Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creme brulee at Carss Park Cafe

On Sunday we had lunch at the Carss Park Cafe and Grill for Bruce's mother's birthday. Carss Park is a bit of a hidden gem on Sydney's south-side. The cafe is surrounded by 5.2 hectares of parkland and bush by Kogarah Bay on the Georges River. The park and the suburb were named after William Carss, a Scotsman who purchased 119 acres of land at Kogarah Bay in 1863.  The sandstone cottage he built from stone quarried on site, still stands today, as do many other historic remnants from that period.

As we ate lunch,  families picnicked, fathers played soccer with their kids, and walkers strolled along the promenade by the old tidal baths, built in 1934.

While the cafe does not list gluten-free options on the menu, the staff, particularly Trudy, seemed well-informed on the subject.  There were about six mains which were gluten-free, but they were also happy to adjust dishes such as removing the cous cous from the grilled marinated lamb with roast vegetables and baby spinach with salad with a mint yoghurt dressing (which everyone else had for lunch).

In the end I chose the pan-fried barramundi fillet with celeriac puree and romesco sauce with snap peas. I was not disappointed; it was delicious with a nice mix of flavours and textures. Other main options included chorizo, pea and mushroom risotto with fresh thyme and parmesan, duck breast with rosemary-roasted potatoes and a pickled quince and roast capsicum salad, five-hour slow-roasted pork hock with savoy cabbage and chat potatoes, and grilled scotch fillet steak with brocollini and red wine jus. 

While everyone else in the party had birthday cake for desert (full of gluten) I enjoyed a delicious orange creme brulee from the cafe's sweets menu.  And then it was time to walk off our lunch with a stroll through the park and an amble by the bay.

Carss Park Cafe is open seven days for breakfast and lunch, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner from 6pm.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Story creates gluten-free debate

Helen Greenwood's story in The Sydney Morning Herald this week on the Healthy Feast gluten-free bakery in Leichhardt sparked a great gluten-free debate. Well, maybe it wasn't the story that really created the debate but rather an inflammatory comment posted by a person called Sahara at the online site.
At the end of the review, the Herald asked readers to let them know about good gluten-free eating spots. A few people posted their favourites but the majority of the 94 people who commented were responding to Sahara's statement about food allergies being trendy with gluten-intolerant the most popular. Sahara went on to assert that most food allergies were self-diagnosed and that people who claim to suffer from a food allergy are part of the "look at me, I'm special" mentality.
Well boy did those comments set the cat among the pigeons. In particular, people with coeliac disease were the most outraged about being considered trendy on a gluten-free diet, and rightly so.  One point I did agree with Sahara on is that it is important to get a proper diagnosis if you are having digestive problems and find out whether you have an allergy, an intolerance, coeliac disease or something else.

In the end I think Bill from Broome aptly summed up the debate, saying he thought Sahara was one of those typical commenters that like 'taking the piss'' and sitting back and having a giggle at the outrage they cause. Either way Sahara, The Sydney Morning Herald and Healthy Feast created a conversation on coeliac disease, gluten-free foods, allergies and intolerances. And among the 94 posts there were a few good recommendations for coeliac-friendly restaurants.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sister Wendy unveils our new painting

Sister Wendy Beckett made a surprise appearance at our place on Saturday night.

The British art commentator of BBC fame dropped by to unveil our new painting – a wedding gift from more than 20 friends.

Arriving fashionably late, Sister Wendy unfortunately missed out on the hors dóeuvres – all gluten-free. I think she would have enjoyed wrapping those bucky teeth around the tandoori chicken, and prawn and avocado rice paper rolls. Instead the South-African-born contemplative nun, who lives in a caravan, had to make do with a few nuts and chips. We did give her a glass of champagne though, which added a bit of colour to her cheeks.

After a bit of poetic licence on my part, telling our guests there would be an artist talk at the unveiling, we were very pleased that Sister Wendy could step in at the last minute. She added drama, humour and glamour to the night, as well as making some very insightful comments on our new painting, Jacaranda by Australian artist Tanya Hoddinott.

Although Sister Wendy had a bit of trouble with Tanya’s surname (and her veil), she was very taken with her colourful, abstract work, which we bought at the Arthouse Gallery in Rushcutters Bay. As she told the gathering of nearly 20 friends, “Tanya told me that Jacaranda is named because of the bluey/violet colours in it.

“She said the jacaranda was a tree she grew up with (in northern NSW) and always loved, and was very missed in her 20 odd years in Melbourne. So it is not that the painting is representative but rather more symbolic.”

Finally, with a bit of help from gallant Bruce, Sister Wendy ripped the paper covering Jacaranda and revealed the work. “Gorgeous,” said Sister Wendy, and we all agreed.

By this stage our visiting celebrity was getting a bit hungry, so Bruce quickly heated up the bolognaise sauce he had prepared earlier from a Stephanie Alexander recipe. He even had some gluten free pasta ready as Sister Wendy said she preferred it to the wheat variety. Sister Wendy very much enjoyed the spaghetti bolognaise as I noticed she returned a number of times for extra helpings.

Everyone else did too, especially the late stayers, Kath and Ian and Rod who at 1am in the morning were dunking bread rolls (not gluten-free) into the bolognaise sauce.

Special thanks to Sister Wendy (aka Fiona), and to all our friends who gave us such a lovely wedding gift that enabled us to buy Tanya’s beautiful painting.

For recipes from the night go to ‘WHAT I AM COOKING’ on the  right of this blog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gluten Free Expo, 7-8 August, Sydney

From pizza bases to pies, pasta and peanut brittle, you'll find a huge range of gluten-free products at the Gluten Free Expo, which opens this Friday, 6 August from 4-8pm.  Presented by the Coeliac Society of NSW, the Gluten Free Expo is being held at Exhibition Hall 4 at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush.  It is also on Saturday, 7 August from 9-5 pm.

The expo showcases gluten-free manufacturers, distributors and retailers and there's lots of delicious food to taste. Other highlights include cooking demonstrations, talks on coeliac disease and what's new in gluten-free. For people who are newly diagnosed with coeliac disease attending the expo is a great way to find out about the large range of gluten-free products available today. Admission is free.