Monday, February 27, 2012
This is your second year editing Everyday Eats, a food guide that singles out Sydney's best meals under $30. Have you found any noticeable differences (food-wise) between this year and last?
A lot of our old favourites thankfully haven't changed, but there’s certainly more Mexican to be had in Sydney. Korean is taking off in a big way, too. Bar-food menus are more interesting and appetising than ever before. There’s a fad for fried-food – including The Abercrombie's fried Gaytime!
What have been your favourite new discoveries?
So many! We've got 130-odd listings in this edition that weren’t in the last one. A few of the newbies that have got me excited are The Union at Penrith (tapas); Pizzeria Bellucci at Bankstown Sports Club (partly because the setting is so over-the-top: a recreation of an Italian piazza); Copo Cafe & Diner at Drummoyne; Caysorn Southern Thai restaurant at Haymarket (make a beeline to Caysorn if you like it hot! Order its sweet ice tea if you've overestimated your chilli tolerance!).
Last-minute contenders you wish had made it in?
The worst thing about a deadline is the inevitable next day discoveries! I’ve been hearing great things about Via Napoli, a pizzeria at Lane Cove where you order half or one metre pizzas; Five Dock has an Afghani restaurant called Bamiyan, which sounds really interesting; there are great new cafes opening all the time. The good thing is we can share tips like this through our Facebook and Twitter pages.
What are some of your favourite "everyday eats"?
I live in the inner west and my regular haunts include Faheem Fast Food (love its haleem "the king of curries"), Sultan’s Table (great for a group – such a crowd-pleaser, especially with dessert across the road at Cow & the Moon) and in Ashfield it's Shanghai Dumpling for lunch and Sky Mountain for dinner. I also really love modest family-run eateries, especially where they’re serving up less ubiquitous foods and get seriously excited when you ask questions and show an interest in the background of the food and culture it comes from. It might sound a bit over-the-top in the context of talking about cheap feeds, but love how much identity can be tied to food.
Everyday Eats is out tomorrow. And yep, I'm a tad excited about the release of the book as I'm one of its contributors. The Everyday Eats 'food award' categories will be announced in Good Living tomorrow, too. The publication will also be available as an app and you can keep updated on Everyday Eats through its Facebook and Twitter pages.
Thanks to Fairfax Books, we have five copies of Everyday Eats to give away, valued at $24.95 each. For your chance to win, leave a comment with your favourite "everyday eat" (include your email, so I can contact you if you end up scoring a book). I'll pick the winners on Tuesday March 6 (AEST). Good luck!
Friday, February 24, 2012
Once the hunting ground of punters after a $5 steak, now The Forresters is the latest offering from Jaime Wirth. He's the man behind the makeover montages for The Carrington, The Norfolk, The Abercrombie and The Flinders (Duke Bistro), and he knows how to extract fun and new life from fossilised, forgotten pubs.
Now The Forresters has been redesigned, with an Italian-American menu, a look inspired by a Sinatra casino and the very opposite of a $5 steak: Pay Day Pizza ($50), which offers your wages' worth of lobster, truffle and truffle salami. The rest of the menu is a lot more pocket-friendly, with a no-frills Spaghetti with Red Sauce ($7), awesomely trashy Crumbed Cauliflower ($8) with aioli and surprisingly untrashy Mac N Cheese ($18), made classy with blue cheese and a gritty topping of fried bread crumbs. It's a lot of fun. And to lighten the guilt about all the carbs, fat, and frypan overuse, there's a bracing Pea ($17) salad, all lemony and light with mint and snappy green beans and the right salt-punch of fetta. Will particularly enjoyed his Lamb Rotisserie ($25) with Italian slaw and taters and, if we hadn't maxed ourselves out entirely on this food, we would have also had the Tiramisu Knickerbocker Glory ($12) and Lemon Tart Thickshake ($7). But there's an easy way to troubleshoot that problem – more visits. It's not a place that takes itself too seriously (it's bound to bait people who get mad about pineapple on a pizza, for instance), but that playfulness is entirely the point.
