Monday, 30 March 2015

Crab carnival returns to The Morrison

Be sure to heed the unwritten rule of The Morrison Bar & Oyster at its annual month-long crab carnival: you must eat the flesh of one crustacean with a broad carapace and five pairs of legs during its annual Crab Carnival.

Get cracking: with this chilli crab dish at The Morrison Crab Carnival.

In what form you choose to consume members of the order Decapoda, class Malacostraca family is up to you: with offerings including blue swimmer crab and corn chowder, a crab and lettuce taco, snow crab roll, soft shell crab burger, crab on toast or chilli crab linguine.

You can also consume crab in liquid form with a crabby mary cocktail of Ketel One Vodka with Alaskan crab claw or a pint of pale ale, which of course is in keeping with the Little Creatures theme.

Chop chop: whet the appetite with these crab-laden toasts flecked with chilli and herbs. 
The New York-style brasserie will morph into an aquatic arthropod-filled paradise for seafood fans for the 26-day carnival, which this year runs until April 24.

Chef Sean Connolly has curated the crustacean themed menu and might well be spotted moving sideways or obliquely around the carnival having a punt on the hilarious hermit crab races (on April 2 and April 16) and cheering on his chef mates on April 7 as they try to claw their way to victory in a mud-crab eating contest.

Sean Connolly is all smiles now ... but just wait till you see him get crabby.

Don't forget to tag your crab photos @TheMorrisonSydney on Instagram and include 'crab' into as many punishing puns as is possible to be in the running for a $50 bar tab. For further information, visit

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

5 Healthy Hot Spots in Cronulla

Cronulla now has more healthy eating outlets that you can poke a posy of kale at. The public's passion for paleo, raw, vegan, vego, gluten-free has resulted in a plethora of cafes where the shrubbery on your plate is not a garnish or afterthought: it's the main event. Here are a few of the best nutritional kids on the block.

Join the hordes at Pilgrim's for a healthy start to the day.
Pilgrim's Vegetarian Cafe
Detox pilgrims will find a lot of foods containing antioxidants on the menu at Pilgrim's Vegetarian Cafe. If you've joined the queues of dreadlocked hippies and beanie-clad hipsters at the Huskisson or Milton caffs you will know why this earthy eatery has a cult following. This is not the place to grab and go. Instead, sit and chill.

Pendant lights, polished floors, potted plants pretty up this original Art Deco space.

Take a seat beside one of the sash windows in the lovingly restored Art Deco space and flick through a few alt mags while waiting for a Bliss Burger or, my personal fave, the Millenium, which is made with all manner of immune-boosting ingredients such as beetroot, fried onions, avocado, sprouts pepped up with tahini sauce and sweet chilli dressing (#Ididntquitsugar) spooned over a curry lentil patty.  It's a wholesome albeit carb-heavy package ... but it's also the size of one's head so go slow. Note: Pilgrim's is now open Friday and Saturday nights for vego feasts with a Mexican flavour.
Pilgrim's Vegetarian Cafe, 97 Gerrale St, Cronulla. 02 9523 7580.

The Bliss Burger will pull you into a state of perfect happiness at Pilgrim's.
Nutrition Station
P is for Paleo. It's also for protein smoothies and protein balls. Join the queue of devotees of the paleolithic diet dragging their knuckles straight from the gym to the Nutrition Station, which you will find clinging to the 'skirts of Cronulla Plaza.

These sweet potato fries provide a guilt-free snack post-surf.
Jokes about emulating our heavy-browed ancestors aside, there's no monkeying about with the menu: here you can get sweet potato fries, juices, fibre-heavy snacks and a bracing cup of organic java.

Nutrition Station is all about lean and clean guilt-free food that is low on calories.  
If you're not into consuming your calories through a straw in the form of processed protein shakes, opt for zucchini linguine in basil pesto or the Atlantic salmon on sweet potato mash with green beans. If you're going to order the quinoa salad with grilled haloumi puhlease ask an unsuspecting hipster how to pronounce it first: 'It's kin-wa."
Nutrition Station, Unit 4/30 Kingsway, Cronulla. 02 8544 3036.

