Adventures: The Breslin, New York

On a trip to New York a few years back, a friend of a friend did his best to get us a table at The Spotted Pig, at the time something highly exciting for New York – a gastropub.  With April Bloomfield in the kitchen, at the time this was the hot ticket in Manhattan and the place was heaving.  Although it makes no sense to me, its relatively common for a hot restaurant in New York to have a no bookings policy.  One day soon I know a restaurateur is going to offer me a credible explanation for this, but it hasn’t happened yet. 

Our generous friend, a Kiwi living in upstate New Jersey and representing Australian and NZ lamb to Americans, grabbed us a round of pints at the bar, Speckled Hen if I remember correctly.   We casted around for diners about to depart, but the situation was bleak.  A Hollywood starlet and her group of at least 30 occupied half the dining area.  Heath Ledger was not in the building.  So we finished our pint and grabbed a few coasters and headed out on the street to regroup and put into operation our Plan B.  One of The Spotted Pig’s coasters is on my desk as I type. 

Not so fun fact – It was on the site of The Spotted Pig that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died.  It shares its location with The Whitehorse Tavern, also a favourite of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Anaïs Nin, Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac.  Funny how celebrity culture has overtaken creativity.  Anyhow, I digress.

Having been denied a visit to The Spotted Pig, I was a tiny bit excited to realise that April Bloomfield’s newest venture, The Breslin, was a short walk from our hotel when we were visiting New York a couple of months ago.  April has some great names under her belt having spent time at Chez Panisse and River Cafe before opening The Spotted Pig.  Her partner-in-crime Ken Friedman has excelled himself with the interior, which is a quirky yet well conceived English pub/club hybrid.  Think dark wood panelling, antler chandeliers, tin mirrors and oiled floorboards with a a nice collection of low brow art.  Located on the ground level of the achingly hip Ace Hotel in Chelsea, we were all set to have dinner and drinks there, but got rained in.  In any event, we had already spent most of the day eating and pretty much ruined our appetite.  So we ventured out into a steamy New York summer day for breakast the next morning determined to try out The Breslin. 

A sucker for cheese and a lover of a good Croque Monsieur we went with the Grilled 3 Cheese Sandwich with house smoked ham with an egg and a full English breakfast of house made pork sausage, fried egg, tomato, mushroom and bacon with a side of Home Fries just to keep with the overeating theme.  The ubiquitous Amercian breakfast staple of home fries was in fact potatoes roasted in duck fat with caramelised onions and a scattering of flat leaf parsely.  If only all hotel buffets shared this same definition of home fries!  The 3 Cheese Sandwich was as big as my head with sweet flaky pork goodness and excellent sourdough.  Clearly, Chef Bloomfield knows how to source the finest porky treats as the sausage and bacon were also amazing.  Despite being entirely full to the point of bursting, I couldn’t leave any of the ‘home fries’ behind.  Wow – so good.  I also enjoyed pretty much the best flat white I’ve ever had, anywhere. 

Special mention to the staffer who chooses the music.  Over the course of breakfast we were treated to Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’, an anonymous rendition of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ with some Hot Chip, Guns N’ Roses and Motown classics thrown in just to keep us guessing. 

It’s probably one of the more expensive ways to eat breakfast in New York and there were only a handful of diners when we visited at around 9:30am.  However, I heartily recommend it if you are visiting New York.  Dinner features a pigs foot dinner for two as well as a dry aged 28 day rib eye for two and a full ‘pudding’ menu with trifle, syllabub and buttermilk pie.  East Coast craft beers and hand pumped house beers are also a specialty.

Next visit I hope to make it to The Spotted Pig and get some more coasters.

Home Kitchen: Creamed Horseradish Sauce & Yorkshire Pudding

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – Kate Moss

No Kate, nothing tastes as good as fat, sugar and salt.  This Holy Trinity carry and enhance flavour.  Give me a flat white with all the fat of organic unhomogenised milk and a generous teaspoon of brown sugar, duck fat potatoes with salt flakes and home made ice cream with nothing but eggs, cream, sugar and plenty of good quality chocolate and I’m happy.

