14 July 2008

Comfort Food. The price of humility

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. HELEN KELLER

Each day I thank the universe for the good fortune of living in a country where at my fingertips I am able to source the most wondrous fresh produce with origins from nations around the globe.

And when I pause for thought, I wonder why so many people turn their backs on this to trawl supermarkets for the sake of convenience, looking for products that will enhance the flavour of the lacklustre commercial produce that fills their trolleys...

...While others are willing to pay a chef $90 for the same simple meal that I have placed on my own dining table at a fraction of that cost.

My meal
- five serves total cost $22.

Roasted whole Milawa Free Range Chicken, hand raised in the Ovens Valley of Victoria, fed a diet of mixed grain, pasture and Spring water, chemical and hormone free, sustainable and Slow Food.

Under the skin and in the cavity:
usufruct Lemons from a neighbour, plus lemon thyme, Murray River Salt and Currawong Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In the pan to deglaze - Gooramada Riesling from Rutherglen.

Pan juice gravy made with my own thirty month old Masterstock consisting of Milawa chicken carcasses, cassia bark, coriander pods, star anise, fennel seeds, spring onions, ginger, garlic, Fernleigh Farm celery, carrots and parsley stems.

One bunch of Nettles from Glenora Heritage Vegetables, Toobanac, Victoria, blanched and drizzled with Lemon infused Olive Oil from South Australia.
Mashed Royal Blue Potatoes from Gordon Jones, Warragul, Victoria.

Photo reproduced from Gourmet Traveller

For two
people at Bistro Guillaume
- cost $90:

Whole Barossa Valley chicken, purée de pommes and sauce à la chasseur (Chicken, mashed potato with a demi glace mushroom sauce, no vegetables)

In our household, when we choose to dine out we have two streams of thought:

Moderate to cheap and cheerful food, usually from another culture, consisting of good produce cooked with traditional or regional pride.

Secondly there is the more expensive food that astounds us with its imaginative and passionate approach. Food that requires a kitchen brigade, food I would not cook at home.

So with that in mind and having studied the menu, Mr Stickyfingers and I will not be going to Bistro Guillaume. I know a number of local bloggers have already been and shared their positive experiences, but as nice an outing as it might be to sit in the chi-chi surrounds of this much vaunted venue, quite frankly Monsieur Brahimi's menu resembles the food we eat at home. Well, those dishes along with our
favourite Asian and Hungarian meals in my repertoire.

Perhaps if I were unable to acquire such good produce for myself, I might consider it. Given the marvellous concepts, innovation and exploration of new produce happening on the food scene here in Melbourne, I think that it would not be high on our list. In fact there are a number of more humble French establishments that I might choose in preference to it.

I know that although my home is small and simply furnished, the providence of the produce in our pantry is as good - and my techniques are sound. Our roast chicken was as succulent and as flavourful as you could wish for, plus we had the benefit of easily staggering to the lounge for semi-horizontal post-prandial relaxation. There was minimal prep time. Cleaning up pretty much required just throwing everything into the dishwasher.

Perhaps I am stuck up and naive but nothing could compel me to part with $90 for the same meal that I eat regularly at home.

Are the diners of Melbourne suffering from a case of
'The Emperor's New Clothes' - being hoodwinked by our fascination for the new and by the hype stirred up
following the arrival of celebrated Sydney chefs?

What do you think?


purple goddess said...

I had a similar epiphany this weekend, sticky. Driving home from the market, laden with fresh goodies, some of which were still fragrant with dew having been picked that morning, I saw all the punters in the NBT (Next Big Thing) resto in Dromana.

I've blogged about this goddawful place before, and in the same vein as the Four and 20 pie ad, thought to myself "You don't know what your missing"

When I go out, like you.. I want something I can't or choose NOT to cook at home (Pho springs to mind), or I want something with such a "wow" factor, as to justify its cost.

I have been burnt too many times paying good $$$ for shit... not just AS good as I can cook, but NOT NEARLY AS GOOD.

