Friday, October 24, 2014

Sustainable Table launches Give a Fork campaign

Posted by Hendy

As part of Good Food Month this October, we the masses are being asked to give 'a fork. Sustainable Table - a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation from Melbourne - uses food to explore sustainability issues, like seafood last year. This year, they're asking people to 'Give a Fork!' about waste, particularly food waste.

The 'Give a Fork!' campaign encourages us all to think about the environmental impacts of our groceries choices - how we shop with our eyes and not our tastebuds, or brains really - and how we can each wholly use the produce we use in our cooking (think off-cuts, carrot tops, onion peel etc).

Shopping with your tastebuds and picking visually imperfect produce provided by Harris Farm Markets featured at Sustainable Table dinner for Give a Fork launch, 14 October 2014, Studio Neon, Waterloo
And why we should give a fork? Australians, on average, discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, amounting to around one out of every five bags of groceries we buy ending up as landfill.

This is costing the average Australian around $1,000 annually, which translates to around $8 billion worth of edible food that is thrown out each year throughout the country.

When we throw away food, the food rots with other waste in landfill and produces methane - the potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than the typical carbon pollution we all experience on our roads.

Dining space at studio NEON, Raglan Street, Waterloo
To start the discussion on the major environmental issues of food and packaging waste, Sustainable Table hosted a simple, minimal waste dinner at the eccentric, eclectic warehouse dining venue, Studio Neon in Waterloo.

The goal of the night for chef Aaron Teece was to create a multi-course meal using produce supplied only earlier in the night and to create a meal with minimal to zero waste.

Cassie Duncan of Sustainable Table
To kick off the night co-founder and general manager of Sustainable Table, Cassie Duncan, was joined by the equally passionate Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

Cassie and her Sustainable Table team partner with restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney to help raise awareness of the food and packaging waste issue through the Give a Fork campaign.

Carrot with organic yoghurt and black olive crumb
The dinner showcased a number of dishes that make the best use of the produce available on the night. The pre dinner canapés were simple and made full use of a handful of ingredients, namely roasted heirloom carrots and a bread crumb of olives.

Baba ganoush, dukkah, crispy skin on crackers
The second set of canapés that followed made full use of eggplants. The soft. mushy flesh of the eggplants was used with onion and garlic to make the traditional eastern Mediterranean baba ganoush dip, served on a small cracker topped with nutty dukkah and a crumble of eggplant skin, crisply dried.

Smoked onion risotto with organic 62 degree hen egg
The main course for the night was risotto made with a stunning smoked onion base stock, which made use of whole onions including the onion skin. The risotto was complemented with a soft and delicate organic 62 degree egg.

The dish was then garnished with a host of different herbs donated by OzHarvest from their kitchen garden in Alexandria, as well as leftover onion skin not used in the stock which was dehydrated, powdered and graciously strewn over the risotto.

Launch of 'Give a Fork' Campaign Dinner
The former journalist, now blogger, media personality, wellness coach and Give a Fork ambassador Sarah Wilson spoke about the different ways each of us can help to reduce food waste.

She shared some tips on making full use of the produce we buy, including freezing onion skins with other vegetable off-cuts in a zip-lock bag and using the bits later on to enhance any base stocks with a simple, nutritional and flavoursome boost.

Tim Silverwood of Take 3, Campaign Ambassador
We also heard from Tim Silverwood, another Give a Fork! campaign ambassador and co-founder of the Take 3 not-for-profit organisation. He spoke about how we all can play a part in reducing beach waste by picking up three waste items each time we visit the beach and being mindful of our use of disposable plastics.

Tim also reflected that waste is often tied with what we consume and how we consume; reiterating a number of the earlier messages around how we can improve the way we consume the produce we buy.

Imperfect orange dessert
Capping off the night was the dessert which was aptly named, imperfect orange. Making use of what is termed as second grade oranges - oranges that might not look their best on the outside yet taste equally as amazing as those that do look perfect on the outside.

The dessert plate comprised orange zest sponge, orange rind purée and Janni goat's curd. The notion of making use of the whole fruit extended to the use of the orange pits which were water soaked, dried, powdered and made into a slightly bitter garnish, cleverly balancing the sweetness of the sponge and tanginess of the curd.

The meagre residual waste from the dinner service
The night ended with Cassie presenting to the dinner the residual waste from the dinner service. What was left was a few egg cartons and the used vegetables from the stock - both of which can be re-used again.

