Friday, February 26, 2010

Nuffnang Melbourne Food Bloggers Event: Grand Hyatt Collins Kitchen Dinner

Nuffnang was hosting a food bloggers meetup at the Grand Hyatt for the newly opened Collins Kitchen. Sarah from Nuffnang sent me an email asking if I wanted to attend, ummm, hell yeah. I love meeting other food bloggers and love to eat, so I was eagerly anticipating the event. A few exchanges with Lucy, Grand Hyatt's Marketing Communications Manager, who kindly helped me secure another spot for my friend to attend as well.

The newly fitted out Grand Hyatt hotel cost a whopping $45 million dollars, with Collins Kitchen taking pride of place in the first level. It is definitely one of the most stunning restaurants/open kitchens that you will see in Melbourne. You can't help but be wowed (is wowed a word? all you grammar police out there let me know) by the scale of the kitchen combined with the floor to ceiling glassed dining area and the polished wooden floors.

The concept of Collins Kitchen is explained on the Grand Hyatt website:

Featuring open kitchens and five different dining concepts, including Grill, Wok, Sushi, Deli and Patisserie, the priority at Collins Kitchen is offering simple, authentic global cuisine using the finest local and organic produce. Guests will be able to interact with chefs for a dynamic dining experience.

As Executive Chef of Collins Kitchen, Jason Camillo, reiterated on the night that Collins Kitchen is about letting the diners be more involved in the cooking process. The diner can choose something off the menu and then wonder up to the kitchen to watch it cook right before their eyes. They will be able to see and then taste the freshness of the locally sourced produce. The key to Collins Kitchen, Jason explained, was to use the freshest locally sourced produce.

Jason took us on a tour of the kitchen, and it was sure impressive. Can you imagine rolling out pastry on that huge gleaming slab of marble, or having those glass display style fridges to hold your wagyu. No? Well I can't too, but one can dream big, can't they?

Look at all those food bloggers armed with their cameras, snapping away at anything that moves or can be devoured. I loved the look of that massive tub of seafood, made me drool and wanting to eat it immediately. Jason explained to us about the oysters, how these oysters were asexual and didn't spawn, as it wasn't oyster spawning season. See how you can learn about biology whilst also talking about food.

The Sushi Station had a chef skillfully preparing sushi and sashimi. How beautiful is that glass cabinet to display the fresh fish. One of the young chefs at the Grill Station was happy to pose for a shot for me. Look how proud he is of his area.

I absolutely love my cured meats and the Deli Station was to die for. All those beautiful prosciuttos and wagyu hanging in the glass fridges. The slicer was a thing of beauty too, drawing the attention of all the bloggers, who just had to enquire about the price. For the record, it's somewhere in the ten thousand dollar range. The Wok Station was super impressive with the "turbo jet" burners. Danny and myself were agreeing that noodles cooked over that burner would sure have "wok breath". The huge extraction fans were so fantastically shiny that Neil asked how they cleaned it. It turns out that professional cleaners come once in a while to clean it. It must be so hard to get all that oil off the extractors. The Patisserie Station smelt so good that I was inhaling all the smells and actually didn't even take a photo. Such is my love for pastry.

There are two special dining areas, a Chef's Table, which was a private area in the corner of the dining room, and the Kitchen Room (as in the photo above). This was a sealed off room behind the kitchen, and could be made soundproof when the doors are closed or have the atmosphere of the kitchen when the doors are open. I would love to have a party there one day.

So after all that walking around, we were ravenous and got seated awaiting to eat. I had a chat with Jason about the restaurant and his experience in cooking before being seated. Also, as I'm a chef groupie, I got a photo with him too.

The waiters were very attentive and topped up our water and wines all night. We were seated at two tables, with Sarah from Nuffnang at my table and David from Nuffnang at the other table. Also sitting at my table was the beautiful Lucy. In the photo we have on the left, Kylie Kwong, ummm, I mean Sarah from Sarah Cooks, sitting with Lucy on the right. Sorry about the red eye Lucy.

