Friday, 1 October 2010

When too much food is never enough

This weekend is looking terrific! Not only are there two football grand finals and the world championship cycling taking place, but there are loads of food related events happening around Brisbane.

First up Dreamfarm is having a Barn Door Opening morning tea event at its new warehouse in Albion on Saturday morning. Dreamfarm is a Brisbane based design company and will be showcasing their entire range of kitchen gadgets, as well as offering free espresso and tasty treats to all that attend.

Then kick off your Sunday with a trip to Jan Power's farmers market at Blackwood Street in Mitchelton. I'm a regular visitor to the Blackwood Street market - usually picking up fresh raspberries, great mushrooms, local honey, gluten free Sol bread and plenty of other food that tastes much better than anything you'll find at your local supermarket.

Then we'll be heading over to Southbank for two more events - the Thai Culture and Food Festival and Granite Belt Flavours.

The inaugural Thai Culture and Food Festival will feature Thai dancing, cultural shows, Thai products, the Singha beer garden and (most importantly) 15 food stalls. It will be located at the Cultural Forecourt at South Bank.

Once you have had a wander around the Thai Festival, head over to Granite Belt Flavours on Little Stanley Street where you'll find 30 stalls showing off the best food, wine & produce from the Granite Belt. It's a great way to support local food industries, and if you haven't tried much wine from the Granite Belt, it's the perfect way to start.

Dreamfarm Barn Door Opening
Saturday 2 October 2010, 10am - 1pm
9 Amy Street
Albion 4010
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Jan Power's Farmers Market
Sunday 3 October 2010, 6am - 12pm
Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053
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Thai Culture and Food Festival
Sunday 3 October 2010, 10am - 8pm
Cultural Forecourt
South Bank 4101
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Granite Belt Flavours
Sunday 3 October 2010
Little Stanley Street
South Bank 4101
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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Into Africa

As you all probably know, the Brisbane Festival is on the go at the moment. One of the events I'm glad to see is back again this year is Into Africa, which is being held next Saturday, 25 September 2010.

Into Africa takes place at Yeronga Park, and features live music, traditional dancing, food, coffee, and arts & crafts from all over Africa. If you haven't yet made it to one of the terrific African restaurants in Brisbane, Into Africa is a great place to tuck into some traditional African food for lunch.

I went along last year and really enjoyed it, especially the food that was on offer. This year I'm looking forward to seeing Hassan M'Souli's cooking demonstration. I've got one of his cookbooks (Modern Moroccan) and seeing as I'm about to rustle up a Moroccan dinner for the next Gastronauts Supper Club night, I'm keen to pick up as many tips as I can get.

On the music front, the featured artists include King Marong and Afro Mandinko, Samoko, Afro Dizzi Act, the Big Fela Afrobeat Orchestra and the 200 strong Into Africa Choir, who will be performing a tribute to Miriam Makeba.

It all adds up to a terrific day, so get along and experience a slice of Africa next Saturday.

Into Africa
Saturday 25 September 2010, 11am to 6pm
Yeronga Park
School Road, Yeronga
W -,261,4747,026100906.aspx

Monday, 23 August 2010

Wine List of the Year Awards

As I have been known to hunt down restaurants with a great wine selection, I was keen to find out see the winners of this year's Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine wine list of the year awards.

This year the overall winner (Australia wide) was Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne, which pipped the other finalists - Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Est., Glass Brasserie, Pilu at Freshwater, Quay and Vue de Monde. Fittingly, David Lawler from Rockpool Bar & Grill also picked up the Judy Hirst award for best sommelier. If you're feeling thirsty, you can read through the winning Rockpool Bar & Grill list here.

Looking at the local scene, The Brisbane Club picked up the award for the best club list in Australia, which is a terrific result. I've only eaten at the Brisbane Club once, but wasn't in charge of ordering the wine for that meal, so I'm keen to get an invite back there to really get stuck into their wine list. Wine Magazine noted that it's not just the depth of the list which is impressive (covering over 350 wines), but the prices are also excellent (including a magnum of 1997 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay for $223 and a magnum of 1996 Penfolds Grange for $915).

The Queensland state winner for best restaurant wine list was Ortiga. I haven't yet eaten at Ortiga, but I now have a compelling reason to visit soon. Ortiga pipped Absynthe and Cru Bar to take out the Queensland prize. Have a look at Ortiga's list here.

If you're looking for great restaurant wine lists in and around Brisbane, pay a visit to Absynthe, Aria, Cru Bar, E'cco, 1889 Enoteca, Era Bistro, Ortiga, Restaurant Two, Ristorante Fellini, The Brisbane Club and Vanitas - all of which picked up the highest ranking of three glasses in the awards.

