Monday, June 30, 2014

Get to know the Greek: The Progressive Greek wine and food tours

Posted by Kath

I have to admit that when I'm after a nice glass of wine or two as comfort in the middle of winter, Greek wines don't often jump to mind with my preference usually heading towards Australian, French or Italian wines.

However, I'm always keen to expand my palate and was excited to take part in 'The Progressive Greek' event hosted by Greek wine importer, Douglas Lamb Wines.

"Many people don't know that the Greeks have been making wine from about the third century BC and actually took the art to Italians, who then introduced it to the French," says David Lamb, a qualified sommelier and third generation wine importer.

"The Progressive Greek' guided tour by Douglas Lamb Wines starts at Alpha, Castlereagh Street, Sydney
Throughout the month of July 2014 'The Progressive Greek' promotion by Douglas Lamb Wines aims to open minds to the possibilities of matching Greek wines with food that's not necessarily Greek.

Following the three venue, guided progressive dinner we had through the Sydney CBD, I can attest to the eye-opening matches that really highlighted the versatility of the Greek wines we had: the Kir Yianni wine range from the Amyndeon region in the far north west of Greece.

Kir Yianni 'Akakies' Brut Rose at Alpha
Our guided Sydney tour began with a feast for the eyes at the beautifully designed space of modern Greek restaurant Alpha.

The first wine for the night was the Kir Yianni 'Akakies' Brut Rosé which would be a perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer's day. The rosé had a lovely strawberry pink hue and was bubbly with a crisp acidity and a nice hint of sweetness; a great wake-up call for the palate.

Melitzanosalata smoked eggplant dipat Alpha
Although we were dining on a cold winter's night the food pairing with the rosé certainly brought to mind warmer days.

Served to share, we were presented with a moreishly delicious, chunky and smoky eggplant dip with lots of warm, fluffy pita bread.

Pickled octopus, cucumber and sun-dried olivesat Alpha
We also shared beautifully soft, melt-in-the-mouth pickled octopus tentacles, served atop cucumber slices and olives in a zingy salad-like dish.

Ouzo cured ocean trout, fennel, orange, watercress and sumac onions at Alpha
And lastly at Alpha, we had a superb dish of succulent cured ocean trout with the faint taste of anise from the ouzo, sliced thin with a refreshing fennel, orange and watercress salad.

All three dishes were rich in their own right and I found that tartness of the rosé helped cut through them, allowing me to keep going back for more.

Kir Yianni 'Petra' with food at Danjee, Albion Place, Sydney
The next stop on our tour was Danjee Korean Restaurant which was a surprise as wine and Korean food aren't two things I usually associate with each other. I was pleasantly surprised and have to admit that the white wine pairing of Kir Yianni 'Petra' with Korean flavours was my favourite of the night.

The Kir Yianni 'Petra' has a light honey appearance and was dangerously easy to drink, probably due to the fact there was very little acidity and its very smooth finish that didn't leave the palate dry at all.

Banchan side dishes at Danjee
As is customary at Korean restaurants, we were supplied with a variety of sides to get things started, including cabbage kim chi and other cold vegetable side dishes, but the highlights at new-ish Danjee were definitely the mains.

Yukhoe beef tartare at Danjee
To share across the table was a yukhoe beef tartare consisting of thin strips of frozen raw beef dressed with plenty of sesame oil and soy sauce, mixed together at the table with a raw egg yolk, cucumber and pear.

Refreshing in its coldness yet rich in mouthfeel, the yukhoe was surprisingly well matched to the white Kit Yianni 'Petra'.

Hew dup gapsalmon and kingfish sashimi, vegetables and rice at Danjee
Our second main was the delicious hew dup gap, similar to rice-based bimbimbap but with raw, diced salmon and kingfish sashimi in place of beef.

The fresh flavours and chilli hit was a fantastic pairing with the silky Petra white wine, which really complemented the varied flavours well.

Kitchen at Glass Brasserie, Hilton Sydney, George Street, Sydney
What I enjoyed most about the concept of the progressive dinner was the fact we actually got up and walked to our next meal which in turn worked up our appetites.

Kir Yianni 'Paranga' at Glass Brasserie
The third and final destination of the guided tour was Glass Brasserie in Hilton Sydney with the final wine for the evening, the Kir Yianni 'Paranga' which was a medium bodied red, quite spicy with a fairly short finish.

