Wednesday, 26 December 2012

My Favourite Things 2012: The Academic

It's that time of year! Originally, we intended this to be a series of posts, but instead we're going to be a little more like Oprah than I'd like and just do a list each. But there's no giveaway, so our hipsterdom is, like, totally safe.


Culinary Highlights
The absolutely culinary highlights of this year are, without a doubt:
My birthday dinner by Kym Machin (at Spring): This was one of "those" meals, that you hold onto the memory of forever. Absolutely unforgettable, absolutely incredible.
Swirl, Sniff, Spit: WE HAD A WINE THAT TASTED LIKE A SEASIDE DELI. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway. Get thee on the twitter and go along to one of these shindigs: even if you think that the wine-tasting is wanky and pointless, this will open your eyes to the incredible world of wine. But take along money for a taxi or your goCard, unless you really think you'll spit every mouthful.

Off-The-Shelf
If you're a tempeh hater, it's clearly because you've never tried Mighty Bean Fresh Local Tempeh. The "best before" date marks 21 days after the tempeh has been made. TWENTY ONE DAYS. They also make a "Long Life Original" tempeh, and an "Oriental Stir Fry" tempeh. Made on the Sunshine Coast, Mighty Bean have a stall at the Eumundi Markets but if you're not willing to brave those (I'm still trying to build up the courage), their tempeh is available at Pod Organics & Wholefoods in Stafford (4/275 Stafford Rd; on Crawford Avenue, just off Stafford Road, next to the Drycleaners) and The Green Edge in Enoggera (2/191 Wardell Street; in the building with the pink sign with a bikini girl on it and next to the church, across the road from the Caltex and K&K Toys). I'm not sure of where else it is available, so let me know if you know of anywhere.


Similarly, tofu-haters: get thee to a health food store/small grocery store and I'll even give you a choice this time: Earth Source Foods biodynamic tofu is the.most.delicious tofu I've ever had (ok, maybe a close second to homemade). They milk  pressed, soft, firm and silken tofu (I have tried the latter two, but not the former, though I imagine they're all as delicious). Get on it, it's amazing. Available at pod organics, The Green Edge, and Wray Organic (stores in: Palm Beach, Newmarket, Indooroopily, Ipswich, Cannon Hill, Toowoomba, Cleveland, and Mt Gravatt). I imagine they're also available at many other organic grocery store, so ask at your local (and let me know!). Second place goes to the slightly more widely available Blue Lotus tofu: their Premium Silken Tofu is my favourite silken tofu, and I could quite honestly eat it straight from the box (and I sometimes do). They also make a delicious firm tofu. To my knowledge, they are at most Coles, and may still be at your local Woolworths (if they haven't stripped the shelves of all but their own...), and are also available at many smaller grocery stores and health food shops.


Books
Good thing I waited until after Christmas to do this! Matt got me Andrea Nguyen's "Asian Tofu"  for Christmas and I'm ridiculously excited about it. I do love "The Book of Tofu", and it's still an extremely detailed, information book (and it's about $8, so if you love tofu, GET IT!), but it can be a bit inaccessible. I made tofu following the instructions in the book today and it was absolutely delicious. Once I get my hands on some gypsum, I'll be making silken tofu and all sorts of other magic!


Of course, this was also the year that saw the release of Miyoko Schinner's "Artisan Vegan Cheese". I have loved experimenting with this book, and though it has been a bit hit and miss, the concept is absolutely fantastic, and finally gives some legitimacy to non-animal-based cheeses. I can't wait to have more time (ha) so I can explore even more of the book (and we got a wine fridge for Christmas, so we'll be able to do air-dried cheeses despite the horrendous humidity!


As horrified as I am to admit it, I only had time to read one fiction book this whole year, which was Jasper Fforde's "The Woman Who Died A Lot". Though the Thursday Next series now feels it's being stretched a little too far, I still cannot wait for the next, nor for the final Nursery Crimes and Shades of Grey books.

Music
It's really odd to pick favourite music from this year, not least of which because I completely forget about all the albums released at the start of the year, but also because


The Mixed Bag
Flying Lotus' "Until the Quiet Comes" was one of the albums I was most excited about, but after its release, I wasn't so sure. Azealia Banks' "FANTASEA" mixtape was excellent in parts, but a bit same-ish in others (and boy does she have a mouth on her...). Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die: Paradise" was better in some ways than the original album, but also lacking in other areas (though I can't agree with some of Matt's review!), and "(III)" seems to indicate that Crystal Castles have said all they had to say (which is a bit of a shame). Madonna also showed us... well, that there's nothing else to show, really (ironically enough, the same thing could be said about Goldfrapp's "The Singles", which included two absolutely uninspired "bonus tracks"). At least she picked a more appropriate cover this time around. And Marina & The Diamonds showed us that she's quite happy to sell out and make Top 40 music, but only if she's pretending that she's not. Scissor Sisters released an album that feels like their second, if only because we can't remember the two they've released since their first; though there are some fun songs, they have never been quite able to capture the diversity, and interplay of drunken fun and heart-breaking sobriety, that made their first so great. And don't even get me started on Fiona Apple's latest...

On a middle-ground note, I also discovered Flume, whose self-titled album was released this year. One of those "omg I've discovered this awesome artist" and then you go to JB and you realise that they're really popular and everyone already knows about them and, once again, you're back to indie points: 0. I really enjoy parts of the album, but ultimately, it seems like a promise of great things to come. I'll be keeping an ear out.