There are 49 Queensland restaurants included in this year's guide, so it's well worth getting your hands on a copy. Unfortunately, this year the guide is included in the body of the magazine, rather than in a separate booklet. I have no idea why they've changed the format, because I always found it much handier to keep the little booklet rather than lugging the whole magazine around for 12 months. Format aside, it's a great way to track down the top wine lists all across the country. For the full guide, pick up the current edition of Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tasmania Unbottled 2010

If you're a fan of Tasmanian wines, make sure you grab a ticket to Tasmania Unbottled on 24 August 2010.

Tasmania Unbottled involves Tasmania's leading wineries travelling around the country, so you can try them all their wines in one place (much easier than zipping down to Tasmania).

This year the wineries visiting Brisbane include Josef Chromy, Pirie, Dalrymple, Jansz and Stefano Lubiana. I went along last year, and it was a fantastic tasting night - plenty of pinot noir and sparkling wine at almost every table.

Tickets are $35 and you can buy them here.

Tasmania Unbottled
Tuesday 24 August 2010, 5pm to 8.30pm
Holiday Inn
159 Roma Street
Brisbane 4000
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Tuesday, 27 July 2010


I'd previously tried to visit Treacle at the Grange for dinner, only to find it booked out. This time we headed back for breakfast. Although it was really busy on the Sunday morning of our visit, we managed to grab a table on the outside terrace.

Menus were brought to our table promptly, along with a bottle of water and a couple of glasses. So far, so good. The breakfast menu is pretty comprehensive, which means you should be able to find something that takes your fancy, no matter which way your tummy is grumbling.

After checking that they had gluten free toast (which they did) I ordered the zesty avocado on sourdough with bacon, halloumi cheese and two poached eggs ($16.90). I keep meaning to order more avocado dishes for breakfast, but usually forget when it comes to the crucial moment.

When my breakfast arrived, it was a good serving - two slices of toast smothered in "zesty" avocado, layered with rashers of bacon and halloumi slices, with two poached eggs sitting on the top. There was also a decent sized pile of rocket on the side of the plate, which remained untouched. I enjoyed most of the dish - the eggs, bacon and halloumi were all cooked perfectly, but I wasn't so keen on the zesty avocado. It tasted a bit like a guacamole (which is fine) but the pieces of raw red onion in the avocado mix overpowered everything else on the plate. Towards the end I began scraping the avocado off the toast, and found it more enjoyable.

My wife ordered the ricotta pikelets with lemon curd and berry coulis ($14.90). Unfortunately these were disappointing, mainly because the pikelets didn't taste like much ricotta (if any) had made it into the mix. On top of that, $15 for three large-ish pikelets with a bit of lemon curd isn't exactly great value.

We both ordered flat whites, which I found a bit weak compared to my daily Merlo fix, but were otherwise ok.

Other breakfast options include Treacle's home-made muesli with natural yoghurt and honey ($9.90), gypsy pocket filled with double smoked ham off the bone & Swiss cheese ($14.90) and
free range eggs Benedict on organic cornbread topped with fresh hollandaise, which is served with sautéed spinach and roast tomato ($13.90), double smoked ham off the bone ($14.90) or
Treacle's homemade salmon gravlax ($14.90).

While service was friendly throughout our meal, we waited a very long time for our breakfasts to arrive at the table. It was almost an hour after we had sat down when our meals were served. In my book, that's too long to wait for a couple of breakfasts.

Overall, if the service had been better, our visit to Treacle would have been so much more enjoyable. As it was, we waited too long for the food to arrive and when it did, our breakfasts didn't blow our socks off.

Treacle is also open for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu in particular looked good, and we'll have to pop back to try it out. (Sorry there are no photos - I only realised my phone battery was dead when we sat down at the table).

What does all this mean? A wide ranging breakfast menu that should keep everyone happy, but our visit was held back by slow service.

food bling ratings
Food - Ok
Service - Poor
Value for Money - Ok
Ambience - Relaxed suburban cafe/restaurant, with a sunny outside terrace
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Ok

Shops 2-3, 8 Days Road
The Grange 4051
P - 07 3352 4144
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Treacle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Plough Inn

I can't remember the last time I actually ate at The Plough Inn. Come to think of it, I might have never eaten there at all. At least that was until recently - I was going to see the Pixies at the Convention Centre and Southbank just happened to be a convenient spot to grab a pre-Pixies dinner and drink.

Thinking that we'd be able to eat fairly quickly, I decided to meet my fellow Pixies fan at the Plough Inn. I arrived at about 7.30pm, and there was a decent crowd outside, but I wouldn't say it was crazily busy. I grabbed a G&T at the bar and sat along the side of the pub (in between plenty of overseas tourists) with a magnificent view of a few guys setting up for the markets the next day.

