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Midnight Oil: Back Home and Back in Form


Wow! Back home the Oils were at their energetic and acerbic best in the Hunter Valley in October, delivering raw powerful rock with a not so subltle message,  exhorting us to save our planet and save our species (morally at least) from further destructive acts.

We’re at Hope Estate. It’s Saturday 21 October and we were about to witness the much anticipated – and much hyped – return of Midnight Oil to the stage. I write this post on the day of the culminating Oz event for the Oils,  the concert in the Domain in Sydney, Saturday 11 November. Which will be mega, as they play to their home town crowd.

We were back in the Hunter too. The Doctors and the Rock Chick, who has been my partner in crime in lots of adventures. We’ve been to many gigs over the years – who could forget Led Zeppelin in 1972? We were young, single and fancy free, but now at least we’re single once more and still very much fancy free!

After a world tour that took them to venues in both hemispheres, Midnight Oil were back home and back in form!

The weather behaved – a classic Hunter Valley spring night – cloudless, inky black and starry.

Hope Estate was packed, with a capacity crowd usually only seen for uber celebrity rock acts like the Stones or the Boss. The crowd spanned the ages, mums and dads, little kids, grandads and grandmums, and loads of Gen Xs who grew up on  the music. The Gen Ys seemed a little mystified with the rock star reverence that their parents were showing as iconic song followed iconic song.

The band played for a non-stop 2 hours. So much energy on stage! Rob Hirst’s drum solo was exhilarating, so much Power in his drumming with so much undoubted Passion!

But it’s front man Peter Garrett who is the riveting performer onstage. His voice, punching out the lyrics, his literally huge presence, and his Joe Cocker like disjointed strutting  across the stage, are what Midnight Oil are all about.

And we are left in no doubt about the message. The Oils may not directly directly influence politics, but it’s clear that their huge following may just be the ones to start off that process of social change.

Peter, your music speaks so much louder than your politics…

Set List Saturday 21 October 

Redneck Wonderland

Read About It

In The Valley

Stand in Line

River Runs Red

Truganini

Hercules

My Country

When the Generals Talk

Short Memory

US Forces

Kosciusko

Only the Strong

Put Down That Weapon

Beds Are Burning

Blue Sky Mine

Forgotten Years

Dreamworld

Encore:

The Dead Heart

Power and the Passion

Best of Both Worlds

Encore 2:

King of the Mountain

 

 

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Steely Dan in the Hunter Valley 2011 – Vale Walter Becker

It was sad news today hearing that Walter Becker had died, one half of that amazing musical collaboration that has created the various incarnations of Steely Dan.

I’m a long time fan and a Steely Dan tragic. I wrote a post a few years back on a wonderful outdoor  performance in the Hunter Valley where Steely Dan featured, so I thought I would reproduce that review today in memory of Walter Becker and his quirky genius.

One of the nicest ways to enjoy live music – particularly rock acts – is an outdoor concert at one of the wineries in the Hunter Valley NSW. Part concert, part festival, part picnic, a Day on the Green is seriously cool, and very retro.

I have been to quite a few over the last few years, and it’s now the only way I want to enjoy rock music. I’m tired of large internal arena spaces where you’re seated so far away that binoculars are the best way to enjoy the act you’ve paid mega dollars to see.

On the Green the buzz of several thousand people, with a variety of ages from those not yet born when the bands were in their heyday, to the seriously geriatric, all gathered to listen, watch, drink, eat and mingle, is exhilarating.

The night is always clear, moonlit and starlit. I don’t know how the promoters manage it. A good upstairs connection I suppose! There’s something about being in the country, with that vast expanse of land and sky that is awe-inspiring, and makes you realise just how constrained our city lives are…

Santana, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Carole King were all memorable winery concerts. But as a Steely Dan tragic, the two concerts I’ve been to in the Hunter are my standouts. However I can’t tell you much about the 2007 gig. It was Steely Dan’s first time in Australia. I was so overcome with actually seeing them in the flesh that I sat completely transfixed, unable to do anything except feast my ears and eyes on the band that I was finally seeing live. I couldn’t even bring myself to take photos.

In 2011, I am relieved to say I was less awe struck and up to viewing them a little more critically and actually documenting my memories with photos.

I should mention the other act of the night was Steve Winwood. If you’re a fan of the man or of Traffic, you would have had a blast. He looked and sounded great! No apparent aging unlike some other rock legends who look exhumed or exsanguinated rather than animated…

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys from the album of the same name was a standout.