The Great Moments
Gossling's new EP "Intentional Living" was pretty much all I listened to for a few months, and seeing her live was absolutely fantastic (if you ever get the chance, make sure you do it). She was supported by Winter People, who released their album "A Year At Sea" a couple of months ago.
Sutrastore, whose EP "Love Evolution 1.0" was a favourite of mine a number of years ago, finally released their first album "Open Doorway", which unfortunately only got a digital release.
Modeselektion at last released "Modeselektion Vol. 2", which (in my opinion) far surpasses Vol. 1, with a much darker overall sound.
I loved Hooverphonic "With Orchestra" simply because it was great to see them testing Noémie on some of the older material (which she passed with flying colours, though I would've liked less from "The Night Before" and more from the rest of their career!). They have also recently release it as a live CD/DVD, which I have ordered, but am yet to receive (fingers crossed it'll arrive soon!).
On a similar tack, Tori Amos released "Gold Dust", an orchestra re-imagining of her greatest hits, as well as a few surprises (unfortunately no new tracks). As much as I never, ever need to hear "Silent All These Years" again (and would've liked something from "To Venus And Back" or "The Beekeeper"), it's a really wonderful listen, and fantastic to see a truly great artist back to doing what she's best at: performing.
Santigold's "Master Of My Make-Believe", though more muted than her debut, also has some great songs.
And, despite the mixed bag of "Paradise", there is no doubt that Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die" is one of the best albums (even if some of the music only survived due to a strong concept) of the last few years (though combining the EP and album and cutting some tracks would have resulted in a stronger album overall, in my opinion).

Tracks of the Year
Grimes' "Genesis" (from her album "Visions") is an absolutely brilliant track, though the album as a whole failed to have much of an impact. Ladyhawke's "Girl Like Me", the first track from her new album "Anxiety" is also great (though, again, the rest of the album is somewhat forgettable). Flying Lotus' "Electric Candyman" (featuring Thom Yorke) is certainly the highlight of an album that, to be honest, was always going to feel like a letdown after "Cosmogramma". The Winter People's "The Banker's Lament" gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. Hot Chip's "Flutes" and "Night and Day" are also excellent.


I don't really feel that I've done this year justice, but goodness knows if I wrote about EVERYTHING that we'd done and that I'd like this year, the post would never end. Keep an eye out for the Dilettante's list, which should be posted soon!

To everyone who reads our blog: THANK YOU. Firstly, for your patient with our somewhat erratic posting, and seconding for your support! We're working on a few interesting things at the moment, which we'll hopefully share in the new year.

We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and have an extremely happy New Year, however you chose/choose to spend them!

James (& Matt).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lana Del Rey: Born to Die (The Paradise Edition) / Paradise (Review)

Lana Del Rey knows that she's bad for us. But like good marketing, and like a good salesperson, she still manages to suck you in, hook, line and sinker. For the most part.

Her new release: "Born to Die: The Paradise Edition" is somehow simultaneously a prologue and an epilogue to Born to Die. In some ways, improvements have been made, but seemingly deliberately, other aspects that worked so well on the first album have fallen away.



On the first listen of Paradise, the immediacy, urgency and hooks of the first album are not apparent. Many of the songs have a mesmerising, slow hook to them that takes time, but unlike challenging-but-great works by other artists (such as Kate Bush's "The Dreaming", or Tori Amos' "Boys for Pele", you do get the feeling that some of these "songs" are mere concepts, or demos, that would have benefited from more time to fully flesh-out, and develop, a bit like Marina and the Diamonds' recent bizarre and hit-missing album,"Electra Heart", that I wanted to like so much. This is a woman who knows she has a captive audience, waiting in the palm of her hand.

What started out as "Lana Del Rey", an intriguing persona for the singer Lizzy Grant, allowing her to seem in control of her own dark, twisted fantasy, and be aware of her own shortcomings, has denigrated. She willingly shows her nakedness and the ugliness of sheer existence, but without the mystique and hidden intrigue that was apparent and enthralling (despite the unnecessary and often distracting over-production) on Born to Die. From the lyrical concepts, you don't really get the sense that fame has changed her, or helped her to grow over this time.

Two of arguably the most successful and compelling songs on Paradise, Blue Velvet and Yayo, were originally released on Lizzy Grant's lost album, and one gets the sense that the moody, sexed-up Lana Del Rey is covering Lizzy here, still world-weary, but obviously with the newfound confidence and glamour that has developed from her access to popularity and audience - she now sings like Lizzy's cooler older sister.

A lot of the music sounds like snippets of advertisements, teasing you to keep listening - the word "vignette" springs to mind - which works fairly well, as for the most part, if you do continue listening, the music is snaky, and the hooks reveal themselves in time. Very little in the way of beats, electronica, or layering (the hallmarks of production over-used on Born to Die) is present here. It's almost like you're standing in someone's think-tank, but it's pleasant and mostly unjarring to listen to.

The problem I have with this album, and now Lana Del Rey herself, seems to be her own thought processes, revealed in the lyrics. On her first album, that sense of control and ownership of oneself was at times embarrassingly inspiring, and mysterious. Perhaps even delightfully self-absorbed and doomed. She drew you in, but wasn't openly damaging herself. On this album, she seems hell-bent on bleeding for (older) men, like the stereotypical Lolita, after her bad boy, but without the joy of sick-control. The term "daddy", is used a little too often, the lyric "my pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola" is used as a hook (I wish I were joking), and various references to perhaps less-than-emotionally-supportive-sex are disconcerting for the listener to hear. I am aware that I am a massive prude, but this is no "Exile in Guyville", or even "Liz Phair", where there is enjoyment and interest in healthy sex for sex's sake - sex on this album seems like a way of self-harm, even a way of creating emotional psychodrama. 

