Food dreams - Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River with Alastair McLeod

What’s Alastair McLeod going to do now Brett’s Wharf is closing on September 2?  How about a tour of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong River?

Taking his ‘eleventeen’ (Alastair’s words) weeks of holidays and talking to his travel agent Hillary, Alastair has come up with a fabulous tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, taking in the culture and history, for 18 days from November 9 – 26, including seven nights on the new MS Avalon Angkor - yep that’s a boat.

There will be just 32 people, make that 33 as Alastair has enough energy for two, and you’ll get to do lots of interesting cheffy food things along the way.

It starts in Ho Chi Minh City with a market tour and cooking class and continues until you board your cruise which has to be one of the most luxe and stress free ways to travel throughout Asia.

I’m going to stop telling you about this tour now as I’m turning green with envy.  Suffice to say I would be there in a flash if I could as the full itinerary is fascinating.  Find out more from Hilary 

Note: While the closure of Brett’s Wharf has freed Alastair somewhat, he is still going to be busy as Chef at Tank and his other commitments.

Disclaimer:  This is not a paid post

Food dreams - Irish food festivals

With a name like mine it's hardly a surprise that I have Irish ancestry.

Travelling to Ireland to where the mountains of Mourne run down to the sea, the place my grandfather said our family originated, is still on my to do list.

I'm now adding one of these Irish festivals to the list. Ireland has a frenzy of food festivals set to entice and excite your taste buds this September and October. Highlights not to be missed include the Galway Oyster Festival, Arthurs Day, the Taste of West Cork Food Festival and the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival to name just a few.

Taste of West Cork Food Festival, 10th-16th September
Something is brewing in the south of Ireland’s gourmet capital, the Taste of West Cork Food Festival. The main highlight of the festival is the much anticipated ‘Celtic Cook Off’ which showcases some of the best local produce and talent on offer from across the Celtic Isles. Watch chefs cook off against each other using only local produce plus one ‘wild card’ ingredient from their local area. Pick up some new cookery skills throughout the festival while you sample some of the freshest and finest local produce that Cork has to offer.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival , 28th- 30th September
Ireland has a long standing reputation for producing some of the finest seafood in Europe so it comes as no surprise that we are home to the oldest oyster festival in the world. Recommended by Lonely Planet and noted by the AA Travel Guide as one of ‘Europe’s Seven Best Festivals’, there is something for everyone to enjoy from the uniquely Irish opening ceremony to the World Oyster Opening Championships and the city-wide celebrations. Start practising your shucking technique and spoil yourself with the abundance of fresh seafood and oysters on offer, guaranteed to satisfy!

Arthurs Day 2012, 27th September
On September 27th at 16:59 Guinness Fans worldwide will be encouraged to ‘Raise a Glass to Arthur’ and where better to celebrate than in the heart Ireland! The country is set to come alive with electric festivals and events that always aim to delight and top previous years. Expect impromptu performances from international artists, parties to last long into the night and of course, a pint of the ‘black stuff’ in everyone’s hand! 

Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, 25th - 29th October
What better location to sample gourmet delights than against the regal backdrop of Kilkenny Castle on an Autumnal evening? Acknowledged in Ireland as one of the main counties leading a food revolution, discover how local chefs mix their favourite Irish produce with flavours from around the world, to give you exciting and new dishes that will leave you hungry for more.

And if that is not enough don’t forget The Clarinbridge Oyster Festival, 15th - 16th September; Taste of Monaghan Food Festival, 4th-7th October; The Dingle Peninsula Food and Wine Festival, 5th -7th October; and The Kinsale Gourmet Festival, 12th-14th October.

For more information, visit

Not your food dream?  Here are some others to consider or leave a comment below and share food dream love.

Beachside paddock to plate
Gourmet food race

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post


Chocolateria San Churro, South Bank

I thought I could smell chocolate at 20 yards but Chocolateria San Churro slipped under my safety net and established itself at South Bank a couple of weeks ago.

