Monday, June 13, 2011

French Food

Published: 28th May 2011

Arriving in Paris early in the morning I sat comfortably at a table ina little café for a coffee & croissant.
It amused me to see Parisian’s dropped in, stand at the bar to drinkingcoffee, eat a croissant, read the morning papers, and off they would go. Such is a busy life when you don’t have thetime to sit and enjoy breakfast.

At lunch queues wind around corners at the best boulangerie for themost fabulous quiches, tarts, rolls and salads; eaten on a stool in the shop oron the go in the streets. Breakfast andlunch ‘on the run’ is obviously made up for at dinner when the sidewalk cafesare brimming with customers who live in minute inner city apartments and userestaurants as their social space.

A glance at the many restaurant menus showed consistency in traditional French dishes, but I was looking for a different food experience. Going solo infrance I was happy to gather fresh produce and have it at my apartment where Icould rest my weary body from walking the streets of Paris all day. I find markets and food stalls more exciting than tourist restaurants.

The fishmonger who sets up his stall outside a fashion shop, and thebutcher who has a wonderful selection of meats that are cut or prepared in manydifferent ways, rabbit, different styles of branded poultry (corn feed chicken quail, duck, goose etc). I loved how the fruit and vegetable stalls presented their wares, with masses of punnets of berries, water features to cool the lettuces and signs that tell you where everything is grown or produced. The vegetables are proudly presented as quality and the spring season at present is right for large white and small wild green asparagus and bright red ‘saveurs ancienne’ (heirloom) tomatoes. The Fromageries are to die for with a vast selection of cow, sheep and goat cheeses. Where milk is raw (not pasteurised) the cheese has a sensational creamy flavour. It was the chocolate and macaroon shops that I had to resist.

But now I am in southern France on the Cotes du Azur and ready to experience more regional flavours. I am here for a week with friends at a stunning location just outside the village of La Colle sur Loup in a beautiful house with an olive grove owned by a recognised architect/interior designer Jacqueline Morabito. This very chic house has views over the Mediterranean Sea and across the valley to the ancient
fortified village of Saint Paul de Vence.

Only two hours from Italy the cuisine is a blend of Provencal French and Italian with a growing influence of North Africa. Meals are simple and dishes reflect the bounty of produce from the region. Street markets stock only the best quality fresh products and in true French style, presentation and packaging are foremost.

Our evening meals are usually taken in the garden overlooking the olive grove (the oldest tree labelled approx.1,500 years old) and in this northern hemisphere sunlit evening we sit around a large weathered table to enjoy a simple traditional Nicoise meal. Pissaladiere, roasted peppers with garlic homemade olive oil and balsamic, red tomato and Mozzarella, white asparagus gently steamed and served with butter and parmesan along with a green salad, batard bread and a pinot noir.

Simple but magnificent! I need to pinch myself.

World's Best Restaurants

Published: 7th May 2011

The San Pellagrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants Award
has surpassed Michelin Star rating as the beacon of the ‘culinary best’ and
this year judged by over 800 industry experts, Danish Noma Restaurant from
Copenhagen seized the top position again for the second year running.

The restaurant they claimed the ‘One to Watch‘ due
to its meteoric rise, is the two Michelin star Frantzén/Lindeberg restaurant of
Stockholm, Sweden. So does this confirm
the suggestion of a new trend to Nordic cuisine? Noma’s Chef Rene Redzepi is noted for his
foraging approach to using quality local ingredients, applying innovative
techniques and a new term ‘emotive’ that arouses memories. However Rene and
many of his contemporaries claim inspiration from the Spanish movement?

The Spanish movement was popularised by doyen Ferran
Adria and his El Bulli restaurant just north of Barcelona. El Bulli (The Bulldog) held number one
position for five years in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant. However early last year, Ferran opted out of
nominations when he decided to voluntarily close his restaurant for two years
to simply revive his culinary direction. It has taken until July this year to
honour his reservations before actually closing. Yet the Spanish movement is not just about El
Bulli, in the past seven years, two other restaurants from the Basque region
have consistently been in the World’s Top 10: Mugaritz and Arzaks from the San
Sebastian food hotspot region. And in 2009 another Barcelona restaurant, El
Celler de Can Roca rocketed up 21 places to number 5 positions and this year
became the second best restaurant in the world. Proving the Spanish movement is still alive.

Sometimes you just have to indulge yourself and
this week I am off to Europe for a sensory journey around France, Italy and the
new food mecca; Spain. Spending a week
in both Barcelona and San Sebastian and I am going to indulge in some of these restaurants. I can’t believe I was able to get a booking
at Arzaks and at Ferran Adria’s new Tapas Bar Tickets & 41
°. So all I have to do now is
decide on either Mugaritz or El Celler de Can Roca.

In the next few weeks I will keep you posted on
these restaurants and my travels through this page and my blog at

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Port Douglas Carnivale

Published: 30th April 2011

Each year the Port Douglas Carnivale seems to be getting better and better. Last year the event organisers, Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce really started to focus on food by introducing two excellent events; the Food Fight and Palates of Port. This year they have added a Food Fair in conjunction with the Food Fight that have gained noted sponsorship from Taste Paradise, the new regional food brand. You know the event is going to be good when heavy-weight food event sponsors Audi come on board for the Palates of Port. Audi sponsors a number of large southern state food festivals such as Noosa Food & Wine Festival.

