Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas bubbles

Majella Sparkling Shiraz, one of my favourites
Christmas is a time to break out from our regular patterns and try some fun or celebratory alternatives to drink. Friends drop in, we entertain more and perhaps such entertaining takes on a different flavour?

Drinking standing up and nibbling on finger food is always quite a different proposition from sitting over a table or lingering over a meal.  Finger food is rarely intended to be the main event, so neither should be the wine. Look for wines that will keep your palate alert to enjoy the many different flavours the finger food will offer.

There is always a role for champagne. As Madame Lily Bollinger, said “I drink it when I¹m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I¹m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I¹m thirsty.” (Daily Mail, 17 October, 1961).

Champagne is a term which should only be applied to wines produced under strict regulations from a carefully delineated area in northern France.  In Australia, we have many superior sparkling wines, especially since (and often with the assistance of Fresh champagne houses) we started using a similar technique and the classic French grape varieties of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. We also have other value-for-money sparkling wines. So there is something to please at every price point.

The romance begins in the cellar. Here still wines are made and then carefully selected for blending: from different years and vineyards to make the Non-vintage champagne which should maintain a consistent house style every year; and wine or wines all from one year to produce a special, Vintage champagne identified by year on the bottle. Once blended, for traditional “methode champenoise” the wine is put into champagne bottles with sugar and yeast to create the second fermentation, the sparkle - hence the term “bottle fermented”.

After some time the bottle is placed in a rack and the process of “remuage” begins. The bottle is gradually tilted and turned into a more and more inverted position so that the dead yeast cells which have done their job gradually move to the neck of the bottle. This is then “disgorged”, by freezing so that a solid “plug” is pushed forth by the gas now formed within the bottle and a “dosage” of sweetened wine added to fill the bottle and finish the champagne. When a champagne is referred to as late disgorged or having spent time on yeast lees, this means it has stayed in the bottle, perhaps for many years, with the yeast cells until disgorgement just before release. This gives the champagne a highly desirable yeasty, bready character. French vintage champagnes spend a miminum of three years before disgorgement and Non Vintage champagnes one year. For an Australian wine to be called Methode Champenoise it must have spent at least six months maturing on lees.

The method is the same for different styles of champagne, just the  ingredients vary. Rose champagne or tache is made by adding a shot of  red wine to the dosage liqueur.  Or it can be made entirely from pinot noir with the juice left on the skins for a short time after they grapes are crushed, to give a pretty pink hue. Brut is the driest of all champagnes those with a  higher sugar level are Demi Sec and Sec, this being achieved by adding a  sweeter dosage after the second fermentation. 

Sparkling reds, ideal for Christmas drinking, are not simply the coloured cousins of white sparkling wine.  The base wine needs some bottle age first and may be matured in large oak. Sparkling red can be made from different red base including cabernet, pinot noir, malbec and durif, though the favourite is shiraz. Christmas to me says sparking red whether it be accompanied by turkey,  pork, ham or new age salmon, with a light red fruit or berry dessert or  even the Christmas pud. However, my all-time favourite is duck of any description, but preferably Peking duck! Then again, it's great as an  aperitif ... or just a drink!

There is something just so special about real champagne.
Taittinger NV - $95 I’ve been drinking this for years. It is distributed by my friends at McWilliams.
Bollinger NV – $90  James Bond’s favourite – but I still prefer Sean Connery and Roger Moore to Daniel Craig!

White Sparkling
Clover Hill Vintage Cuvee 2008 is a consistently good premium wine from Tasmania $49.99
Tempus Two Pewter Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay $31.99 is worth drinking for the stylish bottle and label alone. But the inside is just as good!

Rose sparklings
Chandon Brut Rose 2008 is a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. Chandon were one of the first to make premium sparkle in the Yarra Valley and they still do it with style.
Taltarni Tache 2010 this has been a favourite ever since we drank it for my daughter’s Christening in 1985. It’s still as good!

