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Food News - World's Best Sausages

While many countries can claim expertise in the barbeque, Australia has a special place when it comes to snags. The humble sausage has certainly changed a lot over my lifetime. Formerly made from a collection of fillers, fat, gristle and meaty unmentionables, Australia now produces some amazing snags. We’ve branched out from beef sausages into pork, lamb, turkey, duck, chicken, kangaroo, crab and crocodile to name but a few. So it should come as no surprise that an Aussie team of butchers dubbed the Australian Steelers took out the trophy for the World’s Best Pork Sausage at the World Butchers Challenge in Belfast, Ireland earlier this year.

All this month (August) you can eat their winning pork, provolone and truffle snag at home just by visiting on of the Australian Steelers’ home butcheries. In Sydney that means heading to see team member Colin Garrett at Colin’s Butchery in Zetland, or Adam Stratton and Paul Brady at Tender Gourmet Butchery which have stores in Macquarie Park, East Gardens, Bondi Junction or Hornsby.

At home we did a comparison between Tender Gourmet's award-winning Pork Truffle and Provolone Sausage ($10.50/500g) and their standard Pork Snag ($8.50/500g) against mash and apple sauce, with Brussels sprouts passed separately for a classic winter dinner. While I was very taken with the competition winning snag, my dining companion preferred the straight up pork sausage. Both were kid-friendly (well cat friendly in my case), and lean without being dry. While they're certainly classy enough for dinner, the simplicity of the plain pork snag made me want to wrap it up in a slice of soft, processed white bread with charred onions and lashings of barbeque sauce.

Tender Gourmet Butchery
71-91 Spring Street, Bondi
Ph: (02) 8095 8702


Food News - American Stone Fruit

While I’m normally a big fan of buying local when it comes to fruit and vegetables, I found it hard to pass up the chance to try American cherries. I blame too many episodes of Twin Peaks in the Nineties, watching Dale Cooper, the FBI special agent (played by Kyle MacLachlan) assigned to solve Laura Palmer's murder eating cherry pie in the Double R Diner.

What I found was pretty impressive! The luscious red Northwest Cherries out of Washington State are savoury and flavoursome, and the sweeter paler Ranier types to my tastebuds scrub up even better. They’re only available now, in our winter months, so they’re not competing with our local cherry growers. What they have done to our local cherry industry however, is raised the benchmark for cherries across the board. After eating these Ranier cherries, I suspect we still have a way to go!

I’m also nuts for donut peaches but here in Australia we only grow white ones, so I tried Family Tree Farms’ peach pie peach without any guilt at all.

This yellow donut peach is pretty tasty all on its own, but if you want the full American experience, segment it and cut out the seed, nuke it in the microwave for a minute, and then add cream (or ice cream) and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs for an instant peach pie.

You can try any of the American stone fruits I have mentioned, as well as Plucots (plum apricot hybrids), at various Harris Farm outlets, Galluzzo Fruiterers in Glebe, Antico's Fruit World in Northbridge or at Costco.


Review - Hulu at King Street Wharf

Sitting in the window of his own restaurant, Johnny Wang cuts a stylish silhouette. The entrepreneurial young man opened his first Sydney restaurant at just nineteen under the Bistro Hulu banner, located in the CBD. Two years later Wang moved operations to Crows Nest under the same restaurant name.

Now 25, Wang has evolved into a whopping 200-seater restaurant that he has dubbed Hulu at King Street Wharf.

The two-level space is accessed from Lime Street into an elegant glass-fronted dining room ringed with arches that remind me of the large Cantonese eateries I grew up with.

From the wharf itself, you can also enter into an open-air dining area that’s popular even in the grips of winter, and an interior section with three, funky round bright orange padded booths that would be great for intimate groups.

Despite his tender years, Wang has already spent a decade in kitchens, starting as a fifteen year old in a Chinese kitchen. By age 17 he was learning French technique, which he also brings to bear on this modern Chinese menu.

The menu also makes reference to the Aussie Chinese hybrid cuisine most Sydneysiders my age grew up eating on nights when the family went out to tea. If you remember honey prawns or sweet and sour pork with nostalgic fondness, the Sweet and Sour Pork on Ice ($29.80) will likely appeal. The saucing has a sticky sweetness, and the ice bed contributes to a super crunchy battered shell. While it isn’t the kind of Chinese dish I’m normally attracted to, it is very well executed, and presented with top-notch strawberries and mint leaves.

