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Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Rose can be my local any day

There aren't many dirty old man's pubs left these days, but if you're looking for one, best to head to The Rose in Fitzroy.

I was recently up in Melbourne for a week for (among other things) the inaugural Australian Food Blogger's Conference,  EatDrinkBlog, and after all the fine dining I really needed an old school pub meal to take the edge off all the fancy (it was getting expensive).

More on EatDrinkBlog later (and if you can't wait, click here), but for now...I'm still thinking about my parma, and a lot of football paraphernalia.

The Rose has all the things I love about real pubs. Ashtray wells beneath the bar (but no smoking of course), heavy wooden tables that don't wobble, a dart board, Nobby's nuts, a faded rotating GB sign and a clock perpetually stuck on 6.30.

It was a small shame that there was no beer garden, but not much could be done about that really. There are a few tables outside for smokers, but that is all the outdoor space on offer. The Rose is more of a winter pub, best to be cosy inside with your comfort food, and leave the sunny summer dining for other, more expensive, gastro-pubs.

There is a bit of a sporting theme here, and I can only imagine what the bar must be like on the night of a big game. I'm usually dead against TV and food in the same location, but judging by the amount of Fitzroy FC souvenirs, it would be rude to deny these locals their game.

It was a tough dinner decision from a menu that probably hasn't changed since 1970. I was initially quite taken by the corned beef with mustard sauce, mash and veg ($13/$16) but made a last minute change to an old favorite, veal parma with salad and chips ($13). Why I chose veal, I have no idea as I don't eat it as a general rule and I have my doubts about how ethically produced it might have been - I must have been quite drunk.

Although I only ordered the small size it was still enormous. I ate it all of course (as I said, drunk). I even ate the slice of white baguette that all the meals seemed to come with, which was clearly from Coles and had been spread with margarine. To be honest, I really should have skipped it.

Other menu items were fairly typical pub fare, fish and chips, steak and Guinness pie and a random Thai chicken curry, mostly served with chips and veggies. Jenna (my date) was shocked that the price of the Scotch fillet had gone up. By a whole dollar. And I didn't spot a main over $18. While we were there a few locals wandered in and out returning plates they had taken home the night before and picking up that evening's dinner, walking their plated meals down the street towards home.

The Rose offers nothing special, and that's what makes it so. The food is ridiculously inexpensive, the beer is cold and the carpets worn... and I liked it. Just try not to tell too many people, we wouldn't want them to get all uber-cool and put the prices up.

During the course of the evening, which also featured a few pints of Coopers Pale (bargain priced at $8 each), my dinner date managed to score herself a job here. I haven't touched base with her yet, but I assume her trial shift went well. So if you happen to pop in to The Rose and are served by a gorgeous, red headed, rock and roll looking lass, send her my love. 

The Rose Hotel
406 Napier Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 3626
Kitchen open Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm, Sunday 1pm-3pm

Rose Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lunch in Paris? Oui, s'il vous plaît.

I have this thing about cookbooks without photographs. I hate them. It's almost impossible for me to find cooking inspiration from plain text. Although it turns out, I can find cooking inspiration from plain text if it's prose.

Lunch in Paris is the first novel-cum-cookbook that I have ever read, and I am now open to suggestions on others please. Self described as a "delicious love story, with recipes," Lunch in Paris isn't going to win any awards (it's the literary equivalent of a low budget romantic comedy) but it is a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon.

This autobiographical novel tells of native New Yorker Elizabeth Bard's struggle to adapt with French life after marrying her dream French fellow. It's not as sharp as Sarah Turnbull's Almost French or as witty Paul West's A Year in the Merde but it does offer some lovely insight into the French food scene, painting a beautiful picture of the way French culture revolves around food and drink.

I didn't feel any particular affection for any of the characters, but I wasn't annoyed by them either. It's a fairly surface level tale and in truth I have trouble sympathising with the culture shock of a silver spoon American who's gorgeous new husband is bankrolling her to do very little while living in Paris and swanning about the markets. Although to her credit, she complains infrequently and makes a great effort to assimilate - especially through native cuisine.