Red Sparkling
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz $42. Peter Lehmann is one of my dearest old mates and this is one of the best going.
Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2008 $29 per bottle in a pack of 6. Thanks to Majella for their support of Cheese Alley at the Good Food and Wine Shows in 2012. We’ll do it all again in 2013!
Peter Rumball Sparkling Shiraz $26.99 from my fellow Libran, but he now also has a sparkling Merlot too which is a little more savoury and so complements different dishes.

Just for fun
Mini bottles of Brown Brothers Vintage Sparkling  Moscato, Moscato Rosa,  Moscato and Cienna all in mini bottles from 200 – 275mls perfect for summer parties. RRP 4 bottle fridge pack $19.90; single bottle $5.90 

Note these are all recommended retail prices so they can often be bought for less.
Happy festive bubbles to you and your family

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas ham - tips and tricks

With Christmas upon us, locations, numbers and menus are being decided for the all-important Christmas feast in households everywhere. One dish that will feature on the menu in many homes is the ham. 

Hams can be bought at varying prices and the difference between the supermarket soccer ball ham and the more expensive hams can be hard to understand. When choosing a ham for Christmas, there are many variables which impact on the taste and quality of the ham. No two legs are the same and there are seasonal changes in the flavour of the pork. Interestingly pigs feel the heat as much as we do and do not eat as much in the middle of the summer. Fortunately, the pork needed for hams is produced well before this.

There are various ways to transform a leg or piece of pork into a ham and the good news is there’s a size and shape to suit almost everyone. The more commercial producers may inject the brine and then tumble the hams to reduce the curing process to as little as 12 to 24 hours and increase the weight but as with all things there are traditionalists such as Pino Tomini Foresti and his wife Pia, owners of Pino’s Smallgoods at 45 President Avenue, Kogarah in Sydney’s south.

Pino with one of his magnificent hams

Pino’s family has been making ham for seven generations and supplying the Australian market since his arrival here from Italy in 1973. Pino uses only Australian hams that take ten days to prepare. Pino takes great care in the preparation of his hams, using no additives, which he claims makes his hams safe for pregnant women to consume and chooses legs with a good amount of fat covering. He produces a ham which is a cross between the English and drier Italian style, brining it for 8 to 10 days. Then, they are baked and smoked for 16 to 24 hours using his secret combination of woodchips and seasonal herbs such as rosemary, sage or fennel.

Pino makes hams in every size from a 1.3k mini up to a 12kg whole ham on the bone. A visit to his store is like visiting a meat and smallgoods Nirvana with a fabulous cooking school attached. It is well worth a foodie excursion.

Pino's curing room
I have always been a fan of whole leg ham on the bone, especially at Christmas or to entertain a crowd. For me a good quality ham should have a flavour balance between sweet and salty, not taste chemical, be moist but not wet and not be stringy or smell porky. It is important to remember that all legs are different and colour may vary between different muscles however the ham should have mostly all the same flavour.

Glazing a ham really makes it very, very special and keeps hordes happy. There are a few tried and true guidelines that I always follow for a fail proof ham at Christmas.

1.  Choose the best quality ham you can afford. In addition to using the tips I have given you above and doing a little more research, look out for the Australian Pork logo. Any ham on the bone is sure to be Australian but for boneless ham, you need to check.
Andrew Spencer, CEO of Australian Pork, stipulates we need to support Australian pork farmers stating “more than 70% of Australia's processed pork products (ham, bacon and smallgoods) have been produced from cheap, subsidised imported pork."  

2.  To remove the skin from the ham, place in a warm oven (160°C fan-forced) for 20 minutes. Cut through the skin about 10cm from the shank end of the leg. Run your thumb around the edge of the rind just under the skin and start pulling from the widest edge of ham and continue to pull carefully away from the fat up to the cut. Remove completely.  

3.  Using a sharp knife, score across the fat at about 3cm intervals, cutting just through the surface of the top fat. Do not cut too deeply or the fat will spread apart during cooking. Score in the opposite direction to form a diamond pattern.

