Thursday, August 19, 2010

MoVida's Frank Camorra at Black Pearl Epicure

One of my favourite restaurants is MoVida. It's certainly my favourite tapas restaurant, and my Spanish restaurant (sometimes the two can be mutually exclusive). It may even be my most favourite restaurant. Ever. Well- It's in the top rotating 5, and as you would know, for someone who loves food, this is a big deal.

I love Spanish food and I visit MoVida time and time again when in Melbourne but when I found out that MoVida was coming to me, I was REALLY excited, perhaps ridiculously so. What do I mean when I say MoVida is coming to me? Well sorry to create hysteria for all those readers who started to jump up and down. Sadly I have to make clear that the restaurant is NOT moving to Brisbane (we asked Frank), but, on Tuesday night, Frank Camorra, the man behind MoVida, came to Black Pearl Epicure to do demonstration and I went along!

Black Pearl Epicure run a range of cooking classes and demonstrations and C was lovely enough to buy me a voucher for 4 cooking classes/demos for Christmas last year. I stalked the cooking class calendar and when I saw this one pop up- I booked months in advance. I have been a fan of MoVida for a long time - my Dad used to take me to MoVida when there was only MoVida! Since then I have been to 2 of the other MoVida restaurants (Next Door and Aqui) and I hope to go to Terraza soon. For now, I have to say I am happy to watch Frank demonstrate and hope he comes back to Brisbane more often.

First of all I must make a point that sometimes, Chefs with a reputation can be a little divaish (we all know who they are). I think I'm going to use the term 'reputable Chef' or something similar as the term 'celebrity chef' irks me as it is bandied about a ridiculous amount, now used to describe Chefs that have occured on an ad for some marginally related kitchen product. Anyway- Frank Camorra is not one of these- he is a Chef with a reputation, who apparently, has no plans to become a 'celebrity chef' or move into the TV world any time soon.

Frank seemed like the most down to earth guy EVER and he was really NICE to the people who were helping him out. He happily fielded questions through the 2.5 hour demo- answering with open answers and even joked about losing the Masterchef challenge to Marion, which he didn't seem too worried about. He talked about his love for good, authentic Spanish food - really showing his passion for honest fare. He spoke about the explosion of Spanish food in Australia, touting that Brisbane is probably the next home of good Spanish food as we have had an explosion of good Spanish eateries opening up here in the last couple of years. Yes, he actually said that, and Yes he actually meant it!! Frank was also excited about going to Ortiga after the class.

It was so refreshing to meet a guy who loves food but cuts the bullshit out. When talking about fiddly techniques they use in the restaurant, he was more than happy to say - if you are doing this at home, don't waste your time doing proper quinells or getting every piece of the skin off the peppers- life is too short, just do it quickly and as best you can, the effect will still be there without the food having to be technically perfect. Can you tell I'm a little starstruck?!

As I should be! Frank is one of the forces that have changed the face of Spanish food in Australia. He is a pioneer and really seems to be an all round great guy who makes some all round great food!

I was seated at the 'singles' table for the event- those of us who came without bringing a partner along. C didn't really want to come and $140 is a lot to fork out for something you are only marginally keen to see, so I have been to all the cooking classes by myself. I actually quite like it! It gives you an opportunity to talk to other people, and some of the other food lovers at my table were really interesting people.

The first dish we were served was Anchoa. These were basically anchovies served on white toast with smoky tomato sorbet. These were absolutely amazing. I don't really love anchovies, in fact I don't even really like the tiny little hairy bony things (except white anchovies) but these were sensational. They changed everyone's opinion of anchovies. Most people were reluctant to try, but after they did, would have appreciated more. I'm probably going to get a tin or two of anchovies soon!! They would be sensational on a pizza. The smoky tomato sorbet was an interesting touch. Whilst I'm not totally sure of the texture, the flavour was perfect. It would probably be lovely as a simple summer tapas item. The anchovies were Ortiz anchovies which are HEAPS more expensive than normal anchovies but Frank explained that this is because of the quality of the product. They are Atlantic anchovies, caught fresh (never frozen) and pickled straight away. Apparently the fillets are cut from the anchovy and laid BY HAND into the tins. Incredible! ON the flipside I have also done some research which leads me to believe that the price you can pay for a tin of these babies is RIDICULOUSLY high in comparison to a supermarket competitor. You might be interested to read all about 'The great anchovy debate' hosted by Tomatom. However, until I can find some anchovies that live up to the standard or a comparable standard (according to Frank- there aren't any), I'm willing to believe they are worth every cent of the $12.5 for 47 g.