As this is not really a concert review I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan 2011 tour line-up were fabulous.

The Miles High Big Band
featuring The Embassy Brats
Jim Beard Keyboards
Keith Carlock Drums
Jon Herington Guitar
Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery Vocals
Michael Leonhart Trumpet, Keys
Cindy Mizelle Vocals
Jim Pugh Trombone
Roger Rosenberg Baritone Saxophone
Catherine Russell Vocals
Freddie Washington Bass
Walt Weiskopf Saxophone

Just listening to the opening riff of Josie gave me goose bumps. The reference to Muswellbrook in Black Friday from the 1975 album Katy Lied, at a concert in the heart of the Hunter was funny and sweet and somewhat disconcerting from our American friends. Every number was consummately performed, at least in the somewhat biased view of this writer.

 

Dinner by Heston, Melbourne, and other Melbourne Food Delights

I recently visited Melbourne, Australia’s southern foodie destination. It’s fair to say that in 48 hours my travel companion Ms D and I sampled quite a few notable Melbourne food institutions.

The Cellar Bar, the late night wine bar of its big sister Grossi Florentino next door, was a brilliant spot to eat in the city, on the pavement, after a show. Their spaghetti cacio e pepe was outstanding!

The next morning we lined up at Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy, for their famous croissants. I had also wanted to try their kouign amann pastries, and cruffins, the first of which was created by Lune Croissanterie in 2013. I was disappointed that neither was available on that day, as I would have liked to taste as a comparison, as I have tried my hand at making my own kouign amann and cruffins, see my post. The croissant was very good, with excellent lamination, but worth traveling from Sydney for? Hmmm.

Croissant making on the premises.

The second breakfast that morning was at East Elevation, in Brunswick, a warm, rustic cafe in a huge open warehouse type space. The food was good! And they make chocolates too!

Some breakfast offerings at East Elevation.  Me – Ricotta Pancakes with Peaches and Berries; Ms D – Coconut and Lemon Tapioca

One of the main events of the trip was to dine at Maha, a sophisticated take on Middle Eastern cuisine in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Ms D is a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, even more so than me, so we were both looking forward to the experience. While really enjoying the banquet style dishes, the lighting was so dim you couldn’t really appreciate the visuals of the food properly. I would be keen to visit again, to see more! So no photos for this post.

Sunday lunch was the much anticipated visit to Dinner by Heston, one of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants that is inspired by historic British gastronomy. Dinner, as defined on the Dinner website, is “the main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening. A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event”.

Located at the Crown Towers in Melbourne, one could be forgiven for being turned off dinner or even lunch, on arrival, as the garish surrounds of a casino are not conducive to refined dining. However, once in the restaurant itself, calm and dignity prevailed,  as we were ushered to a large and comfortable table window-side, with a view over the river to the city.

I have photographed the menu for the day and the dishes we ate. The dishes are so intricate, clever and multi faceted, that describing them in any detail in this post would be a poor substitute to actually enjoying them. Which I did. Absolutely. While there are photos of Ms D’s courses, I only sampled a little of her dishes, being too intent on eating my own. However I believe she enjoyed her courses too.

First course for both of us – Salamagundy

Second course. Me – Chicken Cooked with Lettuces; Ms D – Slow Cooked Pork Belly

Third course. Me – Cherry Isle Bar; Ms D – Tipsy Cake

For me, ice cream is the Queen of Desserts, so the highlight of Dinner By Heston was the “extra” dessert, nitrogen ice cream made at the table Heston style! Our waiter explained that the custard base was given texture by the addition of sour cream, and the Madagascan vanilla really gave a rich, vanilla hit. We could choose from a variety of toppings – I chose freeze dried raspberries, which I use a lot in my own cooking, and popping candy.

The visual spectacular with clouds of nitrogen, as the waiter deftly poured the flasks of custard and nitrogen was amazing, but the taste of the ice cream was even better. Rich and velvety, with a soft texture, the ice cream had a proper consistency, and made for a heavenly eating experience. A fantastic way to end the “dinner” and our Melbourne food excursion.

 

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Three Blue Ducks

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Three Blue Ducks is an intriguing restaurant in an intriguing location in the lovely seaside suburb of Bronte in Sydney.