It certainly hasn't escaped the attention of other chocolate lovers though as my sneaky spies report that the place is always buzzing with customers.

San Churro puts a Spanish spin on chocolate with a menu of churros (Spanish doughnuts) and hot chocolate with Spanish inspired flavours  including chilli, hazelnut and mint.

According to their menu, the Spanish first discovered the Aztec secret of chocolate in 1528. Spanish monks sweetened and refined the bitter cocoa drink of the Aztecs to create hot chocolate as we know it today.

Part of a chain, the shop has that slick, formula driven front that fits together like a jigsaw, from the hot chocolate mixture to the macarons.

Eager to try, I sat down with friends to a plate of churros for one which seemed expensive at $7.95. They did taste great and the chocolate dipping sauce was rich and dark.

I was less impressed by the classic hot chocolate, which at $5.95, also seemed expensive. The mixture was thick but the flavour thin and unsatisfying.

Still, I decided to try some macarons in a take home pack and also indulge in a selection of their chocolates.  The visual appeal was real but the flavour - well for me it was another 'not worth the calories moment'.  I'm tempted to dismiss my reaction as fussy taste buds but my companions also felt likewise.

I love chocolate and frequently purchase everything from Lindt to Pralus.  I'm at home in Bittersweet, Monty's Chocolate and even Max Brenner, but I can't warm to Chocolateria San Churro.

Bottom line: Stick with churros.
Best tip: Head to Max Brenner around the corner.

Chocolateria San Churro on Urbanspoon


Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards 2013

Urbane’s Alejandro Cancino has been named Best New talent at the 2013 Australian Gourmet Traveller Awards.

Twenty-eight year old Cancino won the title against Ben Greeno from Momofuku Seibo in Sydney and Shannon Debreceny, Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson of Three Blue Ducks also in Sydney.

The awards for Alejandro, Urbane and The Euro were applauded by Australian Gourmet Traveller’s chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse, who said, "on the whole, Queensland punches above its weight, compared to its more populous southern cousins," Mr Nourse said. "I tip my hat to Drew (Patten) and Andy (Buchanan) owners of Urbane for consistently being able to pick talent."

Urbane is famed for its innovative degustation menus headlined by intricate and carefully crafted food. Together with its sister venue The Euro and The Laneway, the restaurant is renowned as the leading incubator for talent nationally. In joining as Executive Chef in May this year, Alejandro introduced an evolutionary menu, rather than the traditional seasonal plates, within a taste framework cleverly showcasing Australia’s best and most sustainable produce of the season; and it has received rave reviews.

His culinary journey started in Argentina where he was born. Alejandro honed his extraordinary skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in four countries before making his home in Brisbane at  Urbane and The Euro.

Last April he was Stagier Chef at Noma Restaurant in Denmark (consistently titled the best in the world) and he names the revered and Michelin-starred Mugaritz Restaurant in San Sebastián, as one of the most formative in his career to date.  

For the past two years until May he was Chef de Cuisine at Bulgari Hotels & Resorts Tokyo Restaurants in Japan, where they won a Michelin Star during his tenure. He names the great chef and innovator Andoni Luis Aduriz at Mugaritz in Spain, Luca Fantin at Bulgari Tokyo and Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in England as his mentors.

AGT described Alejandro as: “Fresh to our shores… is certainly new. And talented! The delicacy of his touch is remarkable, and his ability to coax flavour from ingredients impressive, speaking, perhaps of his experiences at the likes of Mugaritz in Spain and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the UK. One to watch.”

The Gourmet Traveller 2013 Top 100 has nine Queensland restaurants on the list.

24 Esquire
25 Urbane
30 Ortiga
34 Aria
66 The Euro
68 Wasabi
71 Nu Nu
74 Stokehouse
83 1889 Enotecca
94 The Long Apron


Latest Tasty Bits from bmag

In this edition - Spring chef's table, Say cheese with the Brisbane Cheese Awards, Brisbane Club win, Bretts Wharf to close, Istanbul Nights at Ahmet's, South Bank.

