Gluten Free Expo 2017

Last weekend I attended the Gluten Free Expo 2017, organised by Coeliac Australia. It was my first time there, and I found it really valuable to get to know which brands I can use and recommend to my clients who have CD or an intolerance to gluten.

Talks and demos

There were two stages were the event sponsors (Coles and others) ran cooking demos and talks for the audience.

Coles cooking demo Talk

Bread

It was really good to find out that gluten free bread is getting better and better. There are a few brands out there that are producing non-cakey, non-crumpety bread that are worth checking out: Schär with really good European-style breads, Genius Gluten Free with a sandwich bread that is remarkably similar to regular bread, Bakers Maison, with a pretty good (but expensive) sourdough and white loaf bread, and last but not least Deeks Bread, who make really good products (short and sweet ingredients lists) and a potato-based paleo loaf.

Genius Gluten Free Genius Gluten Free Bakers Maison bread Bakers Maison bread
Deeks bread Schar bread Simply Wize crusty bread Gluten Free Bakehouse bread

Ready-made meals

The other sector in gluten-free products that seems to have grown exponentially is that of ready-made meals. This is especially important for people who need to eat gluten-free but don’t have enough time or skills to cook every meal from scratch. A couple of companies that I particularly liked were The Gluten Free Meal Co., which offers a wide variety of really tasty meals and finger food delivered to your door and New Chinese Garden, with single-serve Chinese meals that are really tasty and free of crappy ingredients

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The Gluten Free Meal Co - butter chicken The Gluten Free Meal Co - meat lovers pizza bites The Gluten Free Meal Co - vegetable samosas The Gluten Free Meal Co - Korean beef
The Gluten Free Meal Co - meatballs and penne New Chinese Garden meals Rice King Jase's Kitchen frozen pizzas

Beer

The next category in order of importance is, of course, beer. Both O’Brien and Wilde were present and, because they were not allow to sell booze at the event, I had to come back for more samples multiple times.

O'Brien beer Wilde Gluten Free Beer

Beverages

Other beverages showcased at the expo included chocolate tea, hydration drinks, organic herbal teas and kombucha.

Chocolate tea Bolero hydration drinks Neo Organic Tea Opera Foods kombucha, etc.

Wraps and pizza bases

There were also a few brands of wraps and pizza bases, of which Julian’s Gluten Free pizza bases are worth mentioning, as they have developed a thin, crisp, non-cakey base that is very close to the real deal.

Julian's Gluten Free pizza bases Julian's Gluten Free pizza bases BFree wraps True Foods wraps

Snacks

Most of the products at the expo were snacks. Being a dietitian, I feel compelled to encourage people to eat real food for the bulk of their meals and avoid processed snacks. Having said that, there’s a time and a place to indulge on treats. A few of them that caught my eye were: Schar sweet and savoury biscuits and crackers, which are very close to the real deal, Carman’s seedy crackers, Simply Wize‘s Oreo-type cookies, and Syndian dips.

Schar biscuits Schar Simply Wize biscuits Carman's crackers
Carman's bliss balls Carman's protein bars Piranha probiotic snacks Piranha snacks

Roasted fava beans

Roasted chickpeas Crafted Blends quinoa chips Crafted Blends snacks
Food For Health clusters Food For Health bars Food For Health bites Syndian dips

Sauces

The sauces and meal bases had a strong presence, too, making it easy to whip up gluten-free Asian and Mexican dishes.

Spice Craft sauces Diego's Foods Ding The Recipe sauces Ayam

Baking

The flours & mixes section was represented by very well known brands such as Bob’s Red Mill and relatively new players such as Teff Tribe who make a range of mixes utilising teff (a low GI, high protein, high fibre gluten free grain), and Melinda’s Gluten Free with their low(er) carb range of cake mixes.

Bob's Red Mill Teff Tribe Teff Tribe Melinda's Gluten Free
Melinda's Gluten Free Melinda's Gluten Free Yes You Can baking products Yes You Can cake mixes

Food stalls

Finally, no expo is complete without food stalls. There were hot dogs, coffee, donuts and arepas, but I could not fit more food in my belly.

Hot dogs Coffee Donuts Arepas

For the full list of exhibitors, click here and keep your eyes peeled for next year’s expo.

Gluten Free Expo

Naturally Good Expo

Last weekend I attended the Naturally Good Expo, a trade-only event for businesses interested in natural food, therapies and goods. I, of course, attended as a private practice dietitian to 1) know what are the market trends that my clients might be exposed to and 2) try products that I can recommend to my clients and/or use myself.

I tried a multitude of Bounce®-type energy balls, raw/protein bars, alkaline water, turmeric products, chocolate bars, plant-based protein powders and greens powders. To be honest, I think those product categories are reaching saturation point and it’s hard to differentiate between brands.

Matcha and turmeric drinks

The most interesting products I personally came across were:

Goat milk chocolate

Egg white protein bars

Sauerkraut crisps

One trend I was pleased to see is bone broths in different presentations (liquid, powdered, in a paste for reconstituting), as well as collagen and gelatin products. These natural jellies were pretty awesome, too.

Bone broth, jelly and nut milks

Natural jellies

Fine Fettle won the retailer’s choice award for best food product, which doesn’t surprise me – I’ve been a fan for a long time (see my most recent review of their products <a href="here).

Smooth Festival of Chocolate 2015 (The Rocks)

A couple of weekends ago the already busy streets of The Rocks were the stage of the smooth Festival of Chocolate: chocolate-centered cooking demos and products, and the normal bunch of completely unrelated food stalls that are present in every single (food and non-food) festival in Sydney. I went there before noon on Sunday and it was already packed.

