Food in Focus

Comfort Food at its Best

We talked two ‘hot’ topics on this weeks show – paddock-to-plate eating and South Indian cuisine. We were joined by Malabar head chef Mohammad Sali, ‘The Conscious Farmer’ Derek Blomfield and wine guru and National Chair of Judges for The Hostplus Restaurant and Catering Awards and Wine List Stewart White.


By Poppy Johnston

The Malabar kitchen delivers some of the best Indian food in Sydney and specialises in dishes from the South of India menu favourites like the Goan Fish Curry and the Bangalore Dosa demonstrate what South Indian cuisine is all about – seafood, coconut milk and aromatic spices.


We mopped up the curry with typical South Indian naan called Malabar Bratha. Like all good Indian chefs, Mohammed knows how to make vegetables sing. The eggplant and lentil stew is yet another hot item on the Malabar menu, and certainly worth ordering. These aromatic dishes went perfectly with the elegantly sweet Domaine de la Croix ‘Irresistable’ AOC Cotes de Provence Rose.


Derek’s Blomfield’s  family-run business, The Conscious Farmer, supplies grass-fed beef directly to the public. Frustrated with the current feedlot system that fattens cattle on grain for up to ninety days before slaughter, the Blomfield family decided to cut out the middleman. Derek’s cattle are fed only grass (just as nature intended) and are ethically and sustainably farmed.


Not only a conscious farmer, Derek also knows how to make the most of cheap cuts of beef. His beef casserole, made with gravy beef, is the perfect winter comfort food. His dish was perfect with the Chateau de Saurs-Gaillac Tradition-Rouge-La Constance 2010.

Both wines came from Discover Vin, an online wine store that imports a excellentselection of French bottles.




Family Feasting

It was a family affair this week and wow did things get intimate (in a good way)!  FoodinFocus Co-host and chef Erez Gordon joined us as our wine expert and producer Corinne Tighe made her debut. We also temporarily adopted the talented chef behind both Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa, Nino Zoccali.


By Poppy Johnston

It was quite an educational session this week, with Nino talking us through the intricacies of pasta and olive oil making. We were treated to a taste of Nino’s Pendolino 2015 olive oil blend, which will be released in four to six weeks. We mopped up this vibrant oil with Pendolino’s walnut and fennel seed bread.


Erez has just taken on Dog’s Bar in St. Kilda, Melbourne. Erez hopes to capture the inventive nature of the Australian wine scene with his latest venture, and had generously supplied us with some innovative examples. The first wine off the blocks was the Swinney Vineyards ‘Ingenue’ Franklin River ‘Tirra Lirra’ red— a very clever Tempranillo, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.




IMG_1348Our producer Corinne Tighe has just returned from Bali. By the sounds Corinne did a good job and eating and drinking her way around the island! She reserved a special mention for Latin American fusion restaurant Barbacoa in Semanyak. This is definitely worth a visit for barbeque enthusiasts.


One of the perks of being an Italian restaurant outside of Italy means that chefs like Nino can take inspiration from all regions. We tried his exquisitely balanced and cleverly textured Ancient Roman Grain Salad, a Pendolino favourite that had undergone a minor facelift. But dessert in the form of his Pasticciotto Pugliese was the highlight. The custard packs a serious punch.


The second wine on offer was the 2013 Primo Estate ‘Il Briccone.’ This Shiraz-Sangiovese blend might seem a little off-centre, but makes for a smooth, food-friendly wine. Finally we tried the Brash Higgins 2014 ‘FRNC’ Cabernet Franc. A truly gorgeous wine with an equally pretty label.

Wine and Coffee an Australian Addicton

As part of Australia’s growing coffee culture, many of our coffee orders have become more complicated than the Game of Thrones plot line. I can practically see the blood vessel bulge on the baristas forehead when ordering a ‘three-quarters-full extra-hot skim flat-white.’

We were lucky enough to have Haven’s head barista Bruno Koo on this week’s show, who has embraced this trend and will ‘joyously’ tailor your coffee right down to the origin, temperature and taste of your preferred drop. Greg Fitzsimmons also joined us from the online auction house Grays Online. Greg provided three full-bodied reds to match the change of season.

