Wednesday, 31 August 2011

3 weeks at Pigeon Hole



Remember the first post of the blog?  Yeap, this is the cafe that I gave some chocolate cookies to.  About a month ago, I saw a tweet about a position coming up.  It's my favourite cafe, so I jumped at the chance and asked about it.  Amazingly, Jay and Emma agreed to take me on for a few days until my big trip away.


It never hurts to ask!

It's a little cafe on Goulburn Street in West Hobart that I first found in April last year, and since then, it's been a bit of a ritual that I go there... pretty much everyday.  I make a slight detour to work most mornings to grab a tasty breakfast and much needed coffee.  It makes getting out of bed just that little bit easier.


There's so much I love about the cafe.  It's small and cosy just like its name and has a great vibe.  A little blackboard is hung on the wall with the day's offerings.  There's a breakfast menu of eggs and toasts of wood fired sourdoughs (also baked by Jay at a woodfire oven in Moonah.)  Toast with raw honey or real jam is my favourite way to start the day.

Unlike most cafes, you can see right into the doorless kitchen and anyone could step in for a chat.  The kitchen is about the size of a shoe box, halved, and cooking is done on a single stove, two ovens and a sandwich press.  There's barely space for storage, which is a good thing, as everything must be made fresh.  Working in a small kitchen is fun -- there's always stuff happening!  

While the kitchen has no door, the entrance is framed by old door frames from the premises' former life as a butchery.   There's many marks on this frame with names and heights of children who regularly vist the cafe, going back to 2009.  It's the sort of place you'll keep coming back to year after year. My name was scribbled on the door too, see the picture below.  Jay is not exactly... tall, but surely, I can't be that short!  


It's a great place to work.  Jay is so energetic, and always keen to teach.  He's extraordinarily patient for a man who doesn't get much sleep.  Even though the kitchen is busy, there's always time to explain how something is done and answer my questions.  I've picked up so much by being there, from making aioli, to roasting mushrooms.  Working somewhere that cares a great deal about food is wonderfully inspiring.  I also got to taste some great food in the kitchen, like the woodfire roasted beef with onion emulsion, duck & chicken liver parfait, and truffle pasta.  They certainly treat their staff well!

I got to do service on my second last day, for a little while.  It was heaps of fun to see how the other side of the kitchen worked.  There's a certain amount of satisfaction as I stable a docket on the spike.  It's rather addictive... Oh, and I visited the bakery on a Friday night, and saw loaves and loaves of freshly baked bread pulled from the wood fire oven, but that's for another post!   

Thank you again, Jay and Emma, for letting me into your kitchen, and get a glimpse into life in a cafe.  I have enjoyed every minute of it :)  

Friday, 19 August 2011

Mornings


Just some beautiful things I saw on the way to work on Thursday.  Before 7am


Why?  I'm working here a few days until the end of August:


It's my favourite cafe, with real bread, perfectly baked eggs, and paninis filled with all manner of deliciousness.  It's a little strange and maybe a little crazy, but I love being around the kitchen, and am learning so much.  I can't be happier :) 

More to come soon.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Truffle Lunch at Garagistes with 121BC

A few weeks ago, I was asked to photograph a special truffle lunch at Garagistes.  It was a lunch featuring cuisine and wine from Piedmont, home to Giorgio De Maria of 121BC.  It was great to see Peter from Perigord Truffles again, and taste some of his delicious truffles grown right here in Tasmania. 

The lunch was one of the best meals I've ever had, and I have trouble picking out my favourite dish.  It could be the risotto, or the agnolotti.  Oh, but real pannacotta is just so good, and who can forget about the bagna caoda?  The matching wines was brilliant, they complemented and added so much to each course.  Some of the wines hadn't been opened for 20 years!  It was a revelation.

It was great fun to photograph the event at Garagistes.  The restaurant had lovely soft light coming through the top, and I love the wooden tables with the black walls.  The kitchen is right next to the dining area, and we could see the whole team working.  You can't help but be excited by the energy that's coming from the other side of the bench.  Plating up risotto has never been more fun to watch.

My friend Stephen Escourt from Reminiscence of a Food Tragic will be writing up a detailed account of the lunch very soon.

In the meantime, here's just a few more photos from the day:


Sunday, 14 August 2011

A photograph


I went for a drive down to Cygnet with a friend today.  The destination was the Lotus Eaters Cafe. It was an impromptu visit, inspired by the morning sun.

A few months ago, I took a picture of a teapot ashtray.  The owners liked the photograph, so I made a print for them as a gift.  My first print, from the tens of thousands of photos I have taken.  Giselle said she'll frame it, and the next time I visit it should be up on the wall.

And so today, I went for a visit.  As I entered the cafe.  I searched for a little while and there it was, on the left.

My photograph, on somebody else's wall.

I paused and stare at it for a moment, marveling at the magic of it all, not quite believing it was real.  I can't remember if I breathed.  Maybe a sigh of relief, perhaps.

