Saturday, June 30, 2012

Giveaway - Tea Blossoms Teapot, Cups and Blooming Teas

There are coffee drinkers, and then there are tea drinkers. While I like a coffee occasionally, my drink of choice is most definitely tea. I drink at least a glass of tea a day. I like all types of teas, but always without sugar or milk. I prefer the natural flavours of the tea, so I tend to drink green teas, black teas, oolong teas and flower teas. So when I was contacted by Tea Blossoms to try out their tea, I was more than happy to.

Tea Blossoms sell all types of tea and specialising, as their name suggests, in blossoming tea. If you haven't heard about or seen blossoming tea before, you'll be impressed. Blossoming teas are balls of tea consisting of mixtures of things such as Green Tea, Black Tea, Marigold, Globe Amaranth, Jasmine, Osmanthus, Chrysanthemus, Vanilla and many more, which when dropped into hot water bloom into these beautiful creations. The effect is visually stunning, but the mix of tea is also really good in flavour. I tried out a few of the Tea Blossoms blooming tea balls and they were really good, quite complex in flavours.

I've also tried all 6 flavours of tea bags, and again I was impressed. I must say I extremely impressed with the silken bags. I'd never seen those before but they keep the tea leaves from falling out of the bag. As to the tea themselves, I think the key to all the types was that it tasted like real tea, with leaves I could see. The chamomile contained a good amount of chamomile tea, while the English breakfast, which I normally find rather boring, actually tasted rather fragrant. The Fairytale tea, which also came in the loose leaf form, is super fragrant and smells like a tea cocktail. There were lots of fruit and flowers inside so you get hints of everything. I've been drinking that everyday at work and it's very calming.

I'm impressed with the products from Tea Blossoms and will definitely be a repeated customer of their website. The large selection of tea will definitely keep me satisfied while the various tea sets and packages make for great gifts as well. Thanks to Tea Blossoms, I've got one of their gift packages to give away to one of my readers. The details of the competition are below.


I'm totally blown away by the number of people how have entered this competition. It was truly unexpected. I didn't know so many people like tea like myself. Thank you all for your suggestions of teas to try as well as things to try with tea. I shall slowly work through them.

Using, the lucky winner is Candice, who used to be an auditor for Tetley Tea.

Photo courtesy of Tea Blossoms.

Glass Teapot
2 x Glass Tea Cup and Saucer
Box of 12 Mixed Blooming Teas
Box of 24 Silken Pyramid Infusers (English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Peppermint Green, Chamomile Lavender, Green Jasmine, Fairytale)
100g Loose Leaf Fairytale Tea


Leave a comment. Maybe you'd like to tell me what you like to eat with tea, or your favourite tea or anything else.

Make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via Twitter, a blog or an email. If you don't want to publish your email in the comments, please email me at and let me know which comment was yours. If I do not hear back from you after 2 days upon contacting you, I will redraw the prize.

Conditions of Entry
- One entry per person.
- The prize will only be delivered within Australia. If you are an overseas reader, you can still enter but you will need to send your prize to an Australian address.
- Winner randomly drawn.
- Competition closes Sunday July 8th 9pm AEST. The winners will be announced on the following day and published on this same post.
- I will contact the winner directly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taste Le Tour 2012 with Gabriel Gate

One of the greatest sporting events, at least for me, is the annual Tour de France cycling race through the amazing French countryside. It is a truly grueling contest where the competitors push themselves to the limit, only to do exactly the same thing again the following day. SBS' coverage of the tour is really good and I've been watching for a number of years. They have shown great dedication to the coverage when it wasn't that popular an event. With last year's win by Cadel Evans, I'm sure this year's coverage will be more popular in Australia. A great addition to the cycling coverage is Taste Le Tour, a short segment during each stage where the foods of the region are explored by chef Gabriel Gate.

Gabriel Gate is one of my four favourite TV chefs/cooks. I really love Heston, Rick Stein, Poh and Gabriel. All show a gentler well spoken side which really appeals to me. They are all very enthusiastic about food, knowledgeable and with their fun smiles, tend to make me smile along and be happy. It was with great pleasure that I spoke to Gabriel (we're on a first name basis now :-)) about his career, passions and Taste Le Tour.