Next up were the infamous bombas . Yep - these were part of the dish that were on Masterchef when Frank lost to Marion. (Frank joked about this all night!) These were probably my least favourite item on the menu, but were by no means bad. They were soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside but nothing about the bomba really grabbed me. They are made from a waxy styled potato and chorizo. The smoky sauce saved the bomba, that's for sure.

Frank mentioned smoky paprika A LOT and said that he feels it is one of the distinct defining flavours of Spanish food. Smoky paprika is very different to normal paprika so it is important that the two aren't confused. This is the same for sherry and sherry vinegar - another spanish staple ingredient that can't be substituted for the other.

Frank explained that the chorizo we have in Australia isn't really authentic enough for his liking. Due to importation laws, Aussies can't import Spanish versions, so MoVida make their own. According to one of the other diners, Ortiga are now creating their own smallgoods and selling them at some delis i.e Ortiga branded Chorizo. Although I haven't tried it, so I can't vouch for it, this could be worth a try if you are after a spicier version than the commonly available chorizo.

Next was the Conejo Agridulce- braised sweet and sour rabbit. This dish takes at least an hour to cook, and amazingly needs no stock given all the other ingredients that are thrown into the pot. The loin of the rabbit isn't used as when overcooked, becomes rubbery, so the legs and shoulders are used instead. I have to admit, the smell of rabbit cooking in my own house makes me feel a little sick but it smelled fantastic here, and this rabbit tasted a little less gamey than the rabbits I usually cook. I really like the simplicity of this dish- the rabbit was much richer than chicken but still unfussy and easy to make. This worked well with small portions, and the people on the table commented that they couldn't have eaten a large serving- I tend to agree! I think Frank had this in mind as all the dishes at MoVida are designed to share.

Frank raved on about bar food that you find in Spain, particularly Madrid, saying that Bocadillo de Calamares -Calamari sandwiches- are something that is available everywhere- one of the most popular bar foods in spain. Calamari on a sandwich didn't initially sound that appealing to me, until I tried it. The photo I took isn't really very appealing either but the tender calarmari came on tiny mini buns with aioli and 2 small Guindillas peppers was FABulous. I can imagine wanting this after a couple of drinks- actually I'd eat it before a couple of drinks and then again after a couple of drinks. It was such a simple combo yet sooo good. Make this. Seriously- next time you have friends over, make it for them, they will be your friends for life! I only photographed one half of the bun, but you get the drift. On the other side of the bun was the peppers which added a different taste sensation.

When I saw Cadillera de Buey Con PX (wagyu beef cheeks with pedro ximenez) on the list, I was instantly excited. I have always wondered about making beef cheeks and the recipe that Frank used was relatively simple and could be done at home. The key to this baby is the cooking time. At the restaurant the MoVida team cook their beef cheeks over night for 10 hours on 90 degrees. It can be done over a period of about 6-8 hours at about 170 degrees, but the longer you can cook these for, the better.

Before we go any further let me explain that the beef cheek is literally the face cheek of a beast. I'm always a little confused as to why people ask where it comes from. It was pointed out to me that it could be confused with a butt cheek. No people - it's from the cheek. And it's delicious, so don't be squeamish and miss out. The reason it needs to be cooked for so long is because a beast spends it's entire life chewing, so the muscle is really strong. It needs a long time to break down. Beef cheeks, up until recently (and reportedly due to MoVida making popularising them) have been a cut usually reserved for the dogs- but are now in demand more than ever.

You can buy beef cheeks at Woolies for about $4.99 a kg, you should also be able to get them from your butcher and they will probably be more expensive depending on the type of beast the cheek comes from.

These cheeks were cooked for around 8 hours and were deliciously tender. They broke down immediately and whilst I would have like the glaze to be thicker and more potent, they were still great. The cauliflower puree was a great addition as the flavours merged well and the dish is a lovely hearty meal that you could easily make at home.