I am aware of my own tendency to prudishness, but with Lana becoming somewhat of a role model for emotionally lost teenagers, I do worry that this can develop and glamourise latent unhealthy thought processes and behaviours in listeners.

I do get the feeling that The Academic will wholeheartedly disagree with this review ;).

Finally, one can attempt to veil seemingly emotionally damaging concepts designed to shock under the guise of art, but like Lady Gaga, we have to ask ourselves: is the music good? Does the "shock" make me think? And despite what we're being told, is this really art? And does it really matter?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Quick, Easy, Hearty Pasta Recipe (And a business update!)

It all begins with pizza...
 
Last night for dinner we had fantastic pizza, and if there's one thing I can say about fantastic pizza, it's that sure as anything, the next day, I crave fantastic pasta! Great pizza is highly dependent on the base being fantastic - and it is amazing the difference using a seemingly only slightly different recipe can make. If you haven't already - try The Sexy Vegan's pizza dough. I know it takes 90 minutes, then 40 minutes, but just between you and me - you can leave it to rest 60 minutes, then 20 minutes, and it'll turn out just fine. But, I digress.

All day I had these images of pasta floating through my head. Simple, fresh, spring vegetable-y pasta, bursting with rich, umami flavours, lots of colours, a silky, light, almost non-existent sauce, and bow tie (farfalle) pasta. I don't know why it had to be bow tie, but it damn well had to be. And white. None of the normal wholemeal spirals I usually eat (I know! I bet you didn't imagine me eating wholemeal pasta alongside my beer and hedonism, but I do!!). A nice soft gluten-free pasta would work wonderfully in this, also. I also wanted a sauce that was cooked in a fry pan or wok, and nicely browned. So I whipped this up, and it fit the bill beautifully.

Simple Spring Vegetable Pasta


This dish is fairly customisable - use your choice of protein (I like a duo - seitan and legumes, but instead of seitan - some italian-style marinated tofu would work well!), the freshest, most flavoursome vegetables available and a pasta with a bit of texture to bring it all together. I recommend the addition of some lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts, for a delicious crunch.

This dish is fairly light, so it is important to use high heat and follow the method, to coax out as much flavour as possible from the ingredients. 

Ingredients:
500g farfalle pasta (gluten-free if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
One green capsicum (bell pepper), sliced into strips
One red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced into strips
2 cups smoky, spicy seitan, cubed (or your choice of protein - to make gluten-free or if you'd like to use all legumes, perhaps add some chilli, smoked paprika and a sprinkle of gluten-free soy sauce or tamari for a quick burst of flavour, and double the other herbs)
1 x 400g (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
One red/spanish onion, roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 cup of white wine, or vegetable broth
1 x 400g (14 ounce) can cannelini beans, rinsed (approx 1 & 1/2 cups, cooked)
1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed 
1/4 - 1/2 cup of water reserved when draining cooked pasta
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
Optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, or chopped toasted walnuts
Olive oil and seasoning, for serving

Preparation:
1. Start boiling plenty of water for pasta (classically, ridiculous amounts of water are called for, but I generally find double enough!)
2. Peel and chop your garlic, prepare and chop your vegetables.
If you are using the optional toasted pine nuts or walnuts, and I do recommend that you do, either spread them in a single layer in a frying pan and toss regularly over medium heat, watching carefully to ensure that they do not burn, or spread on a sheet of baking paper in an 180C (350F) oven, tossing occasionally. Remove and set aside.
3. Heat a large frypan (I use a wok) over high heat, and add the olive oil to heat.

Method:
1. Add the capsicum to the pan, and toss over high heat, until lightly charred in corners, shiny, and beginning to soften (approximately 5 minutes).
2. Add a drizzle more oil, and brown seitan and capsicum for approximately another 5 minutes, tossing regularly. 
3. Add pasta to boiling water (my farfalle suggests that it takes 12 minutes - but I recommend checking it at 10 minutes - you want it al dente, not sloppy!)
4. Pour the can of tomatoes into the pan, and stir regularly over very high heat until browned, thickened, and almost dry (approximately 5 minutes).
5. Add salt, oregano, basil, onion and garlic, and stir briskly for approximately 1 minute.
6. Whilst maintaining high heat, add 1/4-1/2 cup white wine, or vegetable broth, to moisten the ingredients and scrape to deglaze the pan - and allow to evaporate.
7. Stir in the cannelini beans and olives, and heat through.
8. Reduce the heat to medium whilst adding the spinach, stirring and allowing to lightly wilt.
9. Scoop out 1-4 to 1/2 cup of starchy pasta-boiling water, and add to the sauce mixture to achieve desired consistency - make it a *little* wetter than you think will be necessary - it will disappear quickly!
10. Drain pasta, and add to wok with sauce, stirring until lusciously combined.
11. Stir in balsamic vinegar to pasta and sauce. If using, add pine nuts or walnuts, and allow to gently heat through.
12. Season to taste with additional salt, adding pepper or nutritional yeast as desired.
13. Serve! Drizzle each serving with a glug of olive oil (don't dare leave it dry!), stirring through to ensure desired sauce consistency. If you're lucky enough to have homemade vegan parmesan (from Miyoko Schinner's excellent Artisan Vegan Cheese book), now is the time to effortlessly Microplane (yes, I would do advertisements for Microplanes if they asked) on top.

Enjoy!

Thank you to all who have reached out with well-wishes for the business. We are very, very busy, and getting excellent feedback, which has absolutely warmed my heart, and keeps me inspired. For more details (and photos) of what we are up to - check out our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/deliciousregardless - or, for those of you on Twitter, you can follow us @DeliciousRegard .