Photo courtesy of SBS, re-edited by Thanh Do.

It almost seems destined that Gabriel was to be involved in Taste Le Tour. As a young man, Gabriel was really into cycling and it was actually at a cycling camp that he started to find his passion for cooking when he had to prepare the meals for his friends. He had always taken inspiration from his grandmother who worked as a private cook and encouraged him to cook with her. The French passion for sharing the best available food and discussing about it definitely gave Gabriel inspiration for his cooking style. His style is to serve food clean in flavour, fresh and always making you feel good. It was quite humourous when I asked Gabriel who he thinks the hardest to please are. He said that people who don't talk about food also tends to be the ones who are most fussy with what they eat, a thought I agree with.

With Taste Le Tour, Gabriel flew to location of the various stages and spoke to a variety of people. Having watched many previous seasons, you'll find a relaxed Gabriel chatting to locals about their food styles, highlighting local markets, restaurants and wineries. Then with the help of some chef friends, Gabriel will cook up a dish that is popular to that region. He designs the recipes and puts his own interpretation into it. Below is a clip of a segment of the show from a previous year.

If, like myself, you've watched some of the Tour de France before, you'll surely love the vistas of the amazing hills along the tour. As Gabriel pointed out, the Alps and Pyrenese are definitely the life of the tour. The scenery is amazing for us spectators from afar, but also enjoyed by many along the sides of the road. I was surprised to hear that as an overall event, more people go along to watch the Tour de France than the Olympics. It's such a carnival atmosphere. I definitely hope to get to watch the Tour de France live one day and experience the great scenery and food for myself.

Turning our attention to food closer to us in Melbourne, I asked Gabriel about what he felt about the food scene here. As he has been living in Melbourne for more than 20 years, he has seen the dramatic changes here. Once upon a time, it was hard to buy various chicken parts or herbs, whereas now you can buy just the middle of the chicken wings which I love best. The food scene has really moved along and with Asia so close to us, obviously "Australian" food has been infused with lots of Asian touches, which Gabriel loves. For himself, he will occasionally go out to a restaurant for a special meal, but usually he cooks and is very satisfied eating his own food. Well, I can say that if I cooked as well as Gabriel, I'd be satisfied with my own food too.

I ended my thoroughly enjoyable conversation with Gabriel by asking him some quick fire questions, of which there were some surprising results.
Beef or lamb
Sweet or savoury but depends on the mood
Red or white
Lunch or dinner
Coffee or tea
Still or sparkling. Champagne all the way he says.
Chocolate or strawberry
McDonalds or KFC
Macaron or macaroon
Comedy or drama
Book or DVD
France or Australia

Below, Gabriel shares a recipe from this year's upcoming show. It's for a Crayfish Gratin, which is a traditional French recipe. This dish is quite special he says and gets served on celebratory occasions as obviously lobster is not cheap. It looks extremely delicious and I can't wait to try it out. I'd love to thank Gabriel for taking the time to speak with me. It was a total pleasure and I'll be watching him on Taste Le Tour as well as the Tour de France itself.

Langouste Gratinée (Languedoc)
Crayfish Gratin

Serves 4

Photo courtesy of SBS, re-edited by Thanh Do.

2 cooked crayfish, each about 700g
80g butter
2 shallots, chopped
50g plain flour
100ml dry white wine
2 cups milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of cayenne pepper
50g grated parmesan or Gruyère cheese
100g fine breadcrumbs

Cut each cooked crayfish in half lengthwise. You can ask your fishmonger to do it for you if you prefer. Carefully remove the flesh from the tail. Detach and discard the intestine. Dice the flesh into 1 1/2cm squares and refrigerate until required.

Place the four half crayfish shells in a gratin dish.

Heat 50g of the butter in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and stir until almost golden. Stir in the flour and cook on low heat for a few minutes.