Festival

Fortunately, the first stall I ran into was Danieli Gourmet Skewers and there wasn’t a big queue. I got a plate of Moroccan lamb, octopus and prawn skewers with salad (no rice). Yes, the salad was a bit of an overstatement but the skewers were good.

Danieli Gourmet Skewers

Danieli Gourmet Skewers

Lamb, octopus and prawn skewers

Lamb, octopus and prawn skewers ($16)

As I had limited time I only got to try a few chcoolates, including Origin and Zozoko. I liked Origin better, in part because they use Latin American cacao, in part because their blocks were cheaper. I bought a block of Peruvian 85% and moved on.

Origin chocolates

Zozoko chocolates

After tasting a few squares of chocolate I needed coffee. The hot weather called for a cold brew, served in an espresso takeaway cup. Too bad they didn’t have any ice.

Adore coffee

Cold brew

Adore Coffee cold brew ($4.50)

On my way back to work I had a look at the Black Star Pastry stall, but decided not to join the (very long) queue. I can walk to their Newtown shop any day, anyway.

Black Star Pastry

Instead, I stopped at Keski Pan, a Mexican stall offering sweet and savoury tamales. The sweet tamales were quite unusual (even though we do have tamales with caramel filling – called humitas) but I did not have enough stomach capacity and chose savoury instead: a tasty chicken mole tamal.

Mexican stall

Chicken mole tamal

Chicken mole tamal ($10)

Strawberry and chocolate tamales

Strawberry and chocolate tamales ($8)

The final morsel I got to try was paleo Sun Catchers brownies, which apparently are being sold in health food shops. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Paleo brownies

Australia Day 2013

The weather on Australia Day was beautiful. Sunny, hot, perfect for a barbie. Too bad we planned ours for the next day!

Still I felt like doing something on the day, so my housemate, her dog and I walked to Enmore Park to see what was on. I had just trained and feeling peckish, but didn’t have high expectations on the food offering. Yeah, there was Turkish pide, fairy floss and paella, but also a few interesting finds (with really crappy music on the background).

The Gourmet Rotisserie immediately caught our eye with their chickens on display. They offered both chicken and porchetta served in panini. A closer look at the menu revealed the magic words: gluten-free option, served on potatoes.

The Gourmet Rotisserie

The Gourmet Rotisserie

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken

Porchetta

Porchetta

Bonnie and I shared the porchetta served on potatoes with aioli and salad. It was good (nice crackling), although not precisely huge on flavours. We eat potatoes very sparingly so I’m glad when they are as good as those. I guess we can thank the aioli.

Porchetta on potatoes

Porchetta on potatoes

There were two Mexican stalls. I found it cool that one of them emphasized the use of free range eggs and organic meats.

Burritos

Burritos menu

My husband would have gone nuts with the coconut man, who offered young coconuts to drink and/or eat and was also selling a handy perforating tool that apparently works both on young and mature coconuts. You still need a knife to expose the flesh, though.

Coconut & coconut openers

Coconut & coconut openers

The rain on Sunday did not stop us from having an Aussie barbie. We had salads, lamb chops, beef burgers, homemade condiments and sauces (ketchup, macadamia oil mayo & aioli, a Venezuelan cousin of guacamole, and salsa verde made by a real Italian, Paola). My friends Susy and Jose brought some outstanding beef and sausages. He is Uruguayan and arrived with his own BBQ tools. Needless to say, he’s an expert!

Salads

Salads

Homemade condiments, pickles

Homemade condiments, pickles

Lamb chop, beef burgers

Lamb chop, beef burgers

Sausages, beef

Sausages, beef

Gladys baked a delicious Paleo chocolate & banana cake with chocolate frosting.

Paleo chocolate/banana cake

Paleo chocolate & banana cake

Dessert number two (yes, we had two desserts) was an amazing apple crumble (a.k.a. scramble) that Bonnie made in the slow cooker.

Paleo chocolate/banana cake, slow-cooked apple crumble

Paleo chocolate & banana cake, slow-cooked apple crumble

We ate too much and drank too much. So yes, we had a great Australia Day.

Review: Grappa (Leichhardt)

So… it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. As you may know, October = Crave Festival, a variety of food-related events that take place all around Sydney. One of my favourite features is Let’s Do Lunch, where restaurants offer a meal (often a main, but may vary) and a beverage (sponsor’s wine, beer or water) for $38. Al and I took the day off work for yet another Let’s Do Lunch adventure, this time at Leichhardt’s Grappa Ristorante e Bar.

The two dishes we shared were the Let’s Do Lunch meal: grilled snapper fillet with South Australian vongole, grilled eggplant, and cherry tomatoes, and one of the day’s specials: sesame-crusted tuna steak with fennel, citrus, capers, and olives.

There were two attempts to put bread on the table, which we declined. The second time we asked if they had any gluten-free bread, but they didn’t, and offered warm olives instead. We couldn’t say no. The olives were delicious (warm olives are just genius) and had a mild chilli kick. What we didn’t like about them is that they were charged on the bill, and they weren’t precisely cheap. Should have seen it coming.

Warm olives

Warm olives ($9.50)

On the bright side, food was superb. The snapper was perfectly cooked, its delicate flesh was tender and nicely flavoured by the surrounding broth. The whole dish was rounded (although the eggplant could do with a bit more time on the grill) and went really nicely with my glass of white.

Grilled snapper fillet

Grilled snapper fillet ($38)

The tuna steak was very tasty, as well, perhaps a bit too thin, but flavourful nonetheless. The salad was excellent, the (very Italian) combination of citrus (grapefruit in this case), fennel and olives is one of my favourites.

Tuna steak

Tuna steak ($34)

After we paid, the waiter forgot to bring our change and we were kept waiting for a while. The manager offered his apologies with a free shot of limoncello, which I happily accepted.

