Monday, January 30, 2006

Bait. White. Bait.

Pure dumb luck.

I love tiny weeny fish being plucked from the ocean, choked in flour, and then fried to excruciating death in a vat of hot oil. Who would have thought I'd have the opportunity to experience this delicacy twice in one week.

Pure luck.

'Devilled' whitebait is what they call it at the Beach House Cafe in Lower Sandy Bay. I remember that much. Unfortunately I was too pissed to now recall how they labelled the dish (other than just 'whitebait') at Mezethes in Salamanca Quarry. Needless to say, both dishes entailed a roughly similar preparation to the torture outlined above. Both were around the $12 mark.

I love whitebait. To do this at home (without contravening the Geneva Convention) take some whitebait (teeny weeny white fish, about as long as my little finger and just as thin); flounce the fish about in a bowl of flour (usually seasoned with salt and pepper, and whatever else you'd like); fry in very hot oil. Serve with a squeeze of lemon. Munch and moan to your heart's content.

I first discovered this dish when I was an underage drunk at a Greek take away in Lonsdale St, Melbourne. My friend Corrina and I thought we were ordering hot chips from the bain-marie. Boy, did we get a surprise. I spent the next six months trying to find the exact same Greek take away on Lonsdale St (the phrase 'needle in a haystack' comes to mind), pathetically asking all: Do you sell those fish-chip-things?

So, I love whitebait. Clearly. And when it comes down to a two-up contest between Mezethes (Greek) and Beach House Cafe ("new Australian"), I'm surprised to say that Beach House Cafe won hands down! Not soggy, not oily, just gorgeous.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tamar River Odyssey

In the wake of America's recent Martin Luther King holiday, I'd just like to say (forgive me Dr King) "I have a dream". My dream isn't as auspicious or as philanthropic as Dr King's dream (not that I don't share that dream too) ... my dream is one of a Tamar Valley odyssey.

In the humblest of ways, I discovered the Rosevears district the other day. Took a long drive and ended up in Launceston visiting my Gran. Gran's a top chick, and she suggested a "picnic by the river". So we packed cheese, crackers, pate, grapes, and hand-picked peas-in-the-pod from her garden. We drove along the west Tamar for 20-odd clicks out of Launceston. The time passed very quickly (we tend to natter, my Gran and I). Taking the turn off the highway at the Rosevears sign, just as the Tamar re-emerges into view, I found myself in a lolly shop for grown ups. On the right, magical unending river views with the rolling hills of the east Tamar beyond. On my left ... oooh, on my left was heaven.

Strathlynn, St Matthius, Rosevears, Ninth Island. The vineyards snuggle against the side of the road, and the road hugs the river. It's beautiful!

But Gran's not silly, there was no vineyard-hopping for me that day. We settled at a solitary picnic table under a lonely Norfolk Pine on the edge of a bend in the river. Gran said that years ago vandals had stripped the tree of all its branches, leaving just a sad old trunk. The branches were slowing returning, and they were glorious.

We had only a couple of hours to enjoy the sun and the blue sky and each others company (and of course, the picnic). Road signs sat insolently behind my back, whispering "Geoooorrrgieeeeeee ... come driiiiiiiiiiiink with uuuuuuuuusssss".

But I didn't.

I was so excited, and so astounded that I'd never been there before. Now I can't wait to go back. But I'll do it properly. None of this spur of the moment stuff. I'll book a cottage so I can stagger from cellar door to cellar door to bed.

Some call the Tamar Valley the "Valley of the Senses". I prefer to think of it as the "Valley of the Sensualists". One could end up on an express train to hell, or a slow boat to heaven (I'll leave that up to you to figure out).

But who'd have thought heaven could be so close by?

Yours with bated breath,
GW ;-)

p.s. Yes I know there is a boat called the Tamar Odyssey.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Farewell Meyjitte

Zelda was right.

According to Graham Phillips in today's Sunday Tas, Meyjitte Boughenout has left our shores for the Gold Coast. For good, it seems.

If I was to live only one more day, my last meal on earth would be that prepared by Meyjitte last year at Franklin Manor in Strahan (see review May 2005). But Franklin Manor has been sold and Q1 has opened its flagship restaurant, Absynthe, with Monsieur Boughenout at the helm.

More than a chef, in my mind Meyjitte had become something akin to a super-human god. I clung to the promise that he could run Absynthe in Surfers Paradise's sky-high heaven, while simultaneously running a magical restaurant in Hobart. A restaurant that would command waiting lists several months long.

But alas, as many have suspected, I am deluded.

Sigh. Heart is breaking. A great loss.

