“Weekend Foodtrail”

Monday 8 March 2010. A public holiday in Tasmania – 8 hours day. Or, labour day. The weather – it is one of those days that I just want to stay in bed and do nothing, or just lay on the couch in my night clothe and have a marathon DVDs. In other words, the weather is sort of crap! Shower, drizzle, cloudy – dark and gloomy.

I just finished watching a Chinese DVD movie, Storm Warriors II – a supernatural martial arts movie – sword fighting, kung-fu, flying daggers. Lots of special effects. Whenever I go back to Penang, I will buy at least three Chinese DVDs. I don’t know which movies to choose. So, I asked the dealer to choose some for me. Must be a good and popular movie. Fighting. Drama. Supernatural with lots of special effects.

It is quite strange not to go to work on a Monday. But, you know what? Most workers throw in a sickies either on a Friday or Monday for a long weekend. Well, I didn’t have to do that today. Bonus. I had an alright weekend. There was the Cygnet annual “Southern Art Festival” at the Town Hall. Last Friday night, the Fifth of  March was the opening night. My partner and I usually go there on an opening night to support the community art festival. This year, the artwork is better with 177 arts from local artists. The exhibition is on until 21 March.

Some of the arts on display.

There were some finger food and drinks at the opening night. But, the food were uninteresting and not worth a picture. Last year, the event organiser catered the food from my friend, Steven Cumper – chef and owner of Red Velvet Lounge (RVL). That was excellent food. But, one look at the food that night – I wonder why the organiser didn’t cater from RVL again. I found out later that they wanted RVL to provide the food for next to nothing. What are they expecting? A business to provide food at below cost? This is the thing that annoys me. It is indeed hard to run a business in country Tasmania. Locals think they are doing the business a favour by going there to eat. And, in return expect the business to do what they want for nothing. I had a customer once asking to bring his own oysters to my restaurant! And, expect me to cook and serve them because another restaurant did it for them. “WHAT THE?” right? Another time, a customer asking if she could bring in fish and chips (from across the road) for her children because they are not accustomed to eating Malaysian food! Another, “WHAT THE?” right? I get quite emotional when I talked about my good and not so good experience running my restaurant in Franklin.

Anyway, I digress. After the art exhibition, we went to RVL for dinner. It was not too busy. I wonder why those people at the exhibition didn’t come and eat at RVL? I guess some prefer to stuff themselves with free food and drink. We saw a neighbour, husband and wife, stood next to the trestle tables of food and drink. Hardly moved away and just drank and ate! Miserable couple. They were the most unpopular neighbour in our street.

A couple of years ago, my partner drove into their fence – lost control when he made a sharp turn coming down the road. The road was uneven. There were a couple of crashes and near crashes on that bend in the past. His Mini Cooper flipped over 4 times, crashed into the fence and landed upside down. The neighbour came running out. The only concern they have was my partner crashed and damaged their plants, a tree and fence! Fortunately, my partner was unhurt, just a minor scratched on his arm. Rather than calling me or the other neighbours. that neighbour called the police, because they suspected my partner was drunk. For goodness sake, it was 4 pm. My partner had a company lunch function and had two small glasses. The police arrived. Took a breath test. It was below the breath test limit. My partner was not charged. But, we had a terrible time claiming the insurance because the company, Budget Direct, rejected the claim. It took us almost two years to fight the insurance company, which ended in a mediation in court. We won and the insurance company ended paying more than what we had initially claimed. The Mini was a write-off. But, the drama that neighbour put us through. And, they claimed over $3000 damage for their fence, which was a barbed wire country fence, worth only few hundreds! I wonder what they did with the rest of the money – free plants!

It was incredible that the Mini flipped over a few times, and the inside was still intact. Almost untouched.

Back at RVL, we bumped into Lee Christmas – an entrepreneur, a chef, a farmer. The first time we met Lee was at his ex-cafe, The Farm Gate at Kettering. He sold his business a few months ago and moved to Hadspen, a small country town outside of Launceston – the second largest city in Tasmania. Lee is doing what he loves most – breeding Wessex Saddleback and recently launched his own country school and boutique accommodation called Red Feather Cooking and Lifestyle.

It was nice to catch up with Lee briefly at RVL. He told us that he was down here because the next day, he is running “The Whole Hog” class at the international renowned The Agrarian Kitchen. All his classes are fully booked for the rest of the year.

