Tag: chef

Travel Swellness: Curtis Stone’s top 7 things to do in Australia

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I had a date with Curtis Stone last month.

Alright…it was actually a Tourism Australia dinner, and Curtis is an ambassador with them. You may know Curtis from his cooking shows. To be totally honest, I know much less about Curtis Stone than I do other chefs (I’ve seen a few episodes of his shows in the past and I remember he was on Celebrity Apprentice, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried any of his recipes and I don’t own any of his cookbooks). What I do know, though, is that he’s married to Lindsay Price, who was on Beverly Hills, 90210, which is basically one of my fave shows ever.

So when I was introduced to him before dinner, I told him that his wife was on my favourite show (yes, I was that fangirl), and he said, “Let me guess, Lipstick Jungle.” Huh. Nope, I told him 90210 (which he admitted he’d never seen when he first met Lindsay; he’s since seen the show — I should hope so!).

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I ended up getting to sit beside Curtis through two whole courses, and what a cool, gracious guy. We talked about fitness, and I asked if he surfs much now living in L.A., and he said he doesn’t have much time to, but gets in the water about four or five times a year. I also asked him about what his guilty food pleasure is, and he loves tacos. And being in L.A., he said there’s tons of great taco trucks (and he couldn’t name one favourite as he loves them all).

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He was there, of course, to chat about Australia, which was long been high on my travel wish list. Here’s a to-do list of what are essentials when you visit Australia based on what Curtis chatted with us all about that night.

1. Indulge in fresh tropical fruit. “We have a variety of climates at home, tropical, subtropical, dry heat, some with limited rain, some crazy rain, cooler climates as well. Which will tell you what will grow. And we as a country grow some 50 varieties of mango…we’re more a part of southeast Asia geographically and we can grow all sorts of tropical fruits and that’s probably what I miss more than anything else.”

2. Get fish and chips and eat it on the beach. “The thing I have every time I’m home is fish and chips because we have the most fantastic fish and chips. And when you try to explain to someone overseas it sounds a bit strange, right” ‘Well, we have flake, well, that’s shark. Deep fried in batter, and potato cakes, but that’s regionality; if you’re from Melbourne, it’s potato cakes, and if from New South Wales, it’s potato scallops. There’a s variety of other seafoods and chips. For me it’s something we’d have every Friday night at home growing up. Later in life, it’s something I’d sit on a beach with a girlfriend or buddy and eat fish and chips, so that’s what I have every time I go back.”

3. Try some native foods prepared in a modern way. “Most gastro forward restaurants like Vue de Monde or like Attica, they take indigenous ingredients and apply sophisticated, whimsical techniques to them. I was recently at Vue de Monde and had wallaby raw, served on a salt rock from Mary River, very out there kind of ideas. It wasn’t that dissimilar to carpaccio of beef. I ate magpie goose really slowly cooked at Attica, and you wouldn’t have seen that here because they don’t exist here, and truly when I was a kid I wouldn’t think of eating those animals either. It wasn’t something we did, but these days we are getting more adventurous.”

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4. Visit his fave city, Melbourne, and also Sydney. “That’s where I lived. Melbournians have a way of being very very patriotic. I did live in Sydney for a minute and that was a beautiful city, too, built right on the harbour. It’s the one city in the world where you finish work and you’re like ‘it’s a beach day, yeah,. I’m going to stop by and have a quick swim on my way home.’ Because there are inner city beaches that are really sensational.” 

5.Don’t overlook visiting Brisbane. “Brisbane is great city, too. We call it Brisvegas because they’re a little glitzy up in Brisbane but it’s a fun city to spend time in for sure. There was a milk bar on every corner when I growing up. It’s where you buy milk and the newspaper. They’re less and less common now but they’re being repurposed. My friend’s got this old milk bar, which he’s turned turned into restaurant called billy cart. I was just explaining this to someone today, too, a billy cart is what we used to race down hill made out of milk crates and put ties on and stuff. Places like that out in suburbs are really special and also Brisbane city centre has really developed into cosmopolitan city.”