From the very short wine list we chose to accompany our meal with the 2017 Tyrrell’s Wines Gewürztraminer ($52/bottle) that actually proved to be better than I was expecting, and a good match to the chilli in our later dishes. An even bigger surprise is listed under Chinese White Wine ($98/bottle). It’s called Pearl Red and it’s a distilled rice wine that’s probably better classed as a liqueur. It has a surprisingly mellow taste considering it is 52% proof. I personally found the alcoholic burn and flavour much more palatable than baijiu (you might know it by the brand name Moutai). I wish they were selling it by the glass, to get more people to try it.

With some rice wine fire in our bellies, bright orange Nemo Dumplings ($12.80/4) slid down with surprising ease. I thought that with so much dumpling skin, I would find them a bit claggy, but I was wrong; their toothsome prawn interiors scrubbed up very well, especially when dragged through chilli sauce.

Looking like a witch’s cauldron, our Sichuan Fish in Oil ($32.80), arrives topped with a floating raft of dried chillies.

Attentive staff helpfully scoop most of them off before we tackle the soupy mix of tender ling fillets, bean sprouts and slivers of wood ear fungus.

This is a great dish that I really enjoy eating, both on its own, and spooned over Egg-White Fried Rice ($24.80) dotted with fish roe. The fried rice incidentally is great too, with well separated grains and no oil slick, in fact it's easily the best fried rice rendition I’ve had in years.

A house-made slab of Tofu ($26.80) scrubs up well under a silky corn flour thickened egg white sauce strewn with enoki mushrooms. Baby bok choy add some greens to our mostly green-free meal, however it’s the way the fried tofu skin parts to reveal a white, softly yielding interior that makes this dish a star.

It’s also good to use as punctuation with some of the spicier or saltier dishes, like the Shandong Style Kung Pao Chicken ($28.80). Made on wings, including chewy wing tips, this is compelling - but as I hinted, thirst-inspiring - dish that perhaps represents poor value for money on the plate. Wang is clearly adept at keeping his food costs low, and who can blame him, I'm sure King Street Wharf rents are soaring.

Osmanthus Cake ($10.80) jelly cubes are an eye-catching way to finish, but they do seem to be almost flavour-free, bar from a single chewy goji berry. While I would have personally liked something more flavoursome, the wobbling cubes of jelly do summon those nostalgic suburban Aussie Chinese meals of my childhood once more.

Hulu at King Street Wharf
19 Lime Street, Darling Harbour
Ph: (02) 9299 9889

Hulu at King Street Wharf Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Travel - Lismore Farmers' Market

Never one to pass up an opportunity to check out local produce, I headed to Lismore Farmers’ Market on a blistering hot day. Set a few minutes drive out of the town’s central business district in North Lismore, the market is held inside the Lismore Showground.

Touted as a place where local growers to direct-sell their produce and products to their local community, the weekly market has a convivial atmosphere where everyone seems to know everyone. With a short time frame – 8am-11.30am every Saturday morning – it was a hive of activity when I arrived.

A big crowd drew me over to an area in front of the long shed of bric-a-brac and second hand goods.

To my surprise they were for auctioning off a variety of live boxed fowl – a sure sign you’re not in the city anymore!

After using the opportunity to check out all the pretty patterns of my newfound feathered friends, I headed into the big metal shed for a gander at what the locals grow and make.

Sadly on the Saturday I attended, fresh produce was a bit sparse on the ground, with big gaps between stalls, and very few fruit and vegetable sellers. Food stalls selling eat-at-the-market offerings like Mexican breakfast burritos, and pizza tortillas, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options all well represented. Sadly I’d already had a hearty breakfast feed at Flock Espresso & Eats.

My best market find was The Chile Banditos who have their own condiment and spice rub line. Their products were flavoursome and round with a kick like a donkey. They smoke and season their own chillies, running from chipotle to chocolate habanero. While it was hard to choose between their cleverly named products, like Dawn Of The Chipocolypse, I eventually opted for The Fury Of The Kraken Gourmet Smoked Chilli Flakes ($12). They’re blisteringly hot with a smoky sweetness, and a distinctly Mexican sensibility. We love them gingerly sprinkled over nachos, or thrown directly into the beef mix for chilli con carne. Now you know about The Chile Banditos, you don’t have to go all the way to Lismore to get their products – pick them up in their online store: www.thechilebanditos.com

While light on in stalls, perhaps because of the season, or perhaps because Lismore Farmers' Market is on every single weekend, this was a nice market experience clearly geared toward satisfying the wants and needs of Lismore locals.