So while we sat down and got to know each other better, the food started coming out quite quickly. And as is customary, all bloggers respectfully waited while everyone took turns taking photos. Shellie sitting next to me got really professional, whipping out the Gorilla Pod even during the night.

The first dish was a Sushi and Sashimi Platter. Can you say delicious? I love sashimi, especially really fresh stuff. Eaten with the freshly ground Tasmanian wasabi, it was joy. My favourites were definitely the sea bass and the scallops.

A plate of Antipasto and Focaccia closely followed the Sushi Platter. The focaccia was nicely crisp but the Antipasto was where all my attention was heading. The San Daniele Prosciutto was perfectly paired with some rockmelon. My favourite of the dish, the liverwurst was sinfully fatty paired with some cornichons. Wagyu bresaola was a close second, having the rich flavour of wagyu. As regular readers would know, I'm not a huge fan of vegetables so only tried a bit of the grilled vegetables with fetta and the buffalo mozzarella with tomato. Both were good.

The Wok section comprised of a mixture of Roast Meats. There was Crispy Pork (which wasn't crispy enough for my liking), Soy Chicken, Roast Duck (great crispy skin) and Char Siu (which I don't like so didn't try). I could have used some plum sauce or hoi sin, but the house made trio of sauces (soy, ginger/spring onions, chilli) were also good. The fried rice, for the "ang mor" as Sandra and Jordan commented were very good. Again, I stayed away from the Chinese greens.

We were all getting quite full by this stage, so thankfully the food was well timed so that we rested a bit and revived our stomachs with more wine. Then the Porterhouse, aged 30 days, arrived right in front of my face. Whilst others wanted a slightly more cooked steak, I was delighted with the medium rare steak and happily ate that with some bernaise sauce. I preferred the bernaise over the jus, which didn't have much flavour. Brocollini, the richest mash and sauteed mushrooms accompanied the tender steak.

The Grilled Seafood Platter was also pure heaven. I attacked the plump scallops, cooked well so that the centre was still slightly raw, just how I like it. Grilled Salmon and Tuna were ok, but the Moreton Bay Bugs were again another favourite. Since I don't really like prawns, I steered clear of them.

By this stage, I was well and truly full, but I always reserve my spare stomach for desserts, as that is my favourite part of any meal. And the dessert was well worth saving my stomach for. From left, we have a Peach Melba, Rhubarb Crumble with Custard, Ice Cream (strawberry, pistachio, passionfruit and vanilla), Chocolate Fondant and a Banana Millefeuille. The melba failed for me, being the wrong consistency and flavour. The rhubard crumble was so homely, with the crumble being fragrant and crunchy, offsetting the rhubarb. The ice creams were all good, but surprisingly, the vanilla was the absolute standout. The chocolate fondant was luscious and rich, served with chocolate ice cream, it was decadence at it's peak. Finally, my favourite dessert, the banana mille feuille had the flakiest pastry sandwiching layers of smooth custard and caramelised banana, perfection.

Teas and coffees were enjoyed with a final biscotti. It was a great night, full of great conversation, food and laughter. Thanks to Nuffnang, David and Sarah from Nuffnang, Lucy from Grand Hyatt, Jason from Grand Hyatt and the Grand Hyatt Hotel for organising and hosting us for that great dinner. I hope I get invited to more meetups like this.

And in alphabetical order (because I'm that anally retentive), the following people attended the night

Adrian from Food Rehab
Agnes from Off the Spork
Billy from Boys For Noise
David from Nuffnang
Jordan as my guest
Joyce from Jetsetting Joyce
Maria from The Gourmet Challenge
Neil from At My Table
Melissa and Danny from Tummy Rumbles
Penny from Jeroxie
Sandra as a guest of Sarah
Sarah from Sarah Cooks
Sarah from Nuffnang
Shellie from Iron Chef Shellie
Suzanne from EssJay Eats

*Note: supplimentary photos provided courtesy of Jordan. I'm sure you can pick his good DSLR photos from my point and shoot camera photos.*