Luckily I didn't have to sit there too long before we ordered dinner. The dinner menu covers salads and steaks, as well as a few other main courses such as grilled barramundi ($24), oven baked king pork cutlet ($26) and a pumpkin & feta stuffed field mushroom ($22).

I was fairly keen on devouring a steak before the concert, but baulked a bit at the prices. I'd been expecting to be able to grab some kind of steak in the $15-$20 range, so I was surprised to find the cheapest cut of beef was a Barcoo grain fed 400g T-bone at $28. Other options include a Tey's 250g eye fillet ($34), Tasmanian premium 300g rib fillet ($32) and a Rangers Valley 400g grain fed rump ($30). All steaks are served with corn on the cob, a choice of steakhouse fries or roast baby potatoes and mushroom, Diane, pepper, garlic cream sauce.

I ordered a Beef City 350g grain fed sirloin, cooked medium rare. We ordered our steaks just before 7.45pm, thinking there would be plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely steak and few cool beverages before the Pixies hit the stage just after 9pm. How wrong we turned out to be. While there was plenty of time to enjoy leisurely beverages, the steaks were another story. After chasing them up twice, the steaks were eventually ready just after 8.30pm. I thought it was a bit unusual that it took the kitchen over 45 minutes to serve two sirloin steaks with a cob of corn, chips and a small green salad.

My steak was probably a little over-cooked, but not far off medium rare. The chips were fine and the corn was ok. Unfortunately we had to gobble down our meals, so I didn't even get to touch the green salad.

For a pub at Southbank, our meals were fine. Whether or not they were good value is another issue. There are now so many pubs around Brisbane that serve steaks (and other meals) for over $30. I don't mind paying over $30 for a steak at a pub, but I expect the resulting piece of beef to be something memorable. Although both our steaks were fine, I wouldn't put them in the memorable category.

While we waited a long time for our steaks, the drinks service in the meantime was friendly and snappy, which meant that by the time the steaks finally arrived, we were both well and truly in the mood to enjoy the Pixies.

The concert itself was fantastic - I'd been waiting a long, long time to see the Pixies live, and they didn't disappoint.

food bling ratings
Food - Ok
Service - Poor
Value for Money - Ok
Ambience - Plenty of outdoor seats, but not much of a view
Vegetarian - Limited selection
Wine - Ok

The Plough Inn
Stanley Street Plaza
South Bank Parklands
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3844 7777
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Plough Inn on Urbanspoon

Monday, 29 March 2010

Brisbane Masterclass Weekend

I know it sounds a bit tragic, but for a while now I've been looking forward to seeing the program for this year's Brisbane Masterclass Weekend. Luckily my wait is over, and the program is now up on the Masterclass website.

If you haven't heard about the Masterclass Weekend, it's a huge food and wine event that happens at the Brisbane Hilton. Presenters are brought from all over the world, and usually the program spans a fantastic range of the food & wine spectrum.

Here are a few of the sessions that I'd be signing up to:

Asian Affairs - take three core ingredients – duck, crab and citrus – and hand them over to two of our finest exponents of Asian cuisine to work their magic. The nuances of Thai and Vietnamese will soon become apparent as Martin Boetz applies his modern Thai sensibilities to the ingredients while Luke Nguyen takes an authentic Vietnamese approach. Enjoy the dishes they devise with some of the aromatic Granite Belt Wine Country wines that so suit this style of food, presented by leading consultant and Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith.

The Passionate Patissier - are you a “Zumba loompa”, a follower of the pâtissier extraordinaire who created the croquembouche which brought many of TV’s Masterchef contestants undone? Sign up for this Saturday only session and you won’t have to queue as Sydneysiders do outside Adriano Zumbo’s Balmain pâtisserie to indulge in his famous French macaroons or his luscious cakes and pastries lauded as “unique in concept and execution”. You’ll leave with a special treat.

Flavours without Borders - throughout his journey from his birthplace Hong Kong through Toronto, Singapore and the USA, Susur Lee has never wavered from his consuming passion: to create unique combinations of textures and flavours and juxtapose the complex food traditions of China with the classical techniques of French cuisine. The results are “endlessly inventive” and “daring”. Exquisite artistry on the plate is a hallmark of this chef, named as one of the Ten Chefs of the Millennium in company with Ferran Adria and Pierre Gagnaire. Stepping up to the challenge of perfect wine pairings for Susur Lee’s stunning dishes is experienced Brisbane sommelier Peter Marchant.

