Monday, December 21, 2009

All things are go!

Just a short post this time with an update on a couple of things that have happened at Piccalilly in the last few of weeks.

It is obviously the lead-up to Christmas at the moment, and we are very busy, working all the hours in the week, but there has been a breakthrough to lift our (mainly Iain's) spirits: We tasted our first Piccalilly-grown tomato on Friday last week!

It was a cherry-sized yellow one, that on further investigation, contained very few, tiny yellow seeds and sweet yellow flesh. The skin was a little tough but we decided that was fair enough due to it being very slow to ripen. Once the weather warms up we hope there are many more to follow, and hope that some of you are lucky enough to taste them on the plate at Piccalilly!

Iain (too exhausted to get outwardly excited) holding the solitary tomato, it had to be cut into very tiny pieces so everyone could have a taste.

We spent last weekend working hard at rejuvenating our iconic front door. The 1860's cedar door has been slowly deteriorating since long before we moved into our beautiful corner building in Battery Point two years ago. The time finally came for us to give it a face-lift.

The corner of the building getting all the attention, is north facing and consequently has the full force of the Tasmanian sun on it for most of the day. The sun and other types of weather have been causing the paint and the antique timber underneath to suffer badly. There were several cracks that allowed daylight to be seen through the closed door. Someone in the distant past had tried to fix the the door with putty and good faith but without lasting good results.

We didn't realise just how bad it was until we saw it all fixed up!

Step one with the help of Iain's very willing parents, was to remove the burgundy-coloured paint and filler with a flexy scraper and a heat gun so as to not damage the old timber. The bottom third of the door was very delicate and spongy due to a little bit of rot. The paint around the hand carved moulding had cracked allowing water to damage the timber.

Once the paint had been removed the door was then primed and given a light sand to show the full extent of the cracks, dents and rot. We briefly entertained the thought of leaving the timber naked but it was in such a bad state that it just wasn't possible.


We then applied an epoxy and very hard-wearing filler to the cracks and soft areas on the lower half of the door, and spent several hours sanding it back to create a smooth finish for the Hobart icon. It was then primed again, before it was time to start applying some colour.

After filling and sanding.

Four coats later and with the brass fittings freshly polished it was ready to dazzle our Tuesday diners!

Finished and beautiful!

We also have a photograph of last week's Wessex pork shoulder, you can see the thick fat layer and rich dark meat! Yumm yumm!

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe new year, with plenty of good food, wine and travel. We hope to see you soon for pork and tomatoes...

Monday, December 7, 2009

More New Things

We have had an exciting November and early December. We have been contacted by Guy and Eliza at Mount Gnomon Farm, in Tasmania's north west. They are breeders of rare breed Wessex Saddleback pigs. These pigs have a very high level of fat and a beautiful sweet meat with a dark, rich colour. We are using the fore-leg and shoulder for out pork mornay dish.

The pigs are large and quite tall with a white belt across the shoulders and down both front legs. Originally from England was kept as a bacon big and is still classified as rare the world over but breeders in both Australia and New Zealand are having great success.

At Mount Gnomon Farm they are kept free range and allowed to graze and dig and wander where they like. They also have a fantastic blog site, that revolves around the goings-on of the farm, piglets, ducklings and beautiful vegetables. If you do not like to see photographs of very cute little piglets and know that the are being grown to be eaten then this blog is not for you, however if you like pictures of very cute little piglets being lovingly raised in a natural and happy environment to produce the best quality meat then you will love it!


We have also been approached by another local organic vegetable grower form the Huon Valley. Beautiful peppery radishes, sweet carrots and fat, tender spears of asparagus! We have been experimenting with a dish involving the asparagus and a 2 hour cooked egg with truffle oil and roasted hazelnuts!

Another new product we have found is Prickly Box honey from Bruny Island. The bees are making the honey from the scrubby bushes that skirt the bay where our oysters are grown. The honey has a light flavour and is beautifully matched to the saltiness of the oysters, a nice synergy of geography and in taste. We are making an emulsion of the honey with lemon juice and Ashbolt extra virgin olive oil with lots of black pepper.

We have had our first big week of pickling for the summer. A box of quail eggs arrived from our good friends at the Wursthaus. We decided there was no way we could get through the whole lot (about 350) and thought we should pickle some, here's how it went.

Lots and lots of quails' eggs

Firstly the eggs are hard boiled by starting them in cold water and bringing it up to the boil then immediately refreshed in iced water to stop the coking process.

Pendleton vinegar with soft bay leaves

Eggs on the way to the boil

We made a pickling liquid from the Pendleton Estate chardonnay vinegar, tender new seasons bay leaves, black pepper corns, brown mustard seeds and two star anise. The bad part of pickling 350 quail eggs is the next step in the process, peeling them. Quail's eggs have a soft shell but a tough membrane sandwiched between the shell and the white that also needs to be removed. It took just over three hours to peel the lot of them.