Group shot

Greg Fitzsimmons, Bruno Koo and Natascha Moy

The first wine we tasted was the 2012 Brokenwood Thompson’s Road Shiraz, a multi-regional Shiraz. Greg gave us the license to use ‘any descriptive word we liked’ to describe the wine— which Natascha took quite literally. She dubbed this bottle the Catherine Zeta-Jones of wines.


We hooked straight into the Pork Belly Kimchi Burger, which was completely mind-blowing. The chef’s at Haven pile five spice roast pork belly, kimchi, bocconcini cheese, grated apple, kale, sesame omelette and shaved radish between two soft buns. I haven’t been able to stop harping on about this burger to anyone who will listen, it’s a serious must-try!


We then filled our glasses with the 2013 Poggiotondo Chianti Sangiovese blend— a great food wine that worked well with the salty Kimchi burger. The third bottle was the 2012 Peter Jorgensen ‘Epiphany’ Barossa Shiraz. This smooth Shiraz went perfectly with the brownie from Haven made with Madagascan single origin 73% dark chocolate.




Bruno then talked us through the intriguing selection of coffee on offer at Haven. You can choose between handcraft-to-order filtered coffee or 8-hour cold brew. With the coffee you are encouraged to try either dates, nuts or cacao nibs to create a contrast in the taste palette. We tasted the Ana Maria Maracatura bean with raisins and the San Ignacio Micro-lot with almonds. This brought out the unique notes in these two very different blends— Haven have officially taken the coffee experience to new heights!


Pasta and Pinot

How do you make ten thousand dollars in the wine industry? Start off with 20! This is a reminder that both the wine and food industries are a labours of love and it is never about the money, well not in the beginning anyway. Every now and again we get guests on the radio show who have been in the industry for a lifetime and you can tell that food and its creation is in their DNA.

Anna 1 from Ara


The gorgeous Anna Maria Eoclidi and her partner Simon Venning joined us from Pasta Emilia in Surry Hills. They brought a touch of love and warmth to the studio not to mention some incredible organic pasta. Samantha Payne took a break from her busy wine schedule of making, writing and suggesting to chat to us about wines form the Central Otago region in New Zealand.

by Poppy Johnston


Pasta Emilia is one of the corner-stone restaurants in Surry Hills, it opened in Bronte 8 years ago and eventually moved to Surry Hills to adapt to the ever increasing demand for tables inside. They now seat diners all day in an organic designed venue that fits their pasta and food philosophy.


The traditional recipes come from Emilia where Anna hails from, the Italian region is famous for fresh pasta, Parmigiano, balsamic and prosciutto. The Pasta Emilia ethos of simplicity means that the team at Pasta Emilio uses only the most authentic and naturally prepared produce they can source and this is not just lip service.

Pasta_emila _ cheese and chili

We started with an antipasto platter, starring a selection of Salumi (aged meats), cheese and bread. Then we turned our attention to the vibrant selection of hand-made tortelli. With typical Italian generosity we were treated to four Pasta Emilia favourites: the nettle and gorgonzola, pumpkin and ricotta, beetroot and parmesan and finally the duck and chocolate. Each was delicious, full of flavour and distinct.

Pasta Emilia_Menu


Dessert was a traditional biscuit/cake that started out as a peasant dish and soon became a firm regional favourite. Pasta Emilia is well worth a visit— and are very reasonably priced with pasta dishes starting at $16. Alternatively, check out their well-renowned cooking classes and the fantastic Macaroni nights


Tucking into the vibrant selection of ravioli, we couldn’t help but feel a touch guilty about our waistlines. We were thrilled to hear that pasta is in fact a low G.I. food and the tendency to demonise pasta is attributable to over-consumption rather than the food itself. Simon reminded us that in Italy, pasta is traditionally served as Primi (starter) rather than main. So moderation (as with all delicious foods) is the key.

pasta 2

The bright and bubbly Samantha brought in some great wines that exemplify the cool climate Central Otago region in New Zealand . Samantha is particularly well versed on the Otago region spending time at the vineyards there getting her hands and feet dirty during the picking and processing times.