Grappa Ristorante e Bar
Shop 1, 267-277 Norton Street
Leichhardt NSW 2040
(02) 9560 6090
enquiries@grappa.com.au
www.grappa.com.au

Grappa Ristorante & Bar on Urbanspoon

Other Crave Festival eats:
Sushi e, Let’s Do Lunch, 2010
Fix St James, Let’s Do Lunch, 2010
Night Noodle Markets, 2010
Food & Wine Fair, 2010
Norton Street Italian Festa, 2010
World Chef Showcase 2011 (day 1)
World Chef Showcase 2011 (day 2)
Est, Let’s Do Lunch, 2011
Bistrode, The Other Bits dinner, 2011
Uccello, Let’s Do Lunch, 2011

Review: Bistrode CBD (The Other Bits, Crave Festival dinner)

Crave makes October an overwhelming and expensive month for us foodies. Most of us would love to attend to at least one event per day, but the reality is we can’t. At least I can’t. I’d be broke, sick and obese by November if I did. This year I’ve been lucky and the few events I’ve chosen so far have been totally worth it, including this one.

Jeremy Strode’s The Other Bits dinner sounded too good to miss. I’ve been wanting to try stuff from “the other bits” section of Bistrode CBD‘s menu for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity to sample not one but five dishes at once. “The other bits” refer to offal and other not so common animal parts, which fortunately are starting to appear in more and more menus. Why is it a good thing? Well, for starters it means that there’s less waste of food, which is great from a sustainability point of view, and from a business point of view. The second reason is that those bits are often tastier than the most common cuts because they’re surrounded by connective tissue (bones, cartilages, etc). Last but not least, organs (especially liver) have way more nutrients than pure muscle.

Dinner costed $75 with optional matching beverages for $45. My plan before getting there was to buy a glass of all-purpose red but when I saw the pairings in the menu I realised it’d be virtually impossible. Given it was a cheat meal, I decided to go with the full package.

Dinner started with bread which I politely rejected. The first course was not paired with wine, but with a Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale from Dandenong, Victoria. Beer! I hadn’t have one since early September. I love beer but not the effects it has in my body, however for me a good ale is very hard to resist. The appetizer was a piece of pork skin cracker and a mini tongue sandwich. The crackling was good, although I’m not the biggest fan. The tongue was awesome: super tender and very flavourful. It was placed on a leaf of what I think was baby spinach, and the bottom slice of bread was smothered with creamy horseradish. I, of course, scraped it with my knife and smothered it on the tongue (the ox’s, not mine). Yummo.

Pork skin cracker, tongue sandwich

Tongue sandwich, pork skin cracker

This is the perfect moment to rave about service. I was served by a number of people and all of them were great: friendly, attentive, and able to explain the details of the menu. The waitress deserves a special mention: she noticed I didn’t eat my sandwich’s bread and asked if I was gluten intolerant. I said “no, just a bit sensitive but prefer to avoid it”. She told me there was gluten in the lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’ dish (the brain was crumbed or battered), I said it wouldn’t be an issue. I did stop drinking beer in anticipation, even when the amount of gluten in it is minimal.

The next drink was a 2009 FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria. A very nice fruity white, with more body than most wines that are usually paired with a fish course. The roast kingfish head & green sauce (aka “salsa verde”) was one of my favourite dishes of the night. I scraped all the tasty flesh that I could, especially from the cheek. The fish which went equally well with the garlicky green sauce and with juice from the provided lemon wedge. The edible bit I didn’t eat were the eyes, unlike my granny I don’t find them very appealing.

Roast kingfish head & green sauce

Roast kingfish head & green sauce

The third drink was a 2009 Pittnauer Blaufrünkisch Rosé from Burgenland, Austria. I’m starting to realise that those Austrians make really good wines! This one paired the famous lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’. The waitress announced with a smile that the guys at the kitchen had found a uncrumbed lamb’s brain. Awesome! The lamb’s heart had been roasted and very thinly sliced, it was much more mild in flavour than cow’s heart. The brain was surprisingly fatty (my only experience eating brain has been cow’s) and nicely flavoured. A salad with parsley, green beans cut lengthwise and almonds was a great complement. I enjoyed this dish a lot, as well as the wine pairing.

Lamb's 'hearts & minds'

Lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’

The next wine was a spicy 2008 Vinea Marson Sangiovese from Heathcote, Victoria, served to match a warm salad of dried pig’s liver, egg & radishes. I love cow’s and chicken’s liver, but unfortunately found the pig’s liver flavour too intense. There were strips of crispy pig’s ears that were more to my liking. The salad was good, with a whole radish (leaves and roots included) and a “deconstructed” hard-boiled egg wedge (white and yolk apart from each other).

Warm salad of dried pig's liver, egg & radishes

Warm salad of dried pig’s liver, egg & radishes

The final drink was a 2004 Outpost Estate Zinfandel from Howell Mountain, California, USA, which I found the least enjoyable, both on its own and paired with food. The dish was a Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie, which again was customised for my gluten avoidance: with no pastry base and with the “lid” placed on top to be removed if I wanted. I did and ate the filling and the mash (it was a cheat meal, after all) savouring every forkful. Great crustless pie!

Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie

Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie

I was offered dessert but I was stuffed and wanted to keep my cheat meal within sensible parameters. I did hear the two couples at the next table raving about theirs.

Bistrode CBD
52 King Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000
www.merivale.com/#/cbd/bistro

World Chef Showcase 2011, day 2, program 6

Sunday morning. A full day of eating and drinking (went to a birthday party after the World Chef Showcase) left me physically bloated but mentally hungry for more.

I arrived a bit late for the morning session, Neil Perry from Rockpool and other restaurants in the country was already showing a video of the dry aging process of the beef he sells. There was a fire on stage that looked promising. Neil talked about sustainability, about knowing where your food comes from (hint: you can’t do that by buying mass-produced meat at a supermarket), and the importance of eating a balanced diet. He cooked rib-eye steaks on the bone on the grill. The smell was hypnotizing.

