Archive for the 'General' Category

Immersing yourself in French life

October 10th, 2007

Village House Terrace.jpgWhat better way, than to buy a house in France? It is easy if you know how, as we found out from Lidia and Stuart Darlow. We spent 3 days with them looking at renovated 17th century village houses with vaulted ceilings, an extraordinary renovated sheep fold (barn) and some country homes. They were so generous with their hospitality and have all the knowledge of 10 years selling properties in the Languedoc Roussillon region — next door to Provence. A handy spot within easy reach of Italy, Spain and skiing in the Alps. They sell properties 1/2 hr inland from the coast, away from the tourist madness.

If you get together with some friends, Continue Reading »

How to Buy a House in the South of France

July 27th, 2007

Provence house.jpgStuart and Lidia Darlow live in the beautiful city of Nimes in the south of France. They visit Brisbane every year, bringing details of houses for sale in the Languedoc Roussillon region — houses by the sea, 17th century village houses, farmhouses, maison de maitre (master’s house). They have some very happy buyers in Brisbane and next visit will also go to Sydney and Melbourne.

It is very easy to buy property in France and they can arrange 100% finance at 5% fixed interest for 25 years.  You can expect 8-10% capital gains per year and 3/4 of the mortage could come from rentals. You will however have to find 8% of the purchase price for legals etc. Continue Reading »

Most Repugnant Food Item

May 6th, 2007

Why is it that fast food companies are hell bent on bastardising a classic food item?  And why do we buy this rubbish?  We all love a good hamburger and I am old enough to remember the home made ones we used to buy at the corner shop.  But that was not good enough for McDonalds who spent enormous time and money reducing the hamburger to a tasteless, grey piece of cardboard (with pickles) between a sweet, spongy bun.  Then came tinned pineapple on pizzas.  Now Pizza Hut have surpassed themselves — Elizabeth Meryment in The Weekend Australian reports:

‘Most repugnant food item spotted this year: Pizza Hut’s new meat-pie pizza, in which a greasy pie is somehow baked into the body of a cheese-laden pizza. Surely up there with deep-fried Mars bars.’

As the Michelin Guide extoles: Worth a Detour

April 14th, 2007

Peppers Calstock.jpg

The highlight of our recent trip to Tasmania was 2 overnights spent at Peppers Calstock just outside of Deloraine and a 45 minutes drive west of Launceston.  Although marketed under the Peppers umbrella, it is boutique accommodation (only 7 rooms) at its best and run by a couple — Frenchman Daniel Tourancheau and his Australian wife Linda.

Calstock is a 19th century Georgian manor house, with large elegantly decorated bedrooms ensuite.  Daniel’s French country food is refined and unlaboured, using only superb local produce.  It is only available to guests and you must let them know you are staying for dinner, at least 24 hours in advance.  Cost for an unforgetable 3-course meal is $75 pp.  They also have an outstanding wine cellar.  Cost per night for a couple including breakfast is around $335 and worth every penny. www.peppers.com.au/Calstock or ring 03 6362 2635.

WINE IN A CAN

October 10th, 2006

wine in a can.jpgI am still reeling at the thought … apparently this ‘innovation’ is taking off as the new social trend, particularly in countries such as Spain, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.  It is being touted as a premium product, convenient and stylishly packaged. 

Tradition VS Hip Culture — (see how clever marketing can suck you in ) They admit that traditional wine drinkers are not their prime target.  The main demographic adopting this product are females 22-39yrs, and men at sporting events.

No doubt some companies are going to make a heap of money out of this idea, but it seems to me to be just another nail in the coffin of ‘quality experiences’ — in much the same way as fast food.  I mean … obviously smell and appearance have nothing to do with drinking wine out of a can.

If Riedel can prove that any wine (good, bad or indifferent) will taste better out of one of their crystal glasses, it must be a debasing experience to drink wine from a tin can.  What do you think?

Eastern Australian Oysters

September 23rd, 2006

oysters.jpgSome years ago Francis and I spent 10 days driving from Brisbane to the Victorian border, dropping in on every oyster farm we could.  We learnt a lot and developed a re-newed respect for our hard working oyster farmers.

The resulting fact sheet is required reading for all Baguette and Bretts Wharf chefs.  It really is a fascinating and complex subject, and it’s just not good enough for restaurants to ring a local agent and get in pre-opened and washed oysters.  When they are opened, cut off the muscle and flipped, they are dead — then wash off the juices and you end up with a depleted product.  This is what most restaurants serve up to the public.  Yes, when the oysters are still attached to the shell, they need a little effort to get them into your mouth, but it is worth it!

Like wine, you will get more pleasure if you find out a little about the oysters you eat. Most restaurants now give you at least the basic information as to whether you are eating rock oysters, pacific oysters or angassi (Australia’s native oyster which is like the famed French belon). You should ask the waiter where they come from too, just to keep them on their toes. 

Chew On This!

September 21st, 2006

Fast Food Nation.jpgAs reported in October 2006 Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine:

American journalist Eric Schlosser touched a nerve with the 2001 publication of ‘Fast Food Nation’.  An intelligent, persuasively argued and gripping expose of the effect corporate fast food has had on our social and cultural landscape, the book has sold more than 1.4 million copies worldwide.  This year saw the publication of ‘Chew On This’ — essentially ‘Fast Food Nation’ reworked for the same generation of young people targeted by the fast-food world — and the production of a narrative film version of the book …

In an interview with Schlosser, he made the following comments:

… by being aware that because you’re connected, by every bite, to an enormous system that produces your food, you can change things.  Try not to give your money to the worst operators.

