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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Salted Vue

It was a typical tuesday. Kitchenslut was aimlessly sauntering along Shields St contemplating his liquidity/sweat ratio when the mobile went off. It was, yet again, a glamorous woman in distress! She had been shamelessly stood up on a business luncheon and required urgent company at Salted Vue.

However, before I had a chance to expand on the experience it turns out that Salted Vue apparently closed at new year. The line apparently is that it may reopen at another venue at some time however given the flux and uncertainty within the local dining scene at the moment, who knows?

It will be missed by many admirers and had seemed to be doing good local business with its set price menu deals. The food was also interesting and good quality, at least on the day I was there.
Oh well, another one bites the dust?

Update: There has also been some conjecture on the future of Chocolat downstairs from Salted Vue in the Mantra, and apparently under the same ownership. We have previously reviewed this very positively and will watch with interest.







Friday, 5 December 2008

Anise in Brisbane

The return from a southern sojourn into the cold recessed economic wastelands of NSW threw up the chance for a stopover in the state capital on the return journey. Anise was a welcome experience.



And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Credit Crisis Christmas Menu

Cassandra does Tokyo has compiled a special credit crisis Christmas menu amongst her examination of surreality in equity markets to celebrate one of the more memorable years of financial history .... although you may need to be a financial markets tragic for full appreciation!

That Credit Crisis Xmas Menu (in full)
* * * *



Aperitifs



Post Millennial NV Bubbly

Chateau Kerviel, Cremant de Bourgogne

Brazilian Blood-Orange Emerging Market Caprinha

Crunchy Xmas Punch (Vodka + Kool-Aid)



* * * *



First Course



Sashimi Fillet of Quant Arbitrageur

Northern Rockfish Fricasee

Grilled-Icelandic Shrimp Cocktail

Swiss [Bank] Mini-Fondue



* * * *



Intermezzo


Short-Squeezed Lemon-Lime Sorbet


* * * *


Main Course



Corn-Fed Not-So-Prime Sirloin Roast

TARPfish Brochettes (avec sauce surprise)

HF Manager's Po' Boy Special (with redemption sauce)

Mrs Watanabe's "Inside-Out" Carry-Trade Dragon Rolls (ZIRP filling)

Lehman-AIG Surf-n-Turf



served with...



Fully-Coupled Asian Mercantile Gratin

Julienne of Private Equity & Emerging Markets

Roasted Commodities of the Day (halved or quartered)



* * * *



Dessert



Congressional Oversight Pudding

Destagflationary Tarte w/creme anglaise

Crepes Distressee

Unemployment Souffle



* * * *



Cioffi & T+1

Petits Two's

Monday, 27 October 2008

As you like it?

Its on The Esplanade. It's a buffet. I went there for lunch.

It's slop. That's all there is to say. Just slop.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Cuisine & Country

For lovers of both food and art comes Cuisine and Country: A gastronomic venture in Australian art, opening at the Cairns Regional Gallery on August 1:

"Conceived and assembled by idependent curator Gavin Wilson, Cuisine & Country is the first major touring exhibition based on work inspired by food - related matters. Food is absolutely essential to our existence, and, as this exhibition demonstrates, its involvement with art is a serious and beautiful conjunction. Among the artists on display are: Margaret Preston; John Olsen; William Dobell; Herbert Badham; Brett Whiteley; Yirawala; Fred Williams; Emily Kngwarreye; Cressida Campbell; Jeff Carter, Yvonne Koolmatrie; Anne Zahalka; Kerry Trapnell; Ivan Durrant; Garry Shead; David Keeling; Euan MacLeod; Ben Quilty; Julie Poulsen and Ray Crooke.
In all, the exhibition consists of over 90 works by 50 artists – historic, modernist and contemporary, that includes paintings, graphics, photography and sculptural installations drawn from the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the State Library of New South Wales and other major collections. A diverse collection of indigenous works adds to the intriguing narrative that recognises the age-old engagement with country as a vital food resource in wild and remote regions.
The exhibition examines the long standing relationship of art to food in Australia, from prehistoric times to the present.
The cohesive element in Cuisine & Country is the fact that food is an almost boundless source of inspiration – relishing produce, preparing a meal, sharing a meal (or not), a picnic, a camp site, slow food, fast food, drinking and feasting. Along with this fine body of work comes an atmosphere of conviviality – an ideal catalyst for stimulating conversation."

Friday, 4 July 2008

Flaming Lamborghini...! Could somebody get me a decent martini!??

OK have been so jetlaggingly slack since return but 'So, wot's for dinner' has chimed in nicely to compensate for my torpor after a recent outing to the new Bushfire Grill. Read on to discover if the Brazilian inspired BBQ lives up to the hype...


LENDING heavily on the nostalgia of Dorothy McKellar’s classic poem “I love a sunburnt country”, the new Bushfire Flamegrill at the Pacific International on the Cairns Esplanade successfully combines the great barbecuing tradition of both Australia and Brazil.



I love a sunburnt country, too, but I also love a good bloody cocktail, preferably in a salubrious setting exuding sophistication and style. But sadly, our search for the elusive perfect cocktail bar continues after a fruitless outing to the Sugarcane Rhumbar which adjoins Bushfire.

There is no doubt the contemporary feel of the restaurant along with the novelty of its woodfired churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) is a welcome addition to the Cairns dining experience. Unfortunately, Sugarcane Rhumbar requires a complete re-think to avoid becoming the latest in a long line to sink without trace into cocktail bar oblivion.

In stark contrast to the marketing which promises “an Australian bar with personality”, Sugarcane Rhumbar is at risk of having no personality at all. The space is all wrong and looks more like a hotel lobby than a lounge (probably because it is). No music, no ambience... just a 32 inch widescreen television in the background playing Harvey Norman ads, mercifully with the volume turned down. We stood around at the bar (there were no stools) waiting... waiting... waiting for our pre-dinner drinks to be made. By the time that happened our group had been seated at a table in the restaurant. I admit their arrival did make an impression – the presentation in variously and oddly shaped glasses was unique if not a little impractical for the poor waitress.

At $12.50 each, the cocktails were reasonably priced. Of our selection, the Passionfruit Mojito was the best pick followed closely by the Brandy Alexander which my partner savoured, concluding “it could have been dessert”. But the Cosmopolitan was sickly sweet and more like raspberry cordial than an edgy cocktail and the so-called signature Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha also failed to meet expectations.