I grew up just short of vegetarian, but made an exception for locally made salumi, bratwurst, cheese and the like.  Butter always went right to the edges, quickly followed by peanut butter, passionfruit butter or avocado, a sort of competition to see how much fat you could get on a single slice. 

Although I can only get through a few thin slices of meat, I still look forward to a roast.  Root vegetables, horseradish cream sauce and a good Yorkshire pudding is my idea of a bloody good feed.  Followed of course by something excellent for dessert.  So here are my recipes for Yorkshire pud and horseradish cream sauce.  Enjoy! 

Horseradish Cream Sauce

  • 300 ml beef stock
  • 220 ml pure cream
  • 2 generous tablespoons of grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Whack all ingredients in a saucepan with a heavy base, bring to the boil and simmer over medium heat until a good sauce consistency is reached, then season to taste. In my experience, this will take about an hour.

Beef stock – in a perfect world you would make your own beef stock.  In the real world Campbells Ready Stock, sold in the supermarket in a long life pack is a decent substitute. 

Horseradish – Even if you grow your own horseradish, foraging for the fresh stuff it is a tricky business.  It is not readily available to purchase fresh either.  You can purchase Heinz Epicure Horseradish from the supermarket, its in a jar with a yellow lid and lives either with the mustard or with the jars of garlic and ginger, depending on which supermarket you are at.  If you time it right, you can sometimes pick up a nice bit of fresh horseradish root from a market.

Yorkshire Pudding

  • 90 g self raising flour
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375 ml milk
  • Beef dripping

Combine flours in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Whisk in beaten eggs, then slowly whisk in milk.  Season to taste and stand at room temperature until ready to use.  Place 1 tablespoon of hot beef dripping in the base of 12 large heated muffin tins and pour in batter mixture to come three quarters up the side of the tin.  Bake at 225 C for 20 – 25 minutes until well puffed and browned.

Restaurant Review: Crosstown Eating House, Brisbane

Winter in Brisbane is a beautiful time.  T-shirt weather during the day and crisp, clear evenings make it a great time to get out and explore the city.  So it was that we ventured to Woolloongabba to the Logan Road antiques/restaurant precinct for a weekend lunch.  With street scaping and gentrification of this once shabby strip now complete, you’ll find 1889 Enoteca, Bistrot Bistro, Pearl Cafe and Crosstown Eating House all within walking distance of the Woolloongabba bus terminal and the Gabba itself.

After several laps to check out our options and duck into one of the antiques dealers to get a closer look at a set of samurai kikou (Japanese armour) we decided to try out Crosstown Eating House.  Now, I’d heard good things about this place, rave reviews even.  Fabulous food in funky casual surroundings was the common theme.  Someone really liked the olives.  Others liked the share plates.  So I’d been curious, and hated to think I was missing out on a good thing.  Plenty of patrons were headed through the double door entry so in we went.

Things were a little off from the minute we crossed the transom.  Staff were of the awkwardly cool variety and we are just regular 30 somethings.  Somewhat reluctantly, a young waitress greeted us and seated us in a corridor at a highish table on what seemed to be science lab stools.  Perfectly good tables with actual chairs remained empty.  The decor shrieks ‘whimsy’ but doesn’t quite pull it all together.  A nautically themed collection of faded & wrinkled prints, long stitch and even a hologram of a cutter ship decorate the walls.  The bar is lined with limed pressed metal and the staff are all lumberjack checks, small florals, thick rimmed glasses, combed down haircuts, beards and cardigans.

I love a menu where every dish sounds amazing and you change your mind about what to order a dozen times before a waiter arrives and finally puts you out of your misery by asking you to make a decision.  This did not happen at Crosstown.  The menu is divided into ‘Tasty Bites’, shared starters, mains and sides.  There are just 5 mains with very minimalist descriptions.  Given that the chefs are attempting some less than obvious combinations of ingredients, this style of menu doesn’t really work.   

