30 November 2010

Are the Celebrity Chefs selling out these days? (30 Nov 2010)

A fresh perspective

Every time I see Curtis Stone, the chef of supposedly all things seasonal, on a Coles ad or MasterChef which is sponsored by Coles I have a little cringe because I wonder if this means he's somewhat sold out. I bet his never walked into the fruit and vegetable aisles in Randwick Coles to spot the sad looking bruised and battered produce I've seen lying around — and I've lost count how many times I've noticed moldy strawberries still left on the shelf. Anyone wanna do a quality spot check? It's nothing like you see on the MasterChef pantry that's for sure — I wish it was though.

It now looks like Woolworths is getting in on the act and using Celebrity Chefs brought to the Australian household limelight on MasterChef to advertise their supermarket as a destination for all your Christmas food shopping. I seriously wonder if Margaret Fulton, Tobie Puttock and Guy Grossi really pick Woolworths for Christmas or is it more the other way around with Woolworths picking them as their feel-better-about-buying-from-a-huge-supermarket-rather-than-your-local-independent-butcher-or-farmers-market-promotional-ambassadors. I would have thought professional chefs would be buying directly from farmers and suppliers so they have more control over what they're really getting and serving their customers and building on a trusting relationship?

I also wonder if these Fresh Food Chefs actually cooked the pavlova, turkey and leg of ham they're holding or is it just all advertising props made by food technicians and food stylists. Winners are grinners as they say and someone must be winning through all this but I doubt it's the hard working farmers. That's my gripe and whinge for the day.

Dear Reader, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Katz's Delicatessen: Pastrami Sandwich on Rye, New York (26 Oct 2010)

205 East Houston Street, New York 10002

I'll have what she's having!

If I had to pick one foodie highlight when I recently visited New York it would have to be this place. It doesn't seem to get more authentic than this and even though it's probably become more commercial due to the movie When Harry Met Sally and seeing all the celebrity photos plastered all over the walls it still exceeded my expectations of how good it was — Meg Ryan might have summed it up perfectly with her emotions. As you walk in you get a food ticket which is marked depending on what you order. There's a few cutting stations for the pastrami and they give you a little sample to taste to make sure you're happy with the meat.

The pastrami is sliced beautifully thin and packed into the sandwich with a tasty mustard. The meat was so tasty, moist and melt-in-your-mouth that I would simply describe it as succulent. Someone needs to open one of these places in Sydney — please! The Pastrami Sandwich on Rye ($14.95, $16.28 inc tax) was more expensive than I was expecting but I think worth it and I loved the pickles on the side. There's enough meat in one sandwich to possibly share between two but it's very tempting to keep it all to yourself. If you order anything else on the menu then you possibly might be disappointed because their signature dish is the pastrami. Service was pretty efficient once you worked out the system of how to order and if you like how your sandwich maker made your sandwich then you can give them a tip.

PROS: Possibly the best pastrami sandwich on rye in the world, Open 365 days, Tasty and moist pastrami
CONS: More expensive than I was expecting but worth it, Can take a while waiting to be served when busy
MUST TRY: Pastrami Sandwich on Rye, Living in New York

Pastrami Sandwich on Rye ($14.95)

Juicy thin slices of tasty pastrami = food heaven!

For the best go to Katz's Delicatessen


Slicing up the pastrami

Plenty of seating but still packed

Celebrity wall — if it's good enough for Johnny Depp then it's good enough for me.

When Harry Met Sally crew

The spot where Harry met Sally — check out the sign above.

When Harry Met Sally famous scene

Open 365 days a year — now that's dedication.

29 November 2010

Harts Pub: Serving Australian Hand Crafted Beers, The Rocks (28 Nov 2010)

Corner of Essex & Gloucester Street, The Rocks NSW 2000

Beers with an Aussie Hart

At Harts Pub, the home of Rocks Brewing Company, our mission is to provide Sydney with an experience different to any other pub. Serving Australia's best hand crafted beer, rotating through our 12 taps, there will always be something new to experience.

A friends casual birthday drinks brings me to this cosy pub where there's a definite fascination with famous quotes printed all around the walls which adds a welcoming humor to the place. I wish I could say the same for the bar service received upstairs tonight which came across as somewhat disinterested and not particularly friendly — perhaps the young woman didn't really want to be working there that day? Browsing the menu for a bite to eat the funny named 'Hart Stopper' Steak Sandwich ($22) looked inviting but I felt it was a bit on the expensive side so I opted for Cajun Croc ($16) which was crocodile strips tossed in Cajun spices, shallow fried and served with a tangy remoulade. It was quite a spicy and tasty dish and the crocodile meat tasted rather like chicken to me. Beer battered wedges ($9) seemed rather pricey but actually worked out to be OK because the serving size was quite large. It's served with an interesting side of tomato cider chutney and Cribbs Porter mustard sauce rather than the usual combo of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. A Bowl of fries ($9) is also quite generous in size and freshly cooked to a nice crispy finish as hoped.

