Sunday, March 28, 2010
When a calendar-flip shows how close Easter holidays is, I guess everyone starts plotting their time off and chocolate stockpiling.
So this weekend, I stopped at two of my favourite chocolatiers to see what holiday-flavoured goodies were on their shelves.
At Kakawa, David and Jin have converted the traditional hot-cross bun into a miniature praline. I'm not a huge fan of the raisin-studded pastry (it always tastes underwhelming but leaves you overstuffed!), but this cocoa version is incredible: the fruit-spiced flavour of the Easter staple is whipped into an airy, choc-perfect ganache. Skip the six-pack of hot-cross buns and get a half-dozen (or more, way way more) of this praline instead.
(Incidentally, new additions at Kakawa include the Muesli Gianduja and Blueberry & Yogurt pralines. In a perfect world, you could get away with living purely off these for breakfast. Especially the Blueberry & Yogurt, which continues to blow my choc-obsessed mind.)
As a fan of Kakawa's pralines, it's dangerous to learn that some of my favourite ganache flavours have been supersized into Easter-egg proportions. Here, the white chocolate shell hides a strawberry filling (I have to monitor doses so I don't overload on its greatness), the milk choc egg hides peanut butter (on standby for PB-loving Will), and the dark one contains both sea salt caramel and a warning from David (wear a splatter-proof bib or napkin before you dig into it, otherwise a laundry emergency may occur).
Over at Boon, Alex and Fanny have introduced their first Filipino-inspired praline, called 'Klara' (based on the literary character, Maria Clara, who embodies the ideal Filipino woman). Its zesty ganache includes a surprising hit of kalamansi lime.
There are also 'flower pot easter eggs', like last year. New additions include tonka-bean, with its sharp, semi-bitter almond-and-vanilla edge and zebra patternry, and tangerine orange for citrus addicts. The excellent green-tea flavour from 2009 has made this year's cast list, too. Each offering is 'shovelled' into a pot with crackly chocolate pebbles. It's the easiest way to cultivate your sweet tooth.
So, Happy Easter countdown to everyone. I hope there's enough sugar on standby to see you through 'til the much-wished-for holiday break.
Shop 5, 147 William St (a few blocks from the Darlinghurst Rd end), Darlinghurst, (02) 9331 8818, www.kakawachocolates.com.au.
Boon Chocolates, 251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 9356 8876, www.boonchocolates.com.au
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
“This is a pie chart describing my favourite bars. And this is a bar graph describing my favourite pies.”
That’s from the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall (Jason Segel) becomes addicted to presenting statistics in graphic form. I wonder what he would think of the Chocolate Pie Chart from Australian label Mary & Matt? The duo also makes a Neopolitan chocolate bar, which is possibly the best thing I’ve heard since I serially hogged that one fat stripe of strawberry flavour from the ice cream tub as a 10-year-old.
Both are available online through Melbourne-based Third Drawer Down.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Sometimes things seem to happen in hyperspeed. You go from never having heard of a place and within a day, countless highly food-savvy people are happily talking it up. The place is Bloodwood in Newtown and though it's only been open a week, it's already gotten online endorsement from Gourmet Traveller's Pat Nourse, TwoThousand's Alex Vitlin, Australian Gourmet Pages' Franz Scheurer and Time Out Sydney's Myffy Rigby.
And yes, it lives up to its "worth the fuss" status.
The interior is ultra-cool, with birdcage lights, chairs in odd places, and half a door as a shop sign outside. The credit for that goes to Newtown-based designer Matt Woods, whose background in sustainable architecture is warmly reflected in the mix of industrial and reclaimed decor. The highly noticeable lights at the entrance though, were done by Melbourne's Volker Haug, who has a whipsmart way of christening his work - 'Rudolf' is the name of the robotic antlers caught in a grid of yellow squares, and 'Cool Bananas' are the slanting pendants that poke out from the opposite wall.
The food, too, is worth your attention. Will can be a tough judge when it comes to dining out, but the Duck Sausage with Spiced Plum Sauce ($32) earnt an instant "this is amazing!" endorsement from him. And although he backed out of properly trying the Polenta Chips with Gorgonzola Sauce ($9), I can say they're a golden-fried delight.