Braised wagyu short rib with Pedro Ximenez, carrot & cumin puree,
horseradish and piquillo peppers at Glass Brasserie
It was a good balance to the decadent wagyu beef short rib, doused in sweet sauce of pedro Ximenez sherry, sitting atop a delectable carrot and cumin puree without any hint of the promised horseradish.

Dessert wasn't on the cards but overall the 'The Progressive Greek' evening was thoroughly enjoyable, thoughtful and well planned with food and Greek wine pairings. We couldn't have had a more knowledgeable and approachable host in David Lamb to explain the origins and history of the Amyndeon region wines, all the while keeping the affair casual, light-hearted and most importantly, delicious.

Amazing food at three Sydney CBD restaurants, some really versatile Greek wines and to share the whole experience with some new friends - it's surely ignited a desire to continue progressing my palate, one Greek wine at a time.

During the month of July, wine and food lovers can book guided tours in Sydney hosted by Douglas Lamb Wines' David Lamb. If you want to take things at your own pace there is also a self-guided option, with participating restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney with meal and Greek wine pairings.

Food, Booze & Shoes attended 'The Progressive Greek' dinner as a guest, with thanks to Douglas Lamb Wines.

Alpha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Danjee on Urbanspoon

Glass Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 27, 2014

See you at The Copper Mill

In recent times I'd gotten a little bored with café breakfasts - unfortunately, eggs are eggs to me. And then a little local café comes along and changes all that.

At The Copper Mill on Mitchell Road in an area some call Alexandria and some call Erskineville, bacon and eggs are most certainly not just bacon and eggs. Most surprising is that the café doesn't really have a proper kitchen, but just a stovetop or two and a benchtop grill.

Cappuccino and watermelon, apple and mint juice from The Copper Mill,
Mitchell Road, Alexandria
With minimal outdoor seating and hipster-fied interiors, The Copper Mill is a spacious little venue that clearly values comfort over crowds.

Decorated with the occasional item of copper cookware, the high ceilings of the space and its well-spaced tables lend it well to relaxed brunching and munching on some Latin-inspired brekky bits.

I still like cappuccinos because of the chocolate powder and foam, giving me the slightest of sugar hits with the Golden Cobra beans on a weekend morning.

Meanwhile, the watermelon and apple juice is freshly juiced and served with ice, mint leaves and a striped paper straw.

Coddled egg with kumera mash, parsley and sourdough soldiers with bacon side
And behold, the breakfast game-changer - for me anyway. Sure, the food took a good while to get to us but the coddled egg in the jar with kumera sweet potato mash has given me faith in breakfast again.

All it took was a glass jar, half-filled with sweet, creamy and surely healthy sweet potato mash and topped with an egg that's then basically steamed in the jar to a firm yolk; the way I prefer it.

Garnished with chopped parsley, the egg is served with wedges of buttered sourdough to which I added a side of bacon. A bit of everything in one mouthful was the way to breakfast heaven.

Peruvian bacon and egg roll 
Classic bacon rashers get dumped for pork belly in the Peruvian take on a bacon and egg roll. Encased in a chewy white roll were seasoned pork belly chicharron, a runny sunny-side-up egg and the same kumera mash; then pimped up with Spanish onion salsa criolla and lemon-flavoured mayonnaise.

A large mouthful to handle, this Peruvian-accented breakfast-in-two-hands was a filling twist on a classic Aussie breakfast that will easily become a signature offering at The Copper Mill.

So perhaps I'll see you at The Copper Mill soon, where breakfast takes a while but where eggs ain't eggs.

The Copper Mill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Bourbon: NOLA nights in the Cross

Posted by Kath

In the wake of the lock-out laws introduced in February this year, there appears to be a definite change in the Kings Cross air - but we're yet to see which way the change really swings for the hospitality industry.

With a more relaxed menu and approach than a year ago, The Bourbon's decor and daily food and drinks specials, including a half-price late night menu, offer an inviting scene for those after a quick burger, a bite with few cocktails or a more substantial meal from the New Orleans/NOLA-inspired menu.

The kitchen in action at The Bourbon, Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
With a renewed focus on accessibility and affordability, gone is table service in the front of the venue in favour of ordering food and drinks at the bar, and the inclusion of six burgers on the menu (there's table service in the rear dining space and set menus for groups).

We were treated to a chef’s tasting selection to guide us through the new menu, which retains many aspects of NOLA influence. (Note: most dishes shown below are smaller tasting sizes and not the full menu size). 

Maple Rose Sour (left) and Velvet Vivant Martini (right)
The cocktail menu has improved significantly in the past year and we started with something you'd expect at a venue named The Bourbon: the Maple Rose Sour.