Feeling a little unwelcome and uninspired by the menu we skipped the starters and chose a main each – chicken mini roast with baby carrots, potato balls, cauliflower and peas and snapper fillet with oxtail potsticker, sugarloaf and lardons, each $29.  Neither of these mains were bad, however the chicken mini roast was in reality part of a small chicken maryland that would appear to have been pan fried then possibly finished off with a short burst in an oven.  The peas were like bullets and the cauliflower was a puree sitting in a puddle of chicken juices.  It could have been a great example of classic comfort food with better ingredients and technique.   The snapper was better, a nice succulent flavoursome fillet atop sautéed sugarloaf cabbage and bacon lardons, but again would have been elevated by a little more attention to detail.  The oxtail potsticker had a few dried out shreds of meat encased in something like a dried out ravioli.  The cabbage was just on the wrong side of cooked and a little limp and the lardons needed a bit more heat to caramelise and really bring out the sweetness that would have tied all the ingredients together.  I am never one to complain about serving sizes, however these were really too small to be called mains.

We found the service and tone of this place confused.  For example, there is a thoughtful if somewhat pedestrian wine list with lovely little tasting notes written in an approachable style that makes them really useful to the diner.  However, the bottle of Monte Antico 2006 Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot we ordered was plonked down on the table unopened along with two glasses.  Apparently cracking a screw cap and pouring a couple of glasses is not part of the job description.  Rather disappointingly, this wine was actually described as Sangiovese on the wine list, quite different to the blend they actually served us.  The wine was nice enough, but if you are going to go to the trouble of writing tasting notes then really this is Wine List 101. 

The staff don’t seem at all engaged with the patrons and our plates were cleared without even a simple enquiry about how we enjoyed our meals.  Dessert and coffee weren’t offered and it turns out they don’t even have a coffee machine.

Crosstown Eating House has such promise, but seems to lack the warm welcome and attention to detail that could make it a real winner.

Adventures: Eulogy, Philadelphia

When I visit a new city my routine is to ask the bartender ‘whats the local beer?’.  Especially in the US, my most frequent international destination, its also an excellent way to avoid watery, flavourless mass-produced beers and get a little of the local flavour.  Bartenders know stuff you see.  So in preparation for a conference trip to Philadelphia, I’d asked my good mate and conference co-convenor that same question.  Not only did Bob introduce us to the Coopers of Philly – a perfectly respectable lager called Yuengling - he took us to Eulogy Belgian Tavern, a charmingly ramshackle place only a local could know about. 

We were lucky to get a table, perhaps the waiter noticed the excited glow on our faces as he whipped away a ‘reserved’ sign and led us to a chrome and formica table wedged next to the second bar on the upper level.  After welcoming us warmly and providing us with thick spiral bound beer lists/menus we were left awestruck to ponder our preference from a list of over 400 different beers.  Its still got me beat how they accommodate so many different beers in such a pocket hankerchief sized place, but they do.  Nothing was too much trouble and even our most obscure selections were available.

Philadelphia and the surrounding area have a strong German heritage, which perhaps explains the profusion of small breweries in the area.  We started out with some great US craft brewers such as Founders (Michigan), DogFish Head (Delaware) and Victory Brewing Company (Pennsylvania) along with some more widely known Belgian beers from Duvel and Chimay.  This gargantuan list was arranged alphabetically by brewery name with notes on style, location and alcohol volume.  Our waiter was extremely knowledgable and helped some of the less adventurous and more overwhelmed members of our party find something to suit their taste.  The beers arrived perfectly chilled, poured at the table into glassware to suit each selection.

So with a beer in hand, we turned our attention to the menu which offers an excellent range of dishes from the usual Belgian favourites of mussels and frites to innovative mains like lavender roasted chicken with roast vegetables, to a selection of burgers from US hotel standard to the gourmet.  Two of us ordered the house made sausage plate with pork, venison and wild boar and two of us ordered mussels and frites, available four ways.  After much vascilating I went with the lavender roasted chicken.  Good choice.  Mussels and frites were also fantastic.  The presentation of the meals wasn’t fancy, served on household sized flatware best suited to the cosy quarters, however it is clear the chefs know their stuff.  And they deftly deliver a beer friendly menu with something to suit everyone. 

