Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Tea festival: a steep learning curve

In the frantic, frenetic caffeine-fuelled city of Sydney, there's something rather reassuring about the ritual of making tea.  After a hugely successful inaugural event in 2014, the Sydney Tea Festival is back at Carriageworks on August 21 with dozens of specialty tea purveyors and a series of expert-run workshops.

Learn all about the art of taking tea, which is as much about the ritual as the beverage itself.   Image: Supplied
Sydney Tea Festival co-founder and owner of The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar Corinne Smith says this year's event is expected to attract more than 5,000 tea lovers on the day.  “Tea is trending in Australia at the moment and the success of last year’s festival is a testament to that. Given Australians buy $384 million worth of tea every year, we only envision the festival getting bigger and better over time.” 

This year's Sydney Tea Festival is set to attract crowds of up to 5000 tea lovers.                    Image: Supplied
Sydney Tea Festival co-founder and owner of Perfect South Green Tea Renee Creer adds that the event "celebrates what specialty tea in Australia is all about – quality, diversity and creativity.”

Creer defines specialty tea as the leafy grade tea produced with the intention to enhance characteristics in the leaf. She says it tends toward a more artisan approach to manufacture as opposed to mass-production and tea packaged as loose leaf, rather than packaged in tea bags.

The Tippity trio will be teaming up with Black Star Pastry for a tea and dessert pairing workshop. Image: Supplied.
Forget wood panelling and red upholstery. The tea market will be held under the broad rustic beams of the Carriageworks building with the long antique room featuring dozens of stallholders selling and sampling tea. 

Sydney Tea Festival is housed in the rustic rail sheds of Carriageworks in Eveleigh.            Image: Supplied 
Those who appreciate a steaming cup of tannins will find everything from specialty top-drawer loose leaf teas to herbal tisanes of all styles and tea pots from Samantha Robinson Handmade Porcelain. There will also be mountains of macarons from Mak Mak, Black Star Pastry treats and steamed buns and pandan pancakes from Tsuru Food Truck. Best of all is the brew lounge where you can kick back and listen to music while sipping a sneaky cup of LongLeaf Tea Vodka

The Sydney Tea Ceremony has a line-up of workshops on how to best extract flavour from dried tea. Image: Supplied.
Lovers of quality ceramics will also get ample opportunity to demonstrate their obsessiveness toward quality teaware at stalls selling items made of clay and hardened by heat. In keeping with the environmentally friendly nature of the festival, festival-goers will also be given the option to buy a $5 tasting cup to sample tea, which will double as a souvenir.

Tea geeks will also be on their knees in gratitude when they sign up for a talk, tasting or demo held by some of Australia’s leading tea specialists. Workshops will cover a range of topics, such as tea basics and blending, tea ceremonies and tastings, tea and dessert pairing, tea and meditation and much more. 


Learn all about top-drawer teas and herbal tisanes at the Sydney Tea Festival.          Image: Supplied
This year, workshop sessions include Tea Leaf Reading with Annie O'Reilly, a Tea and Chocolate Pairing class with Koko Black Chocolate and The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar, a bespoke chai blending class with Chai Walli Uppma Virdi and an Art of Tea Blending class with The Tea Atelier.

Organisers are expecting a crowd of about 5,000 to converge at Carriageworks for the Sydney Tea Festival. Image: Supplied
 If you have a taste for tea or want to learn more about the leafy brew, visit the Sydney Tea Festival website. Tea workshop tickets can be purchased in advance via Eventbrite. 





Saturday, 30 July 2016

Take a country cooking class in the Southern Highlands

Everything about Fox Hill Farm in NSW's Southern Highlands screams country charm.         Photo: Carla Grossetti
Lynne Derwin loves nothing more than to teach visitors to Fox Hill Farm the joy of country cooking.
Up until 2009, chef Derwin and her husband John, a civil engineer, ran the highly successful Roundstone Vineyard and Winery in the Yarra Valley until it was destroyed in the bushfires that roared through the valley in February 2009.

