Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lists, lists, lists...

A surprise blog from an increasingly shithouse blogger! Who'da thunk it.

When the chips are down and the general hum-drum of life is really starting to piss you off, there's nothing quite like escaping into the fantasy world of cocktail list creation. It is simply awesome. Seasonal flavours get mashed into modern and classical cocktail technique, and bartenders up their game in the ever-ending quest to out-do each other and to make something bangin'.

The process is also wonderfully Darwinian, where only the fittest survive, and for that to happen - bar folk need a simple and one eyed dedication to flavour. The most interesting challenge for us all with that in mind is to produce drinks that are different from the channels most invariably groove into (even the best at this game get stuck in ruts creating similar style drinks with fond ingredients - my particular foibles are Aperol and apricot brandy, which I must conciously avoid when creating drinks!).

Added to that wee dilemma is the need to keep shit simple - never again shall the Ginger days resurface when cocktail dinosaurs ruled the menu landscape seventeen ingredients high (unfortunately I'm not exaggerating). Well, they may resurface - but I'll be there with a spiked 2-by-4 and a grim smile! Simple, new drinks are the holy grail of the cocktail bartender where few parts mixed equate to a greater and transcendental whole.

Produce quality is another corner of our nexus which seems does not get paid quite enough its due - a perfectly fresh and seasonal mango when shaken into quality rum, tenderly pressed lime and quality syrup (or powdered sugar) makes a daiquiri in a whole different league than someone bashing one out with puree and hours-old lime! When was the last time you heard a bartender get excited like chefs get excited in the face of some stunning seasonal produce? Yeah that's right - hardly ever. That folks is balls.

So in a very Martin Luther King kinda moment - I have a dream. One of a cocktail list where simple awesome spirits and liqueurs are married intuitively, and highlighted by great produce, wines, bitters, sherries, conserves, spices, molecular technique (that works well) and everything else that's awesome with cocktails. A list that reads like heaven. A list that upon reading a drink's ingredients you go "ooooooooooooo".

I wanna go "oooooooooooo", and hopefully when I go to work tonight and try some of our new menu ideas out on the punters - I might be able to get one or two of those myself. here's to hoping were all about to invent the next negroni!


Monday, August 30, 2010

The Frat Years

See this guy...He's Ronny Sullivan, and good at snooker. I am not Ronny Sullivan, and snooker is very bloody hard!!
We lucky few who're Ketel 1 fraternity members got spoilt last night by getting to play our own snooker tournament while drinking too many martinis. Dressed up like a bunch of dandies, we looked the part but largely sucked (except Logan, who was apparently born holding a cue).
The problem, and beauty, of snooker I guess is that everythings so far awar! I felt most of the time like I needed a 9 iron instead of a stick! Somehow we came second (by the grace of my crapness we could've won it), but I sank three (that could even be a lie) coloured balls in the whole evening! Balls. Literally.
Not content with that however we all trucked down to Alhumbra to watch a rum cocktail comp, drink tequila, have a chuckle, drink more beer and swing outta there to more watering holes. Last reports were of me trying to enact the Manny Pacquia v Floyd Mayweather fight with various people, falling over a table and getting cut off at Black Pearl. Somehow it took me 45 minutes to walk home - but I fared better than Hippy who decided to go for a bike ride with painful results!
Big ups to Greg for being a good troop-leader, and Hip and Cash Money for taking out top prize...and Serena for winning a trip to Jamaica, mon!
Now I'm gonna try getting fins herbs, the classical delicate herb mixture to work in a drink. We'll see...anyone got any chervil out there?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The 1st Annual Fergie Awards!

In a tip-of-the-hat to the Uk bar scene's underbelly awards (or whatever they're called), and in the spirit of the awards season, I'm pleased as punch to open nominations for the first annual Fergie Awards!

The Fergie's is a very tongue-in-cheek gala celebration of all those things which make the Australian Bar Industry both funny, crazy and ridiculous. It's named in honour of anyone who's letting down the team out there, a la Fergie in the Black Eyed Peas!

So here and now, without further pomp or ceremony, we present to you the categories for nomination in this year's awards across the period of '09 - '10:
  1. Best munter performance.
  2. Best dork drink.
  3. Worst new product.
  4. Biggest bar geek.
  5. Messiest industry relationship.
  6. Worst haircut.
  7. TP's Hottest Piece Award aka The Batting above Their Average Award for hottest girlfriend.
  8. Human wastecan award - for the industry figure showing their body the least respect!
  9. Worst classic cocktail comeback (some things should remain in the past).
  10. Best bar prank.
  11. Best use of overproof rum.
  12. Outstanding banter award.
  13. Most popular foreigner award - for the journeyman bartender.
  14. Biggest whinger about "we did it better here" award.
  15. Biggest service embarrassment award (for that golden performance in the line of duty).

So! Now that we've seen how much fun we're going to have, I invite all to wait patiently while I set up a Facebook page so all and sundry can submit their nominations over the next few weeks. Once we've got all the nominations I'll post the finalists and we can start getting our vote on!

On a final note for now, I'd like to take a quick minute to speak towards our philosophy and infrastructure. The Fergies are a (largely) harmless celebration of stuff in the industry the we normally "can't" talk about. Nominees should be both pleased and embarrassed depending on their category, yet the categories themselves have been selected to defy malice. No hatin' is intended here (consider if you will, some of the categories we chose to leave out!), and the awards will be decided on 100% industry voting!

