Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Lab, Anne-Louise Dadak
Exquisite Corpse Recipe Book, Clare Flynn
Have you always had an interest in food?
My goodness, yes! I think I have to blame my upbringing for my love of food – my grandmother described us kids as a "league of nations": our grandparents represent a heady mix of Italian, German, Austrian, Slovenian, Norwegian, Irish, English and Russian-Latvian; for me, the strongest connection I have to these cultures is through food. Cooking, eating and sharing food is easily my longest love-affair, and I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from feeding folks.
This is your second exhibition (having launched in December with home&company), So why Food&company for this second show?
From a personal perspective, good food and great company are two of the best things about being alive. &company is the name of our design studio and is a reflection of the fundamentally collaborative nature of what we do: helping emerging object-designers get their work made and out, and presenting creative opportunities (like this show) for making and sharing new work. Our first range of products (currently being prototyped) are food-focused designs, so it made sense to us to open up the conversation to a broader mix of artists and designers, as well as foodies, chefs, and arts institutions. It's grown into quite a celebration!
James Parry and the apples that were 'blowdried' before serving
It's pretty impressive that you got Daniel Puskas and James Parry (award-winning chefs formerly of Oscillate Wildly, now at Sepia and Manly Pavilion respectively) to create treats for the opening night. It was pretty interesting to see them try to finish 'cooking' the apples with a hairdryer, too! Can you tell me how you got them involved, and what fascinating things they ended up creating for opening night?
One of the most interesting things about &company is that it's glued together by so many wonderful people with diverse talents and connections – it's amazing the people your friends know when you put the word out that you're doing a show! I met Daniel (properly) for the first time at a friend’s dinner party (I thought she was terribly brave to make a feast for a hatted chef!). There, I cornered him and invited him to come on board. He seemed torn between intrigue and horror; all the usual trappings of a kitchen were absent from the proposal – there were no facilities to work with, and they, the chefs, would be on display before our guests!
Fortunately, his partner is a fairly persuasive lady, and suddenly we had two award-winning chefs making magic in our Design Lab. We were treated to instant ice-cream (made by pouring liquid nitrogen into the ice-cream mix!) and little apples dipped in a mineral that amplifies the hairdryer's heat – shrivelled skins revealed perfectly cooked fruit inside! We can't wait to see what happens when Daniel and James realise their dream to open their own restaurant together!
Daniel Puskas preparing ice cream with liquid nitrogen
Vert Design's work can be seen at Gaffa Gallery, but how did you come across Lucy Hall (an intern from Proef) and Chris The (chef/owner of Black Star Pastry), who are all part of the main talks?
In our free talk series, we only invited presenters that we really wanted to listen to. Lucy Hall is a good friend from uni, who returned a couple of weeks ago from a year in the Netherlands. Proef is a fascinating Eating Design Studio in Amsterdam, that combines seriously tasty food with a very strong conceptual design process... [Marije Vogelzang, who runs Proef, does fascinating things with food: she’s made a meal look like a black-and-white photograph, fashioned necklaces from sliced carrots and edible plates out of bread dough; in a collaboration with the Historical Museum of Rotterdam, she took World War II veterans down memory lane by serving them food that many of them had not had since going off to battle]. I'm really curious to find out what the internship entailed, and how the studio works!
Tea lights, Elizabeth Reed
I was introduced to Black Star Pastry on a jaunt in Newtown with my assistant curator, Anne-Louise Dadak. I grew up on Austrian cakes and strudels, so I am a serious pastry snob, and Black Star did not disappoint. It's divinely good, the coffee, the pastry ... The rosewater cake and raspberry galette are both a bit phenomenal, but the spinach & mushroom pie and brie & radish baguette also hit the spot! I think I may have to pop in tomorrow morning.
Tea set, Rochelle Pauw
Talking to Chris has been really interesting – you start to realise the extent to which food-thinking overlaps design-thinking. The decisions a chef/owner makes about the style of food, the approach to presentation, even the interior of the bakery, similarly reflects the way a designer aims to tell a story through their work – both are craftspeople working with aesthetics, function and experience.
Vert Design was a pleasant coincidence. I'd seen the studio’s work at Melbourne's State of Design Festival, but nothing was labelled at the show. I had some wonderful but anonymous photos of Andrew's water jugs and it wasn't 'til I went into Gaffa that I realised who was responsible for the beautiful tableware! So again, it was through loose personal connections that these wonderful people have heard about our show and very kindly come on board.
Milkskin, Harriet Watts
What's next for &company?
An awful lot – we're pretty good at keeping busy, and we're always on the look out for new and interesting projects to work on! We just held a design workshop with chef Tony Bilson, and design curator/writer Grace Cochrane, which was great. Right after the show closes on May 4, we are hosting a share-shop at Finders Keepers at Carriageworks on May 7 and 8; we're presenting works by independent designers as well as some limited edition &company samples, we'd love you to come and visit! Keep an eye out for our first food-related homewares in select stores over the coming months. We present a couple of exhibitions a year, so if you're a little interested, shoot us an email to join our mailing list, or check us out on Facebook and at &company.
Exquisite Corpse Recipe Book, Clare Flynn
The Flourishing, Gemma O'Brien
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Like most ordinary diners, I haven't been to many restaurants in the world's top 100. I always like reading the list though – in the same way you might enjoy reading a catalogue of beautiful art you can't afford.
I also like how it's a great chance to trade front-row stories with people who have been lucky enough to go to the first or third or 10th-best place to dine in the globe. Like when Susannah described the sensation of having the Watermelon Carpaccio at Mugaritz or Joanna told me about El Bulli and its 30-plus dishes (some designed for just one or two bites) – including a sheet of ice sprinkled with mint and sugar, that you then break up to eat.
Locally, Tetsuya's is a stayer on the list (even if it has tumbled from its Top 5 best position), and while I had a fun dinner there for my last birthday, one of my favourite-ever food experiences cost a fraction of that.
The last time I saved enough euro-exchangeable dollars to go to Paris, I had a lovely lunch at a bistro near the Bastille. It was so breezy and relaxed, it reminded me of a line I read in a magazine once, "The hour is lunchtime forever." I love that unhurried mood, where you feel like an excellent meal can be endless and any possible problems have – for now – been cleared from your life (not even the shame of greed or laziness can break the spell).
Dessert also helps. And I'll always remember this one: Sheep's Milk Yogurt Mousse with Rhubarb Soup – it was so tangy-sweet and memory-blazingly good (and perfectly paired with a slice of millefeuille, corrugated for maximum crunch, raining of pastry flakes and buttery deliciousness) that I left a dorky, gushy note when I paid l'addition (only $30ish for three excellent courses).
When I saw that it had landed at #80 in yesterday's 100 best announcement, I felt very happy for the place. It's called La Gazzetta, it's on 29 rue de Cotte, and its head chef is Peter Nilsson. From here, the cost of travel fare is ridiculous, but the bill is not. Visit it if you're lucky enough to be in the neighbourhood.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Although I live near one of Sydney's biggest 'dumpling belts' – where the supply lines of ingredient-plump Asian parcels of dough never run out – I was excited to learn about the new Bamboo Dumpling Bar in Surry Hills. The original restaurant in Potts Point has been serving up gow gee and won tons for a while, but this branch is only a few days old.
The Surry Hills outpost is part of the Royal Albert Hotel, a wallflowerish, low-profile pub that might require a Google search for most people (I must admit, I'd never heard of it, either). Despite its under-the-radar presence, it's actually a great spot for a dumpling joint – it's walking distance from Central Station, but far enough from Chinatown to address the Chinese-food-drought in the immediate area.
Head chef and co-owner Tinh To has been cooking since he was "a little tackler" and ended up in hospitality on the advice of his dad ("if you work in the food industry, you'll never go hungry"). The menu at Bamboo is bound to remedy any stomach grumbles, too, with a good range of Asian standards – spring and rice paper rolls, skewers, buns, dumplings and noodles. Some have a contemporary twist (Salt & Pepper Squid with Wasabi Mayonnaise) and others reclaim overfamiliar dishes that have landed a bad name over the years (the Asian Vegetable Spring Roll is surprisingly excellent, full of shreds of flavour and a consolation for all the so-so spring rolls you've had in the past that taste like they'd been left in deep-frying purgatory for too long).
The Asian Vegetable Rice Paper Roll ($8.50) is small, simple and straightforward (it's no threat to the Egg Omelette, Avocado and Balsamic Caramelised Onion version at Miss Chu, still title-holder of the best rice paper rolls in Sydney), while the Mushroom Gow Gee ($9.50) is brilliant, each clear-wrapper sealing in a delicious stash of shiitake and water chestnut cubes and making you question whether you've under-ordered as you could easily enjoy many more serves of this.