The best part was reading the descriptions of decedent French dishes an then discovering the recipe for them only pages later. Sure, this book is definetly light reading, but the meals are described with such passion, and with such detail, that it is easy to feel Bard's affection for the meals she describes.

The recipes presented are conveniently indexed in the back of the novel (which was the deciding factor for me when considering this purchase). Most of the recipes have a French base such as chocolate souffle cake (that Bard eats standing at the kitchen bench in tears with a spoon from the dish - just as I am likely to do), mussels with white wine and fennel or poached cod with wilted leeks and mayonnaise. Although the recipes on offer seem overly simplistic it is their accompanying tales that make the mouth water.

Also, note to self: perfect Mother's Day gift idea.

Lunch in Paris
Elizabeth Bard (Harper Collins)
RRP $35 (but I picked it up from Angus & Robertson in early March on special for $25)
ISBN 978 0 7322 8878 5

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy days

Hobartians, meet Sandy Mart.

Sandy Mart is not open yet, but according to the nice young man who was drilling holes in the wall it should be open in two weeks, or, as he added "when all the work is done." That seems perfectly logical to me.

Sandy Mart is on Elizabeth Street, up the boring end. Just a couple of shops up from Island Espresso and almost exactly across the street from my office. This brings me so much joy, when I noticed the window being signed from across the street I did a happy dance.

People who live in larger cities might not get so excited about a new shop, but here in Hobart we don't have such easy access to Asian ingredients. There is Wing and Co. in Sandy Bay, and the Chinese Emporium in Moonah, but they are both a 15 minute drive from the centre of town. Having access to proper Asian ingredients in my lunch break is going to be excellent.

Now, on my 20 minute walk home from work I pass an Asian grocery, a spice shop, a fishmonger, a green grocer and a butcher, and around the corner from my house is the Italian Pantry. May I never visit another mainstream supermarket again.

Happy days.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dinner at the Hawaii 5-0

Dede Indonesian and Thai is ridiculous in every fashion. From the floral padded wicker chairs to the fake palm trees lit up like Christmas, it is not unlike dining in an episode of Hawaii 5-0 - without the criminal element.

I've always been a big fan of kitch Asian restaurants. As the only kind of Asian food I experienced until I was at least 17-years-old, this style of kitch brings back happy childhood memories of post-good reportcard celebratory family dinners.

If the laminated specials menus were  to be any indication I  was up for an interesting experience, a highly visable experience at that, as our window table was practically flood lit.

The 80s dining theme extended to the wine list which was offering West Coast Coolers for $6.50. Are West Coast Coolers were still available? Or have these ones been sitting in some dark cool-room since before I was born?

The beers were listed as being from "Tasmania" and "Else Where," which I loved, although I was  dissappointed by a complete lack of Tasmanian wines of either white or red varietals. I did however notice a bottle of red with a "Dede" logo on it upon leaving, shuddering at the idea of a small town Indonesian themed restaurant dabbling in the wine business. Although I'm hopeful that the only thing this restaurant had a hand in producing was the label.

As I am unable to go past a dumpling option at any point, the evening began with a serve of  pangsit, fried dumplings of minced pork, prawn and oriental herbs served with sweet chilli ($6.6 for 4) which were crisp, juicy and freshly flash-fried. The accompanying sweet chilli sauce was of the Masterfoods variety, and I do suspect that many a restaurant would fail to function if no pre-made sweet chilli sauce was available for bulk purchase. If the questionable photography on the menu was any indication it was a featured ingredient in almost all of the available entrees and a few mains.

Next up was calamari cooked in coriander, lemongrass, chilli and coconut milk ($20.5). The calamari was possibly, but not likely, fresh although it was a little on the cool side and not particularly spicy,  tasting mostly of coconut milk.