Neil Perry

Neil Perry

Dry aged beef is dense and intense, with a complexity of flavour that comes from fermentation. Its texture is chewy, tender and flavourful at the same time, and it cooks quicker because it has less moisture.

While the steaks cooked Neil started working on the tasting plate. He made hand-pounded pesto, for which he suggests never to toast the pine nuts to avoid their flavour to dominate the basil’s. He also said using a mortar and pestle as opposed as a food processor doesn’t burn the basil and lets it release its essential oils. The pesto was served with grilled baby octopus, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes and olives. I founded the dish a bit too salty but the pesto was brilliant.

Wood-fire grilled baby octopus with olives and hand-pounded pesto

Wood-fire grilled baby octopus with olives and hand-pounded pesto

Neil chopped the steaks on stage and passed them to the public. Even when it wasn’t a big enough piece to fully appreciate, it was indeed tasty.

Neil Perry: Rib-eye steak

Rib-eye steak

During morning tea we were offered the same morsels and drinks as the previous day. I made my way to the book signing area to get my copy of Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton signed. Matt Moran and Neil Perry were signing books too, too bad I’m not a big fan of cookbooks.

Matt Moran signing books

Matt Moran signing books

Neil Perry signing books

Neil Perry signing books

Next on stage was Francis Mallmann, for me a well-known Argentinian chef because of his TV show in elgourmet.com, which was not surprisingly my favourite cable channel back home. He’s all about cooking in nature, particularly in Patagonia, a cold Southern region in his country. Even when he looks like a mad scientist with his red-rimmed glasses, unstyled gray hair around his bald head and white chef’s coat, he is against “modern” cooking techniques (foams, etc). Mallmann hates marinades and thinks meat, salt and fire is everything you need for a perfect meal. I’ve heard him a million times but couldn’t help to agree, once again, with his thoughts about cooking: “cooking is a mix of tenderness and brutality”, “cooking is not an art, it’s a craft that you learn by doing hundreds and thousands of times”, “cooking is a silent language”.

Francis Mallmann

Francis Mallmann

Mallmann is all about rustic food. His first dish was potato dominoes, square potato slices arranged domino-style, bathed in butter and roasted in the oven. They went around for people to see, touch and taste. Then he cooked a whole roasted pumpkin (in the oven but he normally uses ashes) with goat’s cheese, mint and rocket. He wasn’t shy on using his hands to break and mix the ingredients. The pumpkin was passed around for a taste, too, what it lacked in presentation it had in flavour. He also prepared a dessert with orange slices stabbed with rosemary, heavily sprinkled with sugar and burnt (sugar side down), served with cream.

Oranges with rosemary

Oranges with rosemary, before burning them

His main dish was a boneless rib eye with chimichurri. He cooked one on stage but not to his liking (low temp & slow) because of time restrictions. The steaks we were served were perfectly cooked, tender, extremely flavourful, and simple. I’d have liked a bit more of chimichurri, but maybe it’s just me. Mallmann ranted a bit about how chimichurri was overdone without respecting its basic structure (hopefully that won’t happen in Sydney now that Argentinian food is becoming popular).

Rib eye with chimichurri

Rib eye with chimichurri

During the morning we also had author Diana Kennedy talking about food in Mexico, the country where she has lived most of her life.

We had just had two amazing tastings with the masters of cooking on fire, our bodies and clothes were smelling like BBQ, and it was lunch time. Lucky us! The buffet was similar to the one the day before, with slight changes. Salads were changed from Caesar and pumpkin to pasta and Waldorf. The main protein dish was not chorizo anymore, but lamb chops and Cajun-spiced salmon. The chops were the highlight of the day, the salmon could have used a bit more seasoning and a little less cooking.

Pasta salad

Pasta salad

Waldorf salad

Waldorf salad

Cheeses

Cheeses

Lamb chops

Lamb chops

Fruits

Fruits

I had lunch as fast as I could (without choking) and went to line up for Gastón Acurio‘s appearance. There were already a bunch of people queuing, including a party of VIPs who got one of the tables closest to the stage. I hadn’t seen so many Peruvians together in Sydney since the elections. Diego Muñoz (Bilson’s) and Diego Alcántara, the chef’s helpers for the day, entered the room first. As soon as Gastón arrived, people started getting photos taken with him. It may seem ridiculous but most Peruvians have a huge respect for him because of everything he’s done for our cuisine; he’s more a hero than a celebrity.

Gastón started with a video with images of my country’s culture, from music to food, from street vendors to fine dining restaurants, while he talked about the pillars of current Peruvian cuisine: biodiversity, cultural diversity, social commitment, and sustainability. He explained how food became the thing that allowed social classes to come together, and how now we’re the country with more cooking students in South America.

Gaston Acurio

Gastón Acurio

Gaston Acurio

Gastón Acurio

Then the magic started. Gastón’s first dish was a cebiche del amor (love cebiche), with fish, oysters, sea urchin, prawns, squid, and scallops. For the leche de tigre (tiger’s milk, traditionally the “juice” that is left from previous cebiches) he used lime juice, Peruvian chillies (rocoto and ají limo), celery stalk, garlic, coriander, ginger, fish trimmings and salt. Leche de tigre is believed to be an aphrodisiac, especially when powered by such a variety of seafood, hence the name of the dish. The cebiche was great. A bit sweeter and far less spicy than typical Peruvian cebiches but exquisite. I could hear the spoons banging against the plates all over the room. And not only Peruvians were delighted, an Aussie couple at my table who hadn’t eaten cebiche before loved it.