My beer drinking highlight was the Hitachino Nest Classic IPA, brewed in Japan and matured in cedar sake casks with packaging to die for.  This was a really unusual beer.  The cedar flavours were noticeable but nicely balanced with creamy malt and and some spiciness.  It was a nice match for the fragrant lavender roasted chicken maryland. 

Due to our somewhat grueling conference schedule (seven days straight in a dimly lit room, death by powerpoint, with added jetlag anyone?) we didn’t get through anywhere near as much as the list of 400 as I would have liked.  If you are visiting Philly, and I highly recommend you do, then Eulogy should be on your ‘must dine’ list.   And for Aussies feeling homesick, you’ll find Coopers Sparkling Ale and Coopers Vintage Ale at a bargain $5 a glass.  The owners were excited to hear that craft brewing in Australia is producing some great brews and were keen for suggestions on what they could add to their list. 

A fantastic night, and gratitude to Bob Penland for introducing us to Eulogy.

Where to Buy: Online Grocery Shopping – The Big Two

As a time poor business owner, the idea of having life’s essentials delivered to my door really appeals.  A gentleman’s personal gentleman such as Jeeves would be ideal, but since I am neither a gentleman or nor a member of the idle rich then home delivery will have to suffice. 

From large supermarket chains to boutique providores there are a growing number of choices when it comes to home delivered groceries and produce.  In what I hope will be a series on buying food online, I’ll be starting by comparing the home delivery services of Australia’s two major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths.  Coles online offer is known as Coles Online and the Woollies offer is known as Woolworths HomeShop.

Putting aside the preference that many of us who love food and booze have for buying locally or from small specialist producers, the big supermarkets carry the widest selection of products.  So it makes sense that from a standpoint of pure convenience, they’d be worth a shot.   I have no real routine to buying groceries, tending to torture by trolley whenever we run out of toilet paper, tissues, milk or some other essential.  I write a shopping list that seems to exist for inspiration only, and always arrive home to unpack with the realisation that I’ve forgotten to purchase something vitally important.  Herein lies one of the other great attractions of online grocery shopping: a shopping cart that you can add to over several days, or even weeks, taking out your credit card to pay from your computer when you are finally satisfied that every item your require is on the docket.

The online experience offered by the Big Two starts off much the same.  Use your postcode to validate delivery is available in your area and then create a customer account.   Both sites greet you with specials and navigation by category, offer recipes based on products they sell and offer lists of items you’ve purchased previously.   Both offer shopping cart functionality, allowing your order to be stored for multiple logins, until you are ready to finalise your order and check out and pay for your order.  

There are a few key differences between the ways the two retailers manage lists.  Coles allows you to build a list of items you buy regularly, to save you time searching for your favourite items each time you are putting together an order.  You can build as many of these lists as you like, allowing you to say set up a list for your regular grocery items, a list for stuff you’d buy if you were hosting a BBQ and a list of cleaning products you like but may buy less frequently ie. dishwasher tablets, furniture polish, disinfectant.  You can also view your previous orders.  You can add items to these lists as you shop by clicking a ‘list’ icon.  If you’re in a hurry or lacking inspiration, you can also use ‘Quick Lists’ of products like ‘Pantry Essentials’, ‘Sunday Roast’, ‘Pet Essentials’ (by pet type), and so on. 

Woolies deals with lists a little differently, you can view your previous orders as well as a master list of everything you’ve ever purchased from them before.  However, unlike the Coles online shopping site, you can’t build your own lists.  Similar to Coles, you can view ‘Quick Lists’ of Woolies assembled products, with headings like ‘Newsletter Specials’, ‘Tick Approved Products’ and ‘Winter Warmers’.   There is however only 3 of these lists, whereas Coles has 50+ Quick Lists. 

