Tag Archives: duck

Haute (altitude) cuisine

G’day Tony.

Sometimes it is the simple things which bring joy. While I enjoy it when restaurants serve me something extra-ordinarily complicated or hard to come by, I often prefer one that celebrates good produce, done simply, without fuss. My latest favourite is from our local pub, the Carringbush. While the menu is likely to change and it will vanish as fast as it arrived, their steak roll with beautifully cooked sirloin, smoky bacon, gruyere and some “garnish” is tasty simplicity.steaksandwich

Winter has well and truly arrived here in earnest. The snow has come quicker than expected after “snow-mageddon” hit. It’s cold and windy in Melbourne. People are sneezing. Days are short, but getting longer. Oh, and it seems schools are on holidays, again.

My weekends in Melbourne are rapidly coming to an end until late September.

As per usual, I’ll be heading up to the ski fields every weekend again this season. It sounds idyllic, but comes with its own set of problems, mostly of the domestic kind. On balance, our time in the snow is worth it.

The old joke goes a little like: how does a ski instructor become a millionaire? They start with $2 million.

The pity is I don’t have $2 million, but I am a ski instructor of sorts. Ok, technically I am a race coach, but same, same. So living in a place where people joke openly about the price of things, $10 for a can of cola and a chocolate bar? $25 for a basic pizza? It is simply not possible for a mere mortal like me to afford to pay for accommodation, beer, petrol, beer, parking, ski equipment, beer, ski clothing (ok, some of that is well looked after, thanks I/O Merino) and the obligatory post ski beer. Something has got to give. Notice the omissions? Yep, food and wine.

It’s easy to carry a bottle up each weekend, but someone drops by before dinner and *poof* that bottle you brought up to have with the <insert pre-prepared meal> is gone. So, you bring a couple bottles up, just in case. And drink them both even if nobody drops by.

Ok, pre-prepared meal. Living in a lodge with shared cooking facilities, means that intricate menu is just not an option, nor something with a long cooking time. Easy solution? Make something during the week and freeze some to reheat and serve with some pasta, risotto, bread, other. Maybe even some vegetable stuff. No, fries with post ski beer don’t count as vegetables.

I’ve settled back into making ragu. Long, slow cooking of any meat, with suitable additions can result in some cracking results. Ok, I am partial to things like rabbit or duck ragu, but pork or beef is well and truly ok too.

To most people it sounds daunting, but so seriously easy. Eg, bone some duck marylands (get butcher to do it for you if you are that lazy), chop into pieces and fry off until brown. In a heavy baking dish add the likes of garlic, onion, red wine, tinned tomato, herbs like bay leaves and rosemary and cook long and slow. Don’t forget to add seasoning. Hardest part is dealing with the amazing smell throughout the house. Stuff like this is great with pasta, rice or risotto. bonedduck

Crack open a bottle of something with some body, a cabernet, shiraz or the like and all that energy used on the slopes quickly recovered. I found a bottle of 1996 Vasse Felix Cabernet from Margaret River in the cellar, but if you can’t lay your hands on something like that, any cabernet from Margaret River or Great Southern (Western Australia) from 2011 is likely to see you right.

Before we head up, some dining out to be done in Melbourne. Went to a nice place last week, chef’s hat restaurant. Not going to name this one as it was far from worthy. I’m truly hopeful the poor service (read: no service) was because their key staff had called in sick. The suckling lamb was, well, it had plenty of garlic, but very tasty.


I suspect when next I write, it will be about apricot moguls, hot chocolates and post ski beers.


Web of Deception




Hey, “The leading independent guide to what’s on in Singapore” recently launched a mobile app. Having never heard of City Nomads I thought I’d check out its website, and chose a restaurant review at random, just to see what it’s all about.

Wading past the usual lifestyle writer’s clichés – Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay is, of course, ‘nestled’ in its location. Nestled being the only way a lifestyle writer can describe a physical location. ‘Nestled in verdant greenery’ is a personal favourite and overused phrase, as though greenery is any other colour.

There was a mention of ‘pleasing verdant foliage’ in another randomly-selected review on the site, so I’m saying they’ve got all the boxes checked. Then again, another food blogger went the whole hog with ‘nestled among lush greenery’ for his review of the same place, and yet another went with ‘soaked in quiet greenery’. I’m assuming he took a wetsuit.

But back to the Thai restaurant. Apparently the chicken wings were ‘joyful’, which would seem odd given they’d been hacked off a chicken and subsequently stuffed and fried.

But the one that really hit a nerve was this: The ‘duck red curry’ came in a ‘light red curry sauce containing lychees, an unusual but brilliant addition.’

Lychees in gaeng phed ped yaang are an ‘unusual’ addition? Oh come on: 90 percent of the red duck curries I’ve ordered have had lychees in them.


Some lychees, yesterday

I’m an old fart I know, but this sort of uninformed opinion masquerading as knowledge really pisses me off.

If you’re going to make a statement of fact, maybe you should try to ensure it is actually factual. Ever heard of Google? It is a place to start, though may well lead you to other similarly uninformed opinions on the Web.

Herd ignorance; just what the world needs.

Now I know I’m picking on City Nomads unfairly, it’s not as though they’re the only amateurs in the field.

It is possible to write with some humility and informatively when you’re new to something, but in most cases  you want reviewers who have some experience in the field about which they write.

This is problematic in the lifestyle media for reasons made clear on City Nomad’s website in a job advertisement. You too could join the City Nomads team as editor, the gatekeeper for all the opinion and facts (along with the spelling and grammar) that warrant publishing, and earn a grand sum of S$3-4k a month for your trouble. That’s US$2.4-3.2k.

Stop and think about that for a moment.

Unless you’re living at home with mummy and daddy (a distinct possibility in the world’s most expensive city) and they’re picking up all your bills, that’s not going to leave a lot of spare cash for dining out at anything other than hawker centres. So where, other than hosted media tastings, are you going to get the experience you should have in order to do the job properly?

I’ve long maintained that to write about lifestyle it helps to actually have a lifestyle, but frankly most publishers don’t see it that way, choosing instead to exploit juniors who perceive the business as glamourous and are willing to accept inequitable wages as a result.

If you’ve ever wondered why reviews in the so-called lifestyle media tend to be as gushing, and as adjective- and superlative-laden as the marketing materials from which they are so often cut and pasted, or why they’re so often ill-informed and undiscerning, then wonder no more.

Do we deserve better? I’m not so sure we do, given our penchant for consuming our media for free on the Web. Maybe the old model where experts were paid a proper living wage to write reviews and we paid for the privilege of reading them was better?


Anyway, now I’m done venting my spleen, last night’s dinner was based of a recipe  in an old Donna Hay magazine. Thai herbs, duck, home-made chilli jam, and fresh lychees. They were an unusual, but brilliant addition.