As the most southern wine-growing region in the world it is known for its delicious Pino Noir. To our delight, we had one of those rare FoodinFocus moments when the wine matched the food. We could not have been happier!





mount edward

The 2014 Peregrine Pinot Gris was a perfect dry white to start to the show. Samantha worked at Peregrine Wines during the wine making process so it was very special for her. We also tried a 2012 Mount Edward Pinot Noir and a 2008 Valli Pinot Noir – both elegant Pinots that exemplified the region. These beautiful Central Otago wines are all relatively affordable and can be picked up most independent wine retailers.


A: 259 Riley Street (corner of Reservoir St) Surry Hills NSW 2010

T: 02 9212 1069


Markets in May

We love the idea of Markets in May and have been a supporter of this initiative over the past two years. Edwina Volts founder of The Local market Guide has brought this initiative to play with a series of fun events and a strong focus on supporting our local markets.

markets in may1

Lets be honest it is also the best way to entertain the kids as the months get cooler, eat gorgeous winter food, meet interesting people who actually want to engage with you and just have some good fun.

Local Market Guide is proud to be launching the inaugural ‘Markets in May’ Campaign – a celebration of local markets and everything they bring to the community.

Enjoy a variety of fun and engaging events including farmer talks and workshops, traditional skills demonstrations and performances at markets throughout the month.

To see more on the events Click HERE

Or watch the YouTube video



markets in May

Meat, Fermented Food & Organic Wine

This heading sounds like bloody paleo doesn’t it. I am vocally opposed to paleo in its true form. I have some serious issues with looking back to move forward and I think the Paleo movement is archaic however in saying that I am also very fond of healthy eating and that includes a whole heap of paleo suggested foods. Anyhow more of that later because in life you always land up having to challenge your mindset at some point. It happened on the show with my guests Craig Macindoe who owns MuMu Grill in Crows Nest, the team from Ferment it James Bron Mackney and Belinda Smith who were representing Markets in May, Nutritionist Lola Berry and Alex Retief from Retief Wines.


From left to right: Alex Retief, Craig Macindoe, Belinda Smith, Natascha Moy, James Bron Mackney and Corinne Tighe

So back to my Paleo issue, Meat and Fermented product are some of the stalwarts of the paleo movement and yes I had them on the show at the same time. Thank goodness for the wine. MuMu Grill has been serving some of Sydney’s finest Grass Fed beef for many years. It is a true steakhouse with an emphasis on incredible cuts of meat and a very sustainable outlook on both its produce and its own restaurant processes. Craig brought one of his signature dishes on the show, the Riverina T Bone Taghata, Seared and Sliced and finished with Rosemary and Garlic. The meat was so tender and tasty that it almost melted in your mouth. As with a true meat restaurant he has done his homework so you will not be surprised to find an array of incredible meat dishes on his menu. He can tell you where they are sourced from, how they were raised. the ethical practices of the farmers he deals with and a whole heap of other stuff.



As if the idea of plain protein (albeit very, very good) was not enough for me to cope with I then had to face up to the Ferment it team who shared their journey into this new or should I say very old form of preserving good healthy food. I have to add that I actually love fermented food because it has a high acid  content and as a food lover this is often what gives you the balance in a dish. Not only is the flavour great but the health benefits are vast. James and Belinda have launched an interesting range of products that include Beetroot, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and more. We loved eating them with robust cheese and I naturally added some to my steak.


When you consume plant based raw fermented foods you consume vital enzymes that help your body stay healthy. These live bacterially fermented foods are packed with pre and pro-biotics that build intestinal flora in the gut, to aid digestion and strengthen our immune system. This assists with eliminating bad bacteria. Fermented food is a superfood and is delicious if you worry about including them in your diet start slowly with sauerkraut yes that is a fermented natural food.


Markets in May is organised by my lovely friend Edwina Volz who founded the Local Market Guide, it is a celebration of market fare and the market experience and is a great initiative at the beginning of  the cooler months when market shopping takes over from beach hopping. (click HERE for more info on the Markets in May) Lola Berry is a nutritionist and she is a healthy food advocate, she came on the show to share her ideas of fun market inspired recipes and the reason we should all be looking after our bodies and cooking great healthy local produce. Lola also shared her favourite smoothy recipe
One Frozen Banana or frozen berries baby spinach and chia seeds this gives you a whole truckload of nutrients to start your day plus it is delicious. She suggested you blend twice to remove the stalks from the greery and freeze the banana as it is creamier and richer in flavour.

