Saturday, February 28, 2009

which came first?

for us, the egg well before the chicken. mainly because the chicken's only on the brunch menu and not the brekky menu.

a couple of veggie (and carnivores with good taste) faves on a lazy saturday morning:

scrambled free-range eggs with fresh chives and slow-roasted plum tomatoes on toast:

poached free-range eggs with sauteed field mushrooms on toast:

Monday, February 23, 2009


economic data released last week claims spending in cafes and restaurants fell 3.9% last quarter, topping off a fall of 12.9% for the year, the weakest annual growth rate for 25 years.

I'm trying to locate the original source, this bit I gleaned from a news story reporting on the closure of the winning 2005 my restaurant rules contestant.

but it's a telling set of statistics, no?

the tex, the mule and the rev

well, things picked up a little on sunday. a little. so the weekend wasn't a complete loss. but we'll hang in until the easter break and see if the season finally kicks in.

thanks to amanda and her family for celebrating her birthday with us. if you're a roots / country music fan, check out amanda's excellent blog.

the tex-mex burger, with a tangy guacamole, cos lettuce and chipotle tomato salsa:

the rev jd love performing:

bluegrass fans, note next sunday, when the jimmy rush project hits our, well, it's not a stage, more of a carpet really. jimmy's bringing the a-team of australian bluegrass pickers with him. should be a dandy time.

Friday, February 20, 2009


we've been open three hours and haven't had a soul walk in. well, aside from some gal taking a survey about the local swimming pool. I've checked with the pub and the two other cafes in the village, they're all dead. welcome to february. no matter, we have bookings for saturday & sunday. the easter tourist season is around the corner, I'm sure I'll miss the relative quiet and serenety.

on the specials board today: penne with chorizo, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and rocket; veggie burgers with patties made from lentil, carrot, potato and zucchini; leek, onion and new potato soup; organic roast pumpkin, lentil and feta pies.

had another nice review on eatability, which is always welcome and encouraging.

*update* - the manager of the pub across the road came in with his family for lunch. bill came to just under what it costs us in electricity and gas to run the place for a day, so we're still behind.

*update update* takeaways. at least that's something.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

choose wisely

the rspca has a new initiative, which we were quite happy to join. it's called choose wisely, and is an awareness campaign aimed at reducing the amount of cage-laid hen eggs used in cafes and restaurants.

we're members at the silver level, which means that we use cage-free eggs in all food products made on premises (which we've been doing since opening), but that some products bought-in may have used cage eggs in production.

we'll occasionally have pastries or cookies brought in to augment what we're able to bake here, so we're not 100% sure about the egg sources used there. as well as some stock items, such as dry pasta, creams, custards and ice creams, so we're at the mid-level to ensure that our integrity is assured.

it's an interesting initiative. let's hope the word spreads.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

what's yer beef?

somewhat inspired by a few 'bad customer' tales over on rita's blog, I thought I'd throw the doors open to get a few comments.

as a diner, what is your one major gripe, complaint, etc about your restaurant experiences?

we've all got plenty, but I'd like to limit this to your top peeve.

to kick things off, one of my fave pubs in the city had a bistro that was always busy on weekends. problem is, they were always understaffed and the kitchen layout wasn't the most ergonomic, let alone efficient.

having qualified that, it wasn't uncommon on a friday night or sunday afternoon to have a table of four receive their meals within an hour of each other. first served would be well finished with their meal while number four was still awaiting theirs.

it's my main grumble, and I've always busted my arse (and my staff's as well) to make sure that each table is served completely at the same time, or at least within a few brief minutes.

so what's your beef?

