Sorry this post is a little bit late. As I often say, life sometimes gets in the way of blogging.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a newish food blogger Mel Kettle inviting me to a blogger dinner last week. I was thrilled. Mel has been on the Brisbane foodie scene for a long time and recently started writing her blog called chocolate, cheese and chips.
After Julia from Melanger Baking and I organised the last dinner at Grasshopper at Teneriffe we were happy to pass on the duties of organising and thank heavens Mel put her hand up.
You know the people that are just instinctively organised? Well Mel is one of them. I think I operate more under the title of organised chaos!! Kerry from Eat Drink and Be Kerry also lent a helping hand.
Just a little side note: if you are a new food blogger, or even an old food blogger in Brisbane and would like to be involved in these dinners let me know. Just leave a little comment or email me your name and blog address and I can put you on the list. You don't have to review restaurants, any type of food bloggers (even in greater QLD) are more than welcome.
This particular food blogger dinner was hosted by Tognini’s, Spring Hill. Tognini’s is an institution in Brisbane. Those of you in the Western suburbs might be used to popping into the Milton Cafe Deli to grab something from the turbot to go range, whilst anyone working close by has probably lunched in the Spring Hill Bistro version at some point. To add to the empire, they also have a winebar styled venue at Southbank.
Tognini’s specialise in Italian food and owners Mark and Narelle Tognini have recently given the Spring Hill store a makeover following an inspiring trip to Europe. They have also increased the opening hours, so the Spring Hill location is also open until 10 p.m. for dinner. It’s quite obvious that Narelle and Mark are very specific about the direction they are trying to go with the Bistro, and the new design includes a very cool cheese and charcuterie display cabinet.
Narelle is very passionate about all things Italian and joined us at the dinner to talk food. She was particularly interested in showcasing the cheeses they now have in stock. We were served platters with very generous servings of cheese so we could taste as we talked. The platter consisted of three types of cheese as well as some other delights like candied cumquats and raisin toast.
First the two cow’s milk cheese. Gorgonzola dolcelatte and the Touree de L’Aubier. The blue Gorgonzola is an Italian soft cheese that is snappy but sweet. I think the direct translation is something like ‘sweet milk.’ The smell was quite pleasant and not at all ‘whiffy’ like some blue cheese can be. The Dolcelatte sells for $9.2 per 100 g . The Touree de L’Aubier is meltingly soft with the age of the cheese causing the rind to be at the breaking up stage. This cheese is my favourite, being creamy but not too heavy. I missed the price on this one.
The pecorino (sheeps milk) is wrapped in chestnut leaves which help to give the cheese a nutty after flavour. It has a very individual taste, sort of sharp without being violent, if you can apply that description to a cheese. The cusie di pecora is $14.5 per 100g.
I lovee candied cumquats, and they were a great addition to the platter, very bitter sweet. As most of you would know, when you are eating nice cheese, it’s best to have a plainer style of biscuit, like a water cracker. This way, the biscuit does not detract from the experience and you get a truer reflection of the cheeses real flavour. Save the shapes for the coon cheese squares.
After the cheese talk (thanks Narelle, it was very informative) we settled in to a more informal dinner. In fact it was pretty much like being around a big Italian family dinner table. There were two huge bowls filled the brim, one with polenta and smoked chicken, the other with risotto. There were also simple side salads of rocket with parmesan and beautiful roast potatoes.
The smoked chicken and polenta was divine. The polenta was devastatingly rich whilst being totally fluffy. It is, without a doubt, the best polenta I have ever eaten. When one of the chefs came out to talk, I chose to ignore the ratio of butter and other ingredients added because I just wanted to enjoy the fabulousness of the dish without being worried about my behind. The chicken was moist and the sauce finished the dish beautifully. I loved this dish so much, I had seconds. No biggie? You should have seen the size of my first serve.
Truthfully, for me, the risotto just wasn’t great. I’m not a real lover of risotto anyway, but I found the texture to be a little grainy and thought the flavours didn’t gel completely. I do have to admit that I have no idea how they managed to do such a large pot!! I’m pretty sure the risotto was made using a red wine stock, but by this stage I had stopped paying attention as I was too busy scoping out the polenta for a second go.
I needn’t have worried, because, in true Italian style there was more than enough food to feed twice the amount of food bloggers. Might I add we are a very hungry species. It’s not often a pack of food bloggers are beaten, but there was a tremendous amount of food left over. I know everyone was secretly eyeing off the polenta, seeing if they could fit any more in, because no one could bare to see this grand dish go to waste.
We also found out that Tognini’s sell their beautiful polenta as part of the turbot range, so you can buy it already made and just heat it.
The roast potatoes rate a mention – they were soft on the inside and potatoey on the inside, crispy on the outside.
At the moment, I’m on a no wine in the week diet (another blog about THAT later) so I just had a sneaky ‘taste’ of the wine on offer – Rymill Coonawarra mc².
The Food Blogger Dinner at Tognini’s was a great night. Can I mention once again how in love with the polenta I am? It’s always lovely to catch up with fellow food bloggers- who I must say, aren’t a half bad bunch of people. I still think it is hilarious I when I meet people from Twitter, and I feel like they are already my friends. I would never imagined that I would be ‘one of those people’ who meet people on the internet! Turns out I am, and I have to say, I haven’t come across any axe wielding maniacs just yet. That being said- most of the people are knife (and fork, or chopstick or spoon) wielding foodiacs, and what a lovely bunch of people they are!
I’m off, to go via Tognini’s to grab a packet of polenta to have with my steak for dinner tonight. Yum.
So tell me, how do you make your polenta? Does yours bubble and spit all over the place like some magic cauldron out of a fairy tale?
When to go: When you are lunching in the Spring hill area, in need of something quick but tasty on the way home or just want some damn fine polenta.
note: Gastronomy Gal and all food bloggers present dined as guests of Tognini's.
Mon–Fri 7am–10pm, Sat-Sun 8am–4pm, Closed Public Holidays
Milton Tognini’s CaféDeli Milton Centro, Baroona Road, T: 3369 0915
Mon–Fri 7am–6pm, Sat 7am–3pm + Sun 8am–3pm, Open some Public Holidays
South Bank Tognini’s CaféWineBar State Library of Queensland,
Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, T: 3840 7546
Mon–Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am–5pm, Open most Public Holidays