The Forresters, Corner of Foveaux and Riley Streets, Surry Hills NSW (02) 9212 3035, www.forresters.com.au.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
What a strange week it's been. It started off really great, I had a lovely birthday (birthdays are kinda rigged to be fun and awesome – even in that mopey film Sixteen Candles, she got that priceless kiss in the end) and that was a handy excuse to have a good dinner. My first great meal as a 31-year-old was the Lombardy regional dinner at Vini in Surry Hills. I'm still remembering the ravioli with potato mascarpone butter and the truly kick-ass panettone sandwiches with poached peaches and home-made mascarpone.
I was also lucky enough to given some wonderful presents – these are some of the semi-food-related ones: a lovely milk bottle/vase-in-disguise from my friend Beth; a bouquet of herbs from my friend Lisa's garden (the flowering chives are especially nice to look at) and a mini frypan from Daiso (my friend Sophie cutely said it was so I could make my own cafe-style eggs).
So that was all upside and then the downside came yesterday. I was made redundant from the magazine where I've worked for the last five years. I went home and made some green tea and felt really fine about it. It's funny how all the things that count against you – that somehow can "downgrade" any of your lifetime achievements – at a family gathering or school reunion actually are handy when this thing happens. I don't have kids and I don't have a mortgage, so it's a lot easier for me than other people. I have a good supply of genmaicha and two teapots (plus another for back-up) and a stovetop that can handle marathon brewing, so I feel pretty fortified. Plus I've got a bottle of slightly stronger stuff (yuzu liqueur) tucked away, just in case. So that's been the last week. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.
Friday, February 10, 2012
For me, Rosebery has always been a suburb defined by speed bumps and 40 kph limits. It's where I learned to drive as a teenager and it was full of L-plated kids being overly sensitive with the accelerator pedal. Driving instructors loved Rosebery's enforced slowness; even wildcard adolescents couldn't help but keep their teacher's car – and blood pressure – safe.
Now this suburb has a far more thrilling attraction: today, Koskela opened its spectacular new design showroom and its charming inhouse cafe, Kitchen By Mike.
The Mike in question is Michael McEnearney, formerly a head chef at Rockpool; more recently he's spent Sundays running his Mike's Table pop-up dinners. His new operation is a bit of a Rockpool reunion (his head chef is Jeffrey De Rome, who used to work there; and manager George also spent years at Neil Perry's flagship restaurant). But it's actually London's Ottolenghi, with its hyperfocus on fresh, seasonal flavours and its hand-crafted approach, that has been a big influence on Kitchen By Mike.
Accordingly, at Michael's new eatery, there are salads so vibrant-looking and recently made that they're full of pixel-bursting, high-resolution colour; there's the snap and crunch of the Green Beans, Snow Peas, Hazelnuts and Orange ($3.50 per scoop) or the gorgeous Woodfired Vegetables ($3.50 per scoop), so thoroughly cooked through with lemon and marjoram that the taste of the roasted squash, capsicum and onion ends up ultra-sweet and concentrated (unless you love the full-squirm, tart-as-hell flavour of baked lemon though, watch out for those citrus wedges – otherwise experiencing this salad can be a game of Lemon-Eating Roulette). There's also a summery Tomato, Watermelon and Mint dish ($5 per scoop), as well as Green Figs with Blue Cheese, Cured Ham and Honey ($7 per scoop) and Pulled Pork with Mango and Coconut Chutney. Simplicity is the no-brainer appeal of the Margarita Pizza ($8.50 per slice), with its classic tomato-basil topping and well-puffed crust.
One of my favourite things at Kitchen By Mike is the Crunchie Banana Smoothie ($4.50), a liquid jackpot of full-cream milk, yogurt, honey, banana and roasted muesli – it's so good that it's worth the inevitable Smoothie Moustache you get from gulping it so quickly.
This rustic eatery also serves fresh-baked sweets – Walnut Cookies with Apple Jam ($1), Rosewater & Pistachio Meringues ($2), Gluten-Free Jaffa Cakes – and sells Iggy's bread, four-spice salt and a selection of jams, fruit and meat. The space itself is quite cool – tables are typographically branded with large numbers, oversized wicker lights dominate the room and the open kitchen is good for people/chef-watching. The rustic, farmhouse atmosphere is apt considering that Kitchen By Mike aims to eventually have a vegie plot and beehive outside.
Kitchen By Mike reminds me a little of Bread & Circus, which recently opened in neighbouring Alexandria. Both places reclaim the idea of healthy eating from the Diet 'n' Detox Fun Police and reinstate a little wonder into plates of food that might actually be good for you. If these cafes prove to be trend-starters, I'll be very happy. The upsides of eating well without trading off on flavour or enjoyment levels – Kitchen By Mike taps into this beautifully.