Leave not, your workmates safe.

Adi + conspirators!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Legends of the Cabinet

Do you have any memories growing up of your parents liquor cabinet from childhood?

It's a typical piece of everyday furniture that sits idly by until you turn fourteen or fifteen - when it's transformed into an Alladin's Cave of contraband and possibility.

I'm sure many of ya's have fond recollections of the moonshining days when we skimmed minute quantities off each bottle and mixed them into a rank new beast. A beast responsible for many swaying teen moments and nasty hangovers!

But think more closely to what was really lurking in there. No wonder we all got sick! Stale and half empty liqueur bottles from the 80's, cheap Scotch and random spirits that your folks would never drink like tequila, and nasty obscure rum. The Gordon's is the only thing that seemed to enjoy a regular workout!

Shelved into this sorry collection however, were a few products which never really got their time to shine! I guess it's fair enough that most parents wouldn't know where to start using 'em - but it suck that things like Grand Marnier, Drambuie, Stones Green Ginger Wine and Benedictine always seemed to get overlooked.

Enough lamentations however. Now that most of us are of the current generation to get their breed on - we can effect change into this vicious cycle of stomach corrosion. If we all maintain tasteful liquor cabinets with shrewdly chosen bottles, we can break the family tradition of bad moonshining!

When my kids are ripping me off as teenagers - they'll be drinking only the best, and hey, maybe I'll get my own back by grouping bottles together strategically! Imagine the look of disgust on a teenagers face when he grabs gin, Campari and sweet vermouth (yeah I'm gonna keep my vermouth in the cupboard, so what?? It's an un-cracked unit!) and "accidentaly" mixes a Negroni! Boo-ya.

Who's gonna have the last laugh then!? Yep, it's gonna be me.

Mwa ha ha ha haaaaa

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Call it a Comeback

Just like the O.G Howlin' Wolf, Im right on the beat. WIth a shiny new internet connection and laptop, I'm happy to be able to sit at my desk and break the bloggy drought.

What I'm gonna' write about today, is passion.

Passion is a vastly underused tool. It is a rarely cultivated resource, and many of us forego it for many reasons. One great speaker recently said that we too often replace our passions for apathy, because it comfortably helps us pass through the World, but I do know this:

Out of all the people who're into food and drink (I've gotta keep things a touch relevant!), the ones that stand out; the interesting ones, the crazy ones, the inspiring ones, the controversial ones, the dedicated ones - they're all incredibly passionate! Is it enough for us to pass our time without nurturing, developing and firing-up what we really care about?

I don't think so. Thus, a small treatise to any readers tonight. I'm sending out the call for us to stop worrying about what other folk are up to, what people are talking about and the meaningless crap that we kill time with, and instead find what we're passionate about - so we can spend more considered time investing in it, and each other.

I'd rather be perceived as crazy than mundane!

A parting drink, and an old favourite. Let's bring back the Mac. I'm down for two parts whisky to one part green ginger wine with a lemon peel (because it works). Pick a whisky and raise your glasses to the North.

Bon chance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

La Bella Vita (or something like that...)

Now that things have settled down for the year (for me anyway), it's time to get back in the kitchen to wrangle with some mean flavours. In light of the fact that I'm hotly anticipating a new dining table (selected by the expert eye of the wonderful Missy Bell, this vintage banger will no doubt see some Texas Holdem' action too), it's time to highlight some decadent fare for the winter months which'll keep your arteries well and truly blocked - yet your soul well and truly satisfied!

I'm putting it out there; there are few better combinations than fat, potato and cheese. The dish pictured isn't mine, it's probably French and I don't know what it's called, but who cares! When it's as easy to prepare as slicing potato thinly (but please, please use the guard on your mandolins!), and layering that alternately with sliced onion and cheese before dabbing with thick cream and a healthy sprinkle of seasoning you're on a winner. Provided each component is kept in a respectful proportion, 45 minutes later your moderate oven will yield up a tantalizing result, which in this case I served with green beans, a baked field mushroom and some grain fed porterhouse. Graaaaaavy (that means good, by the way!)

Not to be outdone, and because I really should include some drinks banter, our accompanying wine almost stole the show and made me look bad...damn you Ten Minutes by Tractor! We had their Northerly facing Mcutcheon single vinyard '07 pinot, and boom -what a stunning wine! I really know very little about wines, but this magnificent drop was beautifully structured, with perfect red berries, a bordering-on-minty herbaceous lift and gorgeously fine tannins. Go find some right now. Really...right now.

At some stage I really should make some desserts lest the Gnomes of Zurich strip me of my pastry cooking veil, but until then, have a great weekend all!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Brewster Takes it Home!

After an exciting and innovative couple of days of competition, 2010's Australian World Class representative has been crowned in Sling's Adam Brewer. Adam competed strongly and consistently both days smashing out a fresh Luxury cocktail list, a solid exam, blind tasting and luxury drinks presentation and wrapping things up cleanly with a great live bar round.

I'm stoked to hand the mantle over to Ad, who's gonna have a pimp, pimp experience in Athens provided he can duck any flying masonry or molotov cocktails given Greece's current political climate.