Unfortunately and beyond my control, there is some incorrect information in the Bretts Wharf story.  Genny Neilson is not involved with Baguette and Genny tells me there was no current lease with the Brisbane City Council.

Click on the image below to expand

I went to Portrait of Spain and this is what I ate

Discover a taste of Spain at the Queensland Art Gallery's Portrait of Spain exhibition (on until November 4) at their food pop-up La Sala del Prado.

The lower level of the Gallery has been transformed with an exciting area designed to stimulate and sooth, feed and relax, inspire and innovate.

Looking around the expansive space, I'm torn on what to do first.  Should I take a seat in a photo booth and turn myself into a Spanish portrait or pick up a colouring pencil draw a Spanish still life on thick art paper?  Maybe I'll try my hand at drawing on the computer tablet or play a Spanish card game?

Hey, I'm a food writer, so I head to the cafe or 'la sala' and line up a selection of Spanish themed treats.  There's a reasonable choice including tapas and very generously sized tortilla wraps which could easily be shared between two.  While I'm tucking into lunch a talented musician is playing Spanish guitar music. It's on from 12.30 to 2.30pm daily.

  I love the dark chocolate truffles and  well flavoured orange and almond cake sweet treats.

I'm envious of their long tables, cosy booth seats, oversized ottomans and cosy couches.

This add on to the 'Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado' exhibition of more than 100 Spanish masterpieces from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid is on in conjunction with the exhibition until November 4.

The Mueseo Nacional del Prado is Spain's national art museum and holds one of the most significan collections of European  painting in the world.

'Portrait of Spain' is the first exhibition from the Prado to be shown in Australia. You'll see work

The Prado Portraits interactive is a chance to put yourself into the picture frame to become a Spanish royal subject, a cupid or even a saint, and find out facts about the original subject’s accessories, dress and posture. Then you can email your Prado portraits to family and friends.

My fingers are itching, inspired by the  fruits, spices and produce introduced to Spain during periods of travel to the new world in the fifteenth century, from chocolate and the vanilla bean to legumes and potatoes, all I want to do is take up coloured pencils or a multimedia tablet and draw from the vibrant display.

This area is going to come even more alive with Prado Up Late from August 31.La Sala del Prado interactive lounge will  the hub for Prado Up Late where audiences can immerse themselves in Spanish culture, join friends for a drink or bite to eat in the Spanish themed bar and take in talks on contemporary Spanish fashion, food, design and culture. A line-up of international, national and local performers will take to the stage in the spectacular setting of the adjacent Gallery Watermall.

Tickets are $22 and are available through Qtix via or telephone 136 246 (booking fees apply) and at the Queensland Art Gallery ticket desk on the night (subject to availability). Members $20.

Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post. E,d+bK enjoyed lunch compliments of QAG.


Steamed, CBD

Dumpling fever has hit Brisbane's CBD with with opening of Steamed in the top end of Turbot Street.

Look for it hidden under the Roma Street overpass, but best to walk there as you'll be lucky to find a street park close by. 

Owners David Schindler (pictured above) and Kevin Xu have borrowed Kevin's mother from her own kitchen in north China to help make up to 5000 dumplings a day for hungry hoards of office workers.

They come in three types; Harbin- pork and chive, Lovabull – beef with various spices that lack English names, Zen - a vegetarian version named after Kevin's mother who is a zen Buddhist and Pork Clouds – light and fluffy pork buns.   

Steamed has a very Asian street food feel and that's no accident. The counter is crowded with bamboo baskets filled with delicious dumplings from which you are served.  You can see the dumplings being made through cut outs into the kitchen so there's no doubt everything is extremely fresh.

When I visited David was supervising the installation of more shop fittings to complete the look.  There's not an over abundance of seating but the large central table certainly would seat quite a few people.  Made from doors reclaimed from Brisbane's 2011 flood, it comes with a little history as well.  David plans to use some of the table cut outs as wall decorations.