I applaud the adventurous use of locally and regionally inspired flavours such as Gagarra honey, fresh sugar cane, ginger, coffee and tropical fruit but these need to be displayed and sold more enthusiastically by a bartender with flare. I am not sure how many Japanese visitors to our city would know what a ‘quandong’ or ‘mangosteen’ actually was – let alone appreciate it in a drink. The same might be said for many locals.

Our disappointment at the cocktail bar was quickly overcome by the wafting aroma of barbecued meat and the visually pleasing aesthetics of the restaurant which gave us hope our evening could still be salvaged. After an inspection of the menu and an explanation from our waiter, the consensus was to try the Brazilian inspired churrasco – the house specialty. Judging from the number of other patrons in the fully-booked restaurant doing the same, it appeared to be a popular choice. No carnivore need go hungry at Bushfire, with other equally tempting barbecue options on offer.

A selection of ironbark woodfired steaks and ishiyaki steaks cooked on a volcanic hot rock in front of you (starting at $36 and increasing depending on accompaniments of prawns and Tasmanian salmon) offered the best cuts of perfectly aged beef from Queensland and the Northern Territory, for a price (costing around the $38 to $40 mark). Barramundi and Reef fish, line caught in our pristine North Queensland waters, demonstrated the restaurant’s commitment to serving the freshest seafood while supporting sustainable, local fisheries. If only more restaurants in this town shared the same refreshing philosophy.

For those who cannot resist the idea of a waiter coming to your table to carve off chunks of tender meat grilled to your specification, the churrasco really is a site to behold. Served “Rodizio” style, this cooking method and service emanates from 18th Century traditions of the Gauchos – South American cowboys. It has been adopted by Bushfire and served by Aussie-themed “Jackaroos” and “Jillaroos”, although our delightful “Jackaroo” had a distinctly Irish accent. We ate to our hearts content from the long swords of Australian beef, pork, lamb, ribs and chicken, all seasoned or marinated in their own individual style, basted and roasted over a pit of hot coals and served with bottomless pots of broccoli mornay, roast potatoes, salad and mussels, and tasty pesto and pepper sauces. Although I initially balked at the hefty prices, I must admit it was value for money, especially for those with a healthy appetite.

The evening concluded, unfortunately, with another ordinary round of drinks – not cocktails this time – from the bar which put a bit of a dampener on an otherwise interesting and enjoyable dining experience.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

travelling temptations

The kitchenslut is currently wandering around the declining cultural wastelands of the northern hemisphere and while its a looooong way from Cairns we will jot some notes and maybe update as we go on the culinary highlights .....

1) The Neal's Yard Dairy cheese shop in Soho is brilliant iwth an eclectic selection of English farm produce cheeses. I posted in a rush on this a few days ago over at the comments on Mungalli Farm. So I wont repeat myself other than to emphasise this is not to be missed by any desciples of fromage!!

2) After procuring your rare designer cheese wander just a few streets away for some Coffee, Cake & Kink! Here you can enjoy tasty treats and fine coffee while you browse the latest trends in some very artistic ceramic sex toy design, or only the best quality whips and feathers . Or savour your espresso while perusing the latest in erotic literature. A great place perhaps for a girls morning coffee?!

3) Ok, if you haven't coped with that last one maybe this will bring your head back into equilibrium? I haven't actually been inisde because 'Garlic and Shots' in Soho is only open in the evening and I wandered by in the morning on a London Walk tour of the area and it was recommended by the guide. This is a speciality shop in Frith St for all things garlic. If your are so inclined, you and your lover can even do a late night garlic icecream after a night out to fuel your passion!!

4) Fish & Chips is an English speciality and surprisingly given our many British tourists i'm not sure we have any outstanding specialist fish'n'chippery in Cairns to match the better Pommy establishments?? Near Covent Garden, the 'Rock & Sole Place' lives up to the traditional image, including optional mushy peas. Although it's somewhat disturbing to be joined at the table by some local lads intent on a simple diet of just chips n mushy peas ..... hmmm i'm just a visitor, whats their excuse for the mushy peas I wonder?

5) Cornwall is a great experience for simple good local seafood, local farm produce .... and veges!! They are damned proud of their local fresh produce and never miss an opportunity to spruik it. Without doubt the best veges I have ever had (sorry mum) were consistently in Cornwall every night at the Dolphin Inn pub, and Sophia's in Penzance, and the Old Coastguard Hotel in Mousehole (pronounced mowsell). Cauliflower, asparagus, potato ..... simply steamed but perfectly exceptional ..... mmmmm!!

Best meal so far in the UK at Sophia's on the Promenade in Penzance. Langoustines (or Norway lobsters) in a light bisquey sauce to start, small crayfish about the size of redclaw. Local beef in makeson stout with horseradish mash ..... and those veges ..... simple but superb!

6) The Pump Room in Bath. The food was fine and cultivated, as was to be expected. But the attraction here is the ambience. A room with fantastic English atmosphere within the Roman Baths buildings and a pianist accompanied by cello and violin in the heart of the 'Venice of Britain' .... throw in some good company, a bottle of wine, and typical English drizzle fogging the windows for a very memorable lunch. And the option of a glass of genuine warm Bath water at the end of your meal :-/

To be continued .......



Monday, 26 May 2008

King Bladud's Pigs

In a more interesting public art concept the streets of Bath are home to a colourful herd of 100 pigs this summer. King Bladud's Pigs decorate the streets and nearby villages. There is even a flying pig in a tree. Bladud is claimed to be the founder of Bath, famous for its preserved Roman bath, after he recognised the beneficial effects of the muddy spring fed bog land on his pigs and was so cured of leprosy by the spa water.
The pigs have all been painted by different artists, they are all named and can be sponsored by local groups. After the summer the pigs will be auctioned for charity. Certainly a different concept than the usually less than inspiring public art around, and maybe an idea that we could adapt in Cairns to a relevant theme?



Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Unbeaten bush track reveals rainforest oasis only 40 minutes from Cairns

EVER driven past a sign on the road but never taken the time to find out where it may lead; then when you finally do, you wonder why you left it so long to satisfy your curiosity?