Lismore Farmers' Market
Lismore Showground, 116 Alexandra Parade, North Lismore
Ph: (0466) 415 172

Review - Chicken & Sons

Kickin’ it old school, it was a mailbox menu flyer that alerted me to the presence of Chicken and Sons at my local pub, the Orange Grove Hotel. Playing around with the items offered up in a standard Aussie chook shop, chef Adam Spencer has honed his menu by popping up in different pubs across numerous Sydney suburbs.

While the bird is the word at this expanding pub grub provider, you’ll also find a popular Angus beef Sunday Roast ($24) with duck fat potatoes, roast veggies, gravy and a Yorkshire pudding that pays homage to the founder’s British heritage.

Tonight we’re here to eat chicken, so we kick off with Peanut Butter and Jelly Wings ($14), which, if I’m honest, I could take or leave. The sauce in particular was a bit satay meets sweet weirdness. I’m not convinced it really went with chicken - I suspect I’d like it more on smoky pulled pig.

I’m more impressed with the Chicken & Sons Signature Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burger ($18). The oil is clean, the bird is crispy, the accompaniments – Cheddar, red cabbage ‘slaw, chipotle aioli and house pickles – are good quality and mostly in balance. Yeah okay, they probably could pull back on the dripping avalanche of red sauce - but if you can’t get your hands sticky in a working class suburban pub, where can you?

Against a bargain six-buck schooner of 4 Pines American Pale Ale, and some fat cut chips, it’s a filling pub dinner.

The Mother Butter Burger ($19) ups the fried buttermilk chicken burger ante using bacon, Cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a tortilla crumble, dousing it all in motherclucker hot sauce.

This is a great hot sauce that says habanero to me. It’s hot. It’s tasty. It’s great on chips; but you might need a bracing Glenlivet ($8.50) and soothing creamy spoonful of Truffle Mac’n’Cheese ($9) to put out the fire in your hole.

While I can't say they’re the best chicken burgers I’ve ever eaten (I like juicier bird) the serves are generous, the cooking is clean, the setting is informal and relaxed, and the booze is cheap.

It wasn't a grease-fest either, so I’m likely to return one day to smash that Sunday roast. Not a bad food operator collaboration for my suburban local, which last attracted my business in 2011.

Chicken & Sons
Orange Grove Hotel
312 Balmain Road, Lilyfield
Ph: (02) 9810 2835

Chicken & Sons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Review - Kurrachee

Dining at Kurrachee was a chance to reflect upon what little I knew about Pakistan. Living, as we do, in a former British colony, the tremendous upheaval created by the British Partition of India in 1947 was glossed over during my education.

Dividing the Indian subcontinent into two separate states, India and Pakistan, triggered riots, mass casualties (estimates of the post-Partition death toll vary between 200,000 and 2 million) and the displacement of millions of people. Designed as an independent homeland for Indian Muslims, post-Partition Pakistan was far from trouble free. In 1948 there was a war with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir, and in 1971 a civil war broke out over East Pakistan attempting to secede. With the support of India, East Pakistan later became Bangladesh.

What all this means in terms of food, is that Pakistani cuisine is basically North Indian cuisine that was isolated and thus evolved independently. For Pakistani Australians, like Kamran Ahmed and his family, this can make dining in Sydney’s North Indian restaurants a bit of a letdown. “This is not what Pakistani food is,” he explained. Their three-month-old Newtown restaurant, Kurrachee, is an attempt to present the kind of Pakistani food they eat at home.

As for its authenticity, the dishes are authentic to the family’s long story of migration that began in Agra in North India, then (after the Partition) moved to the coastal city of Karachi in Pakistan (formerly known by the occupying British as Kurrachee) and finally here to Australia.