As I'd already eaten lunch, I took two packs of six dumplings plus a bun home for dinner.  I discussed methods of reheating them with David and, as the microwave at home is out of action, frying them seemed the best option.  The result was very pleasing  adding a crisp, crunchy dimension to the soft dumpling interior. 

I'd love to come back and try them fresh from the steamer as David says they taste even better.  While this was an ample lunch serve, I would opt for more for dinner next time.

You may already be familiar with Steamed's wares through their market stalls at Jan Power's New Farm Markets and the Moggill Markets at  Brookfield Showgrounds.

Got to say I enjoyed the explanation of the Steamed website on the difference between dim-sum, and dim-sim.

Open for lunch, but get in quick as the word is spreading.  

Steamed, 95 Turbot St, Brisbane.
Also find them on Facebook

Steamed on Urbanspoon


Food dreams - Margaret River Gourmet Escape

If you are looking for a little encouragement to hop on a plane and explore the glorious Margaret River area, here it is- Margaret River Gourmet Escape from 22-25 November 2012.

The festival line up of Heston Blumenthal and René Redzepi also includes acclaimed Australian chefs Neil Perry, Tetsuya Wakuda and Peter Gilmore collaborating on a menu to honour Heston.

The Gourmet Village will feature global talent, local food and wine experts including 2 Michelin star chef Sat Bains.

Matt Moran and Matt Stone will have sand between their toes for beachside dining, international star AA Gill and George Calombaris share their culinary expertise at a Leeuwin Estate dinner; while Master of Wine Lisa Perotti-Brown and Nick Stock discuss wine in the Gourmet Traveller WINE Theatre.

The heart of the festival is a Gourmet Village open over the weekend and set in Leeuwin Estate. The featured chefs, plus 20 other Australian food and wine stars, will appear across the weekend in locally themed demonstrations, Q&A panel discussions and masterclasses such as Breville's Test Kitchen.

The Gourmet Village will have over 100 Western Australian premium exhibitors, local vineyards, gourmet producers and pop up restaurants so visitors can meet the maker and be entertained by the region's food and wine experts. Satellite events also offer ticket options so visitors can craft their own culinary adventure.

Leeuwin Estate Winery Restaurant will present a dinner with international guest AA Gill and George Calombaris.

To purchase tickets visit

Singapore Airlines is the International Airline partner.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post


Let them eat cake - Big Cake Bake

If you love baking cakes here's the best excuse you'll ever have for dusting off the pans and browsing through your recipes.

Get your mitts dirty for the Red Cross Big Cake Bake during August. 

Register at and Red Cross will send you out all the info you need.  You can hold a morning or afternoon tea, cake sale or cake baking competition.  Thing about all the opportunities to not only bake cakes, but eat them too!

You can get with the strength and hold an event on August 27 or just do it any time in August.  They are not fussy!

Donations raised from Big Cake Bake will support the everyday work of Red Cross, including programs and services to help some of the most vulnerable people in Australia and overseas.

Don't have a fave recipe?  Here's one I am going to make for K2 who always orders Orange and Almond Cake when we have a cafe treat.

Orange and Almond Cake with Orange Cardamom Sauce

3 oranges
9 eggs
560g almond meal
375g white sugar,
1.5 tsp baking powder

Boil oranges whole for an hour, deseed if needed and blend with skin on until pureed.

Whisk egg and sugar until half thick (or whack in a food processor if you couldn't be bothered), then add almond meal and baking powder and stir gently with a spatula to combine.

Add orange puree. Pour mixture into round tin and bake in oven for 40 minutes.

Orange cardamom sauce
400ml freshly squeezed orange juice
80g glucose
50g white sugar
4gm cardamom seeds

Put all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer until thick. Serve warm with cake and good yoghurt.


Double Shot, New Farm

It's a joyful moment when I see the words 'everything baked in house' on the menu as I did at Double Shot Espresso Bar.