Take care of each other!







Friday, 28 September 2012

Beer Academy Adventures

So I received a Direct Message, on Twitter. It felt like an invitation to some sort of secret society. The much loved Matt Kirkegaard (what a great name!), had extended an invitation to me. To attend "Beer Academy". Yep, this is a real place. Well, it's more of a concept. But it is held in a place.

Our introductory beer

Beer is one of those things that people seem to either love or hate, and some - with very little knowledge of the subject. I'm in the middle. I thought I knew a fair bit about beer - but Beer Academy proved me wrong. I've never been one for fancy beer, or even particularly trying new things, but I do enjoy a beer. And my interest had been piqued recently by ending up at "Scratch Beer Dive"  with my friend Danielle in Milton, and trying a beer called "Mike's Organic Heavy Petal" (HA! I just got the pun!) - that tasted, overwhelmingly, of rose petals. Now that's not something you usually expect to associate with beer, is it? But it sure opened my mind up.

Beer, on the whole, has a pretty tough job. We all assume that every working man drinks it (sweeping generalisation, I know), but it tends to end up in a male-dominated market, relying upon base-level marketing, and concepts of "mateship", rather than taste or ingredients. It's often a social thing. Or we view trying and critiquing "fancy" beers at some bizarre, uncomfortable, male bonding exercise. But how wrong we can be...

I don't quite know what it is about wine that makes people wax lyrical, and brings out the inner poet in everyone (perhaps it's the alcohol). I do like wine, but being completely honest, I'd have to say - I don't quite "get it". But beer is accessible. Perhaps too accessible.

Beer Academy was a wonderful experience. Matt knows his stuff. And I mean, really. There's a lot to know. There's not an ounce of pretentiousness in Matt, and he really strives towards his mission - part of which is to make beer "a conversation". where individual experiences and thoughts are valued and encouraged.

The list of what we tasted.. and what professional placemats!
We tasted a number of beers - including a wittily named beer from Burleigh called "My wife's bitter", and I was surprised at the depth of flavour and the variety in so many factors of the beer.

I have to admit that I started out taking it all very seriously, but by the end, I was pretty tipsy (OK, drunk). I hadn't had anything to eat that day, had done a fair bit of exercise, and was pretty dehydrated. Enough excuses - it attracted a good group of people, and beer's true nature did shine - in the end, I felt like I was sitting around, having a beer, and some conversation, with mates - despite the fact that I didn't know these people at all.

Contrast in colour. And what incredibly different tastes and character.

Beer Academy would be a fantastic adventure for anyone with a slight interest in beer - and I think it would appeal to a real broad cross-section - I can't recommend it enough, it's unlike any "tasting" you've ever been to. Thank you, Matt, for the invitation. I'd love to come back again.

We tasted some of the different varieties of ingredients found in good beer...

As an aside - being quite tipsy afterwards, and then joining May King and her husband for a drink, and having driven my car into the city, I ended up having to abandon it, and I was picked up by a friend on the way to dinner. We had such a fabulous time at dinner that I completely forgot my car was still in the city. Hours later, quite late, on a Saturday night, James and I got into bed, I had sobered up - and all of a sudden - it dawned on me that I had left my car in the city. And I couldn't remember where it was, other than it was parked SMACK BANG out the front of a stripper club (what do they even call them? a boob bar?) in the city, near Spring restaurant. Gee, I wonder why that was the only car park left in the city... So I had to get up, get re-dressed, and catch a cab into the city to somewhere near the stripper club (I was too embarrassed, and didn't know the name, to go there directly). Feel sorry for poor, long-suffering, sleepy James. What a sight that was at night - and the ladies were trying to get us inside. Surprisingly "no thanks, we're clearly gay" worked a treat, and we drove back home again. But it was so worth it.



I think I was just drunk and feeling artsy by the time I took this...

 Beer Academy runs a number of classes, aimed at beer-drinkers of varying levels of interest and knowledge, that I highly recommend. They're easy-going, comfortable, approachable, and most-of-all, enjoyable. The class I attended was a 90 minute "tasting", aimed at those that like beer but don't know much about it. For more information on Beer Academy and upcoming classes - see their website - and for any questions, you can (and should!) follow the host, beer writer Matt on Twitter @goodbeermatt.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Potato Pizza

After going to our favourite haunt the other night with the ever fabulous Jane, we were feeling a little peckish so, after walking Jane home, we decided to get some pizza. One, we got from a pizza chain, the other from a restaurant/bar-style place. We won't even go into how awful the pizza chain veggie pizza was, as it was what I had expected, but what I hadn't expected was that the restaurant/bar-style place's pizza would be as awful as it was! I ordered a potato and rosemary pizza (hold the parmesan) and what came out was a dry cracker with about 10 pieces of potato.

I know potato pizza is a bit "done", but I still think it's delicious (because it is), so the next night I made us one for dinner. It's super easy, really tasty, and doesn't require chopping heaps of veggies! (and, though we often forget with what we're charged at restaurants / take-away places, very inexpensive)

Potato Pizza


What You'll Need
Ingredients
1 medium-large baking potato (I used royal blue)
Nuttelex (or your favourite non-dairy butter spread)
Olive oil
Rosemary (dried or fresh)
Garlic (1 clove, crushed; or powdered)
Salt (optional)
Nutritional/savoury yeast flakes
Pizza base (either homemade or store-bought)
Store-bought pizza bases tend to turn into cracker when cooked, but sometimes you just need pizza NOW and don't have time to make pizza dough (we've all been there). Take a look in the fridge or freezer section of your supermarket for "fresh" pizza bases, which are already rolled, but are dough (unlike the dried bread disks in the bread section). Also take a look in smaller grocers, as they sometimes sell ready-to-go pizza dough (Sugo Mi sell them at their shops but also in other smaller grocers/delis), which may be unrolled, rolled AND ALREADY TOMATO PASTED (!!!) We're not using tomato paste on the base in this recipe, so avoid those, but they're really useful for other pizzas.

