Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cider Sunday - Three Oaks Apple Cider w/ Cinnamon & Vanilla

Don't you just love Easter? I chose this week's cider because of the apparent spice factor, given that at this time of year many baked goods are churned out laden with cinnamon and other delicious spices. 

Yesterday Pete and I visited Adriano Zumbo's lab in Rozelle with the sole purpose of buying some hot cross buns. We arrived late and as expected many of his signature baked goods had already sold out, but given that we had gone there specifically to pick up some hot cross buns we were not disappointed. A large mobile rack filled with trays of hot cross buns greeted us upon entry.

Pete chose the chocolate version studded with rich dark choc chips and I stuck with the traditional which was full of spice and plump fruit including orange peel, a mandatory ingredient as far as I am concerned. 

This week's cider is a new extension from the team at Three Oaks Cider Co. Don't you just love the label?

With medium carbonation this cider is for those of you who do prefer a sweeter style of cider. It is not one I could drink a lot of, however, I really like the addition of the cinnamon and vanilla flavours and for this reason I can think of countless uses for it in the kitchen making desserts.

It has a fair amount of acidity, with clean zingy cinnamon flavours lingering toward the back of the palate.  

If drinking it on it's own, I would recommend you enjoy it after dinner with your favourite dessert.

At 4% alcohol, a 330ml bottle will provide you with one standard drink.

The Food Mentalist purchased Three Oaks Cider Co. Apple Cider w/ Cinnamon & Vanilla at Camperdown Cellars.

Hope you are all having a great Easter break.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An Evening w/ The Globetrotting Gourmet & Home Made Fine Foods

I recently had the pleasure of dining at The Globetrotting Gourmet's latest pop-up style dinner, hosted in the converted warehouse home of author and food enthusiast Robert Carmack & textile designer Morrison Polkinghorne. The evening was a fusion of Robert & Morrison's travel inspired savoury recipes and the creations of dessert queen, Merna Taouk from Sydney's award winning Home Made Fine Foods.

Merna Taouk & Robert Carmac ( Photo - Pierre Issa)
To start we mingled amongst the looms which fill the workspace of the talented Morrison Polkinghorne - who has been creating hand-crafted ornamental ropes, tassels and trims for clients which include The National Trust, since 1991. 

We indulged on juicy figs drizzled with sweet Pepe Saya mascarpone and candied nut crumble and fresh asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto - With everyone equally impressed by the magical creative space around us.

Next, we were invited upstairs to the formal dining room. A large open space, equally as impressive as the one before. Exotic quirky artifacts and a hint of vintage filled the room. It's the kind of space I could happily explore for hours.   

Gorgeous table wear greeted us at the 12 seated rectangular wooden table, with every serving plate offering a different glimpse into the past. Two large rounds of roped Pepe Saya cultured butter adorned either end of the table and an endless supply of bread made by Mike from Kitchen by Mike was the perfect vessel for the delectable creamy spread.

To start, an American retro entree of king prawns, iceberg lettuce and an amazing creamy blue cheese dressing made with Pepe Saya's creme fraiche, provided the perfect introduction. 

A refreshing cantaloupe and lime sorbet topped with Persian fairy floss followed as the perfect palate cleanser between courses.

Next, a succulent crown rack of veal was presented, paired with a side of Michelin star chef Joel Robuchon's rich potato galette and Burmese Hill Station wild mushrooms from Robert & Morrison's upcoming book.

Joel Robuchon's Potato Galette - Simply Divine. ( Photo: Morrison Polkinghorne)
Dessert was impressive, with Merna serving up her interpretation of a French floating island. Perfectly poached batons of tart rhubarb with hints of cinnamon, star anise and orange were surrounded by vanilla bean creme anglaise and topped with a cloud of sweet meringue and flaked almonds. Heaven.

Dessert Heaven ( Photo: Morrison Polkinghorne)
To finish the evening we chatted about all things food and travel over Merna's dark chocolate, almond and orange clusters with Chinese pu-erh tea and Vietnamese cà phê Chồn drip coffee. 