Tucked away in the sleepy end of city-slick New Farm, Double Shot is the creation of Ross Skinner and Michael De Laurence who have earned their stripes in hospitality working in cafes up the coast from Sydney to Brisbane.

The cold cabinet brims full of delectable goodies including tarts and giant sambos and the menu has a few twists to liven up even a jaded lunch palate.

Make your own sardine sandwiches with sardines still in the tin certainly appealed to me and I loved the way they arrived on a large board surrounded by bright red tomatoes, fresh rocket, mayo and a tasty chutney.  All I had to do was assemble my perfect open sandwich and dive in.

K2 was restrained and just ordered a sweet treat.  It turned out to be so full of rich goodness I actually got to share some of the creamy caramel pecan pie - delicious - with caramel just the way I like it.

I said the coffee was a little strong for my taste and K2 smirked. Didn't you see the name he said, Double Shot might have something to do with it.  He who often orders a double shot for his coffee was of course perfectly happy.  I have to admit defeat here and graciously move on to the next coffee.

It's obviously a popular cafe with locals judging by the constant stream of cool characters who walked through the door or took up a seat outside.

There was plenty of seating both inside and outside the cafe and parking a plenty on the street.

Bottom line: Much easier to find a park here than on James Street and cheaper prices too.
Best tip: Enjoy your double shot coffee and don't complain.

Double Shot Espresso on Urbanspoon


Eat Drink Blog 3 in Adelaide

Food bloggers will converge on Adelaide for Eat Drink Blog 3 (EDB3) on Sunday 4 November.

EDB3 follows EDB2, held in Sydney in 2011, and the inaugural conference, held in Melbourne in 2010.

I attended EDB2 in Sydney and it was a fabulous event full of great ideas and wonderful networking opportunities. The South Australian food scene will add another layer of adventure for food bloggers.

Amanda McInerney, co-chair of the EDB3 organising committee and publisher of Adelaide food blog, Lambs Ears and Honey, says, "We're excited to be hosting Eat Drink Blog 3 in Adelaide. It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase South Australian food and wine producers to the Australian food blogging community."

Up to 80 food bloggers from around Australia are expected to attend the conference on Sunday 4th November at the iconic Adelaide Central Market. The weekend will also include a half-day of pre-conference activities on Saturday 3rd November, including trips to South Australian wineries, an Adelaide Central Market tour and a dinner featuring local produce and wines.

Christina Soong-Kroeger, EBD3 co-chair, and publisher of Adelaide food blog, The Hungry Australian, says, "Eat Drink Blog is the most important conference for Australian food bloggers in terms of content, sharing of ideas and information, and networking. We're thrilled to have such an amazing line up of presenters, and world-renown food writing coach, Dianne Jacob, as our international guest and keynote speaker."

Confirmed speakers include: Dianne Jacobs (author of Will Write for Food, used in food writing courses around the world, including the University of Adelaide), Simon Bryant (ABC's The Cook and The Chef), writer & blogger Helen Yee (Grab Your Fork), blogger Jules Clancy (The Stone Soup) photographer & blogger Peter Georgakopolous (Souvlaki for the Soul), author & blogger Sandra Reynolds ($120 Food Challenge), writer, photographer & blogger Rebecca Varidel (Inside Cuisine), and consultant & blogger Christie Connelly (Fig & Cherry). Local presenters include photographer Grant Nowell (ex The Advertiser), stylist Fiona Roberts, internet marketing consultant Geoff Kwitco (The Start Up Club), and consultant & blogger Shai Coggins (Studio Notes).

The conference will cover food writing, social media, career opportunities, restaurant reviewing, SEO, ethics, blog design, photography, photo editing, food styling, and legal matters.

EDB3 is being organised by a volunteer group of Adelaide food bloggers: Amanda, Christina, Erin Brooks (She Cooks, She Gardens), Alex Prichard (Eating Adelaide), Kirsty Smith (The Apprentice Foodie), Natasha Stewart (Playing House), and Celeste Wong (Travelling in Mary Janes).

