Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Food is Fashion (part 2): Cara&Co Restaurant

If food is indeed fashion, there's no better example than Cara&Co on Level 4 in Westfield Sydney: part fashion retailer, part fine dining restaurant and all completely delicious.

Like fashion seasons and collections, Cara&Co presents a new menu at the turn of every season. Crafted by Belgian chef Dave de Belder, this winter's menu is said to explore the textures, temperature and taste of winter flavours, with a very fine, very modern European touch.

Champagne Deveaux at Cara&Co Restaurant, Level 4, Westfield Sydney
There’s no more perfect a start (to anything really) than champagne – the toasty Champagne Deveaux tickling the palate as Cara&Co’s exemplary bread rolls arrived to the table alongside butter topped with black salt flakes.

Bread roll with butter and salt

Amuse bouche
The amuse bouche at Cara&Co never fail to impress with their intricate and impactful flavour combinations.

The moist cake of sun dried tomato hinted at the Mediterranean with somewhat summery accompaniments of a cucumber jelly sheet and lemon cream; the flavours combining for a momentary escape from winter.

Amuse bouche
Our second amuse was a porcini mushroom-dusted tapioca cracker, served on a polished stone with a dab of lettuce cream, a tiny porcini mushroom and micro leaves of cress; forming an umami-packed and crunchy couple of mouthfuls.

Salmon at the Dill Academy – Cured salmon gravlax, dill, brioche, lettuce, crab
There was something about the cold entrées that attracted us – perhaps in subconscious preparation for heartier mains.

The gravlax entrée featured lusciously thick slices of cured salmon, tinged green by dill on the outer surfaces.

Texturally-varied accompaniments included a herbaceous sorbet, crisp air-dried brioche, lettuce segments and crunchy tubes filled with spanner crab flesh; all allowing the salmon to shine as the star ingredient.

King of the Bulls – Beef tartare, capers, quail egg, chive, oyster
The beef tartare was surprisingly creamy and velvety on the palate in its chunky mince form, with quail egg yolks adding to the richness, cut by caperberries. The thins of crispbread played the role of garnish rather than eating implement while chive foam added greenery.

But it was all outshone by the oyster pearls which were tiny, liquid nitrogen-frozen spheres of pureed natural oysters. Melting in the mouth the pearls disseminated the pure, unadulterated and even intensified flavour of oysters in an absolutely astonishing addition to the dish.

Lamb a la Dolce Vita – Lamb shoulder, sweet potato, plum, Earl Gray tea
Braised meats entered the spotlight on the mains menu; exuding hearty, comfort and Belgian-ness all at once - and really, winter food at its best.

The slow cooked lamb shoulder, which had a sous vide and roast treatment, arrived as neat little squares of fall-apart meat, rich with fattiness and hours of seasoning and cooking.

It was served with an unlikely partner of plums - prunes and seemingly fresh slices - adding sweetness to the dish along with a puree of sweet potato. The early grey tea-scented veal jus was the finishing touch, poured at the table.

Slow Cooked Bull Wins the Race – Wagyu beef, radish, pastrami, aged cheese, wild grains
The slow-cooked wagyu beef main was similarly fall-apart tender like the lamb, served cylindrically with pastrami crisps and raw radish slices.

Crisp pearl barley was a great way to present the grains on the side and add texture while the distinctly aged cheddar foam was a dominant flavour of the dish though melding reasonably well with the jus.

No Animals were Harmed – Gnocchi, celeriac, carrot, beetroot, nutmeg
We also sampled the vegetarian main of pan-fried gnocchi that was like squares of mashed potato cakes with a great, rich and meat-free nutmeg-spiked sauce.

The colourful carrots and beetroots were a delight to look at and eat, with cubes of celeriac (not feta cheese as I'd originally thought) upping the vegetable count.

Bon Bon Bomb – Macadamia, apple, raspberry, chilli
Cara&Co's desserts of many components also feature the stunning plating and presentation that impressed through the night; only fitting for a fashion-oriented establishment really.

