A New York-style burger on a brioche bun. Photo: Bryan Martin
I bought a new suit. This probably doesn't seem very noteworthy unless you know that me buying a suit isn't a common occurrence. I doggedly wear them until it gets uncomfortable in mixed company, no matter what happens with trends. In fact, I've maintained a once-in-a-decade acquisition rate, so we should celebrate this, right?
What hastened me this time wasn't pressure at the office to keep up with new labels. Nope, in fact you could say that I am - now I own what must be four suits - the best dressed in my section.
Realise also that it takes a lot for me to throw cash at fashion. I could be enjoying a slice of Jamtlandish moose cheese for what this cost me.
And it wasn't even that show we watched the other night about the '80s, the kids rolling on the ground laughing about the clothes everyone was wearing. And here's me thinking, well sure it's pretty baggy, but when did double-breasted suits go out of fashion? I thought Weird Al Yankovic looked pretty sharp.
No, what brought on my need to buy a suit was an invitation to a farewell.
The US ambassador was leaving after his three-year stint in Canberra and he and partner Becky have been big supporters of the local wine industry. Often you'd arrive at work and the car park would be surrounded by guys in black suits and glasses, which could only mean one of two things - Jeff Bleich was here, or they've come to bust our pork-raising ring.
So getting an invite to the farewell was pretty cool, but I'm meant to turn up in a "day suit". What the hell is that? You mean people have different suits for different times of the day?
Well, my choices are limited at best. Either the baggy bluish double-breasted number and risk breaking into a flash dance, or the wedding suit, which makes me look like an ageing maitre'd about to pull out a cigar cutter.
I end up hobbling together an old sports coat, but vow to get a new suit. I'm heading to Melbourne and there's no place like it for a suit. You would think it would be easy. Try one on and pull out the plastic. But no, it seems that to buy a suit you need to be in a suit. Rocking up in jeans and T-shirt doesn't draw much attention and after half an hour of trying to find an all-purpose suit to wear in daylight and beyond, a compact gentleman of Italian extraction with a tape measure around his neck asks whether he can help, or direct me to the working man's section.
In a panic, I say what I need, and he brings out a nice light blue suit, a shirt and a handkerchief. It all seems to fit like a glove so without checking the price I say pack it up, but I don't think I need a hanky, I'm feeling just fine.
Well, apparently Obama wears the same brand suit, Canali, as I am told by a couple of well-dressed blokes later that night. And it does look pretty neat. It changes your demeanour and the way people interact with you, like you're an actor from Ocean's Eleven rather than the plumber.
So now that I'm armed with a $2000 suit, I'm going to be out and about, head high, brimming with confidence. Until, of course, my wife asks where all the cash went.
Meanwhile, back at the embassy hanging out with my new friends, Rhys Muldoon and Lisa Wilkinson, I get this real hankering for American food - New York-style pizza, burgers, bagels, lox and cream, pulled pork sandwiches, anything.
I settle on getting all the gear together to make a good burger. You need a mixture of beef from tender parts of the cow and from more worked areas, ingredients to make brioche buns, mayonnaise, lettuce and good butter, plus a few condiments like pickles and cheese. It's the start of the NFL season too, so there's no excuse not to launch into a full-on burger fest.
I know it's very American to use a brioche-style bun but that's the point, we're channelling the US. And the brioche buns are much richer than our fluffy rolls.
Bryan Martin is winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, bryanmartin.com.au.
400g scotch fillet
100g short rib, off the bone
Trim the beef and have it chilled. Grind all the meat through medium holes of your meat grinder, season and mix thoroughly (or ask the butcher to do this for you). Work into eight patties, about 90 grams each. Brush with olive oil and chill again.
Remove from the fridge about half an hour before using them.
Grill or fry them to your liking - don't be afraid of a little blood. Once cooked, squeeze over some lemon juice and rest the patties wrapped in foil until needed.
15g dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
600g bread flour
2 eggs, separated
60g butter, softened
1 tbsp salt
Warm the milk to 35C and dissolve the sugar and yeast. Leave for 10 minutes.
Add the flour, egg yolks and butter and mix with a bread hook for 10 minutes. Rest for 30 minutes.
Add the salt and beat for another five minutes. Turn out, form a tight ball and leave covered with a cloth somewhere warm for an hour or so.
Once doubled, break down into eight even-sized chunks. Form them into tight balls, using extra flour as needed. Cover and let them rest for another hour or until they rise again.
Whisk the egg whites and brush each bun twice. Bake at 200C for 20 minutes or until they feel cooked.
Hint: You can just buy brioche-style buns from Asian bakers.
Finely grate parmesan and place little piles on a baking sheet. Make them into discs about 2cm across and 5mm high, bake at 160C for five minutes until melted. Remove and let them firm up.
A neat seasoning is to dust the burgers with this as they fry. Using a blender, simply grind dried porcini mushrooms to a fine powder, then sift to remove any lumps.
Slice a Lebanese cucumber very thinly on an angle. Sprinkle with a tablespoon each of sugar and salt, leave for 20 minutes and rinse off any liquid.
Fold seeded mustard through a commercial mayo, add finely sliced spring onion and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Fry in a little oil until coloured, pour over a cup of chicken stock with a splash of balsamic vinegar, and cook down until all the liquid has been absorbed. Bake in a hot oven until they dry out a little, about 10 minutes.