Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Break

Happy Easter Everyone! I wish you all a very happy and safe holiday. Make sure you take care as it is a terrible time on our roads.

I'm going to take the next week or so off. If you have wondered about the quiet, I am currently having some changes made to my blog- so in a couple of weeks you will see a totally new format!

I'll also have some updates on my sister's (with my assistance) quest to make 100 cup cakes for a friends 21st as well as some cool 'real easter eggs!'

Looking forward to seeing you all again soon. Don't forget to add me on Twitter @gastronomygal.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kensington Peking, Sydney

My family LOVE Chinese food. Seriously, it's our staple take-away. Partly because there were no other types of take-away in my home town and partly because it was awesome. I haven't managed to find a fantastic Chinese Restaurant in Bris yet and am on the lookout. When I am in Sydney, the place to visit if we are staying in the Eastern Suburbs is Kensington Peking. Luckily for her, my sister A, lives not too far from Kensington Peking, so it has become her local.

Kensington Peking is a very simple restaurant, just across Anzac Pde (and down a bit!) from Peter's of Kensington. There are menus (in Cantonese and Mandarin) all over the walls and the decor is fairly standard. There is an upstairs and a downstairs section, though I have only ever dined downstairs.

To be blatantly honest, the service here is not fantastic- it is quick but not overly enthusiastic. The staff do pour extra tea and are happy to help with ordering but generally make themselves scarce during the meal. But... I come here for the duck!!

Tonight is a Saturday night but we come in late-ish- 8:45p.m. and there are only three of us, so we are able to score a table. I would recommend booking if you can but also try your luck if it late/early or a weeknight.

The problem with having only three diners was that we had to downsize from our usual menu. I love having 6 or 8 people so I get to try a bigger variety of food. I also have to be careful to stop over ordering. Now.... I know it's better to have more food than less but I think this mentality is becoming a little bit of a problem for my waistline and my wallet, so I try to be conservative.

We ordered a half duck, beans with mince, J, our friend chooses the beef and blackbean and A decides some Salt, pepper and chilli tofu will add nicely to the mix. I somehow resist the urge to order some shallot pancakes or a full duck!

The duck is served first with the standard pancakes, hoisin and shallots. We gobble down the little parcels which are filled with moist tender duck and crispy skin. Yum. The flavour of the duck is not overwhelmingly pekingish but the meat is beautifully done. The pancakes are some of my favourite in the world and are soft and floury and complement the duck perfectly.

The beans with mince arrive and usually this is another of my favourites. Tonight the beans were a little rubbery and over cooked and had too much mince mixture plopped on top. I like the beans to be firm and crisp with only a tad of mixture to enhance the flavour. Overall this dish is a little too messy.

The beef and blackbean arrives and is quite food for beef and blackbean. The beef is tender and the blackbeans aren't too starchy as can sometimes be the case. Usually we wouldn't order this dish but it was good to give it a try. I probably wouldn't order it again, and would go for something less saucy and maybe a tad more authentic.

The salt, pepper, chilli tofu was magnificent. I am not even sure if this exact combo was on the menu but it was what we asked for and definitely what we got! The salt and chilli stuck my tongue and the coating was wonderfully crisp. The inside tofu was soft and silky and I want to gobble the whole plate.

In the end, we had more than enough food and a little left over! We were in and out quickly as the three of us were tiring fast but the food was pretty good. The duck is always good and the tofu was sensational. Next time I head back to Kensington Peking, I would order the Schezuan chicken and possibly some of the hot soup (not for the faint hearted!)

Everytime I dine at Kensington Peking, I feel at home- it's become a regular haunt of my family's over the years so I feel really comfortable that every time I go, I will receive a meal that tastes similar to the last time I ordered. There is no groundbreaking culinary feats here, just a good all round Chinese meal with great duck and lots of other little surprises if you dare to order something different. The staff will happily recommend more adventurous choices and there are more authentic dishes on offer than than your regular Chinese restaurant in the Eastern Suburbs.

