Archive for March, 2010

Adelaide River War Cemetery Northern Territory Australia

The movie AUSTRALIA informed younger generations of Australians and reminded older ones, of the air raids and subsequent loss of many lives in the Defence Forces and civilians in World War II. During my stay in Darwin I regularly drove past the airstrips built parallel to the Stuart Highway.  See the ‘Strauss’ field below with its two-dimensional mock-ups of different planes that help us imagine the planes used in those days.  Captain Allison W. Strauss (male) was killed in an air raid when his Kitty Hawk crashed in the Darwin harbour. I think it is far-sighted of the government to retain the airstrips as tangible evidence of those terrible times.

On 19th February 1942 in the morning at 09.58hrs the first raid hit and 243 people died that day. Twenty three aircraft were destroyed and eight ships were sunk. All in all Darwin was bombed 64 times between that date and November 1943.

For me to be reminded of the devastation, it was not the movie, but visibility of the airstrips that led me to take a drive to Adelaide River, some 90 ks ‘down the track’ to pay my respects at the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Although the cemetery is well away from the main road, it is well signposted. On arriving at Adelaide River I followed the signs to a bitumen road, either side of which was carefully maintained with plants, shrubs, trees and well manicured lawns. I was impressed that several signs are posted to let you know what flora and fauna are to be found here and for those wishing to stay longer, picnic amenities are provided.

Originally the graves were marked with simple white crosses. Now that more graves have been relocated from civil cemeteries,  isolated sites and temporary military burial grounds it has become a well laid out and designed site marked by uniform brass plaques. Many are individually inscribed with personal messages so I presume penned from members of their families. Some graves have basic information only and there are many unmarked graves as the identities are still unknown.

A special section has been landscaped at one end as a tribute to the people who were killed when they volunteered to stay behind in Darwin to run the Post Office, a vital communication resource.The Post Office received a direct hit and nine workers died. There are also graves for the thirty one aboriginal people in that section of the cemetery.

The Adelaide River War Cemetery is Australia’s most visited war cemetery with an average of 75,000 visitors yearly, amazing for such a remote place.  I recommend a visit here if you ever go to the Northern Territory. Roz

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Where the hell is Noonamah?

Jabiru on Elizabeth Valley Road

Where the hell is Noonamah? is a bumper sticker you see driving around Darwin. Well I know very well where it is, my sister lives a couple of ks north of Noonamah in Elizabeth Valley and I have passed it every day for the past week. It is also known as the home of the Green Frog Races. Such a salubrious association with my temporary neighbourhood I know.

Some 46 ks out of Darwin on the road, south of course, all roads have to lead south of Darwin since it is located on the north coastline of Australia. I first came to Darwin 38 years ago, not as visitor but as a resident. The cyclone forced me out the first time but I returned for another stint in 1975-76. I return regularly to see family so have noticed the changes. However it is only now that I can see how Darwinites have also become avid rural dwellers. I was on the road one morning at peak hour, that is around 7am to 7.30am here and the traffic travelling into Darwin, from even further south than Elizabeth Valley/Noonamah was as busy as my local Coronation Drive or the hectic road to the airport – Kingsford Smith Drive in Hamilton in Brisbane.

My Sis

But getting back to Noonamah, which by the way is a very popular hotel and the place where my sister is warmly greeted and where she is allowed to park her four-wheel drive which is mighty handy when her local roads are under too much water to drive her little Mazda. Carol can do a relay with her Mazda to the pub on her way home from work, and then pick up her Toyota Hilux. No I am not paid by car companies to promote cars, it is just easier to describe the make of the cars because everyone seems to know what they are and isn’t having a Hilux just so de riguer in the top end.

The Noonamah Tavern has hosted the Green Frog race charity event for 20 years. Betting on this race raises as much excitement as the Melbourne Cup. The frogs race each other from the centre of a circle to its outer perimeter over three heats. But not all excitement is about frogs, see this story filed by Neena Bhandari.