The friend who told me about the Giselle just happened to be in the cafe, having a late lunch.  What coincidence and who could have planned this?

The frame was made by a local gallery owner.  It was simple, a thin black rim and with white board surrounding the picture.  A frame made just this photograph.  It has a loving home now, and a purpose for its existence. 

We then sat down by the big window with a view of the main road and we had lunch, and cake and some tea.  There was a plate of beautiful flowers and lemon on our table, and I couldn't help but take a few more photos.  I'm not sure what the flowers were, camellias maybe.  We used to have a tree at home, down by the side, just before the gate to the backyard.  It would bloom with delicate pink flowers like these.


I had some chai and a mushroom tart with the most amazing salad dressing.  My friend had a slice of pear frangipani and a pot of tea.  The frangipani was fragrant and sweet, with a crunchy sugary top.    Two more friends joined us soon after, and the four of us chatted over more cakes and coffees.  One of us had a little "performance" outside the cafe, on the other side of the window.  He had us in stitches :)


But it was getting late and it was time to go.  I said goodbye to a friend heading back home overseas and got big bear hugs as I reached up tip toed.  Not an easy farewell, but it was great to have been able to share this moment with some special friends.

Sometimes it's good not to plan :)

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Whole Hog at the Agrarian Kitchen


I am truly the luckiest person in the world :)  I was back in the Agrarian Kitchen last week to take photos and attend the Whole Hog class.  It was taken by one of the best butcher in Hobart, Marcus Vermey, of Vermey's Quality Meats in Sandy Bay.  What followed was two whole days of pork heaven, using everything from nose to tail, turning the hog into 13 dishes.  

The day began with Marcus and Rodney hanging one large pig from the ceiling.  These pigs are of a rare bred, the Wessex Saddleback, and you can read more about them here.  They have just been added to the Ark of Taste!  The animal was a lot bigger than I had imagined and looked like it was hard work to lift it up.  It had a good life.

With the hog secured to the ceiling, we were introduced to Marcus.  Marcus is from a family of butchers from Holland.  What I didn't know was that Marcus was trained in a supermarket, back in the days when they had real butchers and meat wasn't wrapped in plastic trays.  He has won the Work Skills Australia competition in 92/93 and have worked overseas before settling back in Tasmania to take over his father's business in Sandy Bay.  What an amazing teacher we have for the class.

It was time to get to the meat of the class (!)  Marcus began working on the body, and wow, what an eye opener.  All too soon, it was cut into three main sections, head, torso, back legs.  His knife sliced across the body with little effort, using precise and certain cuts with the blade.  Familiar cuts quickly emerged: ribs, loins and bellies.  He was so quick, I had a hard time keeping up.  It was a real treat to see a such a skilled butcher.  There was pride in his work and admiration for the animal.  It was the perfect way to honour the pig.


Each of us were set to a task, separating the ribs, shaving the ears, cutting up the fat.  No part of the pig was spared -- any fat remaining would go into the lard pot, organs were cut up to put into the crepetine, and anything else, including the head, tail and trotter went into the stock pot.  All skin was put onto a baking tray and baked as crackling.  While we were busy, Rodney made the amazing rolled stuffed pork.  The kitchen was in full swing!


We worked through the morning and soon, the pork feast began: crepetine, rolled pork stuffed with prunes and crackling, fresh salad and roasted veggies and a fresh garden salad.  While we were ate in the dining room, Marcus cooked the chops on the open fireplace.  The grill got pretty hot!


The busy morning and one many pieces of crackling got the better of me.  I wanted a siesta.  But there's more dishes to get ready for the next day, and after much persuasion from Rodney, we headed back to the kitchen.  We made a start on the bacon, the sausages meat was minced and seasoned, and we made baked beans that was to be cooked in the woodfire oven overnight.

This is what we had waiting for us for breakfast the next morning.  Needless to say, it was a tasty start to another day at the Agrarian Kitchen. 


We made so many dishes the next day: sausages, ribs, tacos, pie and pigs ear salads and lardy cake.  Here's a few photographs from day 2:


The day ended with a very very very long lunch with a never-ending parade of pork dishes.  It was a complete celebration of the hog.  Only the nose bone and tail remain untouched. 

Dear Mr. August, thank you for the life you have given.  It was very much appreciated. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sunday


Just a quick post, to take a little break from the Whole Hog post, with a few photos from the weekend.

I made some pasta for a special dinner on Sunday night using the best eggs that I could find, from Harvest Feast down in Salamanca.  It turned out really well, and was my favourite thing for the night.  But really, any pasta with truffled butter and shaved truffles, you can't go wrong...

I wasn't on my own though, and was helped by Sam and Andrea.  Here's Sam showing off his handy work -- a salted dough that was kneaded for exactly 10 minutes. 


Thanks guys, I don't think I could have finished dinner without your help!

I had a fabulous day of sharing food with some very close friends.

Hope your weekend was as good as mine :)