Utensils
Slicer (our grater has a singler slicing blade on one side which is a heck of a lot less painful than assembling/using/washing the mandoline, but isn't quite as wide so isn't particularly useful for larger potatoes; or, if you're really good at slicing potatoes really thinly, do it with a knife!)
Pizza stone
Bowl
Spoons (for measuring and mixing)
Pastry brush (if desired)

Now That You're Ready
1. Turn the oven on full blast. Put 2 tablespoons of nuttelex in a bowl and either heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, or leave on the oven while it's heating to melt it.

2. To the melted nuttelex, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, around 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, and the garlic (if using powdered garlic, around 1/2 teaspoon). Check for how salty it is; remember this for later. (this will make enough for 2 pizzas, or 1 pizza and small garlic bread)

3. Roll out/place the pizza base on the pizza stone. Either using the spoon or a pastry brush (I always find pastry brushes to be a big hassle, especially to clean up, but use it if you like it), spread the nuttelex mix over the pizza base: while it should be focussed on the centre of the pizza base, get it all the way to the edge. Sprinkle a few pinches of nutritional yeast over the top.

4. Slice the potato using the slicer; one potato should be more than enough for one pizza. Starting from the edge, place the slices of potato in concentric circles on the pizza base until it's covered; it's ok for the pieces of overlap a little bit, but you don't want them lying on top of each other too much. If you have some slices left over, make some chips! Or just compost them.

Despite the photo below, I'd probably use a bit more potato, as they shrink slightly when they cook (this isn't so much of a problem when the base is larger, unlike the one pictured below).



5. If the nuttelex mix wasn't particularly salty (mine wasn't), grind some salt over the top of the potato; if it was already salty enough. If you're a real nooch lover, sprinkle a little more over the top (you can also use a little more of the nuttelex mix over the top if you like). Put it in the oven for around 25-30 minutes, until the potato has started to crisp up. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Super Exciting Announcement: Our Very Own Business!

Brisbane: how lucky we are.

I know a lot of the time we go on and on about how much greater the food is in the Southern States (and yes, Melbourne and Sydney are pretty fabulous), but we live in a pretty awesome place, with a a great lifestyle, and great people.

Recently, I took 7 weeks holiday from my work to focus on my passion - food. I've been granted some fantastic opportunities.

I've completed conventional culinary training - and learned so much in the process. I've met, spoken to, and talked shop with a number of chefs, bloggers, business owners, producers of food, and tasters, and I've attended wonderful events. And it's just the beginning.

I held my first cooking demonstration at an Amateur Chef school - teaching Dreena Burton's famous chocolate chip cookies to a class of aspiring chefs - which they loved. I have started supplying an amazing local cafe with my handmade cheesecakes and cookies.

How awesome is that.

Going back to my desk job after 7 weeks was hard. I love a lot of the work, but this time I'd spent in kitchens, creating, tasting and share fantastic food made me realise that food has to be a part of my every day. In a big way. So my workplace has kindly agreed to let me reduce my hours to part-time, from next week.

In the meantime, I have an announcement to make: we have started a business. 

For a few weeks now, I've been supplying baked goods to a local cafe - testing the waters. The response has been fantastic. I've been blown away. People really love our food. It's an incredible feeling - knowing that people are appreciating and loving what you're creating. I love to think that I'm making their day a little brighter, with our goods. And when they're eating them, they're brightening mine, too.


Our business is called Delicious, Regardless. We're focussing on food that is delicious, regardless of any dietary requirements; food that doesn't apologise, that doesn't taste any less fantastic because of what it doesn't have in it. Everything we sell is vegan, and I've got a number of gluten and wheat-free tricks up my sleeve, including decadent cheesecakes. Everything is hand-made, with quality ingredients.

The sky is the limit. I look forward to learning as much as I can from the talented local chefs and food writers, in addition to building our business. I also really hope to work with some of our fantastic local restaurants, to expand the quality and brevity of their offerings designed for people who are vegan, gluten-free, or have some other dietary choice/requirement.

Thank you so much for being here and helping us to build up our confidence on the way to doing this. I really, truly appreciate all of the support we've received.

I haven't used Facebook in years - so please bear with us, and head to our Facebook page to "like us".

