This index lists all Syrup & Tang articles, except announcements relating to the sale of macarons.
- 2012: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
- 2011: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
- 2010: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
- 2009: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
- 2008: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
- 2007: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
So here I am with a new (but old) kitchen which includes a mid-2000s dishwasher. Except for a short period ten years ago, I've never lived with a dishwasher and harbour some suspicion of them. How does one best enjoy a dishwasher?
Holidaying in San Francisco recently, it struck me how often the discourse about obtaining or finding good food is about how long you might have to wait to be served (or seated). We watched people queue for ages for ice cream, bread, tacos, fried rice and more. For me, it was the opposite of what enjoying food should be about.
One of my greatest fears when someone asks me to cook with them is the prospect of blunt knives in their kitchen. I hate being asked to finely slice an onion or trim a piece of meat with a large dull-edged kitchen knife. Ugh. I believe I've once successfully nagged a friend into getting some decently sharp knives.
Ten months after I last donned my patissier gear and squeezed out a few hundred macarons, I returned to the piping bags for a brief baking blitz. My back hurt for two weeks. So then I made a cake instead.
The most impressive book on macarons is now in English! Pierre Hermé's 2008 French book "Macaron" is out this month in English.
The vanilla slice is one of those standard, humble Australian bakery items that qualifies as "good old" for its longevity and as "humble" because of its modest level of finesse. But there are mysteries in all this (and questions for readers at the end)... What was your childhood vanilla slice like? Did it have a different name? And how long has it been around?
I'm curious about how political/social beliefs or traditions shape where people will shop or dine. A timely example is that of Max Brenner, the Israeli chocolate company, which is broadly popular in Australia, but an unacceptable place to visit for some consumers. I wonder what other examples exist here or elsewhere?
Have you ever met one of those people who looks ascance at you when you suggest having an ice-cream in winter? "But it's 8 degrees and raining!" they exclaim. So bloody what? Of courrrrrrrrrrse you should eat it all year round. So here we are at the winter solstice (in the southern hemisphere) and I decided to do a flavour that straddles ideas of cold and wishes for warmer weather.
Five days in Corsica, surrounded by the azure waters of the Mediterranean, dwarfed by mountains and cliffs, eating myself full with sausage and cheese. That was the plan. The food part of it didn't quite come together. I blame the tourists.
Like a gift from the heavens, a PR person offered me frozen pizzas to sample. I'm not the ideal candidate, but with my Duncan's Degustations series underway, how could I resist the opportunity to add to my spectrum of likely-ick experiences? Little did I know I'd end up with a freezer full of Dr Oetker's odd pizzas.
A gorgeous Easter in Melbourne came and went, leaving us full of bready and chocolatey goodness. For me, this Easter brought memories of childhood eggy joy and contemporary disappointment, alongside my special Hot Heathen Buns.
As far as I can recall, I've never voluntarily entered a KFC "restaurant". Occasionally, social pressures mean I have to tag along. Sometimes it means I eat a piece of chicken. If you have to dine in the enemy's clutches, you might as well make it an experiment. As KFC's "The Double" is the latest nutritional-outrage-fuelling fast food product, it seemed like an ideal target for the second epsiode of Duncan's Degustations!
Time flies when you're busy eating delectable things and making biscuits. I'm marking four years of Syrup & Tang by changing the look a bit (the last time was two year back). I hope my readers like the new design and continue to enjoy my writings.If you notice anything that's not working well, please leave a comment here or email me. There are still a few minor changes to implement this week, so keep an eye out for them.
You might already have read about my travails with kitchen scales. It's time to write a bit more, this time testing out a model submitted to me for review. The Soehnle Cuisina proves to be worthy of interest if you're in the market for new scales, though not outdoing my favourite IKEA scales for accuracy.
I can feel myself approaching an equipment crisis. My favourite food processor is no longer sold in Australia and spare parts are crazy expensive. My kitchen scales are on the way out. My new spatulas bend too much. And just recently I lost the paddle for my ice cream maker. All such things are discovered at the least convenient moments, and the last two had to happen as I was making a delicious chocolate ice cream.
- This is the opening episode of a new occasional article series on Syrup & Tang, called Duncan's Dégustations. As a public service (or personal torment) I'll be exposing myself to foods I would normally be sceptical about for one reason or another, just to see if my prejudices are unfounded. I've chosen a Betty Crocker packet cake mix to start things off.
- 2010 Year-end feature. And of course, there are heaps of reviews on the site to whet your appetite as well.
How hard is it to make a set of consumer digital kitchen scales that are reliable? Too hard, it seems.
In this article I write a little about some scales I tried and wonder what my readers have found to be reliable. There's also a list of the criteria I use in trying to choose good digital kitchen scales.
Hello readers new and old (as in preserved, loyal, not dusty or neglected). This post is just a brief reminder of the various ways you can read Syrup & Tang, Macarons by Duncan, and The Gastronomer's Bookshelf online.