So, Where is your favourite 'comfort' restaurant and how often do you re-visit?

Kensington Peking
172 Anzac Pde
Kensington 2033 NSW
Phone: (02) 9313 7100

Kensington Peking on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 19, 2010

Churrasco Brazilian Style BBQ Coogee

Have you ever heard of meat sweats? No? Well neither had I until I was talking to some of my sister's friends before a recent visit to Churrasco Brazilian BBQ in Coogee, Sydney.

My sister A and our friend J wanted to revisit Churrasco, a place they have previously been to a number of times. As I have never Brazilian BBQ, this grabbed my attention, plus the place is practically legendary with the Eastern beaches locals.

Anyone I talked to was in awe when I mentioned I was going to Churrasco. In fact, a number of A's friends were seasoned Churrasco experts and offered me plenty of helpful hints. Their enthusiasm scared my a little bit, as did their predictions for the aftermath of Churrasco.

1)They recounted horror stories about boys who had visited and simply could NOT stop eating and had subsequently had to physically dispel some of the food after eating (disgusting piggies!);

2) Apparently a certain friend (not mentioning any names J) and her boyfriend had come home and were so exhausted after eating so much meat, that they both fell asleep, fully clothed including shoes and slept through until the next day;


3) That when I got home, it is possible that I would sit on the couch with the 'meat sweats.' According to these 'so called experts,' meat sweats are when your body cannot physically take any more meat and so your body sweats profusely and it smells like the meat you have been eating. Charming.

Gee, by the time I had listened to all these stories I was seriously grossed out, but my curiosity had the better of me, and I conceded that most people wouldn't behave like barbarians, as A's friends had!!

I wasn't sure what to expect the decor to be like at Churrasco's after all the beat up. In actuality, there is a long bar with small tables of four seated along side and then a larger room out the back. The decor is simple wooden tables that are livened up by the gorgeous Brazilian pictures covering the walls.

The standard entry cost is $35 per person which includes all the BBQ meat you can eat, rice, potatoes, beans, bbq'd pineapple and cheese, cheese bread, polenta and a handful of accompaniments such as farofa, chimichurri and vinagrete.

There are salads available for $10.50 and desserts are $9.50(not that you'll be physically able to eat it!)

There is a cute little paper circle system, whereby you keep the circle on the green side if you are wanting more food, and turn over to the red side when you have enough on your plate already. Churrasco's actually has the most tasteful method of 'all you can eat' where the staff walk around with long skewers of meat and offer their meat to each table.

On J's advice we ordered a Churrasco Salad @ $10.50 and some cocktails @ $15 to accompany the meat.

When we were seated, the rice, potatoes, cheese bread, beans and accompaniments arrived promptly. The rice was really yum, incredibly garlicky. The potatoes were similar to a rich potato and bacon bake and were very moorish.

The salad was bought to the table and soon after we started being offered the many different types of meat. A and J warned me to only get one piece of each dish so I would be able to try everything. All the meat is premium and slowly roasted on long skewers over a flaming pit of coals.

The first was the 'green sauce' chicken - not exactly sure what was in the green sauce, but the chicken was moist and tender and absolutely delicious. Garlic was obviously a base ingredient and perfectly suited the chicken. In fact, I wanted more of this chicken straight away but thought I should just pace myself to avoid the meat sweat situation.

Chicken and Chicken also followed, the second version was a much more familair taste (similar to portugese) with a hint of heat. Still not as good as the green chicken!

The BBQ flavour Beef was a favourite around the table, and was incredibly tender. The plain eye fillet was also wonderfully simple but went well with the chimichurri.

Pork belly was on offer, and obviously I wouldn't refuse. The pork was thinly sliced and nicely crisp, without being too fatty.

The ribs had an incredible depth of flavour due to the BBQing and none were left on the plate.

I was't really a fan of the cheese, it really didn't do much for me but the pineapple was beautifully caramelised and lovely and sweet.

