Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Last Post

This is it folks....over the top. The moment has arrived. After months or organising and tweaking and procrastinating, TIFFIN is moving house.

This is my last post for TIFFIN on the Blogger platform. Blogger has been great but it has it's limitations and, after blogging for nearly 5 years it's time to do some housekeeping. The next post you see from me will be from my new home at


TIFFIN's new home has a number of sparkly features including it's own domain name, better 'sharing' and 'follow' options and improved ability to comment (as trying to comment on Blogger via any of the i-devices was extremely frustrating). The site is up and running but there's some house keeping to do including cleaning up images, tags, correcting links to social media etc. As I have over 300 posts, that will take some time but going forward it should be all tickety boo.

Another thing I need to do is move my subscribers over, which I will be doing over the coming week. As a result, you will get an email in your inbox from TIFFIN, asking you to confirm your subscription to the new site. Make sure you look out for the email and check your spam filters.

The Blogger site will keep running for the moment but will start to drop off in the search results. If you get lost or can't work out how to get to the new site, just drop me a line at TIFFIN's brand new email address: fiona (at) tiffinbitesized.com.au

TIFFIN has lots of interesting posts planned in the coming months. A dust down of the food scene on Norfolk Island, a new series called 'Rib Tickler', a re-visit to Carina North Quality Meats to see how Michael fares as Captain of the Tri Nations Butchery Competition and a long running adventure through the Calamity Jane country in the USA. Of course, old favourites such as Random Recipes, In My Kitchen and Never Underestimate An Op Shop will be back.

Here's a partial peak at my new logo.



If you hop on over to tiffinbitesized.com.au right now, you can see the whole logo, look at the site and can subscribe directly.

Thanks for reading and following my bite sized food adventures. Looking forward to see you at the my new site.

Fiona xx

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Mad World

My BFF was celebrating her birthday and rather than schlep into town, decided to organise dinner at a restaurant in her stamping ground of Runcorn. Located in a set of local shops on busy Mains Rd, our crowd of ten for a was easily accommodated in an otherwise very quiet restaurant. After pouring our BYO wine and much air kissing, it was time to tackle the menu. It was then that Fusion 360 chose to reveal its full quirkiness. It's a glossy menu with a few point and choose illustrations and a some amusing Chinglish descriptions. What makes it quirky though is the wide range of options available. There's Tofu & Black Fungus right alongside Cream Soup with Puff Pastry and, Korean Bimibap jostling with Spaghetti Bolognaise. Well 'why not?', I say. So we made our choices and got back to the business of celebrating.

It wasn't very busy in the restaurant. In fact, there was only one other table dining. They, of course, had come for the pasta. Giant bowls of spaghetti which they ate with a knife, fork and chopsticks. It didn't take long for our entrees to arrive. I had ordered Tofu with Black Sesame Sauce. It was cold dish (which is clearly explained on the menu) but I must admit that I wasn't expecting it to be a giant square of white tofu quivering on the plate, dressed with the black sesame sauce. It drew glances from most on the table and I couldn't tempt anyone to have taste. Anthony had a mouthful under sufferance but was happy with his Spring Rolls. I relished it though. It was a perfect combination of cool, silky tofu and nutty sesame sauce. I adore halva, sesame oil, tahini and the like so I realise it may not have been to everyone's taste but what a bunch of wimps. I did have buyers remorse though when I saw the Potato Wrapped Prawns which were very visually appealing and declared a winner by the majority.


Mains arrived promptly and offered endless entertainment for the group. I'd ordered the Vietnamese Pork Chop that came with requisite fried egg. Juicy, with flavours of lemongrass and black pepper, it was as expected. A number at the table had ordered Japanese rice bowls. These seemed fairly standard but had a curious look about them. Chunks of carrot more in keeping with an Irish stew were liberally distributed throughout the dish but there was something else...something not quite right... A taste of Anthony's Chicken Katsudon identified the point of difference straight away. Cheese. Cheddar cheese. A thick layer of cheese melted and browned on top of the dish. It would have been perfect on a lasagne (or spaghetti) but was a decidedly unusual topping for a Donburi bowl. And was that a whimsical garnish of broccoli? To be fair, it actually tasted OK but it's not a typical inclusion in Japanese rice bowls and, I couldn't see myself ordering one of these any time soon.