Buffaloes, horses, frogs and even cane toads have propped up at a dusty outback highway pub in Australia’s Northern Territory, but to find a saltwater crocodile as a drinking buddy came as a shock even for regulars at the Noonamah Tavern. On Sunday night, three regulars at the bar discovered the 60-cm male saltwater crocodile in front of the pub.

“You could say we were a bit surprised. He was pretty complacent, easygoing, but we weren’t going to test him out,” barmaid Sarah Sparre told the Australian Associated Press.

“They brought him in so everyone could have a look. We took a photo of him and then put him in a box with his mouth taped,” Sparre said.The creature was taken to the Darwin Crocodile Farm by the Parks and Wildlife Services.

Carol has her own legend. On our way home between Noonamah and her place, she pointed out a little causeway where she saw a large crocodile that had just come up from the river below. She got quite a shock and if she had been in her little car she would most likely have hit it and the water-logged causeway would have slid her into the river at the very least. Every time I drove past that spot I kept a lookout for a croc and when I saw people standing at the side after a heavy rain with fishing nets I hoped they would not be a headline the next day.

For all my time in living in Darwin in the past I never had an opportunity to see in the wild, the largest flying bird in world, the Black Neck Stork known here as Jabiru (Xenorhynchus asiaticus) and nearly every day we would see a family of them.

I was quite taken with their size, they grow to a height of about 1 metre tall, long thin orange legs, a black and white marked body and a shiny blue-black neck, with a long black beak. I got out of the car to take the photo, walked quietly across the road but they were on to me and would not let me get close. Roz

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my favourite commercial galleries in Paris

Tony Cragg

The private contemporary art galleries are not easy to find in Paris. Most Parisian buildings have locked doors and then more locked gates into courtyards. If you are lucky, some of the entry codes are deactivated during the day making it easier to gain access but as many galleries are not open every day, it can be complicated to find them, unless you read this and print out for your next visit.
My guide will tell you the addresses and times the gates or entry doors are open.

For a dose of heady art and cream of the art world, set off to the 3e and 4e – the (e) is an abbreviation for the number of the arrondisements – Paris is divided into these ‘districts’. It is in these districts you will find the galleries that show many contemporary international artists.

However for a first time visitor to Paris you may find small shops selling a variety of work, particularly on the Left Bank, between the Seine and Boulevard Saint Germain.

Most of these galleries have-
bilingual (including English-speaking) owners and staff. Therefore, don’t be shy about approaching them for catalogues, price lists and information.

Galerie Karsten Greve

With branches in Paris, Switzerland & Germany its artists get good coverage. The gallery is big. It exhibits the work of legends in the art world, artists like Debuffet & Louise Bourgeois. In 2008 Bourgeois had a major retrospective at the Pompidou.
Tues-Sat 11-7pm
5 rue Debelleyme (3
www.artnet.com

Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
Enter inside a courtyard, large exhibiting spaces, publishes own magazine and has a gallery in Miami, US.
Shows Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and major French name Sophie Calle.
Tues – Sat 11 – 7 pm
76 rue de Turenne (3e)
www.galerieperrotin.com

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Another ‘galerist’ moved into the Paris scene, this time from Saltzburg.
Definitely one of the big boys of the scene here. In 2008 an impressive Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibition.  It shows two artists known as Gilbert &  George. Tony Cragg’s work filled 4 galleries in May 09.
Mon-Sat 10 – 7 pm
7 rue Debelleyme (3e)
www.ropac.net

Galerie Yvon Lambert

This gallery has been around for some 30 years, expect to see big names here, installations, dedicated area for videos. I never miss this gallery.
Tues-Fri 10 – 1 pm, 2.30 – 7pm Sat 10 – 7 pm.
108 rue Vielle-du-Temple (3e)
www.yvon-lambert.com

Chez Valentin
A new find for us this time, currently showing a young English artist. The gallery has a reputation for exhibiting experimental art. Located on the street not far from famous Place des Vosges.
Tues-Sat 11 – 1 pm &  7 pm
9 rue St Gilles (3e)
www.galeriechezvalentin.com