The next day, Saturday the sixth of March, we had an evening show at The Theatre Royal in Hobart. It is the oldest theatre in Australia. A small and intimate theatre. We went to see “Keating”, a comical musical about Australian politics during the Keating years. It was very entertaining, funny and satirical with great music and vocals.

After the show, my partner was hungry. Our car was parked in front of an award winning waterfront hotel, Henry Jones Art Hotel, in the historical IXL building. There is a Chinese and an Indian restaurant in the same stretch of building. Had a look at the menu. There was only one table in each restaurant with customers. Menu looks uninteresting. My partner suggested we go to Smolt in Salamanca Place. I always wanted to try Smolt. Read other blogger’s sites that the food was good.

What a cute website! Check it out here.

I was not hungry. I had something to eat at home before the show. When we got there, it was slightly before 9:30 pm. We walked in. Waited to be served. A waitress came. I asked if they were still opened. There was a pause from the waitress. She asked someone else. Then we were taken to a table. Walked passed an open kitchen. We ordered their entree special – yellowfin tuna with asparagus puree, and an anchovy pizza.

Both dishes were good. Tuna was fresh and light with shredded fennel, a small orange slice served on top of asparagus puree. Flavour was subtle. The pizza was beautiful as well. Plenty of cheese with nice tomato based sauce, fresh anchovy slices, olives and sweet basil leaves. The dough was very good, light and crusty. I wanted to know if the dough was made from an organic flour. But was told it was a normal flour. Talking about chef’s being careful with their trade secret. This obviously was an over guarded, cold response from the kitchen.

The next day, Sunday the seventh of March, we were supposed to meet some friends at the annual Taste of the Huon festival. It was a gorgeous sunny blue sky day in mid twenties degree celsius. Unfortunately, we didn’t made it. We were, well, too exhausted from the night before. I was going to attend the festival so I can blog about it. It is a food and wine festival showcasing the local talents, businesses, products and produces in the Huon region.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to set up a stall to promote my business. It was the first and only event I participated as a stall owner, with the help of my partner, his parents and one of our neighbour. It was hard work. I used 10 kg of chicken thigh fillets, 5 kg of potatoes, 5 kg of onions, 3 kg of garlic, 1 kg of fresh red chilies, 4 kg of dried anchovies and lots of rice. It took two days for me to prepare all the ingredients and one day to cook. But, it was great fun and I won the best food stall at the festival. That was awesome! And, I still remember the wonderful opportunity and experience until today.

11 responses to ““Weekend Foodtrail”

  1. Sounds like a HUGE weekend., not surprised you ran out of puff by the end of it

  2. About BYO food restaurants: we have quite a few here in Hong Kong. In fact it’s a good system for the restaurants not needing to invest in the food itself. They usually are situated near a seafood market selling live seafood from its tanks. So you buy your veggies and fish/prawns/crabs etc. The resto will cook it for a fee, served with rice and eventually will sell you also the drinks. Also in Penang it is done that way in some places. I agree that in the west it is very unusual. Maybe something to think about to start a new formula in your community?

    • Most cafes here are BYO as well, JP. I must make a trip to HK again. Now that Penang has a direct flight. Then hop over to Canton.

  3. Oh V, I wish we lived a little closer. Usually I get bored about 2 paragraphs into a blog post but you, my friend, carry me to the end!

    • LOL, C. You probably would have guess it by now. I am a real big chatterbox! Trash just switched off his ears after a while listening to me.

  4. Hi Victor, haven’t said much here but have tried most of your recipes , living in the bush makes it hard to get some ingredients, so I ad-lib a bit, have to use frozen sea food etc;dried herbs, still, most times it works out well.
    The photos of the wood work you put up really caught my attention, I do a bit of wood turning and only dream of Tassie wood, it’s treated like gold when come across. Makes me annoyed when I think of Gunns and Government.
    I used to make pigs trotters cooked in ginger ,vinegar and turnip I think, it was a while ago, took hours but was beautiful. Now, health regulations ,I’m told, sorry can’t sell pigs trotters. Any alternative you know of?
    Keep going, your making me learn and thanks for keeping it simple..

  5. I love that we get a day off to celebrate the eight hour working day. Gold.

  6. Will have to try Smolt again. Went there for a work function about a year ago. Food was good- but I didn’t get to pick…Other people complained they didn’t get enough- I just made sure I sat next to skinny people who wouldn’t eat a lot on the least full table!

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