Cebiche del Amor

Cebiche del amor

The next dish was a hot cebiche. It was inspired in an ancient way of cooking marinated seafood on hot stones, only that he did it on a stovetop grill. The meat of choice was crayfish, which was marinated with leche de tigre (sans ginger and plus ají amarillo) and cooked on a corn husk. We didn’t get to try this one but was passed around the tables for a quick look.

Crayfish "a la piedra"

Crayfish “a la piedra”

The third cebiche married Peruvian and Australian ingredients, as as way to celebrate the similarities between the two countries in spite of being so far apart. The local ingredients included green mussels, mulloway, green papaya, strawberries, grapes and asparagus. The Peruvian touch was leche de tigre with rocoto, ají amarillo, ají limon, coriander and red onion.

Unfortunately, none of Gastón’s cookbooks were on sale at the event. However, he was signing programs. I found it a bit lame but got mine signed nonetheless, and had my photo taken with him.

Gaston and I

Gaston and I

Afternoon tea nibbles included cookies, which I think were from Baroque. Didn’t touch them.

Afternoon tea cookies

Afternoon tea cookies

Next on stage were Ricardo Zárate from Mo-chica and Picca restaurants in Los Angeles and Alex Atala from DOM in Sao Paulo. Their mission was to talk about the impact of food in Latin America’s social, cultural and environmental development. Although I realise it must have been hard for native English speakers to understand everything they said, I think the message was clear: things are changing and chefs are responsible for leading this movement.

Alex Atala and Ricardo Zarate

Alex Atala and Ricardo Zárate

And once again we had a sweet end of the program. Willie Harcourt-Cooze (I confess I had no idea who he was, because I don’t watch TV anymore), owner of a cacao farm in Venezuela, made a really passionate celebration of chocolate.

Willie Harcoute-Cooze

Willie Harcoute-Cooze

While cooking on stage he explained us the characteristics of the different varieties that given to each table in a sampling plate. First we tried cacao nibs, which hit the tongue with a burnt flavour that ended with a hint of chocolate taste.

Chocolate tasting plate

Chocolate tasting plate

Then we tried a very intense 100% chocolate, recommended for savoury dishes. Willy used it to make cacao and olive bread, which was sent to the tables. The olive flavour (from whole green olives and oil) dominated the taste of the bread. The chocolate actually didn’t make it taste it like dessert, but gave it a nutty flavour. A few fennel seeds on top gave it a nice contrast.

Cacao and olive bread

Cacao and olive bread

Willie made a classic chocolate mousse, for which he had already prepared the crust: tempered bitter chocolate painted on a piece of baking paper lined on a cake tin. For the filling he used the Indonesian 69 present in our sampling plates, a delicious chocolate with acidity notes and citrusy flavour. For the crust he used the Madagascan 71, which had a little bit of acidity but was much fruitier and sweeter than the Indonesian. I missed the explanation on the last chocolate from the sampling plate (if there was any), and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. It had a fungusy, earthy flavour. Willie topped a finished chocolate mousse with berries and we were handed mini versions of it, along with a glass of Brown Brothers Cienna wine, defined by the winery representative as “summer berries in a glass”. The mousse was good, although not the best I’ve had in my life. I couldn’t stay for the Q&A session but really enjoyed both programs.

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse

World Chef Showcase 2011, day 1, program 3

October’s here! For me it’s one of the best months of the year; my birthday used to be my sole reason until I arrived to Sydney and discovered the Crave Festival, a month-long celebration of food. Last year I missed the World Chef Showcase but this year I bought tickets as soon as I saw Gastón Acurio‘s face in the ad. With the cooking demos and talks grouped in 6 programs for the two days it was hard to choose which one to attend. For Saturday I went with program 3, featuring Alex Atala from DOM, the Brazilian restaurant ranked 7 in S Pellegrino’s list, and David Lebovitz, one of my favourite food bloggers.

The event took place in the Hilton Hotel. Three ballrooms were set up with big round tables where the audience sat to watch the action on stage and enjoy the tastings. Morning and afternoon tea were also included, as well as lunch on both days if you bought the full weekend package. We also received a festival’s canvas bag with the Crave program, the World Chef Showcase program, a few magazines, brochures, notepad and pen, and a bottle of beer.

Magazines & other freebies

Beer, water

Saturday started with a very nervous Martin Benn from Sepia, Sydney. In a way it was good to see a weakness in a great chef from an outstanding restaurant, it just makes you realise that he’s as human as everybody else. Martin showed us a video about a night in Sepia. Because of the complexity of his dishes, he relied on videos to explain the process of making the dishes he presented. The first one was umami times X, featuring a dashi (broth) with kombu, katsuobushi (which he shaved on the spot in a special shaver that went through the audience so that we could appreciate its aroma), and jamón. What went in the dashi was a square sheet of cuttlefish silk, cuttlefish being one of his favourite ingredients. They basically make a mousseline with cuttlefish and egg white in the Thermomix, pass it through a drum sieve, put it in a square bag and roll it flat. Some sheets are painted black with cuttlefish ink. The dish was sent to the tables for tasting, and it was amazing. The broth was absolutely delicious and the cuttlefish silk was perfect, with the texture of a wonton noodle cooked al dente in fatty broth. The dish was rounded off by fish roe for a bit of crunchiness.

Cuttlefish silk

Cuttlefish silk

Another video showed us the process for making Japanese stones, a dessert that isn’t in the menu yet because it’s very time-consuming. It was born when they accidentally dropped chocolate mousse in liquid nitrogen. They use three fillings: chocolate mousse, cherry sorbet and coconut custard, which are frozen in liquid nitrogen and covered in melted cacao butter mixed with ashes that soon solidifies and acquires a glossy finish that looks like, guess what, stones. A few more elements are added to the plate to resemble water and sand.

