Thursday, 19 December 2013

Elizabeth Food and Wine

Hobart restaurants have rapidly and creatively taken on the idea of using Tasmanian produce with a mind to promote its quality and indulging flavours, and why not? Elizabeth Food and Wine is no exception, displaying some of the most original Hobart cuisine, playfully selecting and utilising some of the most fantastic produce available. A great advantage of this place is its inclusion of a store, in which you can purchase produce ranging from honey, jams and pickles to pre-made dinners, wine and vegetables. Forming part of a network that supports local enterprise and Tasmanian produce, ESt.F&Wine offers a spacious place for casual dining in which you get to indulge in the assembly of many flavours that show off the potential of Tasmanian produce. In addition, displayed on the wall is a map of where in Tasmania the food is grown, produced and made, an excellent idea that visually captures the food by making it geographically relevant and enhancing the localism and diversity within the state.  Menus are simply set out, with each meal wine matched, no pressure to comply of-course. Some of these meals are very creative, with the use of seasonal ingredients, such as salad greens comprised of snow pea shoots and wild rocket tossed in Elder Flower dressing, now in bloom, a fresh revival of the balsamic soaked mesclun salad.

A key issue with Tasmanian produce, as with any other product in the market, is once something does well it saturates it and then becomes taken up by larger companies becoming almost like a mono-crop leading to reduced variety and limiting culinary creativity.  Until, something comes along with new and fresh ideas, and that is exactly what is displayed in the meals at ESt.F&Wine. Among the fresh flavours are smoked tomatoes, salsa verde, quince syrup, labne and beetroot jam that accompany delectable creations ranging from chicken liver confit, steak and kidney pie, pulled pork, or fried haloumi. They also have, as all good cafes do, exquisite sweets, like gluten free chocolate mud cake, rich and heavy, no scrimping on the chocolate there! Delicious coffee and excellent service. I do like this place, and on sunny warm days the windows open right up to create a street dining atmosphere. Whats not to like, try it all.  

Elizabeth St Food + Wine on Urbanspoon   

Patchwork Cafe

New Norfolk is a place that is often overlooked as a destination for fine food and the makings for an interesting afternoon out. Given its past steeped in stigma of incest in the close by mountains, and overall its little selection of eateries, its no wonder. However, if it offered a place where you could indulge in some delicious Tassie food and beverages whilst sitting in the former grounds of one of Tasmania's most notorious and misjudged collections of buildings, you would probably start to get interested in poor old New Norfolk. Forget Port Arthur or Macquarie Harbour (although completely justifiable in their own right and not to be missed), head to New Norfolk and to the Patchwork Cafe, situated in the former grounds of Willow Court, of the Royal Derwent Psychiatric Hospital.  Willow Court, steeped in urban legends, has received a lot of attention, ranging from stigma, taboo, historical interest, the paranormal, and of coarse its tragic part in the discrimination and abuse of the disabled and mentally ill exposed prior to its closure in 2000.  I must say its a strange place to go and enjoy a coffee and cake, I could not shake the fact that I was sitting in Willow Court. Although the cafe is lovely and offers fantastic food in a nice section of grounds enhanced by the old trees and green gardens, out of the corner of my eye sits the old wards, disheveled, boarded up, smashed out windows and piles of junk left from deconstruction the buildings and vandalism. In addition, it also seems to serve as a creepy grave yard for old broken down cars.  It is certainly a curious place as you can roam around the accessible sections, stealing a peek into an old ward, whilst dodging a potential hazard.  This may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I am fascinated by our history and this is an interesting attempt by some individuals to utilise the space, renewing the energy and stepping away from its jaded history.  

The cafe is located in a new building made from reclaimed timber near the Willow Court Motel (yes you read that right). It looks fantastic, simple in design, yet full of character. It is surrounded by its own little grove of shrubbery and trees that offset its location slightly away from the administrative buildings and old wards.  They offer tasty cafe savories and sweets, are licensed  and also sell home made and Tasmanian specific preserves and produce.  This place was bustling with tourists and locals, and they offer live music every Sunday of the jazz/blues genre, weather permitting, a good place to catch up on local gossip and history.