After using both sites on a number of occasions, I can firmly say that Coles offers a better online shopping experience.  They were first to market with the online shopping and home delivery service and the Woolies online shopping experience seems to largely mimic what Coles offers although in a number of areas, such as Quick Lists, only a token effort seems to have been made. 

Because you’re choosing from a virtual stock of products, occasionally your preferred items won’t be available when the order goes to picking.  Both online retailers allow you to set a default preference on whether you wish to allow substitutions, and then to adjust this at a product level. For example, you may be happier to have any brand of white sugar than you are to have a supermarket gofer chose to substitute your favourite brand of tomato chutney with some other random selection.

Once you’ve finalised your order you’ll be asked to choose a delivery time.  Coles and Woolies both offer delivery windows where the tighter the window (ie. 4 hours of hanging around vs. 2 hours of hanging around) the more you’ll be asked to pay.  The process of selecting the delivery window is a little easier on the Coles site with better visual organisation of your options and the ability to choose with a single click.  Both offer delivery to your door six days a week. 

Of course, shopping for items and placing an order online is only one half of the online grocery shopping experience.  Delivery is what seals the deal.   And this is where the offers of the Big Two really starts to diverge.

Coles consistently delivers towards the top of the delivery window, meaning less hanging around waiting for your groceries.  Items are grouped together with like products and bundled into biodegradable shopping bags.  Despite living in a security controlled building, on each occasion they have followed the instructions at our front entry and delivered the groceries to our front door after first checking in with the security office.  Items have been in good order, except for some fruit and veg items that I would probably have left in the store had it been up to me to choose.  Generally the quality of fresh produce is fine and as you would expect from a large supermarket.  Refunds for any incorrect items are handled promptly and politely with a refund issued to the shopper’s credit card within days.

Woolies on the other hand have some serious catching up to do in the area of delivery.  Deliveries arrive outside of delivery windows, after multiple calls from the dispatch office to clarify the address.  Rather than checking in with the security office and then proceeding with a delivery to our door, groceries were dumped at the security office, with glass bottles broken by the delivery driver and no offer made to clean up the mess.  Complaints were handled tardily by disinterested staff with a credit taking 3 – 4 weeks to be processed.  Woolies does offer their Everyday Rewards program which earns Qantas Frequent Flyer points, and after giving them the benefit of the doubt and receiving several botched deliveries, I have to say this is the only reason still remaining to use their online shopping service. 

Coles Online also does some nice social media stuff on Twitter.  Mention either Coles or Woolies and a Coles team member will reply to your tweets offering to help.  They even helped confirm that some tricky eco-friendly specialist light globes I was looking purchase a quantity of were indeed the right ones for my needs. 

Verdict:  Woolies came late to the online grocery party.  Rather than trying to outdazzle Coles with great service, easy to use online ordering and an efficient and well organised delivery service, it appears they simple created a ‘me too’ service, simply to tick a box on their corporate scorecard.  Whilst the Coles Online service isn’t at all personalised, it’s functional and delivers the convenience an online shopper expects from a large supermarket.

Adventures: Lüke, New Orleans

As much as I loved the food in New Orleans, after a week of bad coffee I seized on the excellent french presse style caffeine fix offered at Lüke, located in a former historic Masonic temple in the heart of New Orleans CBD.  Self-described as ‘homage to the grand old Franco-German brasseries that once reigned in New Orleans’ this place is sophisticated yet full of homely and historical details. 

Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything you require in between, I loved our breakfast and I loved the coffee.  While utterly unlike coffee I drink at home in Brisbane, it had incredible body and none of the burnt notes the Americans usually favour.  It was decidedly French, and well suited to the fare. 

We sat at a table that gave us a great view of the kitchen, a well oiled machine with a couple of friendly chefs who signalled to us when they’d received our order and seemed proud that we took such an interest in what they were doing.  The kitchen also had one of the most incredible fire control systems I’ve ever seen – regulations in Louisiana must really be something else.

