Search for the best brekkie - Witches Falls, Mt Tamborine

This brekkie took a little work but was well worth the effort.

I was staying at a gorgeous cottage at Witches Falls on Mt Tambourine. The breakfast option here comes with free range eggs from Daniela's friendly cooks, freshly baked bread from Daniela's kitchen, local sausages, fresh vegetables and fruit.  The cottage had its own little kitchen and a barbeque outside so it's easy to whip up brekkie. Eating it outside in the delightful, flower filled enclosed garden Daniela has created is another delight. If you're not an eggs breakfast person there is a Continental option.

Witches Falls Cottages are located on the corner of Hartley Road and Main Western Road, just off the edge of the escarpment.  The cottages are beautifully designed as a weekend getaway and truly relaxing.  The only thing guests are asked to do is water the fern wall in the huge spa bathroom - they get a little hot under the glass roof without a morning drink.

Little touches make these cottages extra special. Think a bed enclosed by sweeping drapes, a huge spa overlooking a rainforest garden and a pot belly stove to warm up the cold night air. You'll spend your time lazing on the verandah enjoying the scented garden, lying in the spa watching the stars twinkling though the roof, or drinking plunger coffee (supplied). There's also a great night cap of local grog and chocolates. No, I am not exaggerating.

Just over the road is a national park with lots of walks and a short drive, or walk if you are keen, is a great spot to watch the sunset.If you haven't been to Tamborine lately you are in for a surprise.  There's a huge range of things to do here and some seriously good wineries to visit. Local food is really taking off and you must visit MT Brewery to taste the local beers and sample Witches Chase cheeses.

Other places I visited included Witches Falls Winery to taste their award winning wines and Cedar Creek Estate, where along with a great selection of wines and  a good restaurant, there's a cave with glow worms - fascinating to see. (More on these later)

Witches Falls Cottages also have some great packages with Ripple Massage and Beauty.  Alison Shaw owns and operates Ripple which is designed to provide a massage and beauty therapy service that comes to you.  Nothing nicer than not having to face the real world after a pampering massage or facial treatment.  I think their Baby Moon packages would be great for mums-to-be.

Ripple operates on the Gold Coast, Tamborine Mountain, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay. More to come of the Beauty and Seashell Package that I enjoyed.

Corner Hartley Road and Main Western Road, Mt Tamborine.


Urbane update

Much lauded Brisbane inner city restaurant Urbane, is set to open its doors again next month with a new cutting-edge look designed by Arkhefield.

As well as Urbane’s multi-million dollar facelift, the project also includes the opening of three new venues – Sub Urbane, The Euro and The Laneway.

Arkhefield has been working hard on the project for nearly three years. Urbane's Mary Street entrance has been opened with glass covered by two distinct metal screens creating a common entry point for Urbane and The Euro. The Urbane screen features copper expanded mesh designed to conceal the operations of the restaurant while offering sneaky glimpses of what lies beyond.

Sub Urbane is a linked cellar dining area positioned in the basement of the building and accessed through Urbane, offering an intimate dining experience for up to 30 people.

The Euro has been designed as a European brasserie with a relaxed atmosphere and menu to attract city dwellers a few times a week. The Euro’s pièce de résistance is a bar clad in black zinc in the centre of the space. Black zinc is a relatively soft metal which will wear over time and develop a ‘patina’ from use, similar to the copper at the front door of the venues. The shape itself folds and draws you through the space, and creates movement by reflections off the angled surfaces.

The Laneway will be a Brisbane-first bar, perched within the centre of the site and accessible from Mary Street or Spencer Lane.

Photos: Scott Burrows

Urbane Restaurant
179 Mary Street, Brisbane +61 7 3229 2271

Walking Genova

Last night I dreamed I was walking the narrow alley ways of Genova.

I was fresh from a movie preview of the evocative 'Genova' where the dishy Colin Firth dons his 'I'm gorgeous but tortured' look again and his young daughters spend hours wandering the streets. Afterwards it was all I could do to resist ordering a big plate of pasta for dinner.

I settled for a glass of Italian wine and a recap with friends. We decided the movie was a great view of the fascinating life of Genova and a well acted and scripted drama covering some of the tougher aspects of family life. It's for all those who have or have had teenagers, those who have made or will make mistakes in life and anyone who has or longs to travel to Italy.

Expect plenty of Genova city scenes, a few visits to the beach and a seaside lunch, a wander through Cinque Terre National Park and some ghostly apparitions.