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year 2010

Happy Chinese New Year everyone. It seems like Chinese New Year is getting bigger and bigger each year in Melbourne, which usually means more and more chaos. So my day started off with a visit to the dentist, who's a really great dentist, but because he's so great, could only squeeze me in on that day. Anyway, it was a routine check-up and teeth clean. That went well as I had been a good boy and brushed my teeth a lot. The previous times he told me off for not brushing enough and it was painful when the plaque was being removed.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. So after the dentist visit, it was a quick trip to Glen Waverley to pick up some roast ducks. I go to my current favourite place for roast duck, Ocean King. Upon arriving, what do I find, a massive queue, for roast duck. I sighed heavily and then go into the queue. I wish I had listened to mum and pre-ordered the duck, as the pre-order queue was considerably shorter. So I waited, and 45 minutes later it was finally my turn. I got three roast ducks, uncut, and took them home. I did pass Bread Top so grabbed myself a few egg tarts as well. It's New Years, you're allowed to eat what you want.

So since it's New Years and you can eat what you want, you gotta go all out and make it count. It's amazing how similar the food turns out to be each year though. In fact, it's freaky how great minds (or gluttonous minds) think alike, as Sarah's New Year meal and mine were similar in quite a few items.

After waiting so long for my prized ducks, I'm glad to say it was well worth it. Normally it's good already, but that days was especially good, the skin being ultra crispy.

So mum cut up the ducks and we put it into the oven just to crisp it up even more and get it back hot again.

Then you just chop up a few veggies and you're ready to make your own DIY Peking Duck. It's the best way to eat roast duck I reckon. Somehow the blend of flavours from the cucumber, spring onion, pickled carrot and hoi sin sauce and flour pancake makes the duck taste 9.97564 times better.

Instead of buying the roast pork, we made them this year, with our newly learnt skill from watching Masterchef. In the past, the roast pork we made used to have really terrible crackling, as it would be cooked fast and then slow. Instead, Masterchef taught me that you need to cook it slow (about 180C for an hour or so to render the fat and cook the meat) and then crank it fast (230C or as fast as your oven will go) and cook for another 30 minutes to crisp the skin. Marinate the pork in some salt and five spices for flavour. Then you have the best tasting roast pork with such crisp crackling.

In between foods, you find a cute baby and pose for a few snapshots. Doesn't baby Edmond look so adorable.

New Years means excess, and what could be more excessive than abalone. Mmmm, slow cooked with mushrooms and white bok choy, it was so delicious.

Steamed fish for good measure, nin nin yau yu, which translates to "every year you have excess". A good omen.

Home made loh bak, with minced prawns and water chestnuts wrapped in bean curd skin. I like to eat this with sweet chilli sauce.

You can't go wrong with some fat choi soup, the moss sounding like "make fortune". Who doesn't want fortune. I do.

Finally, which Asian doesn't like their pandan chiffon cake. This recipe is seriously easier and gives the best pandan cake I've personally tasted. It's moist, yet light, and the flavours are so good. It tastes better, in my opinion, after being left for a day in the fridge as the flavours meld together.

Look at that insane colour, so cool yeah? I refer to it as Wicked Green in honour of Sarah and Sandra who are obsessed with Wicked the musical.

And that, my friends, is a Chinese New Years dinner. May this year bring you prosperity, health, friends and joy. Eat up!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Battle Of The Kitchens - Poh's Wins By A Mile

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After the success of Masterchef last year, food shows are all the rage. Currently, there are two Aussie food shows on TV, Poh's Kitchen and My Kitchen Rules. The two shows have the word "kitchen" in common in the title, but apart from that, they couldn't be more different.

Let me start with the bad. My Kitchen Rules, as Duncan has reviewed, has very little to enjoy. It is utterly contrived, slow, exaggerated suspense, bitchy and worse of all, not really about food. Having endured every single episode so far, I have not learnt a single thing about food from this show. I haven't even really learnt about the contestants. They all irrate me so badly and I wish that they could all lose. The judges, Manu Feildel and Pete Evans have also lost all their charms after I loved them both in Masterchef. They've been forced to pick up every minute fault in the few dishes that they judge, and the slow delivery they have is not suspenseful, but so annoying I want to throw something at the TV.