It seems foodblogging has matured far enough to be entwined in a pretty tiresome game of cat and mouse with restaurateurs and public relations (PR) companies, egos, money and more. It's worth contemplating what the fallout will be.
This article has been brewing for a few months, as I tried to reconcile my opinions about freedoms, community, advertising and blogging with some of the changes that have been happening in Melbourne's foodblogosphere.
Many people have asked me why I'm not participating in the Melbourne Macaron competition, I've decided I need to write an explanation of my perspective. It's about rules and fees and up-front transparency.
The Age newspaper this morning mentioned in it's local gossip column that Sydney pâtissier and Masterchef regular Adriano Zumbo is on his way to having a presence in Melbourne. I wonder if that explains his increasingly frequent visits!
Could this mean tastier times to come in Melbourne?
- here to read more about what's happening at Liaison café in Melbourne.
The lure of supermarkets and convenience stores is irresistible when I travel. The novelty of different packaging, mysterious powders, new chocolate brands (mostly disappointing), and the cornucopia of snackfoods can keep me entranced for ages. Collected novelties travel home with me and then, embarrassingly, lie neglected on a shelf for much too long. See my collection and perhaps tell me about yours...
In this tale of Family Circle, crème brûlées and billowing smoke, learn how my Parisian correspondent worked through his custardy obsession to deliver a how-to guide to burnt sugar custard for Syrup & Tang's readers.
Last year I came across a recipe for Korean-style oven-browned short ribs in one of my favourite meat books. It sounded very tasty, braising tasty beef with ginger, garlic and other flavourings to produce something deeply delicious. The outcome was nothing short of heaven. Fatty heaven, but heaven nonetheless. If you haven't cooked beef this way, I highly recommend it.
[UPDATED: PRODUCTION HAS ENDED FOR NOW. SEE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT]Some people are organised enough to document a project and then tell their readers all about it, blow by blow. Not me. All good intentions of snapping photos evaporated as I juggled the eccentricities of an induction stove, the buttons and dial of a fancy Rational oven (it does almost anything, except tell me why it's not doing what I want!), and the largest macaron batter I've ever made! You see, on Monday I stepped into the kitchen of the new food venture, EARL Canteen, by Jackie and Simon.
For the most part, I'm not the kind to dally over, under or prior to breakfast. Once upon a time, I could barely manage the few minutes of showering before my stomach felt like it was devouring me. Breakfast easily becomes a torture of digestive impatience and longing for tasty treats, and after quite a few years of travelling, I can now manage almost 45 minutes without food before my stomach starts gnawing... luckily, 45 minutes is just right for making puffy pancakes (pikelets, etc).
- The Gastronomer's Bookshelf
On the occasion of Jour du Macaron 2010 (I'm a few hours late) and the approximate occasion of Syrup & Tang's third birthday, I have decided to write about ovens, rather than presenting more pretty domes of deliciousness. Why ovens? Because a lack of understanding of how ovens work is one of the main causes of so many home bakers' problems. And I promised to write about them a year ago. I hope there's something in here to hope any inexperienced home baker.
Imagine surviving thirteen nights of durian pong, collecting valuable fruit identification info from a durian seller, and then discovering you failed to write it all down for one's readers' pleasure! I bring you tales of stinkiness with added (incomplete) interesting information, plus news of mangosteen and jackfruit.
Yet another unreality food show has hit our Australian telly screens. My Kitchen Rules, where teams representing five states vie for the title of most-self-confident but not-quite-expert home entertaining maestros. People showing off to each other isn't exactly my idea of fun cooking viewing, but hey, maybe there's something to enjoy in it.
I feel myself drawn inexorably to baking projects that have no end, just a rocky path of discoveries, flops, experiments, successes, flops... Not content with macarons and pasteis de nata to add girth and grey hairs to my existence, I started playing with canelés de Bordeaux about a year ago. Why? Why? The lure of something that absolutely required expensive copper moulds and beeswax must have clinched the deal.
Woolworths clearly weren't satisfied with selling imported "artisan" bread all the way from the other side of the Pacific, but also have a diverse range of pastries from Europe. They've been selling them for at least a few months, but I've been slow to write about it.
For lovers of food knowledge, the Larousse Gastronomique is an indispensable book... and I recently slaved over a feature for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf about the new edition and the history of the various versions. Meanwhile, co-editor Mark has prepared a Year-end Countdown with a pile of interesting books you might like to know about, starting with baking and Christmas.
Everyone who knows me well enough to welcome me into their home on my travels knows that I eat one thing for breakfast. It verges on religion. If I stray from the one true breakfast, I am punished with bad moods and heavy stomach (or growling hunger). What's more, perhaps unusually for something so mundane, I'm quite faithful to one brand...