And if you've ever wondered what it's like to ride a Vespa - this is as close as you're going to get on film.

Michael Winterbottom's most intimate, evocative film to date, the film won the coveted 'Best Director' award at the recent San Sebastian Film Festival.


Brisbane food bloggers meet at Bar Barossa

Last night 14 Brisbane food bloggers met for the first time over dinner at Bar Barossa and it was great to finally put faces to blogs and twitter names.

Interestingly, although ages and themes varied greatly, we all shared an unusual interest in food - how it tastes, where it comes from, how it's made. Talking about the finer points of goats cheese, without boring your dinner companion, was a welcome relief.

According to yesterday's report in The Courier-Mail, we are all most likely 'Potentialists'.  It's a new post GFC group  of people identified by social researcher Mark McCrindle who are after a richness in lifestyle, particularly when it comes to food and cooking.  According to McCrindle, Queensland is the best place for Potentialists and I'd have to agree with that.

Last night we dined well at Bar Barossa which is a funky little bar cum restaurant at the top end of Queen Street, not far from E'cco. The grape shaped chandeliers are an interesting feature. On the menu was Freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters, House made pasta with scallops, prawns and salmon in saffron salmon cream and pearls for entrees.

My main was Grilled Atlantic salmon on celariac mash with steamed seasonal greens with sorrel buerre blanc and pearls which was a knock out.  The salmon was beautifully moist and flavoursome and the salmon pearls and buerre blanc mixed deliciously through the mash - heaven. Crisp asparagus and snow peas were a wonderful contrast.

Another popular choice was the Braised lamb shank pie with Careme sour cream pastry on potato mash with green pea puree and shiraz juz.  It certainly had wow factor when it arrived and was devoured by my dinner companions.

Darren Davis put on an interesting selection of wines starting with a Clare Valley reisling from The Wilson Vineyard Vines which would be perfect match for a dozen oysters. It comes from 30 year old grape vines and was not at all sweet. It's the sort of wine people in the trade love. I love that you can get a good quality riesling for under $20.

Marco Cirillo, an eight generation wine maker and first generation Australian, talked to us about his family's wines.Planted in 1850, their vines are some of the oldest left in the world today and their case production is limited to about 200 a year.

Next was a Cirillo Old Vine semillon with a nice acid drive towards the finish and lemon lime zest that pushes through. Marco said this one will age well.

The Picardy Chardonnay from Pemberton, Western Australia, had a beautiful oak influence. This was a wine I would like to drink again.

If you are thinking of trying more rose, remember that  8-10 degrees is the perfect temperature to drink it at. As refrigerator temperature is usually around 5 degrees,  leave your wine out for five minutes before serving. We enjoyed a Queensland rose with a beautiful rich, soft, sweet flavour - Summit Alto Spanish collection blend 2008.

The fruit speaks through the glass with the Cirillo 2006 Grenache from the Barossa Valley from grapes planted in 1850. Their Grenache is the last block to be picked. According to Marco, Grenache is a soft gentle wine and it's about finese. He believes Australian wine makers have not concentrated much on grenache as it takes twice as long to process. Keeping an eye out for this wine in the future, Marco is holding 50 dozen  to release as a 10 year old wine.

All these wines are available from Bar Barossa and Purple Palete which is located next door.

Bar Barossa on Urbanspoon

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Smart, sexy and oh so French - Privé 249 at the Sofitel

It’s sleek, smart, seductive and surprisingly sexy!

The Sofitel's new restaurant Privé 249 seats up to 52 guests in a room where ceiling windows frame magnificent city views, overlooking Brisbane Central Clock Tower and Anzac Square.

The menu is French inspired Australian cuisine and the décor luxe with dramatic Italian chandeliers and giant candles. Black glass tabletops are set with white china and Italian titanium cutlery – a striking mix of gold and silver that costs $30 a piece, so don’t try to leave with any!

The Sofitel’s French origins show strongly with Chef, Mathieu Astier and Restaurant Managers Francois Laran and Jerome Legal, all from France.
“Privé 249 is inspired by one of our young, talented and very passionate Chefs, Mathieu Astier,” says General Manager Goran Aleksandrovski.

Astier, (pictured) who has been cooking since he was 16, has worked with and been taught by some of the world's greatest kitchen maestros. Spending much of his life in Monte Carlo working throughout 1 to 3 star Michelin restaurants, Astier and his family relocated to Brisbane in 2007.

