150 reasons to celebrate at Travel Writers Radio

This week Travel Writers Radio celebrates its 150th episode.   In a little over three years the show has amassed about 1000 interviews and more than 800 of them are now available to download at https:/soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio.

Travel Writers Radio is produced and presented by the Professional Association of Lifestyle and Travel Writers (PALAT) Travel Writers Radio is a weekly program covering the “flavours” of travel – food, beverages, wellness and lifestyle – plus all forms of travel and tourism experiences whether for business or leisure.  Travel and tourism is a vital economic activity for many countries and we are Australia’s only prime-time radio program covering the business events/MICE sector.  Importantly, we interview the people making a difference in our industry, people who love their jobs and happily share their stories, their interesting destinations or the serendipity of simply wandering the world.

Heard every Wednesday drive time ( from 5 pm to 7pm ) on J-AIR 87.8FM radio in Melbourne, Travel Writers Radio also broadcasts live via the Internet at http://www.j-air.com.au. We have iOS and Android smartphone apps and we have a podcast facility, now hosted on our own SoundCloud site – https:/soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

As a PALAT member we invite you to contribute editorial content to the show. If you are a member of the travel industry we welcome your story suggestions on topics you believe would be of interest to our audience. Just email us – info@travelwritersradio.com.

PALAT members are professional journalists, authors, photographers, videographers and broadcasters – all storytellers working across a range of media from print to online.  If you fit one of these categories, or are studying a recognised tertiary degree course in any of these disciplines we welcome your inquiry about membership. We currently have members across Australasia, USA, and Europe. We’re a small but growing organisation with local experience and a global perspective of the benefits of travel to broaden the mind and enlighten both reporter and listener.

 

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Culinary “sensei” reveals secret to great sushi

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It was on a push bicycle tour of Japan, with little more than a sleeping bag and his notebook, Kengo Hiromatsu decided he would become a chef.

From East to West, North to South, Kengo quite literally ate his way around his home country, taking notes as he went.

With each region having its own signature dish, he decided food was such an important part of every day life, he’d like to be a part of that.

He tried cooking school, but left before completing the degree and turned to a hands-on education instead, working his way diligently from front of house, to back of house, before returning to specialise in Japanese cuisine and get the obligatory qualification.

Kengo honed his trade in various restaurants around Japan for some 20 years before he came to Paul Mathis’ Tokyo inspired restaurant and bar, Akachochin (www.akachochin.com.au) in the newly developed South Wharf precinct of Melbourne.

It’s no surprise he was chosen for Akachochin, whose specialty sake range comprises 50 different varieties matched to the region from which dishes originate – allowing you to eat and drink you way around Japan.

From sushi to specialised Japanese dishes – you’ll find it here.

But Kengo’s top pick? The Hiramasa Namerou, or kingfish tartare .. a signature dish in east coast Japan .. and now a signature dish at Akachochin.

To speak with him you’d never know that just a matter of months ago he was living in the western part of Japan unable to speak any English.

“I like Australia, it’s actually quite similar to my home town and the people are very kind. They really like the authentic Japanese cuisine.”

So what’s this culinary sensei’s secret to cooking the best sushi?

“Don’t put it in the fridge” he says.

“It hardens the rice, changes the texture and when you put fresh fish on it, it tastes much better if it’s room temperature.”

It’s the simple things that matter, he tells me.

His other tip – pour sushi vinegar in the rice straight after cooking the rice, when it’s hot, not cold, and don’t stir it, but instead use a cutting action through the rice to separate it.

Fresh fish is imperative at Akachochin, and it’s something Kengo lives by, going to the fish markets and choosing his own fish every day.

Besides his travel epiphany to become a chef, there was another influence – his mother.

“My mother loved cooking and introduced lots of dishes to us, I have sometimes tried to make dishes like her.”

“Do you succeed?” I ask.

“No, no”, he says, “just try.”

Looking at the dishes he’s preparing for the day, I’m guessing she’d be well impressed.

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Blumenthal’s ‘The Fat Duck’ set for Migration to Melbourne

Heston

Melbourne has scored a major culinary coup with the announcement that esteemed chef Heston Blumenthal will shut the doors to his three Michelin starred restaurant, The Fat Duck in the UK, and reopen in the world’s most liveable city.

A former recipient of ‘The Best Restaurant in the World’, The Fat Duck will close for the Christmas break and relocate for six months to Crown Towers in January 2015, with an opening date marked for February.

This will be Blumenthal’s first international venture, which was met with cheers from the audience when he made the announcement at a media conference earlier this week.

“This is not a pop-up restaurant. This is not a chef coming over to do a few weeks in someone else’s restaurant. We are going to pick up The Fat Duck, the whole team, and fly them over,” he said.