There's no humility about it, most resto's out there serve swill that I would be embarrassed to place before a friend or family member.

My big buy of the weekend?? A new telly, to replace the 22 year old one that finally gave up the ghost, and 4 beautiful "antique" terracotta pots for my courtyard, all for the price that some would spend on a meal for 2 at some pretentious twattery.. I mean eatery.

grocer said...

I share your sentiments.

I guess perhaps the difference is that many people see this kind of produce as "beyond them" even though it isn't.

Unfortunately most people don't have the master stock at hand and see that as effort because they don't understand where to start.

I think the "mis-education" of the public by FMCG and supermarkets in advertising has given the great unwashed the belief that we can't expect to have "posh stuff" on our dining table; that this kind of food is a treat, when really, in a wealthy country like ours, it should be the norm.

thanh7580 said...

Sticky, I think I have fallen a little for to the "Emperor's New Clothes". But not entirely. It was a concise choice I made to go to Bistro Guillaume.

I concur with grocer that not everyone can make those dishes. They may seem easy to you, but not all of us are as good at cooking. We could get to the stage to be able to do that eventually, but not at this moment.

Another factor is that its hard to just judge something on paper. Without trying it out, how can I truly know if I can do the same or whether it is way better than I could possibly do.

Having said all that, Bistro Guillaume was good, but not that good for the cost. The lamb was indeed like a lamb that I can, and have done, at home myself. Therefore I choose to not go back there.

stickyfingers said...

Thanks PG and Grocer, it seems we are all on the same page - not to disparage our blogger friends who love such venues - but it is a revelation and different idealogy when you have the skills and produce at hand at home.

I think it's sad reflection of our culture that simple comfort food can rocket beyond its humble origins to attract such extortionate prices. Hence effecting the pretence that it is something that is beyond the means of many. It possibly contributes to the pretence that good nutritional food is not possible on a tight budget.

Grocer, I am gradually opening my friends and family's eyes to making their own stock rather than resorting to tetra packs, stock cubes or chicken granules. I was given some commercial stock by a client recently so was able to do a comparison when making risotto and a daube. Sadly the results truly lacked flavour and texture. Perhaps I should do a post on how easy and cheap it is to do yourself?

I have also had further dialogue with the sender of the Vegie Pourovers email. When they suggested to me that they were "helping Kraft address kids nutrition challenges" I told them that if that was the case, they should have been sponsoring Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation, not enticing parents to introduce synthetic flavours and colours into their children's diets.

Oh ... and PG I'm sure you'll get years of enjoyment from those particular purchases, and that's what it's all about for many of us.

stickyfingers said...

Thanh many thanks for your thoughts.

It highlights to me that Generations X & Y in Australia have not learnt how to cook the most basic of meals. I know from the photos emerging from Bistro Guillaume on Picasa and Flickr that the food there is great quality produce cooked simply. But it's depressing to think though that many can't cook a steak and Bearnaise sauce or a piece of roast meat well at home, nor go to the buthcher or market for quality produce.

The same seems to go for breakfast. Most can't poach and egg or do a decent scramble so will pay through the nose for even sloppy versions as PG noted about the NBT. No wonder Trevor Eastment is looking at airing cooking shows 'in real time' teaching basic cooking skills on the Foxtel Lifestyle Channels.

grocer said...

thanh, you misinterpret me. these are simple dishes cooked with simple ingredients, but for some reason people believe they can't do it.

Although I don't think it's a generation x/y thing - being on the cusp between these, I and my siblings can cook, and i know many younger and older that can and can't. But i do think it's becoming a social divide - haves and have nots, etc.

Home cooking doesn't need to be complex - the crap the vast majority of our nation eat is much more complicated in process than a piece of cooked meat with vegetables (salad, etc.). I've started creating meal plans at the online store - providing the ingredients and simple instructions / pictures/slideshow.

The epitome of glamourising comfort food beyond reach is, in my opinion, corned beef. You will NEVER see me pay $30 for that! EVER!