A delicious pairing of whole roasted hazelnuts with sweet, buttery hazelnut shortbread and the lovely tingle of salt crystals. Even people who aren't enthusiastic about hazelnuts might find themselves longing for more. It's just a pity these sablés noisette are a bit tricky to make.
- The Gastronomer's Bookshelf in the last two or three months! It's been an interesting mix of new books and some serious classics, alongside one book that some of us think never deserved to see the light of day. Read on...
Many Australians are aware that the US behemoth Costco, bulk retailer extraordinaire, opened its first warehouse in Melbourne recently. Costco has received more than a bucket of free promotion through all the media attention it got (and I guess I'm not helping). I've been to Costco in the US and wanted to see what the Australian experience would be like. It's striking how a novelty in one context (me being a tourist in the US) feels so different and unwelcome on my home turf.
Nut pastries involving layers of thin pastry and ground nuts are eaten all the way from Greece through the Middle East to Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and beyond, typically known as baklava/baklawa. Rather than making one of the many recipes I have, I combined the essence of a number of traditions, using spices and scents typical of much of the cuisine of that very broad region.
Book prices have received a lot of attention in the media in recent weeks as the Productivity Commission returned its recommendations on parallel importation rules, alleged to cause high book prices in Australia. Regardless of your feelings about the issue, it's worth noting that those high book prices are being exacerbated by the very chains that claim all restrictions should be removed.
Every contestant in Masterchef Australia episode 61 had crunchy macarons. (Ok, except Andre, who didn't have macarons at all.) The microphones captured the powdery crunch. It should never have been like that. I think I know why it might have happened. NOW UPDATED with extra stupid stuff.
I've never been to a chocolate factory. I've long dreamt of bathing in couverture, taking illicit bites of bonbons on the production line, and other interesting fantasy activities. Even in a chocoland like France it's almost impossible to come close to such an opportunity. The Chocolatrium at Michel Cluizel is a lukewarm towel to the cold shower of chocoholic frustrations.
All sorts of things grow when the weather is going crazy. In Paris this week, the temperature fluctuated between 14C and rainy and 35C and excruciatingly humid. I got home from a day of walking around the rive gauche (Left Bank = mix of university, studenty, somewhat wealthy, public service, cultural and dawdling tourist population). Look what had grown in my bag from the curious cultures floating through the air...There was a strange box containing...
I had intended to review some of the chocolates from the British chocolatier Artisan du Chocolat, as I was in London recently and had previously enjoyed (and written about) them after a visit in 2007. Some businesses in high-end food succeed in respecting customers, others choose to be rigid and intentionally haughty. Artisan du Chocolat seems on the face of it to fall into a more positive category, but on this visit I was disappointed.
All over Denmark you see signs for frisky creamy balls. At first it seems very odd and rather tasteless, until you realise you're mistranslating. Welcome to the world of fluffy chocolate coated delights... with recipe!
Continuing my occasional quest for examples of disappointments in supermarkets, I have found a new example of the import-cheap-product-at-all-costs approach to retailing. What do you think I found?
- On Good Friday my mother usually makes her fantabulous hot cross buns. Unsurpassed in the history of Australia. Or something like that. Usually there are just four of us devouring the buns. Read on for a tale of the most unexpected events...
Who'd have thunk it would come to this: hundreds of hits for the word "macaron" (and many nice comments)? When I started Syrup & Tang two years ago, I set the scene with the things I love: books, travel, a moan about dining out, and (somewhat belatedly) baking. Come inside for a little bit of a "that was two years, thank you, what's coming now?"
Many of my readers know of my macaronic obsessions. As the latest batch, made for the foodblogger get-together in March, was well received I thought I'd publish some pretty photos of them and tell you more about the flavours, add a tip or two, and alert you to a macaronic book review.
I don't think most Australians have any particularly awareness of the conditions for livestock animals in Australia. We hear occasional stories from overseas and can, of course, read books such as Fast Food Nation or The Omnivore's Dilemma to get even more of an idea. We know that chickens lead an awful life in battery farms, but what of pigs and other animals in Australia?
A few years ago, an American friend of mine in Denver told me of a chain restaurant (he worked there) which had served a slice of cake containing something like 2300 calories. Despite my sweet tooth, that just seemed foully excessive. Not long ago I found a magazine article that confirmed he wasn't lying and that there are a lot of people consuming unimaginable calories in the USA... Another post in my quest to find disgusting food the world over, here's a beautiful illustration of just how many calories can be packed into one pointless meal.
I am lining myself up to compete with Pierre Hermé himself. And I've done something completely new. These beauties are the first completely desiccated macarons ever presented for public delectation. Read more about this limited edition from Maison Duncan. Gasp in awe! (And there's a pretty surprise at the end too.)
- I am disturbed, disturbed! An article in The Guardian late last year drew my attention to the existence of a list. A subversive, deeply disturbing list. A list with earth-shattering implications for my hitherto guilt-free diet of pastry and chocolate. As if we needed more proof that things haven't been right in the United States in recent years, I fear that the military-industrial-vegetable complex is attempting a green coup.