Martin Benn

Martin Benn

We had a break for morning tea thanks to the event’s sponsors. There were alpaca and silverbeet empanadas, which I didn’t try but judging from the speed they disappeared were very good. Brown Brothers had wine tastings, Nespresso provided much-needed coffee, S Pellegrino had a number of fizzy drinks and Chambord had two barmen preparing a couple of cocktails. Lan was giving away chocotejas if you entered a game (I didn’t), and finally there was the Dymocks stand and the book signing area. Plenty to go through during the short break.

Alpaca & silverbeet empanadas

Alpaca & silverbeet empanadas

Chambord stand

Chambord stand

Tejas from Lan

Chocotejas from Lan

There was a slight change in the program after the break. Tony Bilson and Benedict Beauge took the stage to talk about the status of French and Australian cuisine. Bilson’s said that Australian cuisine is changing according to the evolution of the wine market, which is going from mass-produced to expensive and exclusive. Beauge defined French cuisine as an attitude towards food as opposed to certain ingredients or techniques. Bilson talked about food flavour profile changing to match the growing consumption of wine.

Tony Bilson and Benedict Beauge

Tony Bilson and Benedict Beauge

Next on stage was Alex Atala from DOM, Brasil. He struggled a bit with the language but managed to paint a very touching and inspiring picture of what the Amazonas region is, and how his restaurant is contributing to its growth from a cultural and social perspective. He stressed the use of local ingredients and the respect to the environment, from which the human being is an important piece that shouldn’t be forgotten. “Luxury is not in fancy ingredients, but in our hands”, he said, and proved it with his simply-built dishes. He demonstrated a dish made with manioc (cassava) flour resembling cous cous and a dessert that kids would hate (with dark chocolate, curry powder, salt, rocket, Brazil nut cake, chilli oil, and Jack Daniels ice cream).

Alex Atala

Alex Atala

Finally he cooked the dish we got to taste: brioche-crumbed oysters with marinated tapioca hot oysters. He said his inspiration for this dish was a challenge to make hot oysters taste as good as fresh, cold ones, and I reckon he nailed it. He finished his presentation with a video of Amazonas.

Brioche-crumbed oysters with marinated tapioca

Brioche-crumbed oysters with marinated tapioca

Lunch was served in one of the hotel’s restaurants, buffet style. There were salads, dressings, sandwiches, chorizo, mini burgers, roasted vegetables, cheeses, breads, fruits, etc., and more Brown Brothers wine at every table. Lots of options that made it easy to eat reasonably clean.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

Sandwiches

Sandwiches

Chorizo

Chorizo

Mini burgers

Mini burgers

Fruits

Fruits

David Lebovitz was having lunch with a food blogger and I took a photo of him holding his empty plate with a stuffed look in his face. Kinda summarises these few days of eating he’s had in Sydney.

David Lebovitz after lunch

David Lebovitz after lunch

The afternoon session started with Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco from Mirazur, France. He struggled with his English, too, so spoke half of the time in French. Not to worry, everybody got his message. His restaurant’s highlight is the use of fresh produced they grow, for example 43 varieties of tomatoes. He used a few different types in his demo. The first preparation, which we got to sample, was a tomato martini, made with tomato water (puréed tomatoes, sifted overnight), and gelatine, and topped with flowers and herbs. The flavour was intense but I didn’t like it, I’m not saying it wasn’t good, but I usually don’t like things involving cold puréed tomatoes.

Mauro Colagreco

Mauro Colagreco

Tomato martini

Tomato martini

Mauro also made a beautiful tomato and avocado salad (again, using different kinds of tomatoes) and a dessert.

Afternoon tea featured macarons by Baroque Patisserie. Now, I’ve said it before: I don’t find macarons that special and I avoid eating sugar but that was my chance of trying their famous macarons for free. I think they were well made but nothing I’d want to eat again.

Macarons from Baroque

Macarons from Baroque

Another local chef hit the stage, this time Mark Best from Marque, Sydney. I absolutely loved the first dish he presented, even when we didn’t get to try it. He used a Japanese slicing machine to make celeriac pappardelle. Genious. The creamy sauce was made with chicken stock, a fine purée from the celeriac trimmings, Dijon mustard, mustard seeds, French butter and chopped chives. He added a heavily reduced veal stock, cooked black truffle, mustard flowers, shaved black truffle and a Parmesan tuile.

Mark Best

Mark Best

Then he cooked a pigeon Peking duck-style, steaming it, painting it with gastrique and deep-frying it until golden. The weird part came in the rest of the dish, with the use of pickled green strawberries, green raspberries, green blueberries, pepperberries and mulberries. I wonder how that tasted. For dessert he introduced the “tomberries”, tomatoes in a strawberry syrup made by cooking the berries with sugar in a bag at low temperature for 40-50 minutes. The dessert also featured vanilla grown in Penrith and crème fraiche made as a by-product of the butter they make at the restaurant, and it was delicious.

Tomberry with chocolate jelly and vanilla

Tomberry with chocolate jelly and vanilla

Finally former Chez Panisse’s pastry chef and food blogger David Lebovitz hit the stage. I’ve been following his blog for a few years and I must say he’s even funnier when he talks.

David Lebovitz

David Lebovitz

He made his chocolate idiot cake, named “orbit” cake in his book, with candied peanuts and salted butter caramel sauce. Coming from David I knew I had to forget about the sugar, dairy and legumes (at least it was grain-free) and at least taste it. I almost licked the plate clean. The cake was paired with a Brown Brothers dessert wine, a fantastic end of day one’s program.

Chocolate orbit cake with candied peanuts and salted butter caramel sauce

Chocolate orbit cake with candied peanuts and salted butter caramel sauce

Organic Expo 2011

This was my second year of attending the Organic Expo. I had the feeling there were fewer exhibitors but somehow I managed to spend a lot more money.