Getting to the Cedar Park Rainforest Resort, 12 kilometres west of Kuranda, is only part of the adventure. Turn left off the Kennedy Highway just a few hundred metres past the Koah service station (30 minutes from Cairns), then follow the sealed road until arriving at a fork at which point you veer left and continue carefully along a winding, unsealed road. Just as that seed of doubt starts creeping into your mind, a makeshift sign appears from the edge of the dense forest reassuring the driver and his/her passengers ‘YOU ARE NOT LOST… yet!’ After several more kilometres of track, precarious corners and humorous directional signs, you drive through the gates of the luscious grounds and proceed to the well-signed car park and reception area.

Having not read or heard a thing about Cedar Park, nothing prepared me for the curious assault on my senses of walking through the front door not completely sure if I had entered a monastery, much less a resort. Within the first 60 seconds a visitor can become immersed in the eclectic furnishings – an impressive stone sculpture of the ‘hand of Buddha’, a collection of Papuan New Guinean artifacts, dour European portraits, indigenous rock art, classic outback scenes framed in recycled timber, some handmade jewellery on display for sale, a fireplace and bookshelf… and that’s all before being seated in the restaurant! The somewhat schizophrenic architectural style featuring low, timber arched doorways and a patchwork of stone masonry, bricks and timber, is apparently the legacy of a previous owner whose protracted and unorthodox building techniques were renowned to locals.

Situated on a large timber decking with a rainforest backdrop, the restaurant’s natural surrounds and simplicity give an immediate sense of peace and intimacy. Nothing is overstated. It is a bit like sitting down to a laidback picnic with friends complete with a white linen tablecloth and five-star service. Our host managed the floor impeccably, efficiently attending to drinks, orders and serving of meals almost single-handedly with brief glimpses of the ‘celebrity’ chefs, Christophe Huber (formerly owner of Atlantis Restaurant at Trinity Beach) and Markus Ryf (formerly of Sebel Reef House at Palm Cove and Thala Beach Lodge at Port Douglas), who emerged occasionally from the busy kitchen to deposit their culinary creations.

Obviously the rationale is to provide a limited selection of meals done exceptionally well. The paperbark menus offer a choice of five a la carte main courses, with several lighter lunch options for less than $20. The presentation and quality of the meals were excellent and drew not a single negative comment from our party of seven. The Atlantic Salmon ‘Mother’s Day special’ was served perfectly medium rare offset with a visually appealing saffron sauce and tasty risotto cake; the prime rib eye fillet steak ($29.50) was cooked well done (tragically) with no blood in sight as requested with lashings of garlic mash; the Thai green curry, both vegetable ($19.50) and seafood ($22.50) versions, had just the right amount of bite; and the herb-crusted barramundi topped with prawns on a champagne sauce, steamed vegetables and jasmine rice was delicious and very reasonably priced at $26.50.

Before the arrival of our meals, we had time to enjoy a drink and a short walk along the banks of a nearby running creek and rock pool which made me instantly regret not bringing my swimming togs (although I revised that opinion after plunging both feet into the icy water). I walked barefoot back to the restaurant and remained without shoes for the rest of our meal such was the relaxed vibe of the place. During our stay I noticed other guests wandering freely around the grounds and was impressed by the easy way the place seemed to operate. A glance at the visitor’s book on a nearby coffee table gave me an insight to the experience of others, mainly international tourists, and their delight at discovering Cedar Park and all it offered. Good food, hospitable service, relaxed privacy, native fauna and flora in a wonderful and accessible setting. As one guest put it: “Who needs Bird World when you wake up to the sound of nature all around?”

Our family thoroughly enjoyed the Cedar Park experience. We departed resolving to return for a more thorough exploration of the rainforest walks, swimming hole and other natural delights on offer. The moral of our story: sometimes in life you need to choose the path less traveled. Next time you pass a sign on the highway that stimulates your curiosity, turn around, go back and you may just discover a hidden gem you will cherish forever.

Cedar Park Rainforest Resort is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; and 7 days to guests who can stay in one of six individually themed rooms, described accurately on the website as “an interesting experience not found anywhere else” for $125 (single)/$155 (twin double). Go to http://www.cedarparkresort.com.au/ or phone & fax (07) 4093 7892.

Friday, 9 May 2008

eBar revisited

The usual evening walk along The Esplanade was yet again interrupted on a friday by the live blues at eBar ..... which is the front balcony of the Tradewinds. We have posted on this before when Rydges first started trying different formats at the long neglected Esplanade frontage.

Good on Rydges for trying different formats, and I was disappointed when they gave away the wok stir fry format after our first post. There were other ideas trialled such as a gourmet hot dog's. Any new format needs to be given a decent go and it was good to see the wok back on the Tradewinds balcony again tonight after a long hiatus!

The range wasn't quite as wide as the previous post, just beef or chicken with 2 choices of noodle, and now in a cardboard container ...... but the fresh wok smell on the balcony was just too much to resist and lured me in from the boardwalk. Fresh, tasty with the blues pumping away in the background for atmosphere on a fine night.

Check whats on as it can vary, and as before with the first post on this location give this a go, maybe the best friday after work option around and Cairns needs to give this kind of thing a decent go and let it work!

12BC (Bar & Cafe) in City Place well recommended

Thank you "anonomous" for your helpful referal to try 12BC on the corner of Lake and Shield Sts under the Cairns Historical Society at City Place... I was whinging about bad coffee shop service and you recommended giving these guys a try...

Took the same out-of-town time-poor friend there for coffee today and the service was fast, friendly and helpful. The coffee was good and my friend's ham cheese and tomato toasted panini came out quickly and was the right antidote to a missed breakfast.

We sat in the sunshine at their outdoor tables, enjoyed the autumn day and the free live entertainment under the 'mushroom', and caught up on all the news. Isn't that what coffee shops are for...

Would recommend 12BC, give them a go.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Laidback ‘Lillypad’ leapfrogs into the night

The discovery of nocturnal life along the left bank of Grafton St by contributor "So, wot's for dinner" didn't last. This is sad as the Lilypad by night provided the kind of ambience, experience and diversty badly needed in Cairns. However, Lilypad continues as a favorite place to linger for a healthy breakfast, brunch, or lunch ........