Lynne Derwin loves sharing the joy of country cooking.       Photo: Deirdre Worsley
The couple lost everything apart from a flock of Suffolk sheep, which relocated to Fox Hill Farm with the Derwins in 2012. The fact the sheep are huddled together outside the kitchen of Lynne's new homestead located in the Southern Highlands gives the classes real warmth and connects us to Lynne's life in Victoria and, of course, that devastating loss.

This flock of Suffolk sheep are part of the family at Fox Hill Farm. 


The mood, however, is anything but sombre and while the hands-on class touches on Lynne's past, it is very much devoted to the here and now, of learning the secret of rustic home cooking, with time and patience essential ingredients.

A visit to Fox Hill Farm puts that 'tree change' back on the agenda.       Photo: Deirdre Worsley.
The day starts with a gumboot gambol down to the kitchen garden to gather ingredients, followed by a demonstration led by Lynne who is on hand to help you master the art of making everything from golden crusty bread to kale and watercress soup, lamb with mint dressing, beef bourguignon, potatoes Provencale, mixed leaf salad, a beet and feta salad and roast pears with maple syrup and vanilla creme fraiche. It's an ambitious yet manageable menu.

Guests arriving at Fox Hill Farm are offered treats of kohlrabi topped with smoked trout. Photo: Deirde Worsley
Each person is assigned a course and rather than there being a 'knives-out' competitive vibe in the kitchen, what I loved about this class is that it felt like a family affair - especially considering Lynne's daughters, Kristy and Phoebe, are on hand to help with everything from hosting to the washing up.  

Fox Hill Farm Country Cooking Classes use produce plucked from the homestead's kitchen garden. Photo: Deirdre Worsley.
Central to Lynne's class is a desire to show how easy it is to make good, honest home-cooked country cuisine. At the end of the hands-on class, we sit around the farmhouse table and chat about what we learnt, elaborate on what our favourite dish was and talk about any new cooking skills we'd like to learn. We also tuck into a five-course meal - the result of our combined efforts - and a well-earned glass or two of local Sutton Forest Estate Wine, Bungonia Creek Wines and Southern Highland Wines.

Roasted beetroot and feta salad and potatoes Provencale are part of the rustic banquet to share.  Photo: Carla Grossetti 
This is real farm-to-fork cooking as the school responds directly to the seasons, giving visitors a taste of country life while celebrating nature's bounty from the surrounding farmland. Anyone who has ever collected a windfall of fresh herbs and vegetables from a kitchen garden will appreciate the emphasis on local, seasonal produce and how much that impacts on taste and flavour.

Thyme one of the essential ingredients plucked from the kitchen garden to add to beef bourgignon.   Photo: Deirdre Worsley.
The four-hour class also walks you through various basic techniques - from browning meat, to thickening a sauce, deglazing a pan and the importance of assembling your ingredients before you start. Classes are for no more than 10, which makes for an intimate setting in which to ponder what lessons we will take home from today when we next attempt Sunday lunch.

Lynne oversees the lesson as we all chop, stir and mix in unison.    Photo: Deirdre Worsley.

Aswell as learning about how to get the most out of seasonal ingredients, the class is an advertisement for cooking with an Aga oven, which is the centrepiece of Lynne's kitchen. Rather than being a lecture where we all sit around taking notes, the class feels very much like Lynne is working to recreate her family album.

Lamb with mint dressing was one of the hearty mains prepared by the group.    Photo: Deirdre Worsley
The classes run on the second Wednesday of every month and, over winter, catch the Southern Highlands at its magical wintry best. While novices will definitely come away with a greater understanding of country cooking, it's also certain that participants will leave with a few new food-obsessed friends. Those who want to stay and play in the leafy country lanes of the Southern Highlands should visit  southernhighlandsfoodandwineclusters.com.au for inspiration.