4.  Brush your favourite glaze recipe (mine contains honey, mustard, dry sherry, soy sauce and brown sugar) over the ham (i stud mine with cloves) and bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes at 180°C (160°C fan-forced) or until golden brown, basting every 15 minutes.

5.  Serve warm or cold with your favourite condiments and accompaniments.

Learn more of my tips and tricks for a high impress and low stress Christmas on the Lifestyle FOOD channel this December. I have all of your needs covered for both a traditional Christmas feast and one with a more contemporary flair.

For my traditional Christmas tips, Lyndey’s Cracking Christmas will be airing on Lifestyle FOOD on December 10th at 8:30pm and the contemporary Christmas special on December 17th at 8:30pm, with repeats throughout each week. 

Lyndey’s Cracking Christmas viewing times

LifeStyle FOOD Australia
Traditional episode times
Monday 10 December at 8:30pm
Monday, 10 December at 11.30pm
Wednesday 12 December at 8.30am and 4.30pm
Saturday 15 December at 6.30pm
Sunday 16 December at 11.30pm
Monday 24 December at 3pm
Modern episode timesMonday 17 December at 8:30pm
Monday, 17 December at 11.30pm
Tuesday, 18 December at 8.30am and 4.30pm
Saturday, 22 December at 6.30pm
Sunday, 23 December at 11.30pm
Monday 24 December at 3.30pm

Food TV, New Zealand
Traditional episode times Wednesday 12 December 1pm, 5pm & 9pm
Modern episode times Wednesday 17 December at 1pm, 5pm & 9pm
Australia Network
Traditional episode time Monday 24 December at 5:30pm (Hong Kong time)
Modern episode time Tuesday 25 December at 5:30pm (Hong Kong time)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guest post: William Wilson, Food & Beverage Manager & Sommelier, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre

From pints to pinots

My road to wine started with a beer, quite a few of them actually.
Guests constantly ask me how I became a sommelier.  Perhaps they are surprised that a Scotsman would be so passionate about New South Welsh wine.  I’m sure they expect me to talk about scotch and how to save money.  They are usually surprised when I tell them my story.

I started my career in hospitality in one of Edinburgh’s many specialist real ale pubs.  Eight beer engines pumped out a constantly changing line up of guest beers.  I took my job seriously, sampling every new beer as they went on line.  The beers intrigued me, different styles and breweries from different regions with histories going back centuries.  Most of all I was excited by the different aromas and flavours.  I’d make tasting notes in order to explain the subtle differences between the beers to our customers.

The writer (left) as a young man

When I arrived in Australia the beer scene was bleak.  Bland, over carbonated beer was everywhere and premium beer tasted exactly the same as regular but had a gold label on the bottle.  Competitive advantage was gained by serving the same beer even colder than the hotel on the next corner.  If I was to stay in Australia, I would have to find a new passion. 

My 'Road to Damascus' moment occured on the road to Broke, almost twenty years ago.

My new employer organised a trip to the Hunter Valley. I'd visited breweries all over the world but Tyrrell's was my first winery. Being able to stand in the vineyard and see grapes being picked and walk 20 yards into the winery to watch the winemakers at work was a revelation, so different from brewing. It was the people that really made me understane wine. Murray Tyrrell stood in front of us and told us why he wouldn't sell out to the big boys despite the huge amounts of money that he had just been offered for the winery. Perhaps Murray's presence made the wines taste better that day; he did tell us that every wine we tasted was from the vintage of the century. I was hooked.

Murray Tyrell, legend

Instead of choosing places to visit according to the number of breweries, wine regions were now top of my list. Friends questioned why I would go to Adelaide when they were heading to Bali. Visiting wineries and hearing stories from the people who made the wines became my education in wine. When winemakers talked of vintages spent in the Northern Hemisphere I would seek out those wines and see how they compared. Great Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from the Yarra Valley and Tasmania were tasted beside whichever Burgundies I could afford. 