My long time friend Ms M was visting Sydney, her former home, from Cleveland Ohio, where she has lived for the last thirty plus years. We catch up every visit, and it’s lovely to hear her Australian accent to which she has stayed true all these years!

We met at the restaurant, tucked away in a suburban street, almost easy to miss. However the location is deceptive – much bigger than you think,  the restaurant is spread over 2 shop fronts with a little alleyway in between. Melbourne quirk meets Sydney trend – the alleyway is vibrantly decorated with street art and the ineterior is rustic and casual with bar and table dining.

The menu is flexible, designed for sharing or not, depending on the diners’ mood. Ms M and I shared some dishes with a Middle Eastern bent.

We started with sourdough bread from the famous Iggy’s Bread in Bronte,  with house-made cultured butter, which as a butter nut I found utterly delicious!

We shared a “Big” roast barramundi, pumpkin, kale & chickpea salad and harissa. The barramundi was crisp skinned but still moist. The harissa was spicy rather than overly hot. I’m not a huge fen of kale so I missed out on this element of the dish.IMG_5860

The next “Big” dish was my favourite: pressed lamb shoulder, babaganoush, israeli cous cous salad & flatbread. The lamb was compressed into a rectangular slice, and was soft enough to eat with the proverbial spoon. It was served with a lovely flatbread to mop up the babaganoush and the lamb pieces.

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Along with these dishes we had the “Small” roast beetroot, goats curd, pickled carrot, grains & yoghurt, heirloom beets of different colours with a slightly sweet curd and an interesting carrot pickle.

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We finished with orange blossom baklava, berry labneh, fruit & pistachio, an additional Middle Eastern twist on a Middle Eastern sweet, perfect as a shared after dinner treat.

It was a great venue for a catch-up. Ms M was delighted to be eating out in Sydney, in seaside Bronte,  sampling the current food vibe in foodie Sydney. A nice memory to take back to snowy Cleveland!

Three Blue Ducks is located at:

Bronte
141-143 Macpherson st
Bronte NSW 2024
02 9389 0010

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Borough Market London – Foodie Heaven!

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The Borough Market in Southwark, London, was a destination I was really looking forward to when visiting the UK in December.

I’m a huge fan of markets, enjoying visiting local farmers’ markets in country New South Wales, as well as the city equivalent in Sydney. Orange Grove Market, mentioned in other  posts, is a great Saturday excursion to pick up organic fruit and veg, hot smoked fish, French cheese, farmers’ free range eggs and pastry and bread galore!

I’ve been following the Borough Market online for a while to prepare for the visit. I went twice, on a Saturday a couple of weeks before Christmas and a week or so later midweek. Saturday was buzzing, busy, and a bit tricky to navigate, but still heaps of fun! The next visit was a pleasant stroll and I got to see much more of the market’s delights.

The Borough Market is a little bit of old world London in that sophisticated metropolis. Arches and passageways, nooks and crannies, keep you guessing at what comes next, as you make your way around the market. After my two visits I finally got the hang of the geography. The charm of the Market lies in the mix of the old world with a plethora of multi cultural cuisines.

There is so much produce! I was bowled over by cheese vendor upon cheese vendor! And then the patisseries and bread stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat of every kind, sausages and stews and curries.

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I liberally sampled the baked goods, filled focaccia, croissants, large sticky buns, packed full of fruit, that looked like miniature Christmas puddings, and real muffins.

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I found a little stall selling dried fruit and nuts, and wonderful candied fruit. Whole candied clementines were a great Christmas treat! Another stall sold home made fudge, of every conceivable flavour, which you could pick and mix yourself.

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Two highlights  – a salted caramel milkshake with Bath milk, and robust, fragrant Colombian coffee, much appreciated by this writer, who had been craving really good coffee since my arrival in London.

It was fun to be at the Market at Christmas – there was a buzzy, gregarious mood, and everyone seemed to be having fun shopping for the festive season.

 

 

Notting Hill Dining – The Shed

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Here’s another innovative and delicious dining experience I’d like to share with you.

In December 2016 in London, I was keen to eat at The Shed, in Notting Hill, one of the restaurants of the Gladwin Bros. The brothers hail from West Sussex, brought up on a vineyard and farm. Their restaurants feature produce from their farm in Nutbourne, in Sussex. Here’s the link to the website: http://www.theshed-restaurant.com/

I had read about their food philosophy using “seasonal farmed and foraged food”. It was with a sense of anticipation that I arrived for a late lunch not quite knowing what to expect! I love the idea of a restaurant called The Shed – was it in an actual shed? And is a shed in London the same as a shed in Australia?