Sensational Sherry - Emilio Lustau is one of Spain’s largest Houses of fine sherry, established in 1896 and still garnering swags of international awards year in year out. In November it took home the trophy as Spanish Wine Producer of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition. Join fine wine specialist Christopher Cannan to explore a range of glorious styles from the Lustau bodegas, from the dry and fine Manzanilla and Fino, through the richer Amontillado and Oloroso, to the luscious Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez.

Going the Whole Hog - when it comes to pork, the Italian approach is very much “waste not, want not”. Nino Zoccali will show why the whole pig is prized, demonstrate how to cook the different cuts and take you through salumi – lardo, pancetta, culatello, coppa and the other delicious charcuterie that is a cornerstone of Italian cooking – all using Australian pork. The perfect wine for an array of fresh and cured delights, including classic pork and fennel sausages, will be selected by Italian fine wine importer Dan Clark

Sounds great doesn't it? The only catch is, it's not cheap. Tickets are $350 for one day, or $595 if your stomach will allow you to go both days. Start saving now!

Brisbane Masterclass Weekend
24-25 July 2010
P - (07) 3231 3239
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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Coeliac Awareness Week

This week (13-20 March) is Coeliac Awareness Week, so I thought I should do my bit to spread the word.

Luckily the food scene for coeliacs has improved tremendously over the last few years. Not only do most supermarkets now carry a good range of gluten free products, but more and more restaurants and cafes are catching on, and offering gluten free options. If you're looking for a restaurant that's coeliac friendly, have a look through my list of gluten free posts - there are plenty of places all over Brisbane.

If you've recently found out you have coeliac disease, or have a friend with coeliac disease, then look no further than the Coeliac Society, which does an amazing job of collecting all kinds of useful information for their members. I've been a member now for about 4 years, and I'm constantly overwhelmed by their helpful resources - their pocket sized ingredient list book was invaluable when I first started my gluten free diet.

And if you've never heard of coealiac disease, here's a bit of a background from the Coeliac Society's website:

Coeliac disease (pronounced seel-ee-ak) is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the body mistakenly produces antibodies that damage its own tissues. It is a permanent intestinal intolerance to dietary gluten. A number of serious health consequences can result if the condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.In those with untreated coeliac disease the mucosa (lining) of the small bowel (intestine) is damaged: The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened. The function of the cells on villi is to break down and absorb nutrients in food. Through a microscope, the lining of the small bowel normally looks rather like shag-pile carpet, the villi making up the “pile”. The entire surface area of a healthy small bowel is comparable in size to that of a tennis court.In those with untreated coeliac disease, the villi become inflamed and the bowel has a characteristic flat appearance (like a threadbare carpet). This is referred to as villous atrophy. The surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption is markedly reduced (to the size of a table or less) which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

What is the Cause?

In people with coeliac disease the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, causing small bowel inflammation and damage. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Who gets Coeliac Disease?

People are born with a genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease. They inherit a particular genetic make-up (HLA type) with the genes DQ2 and DQ8 being identified as the “coeliac genes”. Gene testing is presently available through pathology laboratories (by blood test or buccal swab). The gene test is useful for excluding coeliac disease. The presence of HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 is not helpful as a positive predictor of coeliac disease, as only 1 in 30 people (approximately) with these genes will have coeliac disease. The gene test cannot diagnose coeliac disease – only exclude it.Environmental factors also play an important role in the development of coeliac disease.

How Common is the Condition?

Coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 Australians. However 75% currently remain undiagnosed. This means that approximately 157,000 Australians have coeliac disease but don’t yet know it.

Can Coeliac Disease be cured?

People with coeliac disease remain sensitive to gluten throughout their life, so in this sense they are never cured. There is no correlation between symptoms and bowel damage, so even if asymptomatic (you have no symptoms), damage to the small bowel can still occur if gluten is ingested. Once gluten is removed from the diet, the small bowel lining steadily repairs and the absorption of nutrients from food returns to normal.People with coeliac disease should remain otherwise healthy as long as they adhere to a diet free of gluten. Relapse occurs if gluten is reintroduced.

What are the Long Term Risks of Undiagnosed Coeliac Disease?

The long term consequences of coeliac disease are related to poor nutrition and malabsorption of nutrients. Untreated coeliac disease can lead to chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression and dental enamel defects. There is also a small, but real, increased risk of certain forms of cancer such as lymphoma of the small bowel. In children, undiagnosed coeliac disease can cause lack of proper development, short stature and behavioural problems.

Fortunately, timely diagnosis of coeliac disease and treatment with a gluten free diet can prevent or reverse many of these problems.

