Archive | June, 2010

A Trip to FNQ and a Love Affair

30 Jun

An amazing conflence of events occurred at the end of May. We finally got our heads above water and realised how long it had been since we had a holiday, and next week  was our window. In desparate need of sun, the easiest holiday for us was to head for FNQ! Having been here before, let’s just say that when it comes to food, we prefer Noosa. And for beer (and coffee)…. Melbourne. Or staying home.

We were blessed with good weather and despite the fact stinger season was still in play, we had a great beachy holiday and surprisingly, a few superb dining experiences. First stop was Palm Cove. Previously have found the options here all pretty limited to overpriced hotel oriented restaurants. But on this trip, we found Nu nu. I really can’t sing their praises enough. Thanks to a review on Gourmet Traveller by Pat Nourse it came well recommended, so we quickly hit it up for coffee & brunch. We chose the mud crab omlette with watercress and white pepper broth (apologies for quality of pics only had phone!)  ZOMG. To say we were impressed was an understatement.

Mud crab omlette at Nu nu Palm Cove

A great test for a restaurant’s true hospitality is how they accommodate kids as unfortunately, we were stuck with ours for the duration.  If you do have to take your kids out, you can enjoy good food here!  The uber cool & professional staff brought them mango smoothies in cups to match their outfits.  And colouring in things. They had toast with tropical fruit jams – all made inhouse.  Happy family.

Specially selected cups to match outfits

They make ALL their own bread, every morning, and it is good. And the coffee was THE only one in FNQ that did that good thing. You know what I mean.  We knew we had to visit at night ‘san enfants’, so enquired about babysitters. Their baker, Nanny Nat, also runs their icecream shop Nu Mi, & is a nanny by night. Sorted.

The ambiance at night was lovely and serious service was in action. We shared 3 entrees & then the mud crab for dinner. A lot of the seafood dishes featured white pepper broth along with Thai flavour influences. Love the spiciness of the white pepper, no lingering burning. A favourite was the red emporer miang served on beetle leaves, and our mud crab was a most impressive beast, you can see even he thinks so. Again, crap pics, sorry!

Red Emporer Miang

The Mud Crab

The sommelier was on board in the evening, and was particularly helpful.  One other dish was a delicate lentil curry, piled in it’s own little basket made of bread, about 1″ square and topped with lobster.

We managed to fit in one more meal, which again, was just delicious.   A prosciutto crostini with chopped egg and loads of fresh herbs through it and a brioche with gypsy ham and cheese, it had a zucchini pickle on it. Using all their own bread makes for superb breakky.

Proscuitto Crostini

Brioche w gypsy ham, melted cheese, pickly zucchini

Apart from Nu nu, the ancient Melaleuca trees lining the foreshore were striking. Many of them over 500 years old.  They are protected species, and can only grow in the thin strip close to the beach. Every restaurant has one right through the middle of it, the pubs have them in the beergardens, the verandahs are built around them, and they are even in the middle of driveways so cars have to drive round them.  Just goes to show that preserving the natural beauty of a place provides a unique and beautiful environment for others to appreciate and enjoy….

Palm Cove Melaleucas - Enjoyed by many

And then we left. Not before we got their food recommendations, and one more coffee, before our next stop, Port Douglas

We had a fantastic time here, blessed by great weather and a happy family.  Food wise, it’s all pretty overblown touristy stuff. Either affordable deep friend pub/club or pricier and fancier.   Here is a few of the better experiences we had.  We stayed at Rydges Sabaya, chosen for the superb pools. We were not disappointed.  Only with the club sandwiches.  A bacon foccacia doth not maketh a club sandwich. So I made our own!

Club Sandwich - Poolside

One surprise was finding The Beach Shack restaurant.  Well away from the main drag, in a spot where it has to earn it’s reputation, the entire floor is sand. It has an awesome holiday feel to it, and of course the kids just loved it. Very reasonable pricing & simple, well cooked bistro style food and effficient & friendly staff made for a entirely enjoyable experience.  The sort of place where you can relax, enjoy and not overanalyse what you’re eating.

The boys at Nu nu had recommended Harrisons Restaurant in Port Douglas.  It was pretty new, had a British chef/owner with some impressive credentials.  The location, on the esplanade, in a tree filled, fairylight lit oasis, is quite magical. 6 years earlier, I had a memorable dinner when it was Catalina.

I’ll start with the great things. The dinner menu was divine. Entrees were  Tuna Ceviche with oyster beignets and Pork Belly with black pudding & apple puree. These were both delightful and the presentation very artistic.

Tuna Ceviche at Harrisons

Mains too were perfectly executed and presented. A simple steak frites with a side of bone marrow was melt in the mouth simplicity. As was the barramundi with lentils and herb coulis.

Unfortunately though, there did not appear to be anyone on the floor in charge. Service was stressed and lacking polish. Tattooed backpackers from all continents of the world chatting amongst themselves – OK for a cafe/bar, but out of place here where the aspirations and quality of food is evident. On another visit for breakfast, we found it very unwelcoming for us as a family, with limited options on the menu.

As far as beer goes, let’s just say it’s a desert up here. The only place that had anything decent was the lux & $$$ Angsana resort Palm Cove. It featured the new local Blue Sky brewery plus some Little Creatures and Moo Brew plus others. Nice to see. Most places still have the ‘7 lagers’ beer list, of which 2 are XXXX.

