Sunday, 31 October 2010

Caffiend Alley

The left bank of Grafton street has evolved into the cafe hub of Cairns. The Lilypad has always set the scene here over the road from Rusty's, but more recent arrivals such as Cocoa Amour and Caffe Bello have expanded on this with more recent modern styling and furnishings.

In that scene many people still have no idea that Caffiend exists up the nearby graffiti alley (this is in the half-arcade that links to the Mainstreet Arcade). The alley and arcade are their own tiny alternative Cairns community and adjacent shops include a BMX, skate shop, and the book shop that previously fronted Grafton. Oh, and Kevin Shorey jewellers and a few others. Like a small alternative community.

It's a really interesting small collection and Caffiend offers a more cosmolitan essence in the heart of the city. The board displays the coffee and when it was roasted. There is a small but interesting food menu including such as scrambled eggs with truffle oil, and chilli eggs for brekkie! There is various quirky seating which is something of a theme for KS!

I wandered out this week well caffiended after a brekie of avocado and fresh lime on toast with my single origin Tanzanian coffee ....... and wandered to visit Gil at Cruze Coffee in the Oceanwalk Arcade and walked out with an Ethiopian coffee to pursue the single origin concept.

As a passionate people watcher it's so interesting to observe the differing clientele in these places. Caffiend is more alternative, Lilypad has the people who like to think they are alternative (not a criticism I love the place), The new look Bello and Cocoa Amour entertain clients who would never be seen in Caffiend just a minutes walk away? Their loss, my win!

Meanwhile, over the road on the right bank, the bourgeoise patronise the Swiss Cake Shop and Beethovens which seem tired and faded, like a coffee shop in a retirement village ....... blue rinsely suburban? Oh, that does not however apply to right bank coffee artiste Billy in at Rusty's!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Gavin King Memorial Yak Vomit Award

In response to Gavin King's recent provocative attack on Cairns restaurants, KitchenSlut has decided to take the initiative and sponsor the inaugural Gavin King Memorial Yak Vomit Award for the most outstanding lamb shank dish at a Cairns restaurant. This award is named in honour of the finest descriptive prose from his infamous column:

"Maybe there was an international food competition in the rural provinces of Moldova, where this restaurant's lamb shanks scooped the top prize in a close decision against a traditional local soup dish made with just a pinch of salt and several generous scoops of yak vomit".

Kitchenslut hates to be pedantic given The King's reputation for accurate journalism, but one would have thought a Yak would have to stray some distance from its traditional Himalayan homeland to even be in Moldova? Perhaps Gavin meant some different kind of Yak?

We will also provide ratings with a yak symbol (below) so each lamb shank dish can be rated at one, two, three, four or five yaks. Restaurants will be able to display their Yak rating so never again will the Editor-At-Large wander the dangerous streets of Cairns ignorant of where to get himself a decent shank! A presentation shank feast at the winning establishment is anticipated.

However there are only so many lamb shanks one can eat in a limited time so Kitchenslut calls for nominations to be shortlisted. I will start here and update this post as we go .......... a few suggestions google gremlins have struck and deleted subsequent entries!

Nominations for the Gavin King Yak Vomit Award for 2010

Naked Nut
Lamb shanks, tomato and root vegetable concasse, potato duchess, French green beans  $29.50
Braised lamb shanks – bush tomato infused sauce – parsnip mash and gremolata  $30

Lamb shanks, rich casserole, slow cooked lamb served w potatoes  $28

Plantation Hotel Cairns
Lamb shanks braised slowly w rosemary, thyme, red wine and tomatoes served w roasted pumpkin, baby carrots, truffle potato mash and broccolini  $29

Bello Caffe
Lamb shanks, slow oven baked  on a bed of garlic mash soiled in a gravy of veg  $26.90

We use free pictures by

Monday, 18 October 2010

tasting the tablelands

Kitchenslut ventured out for a pleasant sojourn to Taste of the Tablelands at Atherton on Sunday.

Further reporting from ABC Far North

Friday, 15 October 2010

Fish D'vine

“You remember that I asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said they were. How many landsmen are there who would drink rum when they could get these other spirits? Yes, I was certain it was a seaman." Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of Black Peter

Fish D'Vine is a rum bar and fish cafe, or vice versa?! Like Sherlock Holmes, Kitchenslut is suspicious of rum. So, without enthusiam he and a friend rolled up to the new bar and asked what we should try if we didn't like rum. The waiter proceededd to educate us on a vast array of rums and was able provide a concoction more than acceptable to our sceptical palates. The image and quality of rum has certainly come a long way and there is now also a boutique local Platinum white rum from Mt Uncle.

We didn't sample the food on that first visit but KS, whose passion is seafood, has since returned to sample the wares. I later dropped by for a lunch of fish'n'chips which was basic standard fish'n'chips but not good enough by any means for this to be the classic fish cafe lamentably absent in Cairns.

Kitchenslut susequently visited with a lady friend whose exotic background was attracted by the rum. The main food attraction at D'vine is the display cabinet stocked the fresh seafood for your selection.  From the available specials we chose a mahi and a red emperor dish. These were again ok without being exceptional as both were slightly overcooked, which in KS view is almost the only crime one can commit against such quality seafood. Also noted was that the winelist is very disappointing and neither of us were enthused with even having to make a selection. Yes, I know it's a rum bar but some still prefer wine when it comes to the actual meal.

