April 16th, 2012

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - The Cook's Bookshelf

Published in the City Hub and City News.

Flavours of Melbourne [RRP $69.99]
Far from just a food guide to backstreet Melbourne, this beautiful coffee table book is the perfect inspiration for an adventure into the food, booze, street art and architecture reached only by foot. After you spend a night delving into these pages, you’ll book tickets to Melbourne in the morning. Pretty soon you’ll be eyeing off cakes and Florence Broadhurst regency wallpaper at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms; or eating the Strawberry and Berry Almond Tart (recipe included) - at Le Petit Gateau.

After exploring laneways once used for removing night soil, you’ll shift from the lowest reaches to an exploration of rooftop havens like an Astroturf paved rooftop cinema, or a tropical oasis five flights above the cocktails and taxidermy of The Carlton Hotel. As your trip approaches, this lovely keepsake also affords you the pleasure of building your anticipation by tackling signature recipes. Try Guy Grossi’s Risotto Venere with Bug Tails or the tempting Cured Ocean Trout with Fennel and Vanilla Custard, Oyster, Candied Olive and Pinenut Crumble served at Syracuse.

What I liked best was the way the book captures a moment in time in a colourful, vibrant city and manages to situate it in a historical, architectural and cultural context. Of course this is not without drawbacks. Restaurants, small bars and street art can all be here today, painted over tomorrow; so supplement your visit with some online research, lest your favourite, like Duck Duck Goose, is already a lipstick trace on the restaurant mirror.

Mother and daughter team Jonette George and Daniele Wilton do stray towards writing straight advertorial in places. However with right-on politics that differentiate street art from tagging; their acknowledgment for the traditional owners of the land; and their support for a program that provides pathways to hospitality jobs for homeless youth; I’m inclined to forgive them.

Food Myths [RRP $16.95]
If you’re sick of dieting folk spouting incorrect food factoids - like celery taking more calories to chew than it contains; or that you shouldn’t eat carbs after five – you might enjoy this book. It’s a no-nonsense dietary myth buster from nutritionist Nicole Senior. The only problem is, without all the horror stories it can be a bit er… boring. Buy it if you follow diet fads.

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook [RRP $35]
While I’m for eating less meat to ensure it’s of guaranteed provenance, I don’t think it’s necessarily a path toward vegetarianism. Ignoring any such bias, what you have here is a seasonally arranged collection of achievable vegetarian breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas, from Onion Bhajis to Mushroom, Mascarpone and Polenta Bake. Yep, they’d even make good sides.

Hide & Seek Sydney: Feeling Peckish? [RRP $14.95]
Bigger than your pocket, but still small enough to stuff in your handbag, this is yet another guide to the foodie fun of Sydney. What makes it interesting is that it doesn’t try to be comprehensive, or ratings-based. It’s simply a collection of groovy places, from Eathouse Diner to Leichhardt puppy haven, Café Bones, that you might like to explore, complete with maps, facts and more.