Over this past year I have tested myself to discover just how easy things I had never tried before are - pizza bases, baking and pastries... Slowly my friends and family are seeing it - they can't understand how I have foregone a coporate salary yet eat as well as ever (if not better).

George Biron did a lovely post on making stock a little while ago, although I am interested in your concept of "master stock" a term I hadn't heard until relatively recently.

don't get me started on the "vegie pourovers" what'll they think of next?

Frankster said...

Stickyfingers, your post hit it on the spot with me too. We certainly delight in occasional 'fine' dining out and a big part of my enjoyment is anticipation of its potential sources of inspiration and new ideas (for tinkering in our own kitchen). But increasingly we are leaving many such places uninspired, underwhelmed and way too much lighter in pocket! Where is the value in the nowadays-all-too-common $40+ fish&chips and $100+ 200g steaks that others are seeing?? And even continuing to justify despite so so service and 'we're the ones doing you a favour for letting you in to eat here' types of customer attitude. On saying that though, we haven't been completely discouraged from indulging in such places every now and then. Or there'll be nothing for me to blog about(!); and on occasions we do walk away wowed.

Ran said...

Hi sticki - I agree with most of ur post... I tend to be dissapointed by most average cafes and restaraunts as I can cook those meals myself. We now only go out if we are craving another cultures food like Thai etc (which i can cook too but never quite as well ;P) or for really good food that we couldnt make due to not being able to source the ingredients and equipment needed.

On the other hand, your assertion that good ingredients are available for all in melbourne is not really true. In the inner city and some suburbs (generally the ones full of migrants) there are fabuluous butchers and green grocers. In the outer burbs, there really is only safeway and coles. Even the butchers in my local area are starting to shutdown as no one goes there anymore (and I dont go to them becasue all they have are the 'value added' meat products like rissoles!)

As I dont want to drive 30km for my dinner every night, I have started combining trips to source as much stuff as I can - I too had a roast chook this weekend which i bought from an organic store near work and I popped by Prahran markets on Sunday for an oyster fix as I was in the area due to my soccer match being in Sth Yarra. But it is a lot of effort, and I can see why a lot of susburbian folk do just go to the major supermarkets.

Sorry for the long ramble. It just really gets to me that I live near so many farms but cannot get fresh meat and veg, due to the demise of the greengrocer and butcher/ fishmonger. I have however just sourced some local eggs and honey which I am excited about.

thanh7580 said...

Sticky, in my case, I really can't cook much so do have to pay for it. I'm slowly learning and have gotten a lot better lately, but I do find it easier sometimes just to go out and eat it.

The real time demonstration thing would be a good idea. For example, I tried to poach an egg a month ago and despite reading up on it on the web on how to do it properly, it just didn't turn out as nice as the restaurants do.

I think it is a Gen Y thing. We tend to not have grown up needing to cook because we stay at home till we're much older. And with society being so fast paced, everyone wants everything quickly, and cooking a dish well isn't as easy as getting take away.

Grocer, I didn't read your comments properly the first time. You are right that good meals can be cooked at home, but you need that skill first. It's easy when you grow up cooking all the time and its second nature, but to learn from scratch is not trivial. A lot of cooking is from experience and you know when to stop boiling that thing or frying the other thing. A book cannot fully describe it to you. I know I've stuffed up many things lately because I read the recipe and then go, but how thick does the sauce need to be, is this thick enough or do I keep going? It all comes down to experience.

stickyfingers said...

Thanks Ran & Towser for stopping by and to Grocer and Thanh for ongoing enlightenment. I see my even greater good fortune now - lucky me :)

Being able to travel overseas has also got me to this point in my assessment of Melbourne dining, especially when eating in Asia, where a great many people don't cook but eat out because it's cheap and easy, but also their fine dining is often mind blowing.

The crisis that will eventuate over there however is coming about because they don't learn to cook at all - it's cheaper to eat out. And the more educated the populations become, the less of them turn to cooking as a career. So I think Hawker food may die out unless it is encouraged as a career path.