More recently, KS the seaman staggered in after a rough day at sea on his Ocean Spirits local card to quaff a refereshing rum cocktail. Exuberant from the rum and ocean voyage the seafood display was too much so KS selected the tuna steak as looking the best of class. Size seems to matter with certain items in the seafood display and the tuna steaks were thick. The displayed oysters are huge but KS is one who is cynical of those who judge seafood by the size of their prawn, or oyster.

The tuna steak was fine, seared on the outside and pink in the centre. It came smeared with a wasabi mayonnaise, which I didn't think added anything and I scraped off to use with the chips. The chips themselves were average.

Fish D'vine follows their apparently successful outlets in Airlie Beach and Mackay. The food is modestly priced, service on all visits was frendly and professional, and the theme is attractive and welcome diversity to the Cairns scene. They are another that promote their awards including this from their website:

Queensland Tourism Awards 2008 Judge’s comments…

“What an unexpected surprise! It would appear that Fish D’Vine Café & Rum Bar has nailed the market, offering a substantial range of quality, fresh local seafood dishes to enjoy dining in or taking away. The café appeals as much to locals as visitors in an atmosphere, which is simply buzzing. The Rum Bar offers a unique point of difference & clearly the business mix is working well. It was evident that management has a strong commitment to customer service & understands the visitor’s needs – this came through in product presentation, menu design, guest interaction and business philosophy. Fish D’Vine & Café is punching well above its weight & has manages to add great local ‘flavour’ & tourism dimension to what could otherwise have been just another fish in a food court. Brilliant!”

A glowing reference with not a single reference to the actual food? KS is sure he will be here again for one reason or another it's just that he can't find a compelling reason to return for the food alone. Now, if they would sell me some of that seafood on display fresh KS would love to take it home for the BBQ!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Beckham says Cairns is cheap!

David Beckham paid $US100 for a sandwich. The soccer star reportedly headed straight to the Barclay Prime restaurant on a recent visit to Philadelphia, where he splashed out on the expensive version of the region’s traditional dish Philly cheesesteak – thinly sliced steak and cheese served in a long roll. The restaurant’s gourmet sandwich is made from "sliced Kobe beef, melted Taleggio cheese, shaved truffles, sauteed foie gras, caramelised onions and shaved heirloom tomatoes on a homemade brioche roll brushed with truffle butter and squirted with homemade mustard”.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

coffee breaks

The Weekend Australian has run a story on the varying price of a cup of coffee around the country. They even ran almost exactly the same story twice in the same paper!In booming Perth a coffee is typically $4 or more, while in Melbourne good coffee can be found closer to $3. A quick look around town shows some variation in prices but i'm guessing the local average would be around $3.30-$3.50?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Are Cairns restaurants too expensive?

Well I did say I would comment more on Gavin King's rant and KS being what he is finds it difficult to get too many thoughts in one place with what could turn into something longer than a Tolstoy novel. Maybe I would be more productive backblogging too many unposted real food experiences but ..... the comments exchange between King and Craig Squire from Ochre went like this:

Craig Squire: "how do you know that a similar dinner would be cheaper in southern capitals? I would beg to differ, in my discussions with colleagues and by experience Cairns mains are on average $5 to $10 cheaper than brisbane, melbourne and sydney."
Gavin King: "In terms of your comments about prices at restaurants in capital cities compared with Cairns - you need to get out more."

I hear this often but if there is one thing that should be able to be more objective it is this? So I went to the C'est Bon website to compare their prices between Cairns, Brisbane, and Melbourne. C'est Bon is interesting as it has restaurants in these capitals and also falls within the more upmarket expensive segment in Cairns.

The menu is not consistent but comparable between locations.  The prices are broadly comparable with all mains above $30. The Cairns C'est Bon 'fish of the day' at $30 is $5 cheaper than Melbourne. Coq au vin is $2 cheaper in cairns thann Brisbane. Some entrees may be slightly more exxy in Cairns.  The businesss lunch offers are the same at all.

KS is agnostic but open on this and is an obsessive where objective information is available!?

Monday, 4 October 2010

What Gavin King didn't say?

It wasn't until this morning that I sat down with my Weekend Post (it's a low priority for KS) and engaged in the rare pleasure of consuming Gavin King's opinion on restaurants in Cairns.

Kitchenslut intends a more detailed response and may even consider direct reply to the Post. There are things in this column I agree with and also some strongly opposed.  Particularly there is an intrinsic contradiction in Gavins request for a ratings system in a rant which disparages awards! Such reply will take further consideration however ......

The reason Kitchenslut first started a few years ago was discontent among a small group of friends who loved exploring food that there was no real independent opinion on food in Cairns. We had a sobering experience of posting negative comments on service only to subsequently be threatened with baseball bats (via unpublished comments)! That restaurant went broke quickly by the way!

However what Gavin didn't say is that the Cairns Post has actually been a problem here, not a solution. Its monopoly combined with an advertorial culture amidst a preponderence of tourism marketing publications has actually helped create what he now finds objectionable?

Guess who?

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