- A Day at elBulli and, as quite a contrast, Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. We hope you enjoy them!
The last week of the year was delicious. I hope the same goes for all my readers and correspondents! Here are the highlights of the Christmas week and some reminders of many fun articles from 2008, with a few pretty photos thrown in. If you're a reader but not usually a commenter, why not say hi?
Sweet readers, it's time for me to announce the launch of a new website. Book reviews. For you and me. By you and me (and you and you and you). All about food, wine and tummies. I got tired of superficial, uninformative reviews in the papers and decided it was time to fix it! The Gastronomer's Bookshelf has been in development for a number of weeks and has just opened for everyone. If you have books you want to tell others about, or books you've already reviewed on your own site, why not share your helpful perspectives on The Gastronomer's Bookshelf?
It seemed time for a little Christmas spirit, though most of it seems to be passing me by at the moment. On the occasion of a little lunch at my place for friends, I wanted to serve some new flavours of macarons to my faithful tasters. Some very new creations and ingredients this time round, involving Christmas flavours and a very Australian memory.
This month's Daring Bakers challenge comes to you in stereo on Syrup&Tang. My Parisian correspondent, Harry, has taken up the Daring Bakers cause and baked his little heart out. Alas, he lacks a blog, so he's posting here alongside me. What did we make? Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Icing. If your favourite bloggers have mysteriously gone offline, it might be due to the sugar-induced coma of following the recipe to the letter.
Eating Between the Lines has received a bit of media attention since its publication recently. I heard a radio interview with the author and found the discussion interesting. I've now worked my way through the book and as you'll read, I wasn't impressed. This is a work which ranges too broadly and has difficulty bringing together the threads. The author specialises in well written social commentary, but without enough insight to make for powerful reading.
Although most of the food I cook is quite definitely suitable for guests, there are one or two dishes which fall into a sort of 'private comfort' zone. People I've lived with have eaten them by force of commune, but I don't feel comfortable sharing these dishes with guests. I reveal one here and ask you to do the same...
Of the many baking projects I've launched in the last ten years, only one has caused serious weight gain, burns and an absolute lack of fear of puff pastry. Portuguese custard tarts, known as pastéis de nata (cream pastries) or pastéis de Belém (Belém pastries) do something magical to many eaters. They are an enchanting combination of lightly crisp pastry layers and a very, very pleasant egg custard filling. And, of course, they're a little tricky to make at home. [UPDATED]
I've been meaning to write this for months. Where oh where is the Australian culinary content on Wikipedia? It's pitiful. Stephanie Alexander is completely absent. Maggie Beer is described as a 'cook' and Shannon Bennett doesn't even get a mention. If you explore related categories, you'll find that numerous significant restaurants are missing (Quay, Aria, Bennelong, Claude's, Grossi Florentino, Mietta's, Jacques Reymond, Vue de Monde, etc), while alongside the few notables (Bistro Moncur, Flower Drum, Berowra Waters Inn) are dross like the Pancake Parlour and Henny Penny. This needs fixin' good!
It's pizza time in the Daring Bakers' Challenge. I love pizza. Too many think of it as a fundamentally unhealthy food to be banished from kitchen. Codswallop. Anyway, as I make pizza regularly, to do something novel required a little creativity... so I decided a 1980s flashback was in order.
Not too long ago, someone asked me 'so do you cook?'. At the time, I was standing over an oven full of macarons and a small bowl of chocolate ganache. I was a little confused by the question. I submit, herewith, some slight evidence of other cookery in my kitchen, involving big lamb shanks and luscious polenta.
Over at Australia's SBS Food site there's an article about blogging called Everyone's a Critic, published on Oct 7. I'm not sure how you find it if you don't already know it's there. When you do find it, there's a surprise. It's all about foodblogging. But forget about Australia.
I've been following the monthly Paper Chef event for quite a while now. You are given four primary ingredients with which to create a dish. This month's ingredients involved some bold flavours which could go in both savoury and sweet directions. In the preparation of my dish, I think I consumed enough beetroot to change my complexion!
The findings of the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey were released today. There's been a little media attention, and I guess this will ramp up as the dailies run it and the various 'stakeholders' start saying their piece. The results? Depends who you listen to. I'd say that, notwithstanding some analytical gaps, things don't look as bleak as the non-expert 'epidemia' scaremongers like to say.
I've spent much of the last week limply scrolling the trackball of my nifty mouse, trying to conquer the number of posts in my feed reader. As I reached a milestone in scrolling, a timely gift made life just a little rosier.
At some point I'm going to have to stop saying oh-my-god another-month-has-passed! But it seems only days ago that I was munching on éclairs. Lo! today it's time for lavash crackers, thanks to the Daring Bakers. No buttercream. No ganache. No calories (almost).