Lola Berry

Alex Retief has been a guest on my show many years ago, since then he has married had two kids and is still producing great wines. He is also representing Markets in May and is a wine maker for both his own label and his parents biodynamic wines. Born in Wagga and making wines since 2008 Alex has carved a niche for hand crafted cool climate New South Wales wines. Alex is also a 2013 Len Evens Scholar, wine judge and member of the NSW wine Committe. We were treated to three of his wines. Click HEREfor more on Alex.

We tasted three of his wines on the show and all the info on them is below.

Fruit Source:

Mataro: “Mokhinui” vineyard Hilltops, NSW 100%


Vineyard Information:

The fruit was all sourced from Mokhinui vineyard in the Hilltops, where the 2013 vintage was one of the best in recent memory. The Hilltops area does not draw water from any river system and so is most reliant on natural rainfall events over the winter period to fill storage dams. In that regard, it was a perfect season.

After fermentation in a large open fermenter, the wine was pressed off into older French barriques and matured for 20 months before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Light in colour, but medium to full in body, the wine displays a nose that is deep and brambly, full of red-currants and fruits, while the palate dances with a vibrant rhubarb, bright fruits and hint of smokey bacon– savoury backbone and a rich, full mouth-feel, continuing on with a long, lingering finish. There is a great balance to the wine with a gamey, rhubarb length and breadth.


Fruit Source:

Petit Verdot: “Mokhinui” vineyard Hilltops, NSW (100%)


Vineyard Information:

The fruit was all sourced from Mokhinui vineyard in the Hilltops and the 2013 harvest was simply one of the best I have seen in NSW for a long time. The growing season was long and cool allowing the flavours to develop beautifully. During fermentation the cap is turned using air to gently ‘bubble’ the cap. This is a great way to softly extract colour and flavor from the fruit without getting any stalky / greenness. The wine is then matured in two year old French barriques for 16 months.

Tasting Notes:

Thought to have originated in the Bordeaux region of France and most often found in a typical Bordeaux style Cabernet blend, Petit Verdot is a variety that every five vintages or so produces a wine that just has to be kept by itself.

The 2013 Petit Verdot is definitely one of those special vintages. The nose is a heady mix of violets, rhubarb and spice, while the palate has a fruit intensity of red berries, chocolate and tobacco followed by a deep rich structure. 16 months in French barriques has cultivated a genuine balance between fruit and oak tannin.

Fruit Source:

Shiraz: “Winbirra” Gundagai, NSW 100%


Vineyard Information:

The fruit for the Shiraz is sourced from “Winbirra”, the Retief family vineyard, located 25 km south east of Wagga Wagga in the Gundagai wine region of southern NSW.

The farm has been certified organic since 2003 and the vineyard bio-dynamic since 2005. Despite some initial scepticism about the difference bio-dynamic principles would make, the change in the health of the soil and vines has been eye-opening.

On what used to be quite compact hard ground, you can now dig up handfuls of rich brown soil that is teeming with life. The vines are now in balance with the soil and are producing fruit both rich in flavour and character and the resulting wines consistently have a seam of deep plum and chocolate.

Tasting Notes:

The 2012 vintage is a perfect example of bio-dynamics keeping the vine in balance.It was shaping up to be a beautiful vintage after a great early growing season through late Spring early summer. Not long before harvest the weather turned and a lot of rain fell.

Even though the Baume was still very low (only about 10.5) the fruit was in balance and with more rains coming along, I made the call to harvest and I am very happy I did. Even at a relatively low 11.5% Alc / Vol, there is a rich colour and deep palate.

The aromas are of white pepper and spice lots of cherry and some savoury eucalypt. The palate as well is dominated by rich cherry, with a generous mid palate of spice ani- seed and nice hint of tobacco. The finish is long and lingering, well balanced and subtle oak and fruit tannin.

93 Points, James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion, 2015

We Should All Have a Butler

I am terrible at revisiting venues that have changed hands and I was cautious when agreeing to review The Butler in Potts Point. Silly me, why had I waited so long. We had lunch which is not often my favourite way to review a new restaurant but in fact for this venue it was the perfect way to do it. We sat outside in the French colonial designed patio area and then tucked into some outstanding French-Caribbean inspired dishes.

