Take the slow road to Orange for feasts of the wood-fired kind
THE Slow Food concept has so subtly crept into our thinking about good eating that it doesn’t always get a mention. Top restaurant dishes usually involve traditional methods, and seasonality is the key.
But home cooks sometimes need to rethink approaches to family eating. Homemade doesn’t have to be hard.
Which is why Slow Food organisations, and festivals such as Slow Food Orange in NSW, are important. It’s this mini-festival’s second year and it aims to showcase the good food and wine of the region.
Kim Currie — a chef in another life, she says, and now organiser of Brand Orange for the local vignerons association — tells Food Detective Nashdale Hall will be the centre of events. The hall is a true community focus, with an $8000 wood-fired oven out the back, which was donated to the people of the district by Slow Food Orange.
Slip out there at the Slow Summer Supper ($30; $15 for under 12s) on Sunday, February 10, the last day of the festival, and you will find a clutch of the region’s top chefs gathered around the oven. There’ll be Michael Manners, ex Selkirks, now of Manners & Borg, the Old Convent cafe’s Josie Chapman, Lesley Russell of Orange Regional Cooking School, Currie and others.
Events next Saturday include a farm gate trail to meet growers and taste their produce (9am-midday, $45) and a farmers’ market brunch (10am-midday, $30) at Orange Showground. There will be workshops on ■ WHILE in the district: Michael Manners and Josephine Jagger-Manners at Manners & Borg, hidden away in the Woolworths car park, are doing a busy trade in ready-made meals (up to 26 dishes including tagines, curries, duck legs with honey, dates and almonds), charcuterie such as rillettes, and local butcher Michael Borg’s famed gourmet sausages.
Josephine tells Detective they’re a working kitchen with a tiny shopfront beside the Best & Less loading dock in the car park, at the rear of 166 Summer St. Persistence pays: when you find them, invest in a coffee and homemade cake while you make your choice. Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm; Saturday, 9am-2pm. www.mannersandborg.com. seasonal fruits and on bread and pizza making using that wood-fired oven (handson and bring the kids). February 8-10, event bookings essential, www.slowfoodorange.com; www.tasteorange.com.au. ■ YARRA Valley Victoria’s Grape Grazing Festival launches its 21st year next Saturday and continues with a packed program until February 18.. The traditional Grape Grazing Weekend is on February 16-17. A feast of cellar-door visits, vineyard lunches and dinners, classes and live music will include Kiltynane Estate’s taste of grape-picking and traditional winemaking followed by lunch with chef George Calombaris and sommelier Andrew Philpot from Melbourne’s The Press Club. www.kiltynane.com.au.
There will be Tempranillo and Tapas at Sutherland Estate and, at Killara Estate, gnocchi-making tutorials. On Saturday and Sunday of the final weekend, Melbourne’s Tutto Bene chef Simon Humble will prepare breakfast risotto. Another Melbourne chef, Scott Pickett of The Point, will cook at Acacia Ridge, and the opera-singing cobbler Peter Brocklehurst will become the singing short-order chef as he whips up breakfasts at Five Oaks Vineyard. www.grapegrazing.com.au.
IN plenty of time for a little dual indulgence on Valentine’s Day (February 14), Melbourne’s mecca for discriminating chocolate fiends, Koko Black, is moulding its best couverture into a couple in love ($38.50). Slightly more discreet, Koko’s chocolate heart boxes come in three sizes, packed with handmade Belgian chocolates ($15.50, $38.50, $50).
And visit a Koko Black salon with your significant other on Valentine’s Day for a treat times two: hot and iced chocolates, chocolate mousse, ice-cream martinis and Belgian Spoils ($22-$26.50). www.kokoblack.com
MEANWHILE, Detective is fascinated to see what constitutes sex and the kitchen. The flurry of Valentine’s Day menus clogging up her email arteries almost invariably include oysters, strawberries and chocolate (often Valrhona). The next most common appearances, moving the menus up a few notches, are lobster, duck confit, and more Valrhona.
Meyjitte Boughenout’s temple to decadence, Absynthe (makes the heart grow fonder; it’s their joke, not Detective’s), leads the pack on the Gold Coast, with a menu that includes lobster ravioli and lamb loin wrapped in basil mousse with truffle potato; and there is, of course, chocolate. $185 a person or $215 with matched wines. (07) 5504 6466; www.absynthe.com.au.
Calombaris will pay homage to Aphrodite at The Press Club on the 14th with such Greek delicacies as crayfish and lemon ladyfingers with avgolemono (egg and lemon soup) and poached apple egg, or skordalia-crusted half-shell scallops, in a four-course menu (there is lamb from the rotisserie), with a welcome glass of champagne. $165 a head (limited places remain). www.thepressclub.com.au.
Luke Mangan’s Glass brasserie in Sydney has a $120 a head five-course menu that includes yabby salad and lamb rack (lamb’s another favourite), with some surprising accompaniments. And chocolate. www.glassbrasseries.com.au.
But no one surprises like Chris Manfield at Sydney’s Universal, even though her centrepiece dish, ‘‘ breasts, legs and pink bits’’, does involve duck. Set price for four tastes from the menu, $110, food only; $25 for each extra taste. www.universalrestaurant.com. ■ LANCE Seeto has moved from his post as executive sous-chef for Voyages Ayers Rock Resort in Central Australia to become executive chef at Far North Queensland’s Rydges Sabaya Resort, Port Douglas. Before his stint at Voyages, Seeto was sous-chef and resort manager at Cable Beach Resort in Broome, Western Australia.
Seeto, whose family’s Wing Wah Asian Food Emporium was a pioneer of Asian goods in Melbourne in the 1970s, is excited about the diversity and uniqueness of the local produce at Port Douglas and says he is taking his chefs on discovery tours to suppliers and growers in the region. www.rydges.com/portdouglas. ■ THOSE intrepid globetrotters Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne have places left on their Globetrotting Gourmet Tastings tour of Thailand, March 6-16, with a Burma Tastings extension, March 17-22. There are masterclasses, markets and meals galore. www.asianfoodtours.com; www.globetrottinggourmet.com. ■ FIND of the week: FeastBazaar by Barry Vera (Murdoch Books, $39.95), a cookbook full of evocative and sometimes surprising dishes from India (vanilla lassi with rosewater), Morocco (duck and peach tagine, apple and fig bastilla) and Syria (oysters with pomegranates). Vera is an English-born, French-trained chef and this book follows his television programs Feast India and FeastBazaar. The book refuses to lie flat while open (which Detective loathes), but you could anchor it with a tagine. ■ DETECTIVE loves: This Sunday’s episode of RickStein’sMediterraneanEscape, in which the popular seafood chef lands on the Greek island of Corfu and joins a family feast. LifeStyle Channel, 7.30pm. ■ DETECTIVE loathes: Restaurants with kerbside tables on unswept and unwashed footpaths. Overseas travellers will be familiar with the sight of restaurant staff meticulously maintaining their front of house, whereas Detective regularly passes local restaurant tables set on pavements that would put discriminating diners off their meal. You know who you are.