26 January 2010

the art of the order

Thank God for small menu's. I can never understand a large menu, it leads me to think that maybe they're compensating for something

I always wonder what the process of menu making is, why there a eight different titles across four pages plus the drinks menu, my head starts to spin. There is a certain restaurant I go to where this is the case. The food is incredible but after an hour table wait, half an hour choosing my meal and then the food wait I start to re-assess my meal choice. Terrible.

I've been applauded for my ordering abilities, not to brag, but I seem to get it right even if there is a large menu. I've narrowed down three simple rules.

1. Order what you can't make. It's quite simple, a meal you would never dream of making with all the ingredients you love why wouldn't you order it. Restaurant food is very different to home cooking, so take advantage of the outing.

2. Analyse the description. Ask the waiter questions if you don't know what something is, think about your favourite ingredients, what you love to eat and order that way, take your time. Never rush an order, a rushed order is bad order.

3. The best there is. Order what a restaurant is known for, don't go to a Steak restaurant and order the Salmon, chances are it will be lovely but not incredible, amazing and awe inspiring.

The whole restaurant experience should be memorable. Don't be afraid to order something you've never eaten and don't let someone else order for you it's hard on them and it doesn't always pay off.
And lastly make sure you choose the right restaurant, now that is my specialty so stay tuned.

Happy ordering

20 January 2010

espresso yourself

Coffee addict? No. Coffee snob? Possibly.

The coffee culture in Australia has boomed in the last few years. We now expect a better standard than what we have been served, I mean who drinks instant coffee these days?

I love a good cup of coffee, the smells, tastes and sounds, not too mention the rush you get after the first cup of the day it's exhilarating. OK, maybe I'm sounding a lot like an addict right about now, But any coffee lover will agree.

The perfect cup of espresso to me is a piccolo. It has just the right milk to coffee ratio, the perfect strength and not to much froth but just enough it to make creamy.

The piccolo sensation hasn't caught on quite yet and especially not in the USA. While I was over there last year I found a coffee shop that served beautiful organic coffee but only in the form of a cappuccino, latte and black coffee, it was a crying shame. Their strong but nutty blend couldn't properly be enjoyed, so being an ex-barista I jumped the counter to show them the 'piccolo'...success. I brought a little bit of culture to America that day.

A few rules for how to drink your coffee and then I'll let you experience it yourself.

-If you drink a coffee over the 'regular' size. STOP right now in the name of all things caffeinated! More is less, drinking it in any large size just isn't the way God intended.

-Make sure it's hot, nothing worse than a cold cup of coffee.

-Do try all styles to see what you like best. Short blacks are taken like shots in Italian espresso bars and cappuccino's are a breakfast drink. It's up to you to decide if you like extra froth, extra milk or none at all.

- Do try an affogado with hazelnut ice-cream as dessert, bliss if the coffee blend is smooth.

And I'm not a complete snob, I break the rules sometimes chocolate powder is always on top of my piccolo but each to their own.

Happy Drinking

18 January 2010

first foodie steps

My tastebuds are quite clever and, I'd like to think, a little more refined than most. They can tell when something is lacking or when there is too much. They can tell me when I've eaten something that i'll regret eating later. They love chilli, hate cheap chocolate and know when something has been deep fryed in stale oil. My tastebuds know what they're talking about.

I would be selfish if I didn't mention that my tastebuds are genetic. Passed down from my dad. I'd like to preface this by saying, that he and I can have differing tastes and appetites but generally speaking, my passion for food is from him.

The man can eat. Not just little bits at a time either. Not even lightweight foods that digest easily. Carbohydrates are my dad's staple, being Italian, the man can't go a day without bread. His metabolism must work overtime, though because he can eat carbs by the truckload without gaining the weight (I'm thankful for that, it's another thing I inherited from him) .

My dad gave me my first real 'foodie' moments. My first Japanese meal was a defining moment. It was the smallest little restaurant in Leichhardt oddly enough, he ordered the raw tuna steak and seaweed salad and I was in awe. I loved it none the less.

My dad has trotted around Sydney for the best Thai, discovered my favourite dessert in Haberfield, my favourite breakfast in Surry Hills and fish burgers in Concord (don't knock it till you've tried it.) He's spent painstaking hours finding the best Malaysian, Indian, Portugese Chicken burgers and this kind of intense research will probably continue well into retirement.

I'm thankful for all his 'work' lunches and dates out with mum because he's given me inspiration to discover more food treasures all on my own.

14 January 2010

trial and error

To me, cooking is all about trial and error.

It's about little discoveries that may suprise you, my choc chip banana bread is perfection if I don't say so myself but it took many overcooked and undercooked batches to reach this height.

Unfortunately my cooking journey has proved errors occur quite often here are some do's and don't all founded by experience-

- Don't make your own version of chilli infused chocolate. This is best left to the Swiss, namely Lindt.

- Don't brag about your signature dish to everyone and anyone. Chances are when it comes time to make it for people, you will realise you talked yourself up a little too much.

- Don't put your fingers in any sort of bladed electrical kitchen appliance. Please. It seems like common sense, but in the heat of the moment these things tend to slip your mind. I may even have the scars to prove it.

- Don't say you'll get up early Saturday to cook your family breakfast and not come through with the goods. A lot of angry customers will be out to get to you.

- Not everyone shares your (my) zeal for chilli.

- Don't think you're a superstar, oven mitts are always necessary.

- Put your mascara on after you chop the onions

- Ricotta panckaes take time to perfect, Bill Granger is superhuman.

- Baked Ricotta Cheesecake by Papa's is Heaven on a plate (this one's just inspiration)

- And lastly do try cooking new things, a chef is always inventive.

Happy cooking

08 January 2010

A consuming passion

I grew up in two different cultures obsessed by food.

My father is Italian and my mother is Lebanese, so basically I didn't stand a chance.

I love food. How can you not? We have three time periods in each day solely and completely dedicated to eating and I intend making the most of each one of them, and so does my family.

Italians plan their day around eating. Siesta's are conveniently planned after lunch which in our culture, is the biggest meal of the day. When Italians aren't eating food they're talking about food even straight after a meal when everyone is sitting around the table stuffed like pinata's, you are bound to hear "What's for dinner?" Italians are a spirited bunch, arguements are normally about who cooks better than whom and why the penne was late to the table.

And then there's the Lebanese who are so clever about their eating they created Tabouli. You see, parsley is the main ingredient in Tabouli, a herb that is known to counteract garlic and bad breath. I once heard the quote-
"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. "
The Lebanese live by this.

I feel lucky though, to have been born into these cultures, one thing they aren't lacking in is passion. Mealtime is more than just eating it's about togetherness, lively conversation and playful banter . But only after the plate is clean.

Happy Eating