A trip to the Barossa uncovered some incredible wines. Chateau Tanunda was certainly lot more salubrious than the ironbark slab hut at Tyrrell’s. I tasted some of Grant Burge’s wines at Tanunda Cellars and again left with more wine than I could carry. A bottle of 1994 Meshach is all that remains of my early wine trips. 

More recently I’ve stuck to places closer to home. Winemakers from cooler climate regions of New South Wales, especially Orange and Canberra, are making some fantastic wines. I discovered incredible Riesling at Lark Hill, great Shiraz all over the region and some of the best Pinot Noir that I have tasted at Lake George. I also discovered that Australia has lakes that don’t have any water in them.

Philip Shaw in Orange was another inspirational visit. The cellar door is really the front room of his house and you are treated like real guests. The bloke who brings the wines over to you was the International Winemaker of the Year twice. I was even lucky enough to taste some of his wines from the barrel. His No. 11 Chardonnay and No. 8 Pinot Noir were my picks and his Idiot Shiraz is a bargain.  
Philip Shaw's Koomooloo Vineyard - cold climate wines
When Fine Wine Partners brought over the Court of Master Sommeliers to test the skills and knowledge of Australia’s top wine staff, I really didn’t think I would know enough to pass. My wine list is very focussed on New South Wales and the Court exams are mainly about old world wines. Despite never really selling many wines from outside Australia, I managed to become one of the first Certified Sommeliers in the country, simply having listening to as many winemakers as possible over the last 20 years.

Of course things have a habit of turning full circle. Over the last few years the number of interesting beers in Australia has skyrocketed. Wine lists in Australia are beginning to list a wide range of beers, not just the same beer with a different label but all sorts of different styles and matched up with different menu items. Beer is no longer just as a pre dinner drink and the best sommeliers know this. 

I always come across tiny craft breweries every time I visit a wine region these days. The craft brewing renaissance actually started in the Sonoma Valley in California. Perhaps the craft brewers know how much winemakers love a cleansing ale. Even winemakers like Lark Hill in Canberra and Moorilla in Tasmania are making beer. In fact they are making great beer.
The beauty of both wine and beer is that my education will never end. There will always be new people to meet and learn from and to share my own knowledge with. I’m glad I found my new passion and never lost the old one.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest post by Rachel Canalita, Flame Production intern

My name is Rachel Canalita and I am an intern at Flame Production, the Sydney-based production company owned by Lyndey Milan. I'm from Southern California, just south of LA in Orange County and currently in my final year of studies at Boston University majoring both International Relations and Film & Television Production. I will be in Sydney from mid-August until late November as part of a study abroad program through Boston University.

My time here at Flame Productions began at the beginning of October and ended last Friday, 23 November. Two of my favourite highlights of my internship experience were watching Lyndey's live TV cooking segment at Channel 9 and 'the race that stops the nation,' the Melbourne Cup.

Channel 9
Lyndey was so kind in letting me accompany her to watch her segment on the Channel 9 morning show be filmed; I was also able to gain some live television production experience through observation. Although I am not all familiar with live TV productions, my Channel 9 experience was very valuable for what I hope to pursue in the future. Upon arriving at the network, I was led to Lyndey's workstation, which was a portable unit just outside the studio that they roll inside when her segment is about to be filmed. I had never imagined that this would be the set up for her to work with, but I guess you take what you get. Before Lyndey's segment, she was over in hair  & makeup while I watched the Morning Show being broadcast. The set up was smaller than what I would have imagined, with news desk anchors not being in the same studio at all, but the small space did the job. Once Lyndey's segment was about to be filmed, they rolled in the portable kitchen workstation, which was quite small. However, I believe that for the purposes of the segment, 'Tucker For Tenner,' it works for them.