The intense macadamia nut cream dessert toys with refreshing apple sorbet and fresh apple rings, while the chilli aspect was a bit lost on me, unless it was somehow in the perfect quenelle of raspberry sorbet.

Noisette de Indochine – Keffir lime leaf, hazelnut, coffee
Hazelnut features in another dessert - roasted halves and a creamy hemisphere atop a citrusy kaffir lime scented cream. An accompanying coffee cream was just as intense in flavour as the nutty aspects and most surprising was the liquid-filled chocolate ball - best eaten in one mouthful and not cracked on the plate.

Petit fours
Like their always interesting amuse bouche, Cara&Co ends the meal with petit fours on every occasion too. This time it was a short, buttery, chocolate-filled biscuit that had a fancy French name and looked like a toffee-topped mini muffin.

Petit fours
I preferred the tiny dark chocolate brownie square; a rich, fudgey rendition studded with almonds to finish the gorgeous meal, which did feel like quite the fashion collection.

It had so many colours and textures, accessories and main events, all combining for an overall look and feel that's undeniably fine, European style. And don't forget to strut, just a little, on the catwalk way out because, darling, it's fashion.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Cara&Co Restaurant, with thanks to WM Media.

Cara&Co Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Food is Fashion at Westfield Sydney

Adding weight to the theory that the current obsession for all things food is a fashionable trend, Westfield Sydney – that epic homage to both fashion and food on the end of Pitt Street Mall and Market Street – is presenting a free photographic exhibition that features fashion style of real shoppers with signature dishes from the restaurants in Westfield Sydney.

Happy :ab for Food is Fashion photographic exhibition at Westfield Sydney,
Pitt Street, Sydney
Launched earlier this week at Cloudy Bay Fish Co. and on until Thursday, 15 August 2013, the ‘Food is Fashion’ exhibition was curated by fashion blogger Nicole Cooper of confidentliar.com who talked about the great fusion between food and fashion.

Din Tai Fung for Food is Fashion exhibition
The photos and styling were done by food stylist and food photography duo, Janet Mitchell and Tanya Zouev, with the photos currently on show across the food Level 5 at Westfield Sydney.

Sydney Tower Dining for Food is Fashion exhibition
The photographs highlight intricate connections between food and fashion; ranging from colours, textures, cuts and overall presentation.

Jones the Grocer for Food is Fashion exhibition
"It was an incredibly creative process where we took the fashion ‘look’ and then carefully crafted the most popular dishes to match. We paired a classic dish of mango sticky rice from Chat Thai with a vintage yellow shift dress, and a beef tartare with edible flowers from Cara & Co was teamed with a digital floral print dress," said Zouev.

Reuben & Moore for Food is Fashion exhibition
The ‘Food is Fashion’ collection showcases pairings from Chat Thai, Xanthi, Cloudy Bay Fish Co., Via Del Corso, Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar, Victoria Room Tea Salon, Reuben & Moore, Chinta Ria … Mood For Love, Ippudo, Snag Stand, Jones the Grocer, Din Tai Fung, Cara & Co, Sushi Hon, Happy Lab and Sydney Tower Dining.

Sushi Hon for Food is Fashion exhibition
For some of the photos, there’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination required whereas others, like my favourite one featuring Sushi Hon tuna and salmon sashimi, seem to capture the colour, texture, cut and draping of the outfit/dish completely perfectly.

Ragu Pasta & Wine Bar for Food is Fashion exhibition
As part exhibition, Westfield Sydney shoppers have the chance to win one of four ultimate dining experiences in the centre by taking a picture of their favourite dish on Instagram, tagging it with #foodisfashion.

For more 'Food is Fashion', keep an eye out for my next post on Cara & Co winter menu.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Newtown's latest and greatest: Earl's Juke Joint

Newtown's newest bar is bringing the Shady Pines Saloon brand of good times to the inner west, with Earl's Juke Joint opening about two weeks ago south of the station on King Street, behind a butcher's facade and lacy white curtains.

The bar at Earl's Juke Joint, King Street, Newtown
The result of an ex-Shady bar manager taking over and completely re-imagining the old Betta Meats site on the main road, Earl's is a surprising space that hints at New Orleans but feels right at home in Newtown. Indeed, locals won't see too much of a change to the Betta Meats frontage at all.

