Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Perfect Schnitzel and Coleslaw

Oh the shame. And oh the tastiness!

I have a confession to make. I'm a sensate person, and in the pursuit of yet another food high I'm fully prepared to trawl the gutters, driving along with my Mercedes Benz Mouth picking up cheap floozies like hamburgers or fish and chips for a thrill. And worse. I'm surprised I haven't caught a case of crabs yet (a bit out of my price range I'm afraid).

On the weekend I was channel surfing and found myself watching Better Homes and Gardens.

I know what you're thinking, and don't think I'm not ashamed of myself for even writing that last sentence.

You know Karen Martini, who makes tasty food with that extra special ingredient - FAT? Well, she was on: cooking schnitzels with coleslaw. The presentation was pretty good, and the whole thing so simple, I thought I'd give it a go.

WARNING: this dish is so delicious, you may be forced to keep eating and end up as a big fat fatty.

... full text

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Point – Albert Park

The Point
Aquatic Drive
Albert Park Lake
03 9682 5566

Recently, I’ve found myself asking: “What is the point?”

Probably because:
a. I just watched ‘i♥huckabees’;
b. I’m self employed; and/or
c. I’m now forty and my hair is falling out.

Existentialist and hairy aspects of the question aside, I’ve found the answer: the Point is a two hat restaurant on Albert Park Lake (‘Thank you Kit, we got that from the heading to this blog,’ I hear you think in your usually sagacious and telepathic manner).

Jane and I found ourselves there last night as a result of our involvement with Les Toques Blanches (LTB), the Executive Chefs society in Victoria (we’re working on their website – shh!). The Executive chef at the Point (Justin Wise) – who is joining the illustrious ranks of LTB – was cooking up a demonstration dinner and we’d been invited.

See? Dreams really do come true.

The Point has received two hats from the Age Good Food Guide, an achievement they wear with pride, and the service and food was really very good. Perched in a two storey building on Albert Park Lake, the view wasn’t much at night, but on going back to retrieve my car this morning, I suspect this is a much better venue during daylight hours (go there for dinner in summer, lunch in winter). The venue itself feels a bit “receptiony”, if you know what I mean, but in the foyer I was floored by their cabinet, which had sides of meat hanging on the hook. They have their own meat ageing cellar, and all steaks have been aged something like 60 days before they are cooked and served (so if you’re asked, get the steak).

The event itself was a real eye opener. The level of knowledge about food around the table was staggering. I know that chefy secrets are being spewed out on TV at a million miles an hour, and you can’t move without being hit over the head with secrets of cooking that were only available to professionals fifteen years ago (a six year old could tell you to dehydrate the watermelon before you include it in the pile with your gravellax), but I was genuinely surprised at just how much there is to know about what can be crammed between your gums. Sitting down with qualified chefs for dinner is a genuine learning experience.

We had a tasting menu, the elements of which were explained by the charming and personable
general manager Bryan Lloyd (he’s English and wears a smart suit) in spectacular detail – including the geographical origins of each ingredient.

The menu we had included:

Pan seared Hervey Bay scallops, Beluga lentils (i.e. lentils with caviar in them) and sauce Madras
Murray cod, cuttlefish, oyster beignet, fat hen and tonburi seeds (from Jaan, as colloquially known as land caviar)
Glenloth pheasant, braised savoy cabbage, and Slippery Jack mushrooms
F1 Wagyu Rump Cap, 450+ days grain fed, Rangers Valley NSW,
truffle brûlée, beetroot and celeriac
Banana cake, bubble gum ice cream, warm chocolate and caramel sauce

Each dish was matched to a wine, four Frenchies (two white, two red) and then a sticky at the end; I’m afraid I don’t have the deets, but trust me, they were very good and the reason I had to leave the car behind at the end of the night.

From the look of the menu, you’d imagine that Jane would be in her own personal hell, with mushrooms, banana and seafood featured, but she ate everything and gave it two thumbs up (except the dessert, because she was too full).

