Thursday, October 30, 2008

be our friend

our myspace page is up and running. go visit and send us a friend request.

comfort food

one of my faves. grilled chorizo, in a spicy tomato sauce with pecorino cheese, fresh herbs, cracked black pepper on spirali or penne:

got the dining room set up, basically:

the roaster's been delayed til next week. only five weeks til opening, but who's counting?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

taking and making stock

progress report: kitchen's up and working. burners and flat-top all seem to work, although the hotspots on the grill are spread around like a nine hole golf course. the underbench seals need replacing, but it seems to cool properly. haven't fired up the deep-fryers yet, but they look okay. the coolroom door's not 100% either, the previous chef had a large wooden plank to wedge it closed...

the coffee roaster arrives tomorrow, it needs to be flued so we're not sure just where it's going to go as yet. the espresso machine, salamander and panini press arrive next week. there'll be lots of last-minute scrambling, and I don't mean eggs.

the floor's been repolished, the windows cleaned (well, sorta...) and the carpet in place for the music stage. I've decided not to build a riser, we'll just have the floor with a nice rug. these things may change as we go along, y'know.

yesterday I made about ten litres of chicken stock and a few litres of tomato sauce. blanching:

tomatoes are cheap at the moment, only two bucks a kilo at my local providore. I'm still trying to source organic veg and eggs.

I'll get the newslist up and running this week, so anyone wanting email notices about music etc can join.

it's all feeling much closer now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the hounds of chow

some observations I've made reading the chowhound boards:

when posting a new topic, nobody bothers to check to see if a thread already exists on exactly that same topic.

80% of those who post comments have absolutely no sense of humour, let alone an understanding of the concept of irony. no, make that 90%.

instead of inspiring viewers to become better cooks and appreciators of food, the food network appears to have accomplished the complete opposite. a film analogy might be porky's over citizen kane.

to many, fast food from an international chain is an acceptable and valid choice of cuisine for the whole family.

the best way to make big money in food is to be young, attractive, and ghost-write a glossy coffee-table cookbook.

the threads with the most responses are those discussing children's eating habits.

a lot of people in middle america really, firmly believe that rachael ray is a talented professional cook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

cleanliness is next to.....

finally getting the place clean enough to start operating the gear. the stove's roared to life, although you have to be a contortion artist to ignite it. haven't got to the deep-fryer yet, we're trying to get the dishwasher moving today. there's a funky electronic feed system that I'm trying to figure out, and not much info on the web.

the kitchen, in progress - before:

so far:

back to work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'll have the veggie falafel, thanks

there's always talk about health and sanitary issues in kitchens. especially as I've spent the better part of two weeks cleaning one. but this story gave me a chuckle:

Man making kebab next to corpse hit by ban
October 15, 2008, 10:47 pm

LONDON (Reuters) - A man discovered making kebabs near a corpse has been banned from managing food businesses and fined 3,800 pounds, Wolverhampton City Council said on Tuesday.

Jaswinder Singh, 45, was found by police making kebabs at Pappu Sweet Centre and Catering in Wolverhampton in August in a kitchen where a dead man was lying on a sofa.

As well as the corpse, the policeman discovered another man smoking and spitting repeatedly on the floor, while in a room near the kitchen, a defrosting chicken, oozing blood and juices, was covered with flies.

Environmental health officers had visited the shop over a number of months previously where they had warned Singh to improve his food hygiene standards after finding rat droppings as well as a dead rat beneath a pot.

"We were called to reports of a sudden death," said West Midlands Police spokeswoman Joanne Hunt. "A post mortem was carried out, but found the death was not suspicious, so the matter was referred to the coroner."

Wolverhampton's city council's chief environmental services officer Nick Edwards said: "The council will not tolerate those who put the public at risk by preparing food in insanitary conditions.

"We are pleased that the council's actions have resulted in the courts banning this individual from ever running a food business again."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

quote o' the day

"Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected, by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table."

