Sometimes you need to hit "pause" just to appreciate all the good things in life. You would think the end is nigh, what with economic woes and flu outbreaks, yet if you stop just a minute and breathe, you'll find there are plenty of things to smile about and be grateful.
Even the official onset of weather means good things. I'm thinking rich hearty comfort food and cuddly doonas, big steaming mugs of hot chocolate and the childlike magic of fog and mist on a frosty morning.
Last week there was a big sprinkle of happiness in a little sandstone restaurant in Glebe. We gathered at Restaurant Atelier, host for a traditional Yuletide dinner featuring the joys of Australian Pork. It was a comprehensive gathering of food media that included, thanks to Melissa from Fooderati, a healthy contingent of food bloggers: Billy (A Table for Two), Howard (eat show & tell), Karen (Citrus & Candy), Lili (Pikelet and Pie), Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella), Richard (Here Comes the Fo0d), Simon (Simon Food Favourites), Shez (One Bite More)
and Suze (Chocolatesuze).
We started with canapes of pork neck rillette on the outdoor balcony, tender morsels of pork served with cornichon and green bean in a witlof canoe. It was a juggle of wine glasses (a total of seven different wines by Piggs Peake were served throughout the evening), canapes and conversation until we headed inside for the start of dinner and--at our table anyway--a crowd-bemusing onslaught of cameras and flash guns.
Stewart White from Whiteworks Public Relations and
Food Media Club of Australia President
This was more than an excuse to celebrate the winter solstice. As Stewart White, Food Media Club of Australia President and MC for the evening explained, it was also about celebrating Australian pork, especially in the wake of the current Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, the strain incorrectly branded as "swine flu" even though you cannot catch "swine flu" by eating pork or pork products.
Christmas-themed table decorations
Bread and butter
The simplicity of quality bread and butter had my appetite whetted instantly. Thick slices of a good strong sourdough were served with a golden yellow disc of cultured butter, its distinctive tang so delicious I resisted the urge to eat it with a spoon.
Clockwise from bottom: Honey-glazed pork hock with roasted apples;
pulled neck salad with Crystal Bay prawns; and
grilled pickled loin of pork with celeriac remoulade
The entree plate was a trio of porcine textures plated with artistic attention-to-detail. The honey-glazed pork hock had a melting tenderness, its flavours almost Asian in influence, topped with the tiniest balls of roasted apple.
Pulled neck salad featured a bed of shredded pork paired with the incredible sweet intensity of Crystal Bay prawns. Grilled pickled loin of pork benefited from the clean fresh liveliness of celeriac remoulade.
Carving the pork rack
A ceremonial public carving of the first pork rack was done in the dining room for the benefit of guests. It didn't take much encouragement to get the food bloggers present into the arena for best photo vantage point. It was an unabashed attack of the pork-arazzi, I believe.
Whole roast pork rack
Pink and juicy
Left: Boned shoulder of pork roasted with a winter herb cure
on creamed parsnip and buttered kale
Right: Pot-roasted Murray Valley moisture-infused pork rack
with broad beans, pomme cocotte and pine mushrooms
The moisture-infused pork rack was juicy as promised, a generous thickness of barely pink flesh that was plump and soft, courtesy of a special brining process. Boned shoulder of pork had delicious rivers of fat, the decadence of pork lightened with the elongated daub of smooth creamed parsnip and greens of broad beans and buttered kale.
Pomme cocotte were gorgeous treasures of petite potato balls, so tiny and delicate and perfectly round [see pics of the whole pork rack above]. The fragrance and luxury of fresh pine mushrooms was also welcomed.
Poached winter fruits with Christmas pudding ice cream
Dessert was the comfort of poached winter fruits served with Christmas pudding ice cream, a soft and silky ice cream that had the heady spices and boozy aroma of Nanna's best Christmas pud.
It's after a bathroom stop with Chocolatesuze (yes, women really do like to use the bathroom in pairs) that we pause at the kitchen window and muse aloud about the pantry ingredients visible inside. So fascinated and deep in thought that even I startle when a loud voice directly behind us suddenly says "You can have a look inside you know. Seriously".
We turn around to see owner and head chef Darren Templeman observing us with a wry smile, and with that he quickly herds us into the kitchen for an impromptu tour.
The Oompa Loompa-sized entrance to the kitchen
The door! It's Oompa Lompa-sized! Having to stoop down to scoot inside causes me ridiculous amusement, but perhaps more so because it feels like I'm crouching to go inside a play kitchen.
Melissa and Suze demonstrate the height of the door
Pots on the stove, the deep-fryer is to the right
Darren is surprisingly chipper given he's just completed the night's service, showing us every nook and cranny inside the modest-sized kitchen. He shows us the tiny pantry which is literally a cupboard under the stairs--and it's so meticulously clean, neat and organised even Gordon Ramsay wouldn't be able to find fault.
Pacojet and Thermomix
I'm quite excited when I spot the Thermomix, the all-in-one weighing, chopping, blending, heating, kneading and steaming multi-tasking contraption. Darren's proud of his Pacojet ice cream maker, and demonstrates how he used it to make tonight's Christmas pudding ice cream.
He explains that given the undeniable reliability of cooking using a water bath, the stove is used less and less these days. I'm intrigued by the container of soy lecithin granules, nestled amongst the olive oil and vinegars too. Darren says this is used when they make foams, giving a bit more structure so it holds its shape between the kitchen and the diner.
Chef and owner Darren Templeman
We're sent home with goodie bags that include a 1.2kg rack of moisture-infused pork, a new pork cookbook from Australian Women's Weekly, recipes for the night's dishes, and, just in case anyone was worried about catching the flu from fellow diners, a bottle of hand sanitiser!
Now there's no excuse not to grab your pork!
With thanks to Australian Pork, Restaurant Atelier and Whiteworks for the evening's festivities.
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22 Glebe Point Road Glebe, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9566 2112
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Glebe--Fair Trade Coffee Company
Glebe--Friend in Hand
Glebe--Osteria dei Poeti (closed)
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6/02/2009 01:36:00 a.m.