The Coeliac Society
P - (07) 3839 5404
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Thursday, 11 March 2010

Italian Food Safari

When it comes to food related shows on TV, Food Safari is my favourite, hands down. Over the years Maeve O'Meara has done a fantastic job of presenting cuisines from countries as diverse as Mauritius to Mexico.

Although I was sad to see that tonight was the last episode of Matthew Evans' Gourmet Farmer, I was over the moon to find out that it was being replaced with a new series of Food Safari. And just for something different, there's a twist with this series - it's all Italian. Guy Grossi from Grossi Florentino will be joining Maeve every week to tell us all there is to know about Italian food. I can't wait - tune in for the first episode next Thursday night at 7.30pm on SBSONE.

If you do happen to watch the new Italian Food Safari, make sure you keep watching at 8pm for the new series of Costa's Garden Odyssey. I'm hoping the second series will be just as interesting as the first - Costa is a very entertaining host.

Italian Food Safari
Thursday 18 March 2010, 7.30pm SBSONE
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Costa's Garden Odyssey
Thursday 18 March 2010, 8pm SBSONE
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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Chopan Charcoal

I only recently found out about Chopan Charcoal restaurant at Milton, thanks to a review by Tony Harper in the Brisbane News. Apparently the restaurant opened in 2006, but until last weekend I'd been completely oblivious to the existence of an Afghani restaurant in Brisbane.

I'm always very keen to try out new cuisines, so it only took us a week or so to pay Chopan Charcoal a visit. It's in a bit of a tricky spot for parking, on the corner of Milton and Baroona Roads at Milton, but it's extremely handy to Milton train station.

Chopan Charcoal has a fairly small dining room, but the walls are smattered with Afghani decor. I'm also guessing that the low level music in the background was Afghani (which added to the overall atmosphere).

We were greeted by a friendly waitress, shown to our table and given menus. The menus look excellent from the outside - they have a very cool picture of a horseman in traditional dress on the front cover. Once you open up the menu, you'll see it's divided into entrees, salads, kebabs, kormas, pastry dishes and desserts. There are also pictures of a few dishes inside the menu.

A few options on the menu were listed as no longer available, and most of the prices had been changed at some stage along the line (some with liquid paper). Sure the presentation of the menu could be a bit better, but I didn't really care if the food was going to be good.

The only entree which looked gluten free was the chapli kebab (spiced beef patties) which I promptly ordered. The other entrees at Chopan Charcoal are bulani (savoury pastry filled with potatoes & herbs) and samosa (savoury pastry filled with spiced mince & served with chutney).

Shortly after our orders had been taken, the waitress popped out to let me know that due to a large order of chapli kebab earlier in the night, they had run out. So sadly no entree for me.

My wife ordered the bulani ($9.50). When these arrived at the table they looked and smelled delicious. There were two slices on the plate, and the dish consisted of a thin pastry filled with potato and herbs. The pastry was so thin, you could see the green herbs inside. The bulani were served with a small pot of yoghurt and although I didn't get to try any, my wife enjoyed them - the herbs were fresh and the pastry was crisp. Judging by the amount of bulani we saw going to other tables it was a popular entree.

By this time, and after having the flavours of the bulani waft my way, I was starving. Fortuitously I had ordered the mixed kebab plate ($24). When this arrived at the table, I was glad I hadn't ended up getting an entree, because I would have struggled to finish my main. The mixed kebab consisted of one each of the chopan kebab (lamb pieces on the bone marinated in spices), shaami kebab (minced lamb with ground garlic & cherry tomatoes), chicken kebab and teeka kebab (lamb backstrap marinated in spices). The four kebabs had been cooked over charcoal and were served on a large square plate, on a bed of rice, with a green salad on the side.

This turned out to be a lot of meat, and would be a great dish to share around the table. My pick of the kebabs was the chopan kebab, which had a delicious flavour from the marinade, but the shaami kebab wasn't far behind. As this dish isn't served with any sauce, a small pot of yoghurt would make a good addition.

My wife ordered the burani banjan - eggplant cooked with fresh tomatoes, garlic & onion and served with yoghurt. The burani banjan was also served with a side dish of white flat bread. Without a doubt, this dish was the star of the night. Eggplant cooked well is one of my favourite foods anywhere, and this dish was excellent. Normally I'm not a big fan of a lot of onion, but the slices of onion in this dish were meltingly soft and had picked up a lovely flavour from the eggplant. I tried to steal as much of the burani banjan as I could, because it was a fantastic accompaniment to my kebabs. By the time we'd finished this dish there wasn't even a drizzle of the sauce left on the plate, as it had all either been stolen by me, or was mopped up by the flat bread. If you do visit Chopan Charcoal, make sure you order the burani banjan.