Monday, February 16, 2009

sweets for the sweet

as we didn't offer a valentine's day dinner, we came up with something appropriately decadent. a chocolate brownie, made from dark belgian chocolate and topped with a caramel & dark chocolate sauce:

they sold out quickly. funny about that.

we went from last weekend's heatstroke to this weekend's cold wave. the fire kept the dining room toasty all weekend, and it gave us a vibe of what winter will be like. lots of tourists were in town for the valentine's getaway weekends, so business picked up - finally. we sold out of pasta, soup and veggie burgers, all the comfort foods on the specials board.

with the rain drizzling and the fire crackling, it's a nice place to be, if I do say so myself. it's a comfortable and cozy room to lounge around, sipping coffee and reading the weekend papers. of all the various books, magazines etc piled on the coffee table next to the fire, the most popular and well-read - by a long shot - are the four collections of gary larson's the far side that I dug out. watching grown adults sniggering like schoolkids while reading them is always amusing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

friday the 13th...

... it isn't just for horror movies anymore.

after last week's near-heatstrokes, it was cold enough this morning to stoke up the fire in the dining room. not that it mattered, you could count the number of customers that came in on one hand. a cartoon hand, for that matter (let's see who gets that reference...).

except we're not laughing. 'february's usually the slowest month', we've been told. but I'm sure that nobody expected quite the crunch that we all seem to be feeling.

there's an old saying:
come in and eat, before we both starve


Thursday, February 12, 2009


why haven't I discovered this before?

"Week One. Thurs. Students peel seven hundred pounds of potatoes to gangster rap about burning down zoos and hitting women with golf clubs. They are told not to come back."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

beatin' the heat

as previously posted last sunday it was 45c/113f outside and 56c/133f in the kitchen. here we are, wednesday, and it's 12c/54f. at least cooler weather means coffee weather. we usually get a decent breakfast trade when it's cloudy and drizzly like today, and the weather bureau says the cool weather will hold out thru the weekend. hope so, but we're not holding our breaths just yet.

yet another replacement espresso machine has turned up. this one resembles the one we'd originally ordered back in october (and which the company promptly lost). our tech guys are here bright and early tomorrow, and we'll give the new beast a run on friday:

Monday, February 9, 2009


so we were packed to the rafters all weekend, people left huge tips, I gave the staff $100 each extra, hired a limo and took the family to tetsuya's for dinner.


if only. the heatwave peaked on sunday and ensured that everyone in the area stayed home. we had the worst trading week since opening and had to endure the stress of the heat to boot. at 3pm yesterday, the kitchen topped at 56c/133f and we'd all had enough. the heat was stinging everyone's eyes and I shut everything down.

the wonderfully talented caitlin harnett performed to an audience of her family, a couple of friends and two regulars, but that was as good a crowd as we were going to get on the day:

in spite of the heat, there was a lot going on. in my other life as a musician, I debuted my new blues trio at the pub across the road on friday. after service saturday, we had a 40th birthday and a wedding down the road. sunday saw a few post-revelers drag themselves in for breakfast. I came up with an appropriate 'special' - chipolata sausages, bacon, eggs with a healthy dash of tabasco and chips with a paprika gravy.

I took a photo of one, but I can't bring myself to post it. let's just say, it appeared to have achieved its purpose. someone asked for a 'nice chicken salad with a wholegrain mustard dressing', so I threw this together on the fly:

the rocket was all I could get my hands on. my fruit & veg guy gave me the last fifteen batches they had. the hot weather in victoria killed off most of the usual supply of wild rocket, and next week, we expect banana prices to skyrocket in the wake of the north queensland floods.

it's a little cooler today, we're in the office stressing over bills and hoping that next weekend will pick up. it's amazing how much effect the weather can have on trade. at our last resto in sydney, we'd have forty or fifty covers on a typical friday night. but if it rained, we'd drop to four or five. they keep telling us that winter is the big season up here. let's hope we can hang in until then.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

prep day

I like prep days. they're easy going, low stress and even a little creative. the pace up here isn't as competitive or frantic as in the cities, so there's not need to queue at say, the sydney fish markets or paddy's at 4am, trying to get to the swimmer crab or raddichio before the best goes. in fact, the last time I'd arrived at the crack of dawn at my local fruit & veg, the boys were still milling about, rolling out trays of stock with all the urgency of a melting glacier.