“It will probably be the furthest migration that any duck, let alone a big fat duck, has made.”

The Fat Duck will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2015 and is in need of a major renovation. This coupled with the fact that Blumenthal has a long-held desire to open a restaurant in Australia made the choice to migrate to Melbourne an easy one.

“I just couldn’t bear the thought of closing for an extended period. When we first started conversations with Crown I saw the potential of the situation and really began to hope. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

“The restaurant scene (in Melbourne) is fantastic, the diversity exciting, and the produce incredible, but better than all of that, the people are just great fun. I love how Australian people celebrate good food; there is such a love of everything from coffee shops to gourmet restaurants and everything in between.”

And foodies fear not. At the end of the six-month period, The Fact Duck will not leave a Heston-sized hole; in its place will be a permanent fixture – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Dinner in Melbourne will be the fifth jewel in Blumenthal’s crown, with other establishments including its namesake in London, The Perfectionists’ Café at Heathrow Airport and The Hinds Head, The Crown at Bray and The Fact Duck all in Bray in the UK.

Crown Resorts Chairman, James Packer said, “To attract an internationally renowned chef and innovator of Heston’s calibre is a reflection on Melbourne’s culinary reputation and Crown’s commitment to dining excellence.

“The relocation of the coveted restaurant will be a big boost for local tourism, attracting interstate and international guests to Melbourne so they can experience a once in a lifetime dining opportunity.”

Melbourne Minute – The City’s Best Meatballs

Move over hamburgers and other meaty treats – make way for the meatball! The humble meatball has been revolutionised and is popping up all over Melbourne in various guises.

The Meatball & Wine Bar in Richmond and the city is, without a doubt, Melbourne’s meatball mecca. It’s what the ‘G is to footy and the Espy is to live music.

Over in South Melbourne there’s a brand new hole-in-the-wall cafe, Mama’s Meatballs, dedicated to these round morsels of goodness, or for traditional Italian meatballs try Rosetta at Crown or Rossini in Malvern.

In Abbotsford, you’ll find the best homemade pork balls at Jinda Thai, while The Meatball Company takes their mobile kitchen all over town and is sure to pop up at a festival near you.

Finally, head to The Fresh Pasta Shop at the Prahran Market for the best Thai Chicken and Cambodian Beef Meatballs, or pop into Stocked in Hawksburn Village for some tempting takeaways.

And that’s Melbourne’s best meatballs for the Melbourne Minute.

You can read the full article at The Urban List Melbourne.

Melbourne Minute – The City’s Best Salads

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Eating out while on a diet cleanse can be torture, so I’ve found Melbourne’s best salads, which will leave you feeling guilt free and sufficiently sated.

Richmond’s Pillar of Salt has the best super food salad, while Coburg’s Little Deer Tracks has the best vego option.

For Mexican madness, head to Fonda in Richmond or Windsor, or for the most variety pop into Cooper and Milla’s in Armadale or Hawksburn.

The smoked chicken salad at Charlie Dumpling in Prahran is the city’s best new comer, but for the best value in town you can’t go past the vermicelli noodle salad at VPR Vietnamese Street Food in Southbank’s Freshwater Place.

If you’re hanging for high end then head to The European on Spring Street for the nicoise salad, or if you’re hungry and in a hurry then Crisp is your go to in two city locations.

And that’s Melbourne’s best salads all wrapped up for the Melbourne Minute.

To read the full article vist The Urban List, Melbourne.

Rebecca Elliott

IFWTWA Australasia launches Travel Writers radio show

ifwtwaAUST-smlsqThe International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a global network of journalists who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, today launched the Travel Writers radio show, an initiative of IFWTWA’s Australasia division.
The program will be heard on Melbourne’s newest FM station J-AIR and via the Internet to a mobile and a global audience (www.j-air.com.au).  J-AIR is a community-based broadcaster with a narrowcast commercial FM licence to transmit for 10 km around Caulfield to a potential audience of almost one million people.  J-AIR has been broadcasting via the Internet for 18 months, but its FM signal is expected to be live later this month at 87.8 FM. The Travel Writers radio show airs Wednesdays at 1pm (AEST), hosted by industry veterans, Graeme Kemlo and Peter Watson.
Announcing the move, IFWTWA Australasia chair, Graeme Kemlo, said the program covering both leisure and business travel topics as well as culinary and wine tourism.
“It is designed to entertain, inform and inspire”.  It features IFWTWA members from across its global membership base reporting the latest travel news, interviews, travel tips, reviews of destinations, food, wine and unique experiences for travellers around the world, or around the corner in Australia’s cities and regions.
“We have a wonderful network of experienced travellers who cover the globe in words and pictures and will provide first-hand accounts of their adventures.  It will be a collaborative effort co-ordinated from Melbourne with reporting by members across Australia, South East Asia, the South Pacific, United States, Canada and Europe,” Graeme said.
“The ‘wireless’, as we once described it, is a wonderful medium that allows a listener to dream of exotic locations and aspirational experiences.  So, alongside the expertise of our writers in food, wine and travel – many have their own columns, travel apps, books, websites and blogs – we’ll supplement their radio reportage with information and images posted to the IFWTWA website (www.ifwtwa.org) and the blog – foodwinetraveltips,” he said.
Peter Watson, who spent many years as a senior executive in the Australian travel industry, said the program was also designed to lift the veil on the industry for travel consumers and would cover topics such as: should you book everything on the Net; how far out should you buy an air ticket/ hotel/cruise; how (not) to get an upgrade; travel health; the best travel technology; how to identify and avoid travel scams; should you believe online hotel reviews; and how to choose from the myriad of travel money options.