Astier’s mantra is to alter produce as little as possible and his menu of French inspired Australian cuisine certainly demonstrates his passion for presenting distinct and palatable flavours.

“My focus is on using the absolute best product available in the market. This provides the perfect palate and therefore showcases flavours in their true form. The less human interaction the better” says Astier.

Privé 249’s menu reflects the focus on top of the line produce and offers an inviting selection of dishes. There is a strong Queensland focus with Spanner Crab from Noosa and Glass House Mountain Snails.

The ham is, of course, Iberico ham de bellota, renowned for being the world’s greatest ham.

“Iberico ham tastes like no other ham on the market and has an aroma and taste which will surpass that of any other ham you have tasted – once you have tried this Spanish ham everything else will seem inferior”, claims Astier. And he’s right!

Here’s what we ate – (pictured in the same order)

· Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Spanish acorn fed cured ham and Glass House Mountain fresh snail vol-u-vent provencal. Wine match – R’ de ruinart Brut, Reims.

· Amuse buoche – Foie gras consommé beetroot foam. Wine match - R’ de ruinart Brut, Reims.

· Spanner Crab with celeriace remoulade and green apple, celery sorbet. Wine match 2008 Cloudy Bay Saouvignon Blanc, Marlborough.

· Pork trotters fried crisp, meaux mustard and parmigianio reggiano sauce gribiche. Wine match – Ruinart Rose Brut, Reims

· Yellow fin tuna sous-vide at 59.5 Celsius with orange, fennel, olives and aged balsamic. Wine match - 2008 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, Margaret River.

· Hibiscus ice tea infused with hibiscus flower

· Lamb from Tasmania, seasonal vegetables and goats curd with thyme infused jus. Wine match - 2007 Cloudy Cay, Pinot Noir, Marlborough.

· Valrohna Jivara Chocolate pave with pear sorbet. Wine match - Ruinart blanc de blanc, Reims.

Privé 249 opens Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner service. Entrée’s range from $24 and mains from $35. There is a five course tasting menu and list of more than 200 wines.

Sofitel, 249 Turbot Street, 3835 3535.

Privé249 on Urbanspoon


Christmas goodies - Judy C

Look what just arrived on my doorstep! These delicious fruit mince tarts and festive almond crescents came with the order from Judyc - 'make yourself a cuppa now and enjoy' - so I did.

Judy has been maturing the fruit mince for her tarts from the first week in August and it shows.  The pastry is deliciously short and buttery and the filling intensely flavoured. They are only small but pack a powerful punch of flavour.

The almond crescents are wonderfully moist and dense inside a crisp exterior. Definitely not easy to stop at one of these.

Judy's Christmas list includes traditional fruit cake, both iced and plain and traditional fruit puddings made to an old fashioned recipe with rum soaked fruit and boiled in the cloth.

Along with fruit mince tarts, you can choose chocolate rum balls, Christmas biscuits - hand decorated in festive shapes and hand made gingerbread houses, decorated and filled with lollies.

Find JudyC at Shop 1, 227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove. 3366 9111.

Search for the perfect cupcake - Couture Cupcakes

With its pretty Parisian pink decor, Couture Cupcakes at Bardon is a popular spot to enjoy the small, fine things of life like cupcakes.

Owner Deborah Doyle has a good selection of cupcakes and also offers coffee, tea, milkshakes and cold drinks. Prices range between $4 for a classic cupcake up to $5 for a gourmet version.

We tried two - Cookies and Cream has an Oreo bicsuit on top and lovely crunchy bits of biscuit throughout the icing. The chocolate cake  was rich and dense and the icing smooth and creamy.

Our second choice was also a chocolate cake but this one had a slightly tangy cream cheese icing which was an interesting contrast to the rich chocolate cake.  Very easy to eat!

Couture Cupcakes is becoming increasingly popular with a wide range of customers including mums giving their children a special after school treat - wish they were open when I was school age!

Bottom line:  Well worth a stop! Great cupcakes.

Find Cupcake Couture at 9/65 Macgregor Terrace, Bardon. p 3367 2600.

We also tried a cupcake from Brumbies. At $2.50 these appear to be a bargain but they are not for cupcake lovers. Children who just want a sweet fix might like them but I was not impressed by the slightly oily after taste - nasty thoughts of trans fats were brought to mind.