In constrast, Poh's Kitchen is an absolute delight. I am officially addicted to it already after one episode. The ABC's choice to sign up Poh instead of Masterchef winner Julie was an inspired decision. Poh's natural persona translates so well to TV, where I feel she is warm yet quirky, and never fake. In this first episode where she meets up with Emmanuel Mollois, a master pastry chef, just highlights how well Poh can work with a guest chef. Their back and forth light joking and interactions had me smiling for most of the show. Poh shows a perfect mix of knowledge and ignorance, asking about things one momnent and explaining about things the next. As written in a newspaper review I, Poh's Kitchen is in a similar vein to "The Cook and The Chef". The banter between Maggie and Simon also came from different directions (one a cook, one a chef) but always meeting in the common ground of food, with each teaching the other about an aspect of food from a different view.

In this first episode alone, I learnt more about Poh and Emmanuel from the short montage than I have about the contestants of My Kitchen Rules over four episodes. I've also actually learnt about food from Poh's Kitchen. I've read about making croissants but haven't seen each step visually, and seeing and hearing about what the textures and feel of the dough will really help me should I ever attempt to make croissants. I also didn't know about the reason for not greasing a chiffon cake tin. I must try this next time with my pandan chiffon and have it inverted to cool to see if it gives a lighter texture.

I can't wait to see more episodes of Poh's Kitchen. I'm already excited about the prospect of learning more about other chefs, about Poh and most importantly, about food. I've had enough of My Kitchen Rules and won't be watching anymore as it's a complete waste of time. Even their website is cold and useless, whereas Poh's is fun, warm, easy to navigate and useful.

Score 1 ABC, score 0 Channel 7 after all that heavy promotion during the tennis. I hope you all get behind Poh's Kitchen so that there will be many more series to come. She might even read your food blog if you have one, another reason to like her even more. :-)

In a related post, my Giveaway - Dandi Tea Towels and Masterchef DVDs is still on until Sunday February 14th 9pm AEST. Come and enter the competition for some great prizes. You may get to watch Poh again and again on DVD.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Giveaway - Dandi Tea Towels and Masterchef DVDs

I was approached by the wonderful Megan Taylor of Maxted Thomas PR about doing a giveaway. I jumped at the chance to giveaway some wonderful products to you, my dear readers.

It's not as good a giveaway as Lemonpi's giveaway of compassion, but it's still really good if I say so myself.

There are four packs to give away, each pack containing a Dandi tea towel and a Masterchef DVD.

Dandi is a Sydney based design house who produce gorgeous home wares products, in particular they do a wonderful kitchen range including napery, aprons, oven mits, tea towels and tablecloths.

Head over to their website and check out some of their beautifully designed products. They even have a blog to further connect with their customers, hooray.

As for the Masterchef DVD, it's 3 discs of Gary and George teaching you great techniques to cook some wonderful recipes in their Masterclasses. I don't know about you, but I would personally love the DVD as I was addicted to the show, but no, it's all for you, my readers.

To enter the competition

1. Just leave a comment on this post along with a contact email. You might want to tell me what you like or dislike about this blog. Or what you want to read more of or less of. Or discuss Masterchef with me, as I watched the show religiously.

2. Leave a comment in this post, and email me (at your contact email if you are uncomfortable leaving your contact email in the comments.

The competition ends on Sunday 14th February 9pm AEST. The competition is open to Australia residents onlyh. Winners will be drawn randomly using a random number generator (yep, I'm an engineer) and notified by email.

Congratulations to the following people who were randomly drawn for the prizes.
Jordan, Hannah, Ah and Ctealeaf.

Hannah and Ctealeaf, I've left comments at your blogs since you didn't send me a contact email. Please drop me an email at with your details so I can send you the prizes.

Thanks to everyone that entered the competition, hope you all continue to enjoy this blog.

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get in contact with Ah or Ctealeaf. I have redrawn those two prizes randomly and the winners are Sarah and The Dream World.