My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not impressed in New Town

I had high hopes this morning when I paid a visit to the New Town Green Store - organic grocer and cafe. They were quickly dashed.

The biggest fault here? Their menu is almost totally reliant on pre cooked dished reheated to order - pies, quiches and the like. And with Jackman and McRoss serving up similar fare less that a kilometre down the road, pre-cooked is a risky choice. On the upside, there are a lot of gluten free options, many more than usual, but I cannot attest for their quality.

I ordered the vegetable lasagne with a side salad (10.90), and it was nice. But just nice, there was nothing special about it. The salad was large, almost a meal in itself, and very busy. With six or seven different ingredients it almost overshadowed the featured dish. My friend finally settled on his third preference (the first two were unavailable at 11 am on a Sunday) of a vegetable pie (6.50) with salad (3.50). While very reasonable priced, our choices just tasted like reheated ready meals, which is not a sacrifice I am prepared to make when I eat out. I can reheat my own meals at home thanks.

The coffee was fair trade, but terrible. My late was a too-hot flat white in a glass. I ordered a second just in case I had been given a rare dud, and this one was worse, with a little mountain of stiff froth half an inch over the glass.

The service was patchy at best. One very young, very untrained and very unsupervised waitress was carrying coffee, one-by-one with kid gloves to each table and she was still managing to spill them. With only 6-7 tables, seating 20 at best, tables still remained uncleared for sometime, including ours, although we were obviously finished. Competent service can change a dining experience for the better, and I saw very little, if any, competent service today. Good intentions, but no experience.

Almost everything on the menu was available to take home from a display cabinet, including a vast selection of cakes and slices, but none of these items gave the New Town Green Store any identity of its own. The menu listed "Award winning organic pies," and when I asked, I was told they mostly came from the Tasmanian Pie Company. This is all well and good, so why not just say so on the menu. The foundations were there with a good selection of items, but for a deli, not a cafe.

Although the store sells almost exclusively organic, natural and free range produce, the menu selection was confusing. Is the meat used in the meat dishes free range? "Sometimes, when it is available," said our waitress. Was the side salad organic? "Mostly," said our waitress. But "sometimes" and "mostly" are not good enough. Is the New Town Green Store an organic cafe? Not really, and in my experience customers looking for organic food want organic food. You can't just have one foot in the door when your cafe adjoins an organic produce store, there are no excuses.

I want to find something nice to say about this venue, but I am lost on this one. There are some brilliant cafes around the Hobart area at the moment who put up stiff competition to the New Town Green Store. Jackman and McRoss in Battery Point, Victoria Street and New Town, Tricycle in Salamanca, Pigeon Hole in West Hobart, and Grub Cafe in New Town, just to mention a few, make the cafe business look easy. The New Town Green Store (organic or not, I can't really tell) doesn't have a patch on them.

New Town Green Store
Organic grocer & cafe
134 New Town Road, New Town
Open breakfast and lunch 7 days

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No rainchecks for this soup

I've taking the day off work today, as I probably have early onset swine flu. Unfortunately for me, I am also suffering from toxic paint fume inhalation and have a house full of tradesmen - honestly I would be better off at work.

For the sake of a little fresh air, I decided a visit to Raincheck Lounge would be in order. I don't mind Raincheck when its not too busy, the staff are friendly, and it's a great spot to find a lost local at any given time.

Today I had a particular craving for fish soup, and to my great joy, they had fish soup on their standard menu (12.50). I haven't included a photo of the soup - it was visually challenged - but I can describe it for you.

My soup (and I was expecting a bouillabaisse style) was a bowl of rich, thick tomato style purée, with six clams. I was initially disappointed, but one mouthful was all I needed to be convinced. The flavours were complex: spicy, salty, and sweet, and married well with a traditional warm cob loaf. The one down side was that only three of the six clams were open, but I was feeling too ill to do anything about it.

I was delighted. I felt better immediately. Well, better until I came back to my stinky paint fume house. Much better off at the Raincheck Lounge, with its comfy couches and casual atmosphere.

