RSS Feed

Category Archives: Reviews

Borough Market London – Foodie Heaven!

img_4700

img_4203

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.

img_4195

img_4205

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.

img_4668

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.

img_4667

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

img_4085img_4076

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.

img_4075

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”.

img_4073

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”.

img_4080

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!

img_4079

Save

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.

img_4522

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.

img_4528img_4527

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.

img_4534

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!

img_4539

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!

img_4524

Save

Save

John Whaite’s Kitchen School – a Fabulous Cooking Course

img_4477img_4461

Thursday 15 December – and I ventured north into deepest Lancashire to Wrightington, to the John Whaite Kitchen for a one day cooking course making delicate afternoon tea delights. See here for the link.

And this was a really big adventure for this quirky writer – I had travelled all the way from Sydney, Australia to do this course! And of course I’ve also been doing heaps of foodie stuff in the UK along the way, to be featured in later posts.

John was the winner of the Great British Bakeoff 2012, and I am a huge fan of Bakeoff.

“Festive Afternoon Tea with John Whaite” was held in a converted barn on John’s family property, and the vibe from the get go was warm, welcoming and very pre-Christmas festive.

Wonderful smells wafted my way as I entered and sat down with 9 other jolly and eager cooks! Coffee and cinnamon rolls began the day at the big communal table.

John introduced the day in the way he continued throughout our course – friendly, knowledgeable and with a boyish grin. And his naughty sense of humour made the day very entertaining…

Under John’s guidance we made three recipes with a Christmas twist, as well as having John demonstrate an additional recipe.

So Gingerbread Latte Cakes, little Mont Blancs and Fig Prune Port and Stilton Tartlets, plus John’s Cranberry and Orange Scones were created by the class and John during the day. And to add to the Christmas cheer there was mulled cider, its heady scent permeating the cooking space.

What was so impressive about the course was the balance between learning through demonstration and actually using the techniques, as well as John being on hand to troubleshoot our queries.

We made the recipes together, utilising the blast chiller, fridge and ovens to prepare the different stages of each recipe concurrently.

We learnt how to make genoise sponge, short crust pastry and sablé, frangipane, mousse, chocolate ganache and buttercream, all basic techniques of patisserie making.

I have a pretty good understanding of cooking – but this course showed me so many additional techniques, tricks and really good tips!

As readers of this blog know, refinement is not my thing – but John showed me how finessing patisserie is not as difficult as it looks.

One of my culinary aims is to pipe accurately and well. While this is a work in progress, I  think that John’s instruction and demonstrations have given me a lot of confidence to get this skill under control.

img_4441

After all the rolling, mixing and piping, and flour, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate and spices were all fragrantly combined into our afternoon tea delicacies, we sat down at the communal table for our own afternoon tea washed down with glass or two of prosecco. This was a lovely way to finish the day – plus we got to take our beautiful bounty home!

I had a ball! My partner for the day, Kathryn, was delightful and very patient with my piping efforts. The rest of the group were fun and  very supportive too.

I loved the whole thing. Hats off to John for being a great cook, teacher and host!

img_4458

Restaurant Hubert: Sydney Quirk Meets French Chic

restuarant-hubertbar-and-tables

Imagine an underground venue in the heart of the legal and financial district in Sydney, that’s part restaurant, part bar, part theatre, and you have Restaurant Hubert at 15 Bligh St Sydney. The people behind the venture are Jason Scott and Anton Forte from the Swillhouse Group, with chef Dan Peperell in the kitchen. If you’ve been to Frankie’s Pizza or Shady Pines you will be familair with the quirky style of the Swillhouse Group. I love Frankie’s Pizza and have blogged about it here.

Hubert feels like walking back in time into a slightly decadent, old fashioned French restaurant. The decor alone is moody and seductive…dim lighting, dark corners and intmate booths, lots of period pieces. A great place for an “amour rendez-vous”…love tryst…or just a casual get together with friends.

I had several reasons to celebrate with my colleague Ms R,  as we dined together on this particular evening.  In our booth, adjacent to the Bar Normandy, we  perused the excellent wine list from a leather bound tome, the title page of which is pictured here.

wine-listWe began with a delightful sparkling from the Loire, moved on to a fresh and fruit sauvignon blanc from Tasmania and finished with a refined Muscadet dessert wine. All perfectly suited our dinner choices. The menu is based around the sharing of plates, small and large.