The Fox Hill Farm Country Cooking Class is followed by a convivial feast.     Photo: Deirdre Worsley
Fox Hill Farm Country Cooking Classes cost $150 and are held on the second Wednesday of each month or by appointment. Visit foxhillfarm.com.au for more details.

Bungonia Creek Wines are sourced locally and proffered as part of the Fox Hill Farm feast. 










Monday, 30 May 2016

Win tickets to see Mat McHugh @ The Brass Monkey, Cronulla

Mat McHugh will perform at the Brass Monkey Cronulla on June 24.                             Image: Supplied
YOU'VE JUST COMPLETED A SOLD-OUT SUMMER SOUND SYSTEM TOUR WITH THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM MAT MCHUGH SOLO? My setlist draws from the albums I've been putting out under my own name, including my new album. Also, the lineup for this tour is a two-piece; guitar, vocals, and beats. The Beautiful Girls is fun but I've done that for a long time. Right now, this is more fun. I will be playing a lot of songs from WAVES for sure; it's my favourite album.  

WHAT DO YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT? Forgetting something.

SECRET VICE? 
Nothing really. When I need to switch my brain off, I watch crappy television. Does that count?

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR A FRIDAY NIGHT TIPPLE? I'm coming across as pretty boring in this interview, but I have never really been one for going out drinking. Most of my time has always been spent either with my family or making music.  

FUNDAY SUNDAY? A surf, a swim with my family, seafood and music on the beach.

SOMETHING WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU? Every single time I play a show I am convinced not a single person will turn up. Sometimes, when they do, I think it must be some sort of joke.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? Creativity in all forms is super inspiring. I get equally as inspired eating an amazing meal, wearing a well-cut shirt or staring at architecture. I feel like, sometimes, that true creativity is at odds with popular opinion by its very nature. I'm inspired to keep pushing creatively despite that fact, and to always try and grow more brave.

LOCAL SECRET SPOT? 
I've only lived here for 5 years so I don't really qualify as a local, I'm not about to give away any secrets or no-one will ever tell me any again.


CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE LOCAL SURF BREAK? I absolutely cannot.

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR COFFEE? Every since I injured my neck I've been on a pretty brutal regime and sadly coffee, among many other fun things, had to go. Prior to that I was on about four double espressos a day from HAM (Harry and Mario's). I consider myself to be somewhat of an aficionado andI have not found a single better coffee in this country.

BEST LOCAL LUNCH SPOT? I'm a big fan of the salad rolls from the Vietnamese bakery.

DATE NIGHT? We have a five-year-old son. Remind me again what 'date night' is?

THE BRASS MONKEY IS ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUES. WHAT IS IT YOU LOVE ABOUT PERFORMING THERE? I love the people that own it and the people that work there. I love that I can walk there in one minute from my house. I love that there is a venue in Cronulla that plays host to so much amazing music. I love that they let me sneak in and see shows all the time. I love the BBQ octopus. It's a good place to play, It's got the vibe.

MAT MCHUGH will be performing at the Brass Monkey, Cronulla on Friday June 24. We have a double pass to the gig to give away and a copy of Mat's latest album. All you have to do is share this post, like the Brass Monkey Facebook page and tag the person you'd like to join you.  The comment with the most likes by Friday next week will be the winner.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Blue cheese, pear and hazelnut tart with balsamic glaze.                    Image: Supplied
Blue Cheese, Pear and Hazelnut Tart with Balsamic Glaze

Serves 4-6
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 ripe beurre bosc pear
100g King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue (or Bass Strait or Endeavour Blue), sliced
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, halved
olive oil spray
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Balsamic glaze, for drizzling

Heat oil and saute onions and salt over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly until softened and caramelised. Add a little water, if needed. Place puff pastry sheets on top of each other onto a baking tray and score a 1cm border around the edges. Remove base stem of pear and cut vertically into thin slices.

