Friday, July 30, 2010

Duck Duck Goose

A few photos from the launch of Duck Duck Goose which I attended recently...

Duck Duck Goose
31-37 Artemis Lane
QV, Melbourne
Vic 3000
(03) 9005-0888

Duck Duck Goose is a new bar and restaurant in QV, combining French and Chinese influences into one enormous restaurant and bar.

Upon entering, I was most impressed by the archways and gorgeous bar and lounge area. Its size and location would make it an obvious choice for Friday night drinks.

As I mentioned, Duck Duck Goose is absolutely massive, with seating room for at least 200. Beyond the bar and lounge area is seating for fine dining, as well as some private dining rooms.

From the private dining areas, you can see into the open kitchen. Personally, I find it so interesting to have a glimpse into commercial kitchens, especially for an operation the size of Duck Duck Goose!

Chefs taking pictures of their food. I'm not the only one!!!!!!!!!

There were many canapés on offer, with a focus on beef and seafood. There seemed to be varying cultural influences on the food, from European to Asian, which I'm sure will be represented in the regular menu.

Top left: Roast pork and vegetable skewers
Top right: Spicy risotto
Bottom left: Chef
Bottom right: Deep-fried crab balls

Other canapés included various dumplings, wagyu beef with apple, mashed potato with fish, beef jelly, pickled cucumber and more. The stronger dishes were definitely the deep-fried ones!

On the other side of the restaurant is a slightly more casual section, where I believe they will be serving yum cha and quick meals.

In the throng of people, we managed to run into a few food bloggers, and we also happened to meet Chef Paul Wilson (My only visit to The Botanical was after he left as chef, unfortunately!)

Look how happy Thanh is!

Ling, Chef Paul Wilson and myself - photo courtesy of Thanh

Thanks to all involved for a fun night!

Sarah and Sandra attended the launch party as guests of Duck Duck Goose.

Duck Duck Goose on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spaghettini Con Cacio e Pepe

I recently came into possession of a block of lovely reggiano cheese, and thought it would make the perfect base for a simple supper-for-one. I chose to make a version of Nigella's capellini con cacio e pepe, from Forever Summer, as I thought it would really highlight the wonderful flavour of the cheese. It is really just pasta with pecorino romano (I subsituted the parmigano reggiano) and lots of pepper.

I have made it once before, but never got around to blogging it. (That was in the early days of this blog, back when it was pretty much all just Nigella recipes!)

I started with 150g of ri-donk-ulously expensive spaghettini that I bought at a gourmet shop...

... then cooked it in boiling salted water until cooked through but still slightly firm. (One of the benefits of cooking for myself is that I don't have to overcook the pasta until it is super-soft all the way through).

I chucked in a small knob (heh) of butter...

... and tossed it through 5 tablespoons of grated reggiano and a good sprinkling of coarsely ground black pepper. (Nigella's recipe says 1/2 a tablespoon, but I wasn't about to start measuring it!)

This is one of the times where you will probably need to hold back a bit of the pasta cooking water to help all the ingredients mix together well, as it is quite a dry mixture.

Delicious! If you can get your hands on some good pasta and good cheese, it is definitely worth giving this dish a go! I love the deeply savoury cheese, combined with the gentle warmth of the pepper. It's so easy and quick too - something you can definitely eat, guilt-free, whilst slumped on the couch after a hard day with a nice glass of wine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Six Wines and Six Dishes at Indya Bistro

Indya Bistro
643 Rathdowne St
Carlton North
Ph: (03) 9347-6387

Indya Bistro is a casual modern-Indian restaurant located on a busy section of Rathdowne street (near Cafe ZumZum and other Melbourne foodie favourites). They recently hosted a "Wine and Spice Night", matching 6 courses with 6 wines for $49. Even though this represents excellent value, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the event. I think it was supposed to be a one-time-only thing, but it turned out to be so popular that they held another session the day after!