Guests were presented with a cute twine tied brown paper package on departure. Upon arriving home I discovered another of Merna's fine dessert creations - The delectable Sticky Date Pudding from Home Made Fine Foods. 

Globetrotting Gourmet dinners are held several times a year and help raise money for a variety of charities including KOTO - A charity organisation that helps street kids and disadvantage youth in Vietnam by providing access to accommodation, English lessons and vocational skills through their training facility and restaurant in Ho Chi Min City.  Robert Carmack & Morrison Polkinghorne also host Asian Food Tours details of which can be through their website here

The Food Mentalist dined as a guest of Home Made Fine Foods.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cider Sunday - Hillbilly Crushed Apple Cider

According to the makers of this week's cider " The Modern Hillbilly is a true bohemian, not restricted by the mainstream and living by the rules of the land" . And, it is fair to say that Shane and Tessa Mclaughlin are living the Hillbilly dream after escaping city life and relocating to Bilpin in the Blue Mountains where they grow their own food and ultimately make cider. Bliss.

After deciding that a simpler life called for a simpler drink, the McLaughlin's set about making cider. The last two years has seen many talented winemakers branch out into making cider, and this story follows that trend - The family already recognised in the industry for Canonbah Bridge wines.

Shane & Tessa Mclaughlin ( Photo Source: The Land)
The label's dog stands tall and proud and is one of the first things I loved about the cider. Inspired by Tessa's English heritage, the dog resembles a hunting dog owned by her brother in England.

I first heard about this cider when I attended last year's Australian Cider Awards where Hillbilly cider was awarded Bronze in the Class 2 - Medium Cider Award. An impressive feat for having only just entered the market at the time of the awards.

On first pour, this cider produces quite a lot of natural bubbles, however these settle quickly leaving a cider that is rather still, crisp yet incredibly smooth, and very easy to drink. You wont find any added carbon-dioxide here either - the cider is allowed to ferment naturally which produces a natural 'softer' carbonation.

Delicate sweet apple flavours reflect the ingredients - 100% whole crushed mountain apples including an apple named Julie, a previously unused cider making apple. The results speak for themselves. This is a good cider.

With no added sugar or concentrates the cider is unpasteurised and gluten free. The apples are sourced from Bilpin and crushed in Appledale near Orange, one of my favourite parts of NSW. 

Being a lovely delicate cider, I recommend you try this one without ice, perhaps even at room temperature. Then adjust it depending on your taste. It will pair perfectly with a cheese platter, roasts, light fruity desserts and of course on its own. 

I can definitely see myself drinking this cider right through the cooler months and into Spring. Just leave the ice out of mine thanks.

At 4.5% alcohol a 330ml bottle will provide you with 1.2 standard drinks.

To find out where you can purchase Hillbilly Crushed Apple Cider click here

The Food Mentalist sampled Hillbilly Crushed Apple Cider compliments of Tessa & Shane McLaughlin. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Who is Major Raiser? 
Founded in 2010, the Major Raiser organisation was created to increase young people’s engagement in fundraising. By hosting a series of live music events between 2011 and 2012 they raised over $20,000 for charities including Australian Youth Against Cancer and The Music Outreach Foundation.

A visit to orphanages in South Africa and Uganda inspired a shift in focus for the organisation and in 2013 they relaunched with the sole focus of funding school feeding programmes to combat child malnutrition in developing countries. To do this they partnered with the United Nation’s World Food Programme.

The 2013 GIVVA FORK Campaign
Through their partnership with the UN’s World Food Programme, Major Raiser were made aware of the situation in Laos and given its close proximity to Australia decided they would make it their primary focus for this campaign. 

Created by Sydney’s Dominic Greenwood, this campaign was created to raise money to provide nutritious meals to school children in Laos. Being one of the least developed countries in the world, every second child under 5 is undernourished. By ensuring that these children are able to focus on their studies rather than their hunger, the campaign is hoping that associated family pressures, absenteeism, education and rates of poverty will improve.