We started off with crusty bread – I’m presuming sourdough – and cultured butter. We shared a couple of small dishes: anchovy pain perdu, a wonderfully soft and flavoursome “eggy” bread and the Malakoff – a deep fried Gruyere cheese ball with Dijon mustard and pickle. Of the two, my fav was the latter – very cheesy, very oozy…yum. Our large plate (note only one – we were saving room for dessert) was the Bavette steak, flank steak cooked pink, with bordelaise butter. We had a dish of creamed spinach, to accompany it as well as a salad. Sadly I can’t remember what the salad was. Hmm. Must take notes in future! The steak was my least favourite dish. I’m not overly fond of tougher cuts of beef cooked À la Minute, the result is sometimes chewy.

There were just 3 desserts on the menu, and a cheese platter.  The Santa Claus melon with finger lime, sorrel jelly and young coconut sorbet, sounded intriguing. What is a Santa Claus melon?? But we decided to go down a more traditional path with the creme caramel and le grand macaron – a giant macaron filled with rice cream and raspberries. I ate the latter, and it’s fair to say I haven’t yet met the dessert that could beat me, but this one came close on size alone! Both desserts are pictured here.

img_3861

macaron

The service was lovely, attentive without being intrusive. The wait staff were young and hip. We really felt looked after with the VIP service.

Judging by the way the venue had filled up by 7.00pm, other Sydney-siders were appreciative of this amazing restaurant too.  Sydney needs more places like Hubert  – great French food, stunning venue and a lovely mix of authentic cooking mixed with a theatrical presentation. Well done!

resrtuarant

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Eating out in Adelaide – From Freakshakes to Fine Dining

img_3172

Recently I had the good fortune to spend a few days in Adelaide, South Australia. I was attending a conference over three days, a perfect amount of time to sample some of the delights of Adelaide food. The trip fulfilled its promise: a really good conference with some great papers presented, and the opportunity to indulge in some lovely food experiences.

So what is the significance of the title of this post? Well there was fine dining, and then there was THE FREAKSHAKE. As a lover of all things sweet and creamy, this writer, having discovered this truly weird drink/food, has been keen to try one. Freakshakes, sadly most probably an ephemeral food trend, are milkshakes with all sorts of edible goodies piled on top and lots of syrup and sauce flowing over the top of the glass jar.

Somehow they are quite hard to find in Sydney, so when researching dining in Adelaide, I googled freakshakes and discovered St Louis House of Fine Ice Cream and Dessert http://st-louis.com.au/. As you can see from the photo I was not disappointed!

img_3068

I had the Peanut Butter Brownie Shake Peanut Butter Nutella milkshake, topped with a warm chocolate brownie and chocolate coated wafer balls. Drizzled with pure melted milk chocolate. My partner in culinary crime and academic adventure, the quirky Ms R, had the Salted Caramel Waffle Shake Salted Caramel milkshake, topped with warm Belgian Waffle, dulce de leche and sweet ’n salty popcorn.

But the highlights of the stay were discovering some really good restaurants, from chic to adventurous, all within a walk or an Uber drive from our city hotel. And there were a couple of great breakfast cafes, one – Stumps Bar and Kitchen, that looked like its name, ie a bar  – but which produced an amazingly beautiful plate of ricotta hotcakes with blueberries, lemon curd and cream with edible flowers… the photo at the top of the post says it all!  Here is the link: http://stumpsbar.com.au/

Press* food and wine, where we had our first dinner, is aptly named as the restaurant is situated in the old printing works of the newspaper The Adelaide Advertiser. A huge industrial space which suits the down to earth yet inventive cooking style. The restaurant specializes in offal. That option was not for us – we stuck with some great vegetarian options. A salad of ricotta balls and radicchio was fresh and pungent and a truffled mushroom & taleggio pithivier with cauliflower purée was unusual and delicious. However the Bombe Alaska with a peanut brittle and banana ice cream frozen centre was amazing…and it came to the table alight! Here is the link to the restaurant: http://pressfoodandwine.com.au/