… keep in mind that this modern industrial method of raising animals has only been in existence for 35 years … we have only been eating cattle from feedlots with hormone implants, poultry given antibiotics in their feed and fish given antibiotics and fed waste from cattle slaughterhouses for 35 years. This is a fundamental transformation of our relationship to livestock and already we’re seeing E.coli, mad cow disease, antibiotic-resistant salmonella and on and on … it’s a bad idea …

Second only to the oil industry in the United States, fast food companies have the biggest impact on and dominance of our government. … if you look at why the minimum wage in the US has not increased in almost a decade … it’s because of the National Restaurant Association.  … that industry employs more workers than any other private industry in the US.  And if you look at our farm policies, these fundamental things are influenced by the food industry and how it gets the government to do its bidding.

If you have read my previous blogs you will be aware that I enthusiastically endorse an international movement called Slow Food. This movement started as a reaction to the US dominated fast food industry.  Slow Food started in Italy but now has Convivia in over 100 countries around the world. (If you are curious go to http://www.slowfood.com/)

Fast Food Nation opens at Dendy Cinemas around Australia on 26 October.  ‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘Chew On This’ are published by Penguin.

Jan Power’s Farmers Markets

August 26th, 2006

Jan Powers Markets.jpgIt’s been a while … but today we found ourselves shopping for the weekend food at a Farmers’ Market round the corner in New Farm (Brisbane).  Jan Power is an identity in Brisbane — a writer, restaurateur, foodie, slightly mad neighbour and organiser of Brisbane’s best known Farmers’ Market. 

We ran into Jan as we filled out basket with goodies like Gympie goat’s cheese made by Frenchman Camille Mortaud, some exotic  alarmingly pink and yellow mushrooms (cultivated in an old railway tunnel in the Blue Mts outside Sydney), a free range chicken from Havens Croft, olive oil & lavender soap, dukka, Ron Bray tomatoes (which taste like tomatoes used to) and a potted orchid for $10.  She enquired as to why we weren’t raiding the friges at Baguette instead of spending our money at her markets.  “It’s more fun!”  we said, just like Europe.  People feel free to bring their children and dogs, and you run into everyone you know in Brisbane.  Recommended — every 2nd and 4th Saturday from 6am til midday at the Powerhouse in New Farm.  Jan is starting up a new market at Mitchelton — see details www.janpower.com 

Postcript (to Brisbane Biggest Party) — see previous story

August 8th, 2006

hanger 2.jpgJust imagine how easily an event like this can be undone, by something quite unforeseen … like birds.

The Bretts Wharf Events management team, that had been toiling for weeks to bring this event to reality, visited the empty Virgin plane hanger at Brisbane Airport early in the week.  Everyone was amazed at the size of the hanger, calculated how many metres waiters would have to walk from the 6 kitchens to serve the guests, hoped to heck that they could deliver hot food to 3000 people on a cold Winter night. 

Then one of the team looked at the hanger floor and saw … bird sh…t.  They looked into the canope of the hanger and saw lots of birds.  Their collective blood ran cold because they all knew that they would have to set up 300 tables the day before the event.   Leaving the tables uncovered overnight could have resulted in distaster.  You can imagine … 9000 glasses having to be re-washed, linen changed and all at the last moment.  Fortunately pre-warned is re-armed and a plan was put into place.

As they say, there are many more stories in the big city … but you had to be there to know. 

Brisbane’s Biggest Party

August 7th, 2006

alister and richard low res virgin ball.jpg

Bretts’ Executive Chef Alastair McLeod & a grateful Sir Richard Branston

Bretts Wharf Events was the caterer last Saturday night at the Virgin Hanger Party.  3,000 people sat down to a dinner  in Virgin’s new hanger at the Airport — to a three course gourmet meal cooked onsite, with amazing entertainment — that went through to the early hours. Sir Richard Branston and the Premier were there, along with the cream of Brisbane’s business world.

Alastair McLeod, Bretts Executive Chef, gave me these stats to give you some idea of the enormity of the job:

*  6 kitchens, 8 bars, 60 chefs and 230 waitstaff

*  6000 canapes and 750 bottles of Champagne

*  Over 1/4 tonne of strawberries (try hulling that lot!)

*  10 litres of Irish malt whiskey to marinate the strawberries

*  80 litres of Veal jus

*  1.5 tonnes of ice, 2 shipping containers, 7 frigs, 1 golf buggy (for Big Al!)

And it confirmed the generosity of the hospitality industry. Businesses in direct competition to Bretts Wharf (Brisbane Convention Centre, Hilton Hotel, Bardon Conference Centre, Brisbane Club, Hillstone Function Centre and the QTC) all lent a hand with advice, loans of equipment and key staff . Industry heroes like David Pugh (Restaurant Two), PJ McMillan (Armstrong’s Seasalt), Alison Alexander (Masterclass Supremo), Janelle Peacock (F&B Manager Hilton), Rick Stephens (Brisbane Club), Jamie (Cha Cha Char), John MacDonald (Palatable Partners), 3 Cotah lecturers and many others — were there on the night giving invaluable expertise.

 Alastair tells me that as soon as the desserts went out, all power was turned off in the kitchens (66 ovens).  Why?  Because if HUMAN NATURE had started their set before this, they would ‘blow’ the entire venue!!

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