Whisk in the white wine. When it is well incorporated, gradually whisk in the milk and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Gently mix in the crayfish pieces and the parmesan and reheat for
2 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Spoon the crayfish and sauce into the four empty crayfish shells. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and dot a little butter evenly here and there. Place in the hot oven and brown the top of the crayfish. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Melba Restaurant At The Langham Hotel

Buffets are one of those weird contradictions for me. On the surface they seem like good value as they prey on my sense of gluttony. I think that because I can try a variety of food, and as much of it as I want, the cost is therefore good value. Inevitably though, I tend to overeat and vow not to do that again. The food is rather ordinary and the good things in short supply, and I regret the choice to go to a buffet rather than a normal restaurant.

I dined courtesy of Melba Restaurant and Media Moguls

I would say I've been to a few buffets that I thought were good and worth the price. As with anything, you generally get what you pay for, and that's the case at Melba Restaurant located at The Langham Hotel. Their buffet costs from as low as $54 on a weekday lunch to $99.90 for a weekend dinner. It's probably one of the most expensive buffets around, but it's probably also the best, at least the best I've tasted.

I attended a weeknight buffet session with my fellow bloggers Michele, Sarah and Adrian. We were shown around the various tasting stations by the restaurant manager and I was impressed immediately. The food all looked and smelled delicious. When we finally got to the dessert section, we all zoomed in like flies to a BBQ. We ogled at every cake and all collectively went "oooh I want to eat this and that".

When we started eating, Michele who had been previously, briefed me on the attack plan. She said you have to start with the light items like the seafood and sashimi. I thoroughly agreed as I love seafood, so off I went to the Seafood Section. The items were super fresh, with Moreton Bay Bugs, Swimmer Crabs, Prawns, a few varieties of Oysters and mussels all freshly kept on ice. I obviously tried everything, and they were all great. I loved the bugs and oysters the most and went back three times for them.

At the Sushi Station, I went for a number of sashimi such as tuna, kingfish, calamari, octopus and ark shell. The sushi chef freshly cut and made everything and the quality of the seafood would rival many Japanese restaurants.

With the cold food done, it was time to move along to the Roast Meat section. Usually I'm most disappointed with the roast section of buffets as the meat is super dry and taste awful. But I need not have worried. The descriptions alone already showed the quality, with beef from Rangers Valley for example. The roast lamb and beef were so juicy and I'd happily eat that from any restaurant. There was perfectly cooked roast chicken and roast duck, with a chef at hand to cut the parts you want. The special on that night (there's one every night) was a really indulgent Lobster Mornay. Juicy big pieces of lobster were covered in a white sauce and tasted so good.

Lastly, I visited the Tandoori Section. There were two rows of various curries and tandoori meats. I tried out a tandoori pork belly, which was really good. There was also fresh roti being made, and Michele got an M&Ms roti made, which was awesome. I skipped the Wok Section as I have Chinese food every day of my life already so was ready to try other things.

The Salad Section contained lots of fresh vegetables as well as cured meat, smoked salmon and condiments. It was probably the weakest section in my opinion, as the cured meats were a bit dry and the salads quite plain. I'd rather use my limited stomach space on all the other great food. You don't win friends with salad you know.

You can probably guess that my favourite section was of course, Dessert. I'll include the cheese and chocolate fountain into the Dessert Section. There were so many cakes that I didn't know where to look. In the end, I tried a chocolate cake, pistachio cake, raspberry cake, sweet cannelloni, strawberries dipped in chocolate and rum and raisin ice cream. Despite all the food being great so far, I still expected dessert to be bad due to all my previous buffet experience. Cakes, or as I call them, flour bombs, at other buffets are usually awful. But the cakes at Melba are awesome. The pistachio cake was beautiful, a layer of pistachio jelly, sponge and pistachio mousse melted in my mouth. All the other cakes were good, the ice cream excellent and the chocolate in the fountain of a high quality. I wish I had more stomach space to try out more cakes.

