Food News, March 8, 2012

March 2012

Fling Flong returns

Many Newtowners will have happy memories of Soni’s restaurant and the bar upstairs, Madame Fling Flong. You will also recall with sadness that the owner, Sonia Marra, and her partner, Helen Tamaki, died in a helicopter crash in New York in October last year. I only flounced into Fling Flong a couple of times but enjoyed it very much. I didn’t meet the inimitable Sonia until she came to work at Galluzzo’s greengrocer in Glebe. She’d been hired to run the deli, which was to open this year (and still will soon). Sonia had a big personality, a wonderful sense of humour and she exuded good humour. I’m sure the Galuzzo customers miss her as much as her Newtown friends.

But you can’t keep a good bar down and Madame Fling Flong (169 King Street, Newtown, Ph 9565 2471) has flung open her doors again, this time under the care of licensee Matt Kennedy and head chef Chris Bell. The whole place is now named for the Madame and the style has changed somewhat under the new owners.

Like the tapas and pintxos bars of Spain and the Basque region, they’ll be serving small dishes with wines by the glass or half glass (called barcos in Spain) and each dish will be served with a matching wine.

There’ll also be an eight-course Chef’s Table, bunging together some of the best dishes for larger groups. And habitués of the old Fling Flong will be pleased that the cocktail menu still features the Pink Fling as well as 20 martini-style cocktails. I’ll have mine with a breath of vermouth and an olive, please — hold the apple pie.

Sonia and Helen would be chuffed that the old joint has new life.

 

Up, up and a-whey

There were some interesting results at this year’s Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show. First, in a changing-of-the-guard moment, it was mainly first-time exhibitors who won most of the awards.

And, second, with a French guest judge, affineur (cheese ripener) Hervé Mons, on board, no white mould — brie or camembert style — won an award. M. Mons said: “Overall, the standard was very high. The areas that surprised me the most in terms of quality were the blue cheeses and the yoghurt where quality was extremely high.” If you’ve ever read me on cheese you’ll know I’ve said for years that the one cheese where you do need raw milk for optimum flavour is white mould; and the one you really don’t is blue — and our blues are among the best in the world. So good on you, Hervé, you must have been reading me. Not. Anyway, below is the list of winners. Good on them all. And, by the way, don’t you love the category “Fancy Cheese”? Dates from the days when you could have any cheese you liked as long as it was cheddar.

Champion Cheddar Cheese: King Island Dairy Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar

Most Successful Cheddar Cheese Exhibitor: Bega Cheese

Champion Fancy Cheese: Bangalow Cheese Nashua Washed Rind

Most Successful Fancy Cheese Exhibitor: Jindi Cheese

Champion Bovine Cheese: King Island Dairy Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar

Champion Cheese of Show: Grandvewe Cheeses Sapphire Blue (pictured)

Australian Cheeseboard Perpetual Trophy:

  • Woodside Cheese Wrights Monet
  • Jindi Cheese Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red
  • Heidi Farm Raclette
  • King Island Dairy, Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar

And we can’t leave without congratulating our old friends Steve Ingram and Anmarie Dabinet for winning the Most Successful Dip Exhibitor gong with, among other things, their tzatziki.

 

Shake, stir and muddle your own

We’re not too sure who’ll be the next rock stars — baristas or cocktail makers. I’m always mesmerised by the boys and girls behind the bar as they swiftly assemble and blend the ingredients for my favourite booze confections (mojito being my numero uno). And wouldn’t you love to learn how to rustle up your favourites in the privacy of your own home, dazzling your friends with your twinkling wrists and magnificent mint muddling? Right throughout March at Grasshopper (1 Temperance Lane, City, Ph 9947 9025), cocktail wizard John Toubia will be giving hands-on lessons on how you can make good simple cocktails at home. Places are limited so book via the website or by phone immediately.

 

The real Reuben

Now this is one of those American food items — like Caesar salad, the hot dog and even the humble burger — with a story. In the case of the Reuben, quite a few. Here’s one.

Patricia B. Taylor, daughter of Arnold Reuben (1883–1970), the founder of Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, told the New York food critic Craig Claiborne this version:

“The year was 1914. Late one evening, a leading lady of actor Charlie Chaplin (Annette Seelos) came into the restaurant and said, ‘Reuben, make me a sandwich. Make it a combination. I’m so hungry I could eat a brick.’He took a loaf of rye bread, cut two slices on the bias and stacked one piece with sliced Virginia ham, roast turkey and imported Swiss cheese, topped off with coleslaw and lots of Reuben’s special Russian dressing and the second slice of bread. He served it to the lady who said, ‘Gee, Reuben, this is the best sandwich I ever ate. You ought to call it an Annette Seelos Special.’ To which he replied, ‘Like hell I will. I’ll call it a Reuben’s Special.’”

And there’s plenty more where that came from here.

But the real news is that this famous sanga has hit town. And you can attempt to wrap your laughing gear around one at Essen Restaurant & Beer Café (133 Broadway, Ultimo, Ph 9211 9805, www.essenrestaurant.com.au) at lunch on Thursdays and Fridays, $22.50 with beer and chips.

 

The staff of life

I was in Auburn the other day with two colleagues, searching for a site to hold an event next year.

