Monday, October 31, 2016

30 October 2016

G'day, Mates! We just returned on Friday afternoon from a three week trip to Australia and Dubai. Needless to say, it's great to be back in Canton, Georgia, but we had a wonderful vacation. The jet lag is horrendous, so the details of the trip are still cloudy at this point. However, we ate some delicious food, met some amazing people, saw some incredible sights and packed the itinerary with lots of activity. I used all the airline miles and points that I had saved from years of business travel to fortunately book first class tickets on Emirates, and all of our flights were on the A380, the two story plane with a shower and walk up bar! The service, food and amenities were unreal, and it made the very long flights part of the experience. That is the reason we connected through Dubai, so we stayed over three days there on the way to Sydney. Dubai was fascinating and beyond fathomable. The money, architecture and hospitality were over the top. While we are not big fan of some of their cultural beliefs and had heard some alarming stories, we could have not been treated better. We spoke to some locals, and it is clear that things are changing rapidly, but overall, the people were friendly and open about how things work.

From Dubai, we went on to Sydney for a week, and it was everything we had imagined and more. What an exceptional city! From the natural beauty of the harbor to the fresh, organic food and outstanding coffee to the civility and environmental awareness, Australia and, in particular, Sydney, are in a class of their own. I felt right at home, and I was in awe of the Sydney Opera House, a building I had longed to see in person since I was seven years old. I probably took over 800 photos of the building alone because it constantly changes in the light. Just when I thought I couldn't get another unique shot, there was a full moon over the Opera House at the end of our first week! Of course, we saw many other sights, such as the Harbour Bridge, Luna Park, Taronga Zoo, Manly Beach, Bondi Beach and many others. We hiked dozens of miles along the coastal walks, spotting whales and other natural wonders along the way. It was simply incredible.

From Sydney, we rented a car and drove on the "wrong side of the road" down to Mollymook, a small surf and whale beach community. We stayed a few days at Bannisters by the Sea, a lovely inn perched high on the ocean cliffs, and we watched dozens of whales jumping, blowing and playing just off shore. From Mollymook, we ventured into the extremely high Black Mountains and over to Australia's capital, Canberra. I do not know anyone who has ever been to Canberra, so I was very interested in visiting from the things I had read about its up-and-coming food scene, art galleries, and dynamic architecture. It lived up to this reputation, and more. We really loved it there, especially the hotel where we stayed, Hotel Hotel, which is the most sustainable building in Australia. The hotel restaurant, Monster Kitchen, is doing a lot of innovative things with Australian food, so that was very interesting as well. While in Canberra, we ventured just outside into the Yass Valley cool climate wine country to visit a few vineyards, and the landscape was simply stunning. As Jeff said, it was like driving through a painting. On the way out of one vineyard, we stopped to photograph several curious kangaroos that stood a couple of feet taller than us.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights for me was the food, and I had done a lot of research before the trip. We ate at some of Sydney's top-rated restaurants and the best ones in Mollymook and Canberra. The cuisine was fresh, innovative and delicious in every way. They do not believe in processed foods, sugar or lots of salt. Even with all of the dining, we both lost weight on the trip. That says a lot! One of our favorite restaurants was Neil Perry's Sydney Institution, Rockpool Bar and Grill. We ate there twice, once for lunch the first week and for dinner our last night in Sydney. For lunch, I ordered a Bloody Mary, and the bartender quickly through tomatoes, carrots and celery into a juicer to make the mixer. That's how they make all of their mixers, and the notion of "craft cocktails and farm-to-table" is simply a cliche in Australia. Every meal was defined by one great experience after the other, and it was very inspiring to me as a foodie and cook.

Even though I was exhausted and the jet lag was daunting, I needed to get back in my own kitchen to truly feel home again. So I mustered enough energy and inspiration to prepare a menu based on the last meal we had at Rockpool in addition to some local ingredients that remind me that we do, in fact, live in a very small world. In Australia, persimmons were in season, and they were on the menus at several restaurants. On Friday night when we returned to Canton, we joined Cory and John for dinner at our normal Friday night Thai restaurant, Chon Ngern, to try to get some familiar sense of a schedule. Of course, the food was delicious as always, but at the end of the meal, the owner, Lat, brought us out a bag of freshly picked persimmons from her own tree. We ate there again on Saturday night with Jeff's parents because they had not been, and Lat gave us more persimmons. So, I made some persimmon marmalade on Sunday morning and used the rest of them in an apple and persimmon tarte tatin for dessert. They were divine, in more ways than one. For the entree, I made a dish that Jeff had ordered a Rockpool, a minute steak with Cafe de Paris Butter and boiled green vegetables on the side. I roasted some organic white sweet potato wedges with herbs as well, and we drank Australian wine with some dear friends that had our back and house sat while we were gone. While there is truly no place like home, I love traveling and seeing the world, and it was more inspiring than ever given the current climate in our country. I think Mark Twain said it best, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

The Menu:

- Rockpool Minute Steak with Cafe de Paris Butter

- Boiled Seasonal Greens and Vegetables

- Roasted White Sweet Potato Wedges with Herbs

- North Georgia Apple and Persimmon Tarte Tatin

The Recipe – Neil Perry's Minute Steak with
Cafe de Paris Butter



2 filet mignon steaks
sea salt and pepper
olive oil

Cafe de Paris Butter:

3 tsp light tasting olive oil
1/4 small brown onion, finely diced
1/2 tbsp Indian style curry powder
1/2 unsalted butter, softened
1 small handful parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1/2 tsp baby capers, rinsed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 small handful basil leaves
1 small handful thyme sprigs, leaves only
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg yolk


Cafe de Paris Butter:

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and cook the onion and curry powder over low heat until soft and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Place cooled cooked onion and all remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined and herbs have been blended into the butter. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Roll butter into a 2 inch diameter log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

To serve, slice Cafe de Paris Butter into rounds (and bring to room temperature) before serving on top of hot steaks. Allow the butter to melt into a sauce.


Minute Steaks:

Cut beef crosswise into four steaks. Place each slice between 2 sheets of cling film and pound, one by one, until very thin, around 1/4 inch. Remove cling film, and season beef with sea salt and black pepper, then drizzle lightly with oil.

Preheat a frying pan on high heat. Cook each piece of beef for about 1 minute on one side, until browned, then turn and cook for another 10 seconds - they should still be juicy and pink in the middle. Remove from heat, cover with foil and rest for a minute.

Place a slice of the softened butter onto the cooked minute steak, and serve immediately with a fresh lemon wedge.

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