For dessert we had Churros and hot chocolate. Apparently churros are usually an early morning dish i.e. brekky time or 1 a.m. when you are coming home- but having them for dessert was just as nice. They look like they are easy to make, as long as you can master the art of frying them, and have a good sized nozzle for your piping bag.

The churros were delicious- crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside- the cinnamon sugar mixture was perfect. The ratio for sugar to cinnamon is 1 part cinnamon to 10 parts sugar- and you should make sure you use castor sugar, as it is much finer and creates a dusty texture rather than a grainy finish. The churros were served with hot chocolate, but as you know, I don't really drink milk so stayed clear of this one. Everyone else at the table loved though, though some were surprised by the more bitter taste that is not usually associated with drinking hot chocolate (probably due to the sickly sweet commercial mixes available.) I know it was made with good quality 55% cocoa and milk- and melted down- you could probably add some castor sugar (to taste) if you want it a little sweeter.

At the end of the cooking session, Frank fielded questions about his career and general questions about the food. He has just written another cook book and will be releasing ANOTHER book focused on travelling through Spain - specifically Barcelona and Madrid which will include all his hints about where and what to eat. Look out for that one next year sometime (it's not written yet!- but will be after his trip to Spain in October. Also there will be another MoVida opening at the Tullarmarine International Airport- so that should be a treat for travellers to look forward to aswell.

I want to make it clear that I have been very gushing about this review simply because Frank is awesome. I did NOT have my ticket paid for (guys, you should know me by now- I will always ALWAYS tell you this.) As a general rule I pay for all my own stuff and on the odd occasion I am invited to some kind of paid for dinner-I make sure I clearly say this in the review and I generally let the venue know in advance that this will not, in any way, stop me from writing my true feelings about the event/food.

I highly recommend that you go to MoVida next time you are in Melbourne, or keep your eye on the cooking calendar at Black Pearl so that you can go to Frank's next demo. He was REALLY good and his food is nothing short of FABULOUS!

Tickets for this event were available through Black Pearl Epicure for $140 although all the prices vary depending upon what class you attend.

12 fabulous comments:

Ally said...

I totally thought beef cheeks were butt cheeks. I sort of wish they were, it'd be funnier.

LOVE Movida. This sounds like it was worth the $140!

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

It's always nice to receive an interest-appropriate gift! So for us that means food and this is even better because it's not just a meal - it's a whole dissection of how stuff is made and why certain ingredients are used =)

Steph@LittlePotBelly said...

Man, this post makes me want to visit MoVida even more!! Great job on capturing the atmosphere of the class, sounded like a terrific experience. I really hope more places pop up in Brisbane that can seriously compare to Ortiga, I loved that place. I wonder what Frank thinks of it?

Prufru said...

Lucky you. Movida is just wonderful. I cant wait til we have proper laneways like hosier lane in melb! that sorbet with the anchovy is such a taste sensation. Great post!

The InTolerant Chef said...

I'm glad you have joined the dark side and embraced the anchovie... your tastebuds will never be the same again!

Ladybird said...

I've seen him on Food Safari I think.. he seems like a genuinely nice guy and B.S-free kind of foodie :)

Jen ( said...

What a great event! Can't wait for Frank's next book already!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh isn't it great when the chefs travel to see you? :D I'm glad to hear that he is a nice guy!

Anonymous said...

loose: Not taut, fixed, or rigid
lose: To be unsuccessful in retaining possession of

for further information, pls refer to

Gastronomy Gal said...

Dear Anonymous: Thanks so much for pointing my typo out. I am actually aware of the differences between lose and loose but so nice of you to leave a reference point. Perhaps your calling is in editing - I know mine certainly isn't. I have to admit, there were a few grammatical errors/typos in that post- I obviously thought I had proofed properly but hadn't. I do make mistakes. Don't forget, it's always polite to leave a name so I know who to reply to.

Dear everyone else- thanks for your kind comments.

Emma @CakeMistress said...

How lucky to have a session with Frank Camorra! Am inspired to try churros at home, once I conquer the fear of hot oil :)

I love your writing and yes, we are all prone to small mistakes. For Anonymous to unconstructively pick on one small error, go out of their way to post a comment on it and direct you to an insulting site - that's trolling. Ignore the trolls darl.They were probably jealous of the class :) :)

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