Have you rummaged in your undergrowth recently? Did you see any deeeeep blue flowers? No? I guess yours might be one of the gardens I pillaged for a supply of violets. Sorry 'bout that. But it was worth it. Violet jelly. Beauuuuutiful.
In case my readers think it's just Australia which has mostly crap macarons, see shocking images from Paris here!
With frozen éclair shells still quite fresh in the freezer, what better to do than give them a little warmth and crisping for Father's Day? And to break the monotony, I tried my hand at a tarte tatin for the first time, with delicious results (and some tips for you).
Another month has flown by and it's time for the August Daring Bakers' Challenge. Pierre Hermé's chocolate éclairs were flavour of the month (from his Chocolate Desserts book with Dorie Greenspan). I love éclairs but rarely eat them. Often they're a bit rubbery after sitting too long in a cakeshop display, so the encouragement to do them at home was welcome! Making choux pastry isn't without its problems, however...
There's a pâtissier in Sydney who has been attracting some attention for his Pierre-Hermé-esque creations. There's a chocolate-brand concept store which (I believe) introduced Sydney to macarons. There are serious pretzels to be had in a chain bakery. And there's delicious Thai food. I bring you new tales of (failed) macarons and cakes from the Emerald City, plus other tidbits.
Once upon a time there were no supermarkets. Imagine! Few people who have grown up in Australia have known or remember a life without sheds filled with neat aisles of groceries and the ka-ching! (or bloop!) at the checkout. Some of us now regard supermarkets as fairly evil, but we are still largely dependent on a lifestyle with supermarkets close to the core.
Although I bake a lot (and not just small almond meringue things), I was finding I wasn't trying enough new things from my piles of cookbooks. So I joined the Daring Bakers. Each month there's a new challenge which remains secret until the end of the month. Then, around the world, crazy bakers post pictures, text, recipes. So here's my first go at a layered cake.
The cauldron of ethical, responsible eating has been bubbling away for a while. Advocates of various issues throw in their own chunk of passion while others try to package this pot au feu in a pastry case, as if consumers could carry it around as a dish of good conscience. I wonder if it serves to do more than confuse and alienate those people who need help and encouragement.
Last week saw the announcement of a significant increase in the minimum wage in Australia. Bang! Restaurateurs have been complaining about how this sort of increase would hit really hard and the flow-on would be large increases in costs to diners. But just how good is their maths?
At last I can present the second of two macaron review articles. It's time we visited the home of the macaron de Paris, alas frequently called 'French macaroons'. The macarons de Paris de Paris are plentiful and pricey, and not always superdooper (but mostly miles better than those currently found in Melbourne). See the pics, imagine the flavours, be jealous!
Phew! I've just finished making my Solstice 2008 cake, and not a moment too soon. Sunset is in nine minutes and Another Outspoken Female has demanded that all entries in her baking meme be in by sunset! Of course, it helps if I check my calendar better... I've just realised I'm a day early for the deadline. Don't you just hate it when you bust a gut prematurely?!
The relationship between mainstream media publications and the online world is strange in Australia. A new media of blogs, independent commentators, expert forums and the like has burgeoned in cyberspace. Despite this, the mainstream media is often strikingly silent about the new media contribution to knowledge and debate. The food community online knows only too well in what poor regard they're held by some. Perhaps it's time to consider the threat it poses to old media interests.
Regular readers of these pages are very familiar with my obsession with Parisian macarons. Although I've recounted my baking traumas and occasional joys, described in considerable detail ways of making macarons and the hazards to psychological health, and told of encounters with the products of many Parisian patisseries, I haven't done any product reviews. Things are changing! Read the results of the Syrup & Tang jury. You can also catch up on the latest misinformed guff from The Age Epicure.
"In Portugal, every website is broken," says the concierge as we try for the third time, in vain, to book a bus ticket online. I suggest that he is exaggerating slightly. Three or four years ago I might have agreed, but nowadays the situation is much, much better. I'm on my way to Portugal. First stop Elvas, a small fortified town near the Spanish border. Getting there is part of the fun.
All I want for my birthday is ...
I'm not asking for much.
A real city at last. Seville throbs with life. As the days have passed, I've felt the city-dweller in me yearning for a little more buzz than even Granada had managed to provide. The city is lush with enormous, blooming jacarandas. Beautiful violet blossom seems to light up the streetscape. And awaiting me are fantastic sights and plates and plates of delicious tapas.
The streets are buzzing with people. Where Córdoba felt small, Granada feels distinctly city-like. We turn onto the Calle Gran Via de Colón. Elegant apartment buildings line the street. At ground level are all kinds of shops, from clothing to cafés and numerous banks. As the street comes to its end just southwest of the Plaza Nueva, the streets are buzzing with locals and tourists either loitering in front of the cathedral, wondering why it's closed (this is lunchtime in Spain, stupid!), or popping in and out of the sidestreets which are lined with bars and restaurants.