The view from the restaurant out of the large windows onto the Yarra River is extremely beautiful at night. There was a calm feeling inside and I liked the ambiance in the room, with a slight buzz but still a feeling of privacy. The service was very good, but we were the invited guest. It did look like plates were cleared very quickly at other tables and water refilled. The food, was all good or excellent. I loved the super fresh seafood and the desserts the most, but the one item that probably impressed me most was how perfectly medium rare the roast beef was cooked and how tender it was. The price, as I wrote, is not cheap in terms of buffets, but the food quality is matching that price. You have to pay for quality, and if you feel like an assortment of food during one meal, then Melba is perfect for you.

Melba Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Rise of Instagramers as a Social Media Marketing Tool

I was checking through my Instagram stream and noticed quite a few pics from people I was following (who I knew to be living in different countries) showing the same activities and places. Using my super detective skills (ok I clicked on the hashtag), I think I've come across the first global initiative to use Instagramers to promote a region. Promoting a place via social media is not new. On a smaller scale, myself and other food bloggers have been to Mornington Peninsula here in Victoria. Yet more food bloggers have visited New Zealand, and other food bloggers have gone to Malaysia, multiple times.

Using food blogs, and blogs in general, to promote things/places/organisations is not new, and has rather quickly evolved as the influence of blogs increases. The use of social media to promote things is now seen as one part of the marketing strategy for a company/organisation as the message they are trying to promote is coming from sources whose audience generally respects their opinion already. At about the same time as blogs being used to promote things, Twitter has also been used to help market certain things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires. As with anything new, the written, and unwritten rules are still being established.

With the rise of Instagram, the simple little app that has becoming the darling of the mobile world, it was only a matter of time that it too would be used as a marketing tool. It's a natural extension of other forms of social media marketing that are already occurring. Like millions of other users, now estimated at 40 million, I've become totally infatuated with Instagram. As with Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Youtube etc, you can share your life with others, this time through a camera lens. I think what some of the other social media platforms lack (possibly Youtube is exempted) that Instagram has, is a small level of artistry. There are some amazingly beautiful photos out there. With every smart phone now carrying a pretty decent camera, everyone is able to share what they see immediately. A community has quickly built up and people from all over the world interact with it other through what they see. It is very true that a picture tells a thousand words. You can argue that photos can be shared on Facebook and Twitter, but each has the limitation of only sharing to your friends, or having a smaller lifespan due to the nature of tweets.

The Catalan Board of Tourism have realised the power of Instagram, where users can have a huge reach amongst their global audience, and taken the initiative to organise for 11 popular Instagramers to visit Catalonia. The scale of this exercise is quite large, given the Instagramers come from all over the world, but probably no more expensive than spending money on a 30 second TV ad. Whilst the ad might only be seen by a limited audience amongst many other ads, the message from these popular Instagramers have the potential to produce a larger and lasting reach. I know I scroll back through people's photos when I find a new user I like so it can continue to reach people even after the event. That's one advantage that blogs and Instagram has over Twitter, as the back-search feature on Twitter is really clunky to use. Due to the limited number of posts and photos, the lifespan is longer than Twitter, where even a medium user would post many tweets in a day. Blogs do have an advantage over tweets and photos since we still search for things using words. A blog hit will come up in Google whereas an Instagram pic may not. Even with a hashtag, which are limited to 30, less people search through Instagram than just on the Internet as a whole.

This exercise still points to the emergence of yet another social media platform that can be used for marketing purposes. As long as there is a quasi-measure of influence (in the case of Instagram the number of followers and likes on a photo, and to a smaller extent comments) Instagram will be used more and more to help promote various things. Like blogs and Twitter, the rules of engagement are still being slowly worked out.

Lastly, don't forget to go to my Instagram account, ieatblog, and follow me and like my photos. I really want to get to fly to Catalonia for a holiday. :-)

Are you on Instagram?
What do you like about it?
What photos do you tend to like to look at?
Can you recommend me any great users I should follow (besides your good self of course)?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dognation - Hot Dogs Of The World

There seems to be a slight explosion (can an explosion be slight?) of gourmet hot dog places around Melbourne. The latest in that list is Dognation, or as I keep misreading, Donation. It's a bit like Paris in the the Spring for me. Somehow my brain keeps misreading it.