Bonnie and I managed to taste almost all of the samples (wine included) available. Alvaro made a good effort in trying to keep up with us but was so tired from work that collapsed on a hay stack bench halfway through.

The Organic Expo is much smaller than the Good Food & Wine Show. My guess is that there’s not only a shortage in supply (there aren’t that many certified organic businesses around) but also in the demand, as there are still lots of people who don’t care about organic products.

We sampled good and average wines. The sad news is that the Malbec we loved from Argentina Organica was sold out when we came back to buy it before leaving.

Temple Bruer wines

Temple Bruer wines

Tamburlaine wines

Tamburlaine wines

Argentina Organica

Argentina Organica

Alvaro bought yerba mate from the Argentina Organica stall, complete with the mate (the container used to drink it) and the bombilla (stainless steel straw). For those who haven’t tried it, it’s great for keeping you awake and aiding digestion. Good stuff.

Pachamama yerba mate

Pachamama yerba mate

The Woolies’ Macro brand stall was massive. They had good offers, I bought two jars of tahini for $5 and a jar of fruit spread for $3. We couldn’t resist tasting (and re-tasting, if the word exists) the peanut butters (100% peanuts) and sausages.

Macro peanut butter

Macro peanut butter

Macro products

Macro products

They had the whole range of meats for display only.

Macro meats

Macro meats

Bonnie got tahini too, but the black one from the guys at Carwari. We had a taste of a wonderful hummus made with it. I got a bottle of agave nectar from them.

Carwari tahini

Carwari tahini

I haven’t run out of any of my pantry staples yet but I still visit the Honest To Goodness stall. I got a package of dried incaberries, an antioxidant-packed alternative to other dried fruits, to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Honest To Goodness

Honest To Goodness

Some fresh produce and gardening were spotted in the hall.

Produce

Produce

Gardening stuff

Gardening stuff

But the bulk of the expo consisted in packaged products, not only food but also supplements. We bought some greens powder from Synergy Natural and açaí powder from Amazonia.

Synergy Natural greens powders

Synergy Natural greens powders

I think I don’t need to say that in the expo we ate everything we normally avoid: grains, sugar, legumes and dairy. At least all of it was organic and I had no major issues the day after. Not even after tasting a lot of the cheeses and yogurt from the Organic Dairy Farmers stall. But the best thing was the butter. Awesome butter. I got a brick for a very good price ($4).

Organic Dairy Farmers cheeses & butter

Organic Dairy Farmers cheeses & butter

Going back to our normal eating patterns we sampled good beef, too. Steak and patties that were a bit cold, but still good. The brand is OBE and comes from Queensland. Sadly, they don’t have any distributors in Sydney yet.

OBE meats

OBE meats

There were lots and lots of snacks. Snacks are snacks and junk is junk, organic or not. But organic stuff just tastes better, cleaner, less chemical. Chocolates, raw bars, spiced nuts, vegetable chips… we tried them all, loved most and bought a few. I must mention the Loving Earth range of raw chocolates, not only because they taste AMAZING but because they have a few that feature Peruvian ingredients: purple corn, lúcuma, maca, and camu camu.

Açaí bars

Açaí bars

Ceres Organics raw food bars

Ceres Organics raw food bars

Loving Earth nuts

Loving Earth nuts

Loving Earth raw chocolates

Loving Earth raw chocolates

Absolute Organic chips

Absolute Organic chips

There were also a good number of beauty products stalls. When it comes to stuff you put on your skin I think it makes sense to pay a little extra for quality natural products because it all gets absorbed into your bloodstream. I bought a tube of Pure & Green aloe vera-based hydrating lotion.

Pure & Green beauty products

Pure & Green beauty products

All the shopping (and sampling) made us thirsty. Luckily there was 100% pure coconut water available at a good price ($5 for 2 cans, $25 for a case of 12).

Nakula coconut water

Nakula coconut water

Good Food & Wine Show 2011

The Good Food & Wine Show is over. This year, learning from my previous experience, I decided to attend only one chef master class and focus on courses and food/drinks sampling.

The entrance to the show isn’t free but it’s not bad value. If you’re wise enough you can consume much more than you would be able to buy with $29.50. And with that I mean not only food, but also knowledge, by watching free cooking demonstrations. Even if you’re a seasoned chef or cook yourself, there’s always something new to learn if you pay attention.

The show

My day began at noon with the Cheese Matters Discovery Class ($35.00). We were greeted in a medium room set up with tables for 8 people. Each person got a place mat printed with the Cheese Matters Wheel, which explained each cheese/drink/accompaniments that we would taste through the class. We also got a plastic plate, a cheese knife, three tasting (small) wine glasses and a bottle of St. Pellegrino sparkling water.

Cheese sampling plate

The cheeses and accompaniments were placed on wooden chopping boards in the centre of the table.

Cheeses, etc

Cheeses, etc

While Naomi Crisante, from Cheese Matters explained us a bit about the cheese making process, the correct tasting technique, and the flavour matching, bottles of the selected beverages were handed to each table for us to pour a moderate amount in our glasses.

Cheeses and wines

45 minutes were almost not enough to savour all the cheeses. Not only because there were plenty to taste, but also because there’s so much information to share. Some of my previous knowledge was reinforced by the class and I learned stuff I hadn’t experimented with before, like cheese and beer pairings. Granted, the cheeses were not exactly “boutique” because they had to rely on mainstream brands for obvious reasons, but they were all good.