The piece was a bit rushed, something I wasn't expecting, but I suppose as long as the end product comes out fine it works for them. The dish did not seem overly complicated for the amount of time given, so a lot of prep work did not seem needed. Morning show food segments feel rushed no matter what, but it is quite a different experience watching the productions live; you are aware of how much time should actually be allocated for the dish to be properly cooked, but it just isn't possible with the time frames given on the program.

The studio was set up into three separate areas: two interview spots, and another area for segments, like cooking, fitted out with shelves filled with kitchenware. News room segments were recorded elsewhere, I assume in another studio in the building. All of the segments I witnessed were quite entertaining, and everyone was very kind in letting me feel welcome between shooting segments. The studio was not exactly what I expected, but then again, I've never seen live TV recorded before.

Overall, this experience was very helpful. Seeing the different processes in live broadcast segments vs. recorded TV programs is very valuable to understand.

Melbourne Cup
My first Melbourne Cup experience was absolutely divine. The day started off with sweeps on the race. I pulled Precedence, who unfortunately didn't win, but the race was phenomenal (more on this soon). When the time came in the day to have a break and watch the race, we broke out the cheese and wine. As we chatted, I realised how this race not only stops the nation, but brings people together as well. That's not to say that as a company we rarely speak to each other, but rather, sometimes we just need to come together and enjoy each other's company (and a little bit of friendly competition).

After the race, we celebrated an office birthday with a phenomenal cake made by Lyndey’s PA Julia. This Reese's peanut butter cup, chocolate pretzel extravaganza was pure bliss. The cake consisted of chocolate cake and peanut butter layers with crushed pretzels and a hint of coffee.

Melbourne Cup is the first time I've ever attended some sort of gathering for a horse race. You would think that the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness (America's Triple Crown horse races) would have some sort of effect on the entire US as the Melbourne Cup does for Australia, but this isn't so. I think this might be because there are many sports Americans feel are more important to watch. It's been a wonderful experience seeing how excited everyone gets about sports here in Australia; every sport seems to have some sort of hold on Australia, whether it's cricket, AFL, or swimming.

It's been a wonderful couple of months here in Sydney, and I can't wait to experience more as I have a few more days left to soak up some beautiful Sydney sunshine!

Thanks Rachel - it was a pleasure to have you at Flame Productions.  Lyndey x

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Avocado reviewer competition

I have been involved in the food and wine industry for over 25 years and reviewing for the Good Food Guide since 1987.  Increasingly, members of the dining public are joining the pack of critics so I thought I’d share a few quick tips that I have picked up for reviewing restaurants over the years.

  1. Like any good critical analysis a review should be honest, informed, impartial and as objective as possible.
  2. Use your knowledge of cooking and ingredients to evaluate the dish. Has the correct method been used? Has it been cooked as indicated? Look at whether or not it matches what is on the menu and if the flavours are true.
  3. Try not to be limited by personal preferences. Write a review in such a way that allows the reader to judge whether or not they would enjoy the restaurant being written about or not.
  4. Look at the actual food as well as the big picture. Consider what is actually on the plate - how it tastes, looks and smells. Then look at the menu as a whole, its balance, interest and value, the wine list, service, comfort of seating and ambience.
  5. Finally, go out with an enthusiastic attitude. Expect to find a great meal and don’t be looking for faults. When criticising, make it constructive.
  6. A professional review is written after an anonymous visit and paying for the meal just like any customer. It is not something accepted gratis.

Now that I’ve shared my tips with you, I have the perfect opportunity for you to put them into practice. During the month of November Australian Avocados are giving you the chance to put restaurants around NSW and ACT at the mercy of your palate. Due to the extraordinary bumper crop of avocados coming through, participating restaurants will be featuring a very special avocado dish. To enter the competition all you have to do is order the dish, write up your review and post it to your personal blog, Yelp, Urbanspoon, or TripAdvisor and inform Avocados Australia of the location by the end of November.

Click here for more details on the competition.  