The hand crafted beer menu reminds me of the boutique selection available at The Local Taphouse and perhaps to a lesser extent at Yulli's. You won't find your basic VB, Carlton and Tooheys here and I believe they're hoping to expand their selection to include some European beers in the future. The main meals aren't the cheapest around town as far as pub food goes ranging from $22 up to $36 for a 400 g Rib Eye so hopefully the quality of the dishes can justify the higher prices. The Herb Crusted Lamb Cutlets ($30) and Kangaroo Skewers ($24) sound pretty tempting for next time. Large plasma screens seem to be in every room so you won't miss out on the cricket when it's on if that floats your boat.

PROS: Australian boutique beers available on tap, Cosy decor, Courtyard available, Interesting food menu, Beer tasting paddle
CONS: You won't find your mass produced VBs and Carltons here, No free street parking in the area
MUST TRY: More hand crafted beers

Cajun Croc: Crocodile strips tossed in Cajun spices, shallow fried and served with a tangy remoulade ($16)

Beer battered wedges served with tomato cider chutney and Cribbs Porter mustard sauce ($9)

Bowl of fries served with tomato cider chutney but changed to tomato sauce ($9)

12 Australian hand crafted beers on tap

Beer paddle $10 for 4 tastings

Upstairs bar

Upstairs seating areas

Downstairs seating

Interesting fact about Margaret Fulton

Quotes on wall

28 November 2010

Campos Coffee: The Cupping Room, Newtown (27 Nov 2010)

193 Missenden Road, Newtown NSW 2042

Coffee aroma-therapy

Campos Specialty Coffee have launched Sydney’s very first Cupping Room at their flagship store in Newtown. ‘Cupping’ is the term which describes the ‘evaluation’ process that happens when coffee beans are bought and sold direct from growers around the world, a concept which is explained in each session.

Thanks to Caroline Bligh from Cav Con who organised a cupping session
for me
with managing director Will Young of Campos Coffee to see what it's all about. For only $8.80 per person, groups of 2-8 people are talked through the process over 45 minutes which includes tasting up to 5 different coffee beans. We learnt Campos personally source their coffee beans from around the world
which are then used to make their own blend of coffee. They focus on buying from only sustainable coffee plantations which are both environmental and fair to the community that's producing the coffee beans.

Personally I'm not a huge coffee drinker but I found the session very educational and it gave me a much better insight into the philosophy of Campos and the process involved in acquiring coffee beans. After the session I tried an Affogato ($5) in the downstairs cafe. I noticed it's made with plenty of Serendity Belgian White Chocolate ice cream. To save time the ice cream is prescooped into glasses and kept frozen in the freezer. Because the ice cream sits firmly on the bottom of the glass I found it didn't mix as easily with the coffee like the one at Cafe Sopra which I still prefer. The Macchiato ($3) had a robust depth of flavour but I thought it also had a slightly bitter aftertaste — perhaps the sudden afternoon rush affected the quality? I'll have to return to try a flat white, cappuccino and mocha to compare to other places.

Here's a video I found on youtube which basically goes through the process of cupping to give you a good idea of what we did in the session — except none of us really did the spitting.

Other food blog reviews:

PROS: A better appreciation of how coffee is selected and its origins, Intimate group, Informative and interesting class, Efficient cafe service, Coffee specialists
CONS: Standing only in the cupping session, Limited seating in the downstairs cafe when busy, Can get overly crowded and noisy at peak times in the cafe
MUST TRY: More coffee to compare to other places

Managing director Will Young takes the coffee cupping class on a journey of origins and appreciation

Examine the coffee beans

Samples of coffee beans to smell (left to right): Ethiopian Lekempti, PNG Marawaka, Indian Monsoon, Kenyan Tembo, Basic IGA supermarket packaged coffee

Add hot water to infuse the coffee beans

Inhale the aromatics

Break the surface crust with a spoon and inhale aromatics

Scrap away the surface scum

Taste by slurping quickly

The Cupping Room sessions and info

Affogato ($5)

Macchiato ($3)

Campos Superior coffee blend

Service counter when not busy

Service counter when really busy — gets a bit chaotic

Limited seating at the back of cafe

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