Reflecting on the night, the 'Give a Fork!' campaign made me ask what we can each really do to help tackle the food and packaging waste issue. Sustainable Table have shared a few ideas:
  1. Plan ahead and plan better, being mindful of what we are using and what we are throwing out;
  2. Start a compost bin to generate some fertiliser that can be re-used to grow your own produce;
  3. Get involved with the 'Give a Fork' campaign and get your friends, families or colleagues together to organise and host a 'Give a Fork!' themed, waste-free dinner (or lunch or brunch), and raise awareness and funds for Sustainable Table; or
  4. Give a fork at participating local Sydney restaurants through their #wastefree 'Give a Fork!' specials offered at those restaurants.
Given the seriousness of the issue at hand, we can all play a part and make the decision to 'Give a Fork!' See the Give a Fork website for more information and our Facebook page for more photos of the dinner.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended the launch of the 'Give a Fork' campaign as a guest, with thanks to New Future PR.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cloudy with a chance of Original Meatball Company

Posted by Kath

For anyone feeling nostalgic about past New York forays, or if it's just cloudy out and you're hankering for some meatball action, roll on in to the Original Meatball Company on York Street in the Sydney CBD - for weekday lunches or dinners on Thursday and Friday nights.

Dining area of the Original Meatball Company, York Street, Sydney
The quick service New York style meatballery bustles with the CBD suit set during weekday lunch hours, with diners lining up to try the creative range of traditional and untraditional meatballs on offer, either atop soft sub buns or the healthier option of green vegetables.

Meatball subs on the pass
For those that aren't able to make it during lunchtime, the Original Meatball Company is open on Thursday and Friday nights until 9.30pm (and they were waiting on a liquor licence when we visited but now they're serving balls and booze!).

The Yankee - Beef balls with American mustard, ketchup, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, onion, shredded iceberg lettuce, served on soft brioche
Being a New York themed eatery we couldn't go past The Yankee on a soft and sweet brioche roll. It was jam-packed with tender beef meatballs, pickles, onion, shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese, all slathered in ketchup and tangy American mustard.

The Yankee sure brought back memories of New York street vendors in its appearance and flavour, though not so much the brioche.

Mama's Balls - Pork and veal balls with ragu sauce, melted provolone cheese, dressed rocket leaf, served on rustic white
Mama's Balls took us to a classic Italian flavour combination. Served on a soft white roll were tender pork and veal meatballs covered in comforting ragu sauce with melted Provolone cheese and rocket to freshen things up.

OMC Fries Poutine - fries with ragu, parmesan cream sauce, caramelised onions
Another famous dish that Original Meatball Company have reinterpreted on their menu is the OMC fries poutine.

I was looking forward to the promise of golden french fries covered in a meaty ragu sauce, sweet caramelised onions and parmesan cheese cream. While the portion size was most generous, I'm sad to report that the flavours didn't quite hit the spot.

Rosemary fries
Our last stop on this journey of flavours was a simple yet delicious side of rosemary fries, which were crispy and laced with just the right amount of rosemary and salt.

So it's not quite New York but on a cloudy day, I'm sure there's a chance of meatballs to cheer you up, especially on a post shopping or drinking Thursday or Friday night.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of Original Meatball Company.

Original Meatball Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gyuzou yakiniku: A barbeque in any language

It seems a barbeque in any language is a good reason to get together with people and have a good time eating meat around a heat source. Opened just last week, Gyuzou is the newest yakiniku Japanese barbeque restaurant to hit town in that somewhat stranded area north of Chinatown but not quite CBD.

Taking over the two-storey shop that was once an ice creamery, accessed from Harbour Street rather than Sussex Street, Gyuzou offers Japanese style barbeque or yakiniku, which literally translates to "grilled meat".

Yakiniku Japanese barbeque and sauces at Gyuzou, Sussex Street, Haymarket
While it looks most similar to what we probably know in Sydney as Korean barbeque, yakiniku differs in that the raw meat for cooking on the barbeque is not marinated. Instead, simply seasoned, it's cooked and then eaten with dipping sauces, of which Gyuzou offers three as standard: chilli, salt and a sweet soy yakiniku sauce.

Gyuzou specialises in wagyu beef and even has an opening month special of half-price wagyu yakiniku dishes for the whole month of October 2014.

Upstairs dining area
The fitout is more refined Japanese than the usual cheap and cheerful Korean barbeque venues, with lots of dark wood offset by gorgeous Japanese fabrics.

Part of the Yes Food group of Japanese restaurants (which also owns Wagaya and many others), Gyuzo also uses the iPad ordering system made infamous at Wagaya many years ago. As such, it's pretty easy to go nuts on the menu, especially if you're ordering as a group as we were.

Cinderella cocktail
With a range of large range of 'cocktails' on the menu, we couldn't go past the sweet lychee liqueur based Cinderella with a literal base of blue curaçao and a prettily contrasting red grapefruit and mint garnishes.

Lime chuhai
The shochu-based highball with fresh lime was more my pick, with a refreshing sweetness that was ideal in front of the barbeque.

Okonomiyaki
It's always a good idea to order some starters that are ready-to-eat in these self barbeque situations. At Gyuzou, the menu runs from sushi and sashimi to noodles and soups and a large range of side dishes/appetisers, in addition to the yakiniku items.

We started on okonomiyaki savoury pancake which tasted freshly made beneath its usual condiments of okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi bonito flakes but not overly exciting.

