Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Menu Pics and Other Things

On the 11th of February Piccalilly launched a new menu for the last part of summer and the warm part of autumn. We coincided the first night of the menu with an interesting experiment.

Hypothesis: Getting feedback from regular diners on the new dishes will result in improvement of the food and diners feeling connected to and valued by the restaurant.

While not strictly adhering to the scientific method we had some interesting results. We sent an invitation to all those on our mailing list in our monthly newsletter, asking if people would like to come in for a special advanced viewing of the new dishes. We printed a special feedback sheet and provided the diners with a pencil to jot down their thoughts and feelings on the food.

The interest came in the form of polarised feelings towards some of the dishes. Some people strongly disliked some things while others voted them as favorites. It proved to us, in particular to Iain, that you cannot account for personal taste and that different things excite different people. Some do not like to be surprised by the difference between what they expect to see on the plate and what is placed in front of them and some do.

There were, of course dishes that everyone loved, such as the chocolate dessert. We picked up a lot of pointers on things that could be brainstormed or tweaked in the food to make it spectacular.

We also added a question to the bottom of the form asking for our regulars’ opinion if we moved away from our Assiette concept and move towards a couple of degustation options – eliminating diner choice, and allowing us to focus on dishes. This too was a mixed response, some said go for it and some suggested that we keep it as it is. Lots to think about.

It wouldn’t be a Piccalilly blog without a mention of the tomatoes. We are still only seeing a couple of hundred grams each week, but looking at the now-towering plants, there are hundreds of rapidly swelling, but still green tomatoes there. We are going to see a rush of them in a couple of weeks with all the varieties represented. We have also taken our first delivery of heirloom beetroot grown for us by Elysia’s father. We have tiny purple, golden and white beetroot. The white ones are a bit to get your head around, they look like a tiny turnip but taste exactly like a sweet purple beetroot! The special beets will be making an appearance on the feta salad while we have them.

Beets ready for cooking.

Green Zebras, not quite ripe

The bulk of the plants

Contrast: How the plants looked a couple of months ago!

And now for the food! We have included photographs (as usual taken by the fabulous Travis Hutchins) of the new dishes, we didn't think you would need to see all the old favourites like the feta slald. So... here it is...

Sous vide squid tube and tentacles with slices of radish, squid ink oil, citrus emulsion, saganaki and herbs. The squid is cooked for 5 hours at 77 degrees, and then seared in a hot pan to give it a bit of colour. The saganaki and citrus are there to give the dish a Mediterranean feel, because I think the Greeks do the best octopus and squid. Its light and summery!

Another Middle-Eastern inspired dish of goat shoulder torn into strips and flash fried in a very hot pan so it is crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It is with cucumber that has been dressed with preserved lemon, hummus and rice pilaf made with an almond stock and Carnaroli rice. Goat is the most consumed meat in the world, this dish is inspired by the food across Northern Africa and the Middle-East but without using overpowering spices.

Rabbit rack, rillette and leg with a pea and ham veloute, turtle beans, flowers and fried ham. The rabbits we get in are whole and we use all of them, so the cuts of meat will change from night to night depending on what we have. The pea veloute is made from a fine pea puree and let out with a little ham stock until it reaches a silky consistency.

We like this dish so you get two photos.

Daube of beef with red wine and shallot sauce, baked shallots and horseradish custard. The beef is from the ribs of the animal and cooked in the water bath for around 30 hours at 75 degrees. The sauce is one of the heaviest we have ever done at Piccalilly using red wine but it works well with the rich meat. The custard is infused with bay leaves and horseradish and is set with a seaweed-based gelling agent called gelan, so it is set but very soft. You get two photos of this one too.

Ox tongue with herb emulsion, mustard figs, roast carrot oil, English mustard butter and herbs. The tongue is first cured then cooked for 24 hours before being sliced by hand. The herb emulsion is made from parsley and tarragon to give the tongue a fresh kick. The mustard is just a great accompaniment to the tongue

Dry-aged Longford eye fillet with mushroom and leek pithivier, piccalilly and pickled red cabbage puree. The beef is aged for a minimum of 9 days to concentrate the flavous and make it super tender. The cabbage puree is simply that - pureed pickled red cabbage with a little bit of shallot for sweetness.