For myself, I'm chuffed to swing in a cheeky second ahead of my comp nemesis and good mate, 'ol Widgey. Amazing presentations went down at the stupidly maxxing Lavendar Bay mansion, and I decided to handycap my second day's competition by slicing the top of my finger off with a killer sharp mandolin - better was the decision not to incorporate the piece into my garnishing!

Thanks go out to Cat Lyon who kept me from whiting out, and ceasing the flow of the crimson river! With large bandaged comedy finger on my right hand, the day's comp was great - especially the live speed round!

Big ups to the Behind Bars kids and Dee-ag-ee-o with all their fancy booze.

The mansion was sick for the awards night, and everyone had a bangin' time hob-nobbing and drinking delicious cocktails and canapes. The crazy buggers even set up a blazer station outside on some barrels which fueled the banter, and left me with a contented Johnnie Blue glow.

What went down on the bus and Eeu de Vie afterwards....that's not for your eyes!

Adi. x

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Dark Night of the Soul

Just when the garden path was rosy with the petals of flowering Quality Banter trees, the less-than-famous blog has been disrupted by a lion stepping out of the foliage.

That Lion is the great competition that will be World Class 2010.

Please dear folk turn a kind thought in my direction as I cram and mix my way to a date with Sydney next Monday to take on Australia's elite mixololologists...yippee!

This year the game is going to be strong as we compete in exams, blind tastings, luxury cocktail list presentations and live bartending throw-downs. Phew! It'll be just like the Highlander (Chris Lambert's greatest work) where there "can be only one"! This year's winner will have to be a sharp cookie with cracking knowledge, banging bar skillz and a more-than-cool head under pressure.

I'm using a few molecular techniques this year (hey, was that a pig!?) which should have me freakin' balls, making loads of mistakes and generally cursing like a trooper, or an Australian ladies cricketer. Stay tuned for updates and my menu posting (which'll have to be once competition is under way so no-one bites my late 90's style), and fear not - the banter tirade is merely on a very short sabbatical.

Get busy living.


Sunday, May 23, 2010


Ooooo the post that had to happen! The election we had to have...

Banter: The quality and art of one's conversational abilities.

The quality of someone's banter can define their lives, and after dark, when the day is over and people creep out to cafes, bar and restaurants - the restrictions are lifted on what we discuss, how we interact and how well we get the message across.

Being a bartender leaves one with the special privilege of seeing how all walks of life talk amongst each other and with strangers. So we open the topic today riding on my experiences listening to the public, and industry folk, with no clear goal except to embark on a journey of discovery into language and people.

To facilitate this, in my complete gall and pomp, I've come up with a character heirachy to help categorize the quality of people's banter to help open up the topic a bit, and dissect what's behind aaaallllll those words:

The Banter Heirachy - listed from least desirable, to the very best characters. Order may change slightly in future
  1. Banterless: this person has absolutely nothing to say for themselves. This is not necessarily an unattractive quality, because no banter is often better than bad banter, but conversations tend to be short.
  2. Evil banter: the type of person who's soul has been stained with acid and rust beyond cure. Someone so poisonous that no good utters forth from their mouths. Turn and walk the other way with your 20th Century cocktail immediately.
  3. Rubbish Banter: the character who talks loads - often in great volumes about himself or herself, and often about subjects which he/she clearly knows very little about. It can be a torrid barstool next to this character - arm yourself with overproof rye whisky in double quantities!
  4. Idol Worshiper: Very closely related to Rubbish Banter, Idol Worship has the alchemic power to turn any subject into a discussion about themselves. I'm all for romance, except when that romance is sloppy, passionate and public. With yourself.
  5. Ranter: This fella's great in small doses. Always imbued with a fervent cause, the ranter'll raise his voice and argue to the death on all of his favourite topics. Observe him at the height of the night doing battle or blowing down the walls of some poor chick who's got too many manners to tell him to shut up.
  6. The Tech-spert: This harder-to-find breed is an authority on selected topics, but alas! Take 'em off topic and they're fish out of water to the last. The tech-spert will throw 3 solid hours (or more) of banter at you going to the minutest detail on the subject with total abject fascination. To endure this requires simply....chemical drugs.
  7. The Nutter/Fruit Loop: Depending on what kind of day they're having - these unpredictable folk can be further up or down the list. No social convention is safe, and no subject is off topic. The nutter is free in the simplest sense. Freedom of expression in any shape or form. Watch out for colourful clothing or silly haircuts, and possibly dredlocks - if they look like a bit of fun buy 'em a shot and engage at will.
  8. Average Joe/Jane: Slotting comfortably into the list is the everyday person. Comprising the biggest banter category are the folk who just do their thing typically, be it talking about reality TV, current affairs or sports. Most are comfortable to coast on this level for the course of their lives, and fall victim easily to the banter of characters 1 - 7.
  9. Jack-in-the-box: Jack and Jill are a pleasurable find to come across. They're most often knocking about in camouflage as Average Joes, but then they surprise you by pulling out gems of information, and left-field opinions on things which are either interesting, funny or both. Engaging with the Joe's is a worthy pursuit simply based on the hope of meeting a Jack. Buy them some biscotti to make 'em feel appreciated.
  10. True breeds: Simply put, the type of folk that you'll quickly develop a man or woman crush on. The true breed is an exquisite character possessing charm, poise and wit. Ready to deal with life's situations with flair and good humour, he or she'll share info in such a way that'll leave you feeling better than you were. Be aware! True breeds often operate like terrorist sleeper cells and you may not even know you're sitting next to one. Engage therefore, at the peril of meeting the rest of our characters in the hope of snagging one of these rare beasts. Across the table with a glass of red is the best scenario - but any setting suits he or she just fine!
Phew! Just when you thought this crap would never end, I'm inserting a tiny elite elemental hierachy based on banter's nickname chat - this is a sub category of the true breeds, and a rating is generally agreed upon by close friends or peers:

  1. Bronze chat (although I think bronze is a mix of tin and nickel - fuck it, I'm not a chemist!)
  2. Silver chat.
  3. Gold chat.
  4. Platinum chat. You'll know within five minutes if you're dealing with one of these fine rare folk!
  5. Diamond encrusted platinum chat. Simply the best - I've probably met less than five of these ever. Pure unicorn shizzle.
Well I'm probably so far of course now that I'll leave you with a few discussional points on the categories, before tying this all together with the next post! Happy living out there...

  • People can be composites of some categories. Probably.
  • Alcohol and drugs amplify people's characterization, and often assist in helping folk switch between categories.
  • More characters probably need to be added.
  • Names will never, ever, be named.
  • Yeah that's all I've got for now - clearly not quite qualifying for an elemental rating. Bugger.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunday Mornings!

There's nothing that'll make you feel better after a bruising weekend behind the stick than a massive piece of meat (well, besides those fairer services of course).

The sight of an entire lamb shoulder not only healed my bruised heels, but helped ward off a degree of sleep deprivation as well!

For this evening's slow roasted fair I imbued the lamb with an entire knob of butter (oooohhhh yeah), sea salt, cumin, cinnamon and ground fennel. A loose Moroccan arrangement if you will. Into a high oven, turned down to a hundred and left for....6 hours!! Bloody ripper - enough time to eat some Sultana Bran, talk some jive with the housemate, go shopping for some sides, clean the crib, write this post and do some work. Is slow cooking not the most relaxing and enjoyable way to go or what!?

I'm thinking some cous cous (an insidious device which I still don't fully understand nor wholly trust) with poached sultanas and lemon zest, shredded carrot salad and some grilled flat breads with greens. Probably some harissa spiced yoghurt for heat and delicious drinks by someone else!

I might be knackered, but Sunday could be worse! I hope ya'll have a good one too...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ingredient Focus!

Delving into interesting kit of the past is a thoroughly entertaining exercise.

This week's cocktail ingredient of interest is Pimento Dram. A flavouring made from the not-so-well diagnosed Pimento; a.k.a Allspice (yes that's right, that stuff on supermarket shelves isn't anise, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon mixed together!).

Perhaps it's called allspice however because it mocks all of those flavours to a degree. And so it goes that I lovingly ground a whole bunch of 'em and patiently steeped them in white rum for two weeks, stopping only once to taste the concentrate which sent my mouth into a wild anesthetic shock. Not recommended unless you're one of those sick puppies who enjoys eating Berroccas...

Anyways, yesterday was the great unveiling when I reverently mixed the coffee-filtered infusion with a 2:1 brown sugar gomme (brown sugar and water). Flavouuuuuurrr Country!!

Now I'm pumped to get down and dirty with some awesome mixing action and happy to shine the light on The Lion's Tail (good drink name - solid) extracted from Ted Haigh's book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (pretty good, save for the fact that anyone with an eye for a drink recipe can cherry-pick a bunch of recipes from various tomes. All we'd need are the props!). A great place to start, although this recipe is adapted to reduce Dram content from 3/4 of an ounce - a concentration which'd happily let you pull out a few teeth without feeling a thing!

The Lion's Tail

60mls of good Bourbon whisky - get some rye content in there...
20mls of Pimento Dram
25mls freshly pressed lime juice (like, right there and then!)
5mls of sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water pls - no boiling)
1 healthy dash of Angostura bitters.

Shake the devil out of it and strain into a chilly coupette with a Beazley garnish (which means none!).

This is a slightly off the track application for the dram, which shows its feathers most proudly in the mighty realm of tiki concoctions - get a few rums and some pimp juice (or any of your favourite juices) and have a play. Alternately, check out the Beach Bum's new book, it's full of great recipes! Giddy Up!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

What's in a Name?

After a long weekend of making cocktails and other miscellaneous bevs, I've finally made it back to the keyboard to write about something which is pretty important to me.

Cocktail culture is pretty damn interesting, and many folk who claim to know a thing or two or even threaten to make a decent drink put loads of work into ensuring that everything they turn out is tip-top. This involves lots of work behind the scenes researching, tinkering, prepping, analysing, tweaking and progressing craft and recipes.

That being said, it's a bloody shame to put in all that greasy elbow juice only to waste your hard work by being too serious at the coal face during service. This is a broad topic, and a philosophy that'll need more discussion here - but one thing that's been pissing me off more and more lately is the formulaic and boring approach to naming new drinks.