Our official website is www.deliciousregardless.com.au

I've got a few thank yous, that I'd like to list:
  • First and foremost - all of the amazing, underrated, incredible vegan cooks and chefs who have come before me. In particular - Bryanna Clark Grogan, Dynise Balcavage, Julie Hasson, Fran Costigan, and Dreena Burton. I'm not gonna rest until you ladies are on the bestseller list. Dreena, singling you out (as always!!) - your friendship, patience, balance and support has meant, and continues to mean, so much to me. Thanks for "healthying me up".
  • Cale Drouin and all the staff from The Green Edge (Cale - thank you for believing in me, giving me all of these wonderful opportunities - and buying a risky business that ultimately, through your amazingly kind and good nature, you've turned into a really wonderful place. You should be so proud. I'll always be loyal to you! And to the staff: thank you for spruiking and "upsizing" your customers with me, and for eating like I'm never gonna bake again!)
  • Jerome Dalton, from Dalton Hospitality (Words cannot express how awesome you are. You know it. You've made this possible. And I have a lemon cheesecake in the fridge for you. I think I'm gonna have to bake you another one. You work too hard, but your kind heart and passion for food is so, so inspiring).
  • Natascha Mirosch (for taking a chance on the wacky, mouthy, vegan guy who eats like a starving bogan at a fairground)
  • Kym Machin (for making me see that vegetables truly are the challenge of a fine chef, and for always rising to the occasion)
  • Alison Taafe (for taking me on as a scholarship student who had never so much as boiled an egg, training me, offering me opportunities, being so crazily passionate, and most of all - for believing me)
  • Chef Stix (thank you for being interested in the full scope of being a chef, and for being so kind and agreeing to train me when I came in shaking, and with one foot out the door. I hope I still can train with you!)
  • Barbara and Bryan Harris (Barbara - you were, and are, a lovely lady. I hope you're resting in peace. I promise to take more care of Bryan. You picked well)
  • Danielle Dixon (for being truly interested, supportive, setting the example and encouraging me to follow my dreams)
  • Jane Green (for being the complete opposite of a food snob)
  • To all of my other buddies on Twitter - thank you for all of your support, and for sharing your knowledge. I love our interactions, and you've all been so wonderful.
And last, but certainly not least - my business partner, James. I love you sweetheart. So very much. Thanks for being so patient, so honest, and so strong.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Eating Veg at The West End Markets

Whether you're a local, or just visiting Brisbane, you're no doubt presented with a great dilemma come the weekend: to go to the markets or to not go? And if to go, then to which one(s)?

We're a little spoiled for choice in Brisbane, but, for us, the choice is almost always The West End markets. Partly because we're creatures of habit, but also because of the delicious food. Considering markets are usually a juxtaposition of cholestafest with "farm-fresh!" fruit and veg, there are a surprising number of options for eating vegan (and no, that doesn't mean buying a bag of (albeit delicious) apples).

The markets are on Saturday mornings from 7 (perhaps even earlier? do such times exist?) until around midday (but I've been informed that they run as late as 3pm, when people start running out of things to sell).

Is it a park? A protest? No, it's the West End Markets!

If you hate markets, worry not! We usually walk around the outside then break through the stands, rush into the crowd, grab our food, then run back to safety. But if it's your first time, get your brave pants on and battle the crowd, because everyone else has to. Kind of.

Just one important note: almost everyone is cash-only. Even though there's an ATM there, it only had a dial-up connection, only gives 20s, and there's always a huge line (but it's always there if you're desperate!), so come prepared with cash (there are ATMs all along Boundary Street if you forget until you're nearly at the markets).

So get on your gumboots (don't ask me why...), grab your ridiculously broad-brimmed hat, whack on your zinc, and come with us on a tour of the West End markets!

Y Killamoocow
This is always our first stop in the markets. If you're a patron of The Green Edge, you'll already know of their No Bull Pies and Pumpkin and Barley Rolls ($4.50 each).


While these are certainly delicious, you're coming here for one thing: a dagwood dog. Also known as a pluto pup (maybe only just to me), (or a hotdog-on-a-stick, if you're a New Zealander - HOW DESCRIPTIVE - The Dilettante). This is a batter-coated hot dog, deep-fried then dipped in tomato sauce. As such, it's pretty much The Dilettante's dream food (and only $4). But be aware that they only start dagwood dogs from around 10am, so if you're an early bird (unlike us) start elsewhere and work your way back.

umm...


They're generally made on demand, so you may have to wait for a little while; in the mean time, grab a samosa, No Bull Pie ($3.50), or Pumpkin and Barley rolls ($3; make sure you get it with sweet chilli sauce!), or duck across to get some Sugar Cane Juice. But remember to save some room; there's still plenty to go!

Who says vegetarians aren't friendly?!

Sugar Cane Juice
The Dilettante thinks this tastes like grass; I think it's absolutely brilliant. You can get plain sugarcane juice for $4, get it with lime juice for $4.50, or with lime juice and ginger for $5 (only $1 more for 200x deliciousness? Yes please). Perfect way to wash down all the fried food, freshly squeezed (extracted? it sure looks painful) before your eyes. Once it's ready, walk back across and grab your dagwood dog, then escape take a moment to have a sit down in the park before the journey continues.



"Brisbane's Best Falafel" at eat-a-pocket
I am by no means a falafel connoisseur (though I've sure had some awful ones in my time), but I do not doubt this stand's rather bold proclamation. If you're not sure if you'll be able to fit much more in, just grab a box of falafel (6: $5.50; 12: $10.00), but if your stomach just can't be satisfied (or if you skipped the dagwood dog!), stretch for the falafel pocket ($10.50): a pita pocket filled with hummus, falafels, salads, tabouli, pickles, tomato salsa, tahini sauce and (optional) chilli.

The falafel pocket: get in mah belly.



It's a bit of a wait (mainly because everyone else eats there), but it's worth it.

If falafel just aren't your style, they also offer a hummus pocket ($9.50) and a selection of plates (breakfast, hummus, mezze, baba ganoush).


Hungarian Style "Tócsni" (Potato Pancake)
Don't be scared off by the funny hats; these pancakes are a cross between hash browns and savoury pancakes, and have the best of both worlds. They offer a number of garnishes (when we first went, they only had the veg option: they've now added animal products, but they shouldn't add cheese unless you ask for it!). $9.