The back bar
There's no doubt that the Shady Pines crew have the Midas touch when it comes to bars small and large around town. In only its second week of opening, the bar at Earl's was packed by 7pm - and it's a long bar at that, with plenty of bar seating.

It's an unexpectedly spacious venue with a long, wide, shiny wooden bar taking pride of place, but still plenty of space in between it and the wall-attached tables for two or three drinkers, four at a squeeze.

The bar
There's a larger group space right down the back, but the bar is where the action's at. We have views of the hard-working bartenders, fellow bar perchers both ways, and those at the wall tables who eventually have to squeeze through those seated at the bar to order drinks.

Ferent branca and Reschs on tap
The many pages of the wood-backed menus make their way up and down the bar for those needing more choice than Reschs or Italian spirit Fernet Branca on tap. That's right, the bitter, herbaceous digestif spirit that's the domain of hipsters and bartenders is available on tap.

A bit too much like really strong Chinese herbal tea to me, the cool kids drink Fernet Branca by the shot which bartenders happily dispense from the tap.

Cocktail and Indian spice mix
While I can't drink it straight, I didn't mind Fernet Branca in a cocktail form; just a touch with (I think) rum, bitters and garnished with cucumber so the herbal notes make for an interesting, multi-dimensional addition without noticeable bitterness.

As per Shady Pines tradition (excluding Frankie's Pizza), complimentary snacks accompany our drinks; in this case, a seriously spicy Indian or Bombay mix of crisp chickpea noodles and dried peas. For more substantial eats I'd highly recommend bloodwood just across the road, as we did after a few drinks.

Phife Dawg (left) and Angostura Phosphate (right)
In addition to some great house rules (I particularly like number 2, "Don't be creepy" and wish it could be applied more broadly), the menu offers a few mixed drinks - like the tequila refrescoes at cousin venue Tio's Cerveceria - for $10.

The Phife Dawg is an easy pick, featuring rum, lime and sugar cane juice with the fresh and true flavours of the latter, and both a sugar cane and half lime garnish.

The Angostura Phosphate is a great one for anyone who likes the flavour of Angostura bitters. Six dashes make their way into the drink along with (I think) rum, lemon and acid phosphate, which we're told is essentially citric acid. The drink goes down easy with plenty of ice, if not a little too easy.

Corrugated metal on the ceiling
The overall fitout of what used to be a butcher shop is actually pretty swish; think The Baxter Inn with dark wood all round, fantastic wooden arches in the back bar and on-theme decorations on the walls.

There's a quaintness in the front lace curtains and light fixtures which is befitting of the old site, while the corrugated and in some areas rusted metal on the ceiling returns the space to drinking den status.

Good times at Earl's
Meanwhile, the vibe at Earl's is of laid-back fun. The service is friendly and efficient given the length of the bar, music reaches a reasonably loud volume that still makes conversation possible, and there's even silly liqueurs on the top shelf to show that they're not taking themselves too seriously.

Earl's Juke Joint is definitely the latest and greatest to join Newtown's burgeoning bar scene - welcome to the neighbourhood, Earl.

Earl's Juke Joint on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pull into King Street Wharf Festival - till Thursday

I can’t imagine anyone complaining about another Sydney food festival – after all, we have plenty of great food to celebrate. The latest is the King Street Wharf Festival, which launched on Friday and goes through to Thursday, 25 July 2013 along picturesque King Street Wharf.

Entertainers at King Street Wharf Festival, 19-25 July 2013, Sydney
The inaugural festival commenced over Friday and Saturday afternoons where the wharf itself hosted food stalls from restaurants along the water, with entertainment in the form of live music and dancers.

Steersons Steakhouse stall

Hot Potato band on the wharf
Saturday afternoon was a beautiful Sydney winter's day, perfect for strolling the wharf. A highlight was the infectious Hot Potato band which played jazzy covers as they strutted up and down the promenade, stopping for photos and impromptu serenades along the way.