WHEN the lights go down, the Lillypad Cafe beats to the sound of a different drum… or should I say piano?? Yes, the boldly coloured walls and eclectic array of original local art remain the same, but the soft lighting, live jazz and table service make for a new dining experience. With the usual frenetic activity of the kitchen discreetly screened from public view, comfortable couches squeezed in among the regular tables and the piano player cranking out tunes, the space has been transformed in a subtle way that is familiar yet different.
For Lillypad regulars familiar with the routine of a lazy brunch and reading the Saturday newspapers after stocking up on fresh fruit & veggies at Rusty’s, prepare to be surprised by the Lilypad’s foray into the twilight set and beyond. While those who avoid Grafton Street like the plague when the markets are on, may find the allure of the Lillypad by night a more tempting proposition.

Take for instance the Lillypad’s adventurous approach to its evening menu in which it offers twice as many entrée options (9) as main meals (5). This will be welcomed by anyone like myself who struggles to limit themselves to just a single item when it is time to order. Usually I overcome this dilemma by insisting my dining companions share but now the Lilypad has the ultimate compromise. Order any 3 entrée items for $18. Or else if your appetite demands a more substantial meal, options for mains range from $18 to $26 and cover all the bases… just… with marinated lamb, grilled garlic quail, pan-fried Atlantic salmon, sirloin steak, pasta and baby spinach salad. Simple but original appetizers of Borsch (beetroot) soup ($10), Cheese Platter for 2 and Trio of dips ($18) are available until 11pm and would serve as ideal gap fillers before or after a show.

Our group of 4 was seated out front and perused the wine list provided promptly by our friendly waitress, Nina. Any disappointment at the unavailability of the Jindalee Sauvignon Blanc ($22) was quickly overcome when Nina offered the Twin Islands ($36) as an alternative at no extra cost. Apart from the obvious satisfaction of being upgraded to a more expensive wine, we were delighted to find a waitress who anticipated the problem and offered a solution rather than putting the onus back on us to make another selection.

Back to the menu and three of us opted for the entrée deal which meant ordering one of everything on the menu (I’ve always wanted to do that!) and gave each of us three different taste sensations for the price of one meal. Highlights included the moist Oven Baked Mushrooms stuffed with couscous blended with creamy blue cheese; Lamb marinated in Mediterranean spices described as “subtle but strong enough to know it is there”; Spiced Prawns with a Louisiana cocktail sauce; tempting Georgian-style quail with “not too many bones” and Oysters Natural (3) with spicy coriander salsa on the side cleverly served in scooped out tomato halves.

The fourth member of our group chose the Vegan Lasagne ($19), a piping hot serving of al dente pasta sheets layered with sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini and spinach, in a portion so generous at least half went home in a much appreciated ‘doggy bag’. Although it was a little odd the Lilypad offered only one vegetarian meal (apart from the soup & salad), this dish would satisfy the most discerning vegan, not to mention carnivore.

The meals were rather slow to emerge from the kitchen – we figured we tested the chef with our wide selection – but again the waitress was attentive and handled the situation well.

On this occasion our group forewent dessert which meant the four of us dined for under $100, including a bottle of wine. The tempting dessert selection must have made an impression because the very next day my partner and I found ourselves in town unexpectedly early for a movie and decided to return to sample what we had missed.

A slab of lemon meringue pie and an enormous piece of berry and vanilla cheesecake served with cream and fresh sprigs of mint accompanied by hot, strong macchiato provided the perfect prelude to our movie; at $12 each it was at the higher end of the scale for dessert but the quality and quantity of the serving made it justified. In hindsight, we could easily have shared… but I am glad we didn’t!

The Lillypad Cafe by night offers a welcome addition to the emerging Grafton Street dining precinct. At a time when this town is aching for more sophisticated evening venues in contrast to the proliferation of noisy clubs, titty bars and 2 for 1 drink promotions, I for one hope it is an experiment that works.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Caffeine fix hits the spot

Continuing my series of experiences over last weekend as I journeyed to Undara's Outback Country Rock and Blues... I stopped at Mareeba Coffee Works on my way home after two very late nights to recharge my batteries before tackling that last hour down the Kuranda range to home...

I don't know if it was that I was tired and in need, or if the coffee really was that good...but I have to say the flat white ($3.50) I had at Coffee Works was one of the best I can remember in a long time (from any venue). Piping hot, strong Black Mountain beans, with a lovely fine crem'a - not too thick - coating my lip as I sipped. One of the great advantages to coffee here is that the beans truly are roasted daily. And this adds so much to the flavour - roasted, ground and brewed within hours - heaven.

I found the service very friendly and helpful while still being relaxed and unobtrusive. Their cafe manager Leisa is a wonderful asset and I see so much of her personality reflected in the service style. They also serve scarily large serves of incredibley calorie-laden cakes ($5-$8) and healthy lunch options to balance the intake ($8-$15).

The stop off ended up being quite an investment as I was attracted like an iron filing to a magnet to the Chocolate Works. The chocolate here is not your usual run-of-the-mill experience. Chilli chocolate, kafir lime and black pepper chocolate, lemon myrtle chocolate... along with more usual combinations like ginger, macadamia and coffee-infused chocolate. The lemon myrtle has been a favourite of mine and my son's for some time so of course that came home. I popped a bag of chilli chocolate in for my best mate who has lamented the loss of chilli Tim Tams; and I took a gamble and picked up the lime and pepper combination (yet to be tried - you'll have to wait on the review of that one...). They have a great deal - buy four bags of chocolate and get the fifth free. As all the bags are $6 this gives you a 20% discount and makes it seem less scary at the cash register.

I also topped up my coffee liqueur stock (both 18% & 22% alcohol available) at $39.95 per bottle. This is great on ice cream for an adult dessert or served in a red wine glass late at night around the campfire (trust me I've done it, and NO hangover the day after).

I usually get my coffee and liqueur at Rusty's Market on a Friday but having been west on Friday this was the perfect way to overcome the shortage I knew was waiting for me at home. And the chocolate was a bonus.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Bush Breakie at the Ringer's Camp

A trip to Undara Experience (275km SW Cairns on the Savannah Way) would not be complete without joining Kay and Stevo for breakfast ($22) round the campfire at the Ringer's Camp. No electricity here...bacon, eggs, beans and fresh tomatoes cooked on the BBQ with fresh brewed coffee and billy tea from the open fire. My absolute favourite is cooking my toast from a hand-made toasting fork over the hot coals - there is nothing better - soft fresh bread on the inside with crispy toasted outside and the permeating taste of wood smoke. Then slather said hot toast with butter and vegemite. Devine! Just like I remember breakfast at my Aunt's cooked on the Arga...