Arrange onions over base of pastry, top with pear slices, blue cheese and hazelnuts. Lightly spray with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Bake at  200 degrees Celcius for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden. Lower to the base of the oven in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking if needed to crisp the underside of the pastry. Serve drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Tip: Drizzle with truffle honey instead of balsamic glaze if desired.

Note: This recipe was supplied by King Island Dairy Cheese.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Win tickets to see bluesman play live at the Brass Monkey

Big Daddy Wilson will be performing at the Brass Monkey in Cronulla on April 2.           Image: Supplied.
"Love is the key," croons Big Daddy Wilson when I ask him what he hopes his fans will take away from his gig at The Brass Monkey on April 2. The travelling German-based African-American bluesman, who grew up working on cotton and tobacco plantations in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, says he hopes those attending the gig in Cronulla will "feel the love".

"I want people to walk away from my gigs feeling connected. I want them to feel love. I want them to feel respect. I want them to feel hope," says Wilson. The 60-something singer says there's something very primal about his passion for singing the blues, which he wasn't exposed to as a child.

"I didn't hear any blues when I was in North Carolina. I grew up listening to gospel and country music. I was a young man serving in the US Army when I went to Germany and that's where I saw my first blues concert. I knew right then and there that that music was for me. It was my calling. From that point on, I listened to the blues, played the blues and sang the blues," says Wilson.
'My story is about the bad and the good things but mostly about the good. I try to keep it positive. That river is a healing river. When you sing the blues, it fixes what's broken.' - Big Daddy Wilson

Big Daddy Wilson - named so because of his stature - says he began to write songs based on the blues because it connects him, like tacks on a world map, to his African-American roots. Producer Eric Bibb who collaborated with Big Daddy on his latest album, Time, describes Big Daddy's soulful baritone as "being baptised in the river of African-American song".  So what does that river sound like as it roars past?

"That river sound like a lot of history. That river tells a lot of stories.  Of course, life is the river; the river is life - all those twists and turns during the journey. My story is about the bad and the good things but mostly about the good. I try to keep it positive. That river is a healing river. When you sing the blues, it fixes what's broken," says Wilson.

Wilson says playing the blues feels very instinctive and he hopes those listening to his music feel as moved as if they were sitting on the front porch of his home in the old cotton belt of America's Deep South. As well as writing about challenging subjects such as his poverty-stricken childhood and his forefathers who were sold into slavery, Wilson writes of his enduring love for his German wife, Anna.   




"A lot of my songs have a deeper message. Even though I write stories about being poor, I had a very rich childhood, so those stories are filled with hope. Those hopes are mixed up with the culture, the gospel, the spiritual -- the stories I grew up listening to as a young boy," says Wilson.
"I fell in love in Germany so a lot of my songs are also love songs that I dedicate to my wife Anna. I have been writing her love songs for 30 years," he says.

As well as being inspired by some of the great old-school singers of the '60s, Wilson is influenced by artists such as Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and his producer friend Eric Bibb. Although he has not lived in Edenton for more than three decades, the mayor presented Wilson with the keys to his hometown in 2013 when he declared September 13 to be Big Daddy Wilson Day.

"That was great for me. Another honour and privilege was for me to be able to share the stage with legends such as Louisiana Red, Eddie Boyd and Champion Jack Dupree, who also call Europe home," says Wilson. 


Wilson was also invited to sing at the premiere of the blues documentary, The Soul of a Man, by Wim Wenders in 2003. "My songs are stories that my forefathers used to tell us about their life and experience. My story is their story. It's a southern story. It's a story of the poor, the marginalized and my great hope is to spread my wings and tell my story by spreading positive vibes. When I say 'love is the key' I'm trying to say we are all connected. The blues helps me reach out beyond the black community and spread positive vibes," says Wilson, who has won many music awards in Europe.


