Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Eating for two

So it appears that I am eating for two :)

One of the great things about an anonymous blog is that although I have to keep the whole pregnancy thing relatively hush hush for the next 5 weeks or so - I can talk about it here - hooray. Sometimes I feel I am going to burst with the news.

While it is great news, I do have to admit that being pregnant and being a foodie are not very compatible - no raw or undercooked meats (sorry there is no way I am having a well done steak, so that takes steak off the menu - and sushi - boo hoo); no more liver, so no more guiltily consumed foie gras (my moral compass is thanking me for that one); no more raw or runny eggs (no good mayonnaise, I even avoided chocolate fondant the other night); no more mouldy cheese (Oh - this is killing me!) and no alcohol.

Of course it is only nine months and the sacrifices are totally worth it - but certainly there is a price to pay. And don't even get me started on the nausea or the food cravings - avocado and marmite on toast anyone?

Sunday, 20 January 2008

stamppot and foie gras

During my week in the Netherlands I had some lovely food. The best two meals were almost complete opposites of each other.

On Wednesday night I had dinner at a friend's house. We used to work together in the UK, but he, and his family, are Dutch and have recently returned home. They decided to cook me a typically dutch meal - especially because it is quite difficult to experience this - most of the restaurants in town are international - lots of Italian, Indonesian, or Spanish. But they cooked me a fabulous stamppot - mashed potatoes with cabbage mixed in - and an array of locally produced sausages from the Butchers around the corner. It was a fabulous meal - comfort food at it's best - and when you are away from home - a home cooked meal is just what is needed. It was a lovely evening to share with friends.

In contrast, on Friday night I went out to dinner in the only Michelin starred restaurant in town - Muller. It is a very French restaurant, that is just around the corner from my apartment. In fact, every day I take a little detour after arriving back from work and walk past, just so I can look in the window into the kitchen. The chef just looks so stereotypically French and there are copper pots hanging from the ceiling. I was worried when I arrived on Friday night that they would recognise me - 'Isn't that the crazy women who always has her nose pressed up against the glass?'
The meal was perfect from start to finish - we had the taster menu. A few highlights...
** the platter of amuse bouches was a great way to start - especially the truffle creme brulee
** sweatbreads on lobster taratre
** seared scallop with stewed cucumber
** deer rib and rump (rare as rare can be)
** the asiette of desserts - apple done 6 ways including clafoutis, mereigne, and brulee

The two meals were at opposite ends of the 'fancy' spectrum - but both were incredible in very different ways. I guess the common denominator is that both touched just the right spot at the right time...

Monday, 14 January 2008


After being back in the UK for less than a week, I'm off again. This time for work - a week in the Netherlands. I'm starting to feel a bit like a vagrant. But no, it is not at all bad. This trip is part of an ongoing visiting position at a regional Dutch university. I spent 6 weeks here last year - so coming back seems a bit like coming home. I even get to stay in the same apartment as last time. It is familiar enough that I feel a little put out that the room is arranged differently - who moved that chair??

I love the Dutch. Is it strange that as an Australian I feel more at home here in the Netherlands, where I speak very little of the language, than I do in England where I have lived for four years and have a partner and a house?? For some reason I feel there is some sort of affinity between the Dutch and Australians. At international conferences I always notice that we are drawn together - and it is not just that the Dutch speak English fabulously (I never feel that drawn to Americans). It is something to do with a shared sense of humour, that and perhaps a need to escape the last symposium of the day and gather in the bar.

At any rate, it is a chance to get some work done, a chance to avoid all of the students back home that are trying to change in and out of my classes that start in a week's time, and a chance to sample some good old dutch food - stamppot anyone?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Back from Japan

I know I'm only three posts in - but I feel I am already falling behind.
When I finally got the courage up to start this blog, I was determined to write regularly - but Xmas and travel got the better of me - oh well - I guess I can add it to the list of New Year's resolutions.

So my excuse for not writing for a few weeks is that the chef and I just got back from a couple of weeks in Japan, which was a bit of a foodies fun trip.
One of our aims is to dine at the all of the 100 best restaurants in the world - but unfortunately none of them are in Japan. That isn't to say that there aren't fabulous restaurants there - just that none of them are acknowledged on this particular list. Instead, we stuck to small, simple, authentic restaurants. Overall the food was fabulous, but there were a few highlights.

Our main aim was to get some good Kobe beef. This is beef from Wagyu stock that is fed beer and hand massaged to produce beautifully marbled meat. We had been eyeing up potential places for about a week (by looking at the wacky plastic displays out the front of restaurants) and had tasted a few bits of nice beef as part of other meals, but we hadn't found quite the right place. That is until we stumbled upon a butchers in Kyoto specialising in Kobe beef. As we drooled at the beef in the window we realised that they had a restaurant upstairs. We rushed up as quickly as we could rip our shoes off, and sat down on tatami mats around a low table with an integrated hotplate. We decided to keep it simple: premium beef (you can specify the grade you want) cooked on the hotplate in front of us. Now people bandy around the term 'melt in your mouth' without really giving it much thought - but it really did - it was amazing!

Our other aim was to brave the fugu - poisonous blowfish. The poison in this fish is 30 times more deadly than arsenic and chefs are only allowed to prepare it after 3 years training. We decided to forgo the fugu on New Year's day - we didn't want some chef hung over from an all-nighter karaoke night slicing up our poisonous fish - and since we were hung over from an all-nighter karaoke night, we thought we might not appreciate it properly. But we finally found a good fugu specialist in Osaka and took the plunge. We ordered the fugu served 10 ways, including sashimi, sushi, fried, tempured, and grilled. We had read that the first sign of poisoning is a numbing of the lips - so the sake that we drank didn't help our paranoia - but we managed to survive. And the verdict - it really does taste just like chicken.