I had made the trip to Undara to enjoy their Outback Country Rock and Blues event. Camping in the Safari Shelter ($18pp/pn) with our own camp kitchen (hot & cold water, free gas BBQ, tables & chairs, electric light, electricity points) and campfire pit, reserved camp area, easy access to a little frequented amenties block with plenty of water pressure and HOT water it was a classy way to raise the canvas. We could have joined the masses in the main camp ground for a tiny $8pp/pn.

The event itself gets better each year. Undara obviously invests all the income from the event into the music (as they should). The band quality was excellent with 23 musicians and wall-to-wall music across the weekend. They programmed music from 6pm til after 1am each morning and those with the stamina could join the artists around the campfire til the wee small hours (I heard 3.30am...). There was live aqcoustic music at breakfast each morning and performers entertaining through lunch and into the afternoon. My personal favourite was Luke O'Shea and Medicine Wheel but Felicity Urquart, The Flood, Nellie Donovan & The Rain, Steve Eales, Mark Nuske, Shane Flew, Keri McInerney and Corey Livey all took to the stages to appreciative crowds.

Clear skys, cool temperatures, a full moon and quality entertainment combined to make a top weekend. I'll definately be back and encouraging as many of my friends to join me as possible. What better excuse do you need to head west....

Monday, 21 April 2008

Mungalli Creek Dairy

Tucked in along a narrow winding bitumen track among the hills and overlooking Mount Bartle Frere is this "Out of the Whey" Cheesery and Tea House. Mungalli Creek Dairy serves a variety of snacks, light meals and drinks all based on their organic and biodynamic diary produce.

This is a working farm and visitors can take a sneak preview of the cheesery in operation through the viewing windows at the back of the Tea House. There is no guarantee of a particular product being made. Whatever is 'on the floor' at the time is what you watch. An interesting bonus with your dairy decadence...

I have been here plenty of times in the past. In fact I remember a visit some years ago with my mum when I recognised a gentleman enjoying coffee and cake on the verandah and kept thinking 'I know you'. I was so glad I didn't make a fool of myself going and saying hello - it was Neil Perry, the celebrity chef. Of course I didn't really know him - just his face from TV!... mum actually said 'who's Neil Perry?'

Anyway, this stop was no less enjoyable than those earlier visits. I find it a good place to recharge when touring the Tablelands. This time I was on my way to Undara's Outback Country Rock and Blues for the weekend and made this my cafeine hit to fuel the second half of my journey out.

I was looking forward to trying the little cheese tasting platter (FOC) with my coffee and was pleasantly surprised to be offered their new cheddar with the usual havarti and two types of quark (both herb & paprika and kafir lime & black pepper). I believe Mungalli couldn't start making cheddar and other more mature cheeses till they expanded the dairy and particularly the storage (maturing) areas. So seeing the cheddar told me they were growing, and tasting it told me they were growing with quality - smooth and just sharp. I'm not a big havarti fan but their marinated havarti (not on the tasting today) holds the flavours well. I've always liked their quark. Not a common cheese in Australia - a very young almost cottage texture and makes an excellent dip or cheesecake base. Quark is a traditional cheese in Germany and my German Australian friends went crazy with praise when they discovered Mungalli's - taking kilos home to start making their beloved, but cobwebbed, Strudel recipe again!

I also noticed Mungalli is now offering a yogurt tasting platter as an option to the cheese. An excellent idea. With the huge product range available it is hard to decide what dedadence to take home without having a nibble first.

The day up on the mountain was unseasonably cold, yes cold, and I had to get my jacket out of the car as the sneaky breeze caught me and the clouds sailed in to fill the view with thick grey fog. Mungalli Dairy is just out of Millaa Millaa on the Palmerston Highway to Innisfail. You turn left 11km from town just as you start the steep decent. Keep an eye out for the turning - the sign isn't very big or loud.

I chose a flat white coffee ($3.50). Made on Mungalli's own full cream milk, it was hot (thank goodness), not very strong but exceedingly creamy. Must remember to ask for a double shot next time to balance the creamy taste. Knowing I wanted to write about my experience I also bought a piece of cherry cheesacake to try. Being made on quark it was not sweet like many cheescakes, but very rich being made and served with double cream. It was a very generous slice and the ladies happily packed half into a doggy bag for me (I finished it off the next day for morning tea with my plunger coffee in the Undara campground - quite a treat I thought...). This slice could have been shared easily between 2, or even 3 - I'd say a good 250g of cheese went into the mixture, so good value for money at $5.50 a slice.

Mungali offers a range of 'sweet treats' in the $4-$5.50 range and 'light meals' from $12.50-$15. Looking in the cabinet the Pot de Fromage (Mungalli quark, havarti & fetta cheese & egg pie in a yogurt & ricotta pastry) and Spanokopita (Greek style spinach, fetta & ricotta cheese in filo pie) both looked very appetising with fresh salad for $13.50. I seem to remember trying the first about a year ago and thoroughly enjoying the OD on cheese. Definately not a place for anyone lactose intollerant...

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pesci's big night out

Pesci's on the water has perhaps never quite recaptured the ambience of its era prior to the redevelopment of The Pier when it dominated the Cairns dining scene. A large group of us tried to recapture the moment recently after we had ventured on a cruise aboard the M.V Habitat Explorer on a perfect ‘autumn’ evening to celebrate a birthday.