Of course New Norfolk is famous for its collection of antique shops and this also applies at the Willow Court site where you can roam the lower floor of the former nurses quarters, filled with bizarre and amazing antiques, ranging from vintage buttons, kitchenware, art and former security doors of the wards and prison, a scary site when you first come across them.  I could not help but blow out at this experience, walking around willow court looking at antiques, the rooms have a faint odour of heritage and institution, with original fixtures and hospital flooring, and with the random collection of music playing in the background, it's a strange experience. However, it is a new era and although we have been quick to judge and forget its past, this place is slowly going through a transition, preserving the older convict era buildings, and rejuvenating the area through land sale and new development.  This place was built to house invalid convicts, before it became Australia's first psychiatric institution open to the wider community and private patients. Maybe one day it will be a place to come and openly discover its rich and turbulent history, free from shame and stigma. But, for the time being this place is still a raw reminder, and as it slowly transforms, you can at least enjoy a little food and drink there.    

Patchwork Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Roaring Grill

Quite a pleasant evening, made possible by the talented and respected use of Tasmanian produce and flavours.  This place has a significant 'Tasmanian' edge with its range of deliciously Tasmanian sourced products.  Beef cuts from the North West and Robbin Island Wagyu, lamb from Roland Range and seafood from our own local waters, the Roaring Grill boasts the use of quality products and has integrated Tasmania's 'clean green' image into their own culinary repertoire, literally in the title, the 'roaring' plays on our own roaring 40's. Alongside this, they seek out locally grown fruit and vegetables, locally produced beers, wines, cheeses and ice cream that specialise in unique 'Tasmanian' flavours.

A little pricey, but quite reasonable given the quality and professionalism of preparing the food in relation to other places, its a place to take someone special, or maybe just celebrate a week of fasting with a nice big juicy steak, and that is exactly what you get.  The meat is exceptional here, cooked perfectly to your liking, sparsely displayed with your choice of condiment (the red wine jus is delicious), the ever popular champ potatoes, and a pear and walnut Waldorf inspired salad.  Alongside this you can have alternatives to steak, with ribs or lamb and fish.  The house made sausage is absolutely delicious, full of flavour and robust texture. Served with pureed creamy potatoes and sweet sauteed onion, the dish is available as an entree and main.
The service is swift, punctional and professional, although if not a little high-brow with slight uneasiness, doesn't hurt to smile. The establishment has had many transformations, and in this instance, the roaring grill sets up a simple dining space that extends through to the back, with soft lighting and exposed convict red brick, the space opens up and is inviting.  They have a bar for those who want a pre-drink or are waiting for a table, as this place fills up fast, forget punting on a Friday night, make sure you book.

Desserts are not to be overlooked either, as these guys extend their talent and passion right to the end, with a delicious selection of ice creams, sorbets, coffee infused creme brulee, crumble and chocolate creations.

Located in North Hobart corner of Elizabeth and Burnett Streets, the Roaring Grill is by far one of Hobart's better restaurants to patronage.   