We were starting to slow down, but didn't want to change our circle over to red, in case we missed out on something good! It got to the stage where we would just share one serve between the three of us, because we were well and truly full. I did however, manage to fit in one last helping of green chicken when it came around a second time!

The food at Churrasco's was beautiful. I have never eaten Brazilian BBQ food before, but this set the standard high for me. The variety of meat was astounding, and all the flavours from the marinade suited the style of bbq so well. The service is polite and the bar menu offers some delicious brazilian twists on the classics.

Churrasco's isn't a place you would go for a quaint, small meal. It's loud and vibrant and a wonderful destination if you a big group of friends, want never ending-good food with great cocktails and beer on a Saturday or Sunday night.

Now I feel I should share some hints with you for your next visit to Churrasco's!

1. I would advise sipping on cordial all day before hand to stretch your stomach a little;
2. Take it easy- only get one serving of each dish so you can try the other- more will come if you love a certain dish. This doesn't include green chicken. Get about 10 green chickens;
3. Don't be too greedy- the food will NOT run out, I can guarantee you will not leave hungry;
4. Don't take bogans who are likely to eat so much they will have meat sweats;\
5. Make sure you book;
6. Don't bring a vegetarian.

So tell me, Do you have some all you can eat horror stories?

240 Coogee Bay Rd
Coogee NSW 2034
(02) 9665 6535
Churrasco on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buba & La Paddington

Buba & La is a beautiful little shop tucked away at the top end of La Trobe Terrace in Paddington. Buba & La is the sort of place that is a delight to find when you are walking by on a lazy Saturday afternoon- just as I did a couple of weekends ago. The sign out the front lists homewares, decorateor items and coffee, so it was just what we were after.

The understated gem provided the perfect place for me to look at beautiful things, whilst C could sip on a coffee. We headed to the back of the store to order and suddenly the lucious looking chocolate brownies caught my eye. I also saw that C was eyeing off the brownies too- luckily there were 2 left!

Aside from the sweets, they do have a limited menu available i.e in the cabinet there seemed to be a couple of savoury items such as filos and quiches. The usual coffee menu exists as well as some interesting, not-so-run of the mill cold drinks such as New Zealand brand Phoenix's organic creaming soda.

We grabbed a table out the front which was a lovely vantage point to watch the passers. Our brownies arrived and looked almost too delicious to bite into. Almost. Taking my first bite revealed that looks can be deceiving. The brownie appeared as though it could have been one of the richest sweets of all time, but somehow managed to be very light. The nuts were very apparent and the icing was smooth and cocoa laden. I'm not sure if I am disappointed that the each bite wasn't overwhelmingly rich or happy that I could finish the whole treat without feeling sick. I might just have to try another one to make my mind up!

C is a man of few words but described the coffee as 'a good cup of coffee'. I probed for further information, but there wasn't any. Just a good cup of coffee. So sorry about the uninformative description on that one.

The whole experience of visiting Buba and La was very relaxed and really suited the style of the day. I wouldn't head there if you were after a huge lunch, but for a coffee and something light, plus some beautiful homewares, it's the perfect place to go in Paddington.

So tell me, What gorgeous little places have you stumbled across by accident?

Buba & La
139 Latrobe Terrace
Paddington QLD 4064 -
(07) 3368 2384

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Loving Food has a downside

So, I'm sure most of you, readers, are also food lovers. I am in love with food, and most of the time this is a wonderful relationship, but sometimes, like with any relationship, there is a terrible darkside.

1) I've realised that with all my over indulgence that really hasn't stopped since Christmas, I am starting to pack on the kgs. Even though the amount of kgs I have gained are only moderate, I am quite tiny, so it doesn't take much to start turning me into a little ball. I am fast approaching ball status.

2) I spend far too much money on food. Quite frankly, everything is now second to food. My wardrobe is suffering and so is my bank balance- because I really spend every last cent I earn on eating extremely well.

I feel in the recent months, I may have overstepped the mark!! Too much of a good thing is never a good thing, so it is time to step back.