If you’re into dessert, you would probably have had an orgasm over this one. It included moon/pop rocks, so it popped in your mouth as you shovelled in dark chocolate, ice cream and cake; kiddy lolly porn for adults.

You can see photos from the dinner here.

So all in all? C’est ce bon! I give the Point seven tentacles out of eight (go there in daylight)! Tell Bryan I sent you.

... full text

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Old Scone Debate

Well can you believe it? Sim came in to work today and mentioned that she'd had an argument with her pals about scones. That most ancient of all scone debates; jam and cream, or cream and jam in the order of the topping? I have some hilarious links from my fave funny man Harry Hill to let you know:

It tuns out the dividing line is Devon and Cornwall.

While we're at it, are you familiar with the good old magic scone?

(click the coloured words above, you ding a ling!)
Welcome to Terrific Tuesday!
... full text

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Seddon Wine Store

Seddon Wine Store

2/101 Victoria St
Seddon VIC 3011
ph:9687 4817
(ok, don't judge it by the website... read on)

Today I went to what looks like one of the best wine shops – in the world. A kind of eno teca, without the wanky Toorak feel… because it’s in Seddon. Yes, you heard me correctly. Seddon. On the same strip as the bakery with the woman who has the largest mole you have ever seen (Waldie’s bakery – top doughnuts, pies and white bread, plenty of cakes, in a tuck shop kind of way, five and a half tentacles!).

“Whoa, easy boy, I’ve been to wine shops before. Big deal,” I hear you think: though I note you fail to admonish me for the mole remark above, for which I am truly sorry and apologise (incidentally – though it is amazing, and a source of local mythology).

I first heard about this wine shop because a friend bought me a bottle of wine from there that was, really, pretty good. So good, in fact, I thought I might like another one. A French number, 2001, delish. Do you think you could buy one on the internet? Nah. So I rang the shop, and they had the last bottle in stock, probably in Australia, for forty bucks. Would I like them to put it aside for me?

“Great,” I replied. “I’ll swing by tomorrow.”

Gee, the Seddon shopping strip on Victoria St has
gone up in the world in the last fifteen years, let me tell you (Waldie's aside). That’s where Basset + Lobaza architects are (Blue Vapours patrons – hi!), and they've known it for years.

I practically fell in love with the Seddon Wine Store when I walked in the door; it looks like the kind of place I would open and then accidentally lock myself in for a long weekend. Blokes drinking wine at a bar, an electric ham slicer lives behind the bench, there's booze, it's basically the things dreams are made of.

They do tapas (well, cold stuff they can put together behind the counter) while you drink a bottle there. A few things off their blackboard:
Tuna Belly
Cured Meats
Smoked Salmon
Various Cheeses

The pics I took are a bit blurry (I must have been a bit excited), but here’s what they’ve got written on the blackboard outside:

Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it’s the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you’ll always feel smarter after a few beers.’ -Cliff Clavin

I just Googled it. He’s the postman from Cheers.

Plus they had a wine I like. Good on you, Seddon wine shop! I give it seven tentacles out of eight, and plan a lunch there shortly.

... full text

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Builder’s Arms Hotel reopens tomorrow!

Builder’s Arms Hotel

211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

OK, it’s official. I’m excited. Officially excited. “Why?” I hear you ask, in that imperturbable way of yours that makes you the paragon of all things admirable. “Enough with the bullshit. Why?” you ask again, shrugging off my impenetrable compliments.

The pub. The pub that is the next door to Blue Vapours. The door directly next to our front door at work. Literally one foot away. Is about to reopen. I can’t believe it.

Ring the bells and let people dance with joy in the streets.

It’s been shut for six months.