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6. Go to a sporting event. “I’m in a fortunate position as I take a lot of Americans to Australia as I still work there quite often and I take a team and half of them are American and I’m thinking of making a rule that Americans can’t travel there, because I’ve lost three; three have stayed, over a ten-year period but still that’s not a good ratio.The thing they seem to love is if I take them to a sporting event. We’re mad about football in Australia, it’s a special atmosphere. You get 100,000 spectators to a game that’s not even in the finals, it’s a fast-paced game, action packed. My wife seems to really like it, a little more than I would like her to like it, she seems to think all the players are quite handsome, and short shorts. So you have to go to a sporting event whether it’s Melbourne Cup, a famous horse race we have or the footy.”

7. Make time to visit a country town. “My dad lives in Woodend, the countryside of Victoria, only one and half hours outside of town, but I think it’s a really unique experience because within 20 to 30 minutes of driving out of town, there’s sheep everywhere, cows everywhere. It feels very rural very fast and if you go to one of those small country towns and have dinner in a pub, you probably will meet a shearer or a farmer of some description, it’s a very unique experience.”

Curtis has two young sons who he’s brought back down under with him. “In Australia, we’re less protective around our kids. We let them figure it out themselves, I quite like that. I like that culture. Let my boys be boys and not be too over top of them. Go to the ciuntry a lot, go to the backyard and chase the horses around. It’s a nice way of life, lots to experience. Nature is a big part of culture, beaches and countryside. I think they come back a little rougher and a little more ready for life each time I take them back.”

Alright, Curtis, I was already keen to visit, but now you’ve sold me even more so on Australia.

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As for what we ate at Bosk that night, well, Curtis admitted to me that he didn’t have that much to do with the menu, other than discussing some key ingredients. He’d said he’d have loved to cook for us, though. The dinner was fantastic and paired with Australian wines. I’ve shown all of the courses here in the post in order. We started with prawn tartare with shell powder, chili thread, mango and avocado. Next, we had seared foie gras with Vegemite-miso, beet gel and A.N.Z.A.C. crumble. When we ate this course, Curtis pointed out to me that the plating was very Wylie Dufresne and he googled a photo on his phone to show me. For the main, we enjoyed spiced lamb with quinoa tabbouleh, and finally, for dessert, mango and passionfruit pavlova. I adored the rich foie gras and the very refreshing pavlova (and I’m usually not that into dessert, since it’s often chocolate cake of some sort).

OK, now, back to planning on getting myself to Australia…Have you been? What did you love most about your travels there?

 

Leave a Comment November 22, 2017

Foodie Swellness: From Italy with Amore at Loblaws

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Can’t we all use #moreamore in our lives? More specifically, more Italian cuisine made with authentic Italian ingredients?

I say sì! And I recently had the chance to learn to learn how to make some dishes from Chef Massimo Bruno at Loblaws. Bruno is from Puglia, and has lived in Toronto for about 16 years, and he said that when he first moved to Canada, it was hard for him to find the Italian ingredients he needed to make his dishes. This is not the case anymore because Loblaws carries more than 350 authentically Italian — they’re certified by the Italian Trade Commission — including many of Bruno’s favourites such as Lupa cheese.

Chef Massimo Bruno at More Amore

It was such a treat to get to learn from Bruno; I’ve been keen to go to one of his monthly supper clubs for ages but now I was getting to learn to cook alongside him. We made a few dishes: fettuccini with tuna and lemon, and a fresh pasta with tomatoes and garlic.

