Food News, December 8, 2011

December 2011

 

One door closes...

Those of you who joined me in sadness at the closing of the Torres Spanish Deli in Liverpool Street — just walking past, the smell took you back to Madrid — will be delighted with Encasa Deli (135 Bathurst Street, Ph 9283 4277). Yep, the same name as the restaurant in Pitt Street, brainchild of the owner and chef, Pachi Rodriguez. If you know the restaurant you’ll recognise the giant tile mural of the smiling blonde with the steak. So what’s here? Everything. Jamónes hanging over the counter just like in the old country, butifarra, lomo, sobrasada — and if you don’t know what they are, there’s a big board with translations of all these and other Spanish food terms.

There are crusty bocadillos (rolls) with jamón, calamari, sobrasada or a pepito — fillet steak with fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato and alioli; cheese — manchego, valdeon, tetilla; arroz bomba (paella rice) from Calasparra; and for Christmas, all the turrones and the best polvodores I’ve ever tried — La Estapeña brand. And here’s a first for a Spanish deli: good coffee! From Colombia. And a good selection of South American foods. As soon as the licence comes through, there’ll be wine by the glass or bottle. I was there the day before it opened and a steady stream of people stopped and asked, “When do you open?” Buena suerte, Pachi. And good luck also for all of us Spanish food lovers in Sydney. 

 

The pizza The King ate 

Some of you — the diehards, the blue suede shoe wearers, those still with a pompadour and quiff — will know that January 8, 2012, would have been Elvis Presley’s 77th birthday. To celebrate this occasion, Eat Love Pizza (ground floor, Imax Theatre Darling Harbour, Ph 8267 3666) is hosting a party at which Elvis impersonator Chris Drummond will be twitching and singing in the style of E the P himself. And there will be pizza: The King main pizza and Priscilla dessert pizza — but not Elvis’s favourite, Coletta’s BBQ Pizza. How do I know this? Because I own a copy of The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley by David Adler (Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1993) and the recipe and story are on pages 94 to 97.

Coletta’s Italian Restaurant, it tells us, was — and still is — on South Parkway in Memphis. And Elvis liked the pizza so much he had a charge account; he would order two or three at a time and ‘Cilla had to pick them up. So how’s Coletta’s faring today? Not so well, according to one online review: “This joint needs Botox,” it begins, and goes on: “BBQ pizza horrible.” But maybe it always was. When you read the ingredients — which include Wisconsin processed cheese, granulated garlic, sugar and chopped pork shoulder — you do understand why the poor man left the room so prematurely. Probably a good thing they’re not serving it. Mr Drummond will be Hound Dogging and Heartbreak Hoteling from 6pm to 9pm on the night of Elvis’s birthday.

 

Get a group

I’m finding it hard to explain just what the services offered by More the Merrier are. What would you call a place that will arrange a Botox Brunch for six, which includes 10 units of Botox at a cosmedic medical clinic, and brunch or lunch at your choice of restaurants, including wine or sparkling? Or a Booby Barbecue for a bunch of blokes where apron-clad (or topless for a little more) waitresses will cook up the grub and serve it up hot? Or how about you get your group together for a Love Rouge Burlesque where you’ll learn to peel, grind and shake over a champagne cocktail leading up to a feathered fan dance finale?

Quite frankly, MTM is so clever, so different, it’s doing my head in. How did it start? Zae Greenwood, who used to be an event manager in London teamed up with Christopher Dair, who toured in musicals as a dancer. It’s Dair’s idea. “He was constantly having to organise get-togethers for cast members and he noticed a lack of organisation and a lack of unique ideas.” Gap filled. You can go to the website and buy one of the packages or you can use the concierge service to organise a “bespoke event to your brief”. But wait — there’s more. There’s a voting tool on the website and, once you’ve got a short list of events, put them out to your group, and they can vote for the favourite. MTM has arrangements with restaurants such as Zushi, Cotton Duck, Agape, Becasse ... see what I mean? How about a pop-up picnic — you choose the spot; they provide the food. Go to morethemerrier.com.au — but give yourself plenty of time. There’s a lot to see and do.

 

News flash: Aussie Blue Goes Gold

I’ve always said it, now it’s official: Australian blue cheeses are up there with the world’s best. This November just past, there were 2,600 entries in the World Cheese Awards held by the Guild of Fine Foods in the UK, and Milawa Blue won a gold medal. Congratulations to the team at Milawa, cheese maker Steve Russell and Big Cheese David Brown who, typically, was pretty low key about the whole thing. “We did good,” was his comment. Bloody good. When I told Brown that the Champion Cheese of the show was Cornish Blue he said “that’s a copy of Milawa Blue — my cousin Richard Pope came for visit, took the specifications for Milawa Blue back to England and made Cornish Blue — so we won twice!”