Farewell Meyjitte, and thank you,
Georgie. xx

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Marque IV Revisited

Marque IV for my birthday dinner was such a treat. We'd tried to go back several times since my last visit (see July 2005 review), but each time they were fully booked. We went the whole hog - appetiser, entree, main (the stomach didn't quite stretch to dessert though, I'm afraid).

It was a lovely night, and our waiter was attentive and helpful. He recommended the Domaine Laroche chardonnay ($40) to accompany our meal. I'm not a real fan of chardonnay, but having decided to place my trust in his recommendation was pleasantly surprised. The French chardonnay was not as dry and dusty as an Aussie chard. It was very pleasant indeed, and a great match to our dishes.

As appetisers we'd ordered the Bothwell Goats Cheese and Lime Raviolo (big fat pillow stuffed with goats cheese, with a lovely beetroot marmalade on the side) and the Seared Spring Bay Abalone (divine). Our entrees were the Seared Spring Bay Scallops with smoked salmon and a delicious beurre blanc and the West Coast Crayfish Panna Cotta. Both were fabulous, the scallops were little clouds of moan-worthy heaven, while the crayfish was as delicate as a panna cotta should be, with a smooth ocean flavour.

In short - appetisers and entree were exquisite.

Mains were a bit heavy-handed for a balmy summer's evening. I'd had the Three Degrees of Macquarie Harbour Ocean Trout on my last visit. Not wanting to order the same dish again, I realised how winter-oriented the rest of the mains menu is. In the end we settled on Pork Saltimbocca (nice, but a bit of a confused dish) and the Spatchcock Poached in a Chinese Master Stock. The latter was difficult to eat: Spatchcock and noodles floating in a soy-heavy broth. Trying to eat this with a knife and fork was clumsy, and dangerous given my lovely white cocktail dress was making its debut.

I'd love to see a summer mains menu from Marque IV, or at least a specials menu (if there is one in existence, we weren't offered it on the night). Monsieur Foreman's handling of his appetisers and entrees is divine, but the mains left me slightly disappointed. A refreshed mains menu with more of a seafood focus, akin to the appetisers/entrees, would be a sight to behold.

I know the restaurant is young and the work involved in designing a seasonal menu of the complexity of Marque IV's style is a mammoth task. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Four kisses,

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hip Hip Hooray!

Now that we've all vented about Taste, it's time to move on.

I would like to say a great big fat well done to my picks of the wine guzzling season. Firstly, as mentioned before, Lalla Gully is the business. Congratulations on their successful first outing at Taste (in cahoots with stable mates Clover Hill). I have raved about the Lalla Gully sauvignon blanc before (see Saltwater River Cafe review), but this year it is their pinot gris that has got me all a-flutter. Love it, love you, love your style. Secondly, I would also like to thank Spring Vale for dazzling me with their utterly delicious desert wine. I am besotted (or is that besozzled?). Can't mention wine without saying how much I (still) adore the Craigie Knowe cabernet sauvignon. In my humble opinion the only "heavier style" Tasmanian red worth bothering with.

Aside from that ... It's my birthday! I'm feeling like a princess, it's a beautiful day, and I'm being whisked off to a surprise venue for dinner tonight. Ah the joys of advancing years.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

NYE 05/06 - Saddest Forty Bucks Ever Spent

I am sad, sad I am.

I have never spent New Years at the waterfront before; have never spent New Years at Taste before.

And you know I love Taste.

Last year I grizzled about New Year’s at Prosser’s. This year we paid our forty bucks per person for our table at Taste, hoping for something special. In the daytime, to me, Taste is a little slice of heaven. You take yourself down, you find a seat or two, you hunt for food and wine, and you while the hours away.

It was raining, but we were in the right spirit. We arrived at Taste in a party mood. Until we found our $40-ish seats. We had booked outdoor seats. Foolishly we assumed the organisers had followed the same weather reports that I had been reading all week. Sun umbrellas covered tables along the waterfront side of the outdoor “apron”. Nothing protected tables along the wall-side. Guess where our table was.

Empty wet tables and chairs outside, ridiculous over-crowding inside. This was my only bad Taste experience ever, and along with many others I’d paid an entry fee for the privilege. How hard is it to hang up a few Bunnings shade cloths to protect local, interstate, and foreign visitors to Tasmania’s pride of the season? Inside we huddled like frightened little sheep inside that vast great shed, smelling like wet blankets.

Thanks Hobart Summer Festival organisers. Our guests were left bemused about where they hell they’d ended up on New Year’s Eve. I was left fuming at having been let down and embarrassed.

Class act. Good on ya. Learnt my lesson, won’t bother with Taste on New Year’s ever again.