I started watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” yesterday. I know I’m a few years late on this, and yes, I am completely aware that Season 1, Episode 1 of No Reservations does not classify as hot off the press, but hey, let me have this one.
Episode 1 kicks off in Paris – and what better place to start a food show than in Paris, really? Let me say, seeing that man leave a blazing trail of smoke around the city makes me want to have a cigarette myself. I’m no smoker, but there’s something deeply attractive about wandering around ancient Parisian walkways with a pack of Gauloises Blondes.
The show took me back to the time when I visited Paris a few year back and it reminded of what I loved about that city. You guessed it – the food. Man, the French know how to eat. Twenty minutes into the show and I was depressed. I wanted to have what these people posses in such abundant surplus. I wanted to trade Sydney for Paris. I yearned for a food culture. A real one. Still now, I am aching for a local, unpretentious bistro, somewhere where I can be a regular, where I can grow old eating the same dish for 60 years, week in, week out. Somehow, I don’t think the local chicken stir-fry with cashew nuts will meet my requirements. Please, find me a pot of coq au vin made with a proper rooster or suitably old chicken. And also, while you’re there, some potatoes cooked in duck fat and a big glass of red would be great, too.
We have good food in Sydney, but it’s not always around the corner and not always budget-friendly. With food being so trendy here, a good feed almost always comes served with a big dose of celebrity chef ego and a side of the ensuing foodie crowd. Honesty is out the window. Another gripe of mine is the quality of food. In the city, I struggle to find anyone serving chicken that is not intensively farmed and it’s nearly impossible to get grass-fed meat (unless you’re willing to pay through the nose). Has anyone else noticed that pubs and restaurants try to make grain-fed beef sound like it’s a good thing? Are we that susceptible to marketing?
To avoid disappointment, I now mostly eat at home. For a slice of Paris, cheese and wine are a good, easy go-to option. Australian wine is world-class and I’m lucky I have access to a great cheese. Small Cow Farm is a local family business making cheese out in the Southern Highlands and they produce a bloody awesome blue – one of the best I’ve had. The milk is locally sourced from happy, grass-fed cows from Country Valley in Picton (Country Valley also provides the cream that makes the unbelievable @pepesaya butter, and their milk is worth seeking out, too). Get yours from Eveleigh Market on Saturday from Ester Winbourne (@DairyGoodness) and tell her I sent you. I might get a discount next time I’m there.
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to share some of my favourite food findings on The Food Blog with my readers. I wasn’t sure what the best way to do so was. Today, I came up with the idea of doing a weekly post that highlights a product that I love and think is worth sharing. The recommendations I make are my independent views – I haven’t been paid to namedrop (see here) and, unless otherwise stated, have fully paid for the product myself. I follow an ethical code of complete disclosure.
The inaugural Awesome Food of The Week is Booza, a high-quality Levantine ice cream made locally in Tempe. The Levant is the region that covers Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, as well as parts of Cyprus and Turkey, and “booza” is the Arabic word for ice cream. The distinctive thing about Levantine ice cream is its stretchy texture, achieved by the addition of salep, a thickener from wild Turkish orchid tubers. This is the ice cream I grew up with, and it’s such a treat to have access to a premium version (made with high quality ingredients) right here in Sydney. I first tried Booza a few months back and was extremely impressed, and have since visited and revisited the owners factory in Tempe so many times that they’re probably sick of me. I really love the halewe (sesame halva) booza, but I have also used the pistachio praline booza as well as my favourite, fig and walnut booza as dessert in my latest pop-up dinner and it went down a treat. You can find more details on Booza including where to buy it from at http://www.booza.com.au.