Hot Potato band jam

Sauces and pastes on sale at The Malaya stall
There was a good selection of offerings across the spread-out stalls,with very reasonable pricing on some items.

I couldn't resist the spiced aromas around The Malaya's stall where they were also selling their own brand sauces, pastes and curry powder.

Chilli coconut prawns from The Malaya
The Malaya's chilli coconut prawns was a great lunch dish of perfectly cooked king prawns, served with steamed rice, pickled vegetables and plenty of creamy curry sauce and fresh coriander.

There was some fair kick in the full-flavoured and vibrant chilli and coconut sauce, tempered by the sticks of pickled cucumber and carrot which were also doused in the sauce.

Wharf Teppanyaki and Kobe Jones stalls
There was value to be had at Wharf Teppanyaki with yakitori and a grilled salmon offering. The chicken and onion thigh yakiitori skewer was sweetly tender while the beef, skewered with capsicum, had great flavour albeit a little on the chewy side.

Pepper salmon from Wharf Teppanyaki
The salmon fillet, served skin-on with the same scattering of lettuce leaves as the yakitori, was not so much flavoured of pepper as advertised. Nonetheless, the well grilled fish was well cooked with complementary flavour in  the salad dressing.

La Cita stall

Quesadilla from La Cita
We finished off at La Cita with a pretty epic serving of their quesadilla, although sour cream seemed to dominate the plate.

The cheese filled tortilla came topped with a simple dice of tomato and Spanish onion, a splodge of avocado and so much sour cream I felt like I should have taken it home for other purposes.

King Street Wharf restaurants

Casa di Nico stall
We unfortunately missed the cannoli from Vessel Italian & Bar which had closed up stall by the time we were ready for desserts.

If you’ve missed the outdoor festival component, don’t fret as the festival extends into special dining offers at the restaurants along King Street Wharf.

Deals include mussels and a drink at Bungalow 8 for $30; nine mezze items at Georges for $24; degustations at Kobe Jones or Wharf Teppanyaki for $75pp; and wine tasting and salsa during the festival at La Cita.

See the full program here. Participating restaurants include Bungalow 8, Cargo Bar and Lounge, Casa di Nico, Georges, The Hudson, I Thai, Kobe Jones, La Cita, The Loft, The Malaya, Nick’s, Steersons, Vessel and Wharf Teppanyaki.

Food, booze and shoes received food vouchers for King Street Wharf Festival with thanks to The PR Partnership.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Australia’s Longest Reserve Table by Jacob’s Creek

Being such the multicultural country, Australia and its people are rich with stories of provenance; whether you’ve come from a different country, state, town or even suburb to Sydney.

In celebration of Sydney’s rich cultural provenance story, Jacob’s Creek and celebrity chef Pete Evans are hosting Australia’s Longest Reserve Table on Saturday, 27 July 2013 featuring a long table of hundreds of guests – and you can be a part of it.

The lunch will take place in front of the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Pyrmont, which stands in honour of all those who have migrated from countries around the world to Australia. Sydney guests are invited to prepare and bring a dish that represents their culture and to share their provenance story with hundreds of other food and wine lovers.

Celebrity Chef Pete Evans and Jacob's Creek winemaker Steve Clarkson
(Image courtesy of Open Haus)
Ambassador for Jacob’s Creek Reserve – a premium range of Jacob’s Creek from Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Coonawarra in South Australia – Pete Evans, said, "Australians love cooking and sharing their food with friends and family. The great thing about the dishes which we prepare is that they are often influenced by where we’re from and our cultural heritage. Every dish tells a story about the person who has prepared it."

Louis Cheng from Jacob’s Creek Reserve said, "Provenance defines who you are and where you come from and, similarly our Reserve wines convey the characteristics from the regions where they are grown – being from Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra."

"We look forward to sharing our wine and our story at Australia’s Longest Reserve Table, as well as hearing from hundreds of others about how their heritage and culture have influenced their passion for food and wine."

Win a place for you and a friend at Australia’s Longest Reserve Table on Saturday, 27 July 2013!