Their take on the classic whiskey sour comprised Bulleit bourbon infused with rosemary, cloudy apple and lemon juices, green chartreuse, maple syrup and chocolate bitters; the latter few ingredients adding a nice hint of sweetness.

The Velvet Vivant martini had Ketel One vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon, pink grapefruit and agave, which while refreshing, became a little too acidic for my tastes.

Little Black Drink (LBD, left) & Ginger Rogers (right)
The LBD, or Little Black Drink, was a clever take on an espresso martini, comprising almost all my favourite things to drink in one glass: vodka, espresso gelato, maple syrup and shot of espresso.

The sweet, light and refreshing Ginger Rogers was a fruity affair of Tanqueray Gin, pomegranate liqueur, berries and lime juiced charged with ginger beer.

Spiced nuts and olives
To kick off the meal and accompany drinks, we had a selection of spiced nuts, olives, hummus, pickled chillies and bread.

The crunchy, spiced peanuts and cashews had a nice dusting of flavour with a mild heat kick, while the olives of varying types and sizes were lovely and salty.

Pickled chillies, hummus and bread
The hummus was more toned down than I'm used to but still had a nice smooth texture; great for slathering over grilled bread.

The highlight of the board, though, were the pickled chillies with such a delicious vinegary heat to them, I would have eaten them all if I didn't have to save room for the rest of the meal.

Scallops with grits, bacon, apple and fennels
Having never experienced New Orleans food, other than vicariously through watching Top Chef, I was excited to see what The Bourbon's menu had in store.

Our first and probably my favourite dish of the evening was the seared scallops which were plump, tender and beautifully caramelised on the surface.

These excellently-cooked molluscs were accompanied by a slice of crisp bacon atop a bed of creamy grits which had a distinct corn flavour. A salad of fennel and apple on the side freshened things up.

Fried chicken, waffles and hot sauce
Next we were delivered a Southern classic: fried chicken and waffles, garnished with chilli, coriander and Spanish onion. The chicken was tender and moist inside, while the batter was crispy and very well seasoned.

The waffle underneath the chicken was a sweet contrast to the savoury chicken while the tangy, fiery-red hot sauce adding extra zing, perfect for those that don't mind a bit of spice.

Alaskan crab, spiced butter and grilled bread
Another highlight of the meal was the signature Alaskan crab legs, with a surprising amount of sweet meat in each leg, considerately pre-cracked and smothered with cinnamon-spiced butter.

The spiced butter pooling on the plate was too good to waste, with sides of grilled bread provided to help mop up every last drop of buttery goodness.

Jambalaya - risotto, spices, bacon, shrimp, watercress
With no hint of slowing down, our next course was a Cajun classic of jambalaya. Like any good comfort food, the jambalaya - similar to an Italian risotto - was deliciously filling with a tomato base, bits of salty bacon and shrimp and again, a good kick of heat mixed through the rice base; all topped off with lightly pickled Spanish onion, watercress and fresh chilli.

Seared swordfish with 'hot fanny sauce' and iceberg & fennel salad
The second last savoury dish of the night was a perfectly cut piece of swordfish; tender to eat but also surprisingly meaty for a small slice of fish. Drizzled all over was the 'hot fanny sauce' of capsicum, onion and a hint of chilli.

While this dish was visually pleasing, the flavours didn't pack as much punch as the previous courses, although that could have just been my taste buds in NOLA overdrive by this point in the night.

Grilled pork chop, potato hash, chipotle butter and crispy onions
We ended the savoury portion of our NOLA journey with a slice of the grilled pork chop, which was a juicy morsel laid atop crunchy and salty potato hash.

A garnish of crispy onion ring and watercress completed the dish, although a larger serving of salad would have been ideal to balance out the rich flavours of the pork.

Banoffee pie
A Banoffee pie ushered us into the final leg of our journey - dessert - which had one overarching theme: cream.

A sizeable cloud of chocolate shaving-topped whipped cream hid a treasure trove of gooey, warm caramel and banana, all encased by soft, buttery pastry that melted in the mouth.

Waffles, vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce
Bringing us back to happy childhood memories were the waffles with squares of vanilla bean ice cream and lashings of chocolate sauce. The waffles were a simple dessert that ticked all the boxes and left smiles all around.

Strawberries and cream - vanilla ice cream, meringue, fresh strawberries 
and strawberry sorbet
To top off the epic meal in true American style, we finished with a veritable mountain of fresh strawberries and cream, with crumbled meringue covering scoops of smooth strawberry sorbet. Refreshing richness has never made so much sense.