-Charles Pierre Monselet, French author(1825-1888)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

something to wine about

I often like to peruse the various food boards, such as chowhound. most of these are north american based and probably 85% of the traffic are their locals.

but I'm constantly amazed at how many people post recipes that include using wine, but add the disclaimer, "I don't drink wine, so I just use anything around".

how in the hell can you cook with something that you cannot/do not taste? it's like the occasional contestant/entrant on competition shows like hells kitchen and top chef who, for example, don't eat seafood but are prepping a turbot or cod.

there's an interesting story in today's good living about a blind chef, a home cook who can't smell, and a winemaker who's allergic to alcohol. at least they have good excuses....

Monday, October 13, 2008

from little things...

just started the herb garden. basil shoots:

also planted coriander, garlic and regular chives, dill, greek and italian oregano, continental parsley, plus jalapeno chilles and baby rocket.

more to come, possibly even cherry tomatoes and capsicum. the frosts are pretty heavy here, even during spring and autumn, so it'll be trial and error.

long-time readers of my other blog may remember my somewhat amusing efforts to start a garden about six years back. let's hope I'm more successful this time.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

celebrity chefs and other oxymorons

this was originally posted 12 may 08, and seemed to be one of the most viewed from my old blog. so it's reposted here:

I'll admit it, I'm a cable tv food channel addict. I find inspiration in many of the programs, and often tune in just before a dinner prep to 'get into the groove', as it were.

someone recently said that tv chefs were the new rock stars, and that I find a frightening notion. especially as I'm considered an "old washed up has-been rock star", by many, including my children. especially my children.

I suppose the notion of the "critic" applies equally to both. to have spent most of one's life creating something out of raw ingredients with love, passion and skill, then to have some twat fresh out of journalism school dismiss it as being "too derivative".

but what exactly are these nuevo culinary stars suppose to communicate to their 'fans'? is it fair to include cooking amongst music, dance, theatre, film? are they all ars gratia artis or sheer entertainment? both and neither, one could argue.

I'd say it has more to do with the late-20th century disease known as the cult of personality, or celbere gratia celeb, possibly (with apologies to any romans left wandering about the aqueducts).

in a world where the likes of a paris hilton or even perez hilton can become 'famous' for doing nothing other than being opulent and pesty, it's no wonder that certain egotistical, insecure and clueless chefs found new careers. or possibly, first careers.

so my enjoyment of watching intriguing, creative food being prepared by the few clever and talented chefs on the food network is always tainted by dodging these so-called 'celebrity chefs', who spend more airtime flogging their latest line of books, kitchenware, trendy appliances and the like than actually working with food. and when they do, it's usually a tolerated distraction - "Look at that magnificent trout!! It'll look amazing on my new dinnersets, available from the website below [web address now covers the fish, which is never to be seen for the remainder of the program]".

a random sampling of some of the main offenders, in no particular order, as I find them all annoying as hell:

jamie oliver. yes, I'll be expecting the hate mail, flame throwers and all-around abuse from the soccer moms of the world, but really, this guy is grating beyond belief. he's like a slightly more grown-up version of an eastenders regular. sure, he's done a lot for the british school lunch programs (well, anything'd be a help there), helped underpriveliged kids with his fifteen series (ditto) and covered a lot of ikea coffeetables with colourfully bound prints. but I can't recall the last time I saw him actually prepare anything that one could a) follow; 2) replicate and c) want.

nigella lawson. I can understand the local appeal of the self-appointed domestic goddess, every brit housefrau can see how to make the most basic food from the most common ingredients usually found in most brit pantries next to the delia smith books, and lots of pudgy, pasty-faced pommy blokes can drool in fantasy, wishing it were her in his kitchen and not that bewildered pepperpot that he married, the one that keeps hiding his sherry behind the delia cookbooks.