img_3075

img_3085-1

Next, tucked in a laneway reminiscent of Melbourne’s well known city lanes, was Peel St. The dining space is casual, with an open kitchen and bar side dining. That’s where we sat, watching the kitchen action and the prep of the beautiful dishes. The food was great, some of the best dishes we ate in Adelaide. There were two standouts.  Banana blossom chicken, chilli jam and coconut salad with peanuts and crispy shallot was an Asian inspired dish of deliciousness, with contrasting textures and intricate flavours. My photo, unfortunately, is not included as the low lighting didn’t do the dish justice. Dessert, which I did photograph, was a peanut parfait with chocolate mousse, brulee toffee banana and meringue cigars. It tasted as good as it looks! This is the Peel St link: http://www.peelst.com.au/.

img_3143

On the last night we visited Africola, a very cool eaterie with the focus on African food. As their website says “compact, simple restaurant with a western soundtrack, for African-inspired vegetables, grilled and smoked meats, flatbreads, pickles and natural wine.” We sat at the bar here too, literally a metre or so from the cooking and prep stations. We watched them cooking our flatbreads on the flame grill, which came to us with some smoky dips. A half cauliflower – cooked on the grill – came seasoned and dressed. A nice way to eat a sometimes predictable vegetable. This is the link: http://www.africola.com.au/

img_3158

Another tasty breakfast was Cafe Troppo, where sustainability, community and environment are key themes. Ms R had a traditional breakfast of seasoned scrambled eggs and gourmet bacon on local, hand-made sourdough. I was keen to try the stone-milled whole grain flour waffles, pressed to order, with Paris Creek whipped cream, bacon and thyme honey. Delicious waffles, but I’m not convinced about sweetened whipped cream with bacon… Link here: http://cafetroppoadelaide.com/

img_3096

Another nice foodie experience to mention in passing – the fabulous Adelaide Central Market – where one particular patesserie counter caught my eye with their salted caramel doughnuts. Ms R and I had to share one, of course!

img_3142

And on the third and last day of our conference, our hosts took us on a cultural tour to the Adelaide Hills, where we had lunch at Deviation Road Winery, which specializes in paellas cooked in enormous paella pans shown in the photo. Here is the link: http://www.deviationroad.com/

img_3177

My short sojurn in Adelaide was rewarded with some memorable dining experiences. It’s clearly a city with an exciting and varied food scene, relaxed vibe, and very friendly and knowledgeable service. Go visit!

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Bills in Sydney’s Darlinghurst: Fab Food, Fab Vibe

 

IMG_2780IMG_2779

I’m a long time fan of Bill Granger and his food. His iconic first restaurant, bills in Darlinghurst, is a favourite place for breakfast or lunch – and it’s just around the corner from where I work.

Bill is an Aussie who now has restaurants worldwide, which all reflect his ethos for food and dining. When you walk into bills in Darlinghurst, the vibe is friendly, warm and generous. No pretensions here! The communal table is great, allowing everyone to share in each others’ dining experiences as you observe the delicious dishes being served to fellow diners.

As Bill says: ‘This is where it all began, in 1992. bills Darlinghurst is where I did my growing up. The miniscule kitchen and tiny dining room in one of Darlo’s old backstreet pub buildings set the tone for what we still do today. Local by-laws allowed us only a few seats – hence the now much-copied communal table where everyone ate together, reading the newspaper or striking up a conversation with the person enjoying scrambled eggs next to them. Today, it’s still a simple Sydney corner café, serving a menu of bills classics.’

There are some dishes that bills is famous for – creamy scrambled eggs, utterly moreish ricotta pancakes with banana and honeycomb butter and sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon. These two latter dishes are breakfast through to lunch and I’ve had both at either end of the morning! Bills burgers are pretty good too, the wagyu burger, with grilled swiss, pickled green chilli, herb mayo, rocket and fries is one of the Darlo offerings.

Another favourite on bills menus is the Aussie pavlova, and, as readers of other of my posts know, that’s a version of meringue of which I am very fond, possibly even obsessed… The Darlo bills version is a brown sugar pavlova, with rhubarb, pistachio and rosewater yoghurt.  I ate this recently and had to go home and instantly recreate my own version, see my Brown Sugar Pav post here.

The rest is in the photos. I’m regret I don’t have a photo of the scrambled eggs or wagyu burger – oh well, I will need to visit bills again soon I guess!