If you'd like to win a double pass to see Big Daddy Wilson at The Brass Monkey in Cronulla
on April 2, simply email carlagrossetti@optusnet.com.au about why you'd like to attend the gig and s
hare the story via Facebook. Don't forget to tag your prospective plus one.  BDW's latest album Time is available through ABC Records. bigdaddywilson.com/

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Time is ripe for Sydney's Longest Tomato Lunch

Book now for the Longest Tomato Lunch in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.          Image: Supplied
Sugo, passata, salads, bruschetta, pizza, chutney, tomato salad, relish or sauce. Tomatoes are at their peak at the tail-end of summer. And regardless of how you like to enjoy the humble fruit from the nightshade family, the time is ripe to embrace it in all its glossy red glory at Sydney's inaugural Longest Tomato Lunch, held from noon on February 21.

The Lycopersicon esculentum will be the centrepiece of the 72m-long table that will be set for 250 people and laid out under a gorgeous white marquee on the waterfront of Farm Cove in the Flower Bed Lawn at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

Tomatoes are the hero ingredient at the Longest Tomato Lunch.            Image: Supplied
Expect a tomato supper of Roman proportions with executive chef of the Trippas White Group, Ashley Hughes (of 360 Bar and Dining) at the helm. The event, under the umbrella of the two-day Tomato Festival, will celebrate the humble tomato in dishes such as gazpacho, cherry tomato and bocconcini salad, 65 degrees' salmon fillet with Moroccan spiced chickpea and tomato salad, aged cheddar, tomato relish, tomato focaccia, fruit salad and caramel tiramisu pots.

The Longest Tomato Lunch will be laden with tomatoes as the centrepiece of the 72m-long table.      Image: Supplied
Guests need to pre-order their hampers for two ($84) and pre-order their bottles of Tyrrell's Wines' 200th Birthday shiraz, chardonnay and sparkling wine ($35). In addition to the Longest Tomato Lunch, the festival will include talks, workshops, cooking demonstrations and a kick of chilli to spice up the Garden's 200th Birthday Celebrations. There will also be a produce market selling everything from heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers to herbs, olive oil, pickles and preserves. Keep your eyes peeled for Heartbreaker Cherry Tomatoes. Proceeds from plant sales help Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens to support science, horticulture, conversation and education.

For bookings, visit the Tomato Festival website.




Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Where to eat and drink in Surry Hills

Surry Hills wears its gritty history on its sleeve, with many of its bars and restaurants embracing the rough-hewn element of postcode 2010 and proudly celebrating its past. While the tangled streets around Surry Hills once reverberated with the whir of sewing machines and hum and clatter of manufacturing equipment, it is now more widely known for being knitted with fab places to dine and drink. This is largely due to an influx of artists and creative types who have, since the 70s, helped transform the neighbourhood once known for its brothels, rag traders, razor gangs and sly grog shops, into one of Sydney’s most fashionable suburbs. Here are six of the best.

Enjoy the passing of time at The Clock Hotel's The Whisky Room.                                                           Image: Supplied

The Whisky Room

Totter up the stairs at The Clock Hotel to find this cosy den crammed with eclectic collectables such as sporting trophies, leather-bound books, vintage maps and ye olde things. Bag a comfy leather booth near the bar and ask manager Daniel Molnar to unleash something wonderful from the malt vault, which features more than 100 of the world’s best whiskies. Better still, bunker down for one of the monthly whisky flights designed to celebrate a country, region or brand. Get set to swizzle with a Whisky Sour or Malt Express (Black Bottle, fresh espresso, vanilla syrup and Amaro). Aaaah, whisky. You are so much more than just a code word representing the letter W.
The Whisky Room, 470 Crown St, Surry Hills + 61 2  9331 5333, clockhotel.com.au

Cute as a button: The Button Bar wears the area's ragtime history on its sleeve.                   Image: Supplied