For updates and details on how to register visit You can also follow EDB3 on Twitter at @EatDrinkBlogAU or like us on Facebook at


Food dreams - Groovin’ on Peruvian

With a swag of global restaurant awards and praise by leading chefs and travel guides, Peru is fast becoming one of the world’s top foodie destinations, with Lima as its gastronomic capital.

With influences from the Incas, Asia, Europe and elsewhere, there is a food revolution happening in Peru and it seems that international visitors are flocking to Lima to experience it.

In September last year the Wall Street Journal said that Peruvian food is “the next big thing” on the lips of chefs worldwide, Frommers named Lima as the “top food and drink destination” for 2012 and The Huffington Post has predicted that a Peruvian ceviche dish “is set to become the dish of 2012.” Internationally renowned chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli has pronounced that “the future of gastronomy is being cooked up in Peru,” and The Food Channel suggest that “Groovin’ on Peruvian” is one of the top 10 trends for 2012.

Why is this all happening? Many say that it is Peru’s most famous chef Gaston Acurio leading the charge. His flagship restaurant in Lima, ‘Astrid & Gaston’ was named one of the World's 50 Best Restaurants by Restaurant Magazine for the second consecutive year and he has recently started taking his message about Peruvian cuisine global. He has opened restaurants across South America and more recently in New York and San Francisco. Acurio also collaborated with none other than Ferran Adria to make a documentary, Peru Sabe, about Peruvian cuisine and culture.

Yet, there are a number of other Peruvian chefs who are following in his footsteps and making a name for themselves internationally. One such chef is Rafael Osterling who is quickly climbing the ladder in global chef rankings. His three restaurants: "Rafael" and "El Mercado” in Lima and "Rafael" in Bogotá were recently named the best Peruvian restaurants by Travel + Leisure. Also, he won the Summun Award two years in a row as best restaurant in Peru.

Osterling was also the first Peruvian to receive the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for his book 'Rafael, El Chef' in the chef category. The book is a compilation of a hundred of his best recipes, transforming native Peruvian foods, ingredients and cooking techniques into world-influencing dishes.

Other top chefs opening restaurants around the world include:
Virgilio Martinez, of Lima’s Central, is about to open London’s first Peruvian fine-dining restaurant called Lima, and is in charge of Senzo, at Orient Express’ Palacio Las Nazarenas new property in Cusco.
Jaime Pesaque, chef of Mayta who also opened Nuna in Punta del Este, Uruguay and designed the menu of the new restaurant Raymi in Manhattan.

Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Lima’s Malabar, Amaz, known for promoting Amazonian products to the world by creating unique menus such as the one served on the MV Aqua riverboat.
Rafael Piqueras, the first Peruvian chef to go to Madrid Fusion, and head Chef of Maras at the Westin Lima Hotel.
Alejandro Saravia who recently opened Sydney’s Morena, after spending his first few years in Australia working at Pier Restaurant, Salon Blanc, Opera Bar and Sails Restaurant at Lavender.

All over the world people are hearing about Peruvian food and more and more visitors are travelling to the destination to experience it for themselves. Culinary day tours in Lima, multi -day foodie safaris and cooking schools are becoming increasingly popular to complement the already popular archaeological and cultural journeys.

Later this year leading Australian chefs, Peter Gilmore and Dan Hunter will be visiting Peru to participate in the annual gourmet show Mistura. Now in its fifth year, this annual event, organised by the Peruvian Society of Gastronomy, highlights the very best of Peru’s identity. It brings together key players of national and international cuisine to promote and celebrate Peru’s unique and booming gastronomy. Mistura 2012 is aiming to attract a record 500,000 visitors to try the products and attend cultural and gastronomic events and lectures with keynote speakers, cooking demonstrations, cultural performances and dances.

For more information on Peru, please visit

Not your food dream?  Here are some others to consider or leave a comment below and share food dream love.

Beachside paddock to plate
Gourmet food race

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post.