Saturday, April 17, 2010

Is Splendour A Farce?

So Splendour In The Grass was announced this week, and what an absolute stir it's caused. Easily, it can be said, with this one mega-announcement, it has stuck its head above the parapet of mainstream festivals and has stamped its mark as Oz's answer to the mega music festivals of the world. It has, to mind, a wonderful mix of massive mainstream acts, top-line local performers and enough of a smattering of "who the fuck?" moments to tease the interests. There's one massive 'but': it's the privilege of parting with upwards of $450 to enter the party.

As I commented over at farcebook on one of the many convos happening regarding this very fact:

"It is quite expensive - pound for pound, Glasto is cheaper per day... but most artists on their bill are touring around Europe at the time, so they just skip over to the festival as part of their travel."

"Bringing all of the headliners half-way across the world is a fucking expensive task. Added to that, due to the glut of mainstream fests in Oz (and the world) ATM, exclusivity of at least 2-3 of the international headliners is key. This means that, per show, the headliners are getting more per ticket = higher ticket price."

"Sure, it's bloody expensive - but I think the killer will also be the 3 days of essential entrapment into the festival food and bev cartels. Woodford Folk Festival is the only multi-day fest I've ever been to which doubles as a sort of fresh-food mart - you can get almost anything there either cheaply pre-made, or fresh so you can make it in your camp yourself. I don't think Splendour will take on that philosophy, and it certainly won't allow the Peat's Ridge- style BYO alcohol. So 3 days worth of Langos Hungarian Deep Fried Bread and $12 cans of mid-strength piss will be a deal breaker for me."

As much as I would love to be a part of this 10 year celebration (and with fond memories of this brand's tentative first toe in the water to a restricted 7,500 punters), and as much as I feel this is a make or break in terms of business models for Oz festivals for years to come, I just don't think it's got enough to entice my currency from my pocket.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dinners are getting fancy at The Den

I always knew the Tiger had impressive culinary skills. Even way back when we were just flatmates, she would whip up cool and interesting meals when it was her turn to cook.

At first I thought I was just impressed because of the different culinary cultures, but over time I've come to appreciate that she's a dedicated and passionate lover of food who is willing to turn her hand at almost anything... and most times she has succeeded with flying colours. Baking has been a particular focus lately (and a danger to my diet regime!), and she thinks nothing of doing up a quick batch of mochi with red bean paste and strawberries - even though it's a multi-stage process over a couple of days with finicky ingredients.

After last week's posh nosh, though, she's got a renewed vigour for the evening meal. Of particular interest was the bloody beautiful rocket, poached pear and Parmesan salad at Aqua Linea. It was simple and unobtrusive, but the combination of flavours and the simplicity of it stole the night, and so she's now on a mission to both replicate it and build upon it. Her first attempt using the same concepts was present the night before last:

There's miso and a small bowl of rice, with the main plate filled with a grilled piece of yellowtail (Japanese buri) with a simple honey-soy-miso paste, and a salad of spinach, string bean and red grapefruit. It was bloody delicious and impressive to look at. I married well, no?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Celebrating 2 years above the Aqua Linea

It was our two year anniversary last Tuesday and continuing on the grand tradition (started, coincidentally, 1 year ago), we decided to pull out all the stops and go fancy for a bit of nosh.

Last year's bash at Bishamon would be hard to beat, but with a little extra money in the bank thanks to an early anniversary present from the in-laws, we decided to step it up a notch and go as far out as possible before we stepped into the black hole of stupidly-priced nonsensical twattery (aka anything on Eagle Street, particularly anything starring a TV chef). Teneriffe's Aqua Linea fitted the bill nicely.

From the gin and tonic aperitif right through to the chocolate "gravel" of the dessert, it was a polished, yet restrained affair. A bottle of 2008 Cloudy Bay Sav Blanc (cheekily marked up way beyond its means) was swiftly delivered, along with a couple of slices of dense, creamy pumpkin bread with olive oil to line the stomach. As usual, pork belly screamed at me from entree list, while the Tiger opted for the rather enticing prawn and leek ravioli. The belly was, however, a touch on the dry side with the soy-braise hardly present - but the peanut dressing pulled it through; and you can't really go too wrong with what is essentially a thick hunk of bacon. The texture of the rav seemed quite light and watery - reminiscent of steamed dumplings rather than traditional pastry. The filling was dense and the creamy sauce plentiful; we were both touching the happy side after that effort.

We both eyed the duck for mains, but the Tiger capitulated and opted for the Black Angus fillet instead. The tea-smoked duck was beautifully presented: a thinly sliced fillet, rare in the middle, on a bed of sugar snap peas and a scallion roesti. A fig compote rested against the end of the fillet, and assorted greens danced around the remainder of the white square. The steak, meanwhile, was a study of ordinariness - the round fillet on top of a runny potato mash (a-hem, sorry... pommes mousseline), surrounded by the vegies. Basically, a sexed-up version of meat n 3-veg... how pretentiously unpretentious.

But fuck it, it tasted orright, dinnit? The duck had the unmistakable earthiness of the tea embedded within the flavour, but the roesti (bascially a potato cake) was the clear winner - crunchy and crackly on the edges, but soaked with the duck juices in the centre. The only criticism, and this is almost too absurd to utter considering the amount it cost, was that there was just a touch too much on the plate. Meandering through each element meant the duck lost is sheen and became a little too congealed and fatty towards the end, while the roesti finished in a messy mulch. The wonderful side dish - rocket with cinnamon poached pear, Parmesan and lemon oil - is now in the process of being dissected and incorporated into the Tiger's growing culinary arsenal.

The Tiger decided to end the night with a decadent flourish - the bittersweet chocolate torte - while I finished the vino. Unfortunately, the torte didn't live up to expectations, but hey - you can tell desserts were purely an afterthought at this sort of establishment. And so with the bottle drained, and a couple of green notes passed to settle the bill, we strolled romantically along the riverfront, happy with our pleasant celebration of our nuptials and excited that our next one will be spent in our new city.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fast food ads amuse me

No, seriously. We've been having a blissful Love Den-based 4-day weekend which has, invariably, included a few hours plonked in from of the idiot box. I don't tend to consume much teev during the week, so it's been interesting to reconnect.

One thing which has caught my fancy has been the tone and text of fast food ads. About a year ago, I personally made a conscious effort to remove fast food from my diet (as part of the overall Get Fit Ya Fat Bastard Before You Become a Typical Old Fat Bastard plan... also involved swapping the pack-a-day fags for gym membership and a new bike). Watching fast food ads has provided me with much mirth, as they no longer hold the mouth-drool factor which clouded their efficacy previously.

Working for a major supplier of fresh food ingredients to most of these companies, it's been interesting to watch from the inside the transformation of their predominantly lard-arse fair, through the pseudo-healthy options, to out-and-out Heart Foundation tick territory. And now they seem to be back full circle: and for KFC at least, they seem pretty effin proud of the double-time march back into meal options dripping in saturated fats, caked in salt and dipped in sugar. (I can't find the actual advert, but here's a little bit on the whole campaign to rid the world of Tower Burger-less angst. No, seriously. There was even a petition... I'm. Not. Makin. This. Up.)

Going in another direction entirely, both Maccas and HJs are trying to re-invent themselves as "sophisticated". First it was the bullshit me-first campaigns (and the entire promise in general) of the bullshit Angus burgers. But this little gem has me all giggly... the key line - "ahh, garlic mayo. Mmmm" - pretty much brands its target market as gruff buffoons with little to no cuisine education.