The Butler_Venue

James Privett the Executive Head Chef has his eye on the ball and a serious understanding of flavour and produce. I thought the food was delicious, balanced and interesting. Full bursts of flavour in every bite and a very pretty city scape to offer great eye candy. Although honestly the dishes are so well plated that you might as well just stare at your food.

Prawn and mango_butler

The interior is classy and offers a chic exotic overtone. A forest-like garden consumes the outdoors, various textures of foliage complement the original sandstone walls and a twist on the traditional French colonial influence is infused throughout. The long staircase gives a great initial overview as you descend into the dining area and sets the tone for a very good dining experience.

The Butler Potts Point honours historic ‘Butlers Restaurant’ that occupied this same site many years ago, paying tribute to its original structure, food and service style with a fresh, modern flair.


I loved the three dishes we had and would visit this venue again and eat exactly the same food. (a bit boring I know but when you find something you like stick with it)


We started with the Tabasco prawns, mango salsa, coconut quinoa 22 (gf) which I loved. Think of spicy, sweet and savoury in each mouthful with pops of clear flavour. We then moved onto the Roast snapper fillet, heritage carrots, dukka, eel butter 30 (gf) perfect to share. This is a clear indication of how to balance the flavour and texture of great produce with enhancing elements like eel butter. The Fried cauliflower, braised red onion, mint, pistachio 12 (v,gf,df) was a great side with crunch and colour and we paired this with a few French fries, horseradish mayo 8 (v,df) and had a simple but wonderful lunch.

I highly recommend The Butler because I know I am going back.

Booking is suggested for this venue.

A: 123 Victoria Street, Potts Point SYDNEY.
T: (02) 8354 0742


Brewing Baking and Butlers

Yet another rambunctious lot joined us for this weeks FoodinFocus show. We had the pleasure of chatting with Richard Adamson from Young Henry’s Brewery in Newtown, ‘The Butler’ Group Executive chef James Privett and Kiwi cook and author Natalie Oldfield.

By Poppy Johnston

From left to right Natalie Oldfield, Host Erez Gordon, .Richard Adamson, James Privett and me (Poppy Johnston)

Following the success of her earlier nostalgia-driven cookbooks, kiwi culinary personality and cook Natalia Oldfield joined us with her latest project, Love and Food at Gran’s Table. The book is a collection of stories and recipes from over 60 grandmothers from New Zealand and Australia.

gram table

We all took a serene trip down memory lane thinking about our own grandmothers’ cooking and then we had the pleasure of tasting (I really mean devouring) Natalie’s baking. On offer was ‘Coconut Ice’ made according to a recipe by Helda Day from Southland, New Zealand.


Applejack Hospitality has had a busy three years, recently opening its fourth venue The Butler late last year. At the helm of all four kitchens is award-winning chef James Privett. James provided the mains this week with a stunning dish straight from The Butler menu. The pan-fried snapper fillet with dukkah, golden raisins and smoked eel butter showcased his talent for concocting creative yet tasty dishes. (Read Natascha’s Review of The Butler HERE)


We had the pleasure of dining at The Butler this week (read the review here). The Butler has recreated the famous Potts Point Venue (formerly Mezzaluna) into a French-Caribbean inspired restaurant complete with incredible views, fresh design with loads of greenery and an impressive share plate menu. It would certainly worth checking out Applejack’s other venues— Bondi Hardware, The Botanist Kirribilli and So Cal Neutral Bay. So we have a few more venues on our list.


Our third guest supplied the all-important alcohol component and we certainly didn’t go thirsty! Richard Adamson joined us from the Young Henry’s in Newtown – a place where all sorts of wild dreams are ‘brewed’ into reality.

We first tried a Young Henry’s favourite, ‘The Newtowner.’ Next we tried the ‘Winged Victory’ spiced ale— eerily reminiscent of the humble Anzac Biscuit. The final beer on offer was the Spicy Little Ripper Ale (SLRA), a rye Indian pale ale with hints of spicy pepperberry.


We also spoke about the Young Henry’s creation for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), to be hosted in both Melbourne and Sydney this year.  We started to wonder how many beers had been consumed to come up with a Cherry Flanders Ale combined with stout made with raspberries. They certainly think outside the box in Newtown!