Mint Organics is the sort of cafe that makes you feel good about yourself.
Mint Organics
Mint Organics is a pretty little cafe that sustains many locals who live on the west side of the South Cronulla peninsular. The cafe took over the space that was home to a convenience store and restocked its shelves with all things organic. After filling your basket with packaged healthy foodstuffs, sit and snack on food that looks, feels and tastes restorative.

Motivational quotes are a bonus at Mint Organics.
Try one of the freshly squeezed juices, an immune-boosting shot of turmeric, lime and ginger, coffee with nut milk or healthy(ish) appetisers such a green power ball or coconut rough. Of the substantial paleo-inspired mains, lamb salad mounts a convincing argument for a life lived organically with the freshness of the ingredients bolstered by texture and taste. If you want to ramp up those feelings of righteousness arrive at the restaurant wearing a sweat band after your morning run.
Mint Organics Cafe, 24 Nicholson Parade, 9523 0499.

Take a shot at eating lean, clean and green at the Heart & Soul cafe in Cronulla.
Heart & Soul
Cronulla is not exactly a hippie heartland. But even the fake tan brigade has embraced this cafe serving wholefood breakfast, lunch and early dinner options. It's Harmony Day every day at Heart and Soul Organic Chai Cafe, where orange is the new black. The ayurvedically minded menu is all about eating well and feeling good. Run by the Hari Krishnas of Govinda Valley Retreat, there are haute healthy options such as black rice and chia seed pudding served with berries and coconut cream, vegan choc caramel slice, berry smoothies and pumpkin soups.

Heart & soul likes nothing better than to nourish its customers with hearty, healthy wholesome food.

Popular are the mix of curries - cashew curry, green curry and chickpea curry - which are served in silken sauces and flecked with fresh herbs. Sit crosslegged while you finish with a mellow cup of house-crafted chai and contemplate signing up for that yoga retreat.
6/17 Gerrale Sts, Cronulla. 02 9523 6146.

And that's a wrap: workout your jaw muscles chatting to your trainer about your new shredding regime at So Fresh.
So Fresh
Gym junkies on the go converge at So Fresh for a fresh juice and chicken pesto wrap when they are in recovery mode post-workout. The garden shed-sized space is smack-bang in the centre of the pedestrianised part of Cronulla Plaza.

Vegetable and fresh fruit juices are the order of the day at So Fresh in Cronulla Plaza.
Most recently, the independent juice bar has started collaborating with Taylor Made personal training by offering a plethora of lean, green juices for its 42-day clean and lean challenge.

Shiny happy staff at So Fresh are a walking advertisement for the product.
The tiny juice bar is big on brain food, aiming to optimise your noggin's ability to function at its best, with food and drink offerings containing dark chocolate, bananas, red cabbage, berries, seeds, wild salmon. The roasted beetroot and lentil salad is also an energising option.
So Fresh Cronulla Beach, Kiosk 2, Cronulla Beach. 

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Giving trees for refugees

Green thumbs and giving types are invited to attend a planting day in the 'gong this Saturday to honour the Hazara refugee community in the Illawarra.

Aaron Sorensen and the team from Elemental Permaculture have been working for months with the Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra to help settle the Persian-speaking people of central Pakistan and Afghanistan into the community.

The result is The Friendship Garden and Sorensen is calling on the wider community to donate and help plant a giving tree on Harmony Planting Day.

"It is now time to plant out the garden with productive perennial grasses, herbs, vines, shrubs and trees. We invite the community to visit, plant something with the community gardeners and connect over food. It will be wonderful to show your support and welcome these folk to the Illawarra," says Sorensen. The planting day is on March 21 @ 11-2pm at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, 36 Harbour St Wollongong.