For the month of April, I am going to attempt to post at least 20 healthy but scrumptious meals. Just because I'm cutting back on some of the extra cream/bacon/cheese doesn't mean I'm willing to compromise on flavour!

I am convinced that there are plenty of meals that are are healthy, cheap and delicious, and I want to find them!!

I want you guys to be involved!! I would love for you to send me any recipes that fit the criteria, and am happy for you to do a guest blog, or just send the recipe- whatever you like. Photos would be even more fabulous!

I think it's really important that everyone develop a healthy relationship with food and lately, I have been very devious. I've also noticed that many of my friends aren't eating particularly well (actually horribly- but that's another story) and I want to inspire other people who are too lazy, or uninterested that cooking healthily can still mean delicious meals. Hopefully reassessing my meals, will allow me to be healthier during the week, and also be more proportionate with my budget.

This, of course, doesn't rule out the occasional weekend blow out. I am a food blogger after all!

Do you think it is possible to be healthy and delicious at the same time? Get sending me some recipes so I can try out the theory!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Ortiga Brisbane

OK So, Don't whinge at me about the photos, whinge at Ortiga for their poor lighting. That I have to say, is the only thing you will have to complain about when you visit the new, uber cool, Spanish establishment in the Valley headed by chef Pablo Tordesillas. Ortiga replaces old school Brisbane favourite Isis, and is also owned by ex-Isis owner, Simon Hill.

I must say, walking into Ortiga felt like walking out of Brisbane. Recently Brisbane eateries have been seriously showing panache, and Ortiga is a classic example of this.

Upstairs the bar is casually elegant whilst heading downstairs reveals exposed bricks, white table cloths, a fabulous wall long cellar and a very sophisticated open kitchen. The exposed beams give rustic charm and whilst the place does not feel like typical Queensland architecture, it really works.

I'm definitely a fan of the open plan kitchen, it really shows off the mood of the kitchen. In this case, Pablo was calm and collected and I spent the night peering into what was going on rather than having any discussions with my co-workers. I think they are used to my behaviour by now and were hardly surprised when I would interrupt an important conversation to 'oo' and 'ah' at the goings on in the Kitch.

From the moment I stepped in, the service was impeccable. I was the first to arrive from a table of 8 and I was given the option of waiting upstairs to have a drink or heading down to wait at the table. I went straight downstairs, because I didn't think it would be too polite to choose a bottle of wine without consultation from the rest of the group, some of whom are much more knowledgeable about the subject than I.

The rest of the group arrived in dribs and drabs, but I didn't mind waiting because I was too busy being a busybody and peering around at the beautiful whole wall cellar.

Deciding what to have was a bit of a conundrum because it was the sort of situation where everyone was being too polite. Aside from that, our Spanish is definitely not a strong point so we needed to wait for the waitress to explain the menu before final choices were made.

We came to the conclusion that everyone should pick two dishes each, and we could also order croquetas for all!

Pork crackle was placed on the table, complimentary of the kitchen. I'm always open to pork crackle but this was a little too hard for me to enjoy.

The first real dish to grace our presence was the Pimientos de padrón con puntillas – Fried Padrón peppers with calamar for $19. Supposedly, 1 in 100 peppers are really hot- a bit like Russian Roulette. In this case, my head was almost blown off on three occasions! Even one of our party, who is Indian and accustomed to heating REALLY HOT food, agreed that most of the peppers had a decent amount of kick. The accompanying calamar was beautifully tender, the batter so light and wonderfully salty. Safe to say, this was some of the best calamari I have ever eaten.

Next, the Fried school prawns with aioli for $16 arrived. The batter was tasty, and I'm fine with eating the whole prawn, but some of the party felt a little uncomfortable popping the whole prawn, including the head, into the mouth. The accompanying aioli was faboosh- enough garlic to make kissing anyone off limits for a week, but undeniably great.

The croquetas ($3 each) appeared and I swooped upon. The crispy, light coating held together a wonderful goeey, cheesy goodness. Fab once again, and somehow rich without being overwhelming. In fact, I could have eaten all 6 without feeling ill.