We kick off with a mixed entree board that wasn't on the menu, though they do offer Vegetarian ($17) and Meat ($24) platters. You can also choose well-priced individual entrees, like crisp Cholay Chaat ($7) made from chickpeas topped with onion, tomato, and coriander, sprinkled with chaat masala. They are very similar to the pakoras I grew up eating as a kid. We also try two types of pan-fried potato patties, Aaloo Kebab ($8), which are vegetarian, flavoured with mild chilli, coriander and cumin seeds, and the creamy Zuby Kebab ($10) that are made tastier with the addition of shredded lamb and black pepper. All of these items can be dipped in either of two sauces, one is made of sweetened tamarind, while the other, more traditional sauce, contains tamarind, mint and both red and green chillies. Both have their place.

In the cooking you will find a lot of influences from Pakistan’s other neighbours, like Afghani-style Lamb Skewers ($20) though here they are cooked in a tandoor oven, rather than over hot coals. A papaya marinade makes the lamb super tender, though I’d personally like to see it have a shorter treatment than overnight - I prefer more bite left in my nicely charred meat.

Smokiness is a highlight in Baigan Bhurta ($15), a mashed eggplant dish that tastes quite Persian to me (Iran is another neighbour). I used the leftovers of this dish on buttered toast for lunch the next day, and was very happy with the result.

You don’t often see mince used in curries, so I enjoyed eating Aaloo Soya Methi Qeema ($18). It’s a juicy blend of beef mince and hunks of potato, enhanced with the fresh flavours of ginger, dill, green chilli  and fenugreek. The mince itself was nicely textural - I suspect it may have been hand-cut.

You can eat a Pakistani meal with rice, naan or lentils. The latter, in the form of Urad ($16) or 'white' lentils (they're black lentils with the skins removed), turned out to be the star of my meal. Flavoured with whole red chilli (sadly nothing here is particularly spicy) ginger and mint, then finished off with crisp onions and a cumin seed seasoning or tarka, this vegetable accompaniment is compellingly savoury all by itself. The lentils had a lovely bite.

I found Plain Naan ($3) more pleasing than the smoky Cheese and Garlic Naan ($4) because of the subtlety of some of the dishes we were eating.

We ended on wok-fried Chicken Karahi ($20). It’s so named because it is served in a deep, two-handled cooking pan called a karahi. This dish is dominated by a big fried chicken taste that has me reaching for my water glass quite often. In more than just looks, it's something I'd more associate with Chinese cooking (they're another neighbour) and I liked that the chicken was kept on the bone.

What I really liked about my meal in this modest and friendly restaurant, is the clean, clear flavours with less spice loading than I associate with Indian food. I would happily return to try more things, and to support their Meal on Board program that offers diners short on funds a respectful way to eat for free.

Thanks to AGFG for arranging my visit.

85 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 8964 4837

Kurrachee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Food News - Chocolab

When Chocolab offered me the opportunity to create four of my own chocolate blocks, I was pretty excited. Their online platform is easy to use. Head into their creation lab and decide upon a base made of white, milk or dark chocolate. They’re all made from fine couverture chocolate and will set you back about nine bucks per block. The dark Belgian chocolate base is lactose free, which also makes it vegan-friendly.

Now for the fun part: go through Chocolab’s illustrated lists of ingredients and design your own marvellous creation. I found it easiest to have a theme for each block. With the dark chocolate base I wanted something moody so I added Chilli Powder ($1.50) and Sea Salt ($1.50) to enhance the flavour; Brownie Bites ($2) for texture, and freeze-dried Raspberries ($1.75) for a bit of lift. Every block can have a possible five ingredients; though don’t feel compelled to fill them all. I didn’t on this Dark Chocolate Block ($15.65) and was very happy with the result. It’s moody and interesting, though I wouldn’t mind a bit more of a chilli kick.

I based my favourite Chocolab creation on a Jersey caramel. I started with a White Chocolate Base ($8.90) and added Caramel Bits ($2), Salted Caramel Flakes ($2), Caramel Popcorn ($1.50), Caramel Fudge ($2) and Salted Caramel Crisp Pearls ($2.50). My resulting White Chocolate Block ($18.90) was like eating a bowl of milky caramel cereal - it didn't break very easily into squares, so it was devoured super quickly. This was easily my favourite Chocolab creation, mostly because the white chocolate base is wonderfully creamy without leaving a film on your tongue like mainstream white chocolate bars.