Lots of people walked by Bloodwood, double-taking when they realised it was a new place. Many asked for the menu and then walked out - it seemed like they were willing it to be a cafe with breakfast-heavy offerings. And yes, having Mushrooms in Red Wine with Confit Eschalots ($17) is a pretty heavy start to the day. But Newtown has lots of joints where you can grab eggs on toast; cool, small restaurants with character, personality and a menu with pedigree (thanks to ex-Claude's chefs Jo Ward, Claire van Vuuren and Mitch Grady) in this area are much rarer. This is an addition to King Street that we're amped about getting to know a lot better.
Bloodwood, 416 King St, Newtown NSW (02) 9557 7699, www.bloodwoodnewtown.com
Food preservative is kind of a dirty word, but when we're talking about watercolours, then it's not likely to lead to parental frowns or dangerously wound-up children.
Melbourne artist Dawn Tan has a lovely habit of recording what she's eaten with line drawings and paintbrushes. I first discovered the work of Melbourne artist Dawn Tan through the excellent Hello Sandwich blog. Her latest zine documents a whirlwind, marathon-eating trip to Sydney.
Have you always had a habit of illustrating your meals?
I think for a few years now, I've been enjoying the process of drawing my meals – I remember starting out with just ink drawings and smiley faces over my rice grains. It was only last year that I started adding colour into my happy food drawings. I love food and drawing; so to be able to combine both is really rewarding for me!
Tell me about your Sydney zine. What were the dining highlights? Most unusual things you tried?
My Sydney zine was actually my own itinerary. I wanted to make it fun and exciting for my boyfriend and I – and being both lovers of food, I decided it would be a three-day, short-and-sweet, eat-all-you-can sort of trip. After finishing up the entire little guide, I decided it was a bit too useful for just a one-time use. And so, I decided to share it and reproduce it as a zine! This way, more people can benefit from it!
There wasn't much unusual stuff I tried. Being Asian, I think Asian food is 100 times weirder (stuff like Frog Leg Congee, Turtle Soup, Alligator Meat, all of which I don't dare try!).
Did you do lots of research before hitting Sydney or did you wander around and pick out what looked good – do you have a good "nice-place-to-eat" radar?
I've been to Sydney only once before my November trip. And all I could remember was all the touristy stuff like the Opera House, Darling Harbour, The Rocks, etc. I didn't get to venture out and try all the yummy food places I wanted to.
So, of course, I did quite a bit of planning before visiting Sydney again this time round. Three days is not a lot of time, so I had to make sure I had a fool-proof-eat-all-I-can-plan. And we (my boyfriend and I) pretty much stuck to our plan, even though we ate like eight meals a day! We made sure we popped by Glebe and Surry Hills, the two places we'd heard so much about!
What's on your to-go-back-and-try list?
I really really enjoyed the hot dogs I got at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. They're affordable and good. And there's just something about eating hot dogs, while sitting near the water, watching huge ships dock!
What's next on your drawing list?
If you know my work, you would know that I not only do paintings of my food. I sometimes make mountain paintings with glitter powder and oil paints. And at other times, I make pencil drawings of animals too. So right now, I'm currently working on building a large-scale patterned mountain region with just the use of paper. I think it's going to be lots of fun!
You can find Dawn Tan's Sydney food zine online here and keep up-to-date with her projects on her blog.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
It sounds like macaron diehards are wishing they could undo the out-of-control popularity of their favourite treat – if this article in today's Wall Street Journal is anything to go by, anyway. There's always something compelling about a foodfight – and this one especially, when fans are so fired up about seeing an artisan pastry become factory-produced, frozen and then dispatched to McDonald's to be sold.
Even though the article focuses on the U.S. and French affair with the sweet, I guess some people here might draw parallels with the macaron hype that followed Australian Masterchef last year. Certainly, it made it tough to go to Adriano Zumbo at times, especially when you lined up with the one-track obsession of getting a box of Salted Popcorn Macarons, only to get to the front and find basically crumbs left.
On the upside, it meant almost every patisserie had a colour-deck of ganache-filled treats in its window. One easy and queue-free place I often get macarons is St Germain Patisserie in Redfern. The range is small, but I find it hard to pass up the Mango, Raspberry and Peanut Butter flavours. And the price is a bargain (six for $9, at last check). Who needs Maccas, really?
St Germain Patisserie, 88 Rosehill Street, corner Gibbons Street, Redfern, 9319 7161