Ran - It's so sad to see butchers and green grocers cannibalised by mega-mall shopping. But when I was a kid there was nothing in the burbs so my parents and my foster families would travel 30km - or further - to go to Queen Victoria Market once a week to get our supplies. The Hungarians used to also go to Ballantyne's in South Melbourne for Cheese & Continental deli items like caterers jars of dill pickles.

PG lives in the Burbs and has put together a list of people who can deliver farm produce to you. I also have friends in the outer suburbs who shop at farmers markets out their way. You can find most listed at the Australian Farmers Market Association website or RFM and they pop up in places such as Pakenham, Berwick, Heathmont, Seaford, Mornington, Bundoora, Yarra Valley and more.

grocer said...

Ran, I do understand your concerns re the plight of the local grocer/butcher/providore however even you say you won't shop there.

Money, unfortunately, talks.
And while we're talking and active we just may have a little power in spreading the word.

And whilst i don't reside in Melbourne I wish I had a dollar for every person (in Sydney at least) that complains that the outer burbs don't have xyz, boasts a larger house and a V8 car, complains about fuel prices.

What we have lost is the ability to rationalise CAUSAL CONNECTION.

signing off now before i start a blog war.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Sticky & I reckon I am really beginning to become more grumpy when I eat out.
I dont mind paying, dont get me wrong but I hate being treated like a mug for indifferent service & shoddy food.
I dont even mind comfort food as long as its not pretending to be some revelatory experience that this particular restaurant has just'discovered'. Nor do I mind comfort food that is resaonably priced, but a roast chook for $90, that blows.
What I will say in defence of some restaurants is that at their best, they should leave one feeling restored. Unfortunately though for many of us we just feel inceasingly ripped off.

purple goddess said...

Look, it's not the ability to cook that's the crux here... any fool can cook bangers and mash. What I object to is some idiot restaurateur expecting me to pay $30 for it, just because it's tarted up as "served on a bed of garlic skordalia with a red-wine jus"

Ok, some of us are more likely to cook with a master stock, or be able to prepare something with truffle oil. That's not the point. The point is that the punters in the 'burbs have been hoodwinked. By the Vegie Pourover Magicians. And the Cook-in-the Pot purveyors.

You know what I saw in my local IGA last night?? A sachet for "Italian herbed potato mix"... at $2.50 a throw!!


Who buys this shit?

It comes right back down to education. If one person reads me/you/us and thinks "I'll give this Farmer's Market thing a go", then we've triumphed. If one middle-of-the-road resto like my NBT decides to support local suppliers and use local ingredients and serve honest food at affordable prices, then I'll be happy.

There will always be a market for high-end fine dining, but I am talking about the beeestros in the 'burbs.

And I think we're in the vanguard of a new way of shopping and eating. I've said this before.. 10 years ago Mater Beige didn't even know what recycling was... now she does it as a matter of course.

Have y'all noticed how much more "trendy" SOLE has become? It's freakin' everywhere. Although the skeptic "grassy-knoll" fan in me rolls my eyes when I see Coles spouting forth about organic fair trade products.

As grocer says, it's about the causal connection. If you going to buy $2.50 of random herbs to sprinkle on your tatties, don't freakin' complain about the cost of meat/fruit/veg/petrol/air.

Read the labels, people... Start asking questions...


And I'm not talking about "fancy food", I'm talking about basic meat and three veg.

And when I DO decide to go out for a bite... I am more likely spend my $$$ at a hole-in-the-wall pho joint, or the RSL, that some trumped-up beestro with faux leather banquets and crap food.

Damn.. off to blog about this before I use up all your bandwidth with a single comment, Sticky!!

grocer said...

go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella, go-ella,

*doing little rap bottie wiggle*

Ran said...

Grocer, I do go out of my way to buy things from markets and green grocers, I just stay away from the butchers in my area as they are terrible.

I also have issues using my car a lot, especially to drive a long way for food Grocer, which is why I am whinging abbout not having local products and vendors selling good quality produce - especially when i Live closer to farms than most of Melbourne! I moved to the mountains to get away from the rush of the city, but am constantly amazed at the lack of choice. Dont get me started on how full the fish and chips joints are on Fridays out here.