There is nothing quite like being out on the water as the day turns to night, cruising up a mangrove fringed estuary with the sun fading over the deep blue hues of the mountain backdrop. No waterfront venue can provide a vantage point of our city’s stunning scenic rim quite like this – let alone allow you to sip bubbles for $5 a glass. For only $19 a ticket, the ‘Sunset Cruise’ is a wonderful way to unwind with friends after a hectic week and to leave your stresses on the shore… at least for 90 minutes or so. The only thing lacking from the whole experience was a decent snack… a nice platter of cheese, fruit and antipasto would have been an ideal accompaniment and an option for which members of our group would have happily paid extra. Departing from the Reef Fleet Terminal most days at 5.30pm – for bookings, phone (07) 4031 4007 or check out http://www.cairnshabitatcruises.com.au/

Now… back to Pesci’s. Whether it was the glasses of champagne already consumed or the lack of food or both, we arrived ravenous and in the mood for a good time. Despite only booking for 16, our host, the ever convivial Lou Gianola, happily made room for a few unexpected ‘extras’ we picked up along the way and busily set to work behind the well-stocked bar to keep our drinks flowing.

Always on the lookout for something a little different, a few of us shared a bottle of the Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($9 gls/$45 btl) from McLaren Vale. For some the very idea of a full-bodied Shiraz being ‘contaminated’ with bubbles is offensive, but personally there is nothing more suited to our Far Northern climes than a chilled, red sparkling as long as it not of the sickly sweet variety – and the Black Chook was certainly not that. Apart from that there is a selection to tempt most palates—alas, not all within my budget, although the House Chardonnay and Multi-Regional Red Blend ($6/$29) provided a cheaper option as well as five others under $40.

The menu was teaming with temptation and came with the welcome recommendations of Lou on appropriate wine accompaniments – I could have easily and happily ordered from the Pasta Corner and several of us did. The Pappadelle & Ragu consisted of flat wide ribboned pasta in a rich, beef, wine and pomodoro sauce, the entrée $17.50 ample while the $28 main demanded an heroic appetite.

The Mediterranean antipasto tower, at $39, looked impressive and represented excellent value for two and proved a very sociable way to graze through a fine selection of hot, char grilled, cold and marinated fare. Other entrees included the Salt and Pepper calamari ($16.50) which was tender and sweet but not really very 'salt & peppery'; and Sizzling Garlic prawn ($22.50) served hot in a pot and well presented with crusty bread but only a hint of garlic.

I figured if you are going to dine at Pesci’s on the Water you have to order seafood. It is undoubtedly what Pesci’s do best and I was relieved when my young waiter answered confidently that the seafood was all wild-caught Australian product, mostly from the Gulf of Carpentaria. With this in mind I selected the Seafood Curry ($33) ahead of the Tasmanian Oysters ($16.50 ½ doz; $33 bakers’ doz), although I am still curious about the Oysters Watermelon which promised oysters natural topped with watermelon juice and Prosecco wine, apparently Italy’s answer to “refreshing, well-made sparkling wine”.

Only a few mouthfuls of the creamy, quite mild curry brimming with fresh, succulent seafood was needed to confirm its reputation as a “Pesci’s on the Water Favourite”. Not so the Moreton Bay Bugs. Sadly, the seeded mustard batter disguised the very qualities for which bug meat is known and did nothing to showcase this tropical delicacy. At $24.50, it was too expensive to be an entrée but lacking in quantity to satisfy as a main so maybe this dish needs a rethink?

Of the three who snubbed the plethora of seafood options and sought safety in the Char grilled Rib on the Bone ($33.50), all were disappointed. The moral of the story, of course, is eat more seafood… and there is certainly plenty to choose from at Pesci’s on the Water.

It may not be the Pesci’s of old but we should not allow nostalgia to cloud the fact the food was fresh, the flavours real and the ambience hard to beat, especially when you have good friends with which to share it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Good value-for-money pizza

La Porchetta next to City Cinemas in Grafton Street comes across as cold and a bit harsh when you look through the windows as you queue for tickets at the cinema. The decor is a throw back to the 50's and I keep expecting to see The Fonz. But take a chance and go in for a pizza.

The service is good, from a generally very young staff. The pizza is consistent, fresh and filling with nice light bases. I'm no pizza hero but I've yet to have a bad one. My favourites are the Smoked Salmon and The Lot (11 toppings including prawns). A small pizza is just over $10 and will feed two ladies easily (they are very well filled) and a large (approx $16) will feed two said ladies and two middle-sized children. Although the kids prefer traditional Pepperoni.

La Porchetta also serve an impressive array of pastas, risottos and other Italian dishes but we prefer the pizza, which is also available for take-away in about 10 minutes. A good option after evening tennis.

I'll keep my eye out for Fonz. That would top off the meal!

Hip Hip Horray! Yum with a smile

I've been wanting to try out Chocolat cafe under the Outrigger on the Esplanade for a while and not had a good excuse. Well I don't need an excuse now. This little gem goes in my favourites.

Hallelujah!! I've found someone who gets it!

The two ladies running this little shop of delights welcomed me with smiles and friendly, engaging salutations - even though it was after 4pm and they were probably looking forward to going home. Although my colleague and I didn't leave til 5.40pm, they remained happy to have us in their courtyard and didn't hint for us to leave. And throughout, any service provided was relaxed, polite and fun. THANK YOU!

And.... the coffee was hot, flavoursome, fresh and well presented. Must have been good - we had two cups each. I bounced through my evening! To compliment our coffees we selected two treats from the pastries section of the cafe. A white and milk chocolate mousse ($4.95) and baked cheesecake ($5.95). The staff happily cut these in half for us so we could share.

The mousse was smooooth (not a spelling mistake), rich, but not over powering. The cheesecake was baked to perfection on top of a florentine style base and topped with ground pistachio nuts and white chocolate shards.

The selection available at Chocolat is amazing. A cabinet bursting with pastry selections to die for; a light meal cabinet with fresh salads and open sandwiches - I'll have to try them next time; and then a third cabinet filled with their name sake - chocolate. There's a waiting list for my taste buds here...

A great talking point are the wedding cakes on display in the front window. The Chocolatier's skill in building these masterpieces is equal to any cathedral stone mason. They give new meaning to the saying "death by chocolate".

There is seating inside in the air conditioning but we chose to sit in the courtyard between Outrigger and The Courthouse Hotel. On an autumn afternoon the sun was bright without being too hot and it reminded me of the town squares I have sat in throughout provincial France. We selected the best table in the courtyard under a shady tree and had to prise ourselves away to other commitments.

Try this cafe yourself. I hope you are as impressed.

where's Gordon Ramsay when you f***ing need him?