433 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

http://www.bills.com.au/

IMG_2358

 

IMG_2345-1

 

Save

Fleetwood Mac: Rocking into Retirement

2DAEEE2E00000578-3285618-image-m-19_1445569357961

So we’re back in the Hunter Valley at Hope Estate for another concert from some Old Rockers. Fleetwood Mac were back in town. They had cancelled their 2013 tour after John McVie became ill. So it was good to see them back – and this was the best thing about the gig – Christine McVie was reunited with the band.

Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Christine McVie together again! The dream line-up.

Now I was sitting quite a way back, but with the help of giant video screens, it was obvious from the youthful appearance of the band members that “work” had been done. And quite a lot of work. Lindsey Buckingham looked like he had been embalmed… I found his orange colour quite disconcerting. Stevie Nicks looked good, she’d dropped some weight – but was she wearing a wig?? Can anyone of her age have that much blonde hair to swoosh? It was hard to see what John McVie looked like, he played bass upstage from the others. No Sting-like theatrics for this unobtrusive rocker. Mick Fleetwood looked just like always, he had apparently barely aged. Somewhat of a gentle giant, with the occasional manic moves on drums.

fleetwood_mac_1_1b3892r-1b38931

Christine McVie was the standout. The oldest of the bunch, at 72 she looked really great – and sounded great. 16 years away from Fleetwood Mac and the rock and roll lifestyle have clearly had their benefits. Slim, energetic, giving it her all in her own numbers, she did none of the annoying prancing and dancing that Stevie and Lindsey indulged in for far too much of their time on stage. We were here for the music, not the geriatric calisthenics. Christine was worth the trip.

20bddee3401e25c3002c451772784a31

It was a good concert but not a great concert. You got the feeling that they had done this gig time after time after time. There was no spontaneity, no straying from the set list. Even the stage patter sounded formulaic and rehearsed. Stevie greeted us with “I’ve never been to Hunter Valley”. We know, cause if you had, you’d know it’s The Hunter Valley.  The all important “the”.  And we know all about the Stevie/Lindsey dynamic, so we didn’t need to see some fake frolicking and lovey dove stuff during a couple of the numbers.

f01c9eb3-8631-478f-aeae-ad924631a9a6

But, all things considered, the Old Rockers gave us all the classics and pretty decently too. Lindsey’s guitar antics were pretty awesome and it’s clear he’s still got it musically. Mick’s manic drumming was pretty good too – highly energetic, what is he on?

 “Dreams”, “Rhiannon”, “Tusk”, “Sara”, “Gypsy”, “Little Lies” and “Go Your Own Way” were my favourites and they have stood the test of time. Stevie’s voice was a little low and husky, while Christine McVie sounded like she had just stepped out of the 70s.

The weather was not kind: drizzly rain and cool temperatures on what should have been a balmy spring night. The crowd was edgy, patrons were drunk rather than tipsy, and a scuffle broke out towards the end of the gig. We felt the 2 1/2 hour concert dragging. We were cold and wet and ready for the bus back home. Back at chez Shakey – Hunter Valley Country Lodge –  a hot shower and a liqueur muscat nightcap really warmed us up.

I’m sure the band would have slept well too, after the gig, dreaming of the money they had made on this tour, and perhaps thinking of retirement. Right? Right.

Oh, I should mention that the bonus at the concert was the support act Angus and Julia Stone. A great Australian brother and sister duo worth listening to.

Fleetwood Mac Hope Estate, 14 November 2015

 

 

Historical Brownies

IMG_8822Fannie Farmer’s brownies

I always read with interest and great enjoyment the posts of My Revolutionary Pie a fascinating look at American culinary history. I was particularly taken with a “Brownies” post, which detailed the origins and evolution of this now ubiquitous sweet treat.

Below are My Revolutionary Pie’s adaptations of one of the first brownie recipes from 1906 created by Fannie Farmer, in The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, and a recipe of a former student of Farmer, Maria Willett Howard, published in 1907 in Lowney’s Cook Book.

Both brownies are different from the dense, heavy versions of today. They both contain quite a small amount of chocolate – 2 ounces (about 57 grams). They are sweeter and less chocolatey. I liked the Lowney’s Cook Book version better  – it has more butter and produced a less crunchy texture. The walnuts really stand out in both versions.

