Viand 27 Sydney 2 . 25 October 2014
Hyperlinked annotated menu follows photos.
Because food is so important to me, it’s my landscape. The producers I buy from and my shopping rituals constitute my sense of community and place. Their stories gave Australia meaning for me. This is the most personal menu of any Viand to date, touching my food history and eating habits. For me, cooking for one is not a chore, it’s a way to reconnect with my history, and an opportunity to recognize this moment.
0 Amuse My expectation of what living in Sydney would be about was spicy Thai salads. I eat them late at night at Chat Thai. But this was the first one I ever had, at home in San Francisco. I call it ‘Thai fireworks’. 7 ingredients: Kemps Creek Farm spinach leaf, Bondi Honey from The Urban Beehive, tiny slice of lemon with rind from Champion’s Mountain Organics, toasted coconut, New Zealand walnuts (substituted for peanut) and Chop Shop crackling (substituted for dried shrimp).
1 I love bread, especially big loaves so there’s less crust and the inside is chewy and slightly damp. Brickfields does it perfectly. Disdaining the NZ-OZ skimpiness with bread-on-table, and wanting you to not feel nervously hungry, we’ll keep two kinds of bruschetta going for you half the night. Fennel+caramelised onion+dill & cucumber+red onion+mint+ricotta. Produce from Kemps Creek Farm. Ricotta from Highland Organics.
2 The most similar underground restaurant to The Viand is StudioFeast, whose agenda is “to get people to cook and host dinner parties.” StudioFeast is known for “stunts” like lunch on the subway and pork tartare, so I jumped at Grant Hilliard’s suggestion to serve carpaccio of dry-aged mutton back-strap. Grant loves that a meat that is regarded as poor quality and seen exclusively as needing long, slow cooking can be eaten raw, with a strong developed flavour. The mutton is from a 6th generation lamb farm, Moorlands, north of Canberra in the Southern Tablelands on the upper reaches of the Lachlan River. Moorlands is owned and managed by Vince and Janet Heffernan, who have transformed it into one of the largest Demeter-certified Bio-dynamic lamb farms in Australia. Grant’s shop, Feather and Bone, works with a network of producers, over 50 different farms in the last 8 years. over 20 at any one time. “Instead of selling meat, what we’re really selling is … healthy, vibrant soil.”
3 One of the first meals I remember being moved by was at a small restaurant in New York City, when I was about 10 years old. I ordered sautéed mushrooms as a starter, and the restaurant kindly brought me two more servings as a main. At the last moment, I aborted the plan to serve exotic mushrooms upon finding out the supplier was biotech and couldn’t tell me much more. So we have Swiss Browns from Margins Mushrooms in Woy Woy. Facing crisis after the GFC, the family turned their mushroom hobby from 15kilos into 1 ton a week. The farm uses an abandoned abattoir and now supports the entire family. But just cooking these mushrooms in butter isn’t that exciting, so Chef Melinda Dimitriades of Chop Shop raided Brad’s herb garden in the dark and zested the rest of the lemon to make these plain mushrooms spectacular.
4 People ask me how I stay so healthy, and the main meal I eat every day forms the base of this dish. It’s Block 11’s chicory (often kale) skillet-roasted (don’t stir too much or you won’t get any brown), with Randall’s Organic sustainable Australian Rice from Murrami, and butter. To make it less mundane, Melinda Dimitriades of Chop Shop has cooked ham-hock (the pig’s osso buco), from mineral-rich Black Berkshire Pigs too fatty for the supermarket duopoly, the kind of heirloom livestock supported by independent butchers. I was immediately attracted to Melinda’s stall at Carraigeworks because her workers were tattooed and serious about meat. I recognized the new generation of butchers. Melinda was one of the first people I befriended in Sydney, and my first interview here. She taught me how to make lard. I had my first conversation with Block 11’s patriarch. His son Greg Kocinda is a third generation farmer, and decided to go organic. The farm is in Comawindra.