One of the specials available on the night was the duck with zucchini flowers. This proved to be so intriguing, we ordered two serves @$22. The duck was a preserved version i.e. similar to a duck proscuitto and was very silky. The light batter on the zucchini flowers confirmed for me, once again, how wonderful zucchini flowers really can be- if done well. The zucchini ribbons added colour to the plate.

Sardines are a rather curious thing. Almost everyone has had a traumatic experience with the
tinned variety. The salty sardines smoked on hot coals however, conjures up much more pleasant images. That is, until I eat said sardines and realise, once again, that I don't actually like sardines. These sardine fillets were served and looked especially inviting. Forgetting my dislike, I helped myself and then re-remembered why I don't like sardines. So I feel, I can't really comment on the dish because I had a bias to begin with. One of the sardine lovers on the table decided that he liked the contrasting texture of the fillets served with the side of crumbing.

The beauty of going with a bigger group is that you get to try things you normally wouldn't. Personally I would never have ordered the Revuelto of organic eggs with chistorra, bacalaó and peppers @ $17 but I'm really glad someone else did. I was a little worried when the bowl had excess liquid, but I should not have worried. The eggs were light but creamy, and the chistorra added a peppery touch. The whole dish felt soft in my mouth- very lovely.

I regret to say that the Pipirrana- Salad of tomato, cucumber, young onion, tuna belly and olive oil sorbet ($25) was snapped up before I had a chance to taste. I think this speaks volume for the dish though - and it did look pretty spectacular although these crappy photos won't do it justice.

I did manage to get some of the gambas al ajillo ($24) or prawn with garlic. The prawns were presented prettily, but I wasn't overwhelmed with the flavour of the dish. The prawns were tender, but upon reflection, I can't remember much else about the dish. Perhaps a little bit mundane.

The Ajo blanco with Smoked eel and grapes was something that was very interesting, but something that I wasn't really willing to eat. I do try to be adventurous, but I have to know my limits. I had a very bad experience with eel a while ago and ever since then, I can't bring myself to give it another go. In terms of presentation, it certainly was the most visually spectacular dish of the night. The form added a beautiful dimension to the dish and everyone remarked that the eel was particularly smoky. Apparently the ajo blanco- which is like a white version of gazpacho- was wonderfully nutty. The table couldn't believe the difference with eating the eel with an accompanying grape. Obviously a lot of thought had gone into the pairing, and the end result, according to the eel eaters, was that it worked fabulously.

Carrillera de cerdo estofada ($20) – Pork cheeks slow cooked with almonds and Fino was one of my choices for the night. This dish caused division at the table. The pork cheeks were perhaps not slow cooked for long enough because they didn't fall apart as I would have expected. I initially found the accompanying sauce to be a little underwhelming, but later caught myself wanting more. The dryness of the fino or 'spanish sherry' was evident and the almonds made a nice addition.

My final dish, and the undeniable (in my mind!) winning dish was the Escabeche of Quail with bitter leaf salad for $25. The quail was tender, the bitter leaves were bitey and whatever the accompanying sauce (maybe cauliflower) was gorgeous. I slyly kept getting extra sauce because it was so creamy and wonderful and when I dipped the quail in, my mouth came alive. I want to go back and ask the kitchen to please make me a whole bowl of quail and sauce and I'd happily devour the whole thing.

Throughout the night I sipped on Cascabel Tempranillo for $55 and the Golden Grove Tempranillo, which despite being one of the cheapest bottles available was sold to us as a real performer. At $30 we figured it was worth a try, but overall I'd probably pay the extra $25 to go with the Cascabel. These were both Australian Tempranillo's but there was a whole list of Spanish Tempranillo that were available for a considerably higher cost.

Overall, Ortiga provided a wonderful dining experience. I was entranced watching the kitchen and the food was very sophisticated and elegant, though still keeping that ever-important rustic Spanish edge. I am excited for the future of Brisbane dining and I will be back at Ortiga, dragging whoever I can, very soon.