For all our swift station calling listeners, we’re sorry to announce that our giveaways will now be shared between the radio show and our  social media sites. This week we gave away a signed copy of Natalie’s new cookbook, a guided tour through the Young Henry’s Brewery in New Town and a $150 voucher to So Cal in Neutral Bay.

So listen in each week for the latest info and venues on the food and booze scene and win some awesome experiences.




The Food Mafia

With a slightly humorous take on the Belgrave Cartel Restaurant in our title I can honestly tell you if there was an old style American Mafia in Sydney they would sit eating Mama’s food in here. Warm and eclectic this restaurant has climbed into my top 1o for simple pleasure.


The interior is interesting, clever use of space and design has led to a slice of Melbourne in Sydney and the shabby chic design offers a relaxed dining experience that is all about how you feel and less about how you look.

The restaurant on the Thursday night when we visited was packed. We sat in the front section near the bar and the street action (ok not so much on Belgrave street) but the big windows and the chilled out vibe made me feel really happy. We sat on an array of individual seats and had a quick peak at the room in the back that can be used for functions. All interesting to look at and designed around the theme of relaxed comfort.


Even the menu offers simple Italian fare. Owner Mick Bruzzese was on hand to help us select from the menu. We started with some great cocktails pretty much anything is good just ask according to your flavour profile I wanted something sweeter and fruity so I got a Chilli Lychee cocktail that was delicious and totally suited my taste buds.


Food is Italian so think old school with some new thrown in. You can’t go wrong with the Lasagne, the lamb cutlets, polenta chips, or the salmon starter. Pulled Pork Sliders are delicious and then the traditional desserts like the Tiramisu.

We had the joy of live music by an incredibly talented jazz musician who did some rocking covers. My suggestion is take some friends and have a great night out. No ceremony, no pretence just lots of laughter good wholesome food, eclectic vibe and generous staff.

For more information Click Here
Address: 6 Belgrave Street, Manly NSW 2095
Phone:(02) 9976 6548


The Cartel, Malbec & a Vegan Butcher

Vibe, vibe, vibe. On some nights out the consideration is mood first and food second and we found the vibe at Belgrave Cartel in Manly. So we had the owner Mick Bruzzese on the show along with Stewart White our long time renegade co-host who brought one of our favourite wine styles; Malbec an all time favourite to smooth away the weeks stress. As it was World Malbec Day on the 17th of April we felt we must celebrate the best way we know how… by drinking. We also decided to take fate into our hands with a totally new take on the Chilli Dog and go vegan. Our host Natascha Moy likes nothing more than being converted and this was one of those occasions enter Suzy Spoons Vegetarian Butcher from Newtown.


“Why”? we asked Suzy did you open a Vegetarian Butcher? Why if you are not willing to eat meat are you that keen to make anything that emulates it?”. This was the first question our fabulous host asked the lovely Suzy Spoon. Suzy said that it had nothing to do with not liking meat in fact she liked it very much what she didn’t like was the ethics of killing animals. So from her ethical dilemma was born the desire to eat well and make sure that the process was ethical and produced delicious food. If the Chilli Dog was anything to go by this is one store that is successfully producing great food.

The vegan butcher

The Chilli Dog was tasty, had texture, was spicy and delicious. Suzy Spoon and her team at the Vegan Butcher know their stuff.

It’s not everyday that we host someone from Manly, because lets be honest there are precious few venues really worth talking about on that side of the bridge… ok you can all put your knives down we were only kidding. Belgrave Cartel is a slice of Melbourne near the beach. Shabby chic design gives rise to mama’s cooking and the team of staff are warm and generous. Owner Mick Bruzzese brought us some of the loved lasagne and it was devoured. Home cooking is their signature with some very sexy cocktails and yummy polenta chips.


Lets also share that the show really does not have any ceremony to the dining component. So when we say it is good we are eating it at a lower temp and on paper plates so you can only imagine what this would be like in the actual venue (read Natascha’s review HERE).

The fact that they have dedicated a day to a wine is magical especially one as special as Malbec. I was going to write something on the wines. Then I thought I should get an expert to do it instead so I asked Stewart White to write something short… This is what I got click HERE

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