Empanada
Only one or two stalls along, this empanada stand offers (shock-horror!) veg empanadas! They're pretty delicious (and surprisingly, consider they contain cauliflower and sultanas), but they're no longer hot by the time we get them, so get in early!


As you enjoy your empanada/Hungarian pancake/paella, enjoy the... mellow sounds of (arguably?) folk music wafting over the hustle and bustle of people. If you've never gone to the markets before, persevere (and try not to punch anyone), but if you've seen it all before, dart back to the crepe stand and take the shortcut past the club house to come to our next stop...

Black Star Coffee "Soy Deluxe"
Though it's easy to be put off by the copious facial hair/thick-rimmed glasses/... ok, all the hipsters, don't let this distract you from the coffee: after eating and eating or, well, anytime, Black Star Soy Deluxe Cold-Pressed Coffee is absolutely wonderful: smooth, creamy, and just a little sweet, it's the perfect way to end (or at least take a break from) your eating frenzy. $5. Sometimes, they also sell a delicious stuffed (often with spinach and potato) Afghani bread called "Bolani", which The Dilettante thinks is delicious.



From here, it's all pretty standard market fare, but you can go either way:

1. Head back to just before the Fish Tent of Death (what horrors lie within I dare not tell...), where a large stand overflows with delicious red and green apples, tomatoes, and capsicum, a small stand has various herbs for sale, among with plenty of other specialty stores. There is also a new place that does vegetarian paella ($6).

Mmmm, paella...

Otherwise;

2. Continue on to finish the loop of the markets. The left-hand side is mostly knick-knack type stalls, whereas the right is a mix of fruit and veg stores and some very odd book stands. In this direction also lies the stand for Chi Tea, where you'll find some fantastic teas and some ridiculously cool (and amazingly well priced) tea wares (pots and tea sets, etc).


As usual, markets are an ever-changing landscape, so there's almost always a new place here or a place that has disappeared there, but the places listed above have been there pretty much every week for the last six months (if not longer), so they should be there when you visit.

If you know of any stalls serving awesome veg food, either at the West End Markets, or any other markets that you go to, let us know! (We'll do our best to update this post with prices/info)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Launch of Chef's Table at Spring Brisbane

Last night we were fortunate enough to attend (at the invitation of the restaurant) the launch of Spring Brisbane's new Chef's Table, a celebration of local food, producers and, of course, the elegant simplicity that typifies Spring Restaurant.

We have been to Spring twice before. Once before, and once after, the arrival of Kym Machin, the new head chef (former Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Urbane Restaurant, The Euro and The Laneway and 2012 Queensland Good Food Guide Chef of the Year). The second time was my birthday dinner and I do not exaggerate when I say it was the best meal of my life. Absolutely incredible. It is a testament to Kym's brilliance as a chef that every course, and every single element therein, makes you smile with each bite.

My Birthday Degustation; smiling just thinking about it

(and, slightly embarrassing confession: the sixth course actually had us both tearing up with joy. Ok, so we'd also had wine with each course; maybe that had something to do with it. BUT IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.)

But returning to the matter at hand...

Chef's Table began as an opportunity for chefs to reconnect with producers and, in a world where restaurant food so often is merely a background to conversation, a chance for restaurant goers to reconnect with food and, indeed, the people making it.

Though it's billed as a "cooking demonstration", Chef's Table is a whole other experience: crowded around the table, we chatted among ourselves and with Kym about all aspects from the meal: where the ingredients came from, how they were prepared, and stories from his life as a chef. As with the regular menu at Spring, all ingredients are seasonal and, where possible, locally sourced (some even from his own garden), and organic/biodynamic. And, just as the seasons change, so will the menu change every night, making every evening a unique culinary, and indeed dining, experience.

The Table Itself (and the beautiful room it's in)

Each course was matched with a wine, expertly picked by Peter Marchant, who discussed the origin of, and reason for selecting, each wine. And, as usual, Peter was sure to check all the wines we had were vegan, and matched the dish we were having.

We got two because We're Vegan (and they gave us the first by mistake: what a shame!)

For reference, the omnivore's menu is below:

Omnivore Menu for Chef's Table
Our menu:

Our menu for Chef's Table

As usual, I was slightly hesitant as I read through our menu but, as usual, I had no reason to fear with Kym at the helm.

The meal opened with crusty handmade bread rolls (served out of a rough, wooden box), served with handmade cultured butter (for the omnivores) / fresh olive oil (for us).



Our first course was a carrot and mandarin jelly topped with a fluffy carrot mousse, pickled heirloom carrot and shaved fennel tips, which sounds about as crazy as it was delicious. Unless you don't think it's particularly crazy (carrot mousse fanatics unite!), in which case it was more delicious than it was crazy.


The mousse was incredibly light, and opened up a whole world of flavour the moment it hit our mouths, and, when paired with the heirloom carrots and fennel... It's dishes like this this that make you understand the eternal quest for that je ne sais quoi in food.

The main was a beetroot and pickled chanterelle salad with walnuts. When everyone had been served, Kym circled the room and topped everyone's meal with freshly grated black truffle. The chanterelle was, of course, absolutely beautiful, and we all spent the rest of the meal trying to find a way to take what remained without anyone noticing (alas, unsuccessfully).


Finally, dessert: a vanilla soy milk jelly topped with a rhubarb compote, strawberry mousse and strawberries and raspberries. As much as milk jelly sounds... not to the taste of most people, the fresh vanilla set it off beautifully. The other elements of the dish were, of course, wonderful, each highlighting the taste of the other, but working as a whole: with the Moscato, it was the perfect end to the evening.


Moscato, I Love You.
 