5 ”We started experimenting with fruit trees for sustainable farming. This was about 1987. We let the weeds come into the orchards and used them as humus. I had been into permaculture for so long, there was never any intention of using chemicals.” Read the whole story of David Flinter‘s Comboyne plateau farm, Hand N Hoe Organics, at the black tubing as you search for the harvest that took 19 years. This artwork has been exhibited at Gaffa Gallery and presented at the ETH Zürich.
6 I spend most of my money at the farmers market, where I chat with the farmers and artisans. I especially like cheese, and one day in 2012 was excited to find a new vendor selling buffalo cheeses. After besieging him with enthusiasm, I went to see Michael of Pecora Dairy, intending to take home both sheep and buffalo mozzarella. Michael whispered to me. “I only brought my blue cheese today, no mozzarella, because I want the new buffalo guy to be successful.” Michael and Cressida’s Bloomy White captures the provenance of their farm, sheep, and dairy.
7 Wild Venison from Brad’s family’s farm in the Snowy Mountains. marinated in red wine and juniper, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Smoked with hickory in a rotisserie Then a herb rub and cooked & smoked outdoors. And to accompany a juniper berry infused olive oil. Served with a warm salad of Block 11 beet and celery, and Mr. Apple Batlow apples.
8 I want to make gnocchi with you, so you can discover how nice it is to make things by hand, and how to to do it too. Once you decide that getting all that fur off is manageable, you can eat celery root just like mashed potato (I learned this from my co-chefs Lauren and Ben at the Mayday Viand in Boston), so why not make gnocchi with it? Well there is a reason why not, which is that you have to protect the delicate flavor. Instead of boiling it, we roasted it. Accompanied by Chop Shop morcilla, skillet-roasted with Mr. Apple’s Batlow pears. Peter stopped using pesticides decades ago when the Dept of Ag was still giving blood tests to farmers. They told him there was DDT in his blood and it could kill him. Peter went for Integrated Pest Mananagement and now uses predator mites to control pests.
9 Alana Mann has spent a lot of time thinking, talking and writing about tortillas and their importance in México. Along with its two sisters, beans and squash, maize (corn) has immense cultural and spiritual significance for many indigenous people. It originated over 7,000 years ago in Central America from a wild grass (teosinte), and remains a staple of many diets. The organic yellow maize grain on your menu tonight was grown closer to home, in the rich black alluvial soils of the Darling Downs and Northern NSW and was milled locally by Kialla Pure Foods, whose principles include sustainable and fair returns to farmer suppliers. Prepared using a traditional tortilla press and cooked on a comal (cast-iron plate from the Aztez ‘Comalli’), your piping-hot tortillas will be served with Champion’s Mountain Organics avocados.
10 Besides chicory or kale, the other main thing I eat is ice cream. In sufficient quantity that I need to consider the cost. I realized I could make organic ice cream cheaper than buying non-organic, invested in a freezing machine, and started working my way through all my favorite flavors. Unexpectedly, I tend to make vanilla, because it’s so good. Country Valley milk and cream, Holbrook Paddock Eggs, Heilala Vanillla (New Zealand), Bundaberg Sugar(all the organic sugar seems to be imported!) Gena Karpf of Sweetness the Patisserie, is devoted to beautiful, high-quality desserts made in small-batches. And has risked her life, her house, and her marriage for her bakery. Her caramel popcorn is just a tiny bit burnt, like my chicory.
ThankYou!• Space-hosts Brad Moffitt (Remedial Massage ) and Simonne Smiles (contemporary/aerial performances and private pilates ) • Promotor-host Alana Mann, author of Global Activism in Food Politics: Power shift • Storytellers Maaike (furniture resurrection ) and Shona Lee (massage therapy) • Chefs assistants Emily Constantine and Tristan Randall • Master of inanimate objects, Nick Young of Quest’s End Games • Video/livestream Mo Townsend of VODWall.
photos by Nick Young.
Don’t miss the next one!