And just as we were pondering the chunky carrots and cheese, along came the steaks. These arrived on sizzling cast iron platters with sauce poured over the top, at the table ala sizzling Mongolian Lamb. Exciting! Clouds of steam cleared to reveal a huge steak, thick cut chips and a cob or corn. No complaints from those who ordered it and certainly no one could complain about the size of the portion.


Fusion 360 is also known as 'Coffee Square'. I think it might be a place to drop in for coffee and cake with your boy friend on the way home from a big night in Sunnybank. I say this because as we were winding down for the night, cute young couples were arriving to share a milkshakes and kiss behind their menus. Hello Kitty. The menu had an extensive range of cakes and dessert however many of them were unavailable and I suspect they had been unavailable for a number of years. Those that were on offer certainly fit the 'fusion' criteria. Green Tea Ice Cream came with vanilla and chocolate wafer 'cigarettes' and Banana Spring Rolls came with a creme anglaise. A meal at Fusion 360 is certainly not the height of gastronomy but nor does it attract the same price tag. A meal for two + corkage was less that $40. The entertainment value of the menu was priceless.


Fusion 360
95 Mains Rd shop 2B
Sunnybank  Qld  4109
http://www.fusion360cafe.com/

Visited: Saturday evening, October 2013 - Dinner Service

Fusion 360 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Product Review - Meatcart

....speaking of butchers.... Last week I wrote about my local butcher shop. Whilst it's local to my house it's not actually close to where I spend much of my time, which increasingly seems to be Canberra in the service of our great nation's public. This makes it difficult to shop for meat and groceries. Luckily, Meatcart got in touch with me, offering* a sample pack and introducing me to the world of 'online meat shopping'. Who'd have thought such a thing even existed?

My sample pack arrived in it's own chiller bag on the designated day. After a recent disaster with a chilled item delivery (melted ice, split containers with the contents spilled throughout), I was very impressed to see that the chiller packs were still very icy and the interior fully chilled. I had received a selection of popular products, in 500g packs (they also come in 1kg packs). Included in the mix were 'Superhero Sausages'. Further investigation revealed these innocent looking sausages actually included peas, corn and sweet potato but invisible to the naked eye. Clever!

We jumped right in that night with the beef fillet mignons wrapped in bacon, that I pan fried and finished in the oven. These steaks would usually be too big for us for a week night dinner but in the interests of a fair review, we ate one each. They were moist and tender and cooked almost like a sous vide steak. Very nice with a Barossa shiraz.


On the Australia Day long weekend, I opted for the lamb rump, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, marjoram, rosemary and many, many chunks of garlic. Onto the BBQ for a few minutes on either side and the lamb was done. We enjoyed it with potatoes, grilled eggplant and a salad, for lunch. The remainder I sliced thinly and used on lamb wraps for work lunches the next day. The pork loin chops were trimmed from the bone and Anthony used these to whip up a Jamie's 15 Minute Meals in 45 minutes.


A tour of the Meatcart website suggests the pricing is competitive and there are some specials too. They also have a sub set of products under the banner 'Correct Weight' that are portion controlled, with all fat removed. This range is exactly the same quality as the mainstream products with the calories and portion calculations based on the Weight Watchers system.

Meatcart is based in Brisbane, also delivering to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Delivery is a standard $7.15 flat rate and as already mentioned, comes in an insulated cooler which has been tested to keep products chilled for up to 8 hours. So if you live a busy life or like to let your fingers do the walking, Meatcart may be the answer to your problems.

* Tiffin received a complimentary Meatcart sample pack to review

Meatcart Online Butcher
http://www.meatcart.com.au

Friday, February 14, 2014

Australian Small Winemaker's Show 2013 - Stanthorpe

A short while ago I went to the Australian Small Winemaker's Show in Stanthorpe, Queensland. I am now sufficiently recovered to let you know what an amazing event this is. Amazing because it showcases over 1400 wines from small winemakers all over Australia and New Zealand. Amazing because it's run by volunteers from the industry who are committed to supporting and progressing wine making for small producers. Amazing because the hospitality on offer is a window on country towns throughout Australia. And amazing because just over twelve months ago, I didn't even know of the show's existence.