The interior is also impressive – Bamboo is not shy about its look. The bright, knock-out decor can be credited to John Williams, even right down to the iconic bike on the wall, which he found for sale on the street in Redfern one day. John runs Mao & More, that hypervivid wonderland of Asian knick-knacks and furniture on Cleveland Street in Surry Hills. The suspended bird cages came from Vietnam and Beijing; the Chinese ones are from the bird markets where owners are keen to sell their old cages, so they can trade up for new models. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask John how he found the dried-out pufferfish that's currently a tenant of one the birdcages though.
It seems like the Bamboo formula is a winning one, as there will soon be branches opening in Bondi and Brisbane. Right now though, having one that's walking (and takeaway-toting) distance from Central Station, is a fine thing.
Bamboo Dumpling Bar at Royal Albert Hotel, 140 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills NSW, www.bamboodumplingbar.com.au.
Above: head chef and co-owner Tinh To.
Below: Tinh with John Williams from Mao & More.
Friday, April 16, 2010
One of the neverending joys of having a food blog is the number of tip-offs you receive from friends, happy to give you joint-custody of one of their favourite cafes.
The funny thing is, the exact day that Clare told me about her "must-try" local – Moose in Redfern – the place closed up for renovations. After a few months of constant cafe-watch though, this cute joint has opened up again, recasting itself as a general store, with jars of home-made, attention-seeking jams (Plum, Vanilla & Star Anise, Caramelised 3 Citrus or Chunky Fig & Rum, anyone?) and other well-sourced produce lining the shelves.
There's also a small but welcoming menu, too, including Moose's trademark Chocolate Granola (which you can also buy a pantry-ready version of), Sausage and Egg Roll (served with onion relish or "kick-ass chilli jam"), a dangerously good Brownie (gluten-free and one of Moose's earliest home-made experiments), Omelette of the Day ($14) and the excellent Baked Eggs in Sugo with Parmesan ($14).
Wes, one of the folks behind Moose, tells me that it takes five hours to make the sugo, and it is flavour-loaded with heaps of red wine. All that pot-simmering time is obvious, because the tomato is so gorgeously cooked through, all heavy with a thick, near-caramelised punch. It's perfect with the layers of parmesan crust and molten egg that rest on top. The dish comes with two toasted slices of grainy sourdough from Infinity in Kings Cross, and the bread-to-egg-sop ratio is just right.
If you don't have five spare hours to be on pot-patrol, you can buy ready-made sugo from Moose, along with an Indian eggplant relish that Wes tells me leads a double life as a fine dry curry.
Other purchaseable goodies that take up shelf residency at Moose include boutique honey and paper bags plump with tea brews. Wes has a "tea-off" every month at his local supplier in Castle Hill, flirting with new flavours to add to the store. Already, Moose sells two self-made blends (I tried the ginger/gingko heavy-hitter), and Wes hopes to have a 'Tea of the Month' rotation of flavours for brew-curious customers.
On the wall is a hand-written "Tea Guide" about the different offerings in-store (Earl Grey Romantica, Golden Dan Chong, the less mysterious and plain-named Lemongrass). The one that sold me, though, was the Bancha green tea from Japan, ($9 for 50g), which Wes singled out for its 'grainy' taste. I'm hopeless for a brew with a toasty edge, and having tapped out this blog entry while powered by a pot of Bancha (and probably a few too many tea-nerd sniffs of the bag – that twiggy, roasted smell of loose-leaf green tea is so ridiculously comforting), I can tell you it is a winner.
Moose is a lovely, XS-sized joint, open Thursdays to Sunday (with the crew spending the rest of the week experimenting with jams, making the signature gluten-free brownie and other inhouse goodies). The space is filled with hand-scrawled tags or little crafted flourishes – like shotglasses topped with tea, labelled with a gift-tag and adorned with a cocktail umbrella. It feels very homey and D.I.Y., which is a huge part of its charm. It can feel a tad ramshackle at times (the baked eggs took quite a bit to appear because "the oven just needs warming up"), but it's something you forgive in an instant, as Moose is such a personable place. Hunt it down.
Moose General Store, 18 Cooper Street, Redfern NSW, moose.com.au
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Have you always had an interest in food?