I've actually caught a nigella episode once where she gleefully demonstrated the fine art of bubble-n-squeak, one where she raided the pantry after a night out (presumably, the limo driver didn't have any grey poupon in the glove box) and several where she refuses to actually touch any food ingredients by continually placing them into plastic bags, which are then shaken (and thrown into the bin, I'm guessing green ain't the right pastel shade for her). the gypsy gal finds her annoying purely by wearing cardigans that match the kitchen colour sceme.

rachael ray. the one who put "yummo" and "evoo" into the average yank lexicon. the one whose best work was probably the fhm photo spread. the one who's better off now serving as the trailer-park oprah to middle america than serving lunch for $40 a day (and the same budget for wardrobe).

ainsley harriott. it's like watching lenny henry do food, except I'm not too sure this ain't a parody. and what's with the swashbuckling sautee pan moves? dangerous in real life, methinks. I've often wondered if len... sorry, ainsley is the child of that guy who did the 7up uncola ads in the 70's. mahvelous.

bobby flay. someone stuck a ken doll in the kitchen and figured out how to animate it.

tyler florence. see above entry.

tom parker bowles. with the personality of a goldfish and a toothgap that alfred e. newman would be proud of, this guy is very, very lucky that he's got a family inheritance in the wings.

emeril lagasse. buy his books, order his knives, eat his produce, use his toothpaste and recreate his catchphrases with a gusto that bart simpson could only have dreamed of. oh, the dude's a chef as well? oy vey.

rocco dispirito. he and flay should start a new madame tussade's wax museum for chefs - starring their real selves. at his best, he's a lame hell's kitchen contestant about to get kicked off, at his worst, he's that kid down the block that everyone wanted to beat up, except that his mom was the school principal. remember the scene in the show the restaurant where the smart-arse intern kid called rocco "captain douchebag"? the kid shouldn't have articulated it, but it was clearly what rocco's staff were thinking.

antony worrall thompson. the only other garden gnomes that I've seen in a kitchen sat silently on the windowsill. this is the guy who published a "recipe" that calls for five snickers bars, puff pastry, mascarpone, soft cheese, sugar and eggs. I'd doubt even ra-ray would give that atrocity a yummo. gordon ramsay called awt a teletubbie, which is possibly the best call I've heard in yonks.

iain hewitson. huey is arguably australia's best known chef, along with australia's best known songwriter, neil finn and best-known actor russell crowe - all new zealanders, of course. after years of demonstrating the making of (purportedly) wholesome, nutritious meals, an overweight huey became the new poster child for jenny craig. there's a parody of huey's wiki page here.

a brief 'boy thing' aside - the following I do enjoy watching, but have yet to learn a thing about food from any of them: giada de laurentiis; clodagh mckenna; tana ramsay; rachel allen; tamasin day-lewis and sandra lee.

I really don't count iron chef as a true culinary show, it's more a hybrid of wwf and sale of the century. although I'd love to see an aussie version. I can imagine chairman kaga "revealing the mystery ingredient..... vegemite!!"

and I'm not sure where to place people like keith floyd, alton brown, ming tsai, maggie beer, hugh fearnley-whittingstall, rick stein and the rest.

so, to all these tv personalities, I say, shove over for the real deal. the true chefs with a lifelong passion for food that outweighs their need for fleeting publicity.

with that, I'd like to give a nod of the toque to those for continued inspiration, education and spiritual cuisine guidance. I'd like to thank (again, in no order):

serge dansereau, tony bourdain, john burton race, neil perry, michael smith, christine mansfield, richard corrigan, rosemary shrager, tetsuya wakuda, giorgio locatelli, atul kochhar, paul rankin, stephanie alexander, marcus wareing, tony bilson, mario batali, charlie trotter, angela hartnett, raymond blanc, kylie kwong, michael chiarello, lidia bastianich, yes, gordon fucking ramsay (the guy can cook), clarissa dickson-wright & jennifer paterson, and finally, marco pierre white.

now shut up and cook, y'all.


the story so far

ok, from the previous post last may, things have progressed rapidly.

at the beginning of the year, we'd looked at a run-down but groovy old cafe site in the blue mountains. it had been closed for about two years, and the notion of building local trade looked rather daunting, to say the least. we passed, and looked further afield.