The most wonderful part of Chef's Table is the anticipation. We all experience a certain amount of anticipation when waiting for a meal at any restaurant (especially with the fad of simply listing ingredients), but, somehow, actually watching the preparation heightens and anticipation and, oddly, the mystery: is that polenta in the pot? what did he just put in the oven? Though conversations have diverged to a wide range of topics, they very quickly turn back to what's happening on the other side of the table, and the speculation of what will happen with what begins as, before our eyes, the dish is constructed and then, suddenly, it's finished and it's before you.

In a time when the distance between the producer and the plate is getting wider and wider, Chef's Table is a fantastic reminder that, more often than not, the best things don't have to come in a box, shipped from God-knows-where: local, seasonal produce is out there, and it's excellent. Though we can't all be out there, meeting every producer of everything we eat, Chef's Table brings us just one step (the chef) away from direct contact with producers, and face-to-face with the chef (someone often considered some sort of mythical being, never seen beyond the swinging white doors of the kitchen).

Chef's Table is a wonderful opportunity to connect with food in a way that most of us never have the opportunity to experience: one can't help but be invested in every dish, knowing where all the ingredients come from, having watched it being prepared and assembled, and then experiencing it from first to last bite.



Chef's Table begins Monday 30 July, running 4 evenings a week (with the Spring Cooking School using the space on Thursdays), starting at 6pm. Bookings can be made through their website or by phone (07 3229 0460).

If you're vegan, vegetarian, or have any other dietary requirements, as usual let the restaurant know when booking and they will be able to accommodate you ("accommodate" is a slight understatement!) It is a dining experience unlike any other that I can't to try again.

You can read more about Chef's Table from Eat, Drink & Be Kerry.

Thank you to Spring Brisbane & KDPR for our invitation to the launch.

Spring on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Exciting Private Cocktail Tasting - Limes Hotel/Alfred and Constance

A few weeks ago, we had the great pleasure of being invited to a private cocktail tasting at the Limes Hotel, showcasing incredible-sounding drinks that they had developed to be served at the upcoming Alfred and Constance bar.



Free cocktails, on a sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon, on a rooftop bar on the outskirts of the city and valley.... I think you can tell what our RSVP was - a resounding YES! Alcohol, And canapes, hors d'oeuvres, whatever you want to call finger food - I'm happy to do the tasting. Thanks to the delightful manager Lucy for being such a lovely host, and for procuring vegan goods for us.

The Limes Hotel is a trendy little bar that can be a little tricky to find.. anyone walking past might just think it's another office building, or even an exclusive real-estate, but it's not! It's a Boutique Hotel and Bar, for the more discerning (and private) individual. They have a nice, relaxed, vibe - where you feel like you're part of the city and valley, but still away from the drunks and the 7/11s, and the cabs, and all of that nasty jazz you left behind when you were 20.


The reason for the tasting is that the owners of the Limes Hotel are opening a new venue called "Alfred and Constance", funnily enough - on the corner of Alfred and Constance streets, Fortitude Valley. It's going to be a funky little place - in a heritage listed house/es, with the focus being on a wood-fired oven. Sadly, a lot of those wood-fired goods aren't going to be things I'll be partaking in, but I do look forward to seeing their innovative ideas of vegan foods that can be showcased in the woodfired oven. I suggested pizza, but then again - I always suggest pizza (and who wouldn't? good wood-fired pizza, whilst few and far between, is an amazing thing to behold).

I've had so many bad cocktails in Brisbane. Terr-rr-rr-ible cocktails, even. At venues *known* for their cocktails.  I'm not even joking - at one very famous Brisbane cocktail venue, I was served a cocktail that tasted like reheated chicken. How is that even possible? So it was with much trepidation that I looked at our multi-cocktail tasting list.


The cocktails we tasted were *incredible*. The knowledge and skill of the lovely bartender who made the drinks in front of us and described them, as we tasted ours, was so fascinating, and really helped us to understand what went into the cocktails. But they spoke for themselves. And they really were stunning. Seriously alcoholic, but seriously fun, and tasty.

The drinks expertly crafted for us were a Pina-colada, a Kava Bowl, a 1934 Zombie Punch, a Grapefruit and Agave Margarita, and a Sloe Gin Fizz. The Kava Bowl was the absolute best. Unfortunately, the Mayflower isn't suitable for vegans as it contains Aperol (which always tasted disgusting to me), and egg-white.

The fabulous Gastronomy Gal and friend, and The Academic, enjoying a Kava Bowl.

Of particular note were: the pina colada made on fresh, in-house, coconut cream, served in half a pineapple? Uh huh. And the "kava bowl", to be shared between 4, with a ridiculous amount of various rums that tastes like deliciousness, beaches, and toasted cinnamon? Oh, I do think so. I'll even grab the one sitting at the next-door table (just to make sure)...
Pina Colada. Always makes me think of "Copa Cabana".

Basically - Alfred and Constance is looking to create a "Tiki Culture" vibe. The way it was described to us is that Tiki was all about post-wartime enjoyment - the rations have been lifted, and it's all about going somewhere you can have fun, eat, drink, garnish to the max, relax, and drink up. It's all about fun. And I have to say - even at the tasting, I definitely was feeling the ambiance!

I look forward to the opening of Alfred and Constance with great delight - and do hope that it manages to be the classy, relaxing, non-snobbish oasis that it sets out to be. If it does - I'll be a regular! I look forward to delicious rum in its many forms. In the meantime, I'll keep hitting up the Limes Hotel for fantastic drinks and city/valley views.

Limes Hotel & Rooftop Bar on Urbanspoon