so I enjoy a leisurely start to prep day, pounding down a half dozen coffees and reading the latest news, blogs and food forums on the net. it gives me time to budget out my buying for the day and to begin to think about the weekend's specials. most of my favourite food sites are northern hemisphere-based, so glossy photos and breathless reviews of 'hearty winter stews', 'rich minestrone' and 'beef bourgoin in a reduced red wine jus' don't really appeal to me (or our diners) in 40c/104f heat.

started pickling some baby octopus for a salad, they used to sell very well at our last resto, but the place was right in the midst of the italian quarter of sydney. it'll be interesting to see how it goes up here. also thinking of a nice summery potato salad, not the gluggy egg mayo variety (though I loved that at bbq's as a kid), but rather something more delicate. I've been keen to try some pastas, but am thinking it's still too hot. today's post about berries on gail's blog reminds me that I need to make up another couple of batches of jam soon.

among the tasks on the list today: making pesto, sauces and vinaigrettes; preparing and rolling out burger patties; trimming chicken and separating into fillets and marinating the rest for focaccias and salads; unpack the celery, reserving the leaves for celery salt; slice the ham from the bone; trim the rinds from the bacon, reserving for a future soup or stock; boil potatoes for mash; order bread and check that all needed stock is on hand and ready. by a remarkable coincidence, it's then often 5pm, which is happy hour at the pub across the road. there, I'll get the latest weather updates and agriculture gossip from the locals.

tomorrow morning, I'll roast off the romas and eggplant; slice breads (provided they were delivered on time...); set up the mise and salad stations; make a batch of garlic butter; caramelise onions and make gravy, wash and prep the salad veggies, make up some mayo; make salsa and guacamole and write the specials on the board. plus come up with some wise-guy retort for the a-frame chalkboard we use in the blackboard wars with the boys across the road. then I'll use my best gordon ramsay voice and say something like, "jean-phillipe.. open hell's kitchen", as the staff gals roll their eyes and go back to their coffees.

so I'm off to hunt and gather. I may post some pics if so inspired.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

this n that

trade's definitely slowed as expected, post holidays. we did around half the covers that we did the week before. but we did at least as well as we'd expected.

we've decided not to try and put on a valentine's day dinner, even though we had tentative bookings. we're simply not geared up to try anything 'fine dining' at this point, and to do an event like v-day, you've really got to do it right.

we're still having a few issues with our kitchen gear, it's adequate for the lunch menu we have but I'm not 100% sure about doing a full dinner. then, we don't have enough matching crockery for a proper three course, let alone all the ancillary items like tablecloths et al. borrowing or renting isn't an option, as all the other pubs, guesthouses and function centers are all doing their own v-day dinners. then, there's staffing. our gals work nights at other places, so we'd be stuck for a regular crew. so, into the 'too hard' basket for 2009.

speaking of, well typing of staff, our gal karin only made it thru the first audition round for masterchef australia before being given the 'thanks for playing' news. she must be doing something right, as she's been asked to come on board a diner down the highway that's just changed owners.

the heatwave continues unabated, keeping our breakfast trade at bay but bringing in a late afternoon rush. the kitchen temp nudged 51c/124f a few days ago:

perhaps it was the heat, but our salads finally started selling. on the specials board we had a grilled chorizo salad with a house ranch dressing. I used local green beans and snow peas from a friend's garden. I'd love to source some more local produce, but it's finding the time to make the contacts that's always a challenge.

interesting quote on ruhlman's blog:

“It was clear that we had this incredible bounty around us, but we weren’t known for creating great stuff to eat. At the beginning of the 20th century, Iowa fed people. And here we are in the 21st century, and we’re feeding machines. It’s just a priori wrong. One of the things in the U.S. is we don’t have the thousands of years of tradition of making prosciutto — or of making anything. You see that the quality of the meat comes from the quality of life of the animal and the quality of the feed”

you'll get no argument from me.