Indian food is notoriously tricky to match with wine - I'd always just choose beer - and the point of the evening was to showcase some great matches in a menu developed by sommelier Patrick Walsh and Indya's head chef Wilson Gomes. Ever since Sandra started working at Moortangi Estate, I've become a lot more interested in food-and-wine matching, and I was sure it would be a delicious and informative night. According to our waiter, the wines they've chosen are on the sweeter side, to counteract the spiciness in the food. We noticed the wines were quite fruity and citrussy, and quite light. There was only one red, and it was a pinot noir.

Each of the 6 wines was poured as each course was brought out. With the detailed tasting notes they provided, this gave us a good chance to really taste and appreciate the matches. We sat with Thanh and Ling, and I think it was good to sit in a small group of food-minded friends so that we could discuss our opinions over the meal. I was (obviously) impressed with the many Germanic wines and varietals on offer.

1. Spinach Paneer Delight with NV Stefano Lubiana Brut, Granton, Tasmania

This was a lovely starter - warm spicy spinach, topped with crumbled paneer, on little flat-bread triangles. It's the type of dish I can imagine served as a canapé at a function. (Although having said that, I could have easily eaten a huge bowl of that spinach for dinner and been quite happy).

2. Spicy Stir-fried prawns with 2008 Dr Loosen "Blueslate" Riesling, Mosel, Germany
The prawns were quite tasty, well-cooked and coated with a nice mixture of spices. The riesling that accompanied was slightly sweet and citrussy, and made a good match.

Sandra doesn't eat prawns, and they kindly substituted some spicy grilled chicken pieces instead.

3. Chicken Chettinad with 2009 Hunky Dory Tangle, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Marlborough, New Zealand
This was a mild and creamy chicken curry. Although I enjoyed the curry itself, we found this to be the least successful wine match of the evening - the combination of the spices and the Hunky Dory somehow tasted murky.

4. Honey Galic Gobi Florettes with 2009 Pitnauer Blaufränkisch Rosé, Burgenland, Austria

These cauliflower florettes were the hit of the evening! The florettes were covered in a sweet and garlicky coating that had a slight crispness to it. I thought it was similar to a Chinese honey chicken from a suburban Chinese take-away, just executed much better. Absolutely addictive. We've already decided that we must come back to try these again. The acidity in the matching rosé worked well with the sweetness of the cauliflower.

5. Pondicherry Fish curry with 2008 Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer, Pfalz, Germany
The fish was our least favourite dish of the night - whilst the sauce itself was nice, the fish was slightly dry and very salty, especially because it wasn't served with rice.

6. Marinated Lamb with 2008 Delta Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand

We finished off with a lamb curry, which like the chicken curry, was quite mild. The lamb pieces themselves were impressively tender. I thought the pinot noir complemented the lamb well, as it was able to stand up to the complex spices without overpowering it.

Despite there being 6 courses, the overall meal was still relatively light - possibly a little too light for all the wine - it's a good thing I didn't have to drive that night! It can be quite a challenge to make Indian food glamorous, and I think Indya has done a good job! Thanks to the team at Indya Bistro for a fun (and educational) night!

Sarah and Sandra enjoyed Six Wines and Six Dishes as a guest of Indya Bistro.

Indya Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Swiss Roll - Biskuitrolle

A Swiss roll is one of those odd cakes that are simple, but can incite the most irrational fear in home bakers. I know this, because I felt that fear. Yes, it's just a sponge cake with jam on the inside, but there are just so many places you can stuff it up. The batter itself is easily deflated - being a bit too rough while mixing, or banging the oven door can knock all the air out of it. And let's not get started with the rolling! I have vague memories of attempting one in year 9 Home Ec class, only for it to crack and break as I tried to roll it. That was 12 years ago, and I hadn't considered trying again.

However, it is my parents' favourite cake, and I really wanted to try making it for my mum's birthday last week. Store-bought ones just don't cut it.

I used this recipe, from the Australian Women's Weekly, on advice from Thanh. And I was pleased to discover it was really, really easy! If I can do it, you can too.