Galerie Jean-Luc & Takako Richard

Opened first gallery in Bastille known as Galerie Oz but don’t think that meant Australian art. They are now in the heart of the 3rd in a deceptively large gallery whether you enter from rue de Turenne, or from its other entrance at 3 Impasse St Claude. Showing international artists including some Japanese, the co-owner is from Japan. Good website also in English to view ahead gallery programme. Expect to see ‘name’ American artists here regularly.
Tues-Sat 11 – 7pm
74 rue de Turenne, 75003 (3e)
www.galerierichard.com

8. Galerie Maria Lund

A gallery that is easy to find as it is on the street. Ground floor and basement exhibiting space.
Showing many artists from Maria’s home country Denmark. We liked the  enigmatic work in photography and painting by Peter Neuchs in May 09.
Mon-Sat 12 – 7pm
48 rue de Turenne  (3e)
www.marialund.com

I will be back in Paris in September so will post an update. Roz

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making macarons in Paris

Laduree's last stop for macarons

Macarons are the big sweet obsession at the moment, in Australia that is. Television cooking programmes have included them in the competitions to find top home chefs. Yet macarons have been around for a long time in France but for some reason they have hit the big time here. I learned to make them in Paris at my friend Paule’s cooking school Promenades Gourmandes. Paule Caillait – don’t mistake the name as Paule is a woman.

Paule specialises in cooking tours and classes in Paris and takes you shopping first and then you find out where and how the French who live in the trendy areas of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements shop for ingredients. Her tours are followed by a cooking class in her contemporary large kitchen with its glorious cast iron Lacanche cooker.

For the macaron classes she invites Joël Morgeat, maître pâtissier to lead the class.  We found him a charming young man who spoke a reasonable amount of English, but if there were any misunderstandings or faux pas on our part, on standby were Paule and her French friend Carol who speaks English fluently. By the way Paule speaks English just as fluently which will appeal to anyone considering doing a cooking course in Paris.

For our macaron class, the ingredients were all laid out in the methodical style of the master pastry chef, everything ‘measured’ and ready for us to tackle the art of making macarons. The first rule you learn is not to measure by cups and spoons etc. but by weighing.

It was hands on for us all and I took on the grapefruit flavour whilst my colleagues tackled chocolate and raspberry.

An essential part of the process is to make an Italian meringue, you do that by cooking sugar and water to a state where it becomes sort of plastic like a piece of silicone and can be rubbed between your fingers. After it reaches that state, the hot sugar liquid can be poured into lightly beaten egg whites. You then whip those almost into oblivion, for at least another 10 minutes until really stiff and glossy. I thought the electric mixer might burst a ‘foofoo’ valve like mine did before I left home. I kept watching it but being a later model, it stood up to the test.

The procedure to test the readiness of the cooked sugar is in the danger zone and Joel showed us how he uses his fingers to test it.  He places his fingers in cold water and then plunges them into the boiling pot and then, its fingers straight back into the cold water! It was not something we were anxious to emulate but he insisted! I was a bit of a woos at this, quietly thinking I’ll be hunting down the confectionery thermometer back at home. That is if I am ever in the ‘mindset’ to set aside 3-4 hours uninterrupted by nuisance telephone marketing calls to make them!Paule is the one with the dangly earrings. The other person is a student, not a picture of me as I am the one taking photos.

Nothing but the best goes into these babies, finely ground almonds, caster sugar, butter, egg whites and almond paste are the ingredients for cases and fillings. The flavourings are entirely up to all individuals concerned, but we learned the correct consistencies to aim for when using either melted chocolate, fruit juice, fruit coulis or simple bottled essences of flavours. My recipe called for pink grapefruit zest and juice.

I discovered my piping ability was incredibly rusty, you just have to have a piping bag attached to your elbows every day to keep piping skills up to scratch. We all had to learn or regain old skills quickly as we piped the macarons out and later more piping required to fill the cooked macarons.

Baking the macarons was both straightforward and complicated, how can that be? Well we used two different ovens and results depended on how they performed, one was the Lacanche electric cast iron oven and the other, a regular domestic fan forced electric oven. Another factor was how many trays went into the oven at once, this affected whether the macarons cooked evenly. Experimenting at the class with our teacher taught us that we are going to have different results in our home ovens and not to get despondent, just to keep practising.

We learned when to put the macarons in the oven, don’t rush this part as I have seen done on TV’s Masterchef competitions. Once they are piped on the trays, let them settle and form a light firm crust on top to set for baking.

Watching Joel take them out of the oven was mind-boggling. Joel carefully poured cold water under the baking paper sheets to aid in cooling the undersides of the macarons. See my photo of how he tipped the tray lightly toward the sink and the water ran down the tray under the macarons. Now undertaking this crazy procedure without wetting the macarons takes a lot of practice.

Our macaron shapes varied slightly but all achieved the trademark effect of sporting a delicate frill around the edge.

If taking a class in Paris appeals to you, after you have read this blog go back to the top and click on Paule’s name and it will take you straight to her website for more information about her classes in Paris.  If you have a macaron story or know where to buy quality versions in Australia please share through the  ADD A COMMENT section at the end of this blog. Roz

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Pisa, more than the tower

I have been to Pisa several times, like most people, as a day tripper but each time I look beyond its famous tower. It is also a university town and there is plenty of evidence when you walk further, that there is another vibrant atmosphere behind the scenes. However I think living here would be a nightmare for the middle-aged locals, what with tourists, students on bicycles, cars looking for car parks – it can be a challenge.

Having said that if I ever go to Pisa again I will try to stay overnight as a good art museum to visit here. The National Museum of San Matteo with pictures and sculptures of the Tuscan schools from the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The museum is closed on Mondays. Piazza San Matteo in Soarta, 56127 Pisa,  050 542640‎

Borgo Stretto is the commercial centre with a number of arcades. In the middle ages the street was linked by two bridges over the Auser River to the north and the Arno to the south. Initially small workshops were opened which later developed into an urban centre with residences and warehouses for merchants.

Having said that Pisa’s tower and surrounding buildings is compelling viewing. Some of these photos were taken by John who decided the climb to the top of the leaning tower was worth it for aerial views of the city.

Once you are in the back streets, the crowds diminish and then you suddenly come out of a narrow street to find a large piazza that affords you an excellent view to fully appreciate more of the architecture in this town.

On the last couple of visits we headed for a little restaurant Osteria di Cavalieri mainly because it was a Slow Food endorsed one, a good place to start anywhere in Italy. With no pre-arranged booking we managed a table and it was a welcome relief to sit somewhere tranquil away from the hordes of tourists. The sformatino of zucchini Sformatino di zucchine con crema di pomodoro was so light it resembled a twice cooked souffle.

If it is lunchtime then it is ideal for eating a pasta dish and of course one that is a local speciality. We had this buttery rag pasta with cannelloni beans.

The restaurant’s website advises if you drive in, go to Piazza Carrara for parking, it is around 100 metres from the restaurant. I am hungry remembering this meal and the glass..or two…I have trouble remembering the quantity I imbibed so it must have been more….of this medium bodied white, a Vermentino wine from the nearby region of Bolgheri with low acidity and tannin. I write often about visiting Slow Food restaurants, that is because I am a member and I know how Slow Food goes about accepting a restaurant into the fold. It must comply with showcasing local ingredients and local techniques. Also I like that there is a price point that is affordable. Roz

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White Sands Resort, East Coast Tasmania

Smoked salmon entree

Living in a small town has its benefits and word spreads quickly about people with an interest in food.  I was contacted by the local ‘gourmet’ club’s leader (lower case and inverted commas because it is not an official club with office bearers and constitution etc) rang me to invite us to a dinner at a restaurant but due to a chef’s untimely departure the group had to go elsewhere – to the White Sands Resort half way down the highway toward Bicheno.

Eye fillet steak on a tart

Its location is known as Iron House Point and it gives its name to the beer brewed on site.

We were offered a beer tasting before our meal so without trepidation I joined in the spirit. We gathered at the small bar area in full sight of some of the resorts guests in the dining room. We could see another more appealing incomplete building next door that will possibly replace the restaurant. I suspect it is behind schedule as the brochure on the resort advertised it to be ready in 2009. I actually expected we would have the tasting in the brewery and with the group standing in a tight space it was not conducive to fully appreciating the beer tasting. Management should be thinking this aspect of promoting and selling the beers to people who are actually on the property more thoroughly.

Pork belly & scallops

The meal portions were huge and from what I could see around our two long tables, well received. However there was a substantial delay in receiving our meals. Too be absolutely fair, slow service was not entirely the fault of the two young chefs, whom I spied through the pass working flat-out, but I do blame the manager whoever that is, no sight of one. Had a manager been present to oversee such a large group, complimentary bread could have been sent out to allay the hunger of those who chose only a main course. Surely a crowd of 40 calling themselves a ‘gourmet group’ would have warranted more service and the on site attention of a manager.

Pumpkin Risotto

Everyone liked the food, but the nonsensical idea of presenting a large fillet steak on top of a tart needs to be reviewed by the chef. It looked silly and pushes the tart filling down, you still have to remove it to eat both the steak and the tart. I had the pork belly and scallops, a bargain if ever there was one, a meal for two really. Do Tasmanian’s really expect this much food in a course?

The resort comprises a series of self-contained semi-detached units with very large decks opening out from the living area.  I plan a return for another meal and beer tasting when the new building is completed. Roz

This one had more sauce

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Pitigliano, a hill town in Italy

One of the most spectacular of all the hill towns in Italy is Pitigliano. My friend Sharon Bernardi was the first person to tell me about it and when together we began escorting tours around Tuscany I had to include it in every visit as it has the WOW factor.  Pitigliano goes back to Etruscan times but its physical architecture and remains are medieval. For several hundred years Pitigliano was a frontier town between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and to the south, the Papal States.  The town was once home to a large Jewish community, mostly made up by people fleeing from Rome during the counter-reformation persecutions. There is still a small Jewish presence here and a small synagogue you can visit was restored in 1995.

I am in the official entrance courtyard at the Palazzo Orsini, the handsome well is carved with elements of the coat of arms.

From the main piazza near the Orsini Palazzo walk to the arch and you can see the remains of a tall and very visible aqueduct at the very top of the butte.

We always headed first with our group to the Palazzo Orsini, once we bought them the entry tickets we let them wander at their own pace around this former seat of power. Not everyone wants to spend the same amount of time looking at the same exhibits, though I must say the dungeon and its weapons of torture is always fascinating to our groups.

I particularly like the coin and jewels room where there is striking garnet and coral jewellery and black mourning jewellery.

A ticket into the Orsini Museo is around €3.50 and it always amazes me how people so often skimp on paying an entrance fee, they have already taken great time and cost to visit monumental places. I recommend this visit, it is not a lot of money to spend to immerse yourself in the tangible reminders of the history of Palazzo Orsini’s rulers and occupants, all the way from the 12th century to the eventual opening to the public in 1989. Check the opening hours and try to go before or after lunch as they close in summer at 1pm and re open at 3pm. Closed on Mondays as is the restaurant I suggest you visit.

The back streets and side streets are full of photo opportunities for those shots of well-worn stone courtyards and alleys.

One of the highlights of our foodie focussed tours is to revisit the restaurant here in a cellar dug deep into the tufo. The wild haired chef owner with long curly grey hair is always on hand to greet us.

His Osteria Il Tufo Allegro is a member of the illustrious osterie documented and endorsed by the international Slow Food movement.Vicolo della Costituzione, 5.

We also make a beeline also for the Jewish bakery Panificio del Ghetto in via Zuccarelli where I like to buy its special of pressed dried fruit, spices and nut pastry. A sliced section is here on the plate with the biscotti. Sfratti means “sticks” in Italian, as well as ‘evicted’ in the days when landlords were allowed to persuade unwanted and delinquent tenants to leave by force of a rod. This cookie is a popular Italian Rosh Hashanah treat, and got its name from its resemblance to a stick, the Jewish sense of humor transforming an object of persecution into a sweet symbol. I am about to hunt down a recipe for Sfratti as I won’t be back in Pitigliano for some time. Roz

Wafers from the bakery

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