Pause for thought about Australia's treatment of refugees.
The Harmony Planting Day revolves around 'giving trees' that are rooted in community spirit.
Sharing is caring this weekend at the St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Wollongong.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Dishes that recall the lush green landscape of Ireland

Long after the ruckus of Sunday's St Patrick's Day parade has dissipated, the reverberations from the biggest Irish celebration in the Southern Hemisphere will still be heard around the city of Sydney. You don't have to spike your beer with green dye or wear a comedy beard. Instead, why not keep things verdant for the rest of the week just by vying for dishes hued between blue and yellow on the colour spectrum. Cover yourself in good luck and pluck a leaf from my clover of four places sending green shoots around the city. 

The Pazar Food Collective is not remotely Irish. It's a little bit Mexican, a little bit Middle Eastern and according to The Sydney Morning Herald's 2015 Good Food Guide "a globe-trotting neighbourhood street food party". You don't have to wear an oversized lime-green top hat to enjoy a few raspados (Mexican snow cones with frozen green fairy floss and a jigger of gin, cucumber, lime and mint). The moat of aquachile verde surrounding sushi-grade scallops will, to be sure, call to mind the lush green landscape of Ireland. The ceviche-style salsa verde includes jalapeƱos, coriander, tomatillos, lime juice, orange juice, habanero and tequila. The salsa is bright green and the strategy is simple: scoop up the scallops with some salsa and fresh avocado, which cut through the heat.
325 Canterbury Road, Canterbury. 02 8964 9334,

Chilli crab rocket linguine gets its green on at The Italian Stallion.
Step away from the kale smoothie and embrace chilli crab rocket linguine at The Italian Stallion, one of my new favourite restaurants in the Shire. There is nothing gimmicky about chef James Watson's decision to ink this dish green using 'rocket'-fuelled chlorophyll. This is upscale comfort food at its finest.  Watson launched his culinary career working for UK chef Gordon Ramsay at Aubergine and at St John Restaurant in London, but he is now in the spotlight for giving Gymea a place to genuflect. Toast the mother country at the bar under the Cocktails and Wet Dreams sign and order a Little Prick, with fresh prickly pear, lime, tequila, agave nectar. Legend has it, the cocktail was apparently inspired by a rather nasty leprechaun.
11 Gymea Bay Road, Gymea, 02 9542 8008,

Curled like a comma on the plate ... pan-fried ocean trout with a lick of iridescent pea puree.
Hugos in Manly is one of Sydney's most desirable dining destinations. Whether you are from Dublin or Dingle Bay, those feelings of homesickness may just abate while ensconced on the brand-spanking new deck at this iconic Sydney restaurant. Opt for pan­-fried ocean trout with iridescent pea puree curved like a comma on the plate alongside a salad of shaved asparagus, radish, eschallots and salmon roe. Impress your date by arriving via ferry at the new deck where diners can hear the gentle slap-slap-slap of the water against the pier, which pimps up the picturesque views over Sydney Harbour.
Hugos Manly, Manly Wharf, East Esplanade 02 8116 8555,

Corned beef at Kitchen by Mike.
It's not about the tablecloths and cutlery at Kitchen by Mike. Housed in a former Rosella Jam factory, the main focus here is on seasonality, simplicity and freshness. Food doesn't get much greener than when much of it is grown onsite in burgeoning beds where chef Mike McEnearney conducts educational classes.  Although the spread changes from day to day according to the seasons, there are some items you expect to see: award-winning rustic sourdough, tartines, quiches, wraps and rolls as well as corn with lime and chilli. Corned beef is also a go-to dish to enjoy on St Patrick's Day and worth coming back for any time of year.

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Easter: How Sweet It is

Va-va-voom... vanilla shortbreads decorated by Gena Karpf and her crew at Sweetness the Patisserie.
One of the perks of being a food writer is that I get to meet so many proud, dedicated passionate individuals. Last year, I interviewed Gena Karpf, head pastry chef at Epping's Sweetness The Patisserie, for a story about the hottest hot cross buns in Sydney for Good Food.