What are you doing for Christmas? - Spicers Peak Lodge

Here's the start of a blog theme that's only going to grow over the coming weeks/months till Dec 25!

'What are you doing for Christmas?' will all too soon be the question on the lips of many. Well, if I had an open budget, my first choice would be....

Christmas or New Year on a high note at Spicers Peak Lodge
I've stayed at this lodge on two occasions and lunched on another. It's superb - nothing more to say.

Here's their Christmas/New Year promo -
Visitors can scale new heights in luxury, seclusion and relaxation on Queensland’s awe-inspiring Scenic Rim this festive season with the launch of indulgent Christmas and New Years packages from Spicers Peak Lodge.

Surrounded by World Heritage Listed parks and ranges the architecturally stunning lodge is the perfect place to beat the summer heat and experience Christmas and New Years the cool, calm and sophisticated way on one of these decadent deals.

Let the award winning lodge be your host this Christmas, catering for every desire from gourmet meals to luxury accommodation and swinging entertainment from renowned jazz soloist Roulf Commandeur.

Priced from $2780, the Christmas Package, valid 24-26 December, includes two nights accommodation for two people; French Champagne on arrival; all meals including Christmas Eve Tapas on the terrace, Christmas morning champagne breakfast, signature seven course degustation Christmas lunch, three course Christmas dinner, all beverages throughout the stay and jazz entertainment.

Alternatively guests can celebrate the arrival of 2010 in the most indulgent and unforgettable fashion with Spicers Peak Lodge’s exclusive New Years escape featuring a black tie dinner, live jazz music and unrivalled luxury.

Also Priced from $2780, the New Years package, valid 31 December 2009 to 1 January 2010, includes two nights accommodation for two people; French champagne on arrival; all meals including Black Tie New Years Eve seven course degustation dinner with live jazz entertainment, New Years Day late breakfast-brunch, gourmet tapas on New Years Day evening and all beverages throughout the stay.

Situated 1,130m above sea level atop a 9,000 acre working cattle property, Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge features just 10 luxury suites to ensure the highest levels of intimacy and outstanding service are maintained and two exquisite private lodges separate from the main building.

Guests have the choice of an array of fine dining options, from gourmet picnic hampers to special degustation menus with an emphasis on fresh and simple cuisine.

Here you can refresh at the stunning infinity edge swimming pool, take in the breathtaking surrounds at your leisure or escape to sensory heaven with a blissful Elemis body treatment.

Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge is located 90 minutes drive south west of Brisbane and two hours from the Gold Coast.

Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge 1300 773 452


New local foods

One of the best jobs of a food writer is tasting new and exciting foods and food combos.

Last week a summer food showcase of regional Queensland produce at Brisbane’s Restaurant Two, organised by the Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF), brought some new and newly established products into the spotlight.

There was delicious smoked aquaculture barramundi from the Sunshine Coast, buffalo milk cheeses and Davidson’s plum sauce from the Atherton Tablelands, rabbit from Stanthorpe, Achacha – a new tropical exotic fruit grown outside of Townsville, and free-range ham and bacon from Goondiwindi.

It was designed to tantalise the tastebuds of chefs, food buyers, industry representatives and food media, and expose some of Queensland’s lesser-known treasures.

“Fresh, farmed and unique summer produce from regional Queensland, such as wild-caught Red Throat Emperor from North Queensland and native rainforest fruits from the Sunshine Coast, is starting to find pride of place in both chefs’ and consumers’ kitchens,” said Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF) Associate Director-General Rob Setter.

“Queensland Chef David Pugh showcased kangaroo to other chefs and food buyers at the event, entertaining guests with dishes including seared kangaroo loin with beetroot risotto. (see recipe below)

“Our research in native foods, specifically, how to describe the flavours of new native foods emerging on to the market, will result in improved market awareness and greater consumer demand in the long term,” Mr Setter said.

“Chefs are already starting to experiment with native flavours such as lemon myrtle, riberries and native violets.

“Soon they will have access to an Australian flavour wheel to help them develop dishes that integrate these native ingredients more easily with traditional fare like beef and seafood.

Another goal of the event was assist chefs to offer more variety on their menus and create new dishes for discerning diners.

“Recent Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation research showed that one of the reasons the food service sector has been reluctant to use kangaroo is that many chefs don't really know how to cook it,” said David Pugh.