My friends and I dined courtesy of Dognation.

On a fairly mild Melbourne's day (which meant we were all rugged up in scarves and had our umbrellas ready), myself, Agnes and a few other friends went to visit Dognation. When I was told it was a small place, I didn't expect this small. It is seriously a hole-in-the-wall style place. It's amazing how they can pump out these gourmet dogs. The logistics of getting things delivered and storing it would be quite hard. Own Seong-Lee told us that they get a delivery everyday from their and their specially designed bread. The bread comes in two varieties, white and multigrain. Seong-Lee said he worked with the baker to ensure the bread to sausage ratio is just right, so you get a bit of both with each mouthful. For me, I preferred the white bread much more as it was softer. The multigrain was a bit too filling for my liking and masked the sausage a tiny bit.

The hot dogs are based around countries of the world, with drinks to match. There is a bit of everything for everyone. On that day, we decided to try EVERYTHING. I'm a massive hot dog fan and wanted to sample them all.

The hot dogs available are:

Melbourne Dog - Aussie Beef and Tomato Relish Sausage, Tomato Sauce, Mustard, Onion, Cheese, Beetroot Relish $7.9

London 'Bangers & Mash' Dog - British Beef & Pork Sausage, Mashed Potato, Smashed Peas, Gravy $8.9

Mexico City Chilli Dog - Mexican Beef, Pork & Bean Sausage, Spicy Chilli Con Carne, Cheese, Jalapenos $8.9

Berlin Dog - German Bratwurst Sausage, Sauerkraut, Onion, German Mustard (Hot or Mild) $7.9

Tokyo Dog - Pork & Beef Sausage Wrapped in 'Nori' Seaweed, Miso-Infused Mushrooms, Wasabi Japanese Mayo, Okonomiyaki Sauce, 'Nori' Flakes $8.9

For me I, all the hot dogs were good, but of course some stand out amongst the others. The Melbourne Dog is a really nice mix of sausage with beetroot relish and sauce.

The London Dog is good, with the potato mash (made from real potatoes and is excellent) really good. The dog overall lacked a kick that I like, but apparently this dog sells super well on cold days. Wonder why?

The Mexico City Dog was my second favourite. The chilli con carne is really good and the whole thing works well. I'd love it to be even spicier.

The Berlin Dog was a solid performer with a classic combination of sauerkraut with Bratwurst and mustard. A tried and tested recipe for success.

Finally, the Tokyo Dog was the biggest surprise, and almost everyone's favourite. The mixture of the seaweed, wasabi mayo and okonomiyaki sauce made for a beautiful hot dog that tasted really different to anything else I've tried. A definite must-try I think.

As I mentioned, there are drinks from around the world to match the dogs. They were a really interesting selection and I hadn't heard of any of them. I got a guava soft drink, which was really nice.

The stall, as you can see, is super small so there is only seating for 4 people. If it's raining, there isn't any cover either. This is more a takeaway type stand rather than a sit down place. So drop by, grab a variety of hot dogs and eat them happily while you walk and drip sauce all over your shirt. It's the Melbourne way.

Dognation on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The National Stroke Foundation - Food For Thought Charity Dinner 2012

1 in 6 people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime.

Every 6 seconds someone, somewhere, regardless of their age or their gender will die from stroke.

60,000 new and recurrent strokes in Australia every year.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Stroke Foundation Food for Thought charity dinner. From that dinner, I sampled some amazing food, and learned so much about Stroke, the causes, the signs, the prevention, the recovery and the resilient stories from many survivors. This year, again I was lucky to be invited, and was joined by many fellow food lovers. I was joined by Ashley (whose birthday it was on the night, Happy Birthday), Fi, Simon, Nic and Helen, Lee, Chelsea, Ellie and Kenneth.

Being the second time the Food for Thought charity dinner was being run (and it has also been run in many other states), it ran even smoother and the message about Stroke was spread even more. The Stroke Foundation has released material which you may have seen which show you the signs of stroke. It uses the easy to remember F.A.S.T acronym to show the signs to be aware of. They are:

Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arm Can they lift both arms?
Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.