Jacob’s Creek is giving three Food, Booze and Shoes readers the chance to win a place at Australia’s Longest Reserve Table with a friend. Lunch and matching wine (Jacob’s Creek Reserve, of course) will be provided by Jacob’s Creek.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Table 
Where: Welcome Wall, Wharf 7, 58 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
When: Saturday 27 July 2013, 12:00pm – 3:00pm

For your chance to win email foodboozeshoes@gmail.com with your full name and a contact phone number, and tell us in 25 words or less your favourite family dish and the story or history behind it.

Entries must be received by 10.00pm (AEST) on Tuesday, 24 July 2013. Three winners will be announced on Wednesday morning, 25 July 2013 and will be contacted with invites to the event. Note contact phone numbers will only be used for the purpose of contacting winners.

If you don’t win, you can still try for a place at Australia’s Longest Reserve Table and have the opportunity to share your provenance by bringing your favourite family dish to the event. Jacob’s Creek will provide the entrée, salads, desserts and Reserve wines from its South Australia wine regions to complement every dish. Entries are open here now until 25 July 2013.

Jacob’s Creek is one of Australia’s leading wine brands, offering quality contemporary Australian wine styles. The brand was first launched in 1976 and is named after a creek that runs through the renowned Barossa Valley wine region in South Australia.

Jacob’s Creek is made by Orlando Wines which was founded by Johann Gramp after he planted his first vines on the banks of Jacob’s Creek in 1847 and thus began a tradition of winemaking over 165 years ago.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bird is the word at The Bank Hotel

There’s no shortage of Newtown pubs, even just along King Street, but the recent revival of a few iconic pubs is proving competition for Newtown restaurants and eateries too.

Refurbished and relaunched venues include The Bank Hotel, next to the upgraded Newtown Station. Now owned by pub group Solotel, the downstairs section has been converted from long-time tenant Sumalee Thai to a spacious beer garden and courtyard so that there are now multi-level drinking and smoking areas.

Bird is the Word Sunday half roast chicken at The Bank Hotel Beer Garden,
King Street, Newtown

Food, booze and shoes sampled the Bird is the Word as a guest, with thanks to Agency G.
The new Bank Beer Garden offers a modern, casual pub dining menu with daily specials: Friday nights are for cheap share plates; pulled pork for groups on Saturdays; old school fish and chips on Tuesdays and paella Wednesdays among some of the nightly food temptations.

'Bird' is the word on a Sunday afternoon when roast chicken is the go – almost every kitchen order we see that afternoon is the half bird with all the trimmings, designed for two eaters.

Bird is the Word
The roasted skin on the half bird is perfectly and evenly golden with a lovely crispness, while the moist chicken hides a chunky stuffing with a wealth of corn kernels and bacon lardons.

The large plate arrives with an abundance of sides: roast potatoes and pumpkin; a soft-centred, golden-surfaced Yorkshire pudding; and a cabbage salad.

To drink there’s the Newtown-brewed Young Henry’s on tap (the Natural Ale is my pick) and an impressive selection of ciders by the bottle, as well as all the beer and spirit usuals.

French fries

Potato wedges
For total potato overload, we added French fries and potato wedges to our order; the latter being huge, golden deep-fried, skin-on potato segments – some larger than single chat potatoes – served with the classic combination of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.

Sweet corn fritters with red pepper relish
Also on the ‘light food’ menu are sweet corn fritters, served with red pepper relish. Seemingly covering off brunch on the menu too, the fritters are packed with corn and decent enough, but much improved with the creamy, pureed capsicum sauce.

Spiced eggplant, cauliflower, hazelnut, herbs, yoghurt
I felt the need to add a salad; for appearances at the very least. The Middle Eastern flavours in the spiced eggplant were palate-awakening, with natural yoghurt making for an ideal and simple dressing for the myriad of spice flavours.

The Bank Beer Garden
(Image courtesy of Agency G)
With gas heaters to combat the winter cool, The Bank Beer Garden is all about long afternoons with beers, mates, and a decent bite to eat. And don't forget on Sunday afternoons, Bird is the Word.

The Bank Hotel on Urbanspoon


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