My friends at Bayside Lounge in Darling Harbour have devised a stunning dessert of Avocado Pannacotta with Avocado ice cream and Chilli marshmallow (pictured above) for their lunch menu. Head chef, Uwe, has been kind enough to share the recipe of his Avocado Pannacotta to impress your guests with an unconventional dessert at your next dinner party.

Avocado Pannacotta

5 gelatine leaves
750ml pure cream
125g castor sugar
1 split vanilla bean
150gm avocado puree
1 cup (250ml) milk

1. Soak gelatine in 2 cups of cold water for 5 minutes.
2. Bring cream, sugar and vanilla bean to the boil. Remove from heat and discard vanilla bean.
3. Squeeze out excess water from gelatine and whisk into warm cream mix until completely dissolved. Leave mix to come to room temperature.
4. Place avocado puree and milk in blender and puree until smooth.
5. Fold into cream mix gently as to not create air bubbles on the surface.
6. Pour into desired serving glass and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Best of luck! Lyndey x

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

World Chef Showcase at SCEC

For the month of October some of the best chefs from around the globe visited the sunny harbour of Sydney for the annual Crave International Food Festival. This year there was an emphasis on Italian cuisine, with Massimo Bottura, one of the highest ranking chefs in Italy, on top of the all-star line-up.
To begin the festival, the World Chef Showcase was held at Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. The ultimate food-lovers’ weekend brought together some of the finest culinary talents for a weekend of presentations, cooking demonstrations, talks and tastings.  Over 2,500 dishes were served over the weekend.
Although I wasn’t able to make it, as the culinary ambassador for the Centre, it was wonderful to see them given the opportunity to hold this high profile event.
Some highlights included talks and cooking presentations by Massimo Bottura, Antonio Carluccio and Darren Purchese from Burch&Purchese Sweet Studio in Melbourne.
Find out what else is on for Crave International Food Festival at

Friday, October 5, 2012

Crave at SCEC this weekend

Crave Sydney International Food Festival run by The Sydney Morning Herald is here again!  This year their signature event, World Chef Showcase, will be held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre.  A perfect location for such an event with its easy accessibility to all forms of transport and the professional team from The Centre working behind the scenes.

Festival Director Joanna Savill, an old friend,  has again done a great  job with her team.  The month of foodie fun includes signature events such as Night Noodle Markets, Showcase Dinners and cooking classes as well as Shoot the Chef photography exhibition and competition.
My friends at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre are hosting the World Chef Showcase this weekend – Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October.  Dubbed ‘the ultimate food-lovers’ weekend’, hand-picked domestic and international culinary talent come will together for a series of presentations, demonstrations and tastings.  Best of all it brings to town writers like Ruth Reichl , along with local luminaries in Talks and Thoughts, a new feature in the Showcase.
Internationals include food writer and cookbook queen Tessa Kiros, restaurant reviewer  Nick Lander, and Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar. Locally, our Italian chefs star along with some personal favourites:
Mark Best from Marque presenting in the Thoroughly Modern Masters section. I’ve eaten in Mark’s three hat restaurant Marque, in Sydney’s Surry Hills, many  times and love everything from his quiet determination to his impressive and innovative yet grounded food.  
Colin Fassnidge from The Four in Hand and 4Fourteen is joining The Luck of the Irish section.  Following my Irish odyssey also known as television series, Lyndey Milan’s Taste of Ireland (soon to be screened), I share an affinity with Colin’s Irish roots and food.  I recently enjoyed a leisurely lunch at his newish 4Fourteen in Surry Hills.  From the stuffed pig tail to the Irish breakfast and mixed grain salad – all sublime.  As it says on the Crave website ‘stand by to go the whole hog’!
On the sweet side, you can’t go past  Darren Purchese, one of our most original, exciting and talented pastry chefs. The sweets, desserts and cakes that he creates at his bespoke Melbourne studio are works of edible art.
The details
09:30am-5:00pm Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 October
Parkside level 1, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour
Click here for more information

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unconventional Evening Award

Last November I had great fun MC ing the “Unconventional Evening” held at the Sydney Convention Centre. This fantastic event highlighted the Centre’s innovation and creativity.

