceful approaches waste reduction on some great sites:

Embarrassingly, I don’t compost. I’ve always used that we rent as my excuse. Not good enough. So I need to get out in the garden to sort that out. But please forgive me if it takes a few weeks to get to it – bloody freezing in Melbourne at the moment.