Córdoba is the first port of call in Andalucía. It's famous for what would have been the world's largest mosque (the Christians buggered that up), and for a smooth gazpacho. It is absolutely crawling with tourists. A pleasant place to visit and, perhaps, to eat.
On the road and gathering experiences. I'm writing travel notes here. Something different to the normal fare, but perhaps of help to others, or mildly entertaining for regular readers. This post takes you to Singapore Airport, then Paris and Madrid.I hope my readers find it interesting and perhaps helpful in the future.
I awoke to a hangover. A dull pain knocked at the back of my skull. Had I been an alcoholic hypocrite? Heavens, no! This was a very special hangover. Chocolate. Read about a new venture in Melbourne which will certainly keep the bar high for the chocolate scene.
The New Prohibition. Australia's battle against alcoholism, especially under-age and binge drinking, has been in the spotlight over the last weeks. Proposed solutions have been stronger penalties for supplying alcohol to children, graphic warnings on packaging and even the idea of raising the legal drinking age to 21. The concerns are valid, but the message and solutions are often strong on control and weak on social initiative. I give a personal perspective on the complex problem of addressing alcohol abuse and social traditions.
I'm not a great salad eater, probably because leafy ones tend to splash and I can't stand splashy food, but I love this one conceived late last year when apricots had come into season. I made it again recently with dried apricots and it was still pretty damn good, if you ask me. A great combination of textures and flavours make this a winner.
Bloggers aren't always quick off the mark. Heavens! It took Melbourne's community a whole evening and maybe a night to document the second Bloggers' Banquet. Ella and Furry had a lovely venue for a bayside gathering and we listened to the parrots, breathed sea air and, um, cried through the wood-fired oven smoke. Another successful bloggers' event for Melbourne!
Busy, busy, busy. That's been the past few months. Some of the activity has been on a new site, some on a few tweaks to Syrup & Tang, and a whole pile of unfoodieness has been keeping me away from food and cookbooks. This must stop! Here's a small update for the curious.
Before the last juicy plums vanish from the markets and fresh produce displays, buy up and bake a cake! This delightfully fragrant cake is dense and moist, strong with the aroma of plum and cardamom and lifted by tangy pieces of plum. The perfect cake for afternoon tea.
Bread. I like. Warm. Ovenly. Is it true that you get indigestion from eating still-warm bread? I know I do, but I suspect it's more through overconsumption than mythical powers. I recently returned to a life of sourdoughs and have been experimenting in an unconventional way. Sourdough bread is true slow food, but can it be done fast? Surprisingly, yes. With a bread machine!
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival held its first 'Out of the Frying Pan' talkfest last year and has repeated the event in 2008. It's goal is to bring together industry and media to talk about issues (which can be interpreted in many ways). This sort of thing can be a mixed bag when there are so many not-quite-overlapping points of interest and last year's was an odd mix of industry discussion and wannabe cookbook writers. This year there seemed to be more media representatives but less industry (chefs, producers, PR people) and though the focus was better, perhaps, the format rather undid it.
Melbourne is alive with the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. A special event as part of the two-week festival is 'A Taste of Slow', held this weekend. I attended two sessions and came away disappointed, with the feeling that Slow Food is still failing to get its message across or perhaps even to know what its message is. I didn't expect to hear clichés about obesity or endure junk science but that was part of what I heard.
Strange. I'm dining fine in Australia, yet the menu isn't French, Italian or Mod-Oz. Some of the staff and chefs speak a cuisine-appropriate language, but are most likely home-grown. The cuisine is usually regarded as meat-heavy and conservative. George Calombaris's very modern food successfully marries cutting edge with Hellenic tradition at The Press Club. It's hard to imagine you could leave this restaurant without a serious dose of gustatory satisfaction.
Eggplant does not play a part in my life. I do not understand eggplant. I hate the smell of it cooking. But there is an exception. I can eat cupfuls of baba ghanoush. It's so easy to make, marries so well with good bread, and keeps vampires at bay.
Today is Shrove Tuesday. All over the civilised world, people should be pigging out on pancakes. As a child, there was only One True Pancake. It was thin. Not crêpe-thin, but close enough for the crêpe free people not to know the difference. Each pancake was bestrewn with soft brown sugar and sprinkled with lemon juice.
Gourmands and gourmets, look at me! After a month of
rest and relaxationslaving over CSS and HTML and swearing at Photoshop, Syrup & Tang has a very new look. Less pastel and more Melbourne-style black. Tell me what you think.
At Syrup & Tang I've been buoyed by the enthusiasm of my readers and encouraged to continue this project. Most of it has been fun. Here's a quick rundown on some facts about 2007 at Syrup & Tang and some questions for 2008.
The last breath of 2007 has been exhaled. As well as wishing all a wonderful 2008, I think it's time to clean out all the pieces of deliciousness which I didn't get around to writing up properly. Think of this as being the end-of-year/start-of-year food porn clearance.