It was easy to forget we were in the heart of Kings Cross. Indeed, the last time I had a night out in the Cross it was definitely not for a sit-down New Orleans-influenced dinner. With the new approachable and relaxed menu, live bands and ample seating room, The Bourbon is sure to become a place in the Cross to start and end the night in NOLA style.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of The Bourbon.

The Bourbon on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 23, 2014

A sweep of the Kürtősh chimneys

Posted by Hendy

Sweeping through Crown Street, Surry Hills in search of afternoon tea one day, I discovered the rustic charms of Kürtősh house.

Short for kürtőskalác; a kürtősh is chimney-like baked pastry originating from Hungary, hollow and coated on the outside with delectable coatings, from crushed pistachios and almonds to coconut and cinnamon sugar.

Interior of Kürtősh, Crown Street, Surry Hills
The Surry Hills store is one of four for the Kürtősh brand (their original store in Randwick was followed by Surry Hills, Crows Nest and now Darlinghurst).

Kürtőskalác oven (right) and trays filled with toppings
The bakery front half of the Surry Hills store is filled with equipment used to prepare the kürtőskalács, decorated with an eastern European touch including some striking blue and white tiles behind the intriguing upright oven used to bake the pastries.

Dough stretched onto the roller before baking
The hollow, chimney-like characteristic of the kürtőskalács comes from the way the pastry is prepared.

The base dough is kneaded and stretched before being swirled onto a special roller and coated with a layer of oil and sugar to help develop the crisp outer crust. Toppings are added to the surface once the dough has been completely wrapped around the roller.

Selection of kürtőskalács on offer
Kürtősh's different varieties of kürtőskalács are on display behind the bakery window and each pastry is purchased whole for consumption, ideally with tea or coffee.

There are six varieties to choose from, each designed to give the kürtőskalác a different texture and taste; ranging from a simple cinnamon sugar coating to flaked coconut, chocolate, and crushed pistachio, hazelnut or almond.

Kürtőskalác pieces for sampling
The store is generous with pieces of bite-size kürtőskalács on sample atop the cabinets to allow for tasting and gauging of the various  toppings.

Cinnamon sugar coated kürtőskalác
Having sampled a few, we settled on the cinnamon sugar and the pistachio nut coated kürtőskalács.

The cinnamon sugar kürtőskalác looked a lot like a thin, hollow and elongated cinnamon donut, with a golden, crispy crust dusted evenly with cinnamon sugar.

Cinnamon sugar coated kürtőskalác
Sweet, though not nearly as sweet as a donut, there was also a hint of rum flavouring to the pastry. The texture was nicely crusted on the outside and quite soft on the inside.

Breaking up the kürtőskalác was an easy task of basically un-swirling the dough from its baked form; a task delightfully shared by all of us around the table.

Pistachio coated kürtőskalác
The pistachio kürtőskalác was a lot more colourful with the bright green crushed nuts on the surface of the same base pastry, and was a little more difficult to break into pieces.

Pistachio coated kürtőskalác piece
The roasted pistachio nuts were a nice complement to the pastry which on the whole was slightly sweeter than the cinnamon kürtőskalác.

Kürtősh also serves the full set of coffee varieties and tea, to complement all the pastries and cakes.

Early grey tea served in a traditional pot with a kürtősh coaster
I loved the traditional tea pot in which the tea was served in and, if you request milk, it arrives in a cute little glass milk bottle.

Ricotta cheese pocket
While the kürtőskalács are the signature feature, Kürtősh house also offers a large range of other cakes and pastries, sold by weight.

The ricotta cheese pocket was quite delicate; only slightly sweet with spurts of rum, raisins, almond and the saltiness from the ricotta.

Traditional baked cheesecake
We also ordered the baked cheesecake, which is cut to your desired size and charged by weight. The simple flavours of the traditional cheesecake, with hints of vanilla and caramel in its crusty outer layer, were pure luxurious comfort.

Selection of pastries on offer
Service was excellent with the friendly staff assisting with any queries or curiosities you may have on the chimney pastries and their extensive set of cakes and pastries.

Coffee machine
The Kürtősh experience is relatively new but after a quick and thorough sweep through the menu - kürtőskalács, cakes and coffee - it's a confirmed winner for afternoon tea sessions in Surry Hills, and probably morning tea, brunch and dessert sessions too.

Kürtősh on Urbanspoon


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