Sure this place can get pretty raucous on the weekends, I've found the quality of cheffing questionable and a few of the waitresses are rather up themselves, but the menu is thoughtful , the space inviting and the opening hours are convenient. I may have to reacquaint myself better with my old friend Raincheck in future.

Raincheck Lounge
The cool end of Elizabeth Street (number 392)
North Hobart
Ph: 03 6234 5975
Open 7 days, breakfast until late

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food that I will never eat:

Anything that comes in a bucket for starters. Yuk. Buckets of food bother me on so many levels. Firstly, nothing says "glutton" like a bucket of food, especially if you have seen the size of me (small) compared to a bucket (big). Gluttony is one of the worst sins. In my book it is right up there with sloth although greed and envy don't usually bother me so much.

Still, with all the issues we've been having about misleading packaging (home made being the biggest offender, whose home? the cleaning lady's?) If I wanted home made food I would eat it at home, not go out to a restaurant. This also goes the other way, supermarket food items that proclaim to be “restaurant quality.” Firstly, I have been to a few rather dubious restaurants that bring into question the supposed standards of restaurant quality.

I guess with a bucket you at least know what you're getting.

Not so with food described as a melt. Melt is not a noun. A melt is a wagon of spin to make toasted sandwiches seem fancy. I have been watching with amazement the new commercials of a fast food venue on TV at the moment, advertising their new range of (this should be a dead giveaway) “Melts.” Aside from the rather unusual combination of ingredients they seem to be sporting, even in the photograph can’t make them look appetising, and they are never going to look any better than in that photo.

Another frightening food stuff is the "medallion." A medallion is a piece of metal, usually presented as an award. A medallion is not a round chicken nugget with garlic "butter" (I'll use that term loosely) found at 4 am in a take-away all-nighter.

I also have serious issues with the following terms: log, basket, parcel, triangle and strip. It makes me wonder that these food items could use a bit of marketing pizzazz. Surely a "chicken strip" would sell better when described as: "a lightly seasoned and crumbed chicken tenderloin with rustic parmesan and Italian herbs", although this wouldn't make it taste any better.

And while we are only the subject, restaurants seem to use a lot of sneaky terms to get us to think we have ordered a meal a step up from a bucket of chicken. "Cooked to perfection" is a common menu misdemeanour. I highly doubt that anything promising to be "cooked to perfection" is anywhere near that, and if so, will someone please tell me where the "perfection" setting is on my stove, I believe I am missing something. I have never seen a cook book that provides the instruction “cooked to perfection” – even Jamie Oliver can use adjectives.

Useless claims of "organic" as a marketing ploy also spring to mind. Sure, eat all the organic sugar you want, it is still sugar. Excess sugar will still makes your kids hyperactive and obese, organic or not. To some people, the term organic is a deterrent. Take my brother Andrew for instance who refuses to eat anything that isn't crumbed and pre-frozen.

So lets call a spade a spade; a bucket of grease laden chicken is still a bucket of grease laden chicken, and I'll not have any, no thanks.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bored and baking afghans

I've been reading this book, Sleeping Around, by Brian Thacker. Not sleeping around like "sleeping around" but like couch surfing, a couch surfing tour of the globe. Anyway, Brian, my favourite travel writer, has written a book about a world trip spent sleeping on the couches of strangers to get a local's perspective of the world. I think this is a great idea, I'd like to do it too. Not a whole world trip, because sometimes I would probably want to be alone and not telling my life story over and over, but for a few nights here and there would be brilliant.