Other main course options include karahi (BBQ lamb pieces with tomatoes, eggs & herbs), qabuli (rice with lamb pieces, carrot, sultana & meatball korma), lubia korma (red kidney beans cooked in tomato sauce with selected spices) and mantoo (steamed pastry filled with spiced minced lamb).

At this stage of the night we didn't have any room for any more food, but if you are after something sweet there are a few dessert options, including firni, an Afghani custard served with toasted almonds.

Service was friendly during the night, and fairly relaxed. Although we didn't wait very long for either course, you get the feeling that care is taken with the food at Chopan Charcoal and nothing happens in a hurry.

Chopan Charcoal is BYO and there's a bottle shop handily located in the Baroona Road centre next door. Be warned though, the wine glasses are tiny, so you'll find yourself topping them up every few minutes.

I'm always excited to come across new cuisines in Brisbane and Chopan Charcoal didn't let me down. Although it's a fairly rustic setting, I'll definitely be back with a few friends next time, in order to share a good selection from the menu around the table. Chopan Charcoal is also very good value - our meal was $46.50, so it's not going to break the bank balance even after a few visits.

What does all this mean? Tasty grilled meats and rich vegetable dishes add up to a night of exotic Afghani food, that's both BYO and great value.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Value for Money - Great
Ambience - Rustic feel with Afghani touches
Vegetarian - Good
Wine - BYO

Chopan Charcoal
Corner Milton & Baroona Roads
Milton 4064
P - 07 3367 2212

Chopan Charcoal on Urbanspoon

Friday, 26 February 2010

Taro's Ramen Cafe

I'm the first to admit that I don't eat a lot of Japanese food. It's not that I don't like it - it's just not very gluten free friendly.

Recently Taro's Ramen Cafe opened in the city. As I knew that Taro Akimoto (the owner) wrote a blog all about ramen, I was expecting the food to be fairly authentic. If you haven't eaten ramen before, here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

A Japanese noodle dish that originated in China. It is served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, kamaboko, green onions and even corn. Almost every locality in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu ramen of Kyūshū to the miso ramen of Hokkaidō.

(If you're keen to read a bit more about the different types of ramen, surf your way over to Rameniac, which is a massive source of information about ramen).

From the street, Taro's doesn't look like a Japanese eatery - the first thing you see is a big snack/sandwich bar - although once we stepped inside we soon found the compact ramen menu. Taro's offers the following ramen dishes:

Tonkotsu Ramen (noodles in hot soup -$14.80) - rich stock made from 100% Bangalow sweetpork bone. Cooked for over 16 hours and topped with charsiu (pork), nori (dried seaweed), egg & shallots. Served with pickled ginger and Takana pickles.

Shoyu Ramen (noodles in hot soup - $13.80) - a triple soup blend of vegetable, chicken and dried seafood broth, flavoured with aged soy sauce and topped with charsiu, nori, egg, shallots.

Tsukemen (cold noodles with hot dipping soup - $14.80) - Triple soup stock with dried seafood powder and topped with charsiu, nori, egg & shallots (ask for hot water “oyu wari” to dilute and drink up the soup at the end).

Hiyashi Ramen (cold noodles with cold soup - $14.80) - the stock is made from dried seafood sourced from Kataoka-san of Tokushimaya and topped with charsiu, egg, tomato and fresh salad.

Both my friend and I ordered the Tonkotsu ramen. After finding out I was a coeliac, Taro kindly offered to make an alternative version for me, based on salt instead of soy sauce and containing rice noodles. I decided to take him up on the rice noodles, but kept the soy sauce in the broth.

After ordering at the counter, we popped outside to the shady courtyard, which was surprisingly cool on a very warm day. The tables were almost full, which is usually a good sign in my book. Our ramen arrived shortly afterwards in large bowls, with equally large Japanese-looking soup ladles. Both our bowls of ramen were served with a side dish containing benishoga (red ginger) and takana (pickled mustard greens).

The stock itself was very rich, and had a cloudy appearance. Swimming around in the stock were the noodles, nitimago (half a soft boiled egg), charisu (a thin slice of pork), fresh shallot slices, a piece of nori and some sesame seeds.

Although the stock had a very rich flavour, it didn't overpower the other ingredients. The pork was especially fantastic - although it was only a thin slice, it had such a beautiful flavour - sweet and slightly cured. The nori was unlike any nori I'd tried before - it actually tasted like the sea and was amazing salty and tangy. The egg still had a slightly soft yolk, and a strong soy flavour. The ginger was also memorable - it's refreshingly tart, tangy flavour really cut through the rich stock.

It's not surprising that the ramen tastes so good. Taro's uses quality ingredients - Bangalow sweet pork, nori flown in from Tetsujin Nori (an organic nori harvester in Shichigahama, Japan) and the ramen noodles are freshly made in-house.