Heralding in the start of this week-long suite of events is the classic Sheraton Mirage Longest Lunch on Friday 20 May, and this year is proving to be extra special featuring the first ever North Queensland release of the renown Penfolds Bin wine series.

On Saturday 21 May, the Cancer Council Queensland’s Mossman Port Douglas branch is hosting a Mad Hatters High Tea party at Sheraton Mirage to raise money for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. What is really mad is the fact that it will be held in the afternoon? …but all for a good cause!

The Food Wine & a Taste of Port is always a winner, especially if you arrive in time to watch the impressive sunset. This year Craig Squire of Ochre Restaurant is offering his winning Taste Paradise Signature Dish of Tempura bugs, papaya salad, with sweet chilli lemon myrtle dipping sauce.

With the Seafood Extravaganza on Sunday morning at the Meriden Marina Mirage, you may as well start booking accommodation for the weekend. A feed of prawns straight from the trawler goes down well after a stroll around the Port Douglas Markets.

Stay the whole week, as on Wednesday 25 May, 5 Senses at the sugar wharf will take you on a sensory adventure of art for sight, music for sound, cheese for taste, wine for smell, and meeting others adds a nice touch.

Taste Paradise Food Fight on Friday 27 May is great fun where chefs of Port battle it out in a Masterchef style competition, held in conjunction with the Food Fair with offerings from restaurants and providores.

The Palates of Port this year on Saturday 28 May will be held in the magical setting of Flames of the Forrest where eight chefs from Port’s Salsa, Bucci, Flames of the Forest, Bistro 3, Harrison’s, 2 Fish, Port Douglas Catering, & Sheraton Mirage. The first 100 ticket holders to book online and win an Audi to drive for a weekend!

Support our region and go online at for information about these and other events.

Natty Nathan

Published: 23rd March 2011

New to Cairns is Nathan Thompson, Executive Chef of the Cairns Hilton. Coming from South Australia you know straight away that he is going to be interested in regional food. No other state celebrates its culinary culture better than South Australia, and Nathan learned his skills from the best.

Nathan started his apprenticeship at the Hotel School at Regency TAFE. He graduated with a Level 3 Certificate in Cookery, Advanced Patisserie, Chinese Cookery and Bakery. He learned traditional methods from a third generation German patissier; many of these skills have been passed-by in today’s kitchen training.

In 1999 Nathan commenced at the Adelaide Hilton in the same year that the hotel’s Grange Restaurant head chef; the great Cheong Liew received his Medal for Order of Australia (OAM). This medal was awarded for distinguished recognition for “service to the food and restaurant industry through involvement in developing and influencing the style of contemporary Australian cuisine". Cheong Liew taught Nathan about creativity and flavours. After rotating through all areas of this large kitchen under the tutelage of Executive Chef Bethany Finn he learned about process.

“Cooking is about Method, Process & Flavour. If you have good methods and process; you will get the flavour right” says Nathan.

What Simon Bryant taught Nathan was that chefs can’t just stay in the kitchen these days. Simon, who was Executive Chef at the Adelaide Hilton, became well known through ‘The Cook and the Chef’ television program with Maggie Beer. Simon understood that customers in the restaurant want to meet the chef and as Sous Chef Nathan learnt the importance of customer – food - relationship.

During his 11 years at Hilton Adelaide, Nathan was a champion of fresh and ethical foods, supporting the RSPCA’s Choose Wisely campaign to promote free range eggs, and upholding the trademarked Seriously South Australian®, maximising the use of local produce within the hotel. Nathan was also called on by the South Australian Government, to assist with the development of the food chain on Kangaroo Island; working with restaurants and producers, where getting the locals involved was essential to its success.

With qualifications in cookery, advanced patisserie, Chinese cookery and bakery, Nathan recently transferred to the Cairns Hilton and is now seeking out local tropical foods for his new menus.

Passionate Nick

Published: 16th April 2011

There is an interesting fact about Nick Holloway, chef/owner of Nunu Restaurant in Palm Cove; Nick didn’t start out to be a chef …he was studying to be a scientific engineering. Like a number of uni students, he grabbed a part-time job as a kitchen hand in a Melbourne restaurant to make ends meet.

What surprised this keen top grade student that was heading to a professional career; he discovered a new career paradigm. “it was very different! tough work, long hours but it had a certain excitement about it’ remembers Nick. “The chef would throw dirty pans from one end of the kitchen and every time they would end up in the sink in front of me” he added. It was not only the action, timing, fun and comradery in the kitchen that appealed to Nick but this is where his suppressed artistic side could be expressed. He decided to swap university for William Anglis College where he commenced a hospitality course.

It was at an event where Nick was working at Howque Dale in the Victorian countryside where some of Australia’s top chefs gathered, and that he met his mentor Geoff Lindsay. “Blown away” by Geoff’s skills and philosophy of cooking he immediately contacted him and started work shortly thereafter at the acclaimed Stella Restaurant in Melbourne.