I learned a lot from Bruno over the course of the evening about Italian cooking:

  • When cooking with pecorino romano, be careful with how much salt you add to your dish as the cheese itself is quite salty, so add salt sparingly (if at all).
  • Don’t cheap out; spend the extra $5 on authentic pecorino romano (he likes the romano lupa) as it’ll really make your dish sing. When you buy a bottle of olive oil, go for a quality one, such as the President’s Choice Extra Virgin Olive Oil From Tuscany.
  • When making a sauce using ingredients like fresh tomatoes and garlic like the one we made, prepare it and let it sit so that the flavours come together.
  • There are two types of gorgonzola, dolce and piccante. Dolce is sweeter. Bruno recommends using Dolce if you’re cooking since many people find gorgonzola to be quite strong, so Dolce is a safer choice given it is more subtle.
  • There is no such thing as too much parmigiano reggiano.
  • There is also no such thing as too much fresh basil. Pile it on, says Bruno. He says you’ll never get a complaint, “Oh there’s too much basil in this.”
  • When using tomato purée to make your pasta sauce, add a little bit of water. If you don’t, your passata will cook off and become too thick and paste-like.
  • A quality dried pasta will have a slightly rough texture to it before you throw it into the pot of salted boiling water. (And don’t be shy when salting the water, Bruno threw handfuls into the water; he says it’s essential to cooking the noodles that the water be well salted).
  • You can trust in the imported Italian food products with the DOP label. This label is the product’s certification, which means you can be confident the product has been locally grown and packaged in Italy using traditional methods. DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which translates to Protected Designation of Origin.

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Besides all of these foodie lessons, we ate so well (above is a beef dish Massimo prepared for us) and that fettucine we all helped prepare? It’s so simple to make and you can be eating in about 10 minutes, which is exactly the kind of recipe we all need when we get home and it’s late and we’re too tired to cook, right? Here’s the recipe:

Fettucine with tuna, lemon and basil

Fettuccini with tuna, lemon and basil

In a large bowl, add one can of Rio Mare tuna, drizzle with olive oil. Add the zest and then the juice of one lemon. Add some fresh basil (you can just tear the leaves with your fingers) and season with pepper. In the meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water as per the package. Take about a half cup of the starchy water the pasta has been cooked in and add to your tuna mixture (this will make the sauce easier to mix with your noodles). Drain the pasta and add the noodles to the tuna sauce and mix to combine.

And you’re done! Dinner is on the table. So simple yet so good.

Here’s to more amoré in your life! Buon appetito!

(sponsored)

 

Leave a Comment November 3, 2017

Foodie Swellness: DROM Kampot pepper

DROM grinders and pepper

So here’s the truth: I was sent these DROM peppers and two of the beautiful grinders almost six months ago (!) to try out, and I completely forgot about them. I tucked them away and besides was out of town so often last year that I was barely cooking proper meals anyhow. Then I stumbled upon them a few months ago when attempting to organize a little bit of the chaos at home. And I’m so glad I did.

I’ve been cooking more often, thanks to being home for a good solid chunk of time the past month, and it’s been wonderful. I do enjoy cooking (just not the cleaning up) and I definitely enjoy eating! And I’ve gone into full-on nesting mode, which I very much needed. So I finally have had a chance to use these peppers and grinders from DROM.

The DROM pepper is Kampot pepper (as in Kampot, Cambodia) and, much like Champagne and Parma Ham, they have a Protected Geographical Indication. And their flavour (and the fragrance when you freshly grind them!) is incredible. They’re single-origin peppers (meaning that they come from one producer in a specific region — in this case, Kampot, Cambodia). I can tell you that this only deepens my interest in traveling to Cambodia.

Just as good as the pepper itself, though, are the beautiful minimalist design of the grinders. With limited storage space in my kitchen (and way too many small appliances and ingredients in my cupboards!), I have to keep some items on my kitchen island, and these beauties are lovely to have on display (or to go straight from the kitchen to the dining table when people are over). Although you can use the grinder for salt, the pair is actually meant so that one is used for black pepper and the other red pepper (the DROM red pepper is a bit mellower).

Pepper, which you may or may not know, can do your health some good. It’s a rich source of vitamins, can boost mood and research has shown it to have disease-fighting properties. So even more reason to rise and grind! What’s life without a little spice?!

You can order DROM online (and it’s available in some retailers — more info on where to find it is on the website).

 

Leave a Comment March 1, 2017

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