This has been my month of macarons... La Macaronicité at Syrup & Tang, as I dubbed it. Time to squidge everything together with scrummydumtious fillings and go on a picnic.I report on some who joined in the fun and folly and spoke of it to me. And I provide encouragement to redeploy the failed macarons with delicious results.
Time for some Christmas greetings... step inside!
Dear meringue shell crazy people,It's time for fillings, flavours and frippery! This article will be shorter than the others. I feel that the filling is where the cook has the opportunity to show their initiative and creativity and I want to communicate general principles rather than fine detail.
Macaroniers, Macaronistes et Macaroneurs... So you want to make better macarons? Welcome to the third instalment of La Macaronicité at Syrup & Tang! This time it's all about Italian meringue and some pictures of differences in mixing and oven temperatures.
This is the second in a special series about the macaron de Paris. Find out all the factors which influence successful baking of these beauties, and try out a 'simple' recipe.
This is the first in a special series about one of the world's favourite petit fours. Two delicate almond meringue domes are sandwiched together with a flavoured filling to become le macaron. The macaron is the diva of the biscuit baking universe.
I once lived in Canberra. In the late 80s it was shockingly quiet. For a city overrun with public servants, diplomats and the entourages of politicians, it offered relatively little in the way of nightlife or culinary enjoyment. Seventeen years since I left, has anything changed?
As summer approaches my meagre garden begins to yield harvest. My tomatoes have been recalcitrant and I am still waiting tetchily for both Roma and Grosse Lisse varieties to bear viable fruit. (My jealousy of Sticky's reports of tomatoes weeks ago therefore remains.) The story is different for my snowpeas and strawberries, thank goodness.
Much delayed but newly relevant (as some friends were asking me about Lyon), it's high time I published a description of a city I visited earlier this year and greatly enjoyed.
Last night (12 Nov) saw a get-together of some of the Melbourne foodblogging population. What a lovely bunch! Click through to read a little more and see a yummy pic of my contribution to the banquet.
An inconspicuous old redbrick building in the Berkshire village of Bray bears a sign of a webbed foot, a feather and a duck's bill, all with cutlery handles. This is The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal's restaurant, closely associated with the molecular gastronomy movement. Join me for a description of the four-hour lunch you might experience. You'll need an open mind, a tolerance of theatre, and a good credit limit.
Something interesting is going on at The Age newspaper in Melbourne. In the space of eight days, the newspaper has published two pieces about slavery in the West African cocoa growing industry. In September it also published a piece about this issue by a prominent Christian activist and anti-slavery campaigner from Britain. Why now?
Beautiful. Maggie Beer, one of the three modern female icons of Australian food, has written a book to weigh down your lap as you browse, read and cook from its pages. A wonderfully presented work, with well crafted content perfectly suited to the current focus on seasons and local produce. A book about food and cooking which also captures the culinary spirit of Australia.
Here you have my first straight food-porn post. Um, I mean the first unabashed food-porn post. A birthday nearby was the occasion for making my first tarte aux framboises.
What do you do when you find dinner too enjoyable? How is an irritable, jinxed diner like me to cope with a meal which delivers no disappointments and offers barely a scrap to quibble about? I felt embarrassed at how effusive I was. I sat through the meal thinking of all the people I needed to tell. I was dining at one of Melbourne's most avant garde restaurants, Interlude.
The recently released Secrets of the Red Lantern is a beautiful book. The photography is warm, despite a muted palette. Decorative patterns add a great deal to the appeal of every recipe page. The recipes hold great promise. Despite all this, Secrets of the Red Lantern has some profound flaws which could greatly mar the experience for some readers, but I think the human interest focus will leave many readers reluctant to criticise it.
There are so many reasons to visit Paris; so many reasons to enjoy the city and – most pertinently – the food. Lacking the resources to hop from one name-restaurant to another, it seemed much better do markets, shops, and luscious pastries while staying in modest lodgings...
Just back from seeing the newish Pixar/Disney animated film Ratatouille. Quite a fun ride. The animation is fabulousGreatly worth seeing, but by no means perfect, the film is nonetheless a must -- as a food fanatic, a scene close to the end captured the essence of why we obsess, write and think about food.
Allegedly popular and probably good -- a recent tip-off about a new fancy-cake-place in Melbourne. It was the sort of tip you might embrace with exuberant expectation, but which history has taught you to approach circumspectly for fear of desperate disappointment. The place will not be named. I'm not convinced it deserves publicity. [...]
A few weeks ago I was 'tagged' by Amelita at Squishyness to list seven food facts about me. Here, at last, is a list of tidbits. It's all here -- hoarding, allergies, disappointment and substance abuse as a toddler! You never know, it might raise an eyebrow, if not a chuckle...