Great news last week to learn that this spectacular event has been recognised internationally  with the highly prestigious International Special Events Society (ISES)  Esprit Award. The award, announced in Dallas in the United States at the beginning of August, is an outstanding achievement.
The team took inspiration for the event from a painting from the Centre’s Australian art collection by renowned artist Tim Storrier titled, Point to Point (pictured). The centre’s team did a wonderful job in transforming the stunning Bayside Terrace, looking out over the glittering harbour, into an astounding interpretation of the artwork with a massive projection of Storrier’s artworks surrounded by hundreds of tiered candles.

The event succeeded in demonstrating the Centre’s passion for excellence and talents. A succession of amazing dishes, delivered by Executive Chef Uwe Habermehl, highlighted the finest of local produce and was, of course, accompanied by fine local wine from all over New South Wales. During the evening I interviewed various leaders in the food and wine industry including Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrrell’s wines and Sam Hayes of Mirrool Creek Lamb. Several renowned artists were in attendance including Colin Lanceley, Michael Johnson and of course, the inimitable Tim Storrier himself.

The award is well-deserved recognition of the Centre’s contribution to the industry through continuous world class delivery of events and service.

An excellent way to celebrate the Sydney Convention Centre’s 25th birthday in outstanding events for the year 2013!

See highlights of the evening here  and photos here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Winter menu at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre

My good mate, the ever-talented Executive Chef [pictured above] at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Uwe Habermehl, has created a sensational seasonal menu for chilly months. All the dishes focus on utilising top quality produce from local, New South Wales suppliers.  From Orange, Mandagery Creek Venison is a name that particularly resonated with me.  The  owners Tim and Sophie Hansen are good friends and I’ve been able to visit and see the beautiful deer they rear which is free-range, pasture-fed as well as antibiotic, stimulant and growth hormone free. The richly coloured meat is lean with a subtle, delicate flavour.

Similarly, Uwe has cleverly incorporated many indigenous ingredients – from Wattleseed to Kangaroo – by giving them a modern twist.  Old favourites have also been given a makeover – Caramelised apple tarte tatin is paired with liquorice and white chocolate ice-cream.

The Centre take food and wine matching very seriously. Master Sommelier, William Wilson has hand-picked several stunning wines to complement Uwe’s winter menu, including the bold Hope Estate Shiraz from the Hunter Valley.
Master Sommelier William Wilson with me

The Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre is host to a huge array of events – Motor Show, Good Food and Wine Show, gala dinners, school formals, graduations, corporate conferences – the list goes on. Such diversity offers a significant hurdle for the catering team; who must be able to switch tempos, menus and styles with alacrity. Therefore, I thought it was important for me to bring to attention the latest example of Uwe and his team’s talent – his delicious Winter seasonal menu, which I highly recommend you taste.
For more information visit the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre website.

Monday, July 9, 2012

High Tea in the Globe Bar, Observatory Hotel

When you think of afternoon tea, a world of dainty sandwich fingers, squares of soft-crumbed cake and fruit-jewelled tarts is unleashed. This meal, neatly sandwiched (pardon the pun) between lunch and supper, is normally overlooked on the grounds of over-indulgence and extravagance. The Duchess of Bedford is credited with inventing the afternoon tea, and if portraits of her are accurate, this should come as no surprise. In fairness, the traditional gap between lunch and dinner is purported to have yawned for around eight hours, thereby warranting an afternoon pit-stop. However, I very much doubt that anyone from that time would recognise either the foods or the size that a modern afternoon tea has bloomed to. Not that I’m complaining.

Last week, I took a colleague (herself English, so she should know!) to a full-blown high tea at the Observatory Hotel. We felt like the Duchess of Bedford as soon as we walked through the entrance hall; it gleamed with the cool marble tiles, smooth swooping banisters and glinting chandeliers. After wafting his way between the perfectly laid tables and crisply folded newspapers, we were greeted by a smiling waiter who settled us into comfortable bachelor-green leather armchairs with the exciting prospect of champagne. A sign of good things to come.

