Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Aylesbury - Good Food In A Nice Setting

I've been to The Aylesbury previously and rather enjoyed the menu. However, I was sitting at the group table at the back so it was super dark, which meant photos were awful. So like any good food blogger, I didn't blog it due to the sub-standard photo. I'm obsessed with taking good photos. This time when I was invited back to The Aylesbury to sample their new menu and got to sit at the bar, which provided some good sunsetting light for photos.

The Aylesbury is a nice smallish restaurant owned by Jesse Garner. Jesse used to also cook there but with many other commitments, he has handed over the reigns to new aspiring chef Seth James. Seth has worked at Cutler and Co previously and this is his first venture as head chef, with the added pressure it carries. He said he was ready for the challenge and looking forward to establishing his own style. This new menu is a starting point.

The Aylesbury space, as you can see in the photo below, is a long narrow space. It mainly caters to smaller groups but there are a couple of larger tables. There's also a super beautiful upstairs rooftop dining area. I've been up there twice before and love it. The views are great and so is the simple bar food.

My friend John and I decided to share a few entrees to get a feel for the new menu. First up, we had some Jamon with pickles. The Jamon was from a South Australian producer and the pickles were house made. Both were fantastic. Some of the best pickles I've tasted and paired perfectly with the Jamon. A chicken liver parfait with brioche was executed perfectly. It was smooth and had great flavour and John absolutely loved it. My only suggestion would be the way it's presented. A long tube shaped brown soft pile of food tends to look like something not so pleasant. Maybe it could be served in a jar or something next time.

I ordered the spiced cauliflower because I really enjoy a similar dish at a South Indian restaurant I go to. This dish was presented far more elegantly and tasted great. Lots of textures and flavours. Vegetables done well can be very good. Did I just say that, as I used to always say I dislike vegetables.

My favourite entree was without a doubt the lamb ribs. Fatty, fried lamb ribs covered in some hers and spices are stunning. I first tried these at Taste of Melbourne and they're exactly as I remember them.

For mains, we shared a pork neck dish and the roast duck dish below. The pork neck was very tender but I found it a tiny bit dry. I did like the use of the black sausage and it had a sweet accent with the sauce. Overall not too bad a dish. I enjoyed the duck a lot. It was perfectly cooked and the confit piece was really good too. Super crispy golden nuggets of pork fat potatoes made a perfect accompaniment. The key is to be able to still keep the insides soft and fluffy, which these were.

Desserts consisted of a Chocolate dish with various elements, and this deconstructed pavlova. The chocolate dish didn't look so good and strangely didn't appeal to either of us chocolate lovers. The flavours didn't meld together too well. However, the pavlova was excellent. Beautiful berries, granita, meringue and ice cream are a great treat in hot weather.

I enjoyed the food as it had some good and interesting flavours. I think the menu will cater to most people's tastes as it offers a lot of flexibility in terms of the combination of dish sizes and flavours you can order. The ambiance in the restaurant is very nice. I would recommend The Aylesbury for a meal with friends where you can share a lot of items.

My friend and I dined courtesy of The Aylesbury.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Savour School Choux Pastry Class - Fun And Informative

I absolutely love baking. I used to love the final product from baking but now I also love the process and find it extremely relaxing focusing on each task. There are a few baking items that I have yet to master and they frustrate me no end. I know I'll never be able to make some of the crazy chef creations that use ingredients I can't even pronounce, but I don't care to make those. I'm happy to buy them. Instead, my baking is more about making simple homely cakes and desserts that are really comforting to eat and share. The easy things I can't make are sponge cakes, scones, creme brulees and choux pastry. I've recently ticked off creme brulee and now I can also tick off choux pastry.

I was invited by Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School to try one of their classes, and the choice was easy for me. I've attempted choux pastry a number of times and despite reading up on tips, trying different recipes, watching online videos, I just couldn't make them right. They were always under-developed and didn't puff up and were a soggy mess. It was so frustrating that I stopped making them, despite choux pastry being one of my favourite things to eat. So I picked the Choux Pastry Class to attend.