“These showcases help to profile some of the lesser-known Queensland produce and give chefs, in particular, an idea of how they can use it to their advantage.

“Chefs are always looking to push the boundaries of modern cuisine, and native foods really lend themselves to that challenge.”

Kangaroo, a low-cost and healthy lean meat, is an important industry in Queensland rural communities and contributes $50 million annually to the economy.

Seared kangaroo loin with beetroot risotto

Serves 6


6 x 100g kangaroo loin

2 large beetroot, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon horseradish, grated

1 salad onion, diced small

200ml red wine vinegar

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

½ orange, zest and juice

50g dried currants

200g Arborio rice

100g butter

700ml chicken stock

75g grated parmesan

½ brown onion, finely diced

9 baby beetroot

2 large leeks cut into pieces

20ml extra virgin olive oil

In a heavy-based pot, over a medium heat, combine grated beetroot, horseradish, salad onion, red-wine vinegar, castor sugar, orange zest and juice, and currants. Stir.

Reduce heat to low and cook until reduced (1 hour). Reserve.

Heat 50gm butter in a heavy based pot on low and sweat brown onion.

Put in the rice and add chicken stock until rice is just covered and stir whilst cooking for 15 minutes. Add parmesan, 50gm butter and beetroot.

In a medium pot of boiling, salted water, cook leek pieces for 7 to 10 minutes, then drain.

Bring a small pot of salted water with unpeeled baby beetroot to the boil and simmer til cooked. Remove and rub off skins. Cut in half and keep warm

In a heavy based pan over high heat, sear seasoned kangaroo for 2 to 3 minutes each side and reserve.

Divide risotto evenly on six plates, place baby beetroot halves and pieces of leek.

Finish with kangaroo and serve.

Recipe by David Pugh, Restaurant Two

Best burgers - Beastie Burgers

It should come as no surprise when I reveal I'm particularly fond of a good burger.  A much under rated meal, a burger will do it for me on many occasions.

Beastie Burgers at South Bank is a good example of the perfect place to get your fix.  It was recommended to me by David Pugh, chef and owner of Restaurant II and Queensland Chef of the Year, a man who obviously knows his food. Earlier this year, when I asked him for a list of good cheap eats, David included Beastie Burgers.

The surprise is that one of Brisbane's best pastry chefs, the talented and extremely amusing Caroline Jones, also works here.  But don't expect to find any of her delicious pastries, Caroline is very much in charge of the burger side of things here.  (You can tap into her knowledge at her occasional cooking classes at Executive Chef)

The amusing menu includes 14 burgers priced from $11.50 to $16.  The two most expensive burgers include a hefty piece of fish - Whistler with chermoula grilled salmon, lettuce, salad onion, bacon, tomato relish and avocado and Cane Cutter with  grilled barramundi, tomato relish, pesto, lettuce, onion and tartare sauce.

On Caroline's recommendation we tried a demure Swiss Miss $11.50, a flame grilled beef burger which came with lettuce, gherkin, gruyere cheese, tomato relish and home made mayo. The crisp grilled bun and burger were just as I like them and the mayo was delish dripping through and mixing up the other ingredients.  A winner.

Next on my list is a Finger Stainer $13.50 which included steak, beetroot, lettuce, fried egg, tomato, bacon and aioli.  And the name alone - American in Noosa - will mean I have to try this combo - flame grilled burger, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato relish and Kenilworth cheddar $11.50.

The sides Handcut chips with aioli and aged balsamic and Onion rings with aioli - both $4 - were too hard to resist. Crisp and crunchy, they were the perfect addition. Add a beer and  glass of wine and the night was perfect.

Find Beastie Burgers in Little Grey Street at South Bank in the Woolloongabba end.


Search for the perfect brekkie - Salt, Rosalie

I'll start this one by declaring my interest straight up - my son works here - okay! I think the food is great, particularly when it's served by my son, something he never showed me he could do at home. I've spoken to many people and this restaurant does have a strong following, so I'm not totally biased.

My last dining experience there was for my daughter's birthday and was just great. They made a bit of a fuss on her plate which added a nice touch.

Some background - Salt is a relaxed, open style restaurant in the busy strip at Rosalie. It can be hard to find a park and it's definitely best to book if you want a table at peak times.

The restaurant was taken over by Mario, who has a long history in the industry, earlier this year. It's running smoothly and many of the old staff are still there which I think is a good sign - Hi to Jay in the kitchen!