New restaurant Ti Adoro (where Chapter One used to be on Abbott Street next door to Jute Theatre) was lucky enough to have 5 tables in for dinner (plus 1 table just for coffee) after the End Credits movie on Sunday night...a gift for business on a Sunday night I would have thought...

Let me start with the good news. The food we ate was really very good. Simple fare, well presented, fresh and tasty.

But...we arrived at 7pm, ordered three simple meals to share as a tummy grumble stopper before dinner back at home later.

A salad - cherry tomato, rocket, parmesan and olive oil ($9.50);
Bruscetta with prosciutto, diced tomato and Spanish onion, mozzarella and basil pesto ($6.50);
And an antipasto plate with dips, cheeses, egg plant, semi dried tomatoes and two slices of bread ($16.95).

Unfortunately once we had our drinks (Sav blanc @ $6.50 and tea @ $3) we were forgotten. No top up on water, no clearing of empty tea cups, no offer of more drinks... no explanation as to where our food was. By 8pm I enquired politely where our meals were.

"Terribly sorry madame they'll be out in three minutes". Ten minutes later still no food. And when it arrived we were given no cutlery, crockery or napkins to eat it with. I had to ask for these and then wait, while they set the table.

Once our meals arrived we wondered where were the cheeses and dips that should have been on the antipasto plate. When I queried this, the waitress who had taken over our table came back and said they had new staff who had "forgotten" these inclusions and "would we like them now on another plate". Of course we would. The cheese and dips (a basil olive oil and balsamic oil) arrived with two more small slices of bread. Now this oversight could have been salvaged easily by providing plenty of bread to enjoy the dips and cheeses on, but between four customers...you get the idea...

By 9pm, we had to chase our account and had given up on dinner at home, it was just too late to start again. We had had great conversation and caught up on all the news, analysed the film and several others, but were so very disappointed in what could have been a great dining experience.

I'm sure the order was lost, but that does not forgive the appalling service. Why was our table not set, drink table service offered, our lack of food not noticed and chased, our bill provided...all in a timely manner? And we noticed other tables were similarly waiting for meals.

F***! As Gordon would say!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Franchise opportunity?

Here at the kitchenslut we are fervent in our support of innovation and fresh concepts to provide greater diversity to our food experiences. So, Penis anyone?

Hmmm, next time we are down near Cafe China maybe we could ask what the chances are of them getting their hands on a length of yak's penis? Given responses from certain associates when queried as to whether they had ever tasted penis we must be careful how we phrase this ...... but perhaps there is a 'penis gourmet' out there who can advise on matching wines?

Personally, the kitchenslut was more motivated by the suggestion in the article of a succulent donkey vulva ...... not too rare thanks chef!!!



Isn't it great to see a restuarant using such fresh produce! I'm not aware that the Cooking in the Danger Zone series from the BBC has made it out here yet, but looks like one to watch for more adventurous food addicts?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Come on Cairns, let's get with the service

I've written before about my out-of-town friend who stops for a quick coffee or meal and a catch up with me after business before flying back South...well Friday 28 March was one of those days.

12 noon on a Friday lunch time. We walked across the road from the private hospital to the new Italian restaurant Rimmini for a quick coffee. THEY WERE CLOSED. Who doesn't open for lunch on a Friday with a catchment as large as a private hospital and attached specialty medical services...We couldn't even get coffee, and I thought the Italians saw espresso as a meal in itself to be savoured...

So...we jumped in the car and popped around to Fusion (in the Old Ambulance building). Now I've posted on these guys before and said they have great food and better than average service. Well, not this time. I told my friend - "should be fine for a quick coffee, they have lots of corporate business, they understand the need for quick" - hhmmm... ordered and paid for the coffee ok, but 20 minutes later no sign of said coffee. It wasn't busy (maybe two other tables). Went inside to enquire and they hadn't even started...we walked away without our coffee and unfortunately it means I won't be back with my business.

Come on Cairns, we can do it. You have done it before.

RSL fills up the Hungry Hunter

The RSL has taken a bit of a beating in the paper lately about its membership policy. But I've never been asked to join, even as a social member. And their restaurant is a great value for money feed, in a great Esplanade position.

The Roast of the Day and Steak and Veges is generous, fresh, well presented and tasty for less than $20. From memory (I dined there last in March) the Roast was about $12 and the steak about $18 - with a glass of wine ($5) still good value.

I can sit out on the (narrow) balcony right on the Esplanade, people watch, listen to the live entertainment (in my experience a guy with a guitar singing covers of 50's-70's hits - perfect for the RSL market) and have a good conversation. Half a block further in the same experience will cost me twice this...

Happy to continue supporting the RSL.

Eat a whole kilogram of this?....

As a keen red meat eater, I'd been wanting to try out the Bull Bar for some time. I reckon I'm up for 1kg of prime steak for free - as long as I eat it in less than 20 minutes....

However, my experience after tennis last week did not encourage me to want to eat their steak at all...

I'd done the hour running around on the court and 'went on' for a quick drink after with my tennis buddies. After two G&Ts I decided I needed time and sustainance to absorb the alcohol before driving home. So one of the crew volunteered to accompany me to the Bull Bar to check out these 'amazing' steaks. Now, I'm no fool. I'm not ordering 1kg of steak without testing the fare first...and it IS a LOT of meat...

So sensibly we both ordered the smallest steak on the menu - 250gms of prime rump, medium rare, just over $20 (300-500gms of varous cuts were priced in the mid-high $30 range). Mmm...well it came medium (which I can live with) but it was no prime rump. 1/2 inch thick and looking a lot like it had been pan fried rather than grilled, and the 'char' grid stamped on the meat after (my mate actually said it reminded him of the lines on a Hungry Jacks pattie). It was tender enough but had no flavour. Now, they do recommend a variety of sauces on the menu but I'm not a sauce girl as I like to enjoy the true flavour of what I order. So, maybe Bull Bar works on the odds that most people order gravy and this improves the steak...

I found the Bull Bar lacked atmosphere. I know it was a Thursday night, but it was very quiet and the 'live' band was a guy with a guitar who started at 8pm, had a break at 8.30pm, and came back on at 9.15pm. We joked that maybe the chef was doubling as the band as 'Stevo' started playing as soon as all the meals were 'out'.