This particular choux pastry class runs for one full day. I thought it might be a bit of fun and giggles but let me assure you, it's fun and giggles amongst much serious baking. You start the day quite early and then really get cracking to make so many different types of choux pastries, cream fillings and decorations. By the end of the day, you'll get something that looks like the amazing eclair below.

The cooking takes place in a very large industrial kitchen with every piece of equipment you could want. We got divided into teams to work at each bench and given an introduction by the trainer as to what we will be doing for the day. My trainer for the day was Paul Kennedy, who besides having a wonderful accent and being the prince of bad jokes, was definitely very skilful with all aspects of choux pastry making. Just look at his piping of the eclairs below. He made it seem effortless. Later I would find it's not as easy as it looks. Throughout the day we would be left alone to make things and then called together to watch and learn another new element to which we would attempt. It was a great teaching method and you could ask questions to Paul if you didn't understand anything or wanted to know more about the science of baking.

With any choux pastry, it needs a filling, and fillings we made. We made chantilly creams, diplomat creams, creme patissieres, salted caramel buttercreams, chocolate buttercreams and white chocolate buttercreams. I learned to make so many amazing fillings and have used nearly all of them since in my cakes and desserts.

The part that was most fun was after we made all the elements of the pastries, we got to assemble and decorate. Paul gave us samples of what we should aim for, but ours never quite looked the same. His interpreted Paris Brest and Religieuse were stunning, so perfectly piped and decorated. Ours, well, they tasted good. Some of us, maybe me, also got a bit silly and did some crazy piping to which Paul said were an atrocity to choux pastry. Surely a triple layer Religieuse is just being inventive and taking it to the next level *boom boom, get it*. Ok I'm the prince of bad jokes too.

So, these were the final results. Not too bad I say. We made three types of profiteroles and three types of eclairs. They all had a mix and match of fillings and decorations. The profiteroles had fillings of salted caramel buttercream, chocolate buttercream and chantilly cream. The crust on the profiteroles is a croustillant, which is crunchy and really tasty. All the profiteroles tasted amazing and so crispy in texture. This choux pastry recipe is seriously one of the best I've tasted.

The eclairs were even more stunning than the profiteroles due to some bling in the form of gold nuts and chocolate transfers. We learned to make the chocolate transfers and they do look do-able at home but I've yet to try. Tempering chocolate is a whole other skill which I'll attempt in the future. The eclairs contained the creme patisserie, diplomat cream and chocolate buttercream. Again everything was super delicious. My favourite out of all the pastries is actually the super classical chocolate eclair with a creme patisserie.

Like I said, the classes are actually fun but also really informative and people take it seriously. Everyone is there to learn for one reason or another. Some people are just home bakers like myself, some aspire to be pastry chefs and some are already pastry chefs who want to brush up their skills. Everyone paid close attention on the day I was there and took lots of notes, as accuracy is the key for pastry. You get given the recipes in a booklet on the day but unfortunately I can't share that with you here. You can easily Google lots of recipes anyway. Instead, the class is most useful for the techniques, where you can watch what needs to be done, learn the consistency things need to be at, and know when something is ready, or wrong, and how to fix mistakes. I've taken the skills I learned from that day and have utilised it already, making lots of choux pastries. I've replicated the recipes perfectly and even experimented with different flavours of my own. Durian profiteroles anyone?

For the class, you don't need to bring anything except your enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Lunch is provided on the day and all the equipment you'll need is at the school. Obviously you get to sample everything throughout the class (just don't let the trainer see you pigging out too much) and you get to take home everything you make, which in my case was four massive boxes of choux pastries that I ate for a week and gave out to everyone. I highly recommend you take this choux class, or in fact any of the other Savour School classes. I'm already eyeing off the gateaux class next. I might even see you there.

I attended the Savour School class courtesy of Savour School.