446 Brunswick St 

Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 - 
(07) 3852 1155
Open Tue-Sat 6pm-11pm

Ortiga on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gastronomy Gal's First Giveaway! Jamie Oliver Tickets

I LOVE buying presents for people. Seriously love it. I take so much time and effort choosing presents, hoping that the receiver will be equally as thrilled to receive the gift. That being said, I would absolutely also love to be doing more giveaways to my faithful readers! Unfortunately, when you are a self funded blogger that makes no revenue from the site, it is a little difficult!!

I received a number of tickets to Jamie Oliver Live in Melbourne on Friday 12th March and sadly can't attend. I still have 2 tickets left when it occurred to me that I do my first ever Gastronomy Gal Giveaway. Yay. I also hope to be doing little giveaways more often so stay tuned!

"Jamie will be putting on an all new highly interactive arena show with recipes taken from the past 10 years and plenty of surprises just for the Australian audience.

This will be the first opportunity since 2006 to see Jamie live in Australia and may not happen again for a good few years so make sure not to miss out."

To win 2 PLATINUM FLOOR (sold out) tickets to see Jamie perform at Hisense Arena in Melbourne on Friday 12th March @ 8:00 p.m. leave me a (shortish) comment telling me about your favourite Jamie recipe.

Competition closes on Tuesday 9th March and I will express post the tickets to the winner.

Don't forget to leave some kind of contact details in your comment so I can contact you! P.s contact details WILL NEVER be published.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beautiful little Blue Belle

Country towns usually aren't renowned for their fine dining, but that doesn't mean they are slouches in the food stakes. It is often little country cafes in which you discover the greateset home cooked gems. I have discovered some wonderful food in 'off the beaten' track' places in little towns most people have not heard of. Home cooked food comes alive in these venues, tasting just like Granny used to make - usually because Granny IS still making the food - or her descendants are using her recipe. Of course in these places it goes without saying that there is always one special extra ingredient, love.

My friend, fellow foodie and fabulous photographer Paul Mathews alerted me to Blue Belle at Deepwater near Glen Innes. Deepwater is a tiny town so Cafe Blue Belle also serves as the tourist information centre and stocks art and crafts made by local talent. Paul tells me that Blue Belle is fabulous and I can't wait to visit.What's even nicer is there are always characters about in small towns and Paul encountered some wonderful people on his last visit.

For Paul, the main event was the "famous, quirky lemon meringue tart." He was so in love with the tart, he sent photos through to me. I usually travel home by going much further west but in this case I'm willing to risk the windy roads after seeing these photos!!

The lady pictured is the owner of the Lemon Meringue Tart Recipe. Sadly, it is believed that the lady has passed away but the silver lining is that her daughters are still carrying on the tradition (luckily for prospective diners!!). The cuteness factor of the blackboard is to- die- for and the prices are so cheap!!

Paul insists that the wonderful food does not stop at the lemon meringue tart and suggests the Pie with musy peas for a main. The peas certainly look delightful!

I love hearing about places like this, because without word of mouth, they are so easy to pass on by. Even though I haven't eaten there yet, I thought I would share the news with you guys, in case any of you are travelling south at Easter time and are in the area. It's definitely worth a stop in.

Tell me - what unlikely places have you uncovered some fabulous homecooked meals?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gourmet Rabbit Magazine; My Food Print.

This month has seen the launch of GourmetRabbit Magazine. GourmetRabbit is a new publication for a new era. Released in digital format every month and once every six months in hard copy, GourmetRabbit taps into the wide-spread love of food, cooking and culinary delights to bridge the gap between digital and published media. The editor of the publication contacted me and asked me to be a part of the magazine, and of course, I was delighted. The magazine was launched on the 1st March 2010 and will possibly be re-launched in Brisbane again soon. If you wish to purchase GourmetRabbit, head to the website. You can order a print edition of the magazine or subscribe for a year's access for less than $30.