How we can help?

Simply visit one of the partner restaurants ( listed below) before the end of March and either:

1. Purchase a GIVVA FORK ($6) which you can take home and use;

2. Choose to pay a ‘Forkage’ – a little extra when you settle your bill (similar to a corkage); OR

3. Attend the GIVVA FORK Campaign Party* ( details below)

For every dollar raised 90% will go directly to the Laos School Nutrition Programme and 10% is used to reinvest in running other GIVVA FORK campaigns. 

The campaign has partnered with the following Sydney restaurants:

  • Orto Trading Co., Darlinghurst 
  • Ampersand, Surry Hills 
  • Mad Pizza – Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Bondi Beach & Newtown 
  • Olio, St Leonards 
  • Michelini, Crows Nest 
  • Not Bread Alone, St Leonards 
  • Ham, Cronulla 
  • The Dip at Goodgod 
  • Edmonds & Greer, Oatley 

A Philanthropic Feast w/ Secret Foodies & Orto Trading Co.

Earlier this month, Secret Foodies teamed up with Major Raiser to offer diners the chance to support the campaign through a communal paddock to plate style feast at Orto Trading Co. in Surry Hills. $5 from each ticket went directly to the campaign and is able to provide a child in Laos with school meals for a whole month. 

British inspired, modern Australian is whats on offer at Orto Trading Co. - A funky little space tucked away in Waterloo Street, Surry Hills. Potted herbs stacked on crates outside offer an insight into this little gem, which places a strong emphasis on locally grown, fresh sustainable produce.

To start we shared a platter of white anchovy and sobrasada fish fingers. Crispy wedges of bread smeared with a smoky paprika infused chorizo spread were topped with a gorgeous white anchovy fillet and lemon rind. A truffle popcorn offered a nice crunch and flavour accompaniment.

Entrée consisted of a caramelised endive and goats cheese tartine with walnuts. This was by far my favourite dish of the evening. The crisp flaky pastry was fused with the sticky caramelised endive and balanced nicely by the saltiness of the goat’s cheese and crunch of the walnuts. It was a perfectly executed dish. The photo doesn't do it justice, but believe me when I say it was absolutely scrumptious. I hope that they have something similar on the menu when I return.

A selection of shared mains included crispy duck egg gnocchi with Cropwell bishop blue cheese, hazelnut and fennel jam. 

Petuna ocean trout baked in parchment with averna and herbed oil and served with char grilled miche.

Riverina golden nugget pumpkins with braised Moroccan lamb, apricot, almond and Meredith sheep’s milk yogurt.

We finished the evening with a twist on the traditional banoffee pie - a baked banoffee split with Coffs Harbour lady finger bananas, dulce de leche, amoretti cream, candied pecans and toasted coconut. And then, there was cheese - a wedge of award winning Tasmanian Pyengana cheddar with ground coffee and sticky honeycomb.

A little vintage, a little retro and a lotta funk, Orto Trading Co. is a great place to dine. The food is fresh and delicious and the service is friendly and efficient.

Orto Trading Co. recently signed on as a 'city cousin' with Food Connect - a fantastic new initiative connecting farmers and the consumer. Food Connect aims to provide consumers with local, seasonal and ecological food direct from the farmer. Grown by passionate farmers, the produce sourced has been grown using holistic and ethical farming methods. You simply jump online, sign up, order what you like and find your local collection spot which may be a restaurant in your local area. Perfect.

* The Major Raiser GIVVA FORK Party is being held next Saturday 30 March at The Standard in Sydney's Darlinghurst. The lineup includes  Elizabeth Rose, Polographia, Olympic Ayres and Special Guest's Van She

To purchase tickets ($15) visit Moshtix here

For more information on any of the above check out the links below 

Major Raiser

United Nation's World Food Programme

Orto Trading Co.