It is vital to catch the signs as early as possible as time equates to stopping the damage. Stroke can be very debilitating and it doesn't discriminate. It doesn't just affect the old as we assume, young people are just as prone. The statistics on Stroke are quite surprising and more awareness is needed to help research and care. You can help through donating to the National Stroke Foundation, as well as following their Stroke Facebook page to stay connected with new research, hear other sufferer's stories such as that from Emma Gee and learn more about what you can do to help yourself and your families.

While there was talk about Stroke on the night, the night was also a celebration of good food. The following chefs were involved and donated their time and food for a great cause.

Riccardo Momesso from Sarti - Kingfish and Swiss Chard "Cannelloni"
Leigh Power from Gingerboy - Son In Law Eggs
Michael Fox from Henry and the Fox - Rabbit Terrine with Rhubarb
Mathew Hart from Balgownie Estate - Vine Smoked Spiced Chicken with Apricot Chutney
Scott Pickett from Estelle Bar and Kitchen - Slow Cooked Wagyu Rump with Mushrooms
Nicolas Poelaert from Embrasse - Hazelnut Parfait, Chocolate, Buttermilk

Needless to say that all the food was great. The Kingfish and Swiss Chard Cannelloni may not be the prettiest dish, but inside it had great flavour. I absolutely loved the Son In Law eggs with the fantastic texture and wonderful explosion of flavours. The Rabbit Terrine was a beautiful classic French style terrine but the pickled rhubarb really made that dish even better. The Vine Smoke Spiced Chicken was exactly as described and had a great smokey flavour. I really loved the chutney that was served with it too. My second favourite dish was the wonderful Slow Cooked Wagyu. It was so tender and I loved the black garlic served with it. My favourite dish, as you may have already guess, was dessert of course. I'm such a sweet tooth, and the Hazelnut Parfait was simply stunning. The texture was so smooth and the hazelnut really popped.

During the night we were given the opportunity to visit the kitchens. Wow, what an experience. I've seen the workings of kitchens before but never for a massive function like this event. It was like a smooth well-oiled machine, with each chef adding one element to a dish before another chef swooped in and added some more things. It was a truly amazing sight. The sheer number of dishes lined up on endless tables was unbelievable. I was tempted to sneak a few pieces of food from the dishes but was under keen supervision by my chef mate Scott Pickett.

Throughout the night, I had a great time talking to everyone on my table. Ashley and I may also have broken out into song one, or five times as the live singer was doing a lot of classic songs. I may have seen Lee sing a few bars as well in between snapping photos of her food. Well, actually we were also snapping like crazy at the poor innocent food before devouring it with utter pleasure.

Of course, I had to get an obligatory photo with a chef as I really admire and respect their work. I've wanted to get a photo with Nic from Embrasse a number of times but he was always busy. So I cornered him this time and made sure I got a pic. Thanks to Kenneth for taking this wonderful happy snap.

Finally, here are all the amazing chefs who made the food on the night happen. With them is the National Stroke Foundation CEO Dr Erin Lalor, who gave a powerful speech and really brought home the importance of being aware of stroke.

Once again, it was a great night with fantastic food (which I love of course) but also lots of great work done with the money raised and also an increase in awareness about Stroke. I'd like to thank Anna Hickey and Diana Kerr for being wonderful hosts who really made sure we were all comfortable and enjoyed ourselves. I hope that my blog post might prompt you to learn some more about Stroke as it may one day save your life or the life of someone you know.