Kitchen By Mike, 85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery NSW (02) 9045 0910 www.kitchenbymike.com.au
Monday, February 6, 2012
Sometimes you hope for something so unlikely to happen that you can foresee the "Permission: Denied" reply before it even arrives. So, for work, I put in a request to do an email Q&A with David Chang and Corey Lee for Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, thinking it'd be knocked back because they are incredibly busy, acclaimed and in-demand chefs. (Incidentally, if you need to clue up on Corey Lee and his restaurant Benu, this much-cited tweet from David Chang is a good introductory course: "Benu in sf best restaurant in America? If not now then damn soon. Corey lee working w flavors that are on point. Run don't walk.") But, not only did things work out, request-wise, they both wrote surprisingly prompt, polite and thoughtful replies.
My favourite part was when David Chang explained which Australian chefs he was "crushed" by:
I’ve had so many amazing meals in Australia – Ben Shewry is doing awesome work at Attica, and I’m excited by the work the younger chefs in Sydney are doing – chefs like Dan Hong (Ms G’s), Mitch Orr, and Thomas Lim (both Duke Bistro). There is so much talent in Australia.
You can read the rest at the Inside Out blog. And if you're curious about Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which features David Chang and Corey Lee and is on from March 2-21, head here.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Here are a few things that preoccupied me, appetite-wise, in the last week.
The Lamington Affogato ($6) at Sample Coffee Bar in Surry Hills. It's a 2-in-1 megahit of coffee and cake – and a fine enough reason to seek out this new-ish cafe. If you're looking for (heart) trouble, try its custom Pacemaker blend by Mecca.
Every visit to Black Star Pastry in Newtown seems to have a crush-renewing effect. Sure, it's easy to have a weakness for its classics – like the Strawberry Watermelon Cake with Rose Cream – but then this great patisserie will "entrap" you even further with a new must-order addition, like the highly summer-compatible Lychee and Malibu Granita ($6.50). Anytime anyone complains about there being nothing good in Sydney, I offer Black Star Pastry as a case-closing example of why they're wrong.
Next door to the cafe is the excellent Oscillate Wildly. It's the sort of restaurant where you can't recall how many times you've been ('cos it's a many-visit blur), but you clearly remember that each dinner has been reliably brilliant. We recently took some expat friends there – for a wedding present that wouldn't cause them excess baggage problems when packing for home. Every dish in the set degustation ($100) is spring-loaded with multiple flavours and lively textures. I especially loved the pine mushrooms with "needles" (as chef/owner Karl Firla points out – the luck of having these mushrooms growing in January!). The vego options are so very good and the rose sorbet with freeze-dried lychee and berries, violet and coriander cress was one of many hypercolourful standouts.
And while not strictly edible, I've lately been enjoying the Dinner Party Download podcast which has clued me into a) how to make a great Frito Pie (aka "walking tacos", "tacos in a bag" or, even better, "jailhouse tacos"); b) Chairlift's ideal playlist for entertaining guests; and c) the fact that Gary Oldman can play guitar upside down. A good gateway episode, if you haven't listened to this snappy program, is the List Show. It covers upcoming food predictions (doorknobs, blood and bark, anyone?) and other fine conversation-starting topics.
I'm also liking Food Is The New Rock, "a time wasting tumblr blog about musicians who love food, and food people who like music". Thanks to this procrastination-enabling resource, I've learnt that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy is going to launch a coffee range, Wilco does a sideline in selling sandwich bags and "Food is like the new rock n’ roll, and Japanese knives are like the new electric guitar". Also, Food Is The New Rock's Twitter account is worth following for amusing samples like this: "Of course @davidchang and @luckypeach's Peter Meehan met at a @theholdsteady concert." Well, of course.
PS I'd love to know your favourite food-related podcasts and the unconventional food blogs you like to bookmark.
Sample Coffee Bar, 1A/118 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW samplecoffee.com.au
Black Star Pastry, 277 Australia St, Newtown NSW (02) 9557 8656 www.blackstarpastry.com.au
Oscillate Wildly, 275 Australia Street, Newtown NSW (02) 9517 4700 www.oscillatewildly.com.au