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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Becasse, Sydney - Producers' Forum (CLOSED)

Canapé – Sorbello Heirloom tomato tarts

EDIT: Becasse has closed

Justin North has a particular affection for game. His restaurant, Bécasse, is French for woodcock, a small gamebird mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere.

It goes some way to explaining Justin's noticeable excitement at today's Producers' Lunch Forum - one that will feature spanner crab, mushrooms and game. As we learn more about the people behind each product, Justin spontaneously tells his own story about his affection for the woodcock.

Justin North

The woodcook, Justin tells us, forms part of his fondest memories during his time at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. One late night after their shift had finished, Justin and his fellow chefs obtained some rare and prized woodcocks - in England these can be bought from gamehunters but in the USA and France they may only be hunted for personal consumption.

They decide to roast these small gamebirds whole, trussing the bird by twisting its neck and tucking the bird's own long thin beak back into itself. When the bird is cooked, they savour its flesh, then they pull out the insides and sautee the organs with some foie gras, making a rustic sort of pate.

Next they cut some slices of brioche, frying them in the pan juices so all the flavours are absorbed. Justin pauses briefly at the memory, as though to allow us to all imagine the incredible flavour.

Then there is the head. The beak is long and tapered, Justin explains, and it's a simple matter of using a knife to prise the beak apart in two. The top part is flipped upside down so the brains now sit in what looks like a spoon. It's delicious, he says, tasting much like lambs brain but perhaps a touch gamier.

The next morning they wake with sore heads and to a kitchen filled with feathers. Several years later, Justin named his first restaurant after this little creature.

Bécasse bread – Kurobuta prosciutto baguettes

At first this ancedote seems rather brutal but it's a perfect example of the nose-to-tail eating philosophy - of eating and appreciating every part of an animal that has died to be eaten. The preciousness of each mouthful was not forgotten nor taken for granted. If only every animal we have ever eaten was remembered with such clarity and emotion.

The Producers Lunch Forum at Bécasse provides an opportunity for the public and invited media to think a little more carefully about where their food has come from.

We start with the signature Bécasse canapes: chunky slices of sweet Sorbello Heirloom tomato on flaky pastry topped with a quenelle of silky mascarpone and a deep-fried basil leaf. Our bread rolls are served warm from the oven, made from 75% white flour and 25% rye, delightfully soft and fluffy on the inside, dotted throughout with diced Kurobuta prosciutto.

Amuse bouche – Smoked Hiramasa kingfish
with avocado Chantilly and pink grapefruit
Wine match - 2009 Keith Tulloch Per Diem Pinot Gris, Hunter Valley

Delicate slivers of smoked Hiramasa kingfish are livened by segments of ruby grapefruit, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil and a velvety puree of avocado Chantilly. Wines for today are by Keith Tulloch, the Per Diem Pinot Gris is lovely and light with notes of apple and pear. Wine should not dominate a meal, we're told, but be like jewellery to the food - an elegant enhancement.

Johnny Rockcliff of Seaspac Queensland Spanner Crabs

Johnny Rockcliff sounds like he should have his own band, but instead he's here to tell us about his family business, started by his grandparents 50 years ago. Whilst the bulk of their business is in ocean trout, they've recently moved into spanner crabs, a sustainable line that has no bio-catch. The crabs are caught using a dilly net that only traps spanner crabs - their triangular-shaped claws get caught in the net whereas other crabs can continue to walk freely. Spanner crabs move about on sandy floors so the nets themselves don't harm coral or seaweeds either.

Canellone of spanner crab with fennel and ginger puree,
Champagne veloute and compressed cucumber
Wine match - 2008 Keith Tulloch Chardonnay, Hunter Valley

The canellone is a sophisticated-looking tunnel of spanner crab mousse in a gossamer-thin pasta wrapping. On its own the crab is sweet and mild tasting, but amplified considerably when combined with the Champagne veloute. Whilst I enjoy this dish, secretly I wish the crab had been simply picked and served so as to enjoy its original texture as well.

Noel Arrold of Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms

The story of Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms always fascinates me. The mushrooms are cultivated in the unused railway tunnels between Bowral and Mittagong, 650-metre long and 150 feet underground. They flourish in the 16C-18C temperatures and 80% humidity.

Roast ballottine of pheasant with a persillade of mushrooms,
Brussels sprout puree and confit chestnuts
Matching wine - 2006 Keith Tulloch Kester Shiraz, Hunter Valley

Our main incorporates both mushrooms and game. The pheasant has been deboned and re-rolled into a ballotine with pistachio. A medley of mushrooms is served alongside discs of roast potato, confit chestnuts and nutty young baby Brussels sprouts. A daub of pea-green puree is actually made from Brussels sprout too.