When I was younger, I used to have nightmares about salad and, for most of my life, I have also suffered from a mild case of ‘fruit-a-phobia’. Jess (co-editor/designer) is allergic to most nuts, seafood and egg. With this in mind, while we are interested in food on a day-to-day level, there are certain parameters at play. This has made us approach things in a different way and to really question why things are the way they are and sometimes reverse the power relationship between humans and food.
Can you tell me how the idea for Condiment first came to life?
For us, food has always provided a framework for broader discussions and experience. A few years ago, Jess was living overseas for six months and I was in Melbourne; and we felt that we needed a way of maintaining this dialogue – even though we couldn’t actually buy groceries or eat meals together.
We aren’t chefs, cooks, or even 'foodies' — whatever that means — and we felt that there wasn’t much food-related media that talked around food rather than just about food. We eventually settled upon Condiment – Adventures in Food and Form as a basis that could properly balance and satisfy both our creative and culinary appetites.
What's in the first issue of the magazine? And what makes it different to your average (food) mag?
Issue 01 of Condiment doesn’t have a set theme, but in some way, you could say it is about embracing the idea of the amateur. The original definition of amateur is of course 'one who loves' and this has informed our approach to the publication and also our sourcing and selection of specific content.
Unlike most food magazines, recipes or places to go are low on our list of priorities. In this issue there are articles on anarchist gardeners and vegan chefs in Tokyo, clam gathering in New Zealand by Martino Gamper (artist and author of Total Trattoria), a collection of pottery and woven baskets collected by Ricky Swallow and a philosophical essay about watching an onion by E.C. Large. We also collaborated with our friend’s fashion label, ffiXXed, to make a four-sleeve wearable picnic rug and the outcomes of this are documented in issue 01.
Condiment is meant to cover "Adventures in Food and Form". What's the most adventurous eating experience you've ever had?
We can’t claim to be the kind of people that can put anything in their mouth and, although that has its place, that’s not what Condiment is about. For us, the adventure lies in what you end up understanding about something through experience or closer inspection — how an experience can change your perspective — not just about how it shocks your palate. That said, because of her allergies to certain things, Jess will eat almost anything else, while I’m quite happy to be the interested and slightly grossed-out onlooker.
One of my favourite artists is Vik Muniz, who has made amazing portraits out of chocolate, sugar, peanut butter & jam, spaghetti, etc. Can you think of any people who do fascinating things with food but aren't necessarily chefs?
There is, of course, a long history of food in the arts. While we plan to explore this more in the future, for the first issue, we have had a greater interest in the contemporary artists – we feature the work of an incredible Japanese photographer, Yumiko Utsu. Her work is both playful and sinister and she integrates food through both a mix of sculpture and photography and also collage. It is a very natural part of her practice, rather than a gimmick.
What do you have planned for the upcoming issues?
To be honest, right now we have no idea. We are going to let the dust settle on the first one and try and restore our perspective. As mentioned, we like to reverse the power relationship between ourselves and food so there is a chance that we might not have any say in it at all. Let the food decide!
For more details on the latest issue of Condiment, head to the magazine's website.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I like how people get very protective about their favourite flavours at Gelato Messina in Darlinghurst – whether it's Gingerbread, Pavlova, Tiramisu or the one inspired by The Mighty Boosh. With an everchanging selection, it's impressive when fans single out which scoops should get long-term freezer residency.
With news that the popular Pavlova was on its way out this week, quite a few fans lodged protests – but that didn't stop it being sent to flavour retirement*. Orange Blossom & Pine Nut has returned though, and fanfare has been made over the introduction of Risotto Milanese in ice-cream form.
This inventive idea combines vanilla rice pudding with a sprinkling of saffron. It's a clean, understated flavour, which can hide a delicious little clump or two of dairy-softened grains. The light lacing of saffron might accidentally come with a bonus trip down memory lane (for me, flashbacks to the one – and only – time I tried to make paella). Overall, it's a likeable, smart-alec take on the classic Italian dish.
I'm no expert flavour-matchmaker, but I paired my Risotto Milanese scoop with something that has mutated slightly since my last visit. The popular Gingerbread has become a double-barrel gelato, now folding chunky, caramel-chewy and delicious Peanut into its mix. That's change worth voting for.
*This just in: Pavlova will be back in a few weeks' time. Proving that you can't beat the combined power of ice-cream and democracy.
Gelato Messina, Shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 8354 1223, www.gelatomessina.com.au. You can also get 'Flavour Alerts' by following Gelato Messina on Twitter or Facebook.