As for the Gen X thing not being able to cook - I am Gen X and can cook - all you need to do is use your imagination a bit. The skills you need in the kitchen are not overly hard. Baking is the one thing I have not picked up as my mother did not do a lot of this, and it is not as easy to fudge through, so I am going to a concerted effort to try to get more skills in this area.

Oh, and I have looked into home delivered farm produce after seeing the links on PG's site - and they dont deliver to my area ;(

stickyfingers said...

Everyone is welcome to vent their spleen here - er....put forward their point of view - no matter how long. I'm the queen of long comments after all.

Gobbler I too don't object to comfort food on menus as long as it is fairly priced. In my trend spotting work research, comfort food is set to emerge again as a backlash against the materialistic ten years we've just been through, with a depth of nostalgia that even reaches into the notion of wearing 'vintage' clothes and recycling building materials etc. In the food infdustry the trend gains ground because many generation Y do not know how to cook those dishes.

The multi-national food companies are really cashing in on people's laziness with their extruded and hydrogenated synthetic wonders of science. There will be ranges of trumped up comfort coming too. The Slow Cookers spice range for example has set off a boom in crock-pot (now slow cookers) sales.

The disappointing thing is that many consider pre packaged crud to be proper food and don't know any better, so sadly even Suburban Bistro slop would seem nicer to them than home cooked.

Many Bloggers diss restaurant reviewers, and what is not always discussed is that they play a part in the Emperors New Clothes Syndrome. Along with the new breed of Restaurant PR people,they are at times greasing the wheels for the graft of charging a king's ransom for a peasant's meal. And I think that even has an effect on more educated diners.

purple goddess said...


which mountains do you live in, cos if you're in the Dandenong, I can give you a long list of local suppliers, including a great butcher in Mooroolbark.

Thermomixer said...

Whoa !! Love a bit of passion.

What was the Paul Kelly song - "From Little Things Big Things Grow"?

There does seem to be the desire to be first to review a new restaurant. I have seen friends in the industry cramming to get to the NBT first and bloggers are similar. We all want to get the "scoop". I am too old now to be bothered rushing off to the newest restaurant just to try it out.

I used to be like that so understand the concept. Having read Peter Smark or Claude Forrell's comments we would want to go and see if the restaurants were as good or bad as printed. The Paul Strawbridges/Claude Forrells/Rita Erlichs now tend to be online. Which makes it easier to get the goss quickly and then want to do it.

But, like sticky, I can't be bothered parting with hard-earned for a "name". Took a chef friend to Rockpool not long after it opened and service was appalling & food average. We went for the aged beef & "Sorry, there is none available"!! Never again.

I couldn't cook when younger and my mother was not good, but a Polish lady taught me how to make hot cross buns one Easter & I have never looked back. I am willing to try cooking just about anything. It really is not that difficult. It is becoming harder to retrain the younger generation to cook as the supermarkets get more aisles of instant meals. Still I will try - my staff love when I cook and one told me of her success with stuffed mushies last night - slowly, slowly.

Australia just does not have a food culture. I asked Frank Camorra recently about his experiences in Spain and it is so different. Young people are likely to discuss food in their day to day converstations. They have an opinion about food. I cringe every time the staff say "Lets go get lunch" even if they have brought food in because I know where they are going. Sad.

My partner was suprised to see how infrequently I eat out - having known me for 14 years. I save up and have the splurge on somewhere that I know I will get good service and great food (Like Sunnybrae, Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel,Tetsuyas). The "Why don't we just go out for dinner? There isn't anything in the fridge/cupboard" is always answered with a mini-banquet thanks to people like George B.

The fact that we don't have a food culture also contributes to the difficulties experienced in the 'burbs getting good produce - wouldn't happen in Europe. Chefs like Serge Dansereau really helped lift our game. Still there's a long way to go.