Personally, I think the pub atmosphere at the end of an ally, with average food and service finds it hard to compete with other pub grub and at top dollar. I think I'll stick with the RSL for a cheap feed with a better outlook and similar value for money.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

NEWLOOK FETTA’S STILL KNOWS HOW TO SHOW YOU A GOOD TIME

'So, wot's for dinner' goes Greek in Grafton St ..............

ENTERING the new home of Fetta’s at 99 Grafton Street (formerly Women’s Bookshop) the space and effect is exactly as you would expect to find in the streets of Athens, let alone in Cairns. It is the epitome of Mediterranean, al fresco dining with something to look at in every direction you turn. The freshly rendered, white walls, trimmed with turquoise blue and a hint of green vines are offset by pieces of art, interesting artifacts and a traditional frieze etched on the rear wall.

It is a typical Greek venue – you walk in the front and it seems to go on forever. The floor space is enormous, at least twice that of Abbott Street, yet maintains a sense of comfortable intimacy with soft lighting, music, cool relief and a choice of four distinct dining areas [on the street; front room; courtyard; back room] interconnected and in view of each other.

Our boisterous table of 10 was seated in the ‘courtyard’ situated under a clear, Perspex ceiling in the heart of the restaurant, and (conveniently for us) next to the bar. The sound of torrential rain beating down gave the room a uniquely tropical feel… and our group an excuse to be even louder. For sake of practicality, our table divided itself into halves – with our ‘end’ selecting the Zorba’s Feast (unbeatable value at $30 a head, for 2 or more diners) while the others had already ordered a selection of dishes to share.

It proved a fatal flaw. We had to endure watching our dining companions devour the most exquisite selection of homemade Dolmades ($13.50) “to die for” (as they were described to me), Octapodi ($14), marinated in olive oil and lemon juice and beautifully char-grilled, and a crispy fresh Greek Salad ($12.50). Our starter, a selection of three dips (Melitzana;Tzatsiki; Tarama) served with warm pita bread was great except disappointingly, the pita bread was consumed in seconds with the remaining dips cleared away without more bread being offered.
My friend was happy to find one of her favourites, the delightful Pepperjack Shiraz ($36), from a reasonable wine selection (10 whites/8 reds), ranging from a Tsantali Retsina ($22.50), a Greek white promising the aroma and taste unique to the region of Aleppo pines, to the Catalina Sands Sauvignon Blanc ($34).

Meanwhile, more dishes had descended at the ‘other end’ – succulent Kleftiko ($22.50) marinated lamb on a spit, Kotopoulo Elenis ($22.90) a chicken breast stuffed with fetta and spinach, topped with a lemon, cream sauce, and an enormous serve of Mousaka ($21.90) with its creamy layers of potato, zucchini, eggplant, beef mince and creamy béchamel sauce threatening to spill off the edge of the plate. I can only assume the food tasted as good as it looked because its arrival certainly silenced our dining companions except for the regular sounds of approval, which along with the aroma, had us salivating in anticipation of our Mezethes (entrée).

This included my personal favourite, the Saganaki (affectionately known as ‘heart attack on a plate’ thus leaving in tatters my new years resolution to drop 4 dress sizes by March!), pan fried Calamari and chicken wings in a tomato-based sauce which did not excite any of us. In fact, we suspect it may have been the dish which resulted in my friend – a long-term celiac who had taken the trouble of researching the menu and seeking advice in advance of our booking and again on the night about which items did and did not contain wheat – being forced to leave early after becoming violently ill [note to all restaurateurs: people with food allergies do not mind being told you cannot cater for them; but do object to receiving assurances that turn out to be false].

The Oathta (main course), after a considerable wait, arrived in a flourish. I am going to come right out and tell you our ‘feast’ was not to Fetta’s usual impeccable standard. The contrast could not have been more stark to the dishes already served at our table. The Kleftiko, or gyros, tasted fine but looked like the meat left over in the bane marie after the kebab shop turns off its rotisserie; the Mousaka was nothing like the visually pleasing, piping hot dish that came earlier as a standalone dish and the lamb cutlets were a little dry for my liking; although the Barramundi pieces and the Scallops (1 piece each) did draw compliments.

Fortunately around this time the lights go down, the volume of the music goes up and the restaurant comes alive as the belly dancer emerges. The crowd is instantly caught up in the atmosphere of frivolity that engulfs the room. The only thing missing was the familiar sound of George smashing plates, but the clapping of hands and cry of vwopa! echoes everywhere. Whether you volunteer or are coerced no one can refuse the charm of the belly dancer as she coaxes you from your seat and encourages the best from your uncoordinated hips and awkward body.
It reminds me what eating Greek is all about. Yes, the food is important and on this occasion some of us were a little disappointed. But let’s face it – people keep coming back to Fetta’s is because it’s so much fun. And I, for one, will definitely be back.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

languidly lunching at M Yogo

I had wondered if restuarant vandalism had struck down at The Pier? But no ...... it was simply a simplification ..... or a recognision that the initial marketing was a stuff up that has transformed Mature Yogo into simply M Yogo!

Regardless and unapolagetically this is still easily the best place along the tourist strip for its interesting menu and quality of food and service by so far that it should be embarrassing for some higher profile establishments. This is not to denigrate the basic quality of the others it's just that they are too often so damned boring and conformist with their menu and format that it's hard to find a reason to be there?

I confess that several recent excursions to M Yogo have been confined to luncheons and enhanced by the company of the most exceptional women I know in Cairns. The best company will always make the day and the M Yogo lunch format provides a perfect accompaniment to go with such company and conversation as you gaze out watching the boats come and go at the marina. For the quality of the food the lunch deals are genuine value!!

There are 2 lunch formats; For $20 you can do a soup & main; for $28 you can do an amuse, main, desert & coffee. I have had lunch 3 times in the last few months at M Yogo and both are the best value you can get in this town for this quality. The M Yogo website provides comprehensive menu info.

The atlantic salmon done as a crepe always seems to get a rave! Between friends we have now sampled most of the lunch menu with no dissent. So suss out the risotto and also dont let the sultry climate deter from the delightfully hot soup! The amuse's are small treats which provide a delightful diversion!

How more seductive can you get than watching your companion swallow her poached oyster in vichyssoise from a shot glass .............. amuse indeed ...... enjoy!!

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