If for some reason you get tired of the excellent ramen, Taro's also sells chicken karaage and a few sushi rolls (as well as sandwiches).

If you're looking for something new for lunch in the city, Taro's fits the bill perfectly. It's certainly a much tastier option than many other tired establishments around the city that serve pedestrian food at much higher prices.

Food bling, Brisbane ate as a guest of Taro's Ramen Cafe.

Taro's Ramen Cafe
Ground Level, Boeing House
363 Adelaide Street (corner of Wharf Street)
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3832 6358
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Taro's Ramen Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 February 2010

Raw Milk Cheese

I know its been a very long time since my last post. But I have a good excuse (really). I only found out a couple of weeks ago that I've scored tickets to the World Cup in South Africa in June, which has meant some pretty frantic travel planning. Anyway it's pretty much sorted out now, which means I can get back to putting a few more posts up.

And what better way to start than with the topic of raw milk cheese - rather than explain it myself, here's a blurb which Will Studd has prepared earlier (to use a handy cooking term):

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking public comment on its recently released proposals (P1007) to change Australian Food Standards for cheese in Australia.

The good news is that if these proposals are adopted they will enable the production and sale of raw milk cheeses in Category 1 and 2, as described in the FSANZ Discussion paper in August 2008.


The bad news is that the proposals are very limited and cheeses made from raw milk in category 3, and raw drinking milk will continue to be banned.

It has been 14 years since the Australian authorities introduced a national ban on most types of cheese made from raw milk and raw drinking milk.

Since then FSANZ have granted only very minor concessions to imported hard cooked cheese types, and Roquefort after international trade threats and embarrassing media coverage.

Over six years ago, FSANZ agreed to review our application (A530/531) for a change to allow the production and sale of raw milk cheese, and an application for raw drinking milk.

The delay and past outcomes suggest it is unlikely the latest proposals will change much through rational debate, public submissions or scientific argument. But if these proposals are adopted without a challenge it will be years before there is an opportunity for another review.

Over the past two decades, international artisan and farmhouse cheese production has enjoyed significant growth in demand due to a revolution in consumer interest. Many of these cheeses are made from raw milk and are recognised as having an infinitely superior flavour and authentic regional character when compared to similar cheeses made from pasteurised milk. FSANZ has refused to recognise this trend and these proposals will continue to restrict the types of cheese that can be produced and sold in Australia.

FSANZ are obligated to seek public consultation by regulation on all proposed changes to the Food Standards.

If you think Australian consumers and Australian cheese makers deserve the opportunity to enjoy a complete range of raw milk cheese you can help by making a submission to FSANZ by February 24th.

So if this is a topic you feel strongly about, please make a submission to FSANZ. A friend of mine has put up a page here with a suggested submission (again prepared by Will Studd) - all you need to do is cut, paste and press send on your email. But get in quick - your submission must be in by 24 February 2010.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


If I had to pick an idyllic spot to live somewhere in the South-East Queensland/Northern New South Wales area, it would be in the lush green hills around Bangalow. It's such beautiful countryside - amazing views out over the ocean, only a short drive to the beach and best of all the town of Bangalow would be the local "metropolis". The town itself is fantastic - a really unique range of shops, some great restaurants & cafes, a butcher that sells Bangalow sweet pork and a small grocery store that stocks a quirky range of food that covers all the essentials.

Very very sadly, my bank balance doesn't allow me relocate to Bangalow just at the moment, so we have to make do with short visits instead. I've already written an earlier post about Utopia, but we popped in again on our last trip and had such a memorable morning tea that it would be mean not to share it with you.

One of the reasons I keep going back to Utopia is because they always have a selection of gluten free cakes. So many cafes around Brisbane mistakenly seem to think that having a couple of friands or a Byron Bay gluten free cookie is all you need to keep gluten free customers happy. Luckily places like Utopia are 10 steps ahead of the pack, always offering a good selection, which usually makes my job of ordering pretty tough. Not only are there always a good selection of cakes and pastries, but they are all cooked on the premises.

On this occasion I couldn't go past the lemon curd boat. As you'd guess from the name, this was a pastry shell in the shape of a boat, filled with lemon curd. The pastry was lovely & crisp, but held together well (a rarity for gluten free pastry). The filling was the complete opposite - slightly runny and very tangy. The pastry boat was served with a slice of lime and some creme Anglaise. I'd have to say that the lemon curd boat was the best gluten free pastries I have eaten for a long, long time. After it disappeared off my plate and I'd cleaned up all the delicious creme Anglaise, I seriously thought about ordering another. I only stopped because I knew we were driving down to Byron for lunch, and wanted to leave room for a serve of nachos from Ozymex (which are my favourite nachos anywhere).