Roaring Grill on Urbanspoon  

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pollen Tea Room

On a stormy Spring Sunday, we rushed about looking for a nook to enjoy a warming beverage. In the heart of Battery Point we were drawn to the quaint and cosy Pollen Tea Room. As you enter into the tiny but comfy front room of a former cottage, you're welcomed by a fake but convincing flame fire, and the most friendliest staff/owner I have ever come across.  This place is a shelter in the storm, like arriving home, you feel like kicking off your wet weather boots and reclining back with your favourite book and an enticing Chai tea. Indeed that is what we almost did, keeping our shoes on and taking place at the center table, we both indulged in the home made Chai, chock full of fresh ginger and warm spices to keep away the damp cold of a Wintery Spring, and put a massive smile on your face, saying 'I've arrived'.  As well as a choice of tea's and single origin coffee, you can have tasty snacks provided by Mrs Reese's healthy treats or more substantial smashed avocado on sourdough, fruit toast, eggs on toast and many more. Everything here feels very homely and nurturing, from the warm brick colours of the interior, to the long colonial style kitchen table, and the friendly staff whose relaxing and familiar manner resonate with notions of 'tea with friends'. Yes you can romanticise and get lost in this place as much as you want. You could be coming home from a hard days work, or taking refuge from a maritime storm, the surrounding colonial Battery Point steeped in history and contemporary cultural life has found its way to the Pollen Tea Room, with the cafe nicely taking place within this theme, forcing a thematic and pleasurably intimate experience. A must!  

Pollen Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Simply Chicken

There was a time when I was even more of a snob about food than I am now.  I used to casually say to friends when out to dinner chicken was the meat of choice to those who could not decide what they actually wanted.  Looking back on that remark I feel somewhat ashamed of my bourgeois attitude to the humble meat, and feel a slight guilt that I may have been plagiarising Anthony Bourdain. Now that times have changed I am happy to promote chicken, and its versatile contributions to the culinary world, as long as it is free range, antibiotic and hormone free. The best example that comes first is Marion Bay chicken from the pristine east coast.  Marion chickens are harder to come by, often found at smaller grocers and some butchers, like Hill Street or Nicholls Rivulet Store located near the turn off on the channel highway.  At a time you could get Marion chickens precooked from IGA stores.  Of coarse, select butchers will stock local chicken, such as cygnet butcher or J.B Nicholson, who will also provide to smaller grocers.  However, most chicken that claims to be free range generally comes from the same place and is supplied by one of the main producers. Marion chicken is a little on the expensive side, but it is by far the more superior and genuinely free range of the chicken products.  Buying a whole chicken and portioning it up will make your money stretch, and you can make stocks and soups from the carcass.  Alternatively you can roast it, eat what is needed, then use the rest for sandwiches, pasta etc. and the bones for stock and broths.

 However, there is another road you can go down, which is the humble Nichols chook.  Once promoted as free-range this product now prides itself as being 'responsibly farmed' and hormone free.  I believe now that Nichols only keep to guideline minimum on what is considered free-ranging and it is not hard to be hormone free in Tasmania, as all meat is due to state laws.  However, Nichols deserves a mention as they have made a huge impact on farming practices in the poultry industry, including promotion of antibiotic free chicken and sustainability, with the introduction of wind turbines for generating power on the farm.  Nichols chicken is easier to find, including super markets, grocers and butchers, and is a lot cheaper. Other brands you may come across are Churchill's, a lot rarer, only come as whole and are of a high standard like Marion, and the suspicious unmarked 'free-range' packets, often very cheap and found in less reputable grocers.  I steer clear of unmarked packets, unless they come from a butcher with verbal guarantee that they are free-range etc. Of course there are smaller producers out there and its always good to check out butchers and grocers that are located in the country for other suppliers.

Chicken is a very amazing product as it contains natural antibiotics, leading to its use in broths and soups used to fight off colds, aches and pains and the like.  Here is a recipe I use with my left over roast.