Neat triangles of crustless bread filled with a variety of egg mayonnaise, ham and cheese, smoked salmon and, of course, cucumber were arranged neatly on the lowest tier of our china cake stand. Our eyes swiftly climbed up to the next level of our cakey pyramid: the scone layer, featuring four freshly baked miniature scones accompanied by dinky jars of clotted cream and strawberry jam which emanated a sweet, summery fragrance. More often than not hotel scones are claggy, insipid and fridge-cold, so it made these - sweet, raisin studded and misted with a haze of icing sugar - irresistible. The menu goes on, with miniature ramekins of crème brulee, cones of chocolate mousse, powder-pink macarons and fruit tarts. Not all of it was as fresh as the scones as tiny squares of cheesecake tasted of fridge,  but overall the glorious array of afternoon treats  didn’t just plug the hole between lunch and dinner, but substituted both.

It couldn’t be called afternoon tea without at least a pot of freshly-brewed foliage. The Observatory boasts an impressive list; from the familiar Ceylon, Darjeeling and Lapsang Souchong, to the more intriguing and exotic Dragon Eyes Jasmine, Warm Spice and Sencha First Flush. Served in mismatching teapots, each prettily patterned, was a welcome change the customary institution-white was.
It’s a shame that afternoon tea isn’t more popular. In this era of carrot-crunching health professionals advising to eat five (albeit small) meals per day, perhaps it will make a comeback, and the Observatory Hotel would be a spectacular place to return to when the time comes.

The details
Observatory Hotel
89-113 Kent Street, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Click here for high tea bookings

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guest post: work experience with Lyndey Milan

For the past few days we've been lucky to welcome Alice Henderson to our office.  As well as recipe development, testing and writing, I took Alice to Mornings on Channel this morning.  Alice has written a delightful account of the day.  Over to you Alice.

Bouncing out of bed this morning pre-sunrise, I couldn’t wait for another day in the food industry with Lyndey Milan. Brainstorming, recipe developing and testing (and tasting) aside for the day I headed straight to Channel 9 to observe a cooking segment on Mornings by Lyndey.
Armed with the recipe (not only read but memorised), an eye wide open for a celebrity-sighting, and a growing excitement to stand behind the scenes for the 4-6 minute segment, I knew it was going to be a great morning. Through the main gate and past the reception desk to meet Lyndey in hair and makeup, it was then time to prepare the bench that would be wheeled onto stage in the final advertisement break before the segment.
The produce for today’s recipe was just outstanding; award-winning produce from the Sydney Royal Wine, Dairy and Fine Food shows ( Fresh egg tagliatelle, Coolangatta Estate Semillon, Pacific Reef Fisheries tiger prawns, Tathra Sydney rock oysters and Brasserie bread to name a few. Yes, this was truly a medal-winning seafood pasta dish. Eager to help however I could, I got stuck into peeling the 2012 Champion winning cooked prawns to be tossed through the pasta before serving. Once all was set up and checked, it was time to head into the studio. Standing behind the cameramen looking at the set before me, Sonia Kruger and David Campbell well at home on stage, it was quite amazing to see how a live television show is produced. With a final check of equipment and implements, the cooking began.

 Medal winning seafood pasta

A master of the kitchen, Lyndey chopped, stirred and in minutes produced an absolutely-can’t-wait-to-try-that seafood pasta that smelt so delicious I was mentally working out which night next week I could cook it at home for dinner. All done and dusted, the bench was whisked back out of the studio for clearing and cleaning. After a sip of double-winning Semillon, a spoonful of pasta, and a photograph of the final dish we were ready to head back to the office. Having watched Lyndey on my television at home for several years it was such a thrill to stand in the studio this morning, soaking up every second of the experience.

Alice Henderson, food writer and trained chef, on work experience

Click here for the recipe on my main site.