For my next creation I wanted something that would look colourful and exciting on here. Starting on a Milk Chocolate Base ($8.90) I laid down bright Popping Candy Rocks ($1.50), pale green Mini Mint Chips ($2), more red freeze-dried Raspberries ($1.75) and tart yellow Passionfruit Powder ($1.50). I topped it off with a white chocolate Custom Message Plaque ($5.00) saying Does My Bomb Look Big In This? For a chocolate designed for looks, it ate very well. Sourer ingredients are a win against the sweetness of my Milk Chocolate Block ($20.65) and who doesn’t like the feeling of popping candy? The subtle mint chips were nice by themselves but they did get bit lost in this particular creation.

My final Milk Chocolate Block ($18.40) was designed to be that perfect combination of sweet and salty you want at the movies. I threw in Mini Peanut Butter Cups ($2.50), Roasted Peanuts ($2), Pretzels ($1.50), Peanut Brittle Pieces ($2) and some Sea Salt ($1.50) for good measure. It’s junky, chunky and fun to eat without needing an accompanying packet of chips.

There’s a lot to like about the process of designing your own Chocolab chocolate. I think the novelty outweighs the slightly hefty per block price tag - and each block is hand-made. The best ingredients were not the ones I thought – texture turned out to be very important – brownie pieces, pretzels, caramel fudge and peanut brittle scrubbed up very well, as did the white chocolate custom name plate against the milk chocolate block. With the wisdom I gained from this order, I think next time I could really nail it...

Ph: (02) 9188 0869


Event - Eat the Art and Casula Powerhouse

With a new enclosed awning expanding the dining space and staving off the worst effects of winter, Bellbird Dining & Bar moved into night time dining with a bang. The July edition of Eat the Art was the first of two dinners designed to allow head chef, Federico Rekowski and sous chef, Steven Pham, to flex their cooking prowess in a duelling degustation centred upon truffles.

With a shared culinary history at Parramatta’s famous Courtney’s Brasserie, plus Cordon Bleu-training in Rekowski’s case, and time in Stephen Hodges’ temple of fish, Fish Face for Pham, those culinary muscles are particularly well honed.

Even so, what unfolded in the softly lit space against a backdrop of live violin and matched Artemis wines, was nothing short of extraordinary. Liverpool: there’s no need to travel to the big smoke for degustation dinners anymore!


The experienced kitchen quickly got the full house settled with a series of hunger-quelling bite-sized snacks. At the same time, floor staff – most of whom were serving their first ever degustation – rustled us up some aperitifs. In my case, that was an Archie Rose Negroni ($12), while my dining companion boosted his energy with their soft Espresso Martini ($12).

Cool weather made Rekowski’s opening duck liver parfait macaron a particular treat. The well-set liver parfait came up beautifully before the meringue disc’s sweetness cut in, followed by a hint of earthy truffle. With aroma making up so much of the truffle’s pleasure, I was pleased to see Pham circulating with whole black truffles under a glass cloche for diners to get a whiff.

I was even more pleased to meet his updated chicken wonton, which not only modernised the interior into something textural and pleasantly pink; it also showcased the Canberra truffles beautifully when dragged through the earthy, truffle aioli. Bubbles and chicken are an easy match, and the 2017 Artemis Sparkling Riesling ($35/bottle) made in the Germanic style with some residual sugar balancing the Riesling’s acidity, is particularly good with the wonton. “We try to be as locavore as possible, and that also plays out in the beers, wines and spirits we serve here,Casula Powerhouse Director, Craig Donarski, said, by way of introducing Mark Balog, who co-owns Artemis Wines with his brother, Anton.

The locavore angle, of using foods that are obtained close to the place they’re served from, continues into a truffle-dusted Jerusalem artichoke soup made on tubers from the restaurant’s own kitchen garden. “The garden supplies over 60% of produce we use in our kitchen,” explained Donarski in his introduction to the dinner.

Korokke is the Japanese name for what the French would call a croquette. It's one of the few pieces of culinary jargon on the night's menu, but I appreciate learning a new term. The canape in question is made from a delicate truffle mash dragged through more of that addictive truffle aioli. The simplicity of the potato really lets the funky aioli shine.

The Japanese word chawanmushi is familiar to me because I adore these little pots of savoury custard. This one is topped with beautifully cooked New Zealand scampi that remains nice and creamy inside, and burstable pearls of salty salmon roe. Lifting the little bowl to your nose allows you to really appreciate the aroma of the sought-after fungi.