'Ears to a Happy Easter thanks to Sweetness the Patisserie. 
Gena's patisserie recently celebrated its sixth year in business and her recently released Easter range for 2015 is a beautiful thing. It includes everything from pretty vanilla shortbread to chocolate, coconut and marzipan nests, rocky road eggs made with 'mallows, violet and lemon fudge and a selection of chocolates that score for appearance and taste.

Eggs eleven. Less is more with these sweet treats handcrafted by Gena Karpf and team at Sweetness the Patisserie.
What I love about Sweetness is that the business is built around the joy of giving and receiving.
"My Easter treats are breathing new life into many long-lost traditional favourites and offer a depth of flavour that is only possible with handmade items," says Gena.

These treats are all Sweetness and light and almost too pretty to eat. 
Sweetness the Patisserie goodies are available online or from the store, which is located at 38 Oxford Street, Epping. (02) 9869 3800

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Champion effort for Lark Distillery

Bill Lark, far right, accepts the award for Champion Australian Distiller.
Lark Distillery was last night dubbed Champion Australian Distiller at the Australian Distilled Spirits Award.

A spokesperson for the Australian Distilled Spirits Award said The Champion Distiller Trophy acknowledges outstanding achievement in and consistency of distilling excellence. The trophy is awarded to the distiller with the highest average score, calculated on the basis of the distiller’s three top scoring entries.  

Bill Lark of Lark Distillery said: "It's a proud moment for me, and a wonderful thing to see how we [the industry] are growing and the respect that our industry is gaining overseas. Bars that we once dreamed of being in are now wanting desperately to have more Australian spirits and Melbourne really is the mecca for that. Winning this award is a huge honour and surprise." 

Western Australian's Great Southern Distillery’s was also lauded for its Limeburners Peated Single Malt Barrel M227, which was awarded Champion Australian Whisky.

Two other WA distilleries also took out top tipple awards: The Tailor Made Spirits Company was awarded Champion Australian Gin for The West Winds - The Sabre and Champion Australian Rum went to the Hoochery Distillery’s Spike’s Reserve.

The West Winds Gin trophy adds to the impressive treasure trove of medals and awards already amassed by the crew, including Double Gold Medals at San Francisco in 2011 and 2013 for The Cutlass, a Double Gold in New York in 2014 for The Broadside and a Gold for The Sabre at San Francisco in 2011. Locally, The West Winds Gin has collected Champion Gin at the 2014 Royal Melbourne Fine Food awards and the Best On-Premise spirit brand at the 2013 ALIA awards.

In the four years since The West Winds Gin team launched their Margaret River based gin on the world, the Australian distilling landscape has developed into a world class act with amazing styles being produced by a range of high quality producers.

The West Winds Gin Head of Sales, Booze, and Buccaneering, Jez Spencer says the Sabre tips its hat to the great gin houses of old and is a well-balanced introduction to the London dry styles.

“We love the smaller of the swords, The Sabre, which we often describe as the missionary position of gins... not overtly complex but satisfying nevertheless.  Drink it with tonic, lots of ice and fresh lemon or in your favourite citrus based gin cocktail. As for the ADSA Champion Trophy, well, it's incredibly exciting and humbling to be recognised again for the high quality of our Gins by such solid luminaries. Respect.”

All up, seven major trophies were handed out to the country’s top distillers during the official awards ceremony, which was presided over by the panel of industry experts, educators, specialist retailers and bartenders who sipped and sniffed their way through 115 entries at Melbourne Showgrounds last week.

The judges also awarded South Australia’s VOK Beverages Champion Trophy for Brandy with its Black Bottle XO Brandy, while Champion Australian Liqueur went to Queensland’s Castle Glen Australia for its Pecan & Hazelnut Liqueur.

Victoria also received major trophies, with Edgemill Group’s Zeus Oyzo winning Champion Australian Alternative Spirit.

The awards are presented by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and supported by the Australian Distillers Association and designed to acknowledge the changing nature and recent significant growth of the emerging Australian spirits industry.  

For the full list of winners, visit