I attended the night with much thanks to the National Stroke Foundation.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Food and Wine Show 2012

This year, I was again fortunate enough to receive some invitations to attend the Good Food and Wine Show. I was able to meet one of my favourite TV food presenters in Poh atlast year's event. I was hoping to catch either Maggie Beer or Rick Stein at this year's show but alas, no luck. I still did have a good time, with my main event being to attend the Riedel Decanter Bar Aperitivo Masterclass run by Ben Edwards and Dan Sims from The Wine Guide

Of course, before my masterclass, I had to explore, and maybe sample, some of the foods that were available throughout the show. I sampled lots of delicious cured meats, frozen food products (chocolate coconut spring rolls are sooooo good), dips, cheese, lots of alcoholic drinks and many sweet items. I was invited on behalf of Chobani to try out their yoghurt, which I did. I'm a big yoghurt eater and have some nearly every morning, so I was interested to see how the Chobani tasted compared to my usual choices. I liked the Greek style yoghurt as it had a good texture and flavour. The fruit at the bottom also added some good sweetness.

At the Aperitivo Masterclass, expert wine guys, Ben and Dan, kept everyone entertained throughout the class with their "classy" 'umour. They provided lots of information about the apertifs we were drinking as well as answering lots of questions that people had.

We tried 6 aperitifs, all very different. The purpose of an aperitif is to whet your appetite for the food you're about to eat, so they usually contain some sour elements or are a bit drier. A Tattinger Brut was bubbly and had some sweetness, while a Emilio Lustau Fino Sherry was much drier. I really like the Aperol Spritzer and the Negroni, both were sweet and refreshing.

Lastly, my most excited moment was when Michele told me that there were caneles being sold. I'm currently addicted to caneles so had to search it out. After looking around everywhere, I finally tracked down Gateaux de Bordeaux. I bought 10 caneles and boy, are they delicious. I love custards (Creme Brulee are my favourite dessert) and caneles encapsulate the nice softness of custards while also having this slightly burnt crisp exterior. Heaven.

I attended the show courtesy of Spark Communications and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Product Review - Wusthof Cook's Knife and Sharpening Steel

That's not a knife...that's a knife!

I finally know what Crocodile Dundee was referring to when he said those famous words. He was describing a 20cm Wusthof Classic Ikon Cook's Knife, coz it's da bomb.

I've owned a number of Wusthof knives for a while and they are fantastic. So when I was asked by Kitchenware Direct what I wanted to review, I immediately wanted to try the Wusthof Classic Ikon Cook's Knife 20cm as that's the one missing knife I don't have. I currently have a Global Cook's knife, and while that is very good, I've never loved it like my Wusthof knives. To help keep the Wusthof knives sharp, I also wanted to review the Wusthof Trident Sharpening Steel 23cm.

To test out the knife, I've cut everything with it. I've done lots of vegetables, from soft tomatoes, to hard carrots, and lots of aromatics like lemongrass, chili, garlic, onions and lots of meats, from poultry to pork to beef. I've even cut a massive block of Valrhona chocolate with it. The blade is extremely sharp and just glides right through everything. It leaves the item being cut with a sharp clean edge. The knife handle is not only beautiful, but well shaped and fits perfectly in the hand. The part I love best is how well balanced the knife is. By that, I mean it has a good weighty feel so it helps you to cut the food, but when held in the hand, the knife sort of balances there and doesn't want to fall forward on you. The way the knife balances reminds me of when I read fantasy books and the authors describe knights and swordsmen and how well the sword balances in their hand to ensure they get most power out of every movement. That's how I feel about this Ikon knife. It's so great to hold. The size of the knife is good, as it's large enough to cut most items without being too hard to handle.

The sharpening steel is also really good. It too has a nice balance and feel to it when held. The steel does a good job in sharpening the knife. Like most steels, it needs to be used correctly and if done so, will help keep a knife sharp with use every once in a while. However, when I really have a blunt knife and want to sharpen it, I will use a stone, but the steel is useful for regular use as it's much more convenient.

Overall, I love love love the Wusthof Classic Ikon Cook's Knife 20cm. It is a thing of beauty in my eyes and also works perfectly. I'm quite cautious when I use it as I'm worried if I slip, I'd probably take off a finger, such is the sharpness of the knife. I haven't done the hair or silk test where I drop those items over the knife to see if it will cut them, but I suspect it might. The Wusthof Trident Sharpening Steel 23cm is a useful tool for keeping the beautiful knife sharp. If you don't already own any Wusthof knives, I highly recommend you buy some as they are a great investment in quality for the kitchen. It will make all your cooking so much easier.