Healthy chicken broth:
Chicken carcass, meat removed- if using uncooked, boil chicken whole, alongside other ingredients.
Carrots, 2-3, I use orange and white, as purple ones leech their colour- cubed
Parsnip, 2- cubed
Potatoes, 2-3 med-large- cubed
Onion, 1 large- chopped
Garlic, 2-3 cloves- finely sliced
Dill, 3-4 large sprigs- chopped
Pepper, Salt (optional)- to taste
A little oil
If using a carcass left over from a roast, use to make a stock first, cover with water, add two bay leaves, some pepper corns, 2 storks of parsley, some fresh thyme, roughly chopped onion and carrot and a stick of celery (optional, depends on flavour). Bring to a high simmer for at least 1 hour, 2 is better.  Skim off any fat and drain into a clean bowl or container. The flavours from its previous roast will also permeate the stock and give it a richer taste. If using a raw chicken place in pot with other ingredients, cover with water and allow to boil gently until chicken is cooked, remove whole chicken and set aside. You can if you want, gently brown the outside of the chicken in the pot first for added flavour.  It is up to you whether you want to take the meat off the chicken and re-add it to the broth or serve it on the side, a more traditional touch from Eastern Europe.

Once you have your stock, place a little oil in the pot to heat and then all other ingredients except the potatoes and dill into the pot to sweat off. Once sweating off is complete, onions will look glassy or translucent, add stock, dill and season, add extra water if needed.  It is optional to add a little sugar if you wish, however I find the natural sugars in the onion and carrots work fine for my taste. Once cooked though add the meat that you took off the carcass, heat through, check seasoning again.  I like to serve mine with large chunky garlic and dill croutons, I make by rubbing fresh garlic onto thick slices of old sour dough, then cut into large rustic squares and sprinkled with dill.  Cook in a low oven about 150C for 15 minutes.  You can also sprinkle these with sea salt or Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!                  

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Squires Bounty

Well, if it's past lunch time and you are hankering for a decent sized meal, sick of pizzas and toasties served during the dead time between lunch and dinner, then you will be pleased to know that the Squires Bounty is open for business.  We had a nice juicy scotch fillet here, available with your choice of sauce and chips and salad.  Located in Salamanca Square, behind Grape, the Bounty is a nice spot for drinks and food. A little on the expensive side, as there are plenty of places that offer steaks, burgers and food of the such in the area, at better prices, but not many of these places offer food all day, or if they do they revert to snack menus.  I was really pleased with the steak, a good quality cut, not too fatty or chewy and cooked perfectly to a medium rare.  It came with a delicious side salad that was dressed with a light lemon vinaigrette and consisted of thinly sliced celeriac and radish, not often found in the humble salad these days. I had a nice refreshing glass of Pipers sparkling to wash it down with and opted for a demi glace to go with the meat.  I have to say we picked this place out of desperation, as we had missed the lunch service and where absolutely ravenous for a decent meal.  It was a sunny day, and pretty much every place was packed with happy sun goers, however, Salamanca Square loses its sun in the afternoon, making it a cold and shadowy place. All this aside, we enjoyed our experience at the Bounty, and this place is a must for those who enjoy boutique beers, and quick bar snacks.  On certain days, the Bounty offer special pint and food deals.

The Squires Bounty on Urbanspoon 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Kathmandu Cuisine

Beautiful food, beautiful people and beautiful location. Kathmandu is relatively new to Hobart, offering a delicious range of Nepalese food, taking inspiration from their neighbours India, Tibet and China. Picture a quiet evening out with your loved one, tucked away in an intimate dining space, soft warm lighting and street views of heritage Battery Point. Or a lively get together with a bunch of friends out back. This place caters for all, providing excellent and attentive service. The menu is extensive, offering a range of dishes tailored for meat and vegetables.  We ordered a selection of curries, covering, fish, chicken, lamb and goat.  To accompany we had serves of garlic roti and rice, one infused with almonds, peas and currants.  The flavours in these meals are delicately complex, where saffron, cumin and cardamon marry black pepper cinnamon and ginger.  Beautifully presented, and prepared you will be hankering for more.  Chinese influences include mo mo or dumplings, fillings decided by the patron, and noodles, rice and soup dishes.  Prices are extremely reasonable, so don't be put off by its 'expensive' location. Located on the corner of Hampton and Francis Streets, Kathmandu is delightful and a fresh addition to dining in Hobart.

Kathmandu Cuisine on Urbanspoon