An accompanying bowl of tumeric-stained yellow rice was cold and dry. But at 10pm on a Saturday night it is hard to find a restaurant that is still serving, so this was a fault I could live with. I was not particularly happy about being charged $3.50 for it though - I think that any Asian restaurant pricing it's mains in the $25 range should be factoring the cost of a bowl of rice into the meal.

Look closely at the picture on the left, and tell me what you think does not belong....

Nope. You're not seeing things (apologies for the dodgy iPhone pictures by the way, it was these or nothing). On the right-hand-side of this dish is a pile of potato wedges with sweet chilli sauce drizzled over the top, a particularly unusual sighting in both Indonesian and Thai cuisine (although correct me if I am wrong).

They accompany the skinniest duck of all time - which tasted of chicken wrapped in duck fat and could have benefited greatly from a heaped spoonful of MSG, if this is any indication of how much help it required. A gomi sauce (which tasted like an Asian sweet balsamic) livened things up a bit but this dish was in no way worth it's $25 price tag.

The highlight of this evening for me was not the food, which certainly gave me no reason to return, but every other element of my dining experience. The atmosphere of a restaurant like Dede Indonesian and Thai cannot be created - it just happens. And thus is the basis of it's appeal.

I loved the gaudy wicker chairs, the elevator music, that our sweet little waitress for had probably never worked in a restaurant until very, very recently and the fact that there were banana fritters on the menu alongside fried ice-cream and pineapple. The 80s are not dead, they live on in Hobart and many another Asian restaurants in regional cities or towns. No pretention, no fuss. Not bad.

Dede Indonesian and Thai
369 Elizabeth St
North Hobart TAS 7000
(03) 6231 1068
Open Mon-Sat 5.30-10pm (and oddly enough, open Sunday on Mother's Day)

Friday, March 5, 2010

You can't eat this cheese

This cheese is made with raw milk. Raw milk, that stuff that comes out of a cow (or a sheep, or a goat). Pure, unadulterated fresh milk, natures finest from happy, well loved animals that roam free in paddocks and do as they please. Cheese made by an artisan producer with the highest level of attention to detail, made with passion and skill (in a clean, temperature controlled environment that abides by strict safety standards). Sounds perfect, and it tastes pretty darned amazing as well.

But you can't eat this cheese.

Bacteria they say, raw cheese is packed with the stuff. Bad for you. Nasty bacteria, causes all sorts of problems. Best just to eat uniform cheese that has been mass-produced – that way everyone will be safe from that nasty bacteria.

Well, here's the thing, cheese is made from bacteria, that's what makes cheese, cheese. Otherwise it would just stay in its milky form. And I'm pretty sure human beings have been drinking their milk raw for a lot longer than we've been able to homogenise and pasteurise it for mass consumption. I might be missing something here, but I've no idea what the problem is. If I want to eat this cheese, it's my choice right? Wrong.

The sale of raw milk and cheese made from raw milk is illegal in Australia – with the exception of France's Roquefort cheese, and a couple of other European Swiss varieties: gruyère, emmenthal and sbrinz - all of which are made using unpasteurised milk. But this is import only, Australian producers can't sell their own interpretations of these, or any other cheese for that matter.

Nick Haddow from Bruny Island Cheese Co. has been trying to get permission to sell his raw milk C2 cheese for over 18 months

Slow Food Australia has been calling for an end to the strict, and often politically motivated, scare campaigns and regulations concerning raw milk cheese for some time now:

"A defence of a food that has for hundreds of years inspired, given pleasure and provided sustenance but is now being insidiously undermined by the sterile hand of global hygiene controls."

If you like, you can add your voice to the Slow Food Australia campaign to enable Australian producers to make cheese from raw milk here.

For the personal consumption of the cheese maker only. 

It would be impossible to fully explore the issues surrounding the consumption of raw milk and raw milk cheeses in these few hundred words, but please, if you are interested, go and find out more. Most of us just don't know what we are missing out on, we don't know what real cheese should taste like, smell like, or feel like. Someone sitting in a fancy office is making this decision for us and that's not okay.