My wife ordered a mascarpone tart with passionfruit curd, which looked equally as impressive as the lemon curd boat. The base of the tart contained plenty of coconut, and was filled with a lovely light, tangy mascarpone. The tart was generously drizzled with passionfruit curd and was another memorable morning tea staple. Of course my lemon curd tart was better, but I'd happily eat one of these any day (even if I couldn't eat the base).

We each had a flat white, made with Zentveld's coffee. They were both good coffees, and were served with a little biscuit on the side of the saucer.

If you've never been to Bangalow, make a trip there one of your new year's resolutions. You can start the day with coffee and morning tea at Utopia, wander around the shops for a few hours (make sure you visit the very cool Japanese gift store) and then have a late lunch at Ate or Fresca on the deck of the Bangalow Hotel. High on our travel agenda this year is a weekend at Bangalow. Not only would I love to have morning tea and lunch at Utopia, I'm very keen to try out the degustation dinner at Satiate, which sounds like an absolute bargain at $65.

In the meantime, if anyone's selling any cheap properties in the hills of Bangalow, please think of me...

13 Byron Street
Bangalow NSW 2479
P - 02 6687 2088
E -
W -

Utopia Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, 11 January 2010

Green Oven

A couple of years ago, Green Oven at Alderley was one of my favourite Brisbane breakfast spots. That was until they decided to close on Saturdays (apparently because of staff costs), which meant no more breakfasts for me. Luckily we drove past a couple of months ago and noticed they had re-opened on Saturday mornings, so we popped in one lazy weekend for breakfast.

Green Oven is situated in a fairly drab row of shops on Samford Road, just up from the Alderley Hotel. Don't let the surrounding shops put you off. The real attraction of Green Oven is that where possible, the produce is organic. Although the prices are probably a tad higher than your usual suburban cafe, you can really taste the difference. Having eaten there plenty of times, the food at Green Oven actually tastes like someone has made a concerted effort to source quality organic ingredients.

Although the weekday breakfast menu is fairly brief, there are a few more options on Saturdays. I was after something fairly simple, so I ordered the tw'eggs with free range bacon ($13.50). Green Oven has plenty of gluten free options, so there was no trouble having the sourdough replaced with something more coeliac friendly. My breakfast came out with the two poached eggs sitting aside a gluten free muffin, with the bacon placed over the top and garnished with a small rocket & herb salad. The gluten free muffin was excellent, and one of the best gluten free alternatives to normal toast that I've come across anywhere. Although I prefer my bacon a bit crispier, it tasted lovely and the eggs came out soft, just as I'd ordered them. I was pleasantly surprised when our waitress actually asked how long I would like the eggs poached. I thought the rocket was a bit unnecessary in the scheme of things, so I left it on the side of the plate.

My wife ordered a serve of home made beans with sourdough ($16.50). This turned out to be a big serve of beans, sitting on top of a couple of slices of good sourdough. The beans were flavoured with a tasty (but not overly rich) tomato sauce, including capsicum, celery and onion. The plate was garnished with rocket, which worked better with the flavours of the beans than it did with my bacon & eggs.

Other Breakfast options we've tried on past visits include buckwheat pancakes, eggs benedict and organic fruit toast.

We both ordered a couple of flat whites with our breakfasts. Green Oven uses fair trade coffee, and both our coffees were well made.

Green Oven is also open for lunch, offering burgers, BLTs, quiche and specials which are written up on the big blackboard behind the counter.

There's also a cake cabinet next to the counter, that usually contains 3 or 4 gluten free delights, so I always have to pick up something sweet to take away. This time it was a triple chocolate brownie. Although it was very rich, it hadn't been cooked through, which was a bit disappointing, especially as it was $6.

The decor at Green Oven is pretty rustic and relaxed - non-matching tables & chairs are spread around the fairly small room. Service was fine on this visit, although we weren't in any hurry.

While there are plenty of places around that spruik organic, or "wholesome" food, Green Oven has taken the conscious decision to limit its menu and focus on organic ingredients. Not only that, but the organic produce is put together on your plate with care. The best comparison I can think of to explain the food at Green Oven is this - it tastes as good as the fresh breakfasts I used to eat at my grandparents' farm when I was a little kid - the free range eggs, real bacon and home-made bread still stick in my memory. It's hard to explain the food at Green Oven any better than that - you'll have to drop in to try it yourself.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Value for Money - Good
Ambience - Rustic, casual & mis-matched
Gluten Free - Great
Vegetarian - Good

Green Oven
28 Samford Road
Alderley 4051
P - 07 3352 7225

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