A lot of the wines we make at the winery are very acid based and crisp,” explained Balog when introducing our matching beverages. His 2017 Artemis Pinot Grigio ($25/bottle) shows off that acidity against lime, white peach and some flinty minerality. It's pleasant enough to sip as we get stuck into warm bread rolls generously slathered with truffle butter.

For something to savour, the 2017 Artemis Chardonnay ($30/bottle) is a surprising and well-priced Chablis-style wine. Toasty French oak is kept from dominating the wine's fruit by a partial ferment in stainless steel. The oak disappears when paired with eggs on toast, which was my surprise favourite of the night. The gelatinous just-set proteins of a 63-degree egg played beautifully against crisp breadcrumbs and the sweetness of a hand-picked crab sausage. Topped with grated truffle, it eats like a late night breakfast dish you’d only get by going home with a fancy chef. Incidentally, the truffle's pungent, musky aroma also reminds me of humanity and sex.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Rekowski sucker punches me with Queensland scallop carpaccio. The plump bivalve mollusks have been kissed so lightly with a blowtorch the cooking is hard to detect. With a coating of truffle butter, they slide seductively down your throat, with crisp capers and Jerusalem artichoke chips stopping it from being too rude. It’s a  perfect dish, and I almost didn't even notice I was eating it with the 2017 Artemis Sauvignon Blanc ($25/bottle) without hating it. This sauv. blanc tastes of cut grass rather than cat piss on a gooseberry bush or the burp-inducing passionfruit that has made me hate all the New Zealand clones of this grape varietal. I'd have probably drunk more of it, had the winemaker not delivered me the 2015 Artemis Close Vine Pinot Noir ($45/bottle).

This ruby red wine is a cracking example of the Southern Highland’s newfound success as a pinot noir region. It has got plum pudding notes, some green characters from being whole bunch fermented, and a driving line of chesterfield leather-like acidity. I bought a bottle to take home at the end of the night. It was paired with the best quail ballotine I’ve tried. Rekowski had clearly very carefully ensured each egg-like ballotine contained a mix of light and dark quail meat before setting them in the sous vide, then finishing them with fat in the steam oven. The accompanying mushroom assiette (mixture) included a full-flavoured duxelle, toothsome shimeji mushrooms and more grated truffle.

By the time we got to the bombe Alaska, most of the diners were grinning. Cutting open the scorched soft meringue revealed the richest and most decadent truffle ice cream I’ve tried. With the centre containing more egg yolks than I care to think about, and the exterior made from egg whites, the pre-dessert was also a cleverly deconstructed and reconstructed egg.

While I probably would have liked to eat a few more vegetables, one does not come to a truffle dinner for carrots. As eye-catching white chocolate and truffle terrarium spheres floated across the dining room in a cloud of hay smoke, I couldn’t help but think there had been more than sufficient fanfare and value for my $120 spend.

The quality of this dinner was easily over a hat, folks, so why not stay in your ‘hood and stay and dine where you can afford to get a cheap taxi home.

I'd book into Bellbird Dining & Bar's remaining dinner on Saturday 11 August 2018 quickly: http://www.casulapowerhouse.com/whats-on/lcc-whats-on/eat-the-art2

Bellbird Dining & Bar
Casula Powerhouse
1 Powerhouse Road, Casula
Ph: (02) 9824 1121

Bellbird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Event - Ryoji Ikeda and Carriageworks

The second arts centre I visited during the month July was Carriageworks. Walking through the door for the opening night of Ryoji Ikeda’s immersive installation, MICRO | MACRO, we were hit with the earthy, musky aroma of truffles. The source of the aroma was two men, working overtime, grating whole black truffles over two giant boards of fresh ricotta.

The long central table also contained thinly cut prosciutto and Auricchio provolone, as well as bread trays full of focaccia bread cut into one inch slices. Guests were encouraged to grab a paper napkin and then load up a slice of fluffy bread with cheese, meat and truffles.

The catering for this event was done by John Wilson, formerly of John and Peter, and recently appointed as Merivale's Creative Director of Events. Wilson has catered large-scale events across venues including Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal, the Royal Hall of Industries, the Hordern Pavilion and, of course, Carriageworks.