Now I've copped a bit of schtick lately for creating a drink obtusely named Eric the Cocktail. Fair enough, it doesn't adhere to any of the "rules", and for our benefit I'll list those critters which have got us all bogged in nomenclature boredom here:

  1. The cocktail name should be linked to the classic cocktail class on which the recipe is based. For example: The London Fizz (fictional).
  2. The cocktail name should be linked to the based spirit which is chiefly used. The Bourbon Whisper (largely fictional and highly gay).
  3. The cocktail name should be linked to the culture from which the drink's theme has been extracted. The Tropical Breeze (probably not fictional somewhere).
  4. The cocktail name should be linked to its creator: The Calabrese Special (highly indulgent and a cheeky swipe at one of our cocktail "legends"). Gravy.
Well f all that. Know what? Customers don't care! Let's entertain them!!

What about names which are just down right ridiculous? What about names which just inspire customer interest? I want to trigger the mechanism in the human brain that says "well, I've gotta read what's in that!". Let's toss out the rules and have some fun at the bar - maybe it'll even rub off on us industry folk who take the game a bit too seriously.

So, in the name of the cause, I offer some names which haven't been used, but could be bags of fun:

  1. The Time Crisis Cocktail (named after a video game - preferably one which needs to be taken quickly!).
  2. The Holy Moses
  3. The Transplant Cocktail
  4. The Sticky Icky Rickey (has a classic name, but makes an awesome Snoop Dog reference!)
  5. Hysted's Jethro's No-Doze (JD and espresso. Inspired.)
  6. The Crusta Demon of Dirt (ok, another classic reference)
  7. The Hard Graft
  8. Nashville Cow Juice
  9. The Sponge Bath
  10. Icy Introspection Cocktail
  11. The "Get to the Chopper!" Cocktail
Ok, things are getting weird, and I should probably stop rattling things off the top of my head, but you get the picture! Let's hope we see a bit more imagination, and a bit less Bittersweet Symphony.


Monday, May 3, 2010


Howdy do-dy folks!

We're on drinks today and smashing it out in fine style. Sangrita is the mystical spiced chaser to that beloved drop tequila. I'm happy to concede that I'm no expert on the red stuff, but I understand that it varies depending on where you are in Mexico - to the point no less that it becomes a secretive source of pride and competition between neighbours in Jalisco.

Every recipe I've seen on the net, and heard from my peers follows the pattern of tomato, oj, pomegranate and lime formula - with chilli of course. Plenty of recipes include bloody mary spices, ground olives, coriander (at least that's pretty common in mexican food!), onions and just about anything else anyone feels like throwing in it!

Well...enter Diane Kennedy.

Who's that you say? The young lady is an authority on Mexican food. She's written one of the most authoritative tomes on the stuff and has been living there for many years yada yada yada...well she lists a friend from Jalisco's recipe circa 1970 which lists nothing more than fresh sour pomegranate juice and red chilli! Wonderful food for thought.

Dear Diane goes on to say that bitter oranges and grenadine will be a sufficient substitute with chilli of course.

Has anyone got anything to offer here? I want banter people!!

Whatever you do - leave out Tabasco - that barrel aged flavour's got no play in sangrita. Happy mixing!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

If you dare

It's about time I gave this guy a plug. If you want to taste your last meal creeping back up, and feel like maybe you should move your kids to the country then check him out.

I cannot endorse or bear responsibility for any of the content you'll find on this blog, but if you're lucky, you may just be entertained!

Drinktheshitoutofit with Tim D Phillips @

Consider yourselves warned!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Winter Warmers

Now that we've got that bloody pesky summer out of the way, it's time to get back in the kitchen for some warming fare.

Cooking on the fly is plenty of fun, albeit fraught with the danger of failure (a danger in who's face I laugh, incidently). Thus loitering handily in our fridge this evening was a spare housemate chook that wasn't looking too likely to fulfil its sandwich-esque destiny, so in the finest vultural (yeah I just made up a word - what of it?) traditions I picked that sucker dry.

A generous knob of butter helped me sautee a white mirepoix of leeks, onion and celery all finely chopped, with some fresh thyme in late into which I turfed (Aussie for throw for you international folk) some corn off the cobs, chicken stock and our flaked up chicken. Beauty.

It came to the boil very helpfully, and with a healthy pounding of seasoning (that's my term, by the way) I let my flavours simmer and marry into delicious oblivion. Crusty toast with - you guessed it, more butter, and a spoon of double cream stirred through the soup had me and the lady sittin' tight and cosy as the winter bite chewed at the plate glass.

Apple and raspberry crumble for dessert with Grand Marnier cream. Bangin'!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

To the boys

A sombre pot of beer is raised today to all the Aussie boys who lost their lives during the Great War that was number 1.

Anzac day is a sober reminder to us all that people can be, well, pretty poor to each other and we owe it to the fallen to do better.

Now a lot of focus is put on Gallipoli and the ANZAC's efforts there (even though it was a massive strategic bungle) but I'd like to remind all that the 8,000 or so lives lost on the rocky hills of Turkey's beaches needs to be viewed in light of the 53,000 lives we lost overall. The soil and clay of the Western Front was a brutal testing ground for a young country, but it went a ways to forging our national identity.

It's perhaps typified by the loss of Tasmanian school teacher Ivor Margetts, a football ruckman with kind eyes, he was loved by all and some said he had the potential and leadership qualities to become Prime Minister. He was killed by shrapnel under the shelling at Poiziers and the private who was there when he died said "I cried like a kid when he died. I think he went because he was too good for the beastliness of war"

It's less well known that the British had command of all Australian forces till near the end of the war, and their blundering, pig-headedness and stiff upper-lipped attitudes sent our boys into withering machine gun fire set against barbed wire time and time again. They were responsible for the bulk of our casualites. Thanks very much!!!