Okay - down to business. My search for the perfect brekkie revolves around a constant bacon, egg and tomato combo.  Salt's version - the Salt Breakfast - is poached or scrambled eggs, honey roasted bacon, honey roasted bacon, port jus and toasted turkish bread.

At $16.90 it's not a cheap brekkie but a complimentary coffee on weekdays makes it a really good deal, and it tastes so good I'd pay that on the weekend anyhow. I liked the way the eggs were presented in little bowls so the yolks didn't run into anything I didn't want them to. There was lots of really great bacon and the toasted turkish bread came in fingers which you could dip into the eggs if you wanted to.  The port jus was very dark and rich and a great contrast to the fresh taste of the eggs. 

Birthday gals' choice was the caramelised banana pancakes with double cream and ice cream $14.90.  I've had this dish before and it's one of my favourites, but then I am a caramel tragic.

Also on my list to try is the Cyprian grilled haloumi with diced seasoned avocado, sheep's milk fetta, salt and pepper tomato salsa, toasted turkish pide and parmesan infused olive oil $14.90. Or the seasoned three cheese omelette with brie, shaved parmesan and fetta, mixed green leaves and toasted pide.  $19.90.

The coffee here is always good (not just because my son makes it) and you can get takeaways (coffee) as well.

Find Salt at  2/5 Nash St, Rosalie,  3367 0775

Salt Food Wine Coffee on Urbanspoon


Food and wine on Q till 23 Oct

Sixteen of Brisbane’s best restaurants are offering a lunch not to be missed - two courses and a glass of wine for just $30pp from 12 - 23 October. With the great diversity of climate and growing conditions, Queensland has an amazing range of food and combining this with the imagination of our chefs, customers are the winners. In addition, the great drops from Queensland winemakers mean you can’t pass up this opportunity.

Lunch on Q only lasts for two weeks so get together with your friends and try out new destinations, re-visit old favourites and support these Brisbane restaurants. Bookings are essential. The restaurants involved are: Barolo Modern Mediterranean, Freestyle Tout Emporium, Giannis Restaurant, Harveys Bistro; Bar, Atrium Restaurant at Hilton Brisbane, Liquorish Bistro, Restaurant Manx, Restaurant Rapide, Restaurant Two, Three Bistro, Timmy’s Restaurant, Two Small Rooms and Iceworks Restaurant.

Food and Wine on Q

Coconut Jam - Anantara Koh Samui

Here's a little taste treat from the tropics. It has a flavour like coconut ice and is very rich, but use it sparingly and it is a real hit. I couldn't resist just spreading it toast but I'm sure you could be a lot more inventive.

It was a gift when I visited Anantara Koh Samui in Thailand during a recent holiday. This is a seriously lush resort with a spa that just begs to be sampled. It's on a long straight stretch of beach where we enjoyed dining on the night. Locals came past and sold us lanterns which flew up into the sky when they lit them. They carried our hopes and dreams, it was magical.

Just to introduce drool factor - I've included photos of the resort down below.

Samui Island Coconut Jam
Portion Yield: 800 GRM
200 gr. grated coconut flesh (Samui mountain coconut)
600 ml coconut milk
2 tbs fresh lime juice
100 ml coconut syrup*
250 gr. sugar

Using a blender, pulse the white coconut flesh until chopped into fine strands. Add the coconut milk to the flesh with the syrup, lime juice and the sugar simmer all ingredients together until it thickens into a smooth texture, this will be approx 30 minutes.

Chill and keep refrigerated in a sealed sterilised container

The secret ingredient - Coconut syrup is made from the coconut flower, which has a vanilla like aroma
If you can’t get coconut flower, then Chef recommends using palm sugar or a sugar a vanilla bean instead - just add it at the simmering stage of the recipe.

Anantara Koh Samui


Barossa cleanskin sale

If you don't mind your wine a little plain (and at these prices, who cares) Purple Palete have 52 cases of the 2007 Barossa Shiraz cleanskin at a bargain price. Darren Davis says these are exceptional quality and won’t be around again till August next year. Pay $165/ case or $300 for two dozen. That’s $12.50 a bottle.

If whites are more your style for summer, then try the crisp 2008 Riesling cleanskin, made from 50 year old Eden Valley vines at $100/case.