Masterstock for me is a bit like Neil's kvas, but unfortunately not as forgiving of being left at the back of the fridge. Every year or so I start one up again only to have it die from neglect.

Keep up the good work.

grocer said...

Australia isn't steeped in a rich and continual line of history, living, farming, fishing , cooking in villages, but this is just another excuse for apathy.

I come from a family 5/6 generation Australian on both sides with plain old vanilla ancestry - no exciting bits and pieces, just shipped out Irish paupers, farmers, squatters and miners and I grew up in a family almost OBSESSED by food. I wouldn't say either of my grandmothers would knock socks off with their repertoire in this day and age, but somehow they generated enough interest in the gene pool.

Likewise if we had NO FOOD CULTURE would you find people willing to part with $90 for a roast chicken?

And furthermore there are plenty of less-than-ordinary places to eat in any of the countries steeped in cuisine history - just have a look at the disappointment expressed on Syrup & Tang in Spain recently. I know I've had my share of dodgey dinners in France, Italy and Spain (as well as many wonderful ones).

Furthermore I think we are a little romantic in our regard to how people shop in these countries. Whilst granted there are lovely grocers and butchers and delis, Carrefour and their contemporaries are strewn across Europe.

Ran said...

yeh PG I live in the Dandenongs, and would love that list! Particluarly if you know good fishmongers too.

Australia does have a food culture, it is just that for most 'working families' (to steal a phrase) they just dont have time to think about food quite as much as we do! And I think there is a lot of thought that goes into eating SOLE...

My next step is to get myself to Dandenong or Coburg and stock up on some arabic supplies and stop relying on my mum to bring them to me from Syndey!

purple goddess said...

ok, Ran.

Ferntree Gully Markets.. in the car park of the railway station. I was getting pumpkins there for $0.99 a kg when Coles were selling them for $2.99. Same sort of discount applies to most vegies.

About a 15min drive from you, there are 3 orchards in High Street Road, Glen Waverley. You can buy anything in season for many MANY $$$$ less that Ferntree Gully Safeways (which is one of the most expensive Safeways, IMHO)

In Kerrie Road, Glen Waverley, there is an organic grocer, who sells everything from veggies to organic meats and milk. Drop by on a Sat between 8 and 2 and say Hi to my daughter!Next door to the grocer is Kerrie Road Butcher. They do a mean Boerwooers snag, and their meats are sourced from Silvan (up your way!)They also stock La Lonica chicken and free range eggs (but you can get your eggs cheaper at the FTG market)

IN The Kingsway, Glen Waverley.. up the end near the Council offices, is a FABULOUS fish monger. They also sell very cheap chicken and pork products there, too. He only deals in cash, so be prepared. I can get 2 goodly sized fillets of Tassie salmon for under $7 each. And he's open 7 days a week until 7ish

On either side of this guy are wonderful Asian grocers, where you can get all manner of fantastic Asian veggies at a fraction of the cost of Coles or Safeways. There is even a great Indian/Sri Lankan grocer across the road where I get my bulk spices for next to nothing.

If it's Aussie prawns and oyster you want, go to Oysters R Us in Dunlop Road, Mulgrave.

In Waverley Road, GW... just before you make the sweeping right hander into Jells Road, there is a butcher there that does the most INSANE bone-in rib eye steaks. They're pricey at $10 a pop, but they are sourced from Warnambool. He also has a really excellent range of pre-marinaded stuff, and some unusual olive oils and pasta on his shelves.

There is a meat wholesaler in Berwick.. just a quick trip across the hills from you, and another guy doing Bullboars in Mooroolbark, but I am at work now, and I don't have their cards.

I'll get back to you tomorrow.

Vida said...

PG, I was paid a small fortune to cook "scalloped potatoes" for a friend because she said she only wanted mine - sliced potatoes, butter, salt and cream in the oven!!! She also bought the "packet" stuff and said it was not as good - is there any wonder??? Really my "recipe" could not be easier - but yes I used Maldon sea salt, danish butter but shit the potatoes were just potatoes and the cream, just cream - and with only 4 ingredients how hard can it be???? Are people so lazy?? What is it??