No drinks today in our remembrance. Just the timeless and delicious Anzac cookie. Golden syrup, coconut, butter and oats when baked together right are a sublime, and timeless reminder. Bake some anytime.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Classic Cocktails!

Classic cocktails are fantastic relics our our past. Beautifully traditional cocktails from a bygone era are again in vogue, and are carefully crafted by passionate industry figures who dedicate their lives to research, recipe tinkering and the craft. The classics are often shrouded in mystery regarding their origins too which helps add to their mystique, and cocktail lore in general.

Well stuff all that - because we're abusing tradition and blending them all!

Such is the sport and fun of Blend the Classic at the Carlton Yacht Club with the legendary Bobby Yeung. There's nothing like taking a stuffy old niche and dorking it up!

Thus we small merry band gathered and stalked the bar last Monday the 19th of January - in serious need of icy refreshment. There are few rules at blend the classic, but these must be adhered to.
  1. Classic cocktails can be blended only once.
  2. Classic cocktails must be slushy-ish in consistency.
  3. Classic cocktails must be finished - regardless of how foul the final result.
Round one saw a solid representation of some very famous drinks. I enjoyed a Monkey Gland (gin, orange, grenadine, absinthe), Marty corrupted the famous Mint Julep and Chris tricked out a side car. A very solid first round!

Round two got a bit silly and I suffered through a Pimm's Cup with fruit and cucumber blended in, while Chris smugly enjoyed a delicious Port Stinger (port and creme de menthe is truly sublime!) and Ryan knocked off Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon (champagne and absinthe).

Having warmed to the task, things got a bit out of hand when we started convincing hapless German tourists that their Scotch and cokes needed the treatment - the only thing they could do do drive away the pain was to enjoy a large herbal cigarette on one of the busiest strips in Melbourne. Clever. But we carried on with espresso martinis, Scofflaws (delicious rye whisky, vermouth, lemon and grenadine) sazeracs and fogcutters all falling before the small shiny swords of the blender.

Chris finally copped an ordinary one with a disgusting Black Velvet (champagne and stout) which made me laugh in his face before our round of blended Cowboy shots, and we made it out of there barely intact.

As I write this, we're all steeling our stomachs for the destruction that will be the impending blended dirty martini, or the Gibson (complete with cocktail onions).

There are seven weeks remaining before Bobby jets off to Hong Kong, and we've got our work cut out to smash as many classics as possible. If you wanna get involved remember the last rule: No one talks about Blend Club.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Mexican food is awesome. Melbourne's ability to produce it is not-so-awesome. All I want is cheap, fresh, spicy and well seasoned kit. Such was my feeling after seeking relief from my worryingly traditional Monday hangover.

Mad Mex on Chapel st was my latest beacon of hope for good Mexican food yet one soggy burrito with a side of hard, flavourless tortillas later I detected a salty liquid trickling down my face...

Now I'd heard about the fabled Mexi-tears which can happen when one suffers too many consecutive bad experiences, but have never been afflicted myself till now. It's a horrible feeling and one I hope not to repeat, lest I need to get my entire flavour gland removed which would be a massive travesty.

Can someone please, please open a cool cheap and cheerful Mexican diner!? I'll love you forever and promise to eat there twice a week!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big Daddy and the Trinidad Sour

Fitzroy this week loses one of its favourite orphans. A staple of Melbourne's North for many a year, big daddy Josh Danart's itchy feet have resulted in an au revoir. Know fondly for his top-class, grade A, platinum and tungsten encrusted banter (which is the top banter rating achievable by a human) the stool next to his at the bar was the place to be to lose a few hours, and ruminate on things over a sazerac or three.

His legacy stays with us in personality and form represented by the insidious and creeping Trinidad Sour. If you can stomach this potion then you've earnt your pay - and your spot at the bar next to America's favourite son. Weighing in with a hefty ounce of Angostura bitters (told ya) it needs to be shaken hard with half ounces of rye whisky, orgeat (almond syrup) and lemon juice with a dash of egg white. Serve it straight up, lift it to your lips and go hard. There's no pussy-footing the Trinidad Sour!

Josh you're a dirty Texan but we'll miss you. I'll catch you on Royal street some time. New Orleans is slow to leave the blood!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fish in a Bag

Wednesdays are spot on for a bit of home cookin', and a great chance for me to work with fish. Miss and I stopped by on the way back from Mordor (Chapel st) to grab some fresh rockling fillets from Oysters in Richmond (a solid fishy providore in Richmond).

I've seen loads of aromatic fare produced from baking in parchment, and I had a reasonable idea about how to go about things (the danger being, that once I reach this point - I stop reading books!) but what can go wrong...!?

Well not as much as usual, but I'll tell you this; I can make a paper plane fly 80m (a record that's stood un-challenged since '88) but making a bag to stick in the oven ain't so easy, particularly when you're wingin' it. So it happened that four misshapen parcels got popped in the oven for ten minutes laden with fare.