Secret Foodies

Food Connect

The Standard

The Food Mentalist dined as a guest at The Philanthropic Feast

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cider Sunday - Vinaceous Forbidden Fruit Pear Cider

Pete brought this cider home for me to try and I instantly fell in love with the label and design, with phrases "Divine Temptation" and "Heaven on Earth" written around the label. I was also intrigued and excited about trying a new pear cider. 

With a tongue-in-cheek attitude which reminds me of Dr Pilkington's Miracle Cider the makers of this cider tell us this about Vinaceous:

"Society scuttlebutt & innuendo has it, that he is either the illegitimate son of a famous crowned head of Europe or a poor Romany gypsy boy, made good. His time working as a lion tamer, explorer & roustabout has equipped Vinaceous with a sharp wit & discerning eye (& nose) for beautiful wine & beauteous women"

The first cider for the Vinaceous brand who are known for making wines (with fantastic labels!!) sourced from vines across the Adelaide and Western Australian wine regions.

This one is made using pear juice concentrate which the makers claim is necessary to stabilise the liquid and prevent bacterial infection prior to the brewing process taking place. That said, the raw pear juice is sourced from delicious Manjimup pears in Western Australia.

A pale straw colour gives home to subtle pear aromas and flavour. This cider pours frothy, but settles clear pretty quickly. With a medium level of carbonation, this one is fairly easy to drink and should appeal to most. There are no complex structures to this cider and there is just a hint of dryness. The sweetness of this perry would prevent me from drinking too much, as I tend to prefer a drier less sweet pear cider. I shared this with Mum who really liked it. 

At 6.5% alcohol, this one packs a punch and is on average about 2% higher in alcohol content than most other ciders on the market. A 500ml bottle will provide you with 2.6 standard drinks. Whoah!
Serve this one chilled with or without ice. It will pair really well with strong spicy flavours which will help balance out the sweetness.

Vinaceous! Forbidden Fruit Pear Cider was purchased from The Sackville Hotel in Rozelle

Purchase this cider online here

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cheat's French-Style Tart

This tart is SO EASY!

I discovered this gem in delicious by Valli Little which I reviewed here late last year. 

What makes it so good is that it is super super easy and it tastes great. Rather than spending hours in the kitchen having to make everything from scratch including the frangipani almond base, you simply open up a packet of marzipan (and if you are like me make sure you have a set of handcuffs on standby to prevent you from devouring the entire block before you can actually use it for the tart). I absolutely LOVE the stuff. 

Then you simply blend it up with a little cream, spread it over a thawed piece of puff pastry and top with seasonal fruit, drizzle with honey, bake and then top with crushed nuts and serve. You also don't have to worry about being too pretty about it either, the more rustic the better. Easy as!

The first time I made this I decided to use a jar of sour cherries that I had in the cupboard. Not seasonal, I know, but a great way to use them up nonetheless. This time I decided to use fresh figs as they are in season at the moment, nicely priced and oh so very French when paired with the marzipan. Oui!

Cheat's French-Style Tart
Adapted from Valli Little's Simple Apricot Tart

1-2 square sheets of frozen puff pastry (thawed)
120g marzipan
2 tbs thickened cream
6-8 medium figs*
2 tbs honey
Chopped nuts ( 1/4 cup)*
Icing sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 200'C and line a baking tray with baking paper

Use one square piece as is or combine 2 sheets and shape into rectangle if desired.

Place marzipan and cream in a food processor and blend until smooth. Spread over pastry based leaving a 2cm border.

Arrange chosen fruit on the marzipan mixture and drizzle with honey.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit and honey has started to caramelise.

Dust with icing sugar (optional) and top with nuts.

Serve with extra cream, ice cream or custard as desired.

* The following nuts are best suited to use with this tart: pistachios, slivered or flaked almonds, macadamias.

* Seasonal fruit including cherries, apricots,pears,figs, nectarines and some apples are best for this tart.