Button Bar
This cute-as-a-button bar is the little sister of both the Pocket Bar and Stitch, with all three proudly pinning the area's ragtime history to their sleeves. Just see how many puns you can drop about the bars having things sewn up before bearded bartender Brett Harris entices you to button your lips with the Last Word: a clean crisp cocktail shaken with gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice. The dark wood-panelled bunker of a bar has a bit of a pirate theme running as well as a playlist that you will want to Shazam. Alternatively, you can hem and haw about whether to imbibe a Jolly Roger or Berocca Fizz. Top off a few drinks with a margherita pizza to share.
65 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, 02 9211 1544, button-bar.com.au

Harpoon Harry is spearheading a campaign to encourage diners to eat more Latino food.          Image: Supplied
Harpoon Harry
Make like a barbed missile and shoot straight to the ground floor public bar at the 100-year-old Macquarie Hotel, which is spearheading a campaign to encourage diners to eat more Latino food. Harpoon Harry is barbacoa heaven, using aromatic woods such as ironbark and hickory to cook sustainable meats that please the crowds of liberal, literary locals. Head chef Paul Wilson’s menu speaks Spanglish, with the focus on authentic Latin cuisine: think big, butch cuts and roasted vegetable dishes made to share: pork barbacoa served with mole, beef brisket with fried bread, roasted eggplant and sweet potato bravas. Vive la revolucion.
Harpoon Harry, 40-44 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, 02 8262 8800, hotelharry.com.au 

Goro's is a Japanese word used to express approximation and it's madcap vibe makes it lots of fun.        Image: Supplied
Goro’s
Goro is a Japanese word used to express approximation. Fittingly, the fun and loose izakaya-style bar has been modeled on a character called Goro, who may or may not be an approximation of a real human. For that reason, the venue has the potential to be almost anything you may want it to be. The food and drinks are Japanese in influence and the huge space has more than a few spots to sit and sip sake. While the menu is full of unfussy Japanese street food such as yakitori, karaage and gyoza, the wacky interior is filled to bursting with items collected by someone who is either well travelled or has watched too many episodes of Iron Chef while wearing a onesie.  84-86 Mary St, Surry Hills, 02  9212 0214, goros.com.au
Head to Surry Hills Eating House for a taste of regional Thai food with Chinese/Malay influences.  Image: Supplied.

Surry Hills Eating House
The Surry Hills Eating House sums up what makes Sydney such a vibrant dining destination.  Chef Sujet Saenkham and the Spice I Am and House team has taken over legendary Harry’s Chilli Crab restaurant and given it an overhaul. While Harry’s has crept crablike down to 188 Elizabeth St, SHEH has been given a makeover, zhoozhed up with polished wood floors, a sexy tiled bar and light pouring through the arched windows. A highlight of the menu, which bases itself in southern Thailand with a few side trips to Malaysia, is gai pae sa, comprising chicken poached in a rice wine sauce served with a blast of chilli ginger dip. SHEH, Level 2, 198-200 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills. 02  9212 4092, www.spiceiam.com   

Ask the bearded bartenders, 'what's up brew?'at The Keg and Brew.                                   Image: Supplied


Keg and Brew
Sure, Sydneysiders love a dirty grungy pub. But we are also partial to a craft beer. The recently refurbished KB Hotel on Foveaux St is now more gentrified than grungy, but it also showcases the sheer brilliance of local brewers such as 4 Pines, Young Henry’s, Batch Brewing Co and Willie the Boatman who are committed to ensuring we are all sated. At KB, it’s all about the Bourbon, beer and bites. After a few boutique brews, kick back in the leather seating and weep for joy at breaking your carb fast with a pulled pork po’ boy and deep-fried Twinkie. The centre bar and original wall tiles remain, as does the down-to-earth vibe. 26 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, 02 9212 1740, kegandbrew.com.au

The lobster roll has well and truly landed in Sydney. This is the Keg and Brew's take on the traditional New England fare.