If he ever wanted to give up his day job, two-hatted chef Troy Rhoades-Brown could consider a career in event planning.
Driven by a desire to help farmers and producers devastated by ongoing drought conditions, he and his Muse Restaurant team rustled up a crew of Hunter Valley chefs and organised Chefs Cook For Rural Aid. The fundraising dinner was held at the Hungerford Hill, Pokolbin, restaurant on February 2.
"It was a fantastic night. A real success," he told Food & Wine.
"$25,410 was raised, which is 100 per cent of all proceeds from the night.
"We had chefs, apprentices, head chefs and restaurant managers all give their time to work the event. The room was filled with generous supporting locals and there was a wonderful sense of community in the room."
The menu reflected the talent at work in the kitchen. Frank Fawkner, of EXP. restaurant, treated diners to Hiramasa kingfish with macadamia satay, brailla bower spinach, broccolini and finger lime. The Wood Restaurant's Andy Wright was responsible for a grass-fed beef tartare, eggplant, miso, quail egg and burnt onion dish; and Garreth Robbs, of Bistro Molines, plated up roasted and confit quail with charred leek, corn and game broth.
Muse Restaurant's Mitchell Beswick's offered woodfired wagyu tri-tip with polenta, Mother Fungus king brown mushroom, roasted kelp gravy and sunrose; while Muse Kitchen's Josh Gregory finished up with dessert made from Udder Farm milk, honey and lemon verbena.
A shout-out to the following businesses who also played a part: Champagne Vadin-Plateau; Andrew Thomas Wines; McGuigan Wines; NSW Golf Club; Appellation Oysters; David Hook Wines; Vittoria Coffee; McLeish Estate; KM Handthrown Pieces; Keith Tulloch Wine; Murray Gold Australia; Lisa McGuigan; Lake's Folly; Pigges Peak Winery; Tyrrell's; Weekenda.com; Margan; Peppertree Wines; Lovedale Brewery; Hungerford Hill; Brokenwood; Mount Pleasant; Wollombi Road Providore; Meerea Park Wines; Ironbark Hill Brewhouse; Charteris; and Little Beach Boathouse.
New menu at QWH
Stephen Scott, newly appointed head chef at Queens Wharf Hotel, says "it's been absolutely crazy" at the waterfront venue so far this year. He has, however, found time to refine his new menu and wanted to share it with Food & Wine.
"We are launching our new menu in the next two weeks and will be pushing more fresh fish with our Market Sashimi Plate: three different fish depending on what's available, sliced fresh and served simply with some lemon and avocado to let the fish shine," he said.
"Also, there's our flathead tacos, battered and served on a white corn tortilla with red cabbage, avocado and smoked chilli mayo; and the cold seafood platter is coming back with blue swimmer crabs, prawns, oysters and sashimi.
"Where we can we are getting our fish in whole to guarantee the quality and also to utilise the whole fish, using the excess for specials such as our smoked kingfish rillette.
"We are also starting to build more of a focus on our vegan patrons, putting on a vegan bolognaise made from mushrooms and spelt with a rich tomato sauce."
Rascal's "Shoulda been 'peached" burger of the week takes a juicy stab at US President Donald Trump (the blurb? "It's the end of peach season ... unfortunately some bad fruit managed to stay hanging on the tree"). This work of art features fried chicken, peach BBQ glaze, bacon, spiced peach chutney, pickles, onions, slaw and cheese ranch, and costs $16.90.
The family-run Nina's IGA on Beaumont Street at Hamilton celebrated its 33rd year in business on February 7. Quite a milestone.
Taste test time
Newy Fried Chicken - which is open for lunch and dinner from February 19 - hasn't forgotten its Hotline Hoagie roots. Founder Nicholas Brady is testing "Tender Po Boys" in the Newcastle Hotel's kitchen on Thursday night from 6pm and you're invited - think Southern chicken tenders, lettuce, tomato, pickles and Southern remoulade sauce served on a long crusty roll. Order ahead if you don't want to miss out.
One to watch
Teralba village will soon welcome Maddz on York, a cafe which is opening at 40 York Street in about mid-March. It's still a work in progress but if the renovated and repainted exterior is anything to go by, it's going to be well worth a visit.
Bottomless Brazilian brunch
MEET restaurant on Darby Street is celebrating one of Brazil's biggest festivals on Saturday, February 22, with its Carnaval Bottomless Brunch. From 11am to 4pm guests will enjoy Brazilian street food, caipirinhas, batidas and cocktail jugs as well as a Brazilian drums show, samba dancers and DJ Julio. Book now to avoid disappointment.
The Croatian Wickham Sports Club is showcasing the food, wine and dance culture of Croatia on March 28 at Newcastle Croatian Festa. There will also be market stalls and live music.
Save the date
Newcastle City Hall will host the annual Variety of Chefs dinner on Saturday, August 1. Chefs already confirmed to cook up a storm on the night include the two-hatted Troy Rhoades-Brown, Chris Thornton from Restaurant Mason and Tim Montgomery from Rascal. Tickets will go on sale in April; to register your interest go to variety.org.au and follow the links. The event raises much-needed funds for children in need of a "fair go".
Freebie of the week
We're all familiar with Italy's classic recipes, but few are aware of the traditional dishes that come from a burgeoning street-food scene. Hidden behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants, and down laneways are little-known gems offering up some of Italy's tastiest and best-kept secret dishes. Italian Street Food delves into these back streets to bring you some of Italy's most exciting food. Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis and fritters, and perfect your gelati-making skills. Italian Street Food is out now through Simon & Schuster, RRP $39.99. Food & Wine has a copy to give away. To enter, send the words "Italian Street Food" with your name, address and number to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries close on Monday (17/2/2020) at 9am.
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