Sticky, I am with you, too much to pay for chicken - even good chicken - it's becoming a joke what were are expected to pay for a meal - hundreds of dollars for two people to eat for one evening, come on - a family could eat for a week on that and in some countries a year!!! I cannot justify it - it seems obscene... Vida x

Vida said...

I feel terrible now because not everyone is as good a cook as you Sticky or Ella etc etc. and I should not be so critical... Anyway I think it's wonderful that we can all help educate our children (ala Ella) for the future! Vida x

grocer said...

Vida, don't feel terrible.

At least your friend could notice the difference between the packet, hers and yours.


stickyfingers said...

The luscious Purple Goddess also busts the myth on good eating in her latest post, explaining that for a working family, eating Sustainable food is cheaper than buying from the supermarket. See it here. She will also be seen in the September edition of Notebook magazine discussing the same subject, so little by little, the word will be spread that healthy eating's not just for the wealthy or celebrity chefs.

Thermomixer said...

Ouch. Won't take up too much room sticky.
Sorry grocer, you are right. Things are not all roses in Europe by any stretch - otherwise Carlo Petrini and his mates wouldn't have started Slowfood. I was horribly disappointed on May 13 1988 when I first visited Paris and ate crap near the Champs-Élysées.

Again, I was wrong - we do have A food culture. But I am not sure why, considering we do have a food culture that people are willing to pay $90 for food that sticky whipped up for $22 for 5 people.

I can assure you that apathetic is one thing I am not.

sticky thanks again

grocer said...

thermo, apologies if I caused any offense to you personally - I cast no aspersions on your attitude, merely meant that the "no food culture sigh/excuse" is often used and I do think it's an easy way out.

I have no idea why things are the way they are... But I'd like to be involved in debunking it.

Thermomixer said...

Grocer, no offence taken. I have a very thick hide and shouldn't make unsubstantiated sweeping statements. I believe you are involved in debunking and as I said - from little things big things grow. Keep up the good fight.

Vida said...

Grocer - thanks heaps... I feel much better! Vida x x x

Pat Churchill said...

Now you've really got me going about where to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary next week. I don't want to do the overpriced places, I just want a good meal. And I don't want to cook... Went to The Graham last year :)

neil said...

I'm just so glad I know how to cook, but even then, sometimes I'm tempted by takeaway. Got home last night to an empty apartment, sink full of dirty dishes, then thought no, no takeaway, washed the dishes, braised some red cabbage in goose fat, boiled the broccoli, grilled some kassler and warmed up the leftover potato gratin (hi Vida). But I do get that to some, that's too much work.

stickyfingers said...

Pat - The Graham is one of the real unassuming gems on the scene.

Peter and Tony have been around for probably as long as I have been surfing the Melbourne dining scene, having encountered them numerous times before they set up their own venue.

They never sought out the limelight. Instead they have consistently maintained a standard of interesting food and wine with excellent service, in stylish yet unpretentious surrounds, at prices that don't make you feel ripped off. That's why they have such a quietly loyal following.

There are other spots like this around town. Often they fly under the radar of the restaurant critics and perhaps that's actually a good thing?

Neil - I don't think you're alone on the takeaway front. I certainly have those moments where I look in the fridge and think, "No, I can't do it" so on occasion it's simpler to get a cheap Asian meal or a pizza - which reminds me, I have a couple of posts to write for Very Cheap Eats blog.

I think what is sad is that many people who cry poor, eat a lot of expensive takeaway which is loaded with fat, salt, sugar and chemicals unnecessary to our health. Within walking distance of my place are 60 places offering takeaway that I can think of, not including the big chains like Pizza Hut etc. About ten of them serve Thai food, and there's even more hawking pizza.

grocer said...

I think many of us are on a similar page.

I think if somedays it's just a bit of a chalenge to cook something from scratch, then getting a local thai, or some independent takeaway is acceptable.

The importance is understanding what you are eating and WHEN.

Julia said...