Top: Folding the flour, baking powder and salt into the beaten egg-and-sugar mixture
Bottom: In a lined baking tray

It only takes 12 minutes to bake, and smells fantastic.

From here it is important to work quickly. You turn the sponge out onto a sugar-dusted clean tea towel, and gently peel off the baking paper...

... and roll it up! This helps the cake keep its shape and prevents it from cracking after you've filled it later.

Some recipes say to let the sponge cool completely whilst rolled up, others say to unroll it straight away, and others say to let it cool, covered with a teatowel, before rolling it. Surely that would result in it cracking! And I was in a hurry, so I unrolled it straight away.

I microwaved the jam to make it easier to spread - I didn't want to tear the delicate cake! Because I was only using jam as a filling I did it while the cake was still warm. If you're using fresh cream or anything like that, obviously wait until the cake cools completely.

Then just roll it up again! Thankfully it didn't crack - the cake was super soft and pliable.

You have to slice off the ends to make it neat. These crunchy bits are the best! Cook's treat!

I put it on a long plate, covered it loosely with glad wrap, and took it over to my folks' place.

They loved it! Success! Dad finished his slice before I even started on mine, hehe.

The Swiss-roll fear is gone. I was surprised how easy it was! Now I want to try making chocolate ones, matcha, raspberry cream-filled.... Do you have any flavour combo ideas to add to my list?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Christmas in July" - A Pudding Making Class at The Langham

Let's all take a look at that magnificent pile of Christmas pudding dough!

You all know I love Christmas, yes? I love the presents, I love the turkey lunch, I love the Weihnachtsgebäck, I love the mince pies, I love the Christmas cake, I love the post-Christmas barbecues, I love it all! I especially love Christmas pudding, so I was very excited to be invited along to The Langham's "Christmas in July" pudding making class tonight.

Even though we did end up elbow-deep in pudding mixture, the night started off quite a bit more sedately, so let's begin there. We arrived to a very warmly decorated function room upstairs, enjoying champagne and some beautiful canapés. There were quite a few more on offer than the 6 I photographed below - did you know it's really, really hard to eat and photograph at the same time? Traybound food is especially hard because it keeps moving! (I must have gotten out of practice ever since Sandra took over the bulk of the photography for my blog. Oops. Must practise more!) Sandra didn't attend tonight's event, so these photos were all me!

Top row: Prosciuto & parmesan canapé, cucumber with tomato and mozzarella, seared scallop on pea pureé
Bottom row: Lamb (I think!) wrapped in zucchini, crab cakes, fried zucchini flowers

We were then taken down to the pastry kitchen, to have a look at some chocolate work. The canapés and champagne kept on flowing, which was lovely. (I must admit it was a bit of a change for me to see waitstaff working back of house, hehe.)

Beautiful chocolate display - it was fantastic to have a closer look at the chocolates they use in their Afternoon Tea.

I love the presentation... mmm... a river of chocolate callets.

There were also a few treats on offer, and you may remember the granola clusters (left) and the florentines (right) as 2 of my favourites from the afternoon tea. Fab!

Down here, Pastry Chef Zara showed us how to temper chocolate and dip truffles.

The first truffles were white chocolate filled with elderflower liquer and raspberry ganache, and Chez Zara got some very funky patterns on the white truffles by rolling them along the rack with a fork! So simple and effective.

These ones below were rum truffles dipped in Lindt milk chocolate and topped with cocoa nibs.
Can you see how the truffles become more matt as the chocolate cools down?

Wait a minute... did someone say Lindt milk chocolate? Lindt milk is my favourite chocolate of all time! I love how smooth and caramelly it is. I used to buy the piccoli (i.e. the little hexagonal pieces of couverture) in the 2.5 kilo bags. I've stopped doing that now, probably for the best.

Anyone for a dip?