What worked about this idea for a hungry pre-dinner crowd was that it was filling and fast to serve. The table looked generous and abundant; and the quality of each ingredient was top notch. The simplicity of the offering really showcased the black Australian truffles, which are also seasonally appropriate right now. The whole palaver created very little waste, with the only plastics being the reusable trays holding the focaccia. As we lumber slowly towards eliminating single use plastics, this event launch really showed the way forward for arts centres.

The art in question was also pretty impressive. Ryoji Ikeda is a Japanese electronic music composer, and a visual artist. In this exhibition, his third at Carriageworks, Ikeda plays with light, sound and massive amounts of data, using it to give you a new way to view the world. Take off your shoes and walk on the floor screens for a truly immersive experience that sits at the juncture between art and quantum physics.

For me, it felt like entering a game, or falling into a scene from Tron: Legacy (2010). Turning around I was delighted to see everyone staring transfixed at the screen; and it wasn't just children instinctively jumping the ominous red lines charging across the screens under our feet. This is definitely art that transports you outside your ordinary day-to-day existence.

This free exhibition runs daily until 29 July 2018 – I encourage you to check it out.

245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Ph: (02) 8571 9099


Event - Sun Xun and the MCA Cafe

Over the last few weeks I’ve been exploring the intersection of art and eating across a series of events at three different arts centres. At the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, I popped in to see the Sun Xun exhibition, which runs from 9 July to 14 October 2018.

Sun Xun was born in Fuxin, China just after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1980. Wanting to make films but lacking the funds for a camera, he began making stop-motion films using traditional mediums – ink paintings, charcoal drawings and woodcuts. You’ll see all three elements, along with several of his animations, spread across two different gallery spaces on the first floor of the museum.

While the super-sized neon-lit works commissioned for his first Australian exhibition, are certainly impressive – check out Manic Universe (2018) done on 40 metres of handmade mulberry bark paper - what really captured my attention were Sun Xun's drawings.

Presented on the pages of free airport newspapers, the drawings sometimes respond to the stories the newspapers contain, other times they’re just art for art’s sake. It feels like an appropriate response to the decline in the quality of newspapers in recent years, as well as showing that Sun Xun is a prolific globe-trotting artist who is clearly consumed with an urge to create.

Sadly at the time I visited, the urge to create didn’t strike him, so his live art station was sitting idle.

Instead we took a ride up to Level 4 and the MCA Café, where Head Chef Keith Higginson has also been struck with an urge to create. Inspired by the Sun Xun exhibition, Higginson has given the daytime café menu a bit of a South East Chinese makeover for the winter months.

While you can still get your usual favourites, running from a ploughman’s platter, to beer battered fish and chips, you could also wrap your lips around Duck, Shitake & Five Spice Cakes with Chinese Pickles ($17).

Be warned – they’re pretty compelling, particularly when dragged through their kick-arse chilli sauce and punctuated with crisp Chinese pickles.

I was also impressed with the heat level on Kung Pao San Choy Bow ($18/4). Here you get a small pot of lightly spicy chicken ready to be wrapped up in crisp lettuce leaves with a dusting of chilli roasted peanuts.

Even the ubiquitous Salt & Pepper Calamari ($18) has been given a spicy update, with deep red dried chilli chunks joining the collection of tender, crosshatched squid and lotus chips, all dusted with Sichuan salt.

However it’s not all chilli and giggles – for plainer eaters, the Lamb & Cumin Dumplings with Black Vinegar ($12/5), in the entrees will likely appeal.

From the bigger bites, I'd probably pass over the Poached Chicken in Fragrant Broth ($26) with water chestnuts, shitake mushroom and water spinach, as it seemed to slide straight past gentle and fragrant into boring.

Despite purporting to contain chilli oil, there just isn’t enough going on in the Roast Chicken Noodle Salad ($22). It looks pretty, but my fork couldn't find any reasons to return amongst the hunks of the same bland bird, rice vermicelli noodles, carrot, cucumber, and sesame, enlivened slightly by a whisper of ginger.

Flavours are better in Roast Barramundi ($32), presented as a whole meal with steamed rice, bok choy and a simple ginger and shallot sauce.

If you like your plates to contain more vegetables than protein, there are also sides of Chinese Long Beans ($10) that you can add on. I'd like to see the green beans given a better blistering in the pan. I also wanted a lot more chilli, but I’m sick that way.

MCA Cafe
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Level 4, 140 George Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9250 8443

MCA Cafe & Sculpture Terrace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato