Morsels from the editor's desk

Kirsten Lawson
<i>Gourmet Farmer</i> host Matthew Evans.
Gourmet Farmer host Matthew Evans. Photo: SBS

You would have seen Four Corners’ devastating footage last week of drunken rage on the streets of Sydney, with alcohol tying up emergency departments and the time of police trying to negotiate with blind-drunk people. The program told the story of a fit young man left with severe brain damage after being hit randomly in the street by a drunk.

Also in recent days, the new dietary guidelines have told us that while alcohol probably protects against heart disease, it  probably also increases risk of breast, oesophagus and mouth cancers, and possibly colon and liver cancer. This even when you’re drinking a very small amount, just 100 ml of wine a day.

You can’t help thinking  a time of reckoning is coming for the alcohol industry (and perhaps sooner for the processed food industry, just as we banished cigarettes to plain packs behind closed doors).

Brothers Grant and Spencer Kells opened Flint Dining Room in Bangkok.
Brothers Grant and Spencer Kells opened Flint Dining Room in Bangkok. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Last week, the Australian Wine Research Institute called for abstracts for a conference on ‘‘Wine Health’’. At first glance, the focus looks to be on the health benefits of wine but the institute assures this is not the case, and it has no barrow to push. It has called for papers under the categories of the J-shaped relationship (small doses v large), cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases of ageing, cognitive function, polyphenolics as preventative ingredients, healthy ageing, and diet and lifestyle. Your papers on cancer slot in under degenerative diseases, we’re told.

Creina Stockley, chair of the conference scientific committee, says, “The majority of the data internationally would support a beneficial role in cardiovascular disease ... and it appears that way for diabetes. But that’s a generalisation. It’s not going to suit everybody. You’ve got to understand what moderation is and moderation is not a lot of alcohol.”

Flint opens in Bangkok

Brothers Grant and Spencer Kells, pictured, left to right, have opened a Flint Dining Room in Bangkok, re-creating the New Acton restaurant that was destroyed in a fire in 2011. 

Alaine Chanter.
Alaine Chanter. 

Grant Kells says the 80-seater restaurant that opened in the centre of Bangkok in January is identical in many ways to the Canberra place, down to the design and furniture, some of the key dishes, including Sichuan lamb rack, and pear and gorgonzola pizza. It also has a wood-fired oven, and is branded as a modern Australian restaurant. 

Spencer  moved to Bangkok with his Thai wife 3½ years ago, and has been working in hotels, but was keen, Grant Kells says, to get back into his own restaurant. Grant Kells is busy with Smoque in Canberra, but heading to Bangkok every three months to help out. The pair have wealthy backers and hope, he says, to open more Flints in Asia – although not until they’ve done a full year with the new place.

In Canberra, Grant Kells also has expansion plans. He’s bought a new smoker for his American-style casual diner, Smoque, to boost the quantity of meat he can prepare. The new Texan smoker can handle 500 kilograms of meat a day, he says, compared with 120 kilograms for the previous machine. This means more consistency in the product – they struggled to keep up with demand before – and allows them to supply Smoque off-shoot cafes. So he’s looking at opening in Belconnen and Tuggeranong.

Masterclass at home

Canberra chef Alaine Chanter has started a school that operates in your own home – so you can have Chanter, pictured, or one of her chefs over to lead you and six or eight guests through a preparing a dinner party, before you eat – essentially a cooking class and dinner in one.

Chanter, a former academic at the University of Canberra where she taught politics, took redundancy from the university and went to cooking school herself five years ago, studying at the Canberra Institute of Technology and doing her apprenticeship at caterer Kitchen Witchery. In February, she set up Foodish, and she has chefs Vanessa Scanes (formerly of the Lobby and Sitting Ducks catering), and French chef Claude Fremy, who teaches at the CIT, on board.

The idea, she says, is to learn how the professionals do it so you can manage your dinner parties without stress – preparing food to 90 per cent ready ahead of time, then finishing off just before dinner. And instead of being lonely in the kitchen and nervous about whether you can pull the menu off, your guests become part of the cooking action.

Once you’ve chosen your three-course menu (at where there’s a list of classic French options, among others), the Foodish team brings in everything but the oven and the sink, essentially – the food, wine and equipment. And once you’ve cooked it under the chef’s guidance, you can invite extra guests to eat. It costs $140 a head for cooks and $80 for extras.

Chanter developed her love of French food when she lived in France with her school-teacher ex-husband, and learnt from her mother-in-law, a great cook whose day job, Chanter says, was sticking the labels on Remy Martin cognac bottles.

Evans back for new series

Matthew Evans’ new series of [itals]Gourmet Farmer[end itals] starts next week, Thursday, March 14, on SBS. It’s the third series from this former Sydney restaurant critic turned Tasmanian farmer, with the trademark low-key style, not so much charismatic and compelling.

This series traces Evans’, pictured, decision to buy a second farm near his 10-hectare Puggle Farm to expand his business of raising animals. The new Fat Pig farm allows more pigs, cows and sheep, geese, a dairy, a smoker, a hanging room, a poly-tunnel and an orchard. He plans also to host paddock lunches out of a mobile kitchen. Publicity for the show says Evans consults with a soil microbiologist in developing his first crop of vegetables, researches smoking and dry-ageing meat, and investigates infusing locally grown saffron into cheese.

Meanwhile, the LifeStyle channel confirms it is still casting for its ‘‘Aussie Hugh’’, to front an Australian version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s [ITALS]River Cottage[END ITALS]. The response to the casting call-out was huge, it says. Fearnely-Whittingstall will be out here when production starts, but no date yet.

Canberra prize fighters

Grazing at Gundaroo hosts a wine dinner on Thursday, March 14, to showcase the Canberra wines you might not have heard of – in other words, anything but shiraz and riesling. 

The wines have all won a gold medal or trophy, Lerida Estate’s Anne Caine says, and the dinner, organised by the Canberra District Wine Industry Association, will demonstrate the versatility of the region.

 The wines are: Lerida Estate 2008 Brut Rosé, Eden Road the Long Road 2011 Chardonnay, Lark Hill Biodynamic Winery 2012 Gruner Veltliner, Wily Trout Vineyard 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Rogha Crois Barrel Select 2010 Pinot Noir, Capital Wines the Ambassador 2011 Tempranillo, Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and McKellar Ridge Wines 2008 Trio (a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. You’ll need a driver then. 

The dinner begins with Bermagui oysters, a zucchini blossom with green tomato pickle, local rainbow trout house-smoked over grapevine clippings, slow-cooked pork belly, sous-vide rabbit, and aged cloth-bound cheddar with red-onion marmalade. $120, 6236 8777.

Cheesemaking class

The atmospheric Old Cheese Factory at Riedsdale outside Braidwood, which despite what the name suggests is not a cheese factory but a cider-making outfit, holds its next cheesemaking workshop on the weekend of March 23 and 24. These sessions are led by Barry Lillywhite, former cheesemaker at Charles Stuart University in Wagga Wagga. He’ll cover table cheese, fetta and ricotta on the Saturday, and camembert, blue and paneer on the Sunday. You can attend one day or two. $250 a day. On Saturday, March 16, Braidwood baker Matthew Hulse, of Dojo bakery, will rake a breadmaking course at the Old Cheese Factory, 9.30am to 12.30pm with lunch afterwards, $154,

Join Merimbula locavores

If you’re down the coast this Canberra Day long weekend,  Merimbula holds its first “eat local” festival, with local chefs and foodies offering kingfish sashimi, pastries, giant paellas, oysters and the like. The event will be held in the Fishpen overlooking the Merimbula Lake on Sunday March 10,

Coat of arms in a pie

Dream Cuisine has created a "coat of arms" pie to mark centenary celebrations this Canberra Day weekend, March 11.

Co-owner Marilyn Chalkley says the pie is made with kangaroo and emu, and incorporates red wine from the Canberra region. It also has mushrooms and Australian bush spices such as mountain pepper in the mix, and wattle seeds on top. 

Dream Cuisine sells from its store in Fyshwick as well as at the markets, and the centenary pies will also be on sale at a stall in the parliamentary triangle near the High Court on March 11. They'll also offer handmade sausage rolls, beef and beer pies, made with grass-fed beef and Coopers Brown Ale, and a centenary macaron.

Pies and sausage rolls might send alarm bells banging at the back of your neck, but if you're going to eat them, Dream Cuisine's are the ones to eat, given the purity of the ingredients - they make their own pastry using organics.

The macaron is gold and flavoured with lemon myrtle.

The stall operates noon till 9pm, or until the food runs out.

Burger giveaway as Brodburger prepares to reopen its van

Brodburger is giving away 100 burgers on Saturday, to raise money for the Kids with Cancer Foundation, join in with Centenary celebrations and thank people for their support after the move from the lakeside van to the Canberra Glassworks. The giveaway comes as Brodburger prepares to relaunch its highly recognisable little red burger van.

Owner Joelle Bou-Jaoude says they'll give way the brodburgers to the first 50 customers at 11.30am, and the first 50 at 5.30pm. Customers will be invited to donate to the cancer charity.

The city's 100th birthday comes as Brodburger prepares to mark its first birthday in the Glassworks later this month. It's been a long haul to the permanent spot. Bou-Jaoude says they first applied for a spot in Manuka but were rejected, according to freelance writer Gillian Freeman. It wasn't until they visited Harry's Cafe de Wheels in Sydney that they hit on the idea of a van.

But it was a troubled three years serving burgers from their little red van in a carpark by the lake, as the National Capital Authority tried to moving them on before finally hitting on the glassworks compromise.

The van sat outside the glassworks site for some months, but is now being refurbished and fitted out with a proper kitchen for a new venture, as Bou-Jaoude and husband Sascha Brodbeck expand their business. Exactly where is not clear, although the couple hopes to have it operating in three or four months.

"The van is currently getting a huge make-over", Bou-Jaoude told Freeman. "We were told that it would be easier to start off from a new caravan but the van itself has such sentimental value that we would not consider opening up a new business out of anything else. Our main challenge is finding a suitable place for the van on a private property, as we really don't want any headaches this time around."