After the chocolate, it was time for the serious business of making pudding. The way it worked is that head Chef Anthony Ross dumped the ingredients on a huge marble bench, and we all stuck our (well-sanitised) hands in to mix! (And if you're wondering, it was left-hand-in-the-dough, right-hand-on-the-camera. Awkward, but effective!)

The Langham's pudding is both gluten and suet-free, to fit in with modern dining sensibilities. (I am definitely not in the anti-suet brigade though!) We started by rubbing both almond and hazelnut meals into the butter, then added a heady mix of spices, eggs, citrus juice and zest, Guinness and milk. Finally, he tipped in a mixture of dried fruits (including whole figs), that had been macerating in St Remy brandy. The smell was incredible!

As you can (just) see in the top picture of this post, we each got a little charm to put in our puddings, which was wrapped in foil, and covered in pudding mixture. The chefs at The Langham are going to cook and store our puddings, and we'll get them at Christmas.

The mixture was quite light in colour and the texture was quite fine compared to my usual Christmas pudding. I'll be interested to see how it turns out come December! If the taste of the raw dough is anything to go by, I'm sure they'll be fabulous.

Sarah attended Christmas in July as a guest of The Langham hotel.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vitasoy Vs St Ali

That lovely foam coming out of the nitrous oxide cream whipper is not actually whipped cream, but a warm white chocolate and soymilk foam, created by the cocktail masters from Der Raum for the Vitasoy vs. St Ali event.

The warm foam was the topping for their amazingly delicious 'pina colada' - rum, pineapple juice and agave nectar. Like, WOW! Matt from Der Raum says he got the idea for the cocktail when he realised soymilk has a bit of a coconutty taste to it. It's not on their menu yet, but may make an appearance for their Spring menu. Fingers crossed!

Vitasoy vs. St Ali was held in a funkified warehouse on Yarra place, just down the street from St. Ali. In addition to the Der Raum cocktails and canapes, there were DJ's, live graffiti art and street performers.

Sandra got heaps of great photos of the firetwirlers, but I liked these the best, because they spell "S C". You can see more of Sandra's fabulous photos of the night here at her Flickr page.

Firetwirlers spelling "S C". "S C" for Sarah Cooks, geddit?

Canapes were prepared by chefs Ben Cooper (St. Ali) and Paul Jewson (Outpost). I've never been to St. Ali for dinner, but I've heard great things, and now I really think I should! I definitely want to try Outpost's food, if only to see how Paul cooks food in that tiny space!

Oysters with soy and mirin dressing

Asian-style Pulled pork with salsa verde

I enjoyed the fresh, light taste of the salsa verde, but immodestly, I like my own pulled pork better. I think that's because I appreciate the, well, vastness of the portion I inevitably roast. And the crackling, of course.

Chicken and mushroom pies with edamame

Miso-soup with silken tofu

No matter how much fried food I've eaten, or how much I've had to drink, (oops!) I find miso soup to be so cleansing and purifying. Perfect, and salving. (And much better for you than traditional hangover food!)

So, er... speaking of fried food...

Deep fried chicken wings with chilli and salt

These chicken wings were awesome! I don't think you can go wrong with deep-fried chicken, and these ones were juicily crispy, and vibrant with chilli.

Towards the end of the night, the air was getting cold, and feet were getting tired... but I'm glad we stuck around for dessert.

These donuts are a Phillipa Sibley creation - filled with passionfruit curd and topped with pineapple glaze. In its tiny size, it was a perfect little treat. Although I think most people I saw definitely ate more than one!

Here's a pic of the soymilk-wall graffiti-art in progress. As you can see, even hardworking artists need sustenance!

Apparently towards the end of the evening, they started to dismantle the wall, and people got to take decorated slabs of soymilk home. I'm gutted I missed out on that, because I drink heaps of soymilk! D'oh.

Big thanks to all involved for a great night! It was lovely to sample all the canapes and the great cocktails, and to catch up with heaps of Melbourne food bloggers.

Sarah Cooks attended Vitasoy Vs. St Ali as a guest.

St Ali on Urbanspoon