I learned about the ASWS in a conversation I struck up with winemaker Warren Smith from Pyramids Road Winery in Ballandean, which is part of the Granite Belt. Warren attended a Swirl Sniff Spit in Brisbane to talk about Granite Belt wines and I was lucky enough to sit beside him. He urged me to attend the show, which is on in October every year but alas, last year we were in South America (my, how time flies). I made a note of the details and kept a regular watch on the website during the course of the year so I could purchase tickets to the public tasting.

Registration and participation in the show is open to Australian and New Zealand Winemakers who processed less than 500 tonnes for 2013 vintage and had a minimum of 400 litres in bottle at the time bottles are dispatched for judging. Judging is the standard blind tasting in a number of classes over a number of days. This is followed by industry events such as the awards, presentation dinner and exhibitor tasting followed by the public tasting on the Saturday afternoon.



So what happens at the public tasting? I was very curious as there's not a heck of a lot of info on the website. The tasting is held in a cavernous all purpose pavilion at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds. Inside, the space is divided into seating, an enormous tasting counter and behind the counter, 1400 hundred wines that must all be tasted come hell or high water. The doors open at 1.30pm and you're allocated a wristband, tasting glass and program. Dozens of tables have been set up so the first thing you do is find your assigned seating. We were at 'Tempranillo', conveniently located close to a fire door so we had a great breeze and some fresh air all afternoon. We met the other tasters at our table, had a chat and tucked into the delicious antipasti on the table including on this occasion, hummus, carrot dip, pickled mushrooms, asparagus frittata and salamis - all home made or cured.


Just before 2pm we're welcomed to the event and a brief explanation of the afternoon is provided. Tasting starts at 2pm and finishes at 6pm on the dot - no exceptions. There's a short rush at the beginning but the ASWS stewards are well practiced in finding the bottles quickly, pouring and moving on. They are also very patient in explaining how the system works. You use the program to choose a wine to taste, then tell the steward the category and exhibit number. There's no point in telling them the name or style - they are listening for the numbers so they can locate the bottle. What ever you do...Don't. Lose. The. Program. You might think you don't need it but trust me, three or four tastes in, those numbers start to get confusing and it's hard to keep track of where you are at, what's still available and what you want to taste next. There were plenty of names that were new to me but I was surprised that I did know quite a few. This goes to show that small winemakers can still make decent inroads into the highly competitive market in Australia.



After the initial rush, things settle down to an relaxed pace. There's live entertainment from a couple of acoustic duos playing all the hits of Simon & Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac. As the afternoon progresses, the local hippies will be drawn to a space in front of the musicians and you'll see some great free stylin' dance displays. In addition to the table grazing, there's also hot food being served in another part of the pavilion. Homemade pasta and curries, salad and bread - all good wine soaking dishes. Every coffee plunger in Stanthorpe has been rounded up for the event with coffee and tea available to take back to the tables. The local community had been very busy indeed!


Along the way there are some raffles for charity, a chance to bid in an auction to join the judging panel next year and a couple of lucky door prizes. As the afternoon moves along, you'll find that many of the wines have run out so make sure you have back up options when you're at the tasting area. Things also start to get a little squeezy down the fortified end as people start looking for something sweet at the end of the day. At 6pm, last drinks are poured and it's time to go out into the cool of the early evening and head back to wherever you're staying.


The ticket price includes a shuttle bus (well, school bus actually) to and from the the showgrounds so if you're staying at one of the motels in town, they will arrange pick up if you RSVP. There's a reasonable amount of accommodation in town but it fills quickly. We stayed at the Boulevard Motel at the southern end of town, just near the river. It was clean, comfortable, quiet and within walking distance of most facilities.

The public tasting is well subscribed and it sold out last year so make sure you pencil in the event for next year and check back regularly with the website so you don't miss out.

Amazing!

Australian Small Winemaker's Show
http://www.asws.com.au
@Aswshow
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