Nick never actually finishing his cooking study; it was his artistic creativeness and passion for cooking that came to the fore and under the tutelage of Geoff, where his culinary skills shone. From one mentor to another, Nick moved to the critically acclaimed Blake’s Restaurant where he worked with Andrew Blake before returning to Geoff Lindsay’s new and awarded Pearl Restaurant as head chef. Here he had a chance to really express his professionalism and was featured as one of 13 young Australian chefs by the Lifestyle Channel and made guest presentation television appearances.

With his wife Amy and business partner Jason Rowbottam, they made a sea change to Palm Cove and started Nunu restaurant in 2004. Winning numerous awards at Nunu, it didn’t finish there for Nick and Jason, last year they opened two other tiers of catering in Palm Cove. Numi is a little takeaway with home cooked meals, packaged food and delicious ice-cream for apartment dwellers and The Rising Sun; a fun pub style haunt for locals. Where Nunu reeks of tropical style, elegance and culinary innovation, The Rising Sun is laid back with a modest casual style menu of wide appeal. Their Sunday barbecue takes you around the world from Greece, Thailand, USA, changing every week and with a cool breeze and live music it’s a pretty good Sunday afternoon venue.

A dotting family man Nick makes time to share with Amy and his three gorgeous children. Amy who has also been in the hospitality industry understands Nick’s love of restaurants as a place of creativity, vibrancy, hard work, intelligence and pleasure, and one where his role is to pass on the knowledge.

Nick is one of those passionate chefs who seek out farmers and providores to find interesting and unusual local foods for his menu and has just renamed one of his most popular dishes using palm hearts ‘taste paradise’.

Phil's Philosophy

Published 9th April 2011

This week I popped into see what was happening at the Reef House and caught up with Chef Philip Mitchell and newly appointed and well-known local Kelly Eustace, who has taken over as General Manager. There seemed to be a new buzz to the resort that has put a smile on Philip’s face with a vision of bringing back the former glory to the restaurant.

Philip is one of our regions recognised chefs, being at Reef House for many years now he has played host to and cooked with some of the most popular celebrity chefs such as Rick Stein, Guy Grossi, Neil Perry, Chrissy Mansfield, Stephane Manfredi, Ian Hewitson, Luke Mangan, Manu Fieldel, Gary Mehigan, Miguel Maestre and Ben O’Donoghue. Phil has done his share of guest chef also at some of the best Australian Food events where he has promoted the food of this region.

An Englishman, Phil’s love of travel took him to many European countries where he honed his culinary skills prior to reaching Australia. Phil worked at the best restaurants in Noosa and was executive chef of the Bedarra Resort before being discovered by Reef House.

Phil’s cooking philosophy is about simplicity on the plate and allowing the hero ingredient to speak for itself. His love of seafood is evident on the menu and style is influenced by his Mediterranean experiences using local products such as Vanella buffalo fetta and burrata cheeses for authenticity. But it’s not all about Europe, there are some lovely Asian flavours that balance the menu perfectly for this climate.

Now that the recent hiatus with change of ownership has now come to an end, Philip (and Kelly) will be working closely with the new owners to revive the restaurant to once again be the star attraction of the resort. The Reef House now joins the other boutique property of its new owners; Mt Lofty House in the Adelaide Hills; an area that reeks of regional food prowess. So I think it will be ‘watch this space’ for the Reef House in the coming year when we hope to see some exciting culinary events happen.

Jonssons Farm Market

Published: 2nd April 2011

No doubt you have heard about it by now? You can’t have missed the striking facade on the Cook Highway at Stratford. The Jonsson Farm Market finally opened this week and full credit to Warren and Gail Jonsson who have done a magnificent job of creating a local food produce market.

With a ‘can do’ attitude, it’s been hard for some to keep up with Warren and his vision to provide honest prices for the producer and consumer. Being a cattleman, his extensive butchery offers excellent Tablelands beef, pork, and chicken. But you can also find spitchcock, quail and rabbit in the frozen section as well as a full range of Jervois organic meats, and this weekend will see the first batch of prawns arrive.

There’s a wide range of quality fruit and vegetables including your standard temperate climate varieties. At present, our wet season is a quite time for the most crops of the region, but you can still find a good selection of tropicals at Jonsson’s.

The big surprise is a real showcase of packaged and processed foods from Rainforest Bounty, Kuranda Kandy, Wondaree Macadamias, Tropical Harvest dried fruits, Shaylees Conserves, SpiceZ curry kits, Gagarra Honey, Nerada and Daintree Teas, all the regions coffees, to name a few.

In the fridges you’ll find all the Mungalli and Misty Mountain products, Gallo’s Cheese, and in the freezer is Kuranda Ice-cream and check out the chocolate coated bananas and other fruits by Tropical Harvest. Tableland flowers and a juice bar completes the scene.

The great wall murals at Jonsson’s Farm Market proudly demonstrates that this is very much a family affair and very much ‘local’. Go along and have a look for yourself and support the Jonssons and the producers of the region.