Thus ended our 2 week sojourn to a beautiful part of the world. Many fantastic memories, sunshine, lots of lovely surprises, and one memorable love affair (Nu nu). Something all good holidays need to have.

Nunu on Urbanspoon

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The Really Long Lunch

20 Jun

I have been thinking about writing a blog for some time, recently we had the most amazing experience that inspired me to write it now, it’s taking me a while to get the first one down, but off & running now. A long weekend away with friends, at  Laharum Grove organic olive grove with the Grampians as the stage for the weekend, where the food, wine, beer, conversation & even dancing rolled on for days

Pizza night in the Grampians

On arrival it was pizza night. Our hosts have an awesome pizza oven so it was DIY pizzas, perfectly thin dough, a range of homegrown toppings, and a constant stream of woodfired pizzas.  We sat around a beautiful firepit (which we loved so much we had to get one for our backyard!).  A large mob of kids sat around the pit toasting marshmellows for awhile, thankfully they were lost in the grove most of the time and we hardly noticed they were there!

On Saturday morning we walked through the property.  Set in 300 acres at the base of the dramatic and historic Mt Difficult, the grove was planted by Italian workers around the 1940’s.  It has a remarkable 9 metre grid planting.  Across such a large property, it is incredible to think that every single tree has been so perfectly spaced.  Kangaroos were flitting through olive-laden trees and the backdrop of Mt Difficult made for the most stunning outlook.

Laden olive trees in the grove, Grampians as the backdrop

We arrived at the house which is a relocated Uniting Church. And as such, has nearly no benches or cupboards.  An eclectic collection of kitchen dressers, tables, meat safes provided workspace & storage for a highly covetable collection of  kitchen pots, pans & gadgets.  At 11am lunch prep was in full swing.

I was begging to help out! Eventually I was entrusted to peel the incredibly beautiful & delicate home grown quail eggs.  In the meantime, labne was being rolled and baby beets were roasting that had to be peeled & pureed, so the quail eggs could be dyed pink, so when they were cut open they would look very pretty! The pressure! I didn’t do too badly but smaller fingers would have been good.

Peeling the still warm from the quail eggs

Meantime, the table was being set…

The very long table

All this for the gorgeous appetiser of cured salmon, on a small herbed potato salad with beet stained quail eggs. Pics did not do it justice.

Cured salmon, herbed potatoes & beet stained quail eggs

One of the guests was a cray fisherman from Apollo Bay, so another appetiser was fresh crayfish, seved in lettuce cups, thai flavous.

Things started to really heat up in the kitchen then. Plating up 18 dishes required clearing a lot of space! It was a military operation.  Main course was couscous, with bbq’d lamb & roast vegetables cooked in their spicy Marmelatta,served with labne.  Somewhere inbetween peeling & staining quail eggs, eating, drinking, talking & laughing. I also made my first italian style meringue. I had been drizzling syrup into a cake for hours every time I passed, then whisked up the meringue and just fell in love with the texture of it when the hot sugar syrup was added.

The Kitchen, Plate Up!

At about 9pm at night, dessert was served and the dancing began!

Such a beautiful day in stunning surrounds and a group of people who were fun, passionate about food, and incredibly generous.

The following day it was back for yet another superb, albeit more casual, lunch (which thankfully ended by about 7pm) with the sunset over the Grampians

Another beautiful lunch into the sunset

Finally, all our little kids decided to set up their own restaurant to serve us dinner. Two little boys were pot washers, we had a couple of lovely waitresses, a bar person whipping up icy cocktails, and the tables were beautifully presented with menus!

The Kids Cafe, Table Presentation Excellent!

They were just too gorgeous.

What a weekend, I hope you enjoyed reading this and that I was able to capture some of the magic of that weekend.

Roast Tomato Soup

20 Jun

A truly beautiful soup, been a favourite of mine for many years, in fact since I discovered Flinders Farm Tomatoes. We use these tomatoes in the restaurant to make tomato chutney and serve them on the steak sandwich. The great thing about them, is they are grown almost all year round. Andrew is a perfectionist, all the ones fit for sale are graded, polished & bagged. The ones that are a bit too big, or small, or out of shape, we buy in boxes of 2nds. And make chutney & this soup!

This recipe is fantastic in cooler weather as the hint of spice in it makes for a really warming experience. And it is easy. Throw it all in the tray, roast, eat! So, to the recipe.

3kg of tomatoes, mixed, try adding in some roma & cherry
1/2 red onion in wedges
1 cup flat parsley leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 tbsp fresh oregana leaves
4 garlic cloves peeled
1 chilli – halved
500ml tomato juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 +1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
Seasoning : Dash each of Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 150deg. Place all ingredients except the seasonsings into a large baking dish. Bake for 2hours until soft and squishy.
Cool until you can touch them.
Pinch off as many skins as you can then blend lightly (I use a stick blender) to a rough consistency. Stir in the seasonings.

Serve with crusty bread, and you could top with rocket and/or parmesan

The occasion for making this soup recently was a Christmas In July dinner at our friends olive grove.  30 adults, sit down dinner, 5 courses & Santa! I did this soup as I thought the colours are very festive & reminiscent of summer, but as it is the middle of winter it really warms you up on the inside. Especially when you’re in a shed in the middle of winter!

Christmas in July Dinner Grampians

Enjoy