Our rockling was covered in Maille dijon (buy, buy! American juggernaught Kraft have just purchased Maille and plan to shut it down therefore removing them from the competition! 250 years of tradition down the drain!!), thinly sliced lemon, vine ripened baby Roman tomatoes, dill, delicious chardonnay and salt and pepper.

The steaming parcels were prized open over mash, and the plump gems of fish were tastily imbued with the aromatics + we had the great resultant sauce! Mountadam '07 Chardonnay and some pan fried asparagus rounded out a pretty tasty meal which happily led to clean plates all round. Yummy.

Glenmorangie Nectar 'd Or and some football saw the later hours slip by once the fairer guests had departed. Life doesn't get much better.

P.s Thanks to the kids at Babka today for their candour; sincerity will get us back everytime...ta!
P.p.s Best croissant I've had outside Paris - get involved now!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Humble Mondays

Under the weighted veil of a hangover the week un-rolls. Classic Aus fare was enjoyed thoroughly yesterday with a crackin' football match all tricked out with plastic beers cups and meat pie burns; the hallmarks of any good birthday celebration. Why is it that steaming gravy and Tommy K smell so good together in their proper context!?

Not content with our prize of sporting prowess however, we rocked on with more cold lager beer by the mighty (ish) Yarra at sunset. Appetites of course needed to be whet with a couple of cheeky aperitifs at Black Pearl before the classic Sunday roast at The Rose Hotel. Sure, dining can be great, but sometimes a good pub meal cannot be topped - particularly when given the option of upgrading your plate to large for just $13 total! Awesome. Crackling, lumpy/salty/mega tasty gravy and roasted spuds all gave my pork its necessary props. Guinness provided an excellent score to the production. Satisfaction incarnate.

My enduring mistake is to believe that digestif cocktails are innocent and friendly - whereas a glass of water and the couch are probably much more beneficial in the long run! Rye whisky and sweet vermouth'll put a dent in anyone's bonnet if you let them including mine! All good, if you enjoy a dose of next day penitence...

Looking forward to having our tiny cooking class tomorrow night - I'm thinking seafood!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spanish Grind-out

Alright kids, and flavour seekers alike - tonight I'm getting my Spanish on. It's not enough for me to be a commentator on other people's creativity, so I'm keen more often than not to put my money where my stove is and get involved.

It's big Joe's last night on our fair shores and we're getting together to say au revoir in style with some (hopefully) tasty food from my motherland. On the menu tonight therefore is a line-up of oil clad Spanish hits to satisfy the hardiest of hungers. The ever-green classic croquettas done all the way with rich sauce imbued with Jamon, mushrooms and stock were bangin shallow fried (no one give me any jip about them supposed to being deep fried - I know!) and coupled with some char-grilled peppers peeled, sliced and steeped with garlic, thyme and rosemary. I'm feelin' grilled bread rubbed with garlic and tomato combo, but then again - I'm always feelin' that!

For mains I'm having a crack at Catalan Noodles which is really just an excuse to throw various types of pork together in with some noodles - it's a pretty straight forward lid-on brief braising affair but has an interesting looking stir through addition at the end of pacada, which is a paste made of garlic (no surprises) parsley, hazelnuts and breadcrumbs. It should liven up the proceedings a bit, and hopefully bring balance to the force of all that pork fat - bring it. Patatas a lo pobre on the side, the famous poor man's potato which is straght up oil, onion, pepper and salt and which the heads should be all over it like a granny on a jumble sale.

Cutting through all the tasty kit'll be some crackin' tempranillo finished off with some moscato for the sweeter toothed folk afterwards. Phew. Can't wait! Inevitably I'll F%$& something up so stay tuned for a wrap up and maybe a tale of kitchen rage or two.

If I can work this techno hoo ha out maybe I'll even work out how to get a pic up! See you round Joe boy, we'll miss you. Cheese 4 life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Settle Down Melbourne Bar Folk!

Right. Enough. Can everyone stop playing musical chairs and just get normal jobs!? After a fortnight of getting rogered by F%#@book bombardments and messages about venues seeking gap-staff coupled with the turmoil of one hapless bar team getting turfed onto the street only to be taken back in again (very Godfather 3) I'm throwing down the gauntlet.

Listen up Melbourne - the public are thirsty! Get on with it.

That being said, good luck to the Seamstress cats who have a fresh start and a chance at a do-over. If you can sort those bar stools out (i.e get rid of 'em for Pete's sake), I'll be a happy participant in your delicious flavours once again.

Good luck!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Izakaya Rising

The latest thing in Japanese food at the mo' is Izakaya. It's been heavily documented in the press recently and I'm very late into the game, but we got our chance last night to kick it to Maedaya Sake and Grill to get involved. For those not in the know, Izakaya is pretty much after-work drinks with hot tasty snacks; a great, and very accessible concept.

Well, we rocked up without a booking and got shunted upstairs to a nice table in a relatively rowdy Japanese student-filled-with-sake kinda space - with loads of smoke billowing off the table grills and a nice sense of organised chaos. The guys looking after us were lovely however, and managed to convey enough information to aid in the navigation of what...six menus!?

There's nothing quite like simply going for it when ordering in places like this, and soon enough we were surrounded by tea, over-colourful mixed drinks with odd names, sake (although they wouldn't let me order any Daiginjo sake (the nuts) which is a privilege reserved for people sitting downstairs annoyingly), pickled beans, spicy cabbage, soba noodle salad and our own smouldering grill.