I received the knife and sharpening steel courtesy of Kitchenware Direct.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Jazz Apples Masterclass with Fast Ed

Last year, I discovered Jazz Apples. However, as I was just starting to enjoy them, the season was over after only a month or so. Last year was the first year that this newly created apple, a cross of Gala and Braeburn apples, was sold to consumers. As the trees weren't as mature yet, the amount of apples available was only small. This year though, Jazz Apples will be available for 3-4 months. It has become my favourite apple, as I love the tang that it has, like a Fuji, while having super crisp flesh, like a Pink Lady, and really thin skin like a Granny Smith.

I attended the class courtesy of Jazz Apples.

I've only been eating the apples raw so was excited to attend the Jazz Apples Masterclass with Ed Halmagyi, aka "Fast Ed" from Better Homes and Gardens, to learn about other dishes that can be cooked with the apples. Ed showed us three dishes, each using Jazz Apples. He was a great instructor and was full of really great information, tips, and had a very personable delivery that made all attendees get involved and ask questions. The three dishes that Ed demonstrated were a Slow Baked Trout with Apple Salad, Pan Seared Veal with a Potato and Apple Galette, and an Apple and Citrus Verrine. Ed made each dish look extremely simple to make, although it was a bit funny when he forgot to add the apple to the salad for the fish entree.

We split into three groups to tackle one dish each, which would then be served to everyone else. I was lucky enough to be teamed with two great cooks in Agnes and Sarah. We were assigned to do desserts (yay, my favourite part of every meal) and while it looked to be the easiest, my lack of instruction reading meant I stuffed up the quantity of flour in our crumble as well as add the cloves to it haha. I blame the recipe. Luckily, we were able to salvage my mistakes and still produce a rather good looking, and tasting, Apple and Citrus Verrine.

We all sat down at the large dining table to enjoy our efforts with some wine. I really loved the entree of Slow Baked Trout. Cooking it at the 90 or so degrees really kept the flesh super soft and the fish stock added a nice punch to it. The apple salad really helped to cut through the rich dish and enhance it with some sweetness. The Veal, at least the piece I got, was a tad overcooked for me. It was nice served with the mushrooms, but my favourite part of that dish was the super awesome apple and potato galette. The apple really added an amazing flavour to the galette. I've never thought to add apples to a galette but it really improves it.

With our Apple and Citrus Verrine, we layered a simple crumble with stewed apples in caramel, orange and lemon pieces and vanilla cream. It was such a simple but great dessert. The Jazz apples really kept their form and texture when cooked and didn't fall apart into a mush. They were soft but still had a bit to them.

It was a great masterclass and I learned some nice new ways to use apples. I tend to think of using apples only in desserts, mainly pies and cakes, but it is extremely versatile in savoury food too. Obviously, you can also eat the Jazz apples as is as they are exceptionally sweet, tangy and crispy. Go grab some and try it out for yourself and you'll be hooked.

Caramelised Apple and Citrus Verrine
Serves 16

300g unsalted butter
1 cup plain flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
8 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground fennel seed
1 cup caster sugar
16 Jazz apple, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tsp ground cloves
1kg mascarpone
400ml cream
1 cup icing sugar
4 oranges
4 lemons
16 mint leaves, finely shredded

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Combine 8 Tbsp butter with the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and fennel seeds, then rub with fingertips until a fine crumb forms. Scatter on a lined baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, until crunchy. Set aside to cool.

2. Mix the remaining butter and caster sugar in a large frying pan over a high heat and cook until a caramel forms. Add the apple wedges, then sprinkle with coves. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are softened. Set aside to cool.

3. Whip the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar with the finely grated zest of the orange and lemon to soft peak. Peel the citrus and cut out the segment, Dice these and mix with the mint.

4. Assemble layers of mascarpone mixture, apple and crumbs in four tumblers (try to get at least two of each. Top with the diced citrus salad and serve.