Lychee Pavlova - fresh lychees, lychee sorbet, chamomile gel, yoghurt marshmallow, miringue, elderberry syrup and lychee syrup. Chamomile and lychees work very well together bcause they are both so pungant and floral. The elderberry is slightly tart and so is the marshmallow to cut the sweetness of the fruit.

Chocolate ice cream with 30 second hazelnut sponge cake, sparkling honey jelly, hazelnuts, biscuit crumbs and aerated chocolate. The sponge is cooked to order for exactly 30 seconds on high in the microwave, so it is as fresh and soft as possible. The ice cream is also churned to order to ensure that it is at it creamiest and softest.

The honey jelly contains a bit if fiz to help cut the chocolate on the palate.

Olive oil and vanilla brulee with apricot, rock mellon, pistachio nuts, pistachio croquant and pickled cherry. The brulee is infused with vanilla and the fruity and fresh Ashbolt early harvest olive oil. The croquant is acting as the crispy sugar layer that you will find on a traditional creme brulee.

We will keep going with the New Menu Preview nights at Piccalilly, so if you would like to get involved or would like to join our mailing list drop us a line or an email to bookings@piccalilly.com.au and we will keep you posted on the date of the next menu change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Travels

This post takes the blog back to its roots, as it’s about travel. Nothing too spectacular like Europe or even interstate, But we did travel over water so we think it counts.

Over the weekend just gone we arranged to borrow Iain’s parents’ camper and take off to Bruny Island for the night.

We decided to have Valentine’s Day off this year as it fell on a Sunday and we have never had a Valentine’s Day off together. This might seem questionable as Valentine’s Day is always a busy night, however we got engaged only a few days ago and thought it would be nice to have the day off!

We woke early on Sunday and headed for the Todd’s place to pick up the camper and get a quick run-through on how everything works: gas, water, electricity etc, The camper itself rides along on top of the tray of a four-wheel-drive ute so it is very easy to maneuver and get around. It will comfortably house two people for a couple of days.

After we left the boat once it had docked at Bruny we headed north to Dennes Point (the most northern tip of Bruny) and took the fishing rods to the jetty while we passed some time and waited for our lunch booking to roll around. It was an idyllic spot, facing the Tasmanian mainland (we think directly onto Tinderbox Vineyard) with loads of small boats buzzing about, obviously trying to catch a fish of their own. After an hour or so we had not caught a single thing, or even had a nibble so we stowed the rods and walked along the beach instead.

Dennes Point Jetty

We had been recommended by Bruny local and our oyster farmer Headley to try a newly opened café that overlooks the beach on Dennes Point. The very new, architecturally spectacular timber building is an extension of the old 1970’s community centre that had fallen into disrepair due to a lack of interest from the government and the North Bruny community. Around 18 months ago they started planning and fund raising for the new building to try a raise a bit of community spirit, asking for donations of money and time from locals and the Kingborough Council.

The beautiful, cedar-lined building with its vast verandah, houses a tiny art gallery featuring local Bruny artists; a small shop that sells everything from Ajax to imported Italian sweets; and a little café-restaurant. The food in the café, according to Headley rivaled anything in Hobart - a big call to make.

At The Point deck and restaurant

We were greeted by a friendly slightly hippy-ish waitress who told us to sit wherever we wanted and she would be right with us. We moved to one of the vast northwest facing windows and were presented with a hand-written menu of about 5 entrees, five mains and three desserts. We were told that the main produce used in the food comes from Bruny and that the menu changes daily to keep up with what is available. The beans, she told us were picked that day, across the road.

We ordered a slow braised Murrayfield lamb shoulder with soft polenta and braising juices; a mezze plate with olives etc; a side of the beans from across the road; and a greengage plumb tart to finish. A glass of Riesling got us started as we waited for the food to arrive.