Here’s a link to the podcast of the first episode –
https://soundcloud.com/jairradio/travel-writers-ep1-13-03-2014?in=jairradio/sets/travel-writers

– Graeme Kemlo

Garuda Golden Chefs

The Garuda Mystery Box
The Garuda Mystery Box

Have you ever eaten, or more correctly sampled, nine separate two course meals,  prepared by some of our best chefs, over nine hours.  I can tell you its both a challenge, tasting so much great food, over an extended period; and an genuine educational experience, one that gives you a small insight into the behind the scenes action in the kitchens of some of our finest restaurants and the skill of our top chefs.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I did just that, when I rocked up to the Comcater offices in South Melbourne early on a Monday morning.  Comcater, who are major sponsors of the prestigious Golden Plate Awards had provided their stunning kitchen complex as the venue to host the Garuda Indonesia – Chef of the Year cook off for the 2013 awards and I was one of the judges.

Nine chefs had qualified for the cook off, three from each of the regions (Ballarat-Daylesford; Greater Bendigo and Geelong-Otway) in which the awards are contested.  First each chef received a nomination from the two judges who judged their restaurant during the course of the competition, and then all those nominees received further consideration from the full judging panel.

Each chef arrived at the venue aware of the challenge ahead, which was the Garuda Mystery Box, but of course without any idea of the contents of that ‘mystery’ box.  Everyone had 45 minutes prep time and a further 45 minutes cooking time to prepare an entree and main course that was then judged and scored by our panel of four judges; which was lead by industry legend Rita Erlich.

Salmon on Pumpkin and Ginger Puree
Salmon on Pumpkin and Ginger Puree

Chef Richard Mee from Mercato (Daylesford) started us off with an entree of duck and a main course of salmon, and he turned out to be the odd man out for the day as everyone else went the other way.  Over the course of the next nine hours we watched as chefs chopped and diced, carved and sliced, blended and pureed, roasted and sous-vied; and then delivered nine delicious meals to our judges table.

Two plates for each course was the order of the day, so consistency (between the two) was important and the variety of colours, styles, tastes and textures was amazing.  After our fourth or was it fifth main course of duck, a line from an episode of that immortal show ‘Fawlty Towers’ popped unprompted into my brain, I confess that it stayed there for the rest of the day.

The episode is called Gourmet Night and the line offered by one of the guests after (as usual) everything has gone wrong is:-”so it’s just the duck then Fawlty”? to which Basil replies “yes Major but duck done three extremely different ways”!  You may recall that on offer that night was duck with cherries, duck with orange and duck surprise; which prompted this question: “and pray what is duck surprise Fawlty”? – and this response: “that’s duck without orange or cherries Major”!

Well none of our ducks had cherries though a couple did have orange, but all of our chefs delivered plenty of surprises in their wide and varied presentation of both the duck and the salmon.

Duck Anyone
Duck Anyone

We judges had our work cut out for us picking our regional winners from which would emerge our overall champion, who will be crowned the Garuda Indonesia – Golden Plate Awards – Chef of the Year.  Who is it – you will just have to wait until November 11th when the announcement is made and the prize presented at a gala evening in Geelong.

Potsdam – Walking in History and a Great Lunch

Schloss Cecilienhoff - site of the Potsdam Conference
Schloss Cecilienhoff – site of the Potsdam Conference

Potsdam, is around 40 minutes from Berlin by train, and is an important part of European cultural history.  Not only is Potsdam the site of some famous country estates that belonged at one time or other to various Kaiser’s and Kings; including the World Heritage listed Sanssouci Palace and Park.   Potsdam is also famous for the Potsdam Conference – held at Schloss Cecilienhof in 1945; which sealed the fate of Germany after WW2.

It was a pleasant and relaxing 40 minute train ride from Alexanderplatz to Potsdam, and we alighted at Park Sanssouci and took a short walk to the Neues Palace, sadly it was closed for the day, which was perhaps just as well as it is looking very much in need of both a good clean and some extensive repair work.  We then embarked on a longer and more energetic walk through the magnificent parkland, it covers almost 300 hectares, heading for Schloss Sanssouci.

Sanssouci was commissioned by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1745, because he wanted to live sans souci (outside the city), which in Frederick’s case, meant outside the hated city.  The palace and grounds are both magnificent and extensive.  and there is a guided tour available.  Departing Sanssouci we headed for our second (and lunchtime) destination Schloss Cecilienhof.  The schloss is now a luxury hotel and we first sought out the well respected and much talked about restaurant, after all it was herself who had said; “the best part of sightseeing is a long lunch”!

Having found said restaurant we settled in and enjoyed a leisurely and delicious lunch.  We started sipping a delightfully tasty and tangy German Rose, which came from Syrah Grapes and was almost a soft blush, it was so good we stayed with it through lunch.

German Rose - A Syrah Blush
German Rose – A Syrah Blush

We went straight on to main courses, calves liver (her) and stuffed guinea fowl (me) and followed up with cheese.  The calves liver, enjoyed by the famous eater of offal, was a superb meal, served with mash and caramelized onions, it was topped off by three lightly fried onion rings  and was pronounced by both the eater and the taster as perfection.

The guinea fowl, which is a dish I had never previously eaten, was served as leg (you would call it Maryland if it was chicken) and breast, stuffed with forcemeat, on a base of potato gnocchi, with tomato, spring onion and a very delicate foam sauce.  In a word; delicious! If you want more words, then I quote: “one of the best bird meals I have ever eaten, anywhere.”  We finished with a shared cheese platter, which was five different cheese, two different breads and condiments; it looked great  and tasted the same; and coffee – good coffee, real coffee, proper coffee – you get the drift.

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Guinea fowl – tasted as good as it looks
Calfs liver - superbly presented
Calfs liver – superbly presented

After lunch we explored the grounds, had a quick look at the conference venue (from the outside) and then headed for the station and the trip home.  It was a great day out, and one I am happy to recommend – and not only because a good lunch awaits – but the sights are great, the gardens brilliant, you are walking through history and the train journey itself a bit of fun.

Peter Watson

Spanish chef woos with swinging sausages and traditional Paella

Bohemian

Head chef of one of Melbourne’s newest Spanish restaurants, Bohemian, has 30 swinging sausages, he tells me proudly .. all hanging behind the lavish floor to ceiling curtain in his restaurant.

Josep Espunga Solans has only been in Australia 18 months – moving here to open Eddie Muto’s new restaurant in South Wharf from New York, and he has that sparkle when he talks about the sausage he creates from scratch, and that cheeky smile only a Spanish chef can possess.

Having never visited Australian shores before moving here, he’s now well settled into life here, riding his bike to and from work and enjoying the diverse culinary experiences Melbourne offers.

He is impressed with the Spanish cuisine already in the city and it inspires him he tells me, but he wants to do things a bit differently – and he loves to make things on site too – the sausages of course and then there’s goat’s cheese and ice-cream, all made from scratch.

It’s this approach which has Spanish visitors and those wanting an authentic Spanish experience coming back – oh and maybe the pop-up bar and flamingo dancers too.

The area has a laneway feel to it, despite being along the Yarra River – and with multiple restaurants it’s definitely catching the eye of local foodies.

Whether it’s a three-hatted restaurant or the best of cheap eats – you’ll find it all here along with every kind of cuisine you could imagine, reflecting the city’s diverse cultural influence from Japanese to street Thai food.

Josep’s own cultural influence growing up in a small town north of Catalonia at the base of the Pyrenees, where his parents owned their own restaurant, plays a part in his food too and his mother is still his harshest critic.

“She kept checking the kitchen to see if the pots were clean” he tells me of her last visit.

She’s a tough critic when it comes to his dishes, but his signature Paella is a winner.

It’s all in the stock, he says.

“If a Paella is yellow, it’s because they use food colourings. I only use stock from real fresh food – whether it’s from fresh local seafood from the markets or chicken bones. So the paella is the colour of the food you use to create the stock.”

His mother was less impressed with his suckling pig served with fresh carrot ice-cream – again made from freshly squeezed carrot juice on site.

“She likes traditional dishes, roast goes with roast vegetables for her.”

But for Josep, just like the entertainment he brings it to the restaurant, it’s all about the overall experience.

“I want people to be able to try something they couldn’t or wouldn’t make at home, to give them a real dining experience.”

It’s certainly hitting a nerve with his repeat customers who he plans to continue to surprise – maybe next time it’ll be a dish using one of his swinging sausages.

http://www.southwarfpromenade.com.au

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