It's three years since I was last in Britain and I was curious to see what might have changed in the food scene. It wasn't hard to miss the popularity of gastropubs, the growth of decent chocolatiers, and the burgeoning enthusiasm for organics. My impressions of markets, new shopping habits and some random bits.
Australian book retail chain Angus & Robertson (A&R) has got itself in the poo. The mainstream media (Fairfax) ran stories briefly (08 August) about A&R attempting to screw its suppliers by demanding payments to cover their 'gap' in profitability.
An impressive 'chef's book' by respected Melbourne chef Paul Wilson, Botanical is both a serious cookbook and a self-congratulatory piece about the restaurant (the Botanical). Intended for serious home cooks or other chefs, this is perhaps the first local heavy-duty chef's book Australia has seen, with recipes often encompassing many steps and long lists of ingredients.
Rarely does my heart skip a beat in the confectionery aisle of an Australian supermarket. In France or Germany I could happily fill a shopping trolley with a chocolatey smile on my face, but in Australia there are few thrills. So here's a new product: Coles supermarkets have launched a housebrand Belgian chocolate. Still no thrills.
I was in the mood for cocoa bean product. I set off with a sheaf of addresses under my arm. Chocolate from here to eternity. This is the first instalment of my Chocolate 2007. What I ate in London. A number of surprises and some unexciting old names.
In this world of the online bookselling behemoth Amazon, it's always nice to find an independent bookshop catering to one's specialist area of interest. Imagine my joy when I found a new gastronomic bookshop -- and purely by chance. As the rain poured down on me on Place Bellecour in the French city of Lyon, I frantically looked around for somewhere to take shelter and spied a bookshop bearing the words 'la librairie de toutes les cuisines'.
It's old news, but for a moment last week newspapers and cafés were abuzz with speculation about the future of restaurant reviewers. A ruling by the High Court of Australia appeared to establish that a now-defunct Sydney restaurant had been defamed by a newspaper reviewer. In fact, reviewing is not yet an endangered art, for the case is by no means over.
Dear Readers: Behold! syrupandtang version 2.0. Yes, there's been an aesthetic overhaul. Although I was fond of the old design, there were a few problems with it - especially because so many people still use Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) - I can see this from the site statistics. IE6 is an unsafe browser which doesn't comply with web standards. If you are using Windows XP, pleeeease upgrade to IE7. The older version refuses to do things which just about every other browser (Firefox, Opera, Safari) manages successfully. :)I hope you like the new look of syrupandtang. It will, hopefully, work for everyone.
Some wonderful internet services rely on so-called 'intelligent systems' to keep you interested and stimulated. They guess your preferences, guide your choices, point you towards new (and lucrative) potential purchases. Amazon took me on a recommendation ride, spanning Jamie Oliver, high heels and Posh Spice.
Ouch! The lemon tart that took my breath away. Delicious, in that I-want-more-but-it-scares-me kind of way.
This is what a good negative restaurant review should look like. London restaurant Suka gets a drubbing at the pen of Jay Rayner.
What were they thinking? A chocolate bar named after a prickly animal and with a textural anomaly which makes you fear for your teeth. Were the product developers on holiday?
Man. Woman. Curdled custard. Authors have made millions exploring the differences between sexes. We've all heard the clichés about the separate universes that males and females inhabit. I thought I was immune to this stuff until wikiHow served up an eye-opening tip for under-clad women. The earnest tip seems terribly misplaced. You just have to look around...
Think of Easter and food, and you probably get images of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. How about a change from the mundane? Scrumptious little buns from Sweden! Cardamom, cream, marzipan. Each bun is about the size of a large apple and filled with a dollop of a marzipan mixture and a layer of whipped cream.
Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, published in 2001, is a well researched, persuasive and at times shocking work describing the excesses of big business and the broad spectrum of compromises that make modern, cheap fast-food lifestyles possible. Unfortunately, it's also longwinded and hyperbolic, with a clear propagandistic tone.
Welcome, gentle reader, to syrupandtang. The beauuuuutiful design is the result of many long, hot summer days and long, grumpy late nights over the last four months. You do find it beauuuuuutiful don't you? (This is a rhetorical question.) The site will probably need a few tweaks as I discover things I missed or decide that I don't find some features beauuuuuutiful enough.
The train that thinks it's a plane seems to have a sense of humour. Putting to one side Eurostar's once unenviable reputation for tardiness and its legacy-airline pricing model, one can't help being impressed by this touch of humour on the company's website.
Three brunching blokes on a mediocre café ride. Lavender ice-cream, omelettes, hash browns and dietary advice combine to spoil yet another foray into the land of brunch.
It was slow to cross the ocean to Australia, but eventually cult foodies here got to see Iron Chef America -- the Masters series from 2004. I love Iron Chef. It is a masterpiece of kitchen prowess in a camped-up we-love-the-ridiculous style. Inspired stuff. Completely unlike Iron Chef America.