 

Feliz navedad

It’s how you say Merry Christmas in Spain, and, I assume, Peru (I’ve never been there) and an introduction to a novel way of celebrating this year, at Morena (15/245 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, Ph 0405 902 896) where Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia is putting on a Christmas Feast Menu for just $70 a head. And when I say “just”, when you see the menu you’ll know what I mean. There’s not room for the whole enchilada but there’ll be cassava and manchego cheese croquettes, South American-style roasted turkey, caramelised sweet potatoes, spit-roasted suckling pig and tres leches cake to finish. Morena will be closed December 24 and 26 but is taking bookings till then and on Christmas day. Feliz navedad indeed.

 

Sydney gets truckin’

But not yet. The Food Truck thing has been around for a long time in America, especially LA and New York — there’s even Vendy Awards in New York for street food. There are food truck businesses with names like Nom Nom, Nice Dumplings and the Treats Truck. These aren’t your average “roach coaches”, as one American journalist puts it, but gourmet food trucks. Where do we stand in Sydney? By the time you read this, expressions of interest will have been received and closed, and the process of selection of the right people for the trial will have begun. But as the City’s Rohan Sullivan told us, “This will take some time, as technical aspects such as a business plan, regulatory compliance, OH&S etc have to be examined as well as the food concept of the business. But it will get underway as soon as the EOI period ends.” Hmmm. Any heads-up on the quality of the applicants, Rohan? “Sorry, not until the EOI has closed.” Sure, we’re getting food trucks, but don’t hold your hunger.

 

A honey of a gift idea

Stephen and Genevieve Craig are Blue Mountains Honey. And what they don’t know about honey and bees doesn’t matter. Now, honey is a marvellous food and their honey, gathered from in and around the Blue Mountains, Penrith Valley and tablelands areas, and the varieties change with the seasons. It’s filtered once but not heat-treated (unlike most supermarket honeys) so it may candy, but it won’t last that long — it’ll be eaten long before that. You can see it on display and buy it at The Honey Shed (Luddenham, Ph 4773 2745 www.bluemountainshoney.com.au). And here’s the idea: honey for Christmas presents. Drive up to Luddenham and get a bottle for Aunt Gladys, another for Cousin Bertie, one for Mavis and two for Cheryl because she’s been so good this year. Everybody’s happy and you haven’t spent a fortune. Sweet.

 

Nothing sweeter than granita

Another sweet treat has hit Sydney: Sicilian granita at — naturally enough — Caffe Sicilia (628 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Ph 9699 8787). They’ve scored the only Carpigiani Maestro granita and gelato making machine in Australia, and pastry chef Giovanni Pistritto, who learnt the cool art of granita in southern Sicily, fired it up at the beginning of December, churning out chocolate, coffee, strawberry and almond flavours. Some of you might be asking what’s granita? The easiest way of explaining it is that it’s sort of a sophisticated Sicilian slushy, only more so, and it’s the ideal cooling dessert on a blasting hot day. In Sicily they have it with a freshly baked brioche bun for breakfast — coffee flavoured with whipped cream is the way to go. Now, if we all get ourselves to Caffe Sicilia and start sipping on granita, maybe the weather will get the hint and start to become summer.

 

A hamper from Henry

If I was a very rich writer, I’d buy all my clothes from Henry Bucks — as it is, I’m wearing an HB T-shirt. But come Christmas, they have terrific and not unreasonably priced gifts. This year, their hampers start at $69.50 and soar to $500. Other good gift ideas include a set of retro cookie cutters $35; or a stainless-steel Indian salad/fruit salad bowl $37.50. Drop in at their stores — you’ll find the addresses and the Christmas catalogue at henrybucks.com.au.

 

Red-hot news from Sichuan

Remember, you read it here first. The City of Sydney is bringing out five Sichuan chefs from the capital Chengdu for Chinese New Year celebrations. They’ll be cooking at the Chinese New Year Market in Belmore Park (between Eddy Avenue and Pitt Street) from Friday January 20 to Sunday January 22. On the Friday it’s from 4pm to 10pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 10pm.

And while we’re on Chinese New Year, and utterly shamelessly, let me promote the Chinatown Food Tours I’ll be conducting for the City of Sydney with my good friend Raymond Leung on Saturday January 21, Saturday January 4 and Wednesday February 1. To book, phone 9265 9333, email chinesenewyear@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au or go to sydneychinesenewyear.com — details on the City of Sydney site after December 19. There’ll be a northern Chinese breakfast, a yum cha lunch and a behind-the-scenes look at this fascinating part of our city. 

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