Takoyaki
We also grabbed a side of takoyaki octopus balls which were pretty decent deep-fried versions, slathered in the same condiments.

Yukke
The small bowl of the Korean yukke raw beef salad even looked like wagyu beef, with the thin strips of raw beef marbled with fat.

Served with julienned cucumber and a raw egg yolk all stirred through at the table, the yukke made for a nice precursor to lots more wagyu.

Menu excerpt showing cow/beef parts
(image courtesy of SD Marketing)
I always like seeing a meat map as it reminds me of muscle structures and why certain cuts are the way they are. Gyuzou's printed menu is most helpful on the cow front and also shows a marbling level for each cut on offer.

Wagyu chuck tail flap
I like a moderate level of fat marbling so the wagyu chuck tail flap was my pick. From the shoulder region (thanks, cow map), it was tender and juicy - even without one of the dipping sauces.

Wagyu oyster blade
The yakiniku sauce was the easy, cover-all sauce while the chilli was relatively mild and the salt sauce better with non-beef items, I thought.

Wagyu short rib
For the full-on, fatty wagyu experience though, it has to be the short rib which has some pretty impressive marbling. I managed to cook out a fair bit of the fat on the barbeque but it was still a buttery mouthful that almost just melted on the bite.

Vegetables for cheese fondue
For a vegetable fix, definitely go the option that comes with a 'cheese fondue' for dipping. Put the metal cheese tray on the grill and separately cook the vegetables, then dip into the almost liquid cheese. It's like the cheese of packaged mac'n'cheese and it's so very good, with almost anything off the barbeque.

Wagyu ox tongue
Wagyu ox tongue is becoming one of my favourite cuts of offal and when it's as tender (with a slight bounce) as the dish at Gyuzou, it's as glorious as some of the more expensive cuts.

Yakiniku barbeque
Most of the dishes arrived with a garnish of mushroom but we added a side order of the buttons, pearls and king browns too, given the ease of getting carried away with fatty, juicy meat.

Wagyu rib finger
Speaking of fatty meat, the wagyu rib finger topped the list. Coming from the part right on the rib, they were cubes of almost pure fat with some meat marbling, and certainly not for the dieters.

Pork cheek
Neither was the pork cheek which rendered down nicely on the barbeque, leaving just a touch of meat with the caramelised porky fat.

Scampi
With scampi on the menu it was a no brainer but when it arrived (three serves pictured), it was more a question of: to cook or not to cook. The beautiful specimens looked sashimi-friendly but we compromised with a short stay on the barbeque for that rare-cooked sweet and creamy scampi flesh.

Scallop
Raw scallops for the barbeque arrived rather theatrically huddled in a shell, like the greatest scallop ever found with six pieces of the sweet, sweet mollusc. I found these particularly nice lightly grilled and dipped into the salt sauce.

Pork sausage
I can't go past a good pork sausage and the chunky filled, smoked ones here were pretty decent and just needed a touch of mustard for that authentic izakaya feed.

Corn butter
While I've had mushrooms and garlic cloves cooked in butter over the grill, corn kernels were a new one. Forever forgetting that stuff cooked in, basically, boiling butter are equally boiling hot, these sweet little kernels were dangerously tasty.

Mountain chain
I've left the most interesting (read: strange) and unique dish till last. The dramatically named 'mountain chain' is a muscle attached to the cow's rumen and forms a type of tripe, quite literally a few steps before the honeycomb tripe that's much more common in various cuisines.

With a dark 'skin' like outer and various tube-like pieces, the mountain chain is not for the faint of heart, nor the hard of chewing, as we found out. Flavour-wise, there's not much going on; hence the marinade probably, but the texture is that of the chewiest muscle you can imagine, then with a chewy skin layer on top. One for the thrill-seekers, I think, and not one I'll be having again.

Seafood barbeque action
On the cooking front Gyuzo has invested into some pretty high-tech ventilation that's built right into the barbeque unit. No visible ventilation hoods hanging from the ceiling here, but just the small holes in the ring of the barbeque, sucking in smoke before it has time to infiltrate all your clothes and hair.

I was noticeably less smoky-smelling than when I normally leave Korean barbeques, but also quite possibly due to the fact that the meat wasn't marinated and thus did not burn its marinade on the grill as is common in Korean barbeque, emitting plumes of smoke usually.

Green tea parfait (front) and berry parfait (back)
After all the grilled protein, some might jump at the opportunity for sweets, which are fairly basic at Gyuzou. Most elaborate are probably the parfaits which feature ice cream, fresh cream, conflakes (which is such an adorably Japanese touch) and a topping like the green tea syrup or berry syrup, with fruit and wafer garnishes.

Full as a boot with Gyuzou's yakiniku offerings, particularly its so-tender wagyu cuts, dinner at Gyuzou certainly confirmed that a good time will be had at a barbeque - and that's a good time in any language.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Gyuzou as a guest, with thanks to SD Marketing.

Gyuzo on Urbanspoon

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