Order from Darren Naylor: 0412 609 026

Search for the perfect cupcake - Tommy Bahamas

On Sunday I was strolling down Hastings Street, Noosa on a mission to enjoy an ice cream at Massimo's  (rockmelon and lychee sorbet was my choice) when I was distracted by cupcakes on offer at Tommy Bahamas.

This shop is better known for its distinctive men's wear - think Hawaiian shirts with a twist - but they have a coffee shop hidden away in the corner which does a fair trade.  There's seating out on the verandah and it's just around the corner from the beach which adds up to a great location.

My eagle eye spied cupcakes in the counter and after a closer look I just had to try one.  Pretty and pink, they looked delicious and the name 'Raspberry Macadamia Cupcake Friand' pushed all my buttons.

And I was not disappointed. The cake had a subtle almond flavour with plenty of macadamia crunchy bits. The surprise was the deep well of raspberry butter icing which was a wonderful foil to the cake - rich and creamy.

Although the friand mix is not a traditional cupcake style, it does get around the problem of freshness.  Cupcakes are definitely at their peak when fresh and the harsh environment of a cool cabinet is not always their friend.  On a Sunday afternoon a friand is generally a safer option unless you are a cupcake freak like me and can't pass up an opportunity.

Tommy Bahamas, Netanya, 75 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads. 54472328.


Italian treats

In a week when I am diligently attending boot camp and working my 'a' off running up hills, boxing and doing push ups, the evil (in a good way) folk at Cibo decided to launch their new range of Italian delicacies by sending me some. DRAT!

The easy solution would have been not to open the door but once faced with a full cake box of treats the only answer was to try some while sharing with friends. So I did.

Unfortunately there was more trying than sharing (so hoping the boot camp trainers are not reading this - I'm not looking forward to wearing the loser t-shirt they hand out on Fridays) cause they were definitely yummy.

The range includes
  • sweet Torciglioni (brioche filled with an orange scented chocolate custard coasted with sugar and cinnamon), 
  • Brioche Viennese (sweet brioche bun soaked with Alkerries liqueur, filled with orange custard)
  • Panezerottie di ricotta (sweet bun filled and baked with sweet ricotta and dusted with icing sugar),
  • Fiori di mandorla (almond meal biscuits flavoured with lemon topped with icing sugar), 
  • Cedrini (soft outer almond casing filled with mazelnut, almonds, cedro and rich Dutch cocoa.
  • Crostata di fichi e mandorle (fig and almond tart)
  • Torta Giapponese - almond sponge, orange liqueur, zabaglione, melted dark chocoate and Dutch cocoa.

You can try them out at the Fieritalia Italian Festival on October 18 at New Farm Park. There are also some savoury items.

Cibo Espresso has three bars at New Farm, West End and Chermside, Brisbane.


Taste Italian - Gnocchi with gorgonzolla

Here's another recipe from Taste for the Love of Cooking's Taste Food and Wine Cooking Club.
This one is very rich, heart attack on a plate stuff, but very nice.  I'd suggest it in moderation, perhaps with a noice salad.

Gnocchi with gorgonzola
Prepared by John Gray

1kg floury potatoes, such as King Edwards or Maris Piperunpeeled
330g flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
250g gorgonzola cheese
30g Butter
3 tbsp double cream
black pepper
chopped chives, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
 2. Put the unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer briskly for 15-20 minutes until tender, then drain. Peel and cut in quarters. Place on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to dry for about 5 minutes
 3. Pass the potatoes through a mouli or coarse sieve set over a large bowl. Quickly stir in the flour and egg, and season with salt. When nicely blended, cover with a clean tea towel to retain the warmth.
 4. Take a little of the potato mixture and roll into a long thin sausage. Slice into pieces about 2.5cm long. Using a gnocchi paddle or a fork, roll the gnocchi with your thumb. Roll it the other way to make ridges on the side.
 5. Continue until you have used up all the potato mixture. Place the prepared gnocchi on well-floured trays as you work.
 6. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the gnocchi in batches. Simmer briskly for about 5 minutes until they rise to the surface. Drain gently using a wire scoop, and transfer to a warm serving dish.
 7. While the gnocchi are cooking, melt the gorgonzola and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When completely melted add the cream and boil for 1 minute.
 8. Add the cheese mixture to the gnocchi and gently stir to mix. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.
Cooks Tips...
To obtain the best gnocchi, prepare them while the potato mixture is still warm.

If you don't want to cook the gnocchi immediately, blanch them in boiling water after step 5, then immediately cool them in iced water. Place on trays and store in the fridge.