So now I am in an overseas dreaming/planning/money saving state. It's about time I went overseas for a while, and I think next year isn't too unrealistic an expectation. Saving money however, generally means total boredom in Hobart in the middle of winter. So, my mission today has been not to spend a single cent. Except the $1.80 I just spent on a newspaper, which doesn't count when reading the newspaper is a job requirement. So what does all this have to do with the delectable looking biscuit pictured above? I just made them from simple ingredients I already had in the cupboard. And if you too are in hibernation to save money, or just think these little guys look pretty darn tasty, here is the recipe:


200g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup dessicated coconut
50ml milk
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes
125g dark chocolate
chopped walnuts, to garnish.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift in flour and cocoa, add coconut and milk. Still into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes. Spoon mounds of mizture onto a greased oven tray, gently pressing together. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until set. When biscuits have cooled, melt chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Dip biscuit into chocolate, then into walnuts, and allow to set. Makes 30.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Head for the Hills, Coldstream Hills

This post is partially about the Coldstream Brewery, and partly about my family. A few weeks ago, my mother, her husband and I enjoyed a beautiful Saturday lunch out at Coldstream, in the gorgeous Yarra Valley, and we were there for a very special reason.

My littlest brother (who is twice the size of me) had recently started at Coldstream as their apprentice chef. Least of all to say, I'm pretty darn proud of the kid. The kid who used to sit in front of the oven waiting for dinner to cook, the kid who would walk 10 paces behind the rest of my family because he was too busy eating to walk faster, and the only person in my family other than me who knows what elBulli is.

My littlest brother has had a bit of a rough ride, like me he took a little longer than everyone else to decide what to do with himself for a living. While we all knew he would be a chef, it took him a little longer to work it out. Walking into his restaurant and seeing him looking so tall and proud in his chef whites, frizzy hair escaping out from under his little white cap, big smile wrapped across his face, I can honestly say I have never been so proud of a member of my family before.

Our waitress Wendy seemed to belong in that restaurant as much as my brother, there was such a homely feel to the place and exposed wooden beams, raw brickwork and a big open fire added to the welcoming country atmosphere. The service was not text book perfect, but it was warm, friendly and inviting, and truth be told almost outshone the food in its excellence. Although I am sure, we were, as the chef's family, paid extra special attention to.

Most of the menu was on the daily specials blackboard, and otherwise split up into a style that is gaining in popularity, small and large share plates. None in our party could go past an entrée of lemongrass broth with scallop and crab dumplings (10), which was superb in its simplicity, and potentially made a significant contribution to lessening my hangover, for which I was most grateful.

Now, the kid is responsible for the pizza section, so we were of course obliged to order at least one. Pictured left is the mushroom and tallegio pizza (16.50) alongside a dish my mother ordered, which I didn't pay any attention to, so therefore know nothing about. Fish cakes of some description spring to mind, however I am likely wrong.

For my main I ordered pan seared king fish on celeriac puree with Sicilian salsa (27), mostly because I was desperate to know what makes a salsa Sicilian (sultanas, capers, parsley and tiny globe tomatoes apparently). The sweetness of the salsa was a perfect fit to the natural sweetness of the fish, and I was happy with my choice.

Although I am unbelievably biased towards this venue for obvious reason, it was not without fault, as very few restaurants are. The coffee was of a low quality, a table near us remained uncleared for the entire time we were there, and Mum's desert arrived without a spoon. But in the grand scheme of things, restaurants like this are far between in regional areas, and I am grateful to have options for great locally sourced food, at low prices, so far away from the city.

Being named "Brewery" is a pretty good indication there is a bit of beer about (although at the time the thought of any more beer made my stomach turn). The restaurant extends to a cellar door of sorts, with bar snacks available through the day, as well as tastings of the hand-crafted beers and tours of the on-site brewery by arrangement.

There are regular special events on offer, with a Fine Swine and Wine dinner scheduled for the 15 July - with three courses of pork themed meals and matched wine for $50 - that would be hard to go past if I lived at least in the same state.

Coldstream Hills Brewery is run by mates, and it feels that way. Like four blokes got together over a few beers and said "hey, wouldn't it be really awesome to own a brewery". And that's exactly what happened. What a cracking idea boys. And look after my brother...

Coldstream Brewery
694 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream Victoira

T: 03 9739 1794

Mon-Tues: Closed
Wed-Sun: 11am until late