However, the photos look very similar – I can really only tell the difference because I photographed them on different plates!

For the full and fascinating early history of the brownie, see the post:
http://revolutionarypie.com/2015/04/10/brownies/

Fannie Farmer’s Brownies
Adapted from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1906 edition)

¼ cup butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C) Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Blend melted butter with sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in slightly cooled chocolate and vanilla extract and stir well. Blend in flour, followed by walnuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly in baking pan, using an offset spatula if possible.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until firm. Let rest a few minutes, then invert brownies from pan onto cutting board, peel off parchment, and slice into squares.IMG_8834

Lowney’s Brownies
Adapted from Lowney’s Cook Book by Maria Willett Howard (1912 edition)

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ounces (2 squares) (57g) unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163 degrees C). Butter an eight-inch (20cm) square baking pan, then cut out an eight-inch (20cm) square of parchment paper, place it in the bottom of the pan, and butter the parchment.

2. Cream the butter briefly, then gradually add the sugar, and cream well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the slightly cooled chocolate.

3. Whisk together the flour and salt, then add to the batter and mix well. Stir in the nuts.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly firm on top. Cut into squares in pan, then let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan.IMG_7251

Paul Simon and Sting in the Hunter Valley: The Odd Couple

paul_simon_&_sting_rod_laver_arena_0215_kane_hibberd_12.jpg.9492d8269f6844f551a2fca62db1a303

A warm February night in the Hunter Valley. It was Valentine’s Day and a waning moon. Is that significant? Is love on the decline in our increasingly  commercial culture?

A group of old friends, school and uni, were gathered for the Paul Simon and Sting gig at Hope Estate. It seemed like yesterday I was at the same venue under balmy skies to watch the consummate act of the Rolling Stones (review here) go through their geriatric paces.

Geriatric is not a word you would use to describe the 64 year-old Sting, whose rippling muscles defined his slender torso. Sporting a hipster beard, he’s still got it. I was a Sting tragic in the 80s, and still have a fascination for his musical breadth and diverse interests. I was richly rewarded on Saturday night. He featured a lot of his wonderful jazz influenced 80s repertoire. When The World Is Running Down and Driven To Tears were probably less accessible for the audience than Roxanne, but they made my night as I had last seen them performed live in the 80s with Sting’s epic jazz line-up of Branford Marsalis, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland and Omar Hakim.

Paul Simon is a little worn. But not bad for 74, his performing style is not the main attraction. A consummate song writer, with the commonality with Sting of an interest in world rhythms, hearing him perform his music which had its genesis 50 years ago was a pleasure. I listened rather than watched.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Still Crazy after all These Years were lyrical and moody, while Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes was wonderfully delivered and had the audience dancing in the aisles.

The Odd Couple did a couple of things that surprised me. When they sang each other’s songs they were really impressive. Simon’s rendition of Sting’s Fragile was poignant: highlighting the song’s political message. Sting’s back-story of America as the sound track to his first tour of the US gave a lovely new narrative twist to Simon’s lyrics.

I was least impressed with their duo singing. Their vocal styles are so different and don’t quite match. Not such a problem on Sting’s stuff, it really grated on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel numbers. Sting is no Art Garfunkel, and I missed the pure, choir boy harmonies of the early Garfunkel. The Boxer, my favourite song of the original duo, in Saturday’s performance became formulaic and lacking in narrative strength. And the encore of Bridge Over Troubled Water, mostly delivered by Sting, was mundane and without real emotion. You just have to listen to Garfunkel’s singing of Simon’s lyrics to appreciate the beauty of the song.

It was a great night. I love to see musical legends of the 20th century perform live. These two, while not being a match made in heaven, were able to deliver a fairly representative selection of their musical history. And they clearly respect each other as musicians and people. There was a lot of hugging on stage, between the short one and the tall one, which was rather sweet.

And returning to Valentine’s Day – love off stage was there too. My old school friend and her husband, long time partners, danced bare foot in the aisles, absorbed in the moment and in each other, reviving even this old cynic’s view of life and love.

Paul Simon and Sting: Hope Estate Hunter Valley, 14 February 2015

 

 

%d bloggers like this: