July 2010 - alvers.info

Just a place for my old thoughts

It's all about the beef
Monday, 26 July 2010 11:35 am

I have been musing on the fact that our dinner guests have been thanking us for dinner and complimenting us on the beef. At first I thought, "But the beef was the easiest part...". No special prep, no marination, no rubs. Just throw 3kg of beef on a BBQ and wait 30 minutes.

What about the spinach that took 2 hours just to strip and wash each leaf individually. The mushroom sauce that took an hour alone to make the mushroom infused stock. The hand made bread, the onion soup that called for sauteing onions for one and half hours.

Then I stopped to think about the lead-up to the dinner. We tried beef from at least half a dozen places, drove across Brisbane and even brought a BBQ. All to ensure that the beef, prepared as simply as possible could take the centre stage of the dinner. And take the stage it did.

As a confirmed foodie there are meals that I don't go out for any more simply because I prefer the way I do them. And now that I have found the source of some of the best beef I have ever tasted I guess I'll be eating steak at home now as well.

And now, at the risk of never being able to lure my friends to our house again for steak I can send a thank you to The Meat-ing Place at Paddington.

'Cos it's all about the beef.

Christmas in July...Oh Yeah!
Monday, 26 July 2010 1:48 am

Ok, as the dust settles and we reflect on the biggest dinner party we have ever held I have to say it all went very well. Everyone seemed to have a good time, the food worked out better than I could have hoped and the wines...oh the wines were very good.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, it was a pretty massive undertaking that I'm especially proud of us producing. So, to recap.

Serena (whom we could not have done this without) came down Thursday night with chairs, tables, glasses, dishes and pans. Unfortunately due to a packing issues she arrived with a few less than she started but it all worked out.

Deb and I had put together a run sheet that we had been tuning for the last week. So Friday we started arranging furniture and getting all our pots and pans shorted out. Then out for shopping to pick up all the groceries. That in itself was an interesting adventure. If you order 3.5kg of beef why would the butcher expect that 2.7kg will be close enough? To give you some idea of the quantities we are dealing with we had 42 eggs, 4kg of butter, 3.5kg of fillet beef, 12 bunches of spinach. You get the idea. There was tons and tons of food.

As Friday progressed we got stuff done like figuring out dish sizes, placement and cooking orders for the next day. We also got the back deck staged as a holding area for plates and pans and stuff. With Serena's camp tables and a couple of eskies we had it all setup.

Saturday arrived and the work started. I have to say that while it is a bit wanky having a run sheet it made things so much smoother. It stopped us from overlooking things and allowed anyone with a spare 10 minutes to look ahead for jobs that could be done. Things like preparing the spinach and potato dishes took the longest due to the high amount of washing, cleaning and preparing required before the actual dishes were filled. This was also where I nearly took the end off my finger with a mandolin slicer. That just managed to slow me down a bit but Serena was able to step in and get the rest of them done.

A couple of batches of bread rolls, getting the sauces made and my bearnaise prepped and we were ready. I even had time to iron a shirt for the event.

We simply couldn't have done it without Serena's help and generosity. She provided tons of stuff including the outstanding Christmas Crackers. Now I ask you, has anyone ever phoned your place after Christmas and asked to get their cracker prizes which they forgot? These things came with really good stuff that were hotly traded and swapped.

"To the menu", I hear you say? Well here it is...

Christmas in July

Home made chicken, pepper & peaches pate
Goat cheese and mushroom or goat cheese and onion puffs
Pesto Palmiers

French onion soup

Chateaubriand - roasted and sliced eye fillet steak
Potatoes dauphinois
Spinach and leek gratin
Mushroom sauce
Bearnaise sauce
Fresh bread rolls

Sticky date pudding with toffee sauce & icecream

The wines were also the star of the show. We had set them up on a side table so that people could just go over and pour what they liked. I kept an eye on the levels and decanted more as they ran low.

We had the idea of putting little gift tags on each decanter with the type of wine inside. It worked out better than I had expected with people looking through the cards for what they would like to drink. The stars of the evening were definitely the Rockford SVS Moorooroo 96 Shiraz and the Rockford SVS Flaxman 98 Shiraz. The other wines were absolutely outstanding but these were out of this world. Simon, who loves and knows his wines, looked at me over the rim of his glass and said it was the best wine he has ever tasted. High praise indeed.

The order and timing worked out pretty well although we ended up serving dinner about an hour later than we had intended. No one seemed to mind too much and with the snacks and soup I hope that no one was too hungry by that stage.

We have to say a special thanks to Nicky and Curtis who flew up especially for the dinner. How good is that. It was wonderful to see them both again after Nick's awesome Daylesford dinner.

And we had Janet, Marilyn and Dale come over as well which was great. I really wish I had more time to stop and chat with them but it wasn't to be. Raffi had been entered into a cat show on Sunday so after dinner they scouped her up and took her with them.

About the only thing that didn't work were my potatoes. I screwed up on the variety and there were crunchy...really crunchy. I put them back in the oven yesterday for 2 more hours and they were still crunchy. I don't think anything was ever going to save them personally. There didn't work and were never going to work. Live and learn. On the upside it did stop our guests from ingesting 2 litres of cream which could be a good thing.

So, as we slowly surfaced on Sunday and surveyed the utter carnage that was the kitchen we took stock of it all. JT and Jason rolled up their sleeves and went nuts on the washing up. We owe them big time!

Deb and Serena, feeling how I probably looked, headed off to the cat show to see Raffi. Apparently on arriving that morning Raffi had smelled the other cats and just said 'Nope, I'm not doing a cat show'. And that was that. The end (I hope) for Raffi's supermodel career.

While they were out I managed to get the furniture back and on their return we loaded up Serena's car who then headed back up the coast. We could then collapse but Serena then had to get her stuff home and unpacked herself. Again a million million thankyous!

I had been getting a cold for a few days and Deb had been in the grips of hers for almost a week so Sunday afternoon was very quiet. My cold got worse and Deb's cold turned into a stomach bug which kept her unwell all night.

Christmas in July was a massive undertaking that took days to prepare and mere hours to execute...and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Put another year's age on the wines, a few new ones, and a whole new menu.

Here's to next year!

Not a bad effort
Monday, 19 July 2010 11:47 am

You know, it's not a bad thing when you can skip the supermarket and just make dinner from what is in the cupboard and fridge. It is doubly a not bad thing then that is Beef Wellington with home made pate, mushrooms and a vegetable medley.

Yeah, I like cooking.

Pate, preparations & pizza
Monday, 19 July 2010 1:42 am

We had Serena staying with us for the week as she and Deb attended their skippers navigation course. Frankly when they came home each night talking a bunch of boating gibberish I just smiled and nodded my head. They are way beyond anything I understood about sailing. Then, considering that the intention is for Deb to be able to charter a boat and take me sailing that is probably a good thing.

Friday I grabbed a quick beer after work with a couple of the guys then headed home and out for indian. I have to say that apparently no one thought to tell the women at Fridays outside bar that its winter. Holy cow they must have been freezing in little outfits and bare shoulders. Hell, I was wearing a suit and sitting under a patio heater and I felt the chill.

Saturday the house got a rapid clean-up before we headed out for groceries for the Pate Day experience. I have to say that with Serena's help making the pate was not as bad as I recalled. The butchers shop had stuffed my order and put the livers through a blast chiller (I wanted absolutely fresh) but it turned out ok. And having them very cold meant that they didn't smell at all. As is traditional I overfilled the frypan I was using so had melted butter running over the sides and dripping onto Deb's clean stove. From there it was through a blender and then into dozens of little containers and into the freezer. When I have made this in the past Simon would take half the pate with them so this time we have 4ltrs of the stuff. Whoa!

It did turn out as good as I remember. It is very mild and just a little peppery, so very good. I hope everyone likes it at the dinner party next week.

Saturday night Deb cooked lasagne and we ended up watching the ends of movies on Foxtel. As one finished we would channel surf and find another one and watch the end of that as well. Then off to bed at a reasonable hour.

Sunday we started the planning stage for the dinner party. I like using mindmaps and Deb can't follow how I use them so we had to agree to let me do my map and then move onto a run sheet that listed everything we need to do. The list is coming together pretty well actually.

We did make it out for more wine and to buy some accessories for the new BBQ. I had seen these pizza stones when we were in the shop so we dropped by to get one. Add to that a grill brush, and a couple of little tongs and as we were leaving we noticed these cool ice buckets. So we managed to tear our selves from the store at this point and make a break for the car.

Sunday afternoon was pretty awesome weather so Deb got a ton of gardening done out the front and gave it all a really good cleanup. Raffi got to play out the front while this happened but I started up the vaccum to clear the front deck and she scambled off into the undergrowth.

Sunday night we made fresh pizza dough and gave the BBQ/pizza stone a go. It works awesomely!!! The pizza base was beautifully crisp even with toppings like fresh tomatoe that is notorious for sending bases soggy. And with the BBQ at full crank it was actually really nice to site outside on the deck eating the pizzas as they came out of the BBQ. Definitely something we will have to repeat.

Happy Birthday to Mum!
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 2:39 am

Just a quick note that it's Mum's birthday today. And , & I think I reminded JT. Wonders will never cease.

