Monday, June 28, 2010

Sirena Tuna and LaZuppa Soup

Sometimes, some things are so obvious, you wonder why someone hasn't done it earlier. As I eat a lot of tuna (mainly for breakfast as I rush out the door for work in the mornings), I like to have lots of different flavours. I've constantly wondered why anyone hasn't paired tuna with herbs. Tuna comes in every other flavour, why not simply with herbs. Fish all go well with herbs, and finally, someone has done it.

Sam Vassos from The PR Edge was nice enough to send me a sample of Sirena Tuna, with their new herb range. Look how beautifully the tuna was packaged, with a cute little wooden spoon.

I opened the pack to find tuna infused with basil, dill and rosemary oil. I think the herbs work well with the tuna, giving it a hint of freshness. The Sirena tuna is definitely a premium brand, with a whole chunk of tuna rather than flaked tuna. This means the tuna is of a nice firmer texture and better taste. Also, don't waste the oil, you can drizzle it over grilled bread once you've eaten the tuna.

After you've eaten your tuna, you might want a nice hearty soup during these cold winter months. Well, luckily for me, Sam also sent me some LaZuppa Soup. LaZuppa have extended their range and introduced a Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup and a Chicken and Corn Chowder. The soups are fat free, low GI, gluten free, dairy free and contain no artificial additives. Those things are all important, but for me, taste is most important. Surprisingly to me, the soups actually taste quite good. Of course they'll never be as good as a home brewed soup, but it's not bad considering you just have to microwave it for a couple of minutes and you have an instant comforting soup to combat the cold weather.

Products sent to me for sampling courtesy of Sam Vassos from The PR Edge.

Monday, June 21, 2010

il Fornaio Launch With Philippa Sibley

2 Acland St
St Kilda VIC 3182
Ph: (03) 9534 2922

When the wonderful Fiona Brook from Harvey Publicity contacted me about whether I would like to attend Philippa Sibley's new restaurant launch, il Fornaio, I think you can guess the outcome. If you've read this blog before, you know I'm the biggest dessert fan and that I order my food in reverse at restaurants, starting with desserts and working my way backwards to entrees.

Philippa's CV speaks for itself, having worked at numerous top restaurants and winning The Age Good Food Guide Chef of the Year Award in 2004. Not many chefs can claim that on their CV, let alone a pastry chef. So you know that her desserts must be amazing. I had seen her on Masterchef making her famous Caramel Parfait Glace with Salted Peanut Caramel and Milk Chocolate Mousse, nicknamed the "Snickers". I was told that Philippa would be serving the Snickers at the launch, so my excitement levels were through the roof.

il Fornaio is probably best known as a bakery/cafe, but with this relaunch, they're hoping to be known as a restaurant, a restaurant that does fantastic desserts. I asked Philippa whether she was excited about the launch, and she said that she was nervous all day, but that nervousness had turned to excitement at the launch party. Also, I asked about the theme of the restaurant and she said that she wanted it to be known as a relaxed place where people could share small tapas style food and then finish that off with some tremendous desserts.

Philippa was looking sensational in a frilly black dress, with a touch of fun with the red rose in her hair. She definitely looked very different than her appearance on Masterchef in her chef's white. Of course, being a massive Masterchef fan, I had to ask Philippa about her appearance on the show. She said that she was so nervous on the show, as you could tell from her shaky hands when plating the dessert. She also said that it was extremely tiring, with that shoot taking 20 hours. Can you imagine that? She had to reshoot the "Your time starts now" scene half a dozen times. While we chatted, the wonderful Joyce helped me take some photos.

I was really impressed with how skillful Philippa and her team were. They plated up the canapes and desserts with such accuracy. You can tell how Philippa has managed to make it to the top as her standards are very high. I saw her fixing even the smallest imperfection in the Snickers chocolate piece and also tell a waitress to hold the plates more horizontal. The food rolled out of the fairl large kitchen into the jam packed restaurant that was buzzing with noise. Drinks flowed freely while people mingled and enjoyed themselves.

To the food itself, there were a lot of canapes served throughout the night. There were fresh oysters with a pickled vegetable topping, salmon rolls, terrines, vegetable canapes and a few other that I forgot to photograph (ok so I was too busy eating to remember to photograph the three Prawn and Saffran Arancini that I ate).

The desserts were definitely a highlight for me. Look at the rows and rows of Chocolate Mousse wrapped in Chocolate with Raspberry and Liquorice.

The Rhubarb Ice Cream with Pomegranate, Rose Petal Served in an Almond Tuile was sensational. Philippa's famous Lemon Tart as served at Bistro Guillaume was beautifully tart with a crispy pastry.

But of course, for me anyway, the Snickers was to die for. All the elements just worked so well together. The dacquoise gave a bite to the dessert whilst the parfait was so smooth. That hit of salted caramel amid the chocolate mousse and sheet really made the whole dessert just pop.

The night was a great success I thought, with the guests staying until well into the night. From what I tasted of the food, I think it would be a great place to go for a meal. The desserts are definitely to die for and I must go back just to eat those again. I hope Philippa the best of luck and I'm sure her restaurant will succeed.

Thanks to Fiona Brook from Harvey Publicity and Philippa Sibley from il Fornaio for inviting me to the launch party and being so generous with her time.

Il Fornaio on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guessing Game: Eating My Way Around Europe

Hello Australia, "I'm backkkk" (with my best Arnold Schwarzenegger accent). For once, I can say that my lack of blogging activity isn't due to my laziness. Instead I was away on a trip of a lifetime through Europe and eating my way through so many amazing meals. Of course, I'll be writing about that all in due time, but I thought I'd whet your appetite with my four standout moments of my whole trip. Please have a guess of where they were from. :-)

In order of difficulty, here goes.

Moment 1 was a dream of mine realised. I have wanted to try this for about two and a half years, ever since a man called Duncan introduced me to these amazing items.

Moment 2 was another dream realised. I think any serious food lover would have this same dream. It was definitely an amazing experience on so many levels, and I even had the honour of meeting this man and having a quick chat with him.

Moment 3 is obviously gelato, but from where specifically. This was so addictive and just 10 times better than any other gelato in Italy (and I tried a lot of gelato on the trip, averaging about 3 double cones for 8 days from different shops). I've left the picture on the cup for you to look at but coloured out the shop name.

Moment 4, I definitely have to thank Sarah for. I didn't even know about it, but she said I had to go via an email that day. So off I went in search of this, and it was so fantastic for such a simple dish. Sarah, you already know what this is, so you can't guess.

So there are my favourite food moments on my trip. Each moment was perfection in their own way. I hope that you can all get to enjoy these one day, but for now, satisfy yourself with trying to guess correctly what they are.