I was not disappointed. The charming but unremarkable exterior – not very shed like – soon revealed a casual kind of lean-to interior that was definitely shed like!

The food was very good. Flavourful, generous, and with some innovative techniques in evidence. The menu, shown here, is made up of fast cooked and slow cooked dishes, as well as mouthfuls, cures, cheeses and puddings.

I went for a couple of slow cooked dishes with great sourdough bread, a wonderful pudding and a glass or two of wine including their own Nutbourne rosé sparkling.

It was rather a lot for this solo diner, but as the purpose of my UK food adventures was research for The Quirk and the Cool, I really felt I needed to research properly! Or perhaps I’m just greedy…

The pumpkin gnocchi with Tunworth crispy sage and seeds, was a knockout. Nothing insipid about these gnocchi – their flavour was every bit as intense as their colour. The dreamy creamy sauce that accompanied them was delicious. I’m not sure of its composition, and regret I didn’t ask.

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The beef cigars, with Shed mustard and tarragon, were a revelation. They were suggested by my helpful waitress  – I was dubious about what they actually were – but on arrival they looked sensational and tasted the same. The photo says it all! They seemed to be slow cooked beef, finely shredded, and condensed into crisp pastry “cigars”.

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I am a huge bread fan – so I must make mention of the Shed Maltstar sourdough bread. And the butter. I could probably have an entire meal of quality bread like this offering! But I wouldn’t, as then I would have no room for pudding, which was definitely worth having.

The Shed Magnum Viennetta parfait was a recreation of the commercial classic, which I actually don’t remember having eaten, so I have no basis for comparison. But as a lover of ice cream, it was luxurious, textured, creamy, very “home made”.

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I stayed for an hour and a half, just enjoying the quirky and quaint atmosphere.  When you dine alone, you get to people watch, and I was interested in my fellow diners – who seemed quirky too – they looked creative, and right at home in the shed, which had been turned into a very creative eating space.

I loved the whole experience. Eating at The Shed is another reason to return to London in the near future!

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Cornwall

I’ve recently been traveling in the UK, to sample restaurants, street food and local markets, and to do a really wonderful cooking course at John Whaite’s cooking school, recently blogged about here.

So I should do a few quick reviews, to keep those memories fresh and give my readers a sense of how my experiences gelled into a view of what I liked about the food scene in the UK.

No one who reads my blog could fail to miss that I’m a Jamie Oliver fan! If there was one Jamie Oliver restaurant I wanted to try, it was Fifteen in Watergate Bay Newquay, Cornwall. Fantastic food, located in beautiful Cornwall and on the beach – what more could an Australian want!

I had lunch. The food was fabulous, the service impeccable  and the vibe warm and friendly. From the moment I walked in I was looked after and made to feel at home, even though I was dining solo. Picture perfect window table in a prime position.

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Photographed here is the menu for the day, to give you an idea of what the style of food is at Fifteen in Cornwall. The food is very Italian – with some intriguing dishes that needed some translation even for this seasoned diner and lover of Italian food.

I went for the three course option at a very reasonable £32. I began with two antipasti – artichoke caponata and clementine and pomegranate. The artichoke was  well seasoned and tangy and herby; the clementine and pomegranate so simple and so refreshing.

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The chargrilled Cornish chicken with inzimino di ceci (chickpeas with Swiss chard) and ‘Nduja (a spicy spreadable salami ) was superb – full of robust flavours with none of the flavours taking over.

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Then dessert. I  was tempted by the apple and plum  crumble with clotted cream – well I was in Cornwall – but on the advice of my charming and knowledgeable waitress I had the tiramisu with amaretto. As the photo shows, it was more cake-like than the traditional trifle-like layers of coffee soaked sponge and mascapone, but this layer cake version had been liberally dowsed in amaretto and yielded to my spoon without resistance. Yum!

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A “proper” cappuccino, the second best I had in the UK, (the best was Colombian at the Borough Market) finished the meal. A great end to a great meal.

The philosophy behind the Fifteen restaurants is admirable, and I would happily eat at one to support the concept. But I had the best meal of my travels at Fifteen Cornwall – honest, authentic Italian food, locally sourced, cooked impeccably and served with a warmth and charm that made me want to visit again…soon!

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