I do feel like this is happening all over the developed world, but even more so in Melbourne. My experience here is that no one ever invites me over for dinner, they always want to meet I a restaurant. And when I suggest cooking for my own birthday dinner, they are horrified at the thought.

I suspect the vast range of dining loptions in Melbourne is encouraging us to cook less and pay more. We work harder in the city too, so have more moeny and less time.

I don't think it's imited to a Gen Y thing. My parents in law never cook more then a fried egg.

It's not hard to learn to cook, humans have being doing it for awhile. I get furious when supermarkets advertise "instant" rice. As is rice is a laborious and time consuming food to begin with!

And then there's all these celebrity chefs and magazines convincing us every meal has to be gourmet. Whatever happened to eating the same thing every day? It's very recent that we've had access to such a wide range of foods in one place. Let's go back to basics, keep things simple.

Anonymous said...

I refer to a menu dated 29 July, 2007.
Allard Restaurant in Paris (see Terry Durack, he provided the recommendation!) Poulet "de Bresse" Roti for 2 = 55 Euros. Now you guys can do the sums on the conversion. All this talk on the $90 chicken!
For those of you who have read Jay Rayners recent book you would have picked up on a theme. You are paying for an experience, a memory not just a fancy crap in the morning. Restaurants are all about experiences at this level. You want to compare Guillame's roast to yours, please... I'm sure you can cook a fine bird. You are missing the point. If you don't feel that a $45 main couse of chicken is worth the price then the experience is lost on you. But the thing is you don't know what your missing.. might actually have $90 worth of fun.
We did at Allard

Thermomixer said...

Sorry, Simon, not everyone shares your sentiments about Allard. http://www.paris-eating.com/596.htm & http://www.whitings-writings.com/bistro_reviews/eating_history.htm.

I am happy to spend money on an experience and fly from Melb to Sydney for the day for lunch at Tetsuya's at least once a year. I get respect, service, great food and an experience, and more than happy to open my wallet, pay for the meal, leave a tip & leave them bottles of wine that I have taken.

The experience of poor service with food that I could easily cook at home is something I cannot tolerate paying good money for, and wonder how some restaurants survive.

stickyfingers said...

Simon & Thermo-to-the-Max, thank you for taking the time to comment.

I'm glad that you enjoyed Bistro Allard, Simon. Whether referred by Tezza or not - it may also be found in travel guides. TV crews have filmed there too. Consequently, it is considered by many to be a tourist trap where basically what you are paying for is to soak up the original Gallic atmosphere. I'm sure that is a unique experience. General opinion is divided as to the food and service, value for money quotient etc, however.

But really, we're not comparing apples with apples here. Allard is - to quote Mr & Mrs Durack a year ago - a "75-year-old Left Bank institution". Which would have most travellers with romantic notions of Paris in its thrall. Bistro Guillaume however, is a new venue at a Casino designed to service the mid to high rollers who spend a minimum of $50k at the gaming tables.

I understand that perhaps you feel that I am an Aussie bumpkin who knows no better?

After 20 odd years of regularly 'making silk purses out of sows ears' through Advertising and Marketing, encouraging people to exalt common items with luxe price tags, perhaps when it comes to my own discretionary spending, I ought to be impervious to pretension? I may even have sufficient ability to discern whether the 'sizzle' is something I personally wish to pay for?

I may even snicker behind my hand like a naughty child, about people getting 'sucked in'?

I may even have been a colleague of Jill and Terry's, spending a number of years fine dining and having also worked as a food writer myself?

I can tell you though, that I have learnt that people take different things from their dining experiences.

I'm with Thermo on this point however. As I mentioned in my post, for my money I want service and creativity along with mastery, so BG is not necessarily for me. In fact I'm as happy hunkering in a gutter beside a hawker stall eating a freshly made regional specialty, so presentation is the least of my concerns.

Having eaten Guillaume's fare in Sydney I know that a number of local venues serve similarly well executed French bistro fare for less - a point which has also be cited by critics in the press.

Happy dining and as you say dear, it's important to keep having fun.