After looking at a couple of places we drove back to have a coffee and talk about it, had parked the car and were walking towards Auburn Road.

As I was crossing the road I saw a young woman carrying four large square flat breads. She was wearing a long black-and-white dress and a hijab, and tearing off pieces of the bread and eating it. I caught her eye as she crossed the road and we smiled at each other.

“Don’t eat it all before you get home,” I said. Her smile broadened, she walked towards me, held the bread out and said, “Please”, indicating that I take some. I did. She then walked towards my two colleagues and made the same offering. I stumbled out a shukran, Arabic for thank you) and she said “No worries!” and walked on.

If you find yourself in Auburn and you want some of that delicious flat bread, drop in on the Afghan Bakery at 1 Beatrice Street: but go early, because the bread does.

 

Happy Orange 21st

It’s a bit scary that it’s 21 years since the first Food Of The Orange District (F.O.O.D) dinner. I was there. I’d just returned from living in Spain and one of my first assignments was to go and have dinner in Orange.

An eye-opener, it was. The meal was cooked by Phillip Searle and everything — wine included — was local but for the sticky wine (they didn’t do one then; today there’s over 20). Phillip’s meal was sensational and it was all eaten enthusiastically by an audience of local townies and farmers. I was made aware that things had changed a bit in my absence.

Two stories: On the menu was “trout milt”, which they all loved. Phillip told me later he thought it was better not to tell them it was trout sperm. And after the meal a local cockie told me, “Bloody good meal, but I don’t know about this pasta stuff.”

Since that first dinner, all sorts of chefs have cooked there including Steve Manfredi, Chris Manfield, (the late) Norma Willis, Ralph Potter, David Thompson and many others.

In 2012, F.O.O.D. week runs from April 13 to 22 and there’ll be six marquee events, 70 dinners, lunches, tastings, presentations and markets — and cooking lessons from terrific local chef Lesley Russell. To take a look at some of the wonderful events (sadly, as usual, the 100 Mile Dinner is already booked out), go to the website www.orangefoodweekcom.au or book in to do a class with Lesley while you’re there. Go to the Orange Regional Cooking School site at www.learntocook.com.au to see what’s on offer, or call 02 6361 3336.

 

Sri Lanka calls

Now you may want to venture a little further than Orange — how about 14 days eating, cooking and sightseeing in Sri Lanka with expatriate Paul Van Reyk, himself a talented cook and serious Sri Lankaphile who is well connected with the best accommodation and chefs on the island. It runs from September 3 to 16 this year and will set you back $3750 a head. Get all details from www.buthkuddeh.com.au. Again, best book early as there are only 16 places.

 

Breakfast beer?

I must admit, as a bloke who doesn’t mind a coffee and brandy with my morning croissant, the idea of a breakfast beer piqued my interest. But we’ll get to that in due course.

Murray’s Brewery Restaurant & Bar (49 North Steyne, Manly, Ph 9977 0999) is the fairly recently owned Sydney arm of the Murray’s Craft Brewing Company whose headquarters — and brewery — are at Bobs Farm, Port Stephens. Damned if I know why you’d want to come to Sydney when you lived at Port Stephens (ah yes, money) but there they are at Manly, and holding events like there’s no tomorrow.

First up, there’s a Belgian Beer Down Under on March 20, featuring eight Belgian-inspired beers brewed by what the publicity tells us is “the most extreme craft brewer”, five of them brewed just for the night, one named The Horror. Sounds enticing.

A bit before that on March 17 there’s a St Patrick’s Day dinner where they’re unfolding the Murray’s Tinkers Curse Dry Irish Stout, which is only available on St Pat’s Day.

And, finally, we get to the breakfast beer, which turns out, somewhat disappointingly, to be only a brunch beer and will be served with brunch at the Brewery Restaurant. Although it’s a recommended beer — Retro Rocket, which is touted as being full flavoured — it’s low alcohol at 2.8 per cent.

 

A couple of soufflés

That may be a little unfair, but both The Forresters (336 Riley Street, Newtown, Ph 9212 3035) and the Stoned Crow (39 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, Ph 9439 5477) have been a bit wobbly on their feet of recent years.

Most recently The Forresters was a fairly anonymous $5 steak joint. But it’s had — dare I say? — fairy dust sprinkled over it by the talented team behind The Flinders, Norfolk and Carrington, James Wirth, James Miller and designer Michael Delany and has ended up looking like a saloon from the set of Deadwood, only without the fancy women (no, they’re just locals) or gunfights. The food sounds good, the cocktails are ready — and there are $3 pizza slices on Wednesday (some things never change ...).

The Stoned Crow has been many things, mostly too nasty to even talk about in polite company. I have to say that in all the years I worked around the northside and the couple when I lived there, I never went inside. But the rumours were rife.

All this has changed and it’s undergone a smartish refit with brick walls, hanging plants, leather banquettes and cowhide stools. The food sounds like Sydney bar standard — the inevitable Peking Duck Pizza — but there’s nothing wrong with that. I may even step inside for the first time and see if the ghosts have been laid to rest: because one thing was certain about the old Stoned Crow, many were laid but not necessarily to rest.

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