We’d ordered a Croque Madame – sweet grilled ham, emmental and white corn bread sandwich with an organic fried egg on top, served with hand cut frites.  There must have been slices of ham piled on an inch thick.  Along with this, the New Orlean version of a ‘Man Meal’, a traditional Southern breakfast of two fried eggs, twice smoked bacon, biscuit and creamed white corn grits.  I’d happily return at least a dozen more times to work through the amazing breakfast and brunch menu which features buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, buttermilk pancakes with berry cane syrup, omelet with local crab meat, asparagus, fromage blanc and fries.

Lunch and dinner at Lüke look similarly grand, and dinner is served from 4pm to 11pm each day.  That’s right – 11pm.  Featuring the best local oysters, clams, crawfish, crab and ceviche as well as lobsters, shrimp and Prince Edward Island mussels at the raw bar and a sophisticated a la carte menu, next time I’m in New Orleans I’ll be making a dinner reservation at Lüke.

Some excellent photos of the dining room at Lüke and the food can be found on their website.  I was rather too caffeinated to hold the camera straight!

http://www.lukeneworleans.com/

Adventures: Cochon Butcher, New Orleans

Cochon New Orleans

Growing up in an area with a rich European migrant heritage, I took for granted the availability of tasty smallgoods.  Finding these salty, meaty treats in Brisbane is somewhat more difficult.

Maybe this is why I fell so hard for Cochon Butcher.  Even though it was around the corner from our hotel in the warehouse district, being busy with conference commitments sadly meant we didn’t try it out right away.  This is a neighbourhood place, the kind of come as you are venue I’d love to see near me.  Located discretely next to Cochon Restaurant, Butcher is a deli come bar come cafe highlighting Donald Link’s cajun background and hence all things from the pig.  ‘Food and sWine’ is the way the concept is neatly described on the menu.   I love it and think of it often.

At its core, Butcher specialises in high quality cuts of fresh meats, cured meats, salumi and sausages made on the premises.  You can drop in and have the Butcher staff package these up to take home or arrange charcutirie platters, dips and amazing Cajun party treats or pull up a stool and enjoy fine wines and food.  You’ll find everything from steak and foie gras to Cajun specialties like Boudin, Andouille and Tasso.

House made salami and sausage at Butcher @ Cochon
Cajun and other delicacies at Butcher @ Cochon

 Once we discovered Butcher we couldn’t stay away.  It think we visited 4 times in 3 days, working our way through the concise but delicious eat in menu.  There’s bar snacks, amazing breakfasts, lunches and a well stocked bar.  We tried the Cochon Muffaletta and a Pulled Pork Sandwich with  potato salad at lunch both of which were served with pickled okra and amazing housemade potato chips.

Cochon the restaurant proper is certainly on the the itinerary for a future visit to New Orleans.  They even have Elderton wines from the Barossa on their list!

Cochon Muffaletta at Butcher @ Cochon
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Butcher @ Cochon

Voodoo BBQ is also worth checking out if you’re visiting New Orleans.  Authentic southern BBQ and amazing Mango Crystal and Mojo sauces, lovely with pulled pork and a frosty Abita ale.

Adventures: Grand Isle, New Orleans

BBQ Shrimp with French Bread at Grand Isle Restaurant, New Orleans

Q:   What’s the worst thing about Amercia?

A:   It’s full of Amerians.

And you might think full of nasty, fatty, processed foods.  In parts yes, but there is also some fabulously good eating too.  New Orleans for example is a VERY good city for eatin’.  A melting pot of french, afro-carribean and other influences its a fantastic city full of fabulous music and food.  We visited for a week in July 2009 and I’m looking forward to visiting again one day soon.

Forcing ourself into the timezone, we checked into our hotel in the Warehouse/Cultural District, not too far from the Superdome and set off towards the centre of the city to sample the local cuisine.

Following Hurricane Katrina, this neighbourhood has emerged as a great example of urban renewal with warehouses converted to apartments with ground floor restaurants, shops and offices.  There’s no master plan to it so its a great area to wander around and discover.  Despite misconceptions its also a safe area at night.