Now we didn’t open up a design studio next to a pub and restaurant so I couldn’t go to it for the best part of a year. Or indeed for the last two years really. Why? Read on.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Builder’s Arms. It used to be good, in a comfortable pair of old jeans way – back when they had tropical sunset wallpaper, a cheap Singapore noodle kitchen in the back, a weird mezzanine with a pool table, and a disco out the back that would go till the break-a-break of dawn (which used to drive my current landlord spare). Habitue of gays and groovers, you could buy a pot cheap, and there were regular queues out the door.

Then it changed hands to a consortium of owners, the current team behind the Sporting Club Hotel in Brunswick.
A very nice bloke Noel (who still owns the building), was the leader of the group (or at least drank plenty of white wine out the front) and was behind the reinvention of the Great Britain Hotel on Church St in Richmond (when it used to be good), and the Baker’s Arms Hotel on Victoria St in Abbotsford (before it became an apocryphal 24 hour pokies venue for triads), so he had a great track record.

The disco? Gone. A restaurant featuring giant couscous and Middle Eastern flavours? Open… as a separate business within the premises, run by Noel’s girlfriend at the time. The inside of the pub? Transformed. Done out like a Kylie Minogue film clip; big purple couches and dark corners to go off and be enigmatic in.

But it didn’t work. The restaurant changed, got cheaper and nastier, then barely functioned at all. The front bar wouldn’t open– it ended up only trading from Thursday to Sunday night. And the staff? The first bar manager Andy, who last I heard now manages the Riverland Bar next to the Yarra, was ace. But he left. Then Yule took over, she was nice, everyone loved her, but then she moved back to New Zealand to look after her mother. And then? Rude, Gen Y, holier than thou, groovoire foosh-sticks with attitude. Terrible.
So a pub that was never open – with terrible staff who would not mix drinks or serve you if you were the only one there (since they were busy talking to their friends on the phone) – started to lose money.

Noel and pals gave up the licence halfway through last year, and left it to one of their waitresses to have a crack at until Christmas. She turned it around with her mother, showing even with burgers and bangers and mash you cold make it profitable – just by opening and not being rude to everyone. But it lacked a certain class. The food was OK, but it was all a bit cheap and nasty.

So at the end of the year, the business was served up on a silver platter to anyone with an eye for turning what was fast becoming a wreck into something marvelous.

Enter the three amigos: Anthony Hammond, Andrew McConnell, and Josh Murphy. All met at the Prince of Wales in St Kilda, cooking at Circa and managing the complex.

Incidentally, the Prince is now the jewel in the crown of the guys who own the Middle Park Hotel, Albert Park Hotel, and the Newmarket Hotel (reviewed by me here ) - hi CJ!.

Andrew McConnell is the big name behind the business and is the general impresario. He’s done a few restaurants now, and has it down to a fine art: Cutler and Co (one of my earliest reviews); Golden Fields, Fitzroy St Kilda (can’t attest, never been there); and let’s not forget Cumulus. You can find a bit of a bio on him here.

Josh Murphy is partner number two. He won the Age young chef of the year for 2011, and is the executive chef from Cumulus. He’s from northern Tasmania, and is quiet and efficient.

Anthony Hammond makes up the third side of the partnership. The former Prince of Wales general manager, with his rockabilly hair and a memory for names, is tall, thin and likeable.

They’ve spent a bomb on refurbishing the pub, with timber floors throughout, clean white walls and a redone beer garden with a new tree they brought in already grown. In the near future, a 100 seat reception venue will be opening upstairs, and I plan to make it the home of ‘Gertrude.com’, the Gertrude St film festival. The pub will, apparently, sell affordable beer over the bar and be keeping a pub feel, but then have something kicking in the kitchen. This morning I saw them loading mallee roots through the lane, which will be used on their char grill. The menu is unannounced, but tomorrow the pub opens for drinks at least.

My rating tentacles may be pending, however my saliva glands are already going. See you there! Feel free to drop by the office any time and I’ll take you for a tour.

... full text