This is my first article! It is laid out beautifully in the magazine and there are plenty of fabulous stories from industry experts, foodies, bloggers, restaurateurs etc so be sure to grab a copy.

Bon Appetit.

It’s funny how you can be oblivious to your own quirks until somebody helpfully points them out. In this case, that somebody was my boyfriend, and the quirk is my obsession with food. I was having one of my routine whinges about ‘not knowing what to take for lunch’ when he piped up ‘No wonder you have these problems, lunch at your house is always a fiasco.’

The ensuing dialogue involved a bit of shouting from me, a bit of laughing from him and went a little something like this.

“A FIASCO?! What do you mean a FIASCO?”

“Well lunch at your house is always so complicated. You either go out for lunch or have some elaborate meal inviting everyone around. What ever happened to eating a sandwich?”

“A sandwich? I haven’t liked sandwiches since Year 10- the year of the sandwich.”

“My point exactly! Think about it. When it comes to food, you are not normal.”

And so I did - think about it. And I came to the conclusion that he was probably right. I had finally realised that I was/am properly obsessed. Until this time, I had not admitted how intrinsic food is in my life; memories and dreams, past and present. It shouldn’t have come as a huge shock. I mean how many 23 year olds do you know whose favourite movie is Ratatouille?

Songs, smells and photos are common triggers for memories. For me, food is what whisks me away to years gone by and most easily explains how I ended up here, thinking about food, blogging about food, writing about food, thinking about food.

With all this soul searching, it dawned on me that the easiest way to introduce myself to you is through my food print, which just might give you some hints as to how Gastronomy Gal, food tragic, came into existence.

FOODPRINT: The connection to an experience, a person, a place or a time that is felt through food.

My foodprint, was influenced greatly by my parents who were always chasing the next culinary adventure, never satisfied with meat and 3 veg. And so, this obsession was almost bred into me. In any case, my food printed started to take shape when I was very young.

Early on in my school career, I opened my lunchbox to reveal a little container of olives and three neatly wrapped green parcels. I was happy to see the dolmades, one of my favourites, make an appearance. Until I looked around and spotted every other classmate eating plastic cheese and vegemite sandwiches on white bread, cut into four little triangles. I quickly shut away my delicious lunch to save face whilst eyeballing the numerous packets of hazelnut chocolate spread that kids love to eat.

Six years old is the first memory I have eating Yum Cha. For me, this was a life changing experience. I’d only ever seen different countries on T.V., but walking through Chinatown had me convinced that I was already in one. I remember being, thoroughly confused as to how we had arrived at this magic destination .The loud shouts of the markets, mixed with the vivid colour of this magic new country are now a blur but the regal red staircase with the gold railing lining the entrance to the restaurant, are etched into my mind. If my memory serves me correctly, the first time I tasted a prawn and garlic chive dumpling, my eyes widened, I started laughing and reaching towards the basket for more, and (this part may be superimposed, but I felt like it was happening) little fireworks started exploding around my head ala ‘Ratatouille.’

Birthdays were a spectacular event, and accordingly, had a big impact on my food print. Every year, my Gran would bake a delightfully light, fluffy, soft as clouds sponge cake and served it smothered with whipped cream. To aid diplomacy, half was covered with strawberries and half covered with sprinkles or violet crumble. The tables were laden with the weight of hundreds of different meringues, slices, homemade sausage rolls with some of Gran’s famous vol-au-vents and gazpacho thrown in to appease the grownups.

Grandfather is from the school of old. Ironically, everything he passionately argued for, is now back ‘en vogue’. Grandfather makes the sweetest green tomato pickles and the most peppery, creamy mayonnaise. He has always been a strong believer in home grown and now I concur, but this did cause a few problems in the past. When my two sisters and I were young, it was nothing for us to hear some commotion, walk out to the wood shed to see some feathers flying into the air. Grandfather would be sitting next to Granny, plucking freshly killed chickens, laughing at us screaming. Walking into the cool room was never a simple task- if you forgot to turn the light on, chances were you would end up face to face with your next meal - hanging upside down. This was particularly distressing when your best friend’s cow had recently disappeared and you were pretty sure Missy was now resting peacefully in the cool room.