We settled on Grand Isle Restaurant, a charming seafood restaurant in a new development a few blocks from our hotel.  Designed to replicate a New Orleans ‘Fish Camp’ the decor features a beautiful collection of black and white vintage photos, gorgeous Pecky cypress lined walls,  and an old style wrap around mahogany bar.   Comfortable surroundings to relax in after a long flight.

‘Grand Isle Restaurant will take you back to the days when cold beer, 10 cent oysters and air conditioning were advertised on the windows.’

Our knowledgable waiter was happy to guide us through the menu which featured typical old style fish camp favourites like oysters, onion rings, jumbo lump shrimp cakes, turtle stew, gumbo and po boys.  We were feeling game and encouraged by a couple of glasses of suprisingly crisp and drinkable Californian chardonnay we ordered onion rings, crawfish étouffée, BBQ shimp and a seafood tasting plate.

The onion rings were amazing – thick, juicy with crispy light batter and expertly fried.  The seafood plate was a nice way to try out the local catch and was the first of several kilos of catfish we were feed throughout the week.  The joys of conference food for 5000+ delegates!

I was intrigued by crawfish étouffée before we went to New Orleans and I still am.  A Creole dish that typically includes onions, green capsicum and celery sauteed in butter (known in Creole cooking as the ‘holy trinity’) plus garlic, cayenne pepper and of course crawfish, its finished with a dark roux and winds up something like a simple version of gumbo and is served with rice.  Perhaps the flavour combination was too far from the familiar or my digestion wasn’t up to the strong taste of crawfish after the long flight but it really wasn’t for me.

The BBQ Shrimp with French Bread compensated entirely.  The simple description and $13.50 price tag were  misleading.  This was spectacular, rich yet perfectly balanced with lovely slices of crusty baguette to mop the sauces.  With every bite I puzzled at the combination of flavours, not quite able to put my finger on the ingredients.  It haunted me for a several months until I wrote to the Grand Isle and requested the recipe.  I’ve yet to try and replicate it at home but with a few small tweaks for localisation it does look achievable.  Here’s the recipe and lovely email I received from the general manger Jeff Hof.  I’ve not yet whittled down the recipe to a domestic quantity but this will give you an idea of how they do it.  The bay leaves, worcestershire and hot sauce provide the unusual flavours I’d been unable to identify.

“Hi Keira,

Please find the attached recipe that you requested. Thank you very much for the wonderful comments and we hope to see you for the next Microsoft convention. Your company has been very kind and supportive of our city during our time of need and we greatly appreciate it.

The attached recipe is a base that you must make first.  In the recipe we use Abita Amber which is a local beer. You can use any Amber beer and it will be the same provided the beer is not a bitter style. After the base is made, season the shrimp with salt and pepper and put into a hot sauté pan. Ladle in enough base to cover the shrimp. Bring the base to a low boil as quick as possible and fully cook the shrimp. Reduce heat to low and add in some whole, unsalted butter to bind the base and thicken it slightly. Squeeze a wedge of lemon in it and serve immediately.”

BBQ Shrimp Base

1 gallon Abita Amber

1 quart white wine

½ gallon mirepoix

½ gallon Crystal hot sauce

½ gallon Worcestershire sauce

10 Bay leaves

2 gallon shrimp stock

2 cups oil, Canola

1 cup garlic cloves

2 cups chopped Rosemary

Zest and juice of 25 lemons

1 quart Heavy whipping cream

METHOD

Place Abita, wine, mirepoix, hot sauce, Worcestershire and bay leaves in a stockpot and reduce by half.  Add shrimp stock, reduce by half.  Strain.  Brown garlic cloves in oil.  Add rosemary, garlic, cream, lemon juice and zest  to liquid.

Warehouse District, New Orleans

Lots more fabulous eating in New Orleans followed our visit to Grand Isle and I’m looking forward to sharing some highlights with you.