Headley’s big claims were well founded. The lamb was absolutely superb! A large piece of lamb shoulder, buttery soft and perfectly seasoned with silky golden polenta. As the menu had promised, it was sauced with the juices that the lamb had been cooked in, simply skimmed of fat and seasoned with the most delicate rosemary hint. The Mezze comprised, soft squid, meaty olives and a skordallia dip with some good, grilled bread on the side.

The most wonderful lamb

The savouries

The open kitchen buzzed and the clouds rolled past the window as we ate in silence, blown away by how good the food was. The service was also spot-on, casual but very friendly and efficient. Our waitress was knowledgeable about the food and the building, and moved about the dining room making sure everyone was happy with everything.

The tart dessert was also a triumph. Good, buttery pastry topped with soft and sweet greengages and apricots and a little almond batter to keep it all together. Great!

Plumb tart!!!

The Point café is fantastic! We strongly recommend a visit to Bruny just to check out chef, Ray Jones’s food, and, since it has only been open for 2 weeks, we are sure better things are to come. The only criticism we had is that we would have liked a spoon with the lamb to get all the remaining sauce. By the way, the bill came to a total of $68 for both of us!

After lunch we headed back to the ute and crawled south past the Murrayfield sheep stud, where the lamb we had just eaten was grown (lots of plump sheep visible from the road) and across the neck to Get Shucked Oysters and the Bruny Island Cheese Company’s tasting and cellar doors. Unfortunately Headley was up in Hobart at the Farmer’s Market so we were unable to get a close look at the oysters we sell at Piccalilly and were forced to observe the aquatic rails from across the bay. It had been a lot of years since either of us had been to Bruny and we were surprised that a majority of the roads are still unsealed.

Nick Haddow’s cheese making/tasting facility is beautiful. Quietly tucked away amongst the trees with its glass-sided coolroom allowing an impressive vision of the many sizes and shapes of cheese as they mature under highly regulated conditions. We bought a small wheel of the 1792 that is aged on little square of Huon Pine veneer to impart a delicate and sweet flavor into the cheese. We were sorry to miss out on the hand made sourdough that they produce on site. Presumably it all went to the Farmer’s Market up in Hobart.

Bruny Island Cheese Co. tasting and production facility.

The inside of the maturation room.

It was then on the most southerly point of Bruny, near the lighthouse, to Jetty Beach campsite. The north-facing beach remains sheltered from the southerly weather that comes un-interrupted from Antarctica. The campsite was very quiet and made up of little private sites just metres from the beach and the wreck of the old jetty. We set up the van and got organised. Iain rode his bike up the sandy road to the lighthouse. After he returned we took the fishing rods down to the rocky point, to try and catch another fish, with no luck… again. Back to the beach for a walk and a paddle. We discovered that the sand was packed with pippies and little clams and toyed with the idea of collecting enough for a feed but in the end, couldn’t be bothered by the back-ach. We played cards until it started to get dark before we laid out our cheese platter and other bits we had brought for dinner. A couple of bottles of wine and a collapsing table made for a fun evening.

On the rocks at Jetty Beach

Our little campsite

The lighthouse on the way up

The following day we woke up with the sun and packed up the van. We headed back towards the ferry via the fish n’ chip shop at Lunnawanna for their famous house-made pies. They have everything from chicken and leek to camel or crocodile! (the latter we don’t think were local). We selected, rabbit, lamb and rosemary and venison with red wine. The pastry was flaky and good, although a bit undercooked on the base of the lamb pie. The fillings were meaty and tasty. The lady at the shop was lovely so we stayed for a chat and we also picked up a can of coffee that was self-heating. We had seen this in a lot of photos taken by a friend when he was in Japan recently. You simple invert the can; depress a button on the bottom that begins a chemical reaction that heats the can and its disgusting sweet contents. The coffee was horrible but the can was great fun! There were plumes of steam and everything.

Yummy Pies

We drove slowly to the boat and back up to Iain’s parents house to unpack the caravan and headed home for a well-earned nap!