six months later, we'd been putting in offers to buy a house in the area, and stumbled across the cafe again, which was still available. we held some talks and came to an agreement to try the premises out for a year. as the place also had a residence in the rear, it seemed like a more feasible opportunity.

we moved in a few weeks ago, and have been spending a massive amount of time cleaning, repairing and generally making the place liveable. we're going to keep our "day gigs" and only open on the weekends initially. we'll know soon enough how viable the place will be.

here's some "before" pics:

strangely, the place looks better in these photos than it does in real life... no matter, we're pressing onwards. the cafe is something of a local landmark, I'm not sure if we'll be exactly returning it to its glory days, but we'll see what we can manage.

we're shooting for a december opening. updates and progress reports will be posted here.

visit our myspace page, and become a friend.

cc & am

from the beginning

hi, I'm one of the co-owners of the mount vic cafe at the top of the blue mountains, an hour and a half west of sydney australia. this is the updated blog:

originally posted 03 may 2008:

for the past seven years, I've kept a personal blog, covering my music career, family matters, randoms thoughts, observations, jokes and pure ramblings.

after thirty-odd years in the music biz, I've been feeling the need to move in a different career direction. I'd travelled the world with successful bands and eaten at all kinds of fooderies around the globe. but until I was into my early thirties, I couldn't cook much more than anything from a can or packet.

gradually, I began playing in the kitchen, adding spices, herbs and other elements, experimenting on my friends and family. I'd come up with any excuse to hold a bbq or dinner party, just so that I'd have the excuse to cook.

but it was all random foodplay. I hadn't any formal or even casual training, and really didn't understand the science of food at all.

about five years ago, my partner, the gypsy gal, decided to open a coffeehouse / espresso bar. we ended up with a nice lakeside place north of sydney that had kitchen space and a demand for food. not really being in a position to hire a chef, I jumped in headfirst.

mind you, it was simple stuff, toasted focaccias, soups, salads and the like. typical cafe light brunch stuff. but I got the bug, and soon found myself visiting the local markets, putting daily specials on the board, such as grilled salmon, pastas, gourmet burgers, etc. I found myself befriending local chefs and hanging out in their kitchens while they were prepping, watching, asking questions, learning.

what we started with:

what we created:

after a year, our building was taken over by big money property developers, and we soon found ourselves out on the street. we headed back to sydney holding creditors at bay and found ourselves with an opportunity in a funky old restuarant in the inner west.

there was potential, it seated 40-ish, we had a bar, open fire and featured acoustic music nightly. our mediterranean influenced menu was a hit in an area over-saturated with traditional italian, and we found a great chef. al had previously worked around the sydney area for the likes of serge at regent's and others. he loved what we were doing and came onboard for a pittance of his usual wage. I was his sous/kitchen hand, and learned a lot from him.

a family tragedy called al away, and not having built sufficient trade to hire a qualified chef, I found myself taking the kitchen reins. I'd been on a steep learning curve, but again our menu was relatively easy to maintain. souvlaki, grilled chicken and meats, salt & pepper calamari, I'd gotten a good handle on it all under al's supervision. we hired a kitchen hand and pressed on.

here's what it looked like:

the kitchen, with al ducking out of camera:

again, after about a year, we found ourselves being pressured into an unrealistic lease. reluctantly, we again walked. we swore that we'd never get into pro food again and returned to 'day jobs'. I worked at a guitar store and revived my graphic design business.

that was three years ago, and now it seems, the bug is still biting. I've been considering whether to pick up a casual kitchen gig just to get my skills up, and we'd been exploring a few cafes we'd seen for lease.
it's time to make a serious change in my life. my passion for good food is nearly overwhelming my soul. this blog will chronicle that journey.

oh, the word "foof" comes from the gypsy gal, who when typing the word 'food' into an instant message box, hit the key next to her letter 'd' - hence 'foof'. it's become a long-standing gag in use by our family and friends.