These were the cheeses we tasted:

Cheese: South Cape Persian fetta
Type: Fresh-style cheese
Accompaniment: Gourmet Morsels dukkah and South Cape crispbreads
Drink: Croser NV sparkling

Cheese: Tasmanian Heritage Signature Camembert
Type: Soft White Cheese
Accompaniment 1: Dried apple
Accompaniment 2: Fruit bread
Drink: Croser NV sparkling

Cheese: King Island Dairy Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie
Type: Soft white cheese
Accompaniment: Always Fresh beetroot relish
Drink: Croser NV sparkling

Cheese: Tasmanian Heritage St Claire Swiss-style Cheese
Type: Eye cheese (with holes)
Accompaniment 1: Pecan nuts
Accompaniment 2: Rye bread
Drink: James Squire Amber Ale

Cheese: Cracker Barrel Special Reserve Vintage Cheddar
Type: Cheddar cheese
Accompaniment 1: South Cape quince paste
Accompaniment 2: West Bengal Rifles mango chutney
Drink: James Squire Amber Ale

Cheese: Tasmanian Heritage Red Square
Type: Washed rind cheese
Accompaniment: Always Fresh cornichons
Drink: James Squire Amber Ale

Cheese: Tasmanian Heritage Red Square
Type: Washed rind cheese
Accompaniment: Fresh dates
Drink: Michelton Botrytis Riesling

Cheese: King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue
Type: Blue cheese
Accompaniment: Smoked almonds
Drink: James Squire Porter

Cheese: King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue
Type: Blue cheese
Accompaniment: Truffle Honey from The Wine & Truffle Company
Drink: Michelton Botrytis Riesling

The class was excellent but there was plenty more to taste. The first stall that completely got my attention was
Springbok Delights, with their no preservative cured meats. After tasting a few delicious bits I bought three packages for $17.

The Biltong Man dried meats

This year I decided not to purchase a tasting glass to avoid getting extremely drunk, given that I had already sampled two wines and two beers in the cheese tasting. But I still tried a few ciders, vodka mixes, Irish liquors and beers from stallholders that provided plastic cups :).

I munched on muesli, no sugar added fruit bars, apples, almonds, sausages, etc, but also on crackers, vegetable chips, chocolates and cookies. It was a big cheat day, luckily it’s only once a year. I also tried some Malaysian food (a good curry, and not so good sweet/savoury stir fry and laksa).

While walking by Lifestyle Chef’s Table I saw Miguel Maestre with his thick Spanish accent explaining how to rub meat in order to bring it to room temperature and later on Adrian Richardson standing on the bench butchering a huge slab of meat.

Miguel Maestre

Adrian Richardson

Then I went to see Tobie Puttock. It’s kinda weird to go see a Melbourne chef when you haven’t been to their restaurant but I was interested in his approach of simple cooking with natural ingredients.

I got a good spot and sat patiently while his team ran through the checklist and did a final cleanup before the show. Then it was game time, luckily they chose a different host this year who wasn’t as annoying as the guy with shiny jacket. After bit of entertainment (a guy and four ladies in a dancing competition) Mr Puttock was on stage. He talked about his cooking history while he prepared a simple three dish meal: a quinoa salad with fennel and herbs, a Macro (Woolworths brand) chicken cooked in milk and sage, and an apple strudel.

Tobie Puttock

The quinoa salad was very simple, he just mixed cooked quinoa with shaved fennel, herbs (mint, flat-leaf parsley), lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

For the main, he seasoned and seared the chicken, then sautéed sage, lemon rind in butter in a Dutch oven, chucked the chicken and milk in and off it went to the oven. He served the pre-prepared chicken with roasted vegetables.

Tobie Puttock's Macro chicken cooked in milk with sage & lemon - searing chicken

Tobie Puttock's Macro chicken cooked in milk with sage & lemon - in pot

Tobie Puttock's Macro chicken cooked in milk with sage & lemon - plated with roast veggies

The apple strudel came with a revelation for most people, instead of using phyllo pastry, which is a pain in the ass to work with, he rolled out a dough and stretched it with his hands until it was almost paper-thin, then put the apple mixture on top and rolled the dough (think sushi style).

Tobie Puttock's apple strudel - stretching dough

Tobie Puttock's apple strudel - apple filling

Tobie Puttock's apple strudel - brushing egg wash

Tobie Puttock's apple strudel - plated with ice cream

Right after the show I popped by the Woolworth’s Macro Pantry to get the recipe cards and found amazing prices in stuff I do use, like quinoa, raw nibble mix (sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus raisins), and nut butters (almond and almond/Brazil nut/cashew) at 2 x $5, a steal! They gave an organic apple to all customers.

Macro quinoa & raw nibble mix sale

Macro products

Macro organic produce

I was supposed to not buy anything because we’ll be moving this Saturday but I couldn’t help myself and got 5 boxes of Dilmah teas for $10 and two bottles of avocado oil for $12.

My next stop was the Hands On Chocolate Class offered by Adora Handmade Chocolates. It was pricier than the cheese class ($45), so I had high expectations that unfortunately weren’t met. We received a disposable apron and gloves. For each person there was a tray with two sheets of baking paper, a plastic dough scraper, a disposable piping bag with truffle mix in it, and a box with a bag of cocoa in it.

Hands On Chocolate class

Our hostess, one of the company’s owners, explained a bit about flavour matching and the chocolate truffle we would be “making” that afternoon. In the meantime, one of her staff let us sample finished truffles.

Hands On Chocolate class

The two things that let me down with this course is that we didn’t get to prepare the truffle mixture and that there was only one type of truffle made (butter, dark chocolate and condensed milk). We only got to watch how it was done, pipe the pre-made mixture and roll the truffles in cocoa. We took those home along with the recipe, an extra piping bag and dark chocolate buttons for preparing them at home. Not great value IMO.

Hands On Chocolate class

Hands On Chocolate class

A few more nibbles and sips and I heard the dreaded voice in the loudspeakers telling us to piss off. Until next year.