Oh, and my new bluetooth headphones finally arrived as well so I have geek toys. I should just face it that I have Birthday Years...no point in just months.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 11:32 pm

Very nice and my flowers are beautiful. Thankyou both. Love Mum xx

Friends, duck, trash and treasure
Monday, 12 July 2010 1:46 am

The weekend that was. Deb finished up her current contract on Friday which I think has her freaked out a little. Her foot is still causing her hassles with Deb's local podiatrist now putting random bits of fuzz on Deb's shoe inserts in the hope of either fixing the problem or moving into accupressure.

We went out for a drink on Friday night with a couple of the guys at work and Deb came down as well. From there home for dinner and a fairly early night in bed.

Saturday Rafficat wouldn't let me get up. She had curled up on my chest, under the doona, and had the cutest most pathetic little look on her face. So I had to have a bit of a lay-in.

From there we packed up and headed down to see Libbette and Jarron's new place at South Port. I was so blown away by the view that I forgot to take a picture but they're on the 34th floor of a high rise and the view over the surrounding shops, ocean and hills is pretty spectacular.

Libbette had made duck ragu which she served on grilled polenta with a bitter leaf and citrus salad. It was very very good. We basically spent the evening just laying around and chatting before a gentle start to Sunday and a drive back home.

We have hard rubbish collection happening this week so the streets are filled with piles of trash and a procession of utes and trailers going through and taking stuff.

This is going to sound weird but I always like to think that I have a good level of junk and to see stuff vanish before the official pickup but amuses and makes me happy. Having said that someone has snapped the tops off the fans and gutted my BBQ. What do you do with the top motor part of a fan?

Anyway, we finished off Sunday with some more cooking. Deb trialed another variation of a recipe for the dinner party and I played with my BBQ again. It is a monster thing.

This week Deb is off doing her inshore skipper theory course which involved navigation and all sorts of stuff.

A pretty busy weekend.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 8:28 pm

Ooh ooh, I can answer the fan question. They will pull it apart for the copper wiring. I know people who make a nice amount of pocket money doing this sort of collecting.

We got a BBQ!
Friday, 9 July 2010 2:02 am

Check out this sucker! I personally blame Deb because, other than needing a roasting hood, I was in the market for something way simpler.

But with echos of how we ended up with the most expensive dishwasher in the store we are now the proud owners of a Weber gas powered BBQ.

Not to miss the opporunity I cooked a roast chicken, potatoes and corn in it. The results were pretty sensational. Sunday night we're going to try a steak.

Friday, 9 July 2010 2:25 pm

Hi mate... Friends of ours regularly cook us dinner on their webber... FANTASTIC!

Monday, 5 July 2010 1:34 am

In joking around recently I have come up with two slogans that I would like to see put on t-shirts:

1) I can't be bothered being apathetic

2) What's the point of instant gratification if I can't have it now?

Send all royalites care of this website.

Monday, 5 July 2010 1:32 am

Let's see. Friday we headed out for a little Thai food again on Oxford street. They really are turning out some very good food at the moment. We couldn't go past the beef salad and red duck curry. Both were awesome.

Saturday Deb and I hit the road for beef, bbq, wine and soup bowls. To clarify. First stop was looking for a BBQ. There is a surprising lack of range when you really start looking. You either have the big department stores, BBQs Galore or specialist suppliers. Deb is interested in getting a Weber BBQ and to that end we have found a rather nice, rather expensive, one. I am trying to tell myself that it will be an extension of the kitchen and get used all the time. We looked at a few examples but put off purchasing anything just yet.

We also wanted to check out an organic butcher over at Paddington to see if their beef was better than the stuff we had found so far. Surprisingly we had no worries finding a parking spot and the butcher was right outside the shopping centre door so within about 5 minutes we had a kilo of beef and were back in the car. From there it was over to the wine cellar to stock up for the Christmas in July dinner party. I've brought back a vertical of Rockford's Basket Press. We opened a bottle of the '97 last night and it was pretty sensational.

Anways, we dropped the wine off and then headed over to DFO to pickup souffle dishes that we are going to use for soup at the dinner. And from there a little extra shopping for dinner and then home to clean the house. JT and Jason had just got back from their US trip and we really wanted to see them and hear about their holiday. So we cooked chateaubriand, potatoes, beans and brussel sprouts. This is made better by frying the potatoes in duck fat and the brussel sprouts in maple syrup. YUMMY! Fortuitously, due to a mixup, we didn't have any desert so after checking out the photos we headed down to the new cafe on Oxford street called MUD for desert. A nice way to finish off the evening.

Sunday we headed out again looking at more BBQs and into the sales to buy another dinner set. We are still using our original green and aztec settings that we both had before we met. Hell, my green one was given to me by Mum as a house starting gift when I left Brisbane. It's still going!

And finally, Sunday night we had beef chilli and I made up a batch of vegetable stock in preparation for soup tonight.

A fairly big weekend really.

The Editor
Monday, 5 July 2010 2:39 am

How come you can spell fortuitously and not sprout or vegetable?!