The Supertaster. MKII.

My new years resolutions?  I didn’t make any.

However, amongst my long list of  ‘spare time’ projects has been to move my much neglected, sporadic and very word-heavy blog over to a more managable platform.  So here goes nothing…..

There was once photos that accompanied these words, however they have been lost in the mists of the intawebs.  So I can only promise you, dear reader, words AND pictures for all future entries.  Despite the protestation of my dining companions I will endeavour to commit to memory card the delicous things I consume on my travels. 

I’m looking forward to indulging my passion for the edible and sometimes digestible and to having something to do other than run an IT business – my day job.  It continues to be a fine way to fund my passion for eating out, fine wine and adventures and for that I am very thankful. 

Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Keira

Restaurant Review: Jellyfish, Brisbane CBD

For a city defined by a river, Brisbane’s always been short on waterfront dining.  Eagle Street Pier was it for many years with a sprinkling of other venues such as Oxleys, Watt and some very forgettable places at South Bank.  More recently the Portside development at Hamilton has added some good contenders too.

The latest venue on the river is Jellyfish.  Trading for around six months now, Jellyfish is helmed by John Kilroy who many will recognise from Cha Cha Char.  Essentially Kilroy has taken the idea of produce with provenance and applied his winning ways with beef to seafood, more specifically line caught fresh fish.  Making good use of space borrowed from the Riverside Centre car park, Jellyfish sees a long, narrow space originally earmarked for a tunnel turned into a relaxed yet elegant dining room, mixing avant garde felt ‘jellyfish’ light shades with limewashed bentwood chairs, dark finishes and a long mirrored wall.  The dining area spills out onto a terrace which gives dinners a great view of the Brisbane River, Kangaroo Point and the Story Bridge. 

The menu features a selection of 8 – 12 sorts of fish, each flown in that day to arrive on your plate in tip top condition.  Each one has a recommended cooking style and sauce as well as the location where it was caught.  Everything is done simply to let the freshness of the produce speak for itself.  Selections include Whole Silver Bream, Flathead, Swordfish and the more unusual Hiramasa King and Butterfish.  In keeping with the theme of simplicity a 200 g portion is $29 with two fillets available for a very reasonable $39.50.  A full a la carte menu and extensive selection of sides and salads are also available. 

We visited on successive Wednesday nights and on both occasions the heaving dining room showed no signs of the global financial crisis with most tables being turned over at least once throughout the evening.  The staff at Jellyfish are very passionate about the menu and take the time to answer questions and explain the options. 

We settled on entrees of plump Sydney rock oysters and melt in the mouth tuna sashimi along with a glass of G. Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne.  Good quality sourdough and herbed butter is also available.  The tough decisions when it came to choose mains and eventually we both settled on the line caught fish – the hiramasa king with olive, lemon & caper sauce, the butterfish grilled with chermoula emulsion and the gold band snapper tempura with Vietnamese dipping sauce.

The sides show off quality vine ripened heirloom tomatoes in a number of guises as well as that other great accompaniment to fish – potatoes.  Our tomato and mozzarella salad and potato bake were outstanding and large enough to be a meal on their own.  From the lengthy and well-priced wine list, a bottle of the Scotchmans Hill ‘Cornelius’ Pinot Gris was a nice match for the meal.

In the event your dining companions prove to be less than entertaining, a rather surreal video of marine life on the barrier reef plays on flat screen TVs dotted around the dining room and there’s certainly plenty of people watching and blind date speculation to be had.  The dining room is comfortably noisy and tables are well spaced without losing the buzzy atmosphere.  Jellyfish also includes a very stylish bar, worthy of a separate visit.

Jellyfish provides a fantastic, unpretentious dining experience and prices are very good given the overall quality of the dining experience.  After almost half a dozen visits, I haven’t stopped raving about the place!  It truly offers something you won’t find anywhere else in Brisbane.  The quality and consistency of the food – particularly the fish – is a standout.

Winemaker and wine educator. Food writer in hiatus. Changemaker. Toast lover.