My penchant for Ginger Beer can be directly attributed to my other Nan and Grandfather , Johnny. In their back fridge lay a source of unimaginable pleasure; home made ginger beer that was oh so fizzy, packed with bite and always induced hiccups. In fact, I have spent much of my life searching for the next best thing, only to be thoroughly disappointed. There is nothing quite like the taste of your own family’s home made. It sets a precedent for what you want ‘it’ to taste like in the future

The seasons always played a big part in our cooking and eating. Long, hot endless days were the perfect excuse to relax by the pool and drink slush puppies which, as I got older, became alcoholic versions of a slushy. BBQ’s were frequent and Dad brought out many of the family favourites like bang bang chicken.

With the falling leaves, came annual showtime . The air was crisp with excitement but the dusty dagwood dogs, distant squeals of sideshow alley and passing parade held no appeal as we contentedly tucked into Autumn picnic feast – freshly baked bread rolls served with lashings of moist, baked chicken with sage and onion stuffing. Bags of fairy floss were left untouched, dropped in favour of some award-winning passionfruit slice.

Cold winter nights meant tummy aches after eating too much chicken drizzled with mozzarella, doused with rich marsala sauce. The smell of the dry red wine boeuf bourguignon wafting through the house never seemed to leave in those colder months, and if we were lucky, Mum’s world famous rissoles would make an appearance. The end of winter was marked by a feast at our house, with pigs basted in fennel, red wine aplenty, and 100 of our closest friends celebrating in style. This celebration has now become known as ‘Porchetta Day’, a foodie festival, in my home town.

Spring will forever taste like chargrilled asparagus, snow peas to die for, and not quite ready lychees.

The later teenage years were less pleasurable, yet no less memorable. 16 marked my introduction to slop- aka dining hall food. My food print had never involved anything quite like it. Boarding school seemed like a world away, and it was here that I suffered two years of hideous ‘classic’ dishes that were slaughtered by lack of care, lack of budget and lack of knowledge. At least we had the memories of the weekend. Perhaps a lingering taste of marinara or fresh BBQ’d pork, cooked by some generous, sympathetic day girl’s parents. If I was lucky, I’d feel the comfort of a lunchbox packed full with leftovers poking out of my bag, which often saved me from the clutches of culinary despair. There was a silver lining, If you can call it that. I did learn about being resourceful, which was a specialty of the lunch ladies. One dish five ways- curried sausages and rice, curried sausage salad, curried sausage pie......

21 was a time of decadence. Not a care in the world, a credit card to burn and a year filled with oysters, champagne and my boyfriend taking me for meals at sophisticated restaurants I previously would have only frequented if Dad was paying. Cocktails and Noosa became our regular weekend haunt. It marked a time of a certain culinary maturity. No more bingeing on bags of chicos and my changing palate meant I could finally understand the notion of ‘too sweet.’

21 was also a time when old became new again. After an unfortunate ‘too much pink rock salt’ incident years earlier, scallops re-entered my food print, and I took this re-introduction very seriously. Eager to make up for lost time; I consumed that fresh, plump, salty flesh at no less than 17 establishments over the course of the year. Scallop connoisseur was added to my title.

22 meant I had grown up a little, incurred a lot of debt and started cooking and eating more seriously. 22 was also the year I realised that I wanted to be doing ‘something in food’ so I started blogging and writing, and baking and cooking, and drinking and mixing.

23 has only just begun has so far has included my first fondant iced birthday cake, my new lunchbox and importantly, eating for health as well as pleasure.

By becoming so aware of my own food print, it made me wonder about yours; Australia’s food print. What were and continue to be the main food influences in the average Australian home? I am hopeful that my food print, and your food print, have yet to experience some amazing culinary adventures. With food culture currently exploding in Australia, it seems the possibilities are endless.

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