Find out more about Taste’s cooking club

Taste for the Love of Cooking is a cooking/ homewares store in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Find it at 3 Montpelier Road. p 3252 1022


Taste Italian - Porchetta

Recently I was invited to be a guest judge at one of Taste for the Love of Cooking’s Taste Wine and Food Club meetings. It was Italian night and the line up of dishes was impressive.

Everyone prepares a dish to share on the night and brings the recipe along to share as well. I’m going to share some more of my favourites from the night including this lovely Porchetta which was prepared by Deanne Higgins. I particularly liked the crunchy skin bits – yum.

Find out more about Taste’s cooking club

Taste for the Love of Cooking is a cooking/ homewares store in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Find it at 3 Montpelier Road. p 3252 1022

Prepared by Deanne Higgins
• 3kg boned shoulder of pork, butterflied and skin on
• sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

for the stuffing
• 2 onions, peeled and finely diced
• olive oil
• 200g chicken livers, cleaned and roughly chopped
• 200g pork mince
• 75g pine nuts
• 100g raisins
• ½ bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• ½ bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• 1 wineglass red wine or mulled wine, plus a bit extra for the stuffing
• 8 carrots

Gennaro makes a mean stuffed porchetta. It looks and tastes beautiful, but don’t be intimidated because it’s really not hard to do at all. Get your butcher to butterfly the meat for you then make this beautiful stuffing and roll it up inside the meat before you roast it. You’ll want to have a piece of string about an arm’s length handy to tie your meat up once you’ve rolled it.

Preheat your oven to full whack. Lay the boned shoulder of pork on a board, skin-side down, and season well with a few really good sprinkles of salt and pepper. Massage this seasoning all over the meat.

Put a large pan on a medium heat and fry your diced onion in a lug of olive oil for about 10 minutes and when it’s softened but not coloured, turn the heat down to low and add the chopped chicken livers and pork mince. Use a wooden spoon to break the mince up a bit and mix everything together. Add the pine nuts, raisins, chopped sage and parsley, then season with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pour in a splash of red or mulled wine, give everything a good stir then take your pan off the heat. You don’t want to cook the meat now, you just want to get a good mix of flavours going so you have a delicious stuffing.

Put the stuffing in a bowl and put it to one side to cool down. Once your stuffing has completely cooled, spoon all of it down the middle of the opened shoulder. Roll the meat up quite tightly then tie it up as tightly as you can with 4 or 5 pieces of string. Drizzle all over with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and rub the seasoning all over the skin to help it turn into delicious crackling. Lay your carrots across the middle of the roasting tray and put the meat on top. Pour your glass of red or mulled wine and a glass of water in the bottom of the tray then put your meat in the oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 for about 3 ½ to 4 hours until lovely and golden. Once it’s out of the oven carefully remove the skin and put it to one side. Slice the pork then serve it with some tasty bits of broken up crackling, lovely potatoes and a few greens or a nice salad.


End of an era for River Canteen

The writing is on the wall for River Canteen on the Boardwalk at Southbank as the Southbank Corporation plans a huge revamp for the space.

Brisbane will loose the board walk which is one of the last remaining elements of Expo and the building which currently houses River Canteen.

An inlet lagoon with a grassed river bank and five to six food outlets is what current plans indicate will reopen in the area in about two years time.

In the meantime River Canteen will trade until the wee hours of January 1, 2010 with a great menu that showcases their style well.

Where they will open after that is still in the melting pot but the owners are considering several CBD options which, of course, include a river view. The closure also has driven the launch of River Canteen's corporate catering arm.

But all is not lost yet. Still plenty of time to get in and enjoy some fabulous meals. Here's a run down of what to expect.

From top:
Fresh Pacific oysters with caramelised chardonnay vinegar and dutch shallot dressing.

Seared Queensland scallops on marinated zucchini ribbons with sauce vierge.

Roast fillet of black angus beek with celaric and truffle remoulade, baby vegetables and red whine jus.

Ballontine of Inglewood Farm chicken with red wine fondant potato and proscuitto wrapped french beans.

House smoked duck breast, saffron and juniper berry bavrois and citrus salad .  And last but not least, the view from the upstairs function room, which is quite superb!.

River Canteen has a great Melbourne Cup Day function  with three courses for $55 per person. New Year's Eve should be something special too.

River Canteen, The Board Walk, Southbank.  3846 1880