Yolanda and I rubbed shoulders today with celebrity chef Rick Stein (who is my favourite TV presenter,next to Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud). The luncheon was hosted by another local gourmet luminary Luke Mangan at his fine dining restaurant, glass, on the first floor of the Sydney Hilton. The entrée and main courses were created by Mangan and Stein and generated just as much sweet warmth and genuine charm as his dessert, caramel baked custard (crema Catalna).This was a smooth, yummy-tummy,Spanish-style crème brûlée, featured in his current cookbook, Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes.
Yolanda got her copy signed by Rick as he wandered through the restaurant meeting fans and foodies. He told me that Spain was a recent gourmet destination and that he thinks the filming for his next TV series, also produced by the BBC and destined to hit our shores after its release in Britain, will translate the passionate authenticity of the land well.
In the evening we were guests at the Sydney Opera House where Rick filled the Concert Hall with his avid food lovers – a first I think for a Chef. His charismatic style and great sense of humour are a welcome change in the sometimes serious world of being a chef. Throughout a two-hour culinary journey Rick brought his travels to life with stories and footage from his TV series. His philosophy on food is to find joy in cooking and eating and this is certainly reflected in his unbound enthusiasm for all things culinary.
Maureen de Groot
The de Groots office has gone international this week, and our culinary travels have taken our palates around the world.
While we have a passion for the Best Restaurants of Australia, we also love to explore the rest of the world’s culinary destinations. We have now expanded our website to showcase the brilliant restaurants throughout the leading cities of the world. Search the international section to marvel at the dining destinations of Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong, Rome, Barcelona and many more. And if you’ve been lucky enough to dine at any of them, we would love to hear about your experience! Email our web editor Edwina and tell us about your magnificent meal – firstname.lastname@example.org
Our travels this week took us to the mystical land of Morocco – not really, but we had a vicarious experience through Sydney’s Souk in the City. The de Groots team were filming for BestVideos.com.au and Eat, Play & Stay on Foxtel’s Aurora Channel 183. Scott Winter, our Top 10 Gourmet Destinations Magazine editor and host of the show, donned a traditional Berber turban and was having so much fun with the snake-bearing belly dancer, that he forgot where he parked his camel. From the moment we arrived we were showered in rose petals – that’s Omar’s typical welcome – and then sat back to enjoy his Omar’s warm hospitality and exotic, flavoursome food.
From cobra-toting belly dancers to mountainous ranges, our film crew then shot the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon. We were guests of The Carrington Hotel, where we filmed and dined in the Grand Dining Room one of the last Victorian dining rooms still operating in Australia. We also spent time filming Wolgan Valley Resort, set amidst the scenery of Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Site. This is the most environmentally responsible spa resort in Australia and is built around a fully restored homestead that Charles Darwin once wrote from. Nestled within its own private conservation and nature reserve,this beautiful retreat is most definitely world-class.
While we were seeking out the brilliant new restaurants of the Australian dining scene, some of our team have been lucky enough to embark on culinary adventures overseas. Yolanda de Groot recently returned from Thailand where she stayed in her favourite Bangkok hotel, The Mandarin Oriental. An experience at this magnificent hotel is a is a must for any Bangkok travellers, whether it be for a refined meal, the spectacular treats of High Tea, or a lesson from their famous cooking school. She returned with a personal recommendation of China House Restaurant – a richly decorated Thai pavilion reminiscent of old world Northern Thai architecture. Venturing on to Phuket, she attended the spectacular cooking school of Mom Tri’s Boathouse and brought home souvenirs unlike any others – traditional Thai cooking skills. The Banyan Tree Hotel’s signature restaurant Saffron capped off a delicious adventure and added to the list of reasons why we’re itching to our own trips to Thailand!
Maureen de Groot
According to Mr. Coles and Mr. Woolworths Easter now runs from early January until late April, and despite having four months warning, our Easter shopping is always left till Holy Thursday. By then, there are only slim pickings left in the chocolate aisle (this is the only slim thing about Easter). In those final hours before the shops close for Good Friday, we are forced to decide which loved ones we will buy for and how much they are worth. Much like Christmas, Easter leaves many a pocket empty and many a waistband tight. When did those innocent chocolate bunnies become so expensive?
This raises the question, how much chocolate is each relationship worth?
The Giant Egg/Bunny – the ultimate example of quantity over quality. Most appropriate for excitable children. Beware – their hyperactivity on Easter Sunday is in direct proportion to the size of this gift.
Box of Chocolates – the last minute gift that is void of any Easter associations. Perfect as a mass gift that caters to an entire family in one package, and for those short notice Easter events. Or for those people you forgot.
Easter Gift Pack – the gift voucher equivalent of chocolate. Perfect for anyone and everyone – from grandparents to the new partner’s parents and all the friends in between.
Boutique Chocolatier Items – the Cartier of chocolate. The epitome of love in a gold wrapper, this gift is for those that need impressing and those who need to be spoilt.
The Re-Gifted Chocolate – the obligatory gift. Most commonly given at the late Easter barbecue to forgotten friends or relatives. The re-gifted chocolate is also popular in those weeks after Easter when the taste for chocolate has well and truly worn out, and the diet started.
Despite all of this, you will receive an example of each of these this Easter. And we all know that the chocolate will be happily devoured no matter who it came from. Alternatively, a present with all the love and none of the calories is a gift certificate from Best Gift Certificates – the one present that is perfect every time!
Maureen de Groot