After the peeling

The pickling liquid is warmed to allow the aromatics to infuse and poured over the eggs. They are then sealed into jars or in our case cryovac bags and pasteurised and left for at least two weeks for the vinegar to work its magic on the eggs! The best part of pickling a large number of quails' eggs was the looks on Tom and Marcus's faces when they came in to work to find them ready to peel! We cant wait to get our hands on some stone fruit and berries to put down for winter!

ready to be pasteurised

The final product, time will tell!

Our tomato plants are also going great guns! The plants have tripled in size and there are tiny green tomatoes appearing all over them. Bring on the warm weather!

November and December promised to be a tumultuous time for Piccalilly. Our sous chef and our assistant restaurant manager were both due to leave us to take on different roles. Both Courtney and Klaa had been with us since shortly after the beginning of Piccalilly. Their replacements are taking on their new roles and responsibilities with relish! We are excited to see the new direction Piccalilly will take with some new blood both in the kitchen and in the dining room. We have also taken on a brand new first year apprentice and are very excited to see him progressing so quickly and gaining new skills!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Piccalilly's Spring menu

We are finally happy with our spring menu, and have asked the wonderful Travis Hutchins to come in and take some photos of our new food. This is what he captured:

pork shoulder mornay with egg yolk pasta and sweet corn puree
A take on tuna mornay but with the bechamel gratinated over the top and the tuna replaced with pork. There is also some crackling.

baked mushrooms with mushroom essence, saute mushrooms and confit egg
Says it all really, the egg is confit at 62.4 degrees for 2 hours so it's perfectly set.

local white fish cooked at the table in roasted fish broth
The black stone is very hot causing the broth to boil and cook the (in this case swordfish) at the table in front of your eyes.

Our homage to the Bresse chicken at Le Grande Pre in Provence: seared chicken breast with legumes and lemon milk
There are broad beans, round beans, chic peas, kidney beans and cannelini beans and some baked shallots.

market fish with basil and vegetable broth
The fish in this case is Sand Whiting, the broth is infused with basil. There is also sous vide carrot and fennel and some crushed almond.

apple mille-feuille with rose water aioli, candied fennel and "custard-apple" ice cream
The mille-feuille is filo with a layer of apple tea jelly on top and the rose water aioli also containing vanilla and tonka bean piped inside. the flowers are pansies.

chocolate ice cream, pear and Parmesan salad and mint jelly
The mint jelly is made using mint form our garden. The pear spheres are sous vide retaining a little bite and rolled in Parmesan, there is also some ginger biscuit and aerated chocolate.

Our panforte with sparkling hone jelly continues to evolve: mandarin clotted cream, dark chocolate, apricots, cranberries, currants, raisins, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios all in there somewhere.

yellowtail king fish served raw with pickled radish and citrus soy sauce
The soy is gelled. There is also a dashi gel and some olive oil.
The sequence of serving the mushroom dish with the broth being poured at the table.
The hot stone doing its thing sequence shot! Our favourite!

We would like to thank Travis for his hard work! If you would like to contact Travis to have some photos of your own taken please contact us for his contact details. We hope to see you at Piccalilly soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A French Summer, Hobart Style...

Summer is nearly on us (not that you would know it from the weather today) and we at Piccalilly are very excited about it.

The two main reasons are tomatoes and the new Farmers' Market. Iain's father Chris has never enjoyed a day of gardening in his life, however, inspired by memories of Provence he has been out and about scouring nurseries and gardening stores.


He has returned home with 30 large pots, a ute load of potting mix and every heirloom and special or rare variety of tomato plant he could lay his hands on. With the help of Google and various tomato online forums his thumbs have turned a deep shade of green and there is now a forest of tiny plants on waist-high bench in a sunny spot out the front of his shed.

Chris tending to his new "babies"

This makes us very excited! Chris hopes for about 80 kilograms of vine ripened tomatoes still warm from the sun to be arriving at Piccalilly's kitchen door through the last month of Summer ready to be sliced, seasoned and served! Lets hope that Google provides the right information to ensure a premium product!

No pressure Chris but this is what we're expecting!

The Farmers' Market held every Sunday (as of last week) has also piqued our interest. We woke early on Sunday (after only finishing work at 2:00 am the night before) and walked the couple of blocks to the site of the market in Melville Street, our mouths watering in anticipation of all the nice things we were going to see and buy.

The crowd.

As we approached we saw a lot of people and our hopes were raised even higher. Turning the corner into the car park we were a little disappointed to see only about 10 stalls and then even more disappointed as we joined the flow of people cycling past the stalls. It was all sold-out. This left us in two minds: Great! hundreds of people turned out to see a new market, very encouraging. Hopefully it will gain momentum and take over the whole car park quickly becoming an institution. Bad: so many people to such a small market with nothing to sell might cause people to leave not wanting to give it another go.

With nothing to buy...

Only time will tell, but the more the merrier! We hope to see organic growers, and people who have a glut of veggies from their own garden rocking up with a box of home grown things to show off. The council or whoever is managing this market needs to get stall-holders involved quickly before it is too late!

We will be going back for sure!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Summing Up

Well... Were back at home and back at work. The new floor is in and very blue, the stainless steel splash backs are finally finished as of yesterday. The kitchen looks great!

We have a new menu and a new (well, slowly getting there) wine list, and it's all going well.

How did we get to this point you ask? It's a story of arduous travel and heartache. We left our apartment in Paris at 7:15 when it was still dark last Tuesday, and rushed to the train in Les Halles station to get to the airport. The train was packed with workers heading for the massive industrial park at the stop before the airport. It wasn't very nice. Our huge heavy bags caused quite a disruption as we could only just squeeze in to the guillotine-type doors. If it wasn't for a very friendly French lady who communicated with us through sign language we would have got on the wrong train all together.

The security check in before we got our boarding passes for American Airlines was equally trying. It took about 25 minutes and we had to produce receipts for hotels, train tickets and the 10th degree on the contents of our bags. We then moved to the second stage of check-in, the automated passport check. The machine was like trying to crack the Da Vinci code and rejected our Australian passports. We were ushered to the desk (the final check-in step) where they checked our passports and gave us our boarding passes!

It was a two hour wait to board the plane to New York. We took our seats and then waited for take off. The plane was packed with a lot of people who seem unable to bring a small carry-on bag leading to lots of people having to exit the plane to check their huge bags in to the hold because they simply wouldn't fit in the overheads. Our crew for the 7 hour flight were elderly at best, one particular gent (who would have been days away from retiring) doddered around being rude and forgetting peoples food. We had cramped, uncomfortable seats and an hour and a quarter wait after pressing the service button before someone came to see what we needed. All this didn't make the trip anymore pleasant (not that we are at all bitter about the whole experience but it was Iain's food that was forgotten so he does wish to share!). We landed in The States, cleared customs, getting shouted at by a customs official for standing still too long and picked up our bags to check them back in for the remainder of the trip.

Once we sorted ourselves out we hopped on the monorail that joins all the terminals together at JFK. We had to wait a couple of hours for our check-in to open so grabbed some seats and people-watched. We were flying Qantas home (via LA) and if anyone complains about Qantas again I'll be setting them straight, in comparison to AA it was a pleasure! We had a few more hours to kill before our plane so we decided to have a burger from Maccas since we were in The States and had been eating locally produced food for the last three weeks. It was really good! Whoever made it had put a lot of effort into it, the patty was huge and juicy and the salad cut up with care (a huge departure from what we get here!). Although they did have trouble understanding that we didn't want the litre cup of Coke with it (Snapple instead, a hangover from Elysia's teenage obsession with Clueless).

The flight to Sydney passed quickly and painlessly (possibly something to do with the soothing Australian accents all around us) before we had to endure another 7 hour wait in the Sydney domestic terminal. And then home... 5o hours after we started. And we had all our bags!

Advice for those wanting to travel to Europe: Although it might be cheaper to go through the United States, don't do it. Pay the extra and go through Singapore, it'll cut 20 hours off your journey and you might not have to fly American Airlines.

Once back (now late on Thursday night) we headed to Piccalilly to see the new floor and stainless steel. Unfortunately the steel wasn't all installed yet but we were too tired to care and went to Das Zimmer for something to eat, our fridge still empty from a month away. We had confit pork belly with cabbage, and a few of the other goodies they have on offer, before crawling into bed.

Back at work the next day putting the kitchen back together in order to get the place ready to start prepping a new menu for Tuesday's re-opening. The biggest job was trying to remove the thick film of concrete dust that was now coating everything. The same wonderful helpers from moving everything out appeared on Sunday to return the big service fridges into place and we were ready to go - even though our 23 year-old dishwasher didn't handle the move too well, and needed several bits replacing before it was returned to its former glory.

We will post pics of the new food once our photographer has been in to take the photos (he has to finish his last two weeks of Art School)

Here is a before and after of our kitchen floor. Just to add if you need any new flooring we can highly recommend Warren up at Harvey Norman Flooring in Hobart. The complicated steel work was carried out by Walter Welding and Sheet Metal (Rainer the owner is a regular diner at Piccalilly) They have done an fantastic job!

(the helpers couldn't help but to play some indoor cricket in the large room with nothing to break in it)

After (no steel yet)




After and ready to go!

New floor in the bar!