The idea here obviously is to get your cook on, and we happily seared away at beef rib, pork loin, chicken thighs and various vegetables, while having oodles of fun coming up with custom blends from all the delicious complementary sauces. Team Joe and Becky dropped the best combo with a tasty and simple blend of creamy sesame and teriyaki which was perfect with the beef rib!

Anyway, we had a great night, with great banter - although you need to be prepared to do a great deal of cooking because the grills don't hold much (only if shunted upstairs!) and just a dash of drama too: A couple of lightweight kids at the next table were pounding the sake, and by the time we were waving the signature gesture, they were literally on the floor with large scale vomit inclusive - which is an abrupt and pretty sobering end (well, for us) to a dining experience! All in all pretty good, but come on guys where's the RSA!?

We're forgiving types and one ball-drop isn't enough to keep us away, and we left feeling buoyant enough to venture onward for cognac, coffee and cake - not an easy combo to find on a fresh Monday night in Melbourne!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Monday Rant

Happy Monday, happy folk! Something that I'm incredibly passionate about is fisheries. The fruit of the sea is very damn tasty and makes me excited in an almost unhealthy manner. Having grown up by the ocean in WA (oops, did I just admit I'm from WA!?), I've spent most of my life there diving, surfing fishing and spear fishing vis a vie I've got a massive soft spot for our aquatic friends.

Thus it pissed me off to no end to learn that the Japanese successfully opposed the ban of export on Bluefin tuna at the UN's Conservation of International Trade of Endangered Species summit last week. Ok, this is all a bit dry, but the skinny of things is that we're running out of fish! The tuna may head the way of the mighty Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon or the Orange Roughy (never heard of that? we'll we've all eaten it, and Aus/NZ are largely responsible for their overfishing) unless something drastic is done.

I'm not talking about throwing a brick through your fishmonger's window, or crashing your tinny into a pesky Asian fishing vessel invading our waters - but what I do implore is the support our endangered stocks by choosing not to buy these fish, and encouraging your friends to do the same. It's easy to forget that while we eat farmed terrestrial meats almost exclusively,we eat a great deal of wild fish; most of whom can't be farmed.

Species to avoid then, if you want to grind out on our slippery friends with a free conscience: Flake (yeah, that's shark), Halibut, Hake, Sole, Tuna, Orange Roughy, Cod, wild Salmon and skate (N.b - these are just species that appear on the Aus market - and listed by Greenpeace as being in the "red" zone of extreme danger, other species are in trouble too!).

Enjoy your supper, and if you happen to come across a Patagonian Tooth fish, don't eat that either - but at least take a pic, I'd love to check it out!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the Dust Settles...

Wow, what a cracking week. Drama, intrigue, excess protein, a bit too much to drink here or there and some laughs just to keep things fresh. Lady Melbourne has delivered again, and there are great of tales flooding in about Food and Wine Festival experiences - with plenty of one up-manship to maintain the competitive fires.

I've learnt about lamb, sake, how to own Melbourne trams, wallpaper, and how not to treat people. It's gonna be a lively weekend, and I hope the punters down at the Pearl tonight go easy on this old bartending dog, as I try remembering the recipes again!

As it's Friday - a cocktail for celebrating the fact:

Bar La Florida's Chic Cocktail

30mls sloe gin
30mls sweet vermouth
20mls grapefruit juice
5mls mararschino liqueur

Shaken and served straight up. Have a good weekend all!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Rest in peace lady Seamstress. You shall be missed.

Vieux Carre and the hurt locker

Dining and friends is a solid combo. Art deco and pubs is a solid combo too, and we were happy as clams to head to the Court House Hotel for all 'o that. What an awesome pub! Give me dark wood and white table cloths over and over and over again.

We were probably a touch loud and inappropriate for the emptying dining room (no, we weren't one of those tables) but the food was great - I made short work of perfectly rare kangaroo fillet with finger lime and lovingly sliced blood plum, and the little terrine I managed to poach from my lovely lady was a cracking combo with fig paste and crostini.

Mains time was fun, and I got to monopolise the delicious Chestnut Hill chardonnay (go and buy some right away!) for my fish while the kids went red meat/red wine. A couple of great bream fillets on tender braised celeriac weren't, to my pleasant surprise, over-powered by a well weighted pesto.

Our waiter may have been a touch down in the mouth, but he made us all feel very cosy by pouring us ridiculously large measures of Calvados and Cognac when we were cheesing. A fitting end to a great dinner, but alas not quite filling enough to send us home! So it was that we cabbed it swiftly across town to the notorious Black Pearl.

If you wanna start your day like a fresh fish (and by that I mean; clear eyed and not smelling) avoid repeated rounds of the tasty, tasty Vieux Carre cocktail. Cognac, rye whisky, sweet vermouth, DOM Benedictine and bitters stirred thoughtfully sounds great, but will place you squarely in the hurt locker the next day - and i have to do it again tonight!

Watch out for Broadsheet, I'm covering Melbourne Food & Wine festival's Beast on the Block. Let the butchery begin.


Oh Lamentable World!

Discovering that you've been using the "grill" function on your oven for 6 months instead of "bake" - absolutely bloody priceless!! I just thought I was a crap baker....those that know me, please be gentle!