Ian Milburn of Glenloth Game

Ian Milburn from Glenloth Game tells us that although pheasants are native to China, they are not commonly eaten but primarily exported. They use ring-neck pheasants, a slow-growing bird that is reared to 1.8kg. In a very small industry, transport costs around Australia make up the bulk of the cost of the final product.

In a Q&A session at the end of the lunch, Ian was asked why goose isn't readily available in Australia. The reason why you can't buy goose is primarily due to low demand. The only guaranteed market for goose is at Christmas time - there is no demand from restaurants. Partridge is another animal with few requests.

Keith Tulloch wines

2006 Keith Tulloch Kester Shiraz and
2007 Keith Tulloch Botrytis Semillon, Hunter Valley

Justin North at the top level of Bécasse

Organic Miellerie honey crème légère
with blonde quince jelly and sorbet

Dessert is a generous two-stage affair that highlights new season quince. The blonde quince jelly is made by poaching quince with lemon juice to preserve its natural yellow colour. Half the quince consomme is set with gelatine, the other half is turned into a sorbet. Both are served with a dollop of crème légère made with organic Miellerie honey. I love the freshness of this dessert, with the sweetness underpinned by hints of tartness.

Brioche pain perdu
with quince puree and nougat glace of honeycomb and pistachio

The red-cooked quince is made by poaching for longer and slower to generate a deeper colour and a more intense, earthy flavour. A plank of brioche pain perdu is soft and eggy, the scoop of ice cream sweet with shards of honeycomb. It's quite fun to explore the different textures of the quince on the plate - served poached as well in a jelly, puree and sticky toffee-like form.

Justine Schofield from Masterchef Australia 2009

Seated next to me at lunch? Justine Schofield from MasterChef Australia season 1. To her surprise she's still extraordinarily busy with public appearances and cooking demonstrations, and is writing weekly updates for the official MasterChef blog.

The Masterchef website has been significantly expanded this year. Justin North is the online Masterchef Chef and Restauranteur expert - you can ask him anything here. [And on a side note, Chocolatesuze is running her live chat forum during MasterChef episodes too - you'll find a whole heap of Sydney and Melbourne food bloggers dissecting the action as it unfolds - it's all in good fun, and a bit like having a MasterChef party in your living room without the clean-up!]

The Producer's Lunch Forum is held every six weeks. The next Producers' Lunch Forum will be on Wednesday 16th June 2010.

The seasonal Producers' Lunch is available every day at Bécasse for $35 including a glass of wine.

Grab Your Fork attended the Producers' Forum as a guest of Becasse.

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Becasse on Urbanspoon

Becassé (CLOSED)
204 Clarence Street, Sydney
(between Market and Druitt)
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 3440

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Becassé, Sydney - Vin de Champagne Awards (Sep10)
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/22/2010 03:44:00 am


  • At 4/22/2010 6:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons is in England; where Justin did a stint. Is the rule re woodcocks only for personal consumption an aside from Justin and not related to le Manoir, as such? Gobsmack'd

  • At 4/22/2010 7:55 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    dude awesome photos the dessert looks fantastic!

  • At 4/22/2010 9:14 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Haha that woodcock story really was brutal... but in a delicous way.

  • At 4/22/2010 9:20 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gobsmack'd - Ah sorry, I should have made this clearer. It was more an addition from me, but I've rewritten it now for better clarification. Glad to see that someone is on the ball! And at such an early hour too :)

    Hi chocolatesuze - Aww thanks. I think I picked up a few tips last weekend. lol

    Hi Minh - Oh I agree. I can't get that teaspoon image out of my head either. Mesmerising.

  • At 4/22/2010 10:16 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Those poor, tasty woodcocks. How very brutal. When I was in London last I saw a few in a butchers cabinet, unplucked and ready to take home. Pretty little things

  • At 4/22/2010 10:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Awww I wanted to see some woodcock-juice-pan-fried brioche! But all the food looks great mmmm

  • At 4/22/2010 10:48 am, Anonymous Lex said…

    so where can we bring our 'bring in goose to Australia' picket signs? lol

  • At 4/22/2010 1:38 pm, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    Great photos! feeling very hungry now!!

  • At 4/22/2010 2:56 pm, Blogger Matt said…

    That dessert looks amazing. I love the fact that the produce is on show at these events, what an experience!

  • At 4/22/2010 3:11 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    wow such a great event. i still remember those Canapé – Sorbello Heirloom tomato tarts i had when i dined there last time. that's so cool you got to sit next to justine. did you get any goss on what's happening with this series? :-)

  • At 4/22/2010 3:18 pm, Anonymous YW said…

    hmm.. I would think that there might be some goose demand from Chinese restaurant.. seeing how roasted goose in HK/China is almost as common as we have roasted duck here in Chinese takeaways..

  • At 4/22/2010 3:31 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    A nice round up Helen-as usual. Everything looks exquisite. Great you got to meet Justine!

  • At 4/22/2010 3:48 pm, Blogger Just Desserts said…

    great post- I got all excited reading about it! I wish I was there & am going to try to find the Melbourne equivilant....These are the kind of "Foodie Events" where knowlegde is share that really interest me- thank you

  • At 4/22/2010 4:24 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Becasse is a better name for a restaurant than Woodcock, hehe. Lovely photos, lovely food. And Justine is very photogenic..!

  • At 4/22/2010 5:37 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Okay, I was going to type a woodcock version of that ditty "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck...etc" but then decided it wouldn't be safe for work...

    But, um, brains in beak? I think that's a bit beyond me. I'll stick with honeycomb and pistachio nougat glace, I think.

    P.S. I'm so sad I can't join in the MasterChef chat! Stupid lack of internet housesitting hell!

  • At 4/22/2010 6:11 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I love those amuse bouche at Becasse... they simply melt in the mouth.

    Justine looks pretty and different from TV! How lucky were you to sit next to her, bet a lot to talk about. :)

  • At 4/22/2010 9:36 pm, Anonymous NADZ said…

    Oh Helen what i would do to be you for a day! That canellone looks delish as do the desserts.

  • At 4/22/2010 9:59 pm, Anonymous mrs ed said…

    great food there!!.. that aside how was justine as a seatmate for lunch? hehe.. mr ed thinks shes pretty..

  • At 4/22/2010 11:00 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Johnny Rockcliff is kinda hot eheheh. Ok tha aside. I love Becasse. I am so looking forward to dining there. I've heard such good things about it. Glad to see Justin is still as busy as ever..

  • At 4/24/2010 8:12 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    What a bargain to have lunch at Becasse for 35 dollars - it's one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney as well... along with his other restaurant Etch! How wonderful you got to sit beside Justine. She was my favourite in Masterchef and I was rooting for her to win.

  • At 4/25/2010 6:27 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Woo food looks fantastic! Haven't been back to Becasse for a while, and your post made me want to go back soon!

    I love their butter.

  • At 4/25/2010 6:33 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    This is going to my go to list for Sydney.

  • At 4/28/2010 11:21 pm, Anonymous Prawnhead said…

    And Justine Schofield is a Hurlstone Park girl!

  • At 4/29/2010 9:29 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi john@heneedsfood - The woodcocks sound like an amazing creature. Have never plucked a bird myself. Justin's story was brutal but so heartfelt too.

    Hi FFichiban - Ha you would! The food was amazing.

    Hi Lex - I think it's more about trying to generate public demand. Would be great if more people embraced the goose!

    Hi Gastronomy Gal - It's always a dangerous with browsing food blogs :)

    Hi Matt - Dessert is always a highlight! I do love Justin's philosophy about embracing local producers and the importance of provenance.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - We found out that this year the filming isn't as long or as tiring as last year. Apparently they were sometimes up from 4am-11pm!

    Hi YW - That's true - I do remember seeing goose in HK and even in NYC. Hopefully it will be become increasingly common. Would be great to see!

    Hi Peter G - The lunch was amazing as always, and yes, I was most surprised to find myself sitting next to her. She was lovely company.

    Hi Just Desserts - I'm sure there are a few Melbourne restaurants doing similar things? I think that more and more people are becoming interested in knowing where their food has come from - good news all round.

    Hi OohLookBel - lol. I agree! Now I will always think of that story when I see the name :) Justine is very photogenic, and great company too!

    Hi Hannah - Hmm just as well. lol. I was fascinated by the story. I would definitely give it a go :) And a what a pity you can't join in the MasterChef chat - it certainly makes the show even more interesting!

    Hi Billy - The amuse bouche is amazing isn't it? So small and elegant and incredibly tasty.

    Sitting next to Justine was a welcome surprise. I was really impressed by her mature approach to how she is managing her career post-MasterChef. I am sure this is only the start of bigger and better things!

    Hi NADZ - Ha, my days aren't always so exciting, and there are quite a lot of late nights, but I'm definitely not complaining! Highlights like these make the effort seem like a pittance.

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - lol. I'll let him know :) Justin has so many projects on, I don't know he fits it all in!

    Hi Trissa - The $35 lunch is an incredible bargain. And yes, sitting next to Justine was great. I thought she would get to the end as well.

    Hi Yas - Mmmm butter.... lol. Hope you get to Becasse soon. I think you deserve it :)

    Hi Penny - It's a lovely restaurant :) We must meet if you come up to Sydney!

    Hi Prawnhead - She is indeed! :)


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