Thursday, December 29, 2011

Au Revoir 2011

As we prepare to farewell 2011 and launch into the new year, I have been reflecting (as one is wont to do during this season) on the year that has past. And what an incredible year 2011 has been. The big event for me this year was of course my marriage to Andrew on the 16th of April which was, as described by my best friend Victoria "like a big love bomb went off in the room". What a day. It was exactly as we wanted it to be - on our own terms, in our own way, surrounded by the people we care about and celebrated with music, dancing, good wine and of course, fabulous food! This wonderful celebration seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year and I feel like I have had so many great experiences over the last 12 months. Food and travel have been a big part of this, with Andrew not just joining me as my partner in life but also my partner in culinary exploration.

Andrew and I
- partners in life and culinary adventure

In April we headed off to Paris for our honeymoon, where once again I was seduced by all of the gastronomic delights that it has to offer. It is truly one of my favourite cities in the world. We did everything from impromptu cheese and baguette picnics, to long bistro lunches -  and fine dining, Michelin star style, including a luscious formal dinner at the famous Taillevent Restaurant. I will never forget the sight of the huge cheese selection being ferried across the dining room to us in a massive wicker basket the size of a table, held aloft by three impeccably attired waiters!

One of our favourite Paris food haunts
- the building that this restaurant is located in dates from the 12th Century

2011 was also the year that I fulfilled a long held dream and ticked off one of my "bucket list" items - to dine at Heston Blumenthal's iconic Fat Duck restaurant. Readers of Gourmet Goddess know that Heston is a big inspiration to me, and the experience did not disappoint. The degustation menu at The Fat Duck actually changed how I viewed every meal I ate in any restaurant since, and will continue to do so. Did it raise my standards? - hell yeah! It also opened my mind to all of the amazing possibilities that dining offers and the ability of food to stimulate memory, emotion, and sensory perception. Think food is just about stuffing your face? Wrong! If you missed the review of my experiece at The Fat Duck , you can read it here :

Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Restaurant
in Bray, Berkshire

In the same week, we were lucky enough to secure a reservation at Blumenthal's new restaurant Dinner - devoted to preserving the history of British cuisine - where we saw a whole other side to Heston's talents. Another memorable experience that showed the degree of excellence that can be achieved when someone has such a strong culinary vision. My review of my experience at Dinner is here:

Peter Gilmore's Snow Egg
Quay Restaurant

Other restaurant highlights of this year have been a gorgeous birthday dinner at Tetsuya's, (we return like migratory birds every year!) finally getting to taste Peter Gilmore's magnificent degustation menu at Quay (and yes, that included the famous Snow Egg dessert), enjoying an amazing degustation selection of local delicacies at 3 Chimneys on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and relishing in the delights of South Australia's finest at Appellation. Out of all of the restaurants I visited in 2011, I think the one to watch in Australia is Adelaide's Celsius. Open just over a year and the food is a knockout. I expect to be hearing a lot more about them in the near future. Love their food and love their local/organic philosophy. Exceptional.

Blossoms with radish and sheep milk "snow"
at Celsius

This has been a huge learning year, not just for my tastebuds but also my skills. In February I headed off to my first molecular gastronomy class - "Foams and Emulsions 101", which pressed all of my food nerd buttons and helped me understand more about the scientific basis of cooking. Fascinating stuff, which really educated me on why certain ingredients behave the way they do. In July, I donned my butcher's apron and wielded a big knife when I attended a butchery course run by artisan butcher Victor Churchill. My first lamb boned and trussed, I left the class eager for more - something I hope to pursue further with more classes in 2012.

Our garden at the beginning of the year

Looking after our small inner city garden has given me so much pleasure this year. I've loved seeing it change through the seasons and have even succeeded in growing a little of our own food. I've had success with lettuce, spinach, beetroot, carrots, different varieties of tomatoes, capsicums, sweetcorn and a whole range of herbs including parsley, mint, thyme, basil, lemongrass, sage, rosemary, bay, chervil and chillies. There have also been a few disasters - the snails and beasties just wouldn't give my strawberries a go, scoffing them before they could grow to a decent size. I ended up admitting defeat and decided to buy my strawberries from the market instead. I also lost a crop of promising heirloom tomatoes to a tomato fungus thing that wiped them all out. It's all been a learning curve, as I'm not an experienced gardener in the least. I'm getting better though and learning as I go.

Some of the Spring harvest
Spinach, Carrots, Kale and Herbs

It has been a great year for food related TV, (and no, I don't mean Masterchef!) - special mention must be made of SBS's fantastic foodie lineup, including Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", Heston's "Search for Perfection" and the show that made our household grind to a halt every Thursday night, "Gourmet Farmer". Watching ex food critic Matthew Evans as he created his own little niche living on the land in gorgeous Tasmania was not only educational and inspirational, but touching and funny too. If you haven't seen the show - head to SBS online and watch a few episodes, you will be as hooked as we were.

So, what is in store for Gourmet Goddess in 2012? Well, we have already booked a trip to Melbourne in the first quarter of the year which will give me the chance to visit Cutler & Co - a restaurant I have been really dying to visit for quite a while - reservations have already been made and I can't wait! Melbourne certainly does know how to dine, so I have no doubt that we will be trying as many restaurants as we can while we are there.

I'm also planning more butchery lessons, the next installment of the molecular gastronomy classes and adding another item to my education list - cheesemaking! You never know when you might need to rustle up a few balls of fresh mozzerella! Travel wise, there is a trip to Tasmania on the cards - although there have also been discussions about heading to North Vietnam or Vanuatu at some point in 2012. Whatever happens, it will be another year where I will be sharing my gastronomic adventures with you along the way.

Thank you all so much for continuing to return to Gourmet Goddess. I love receiving your comments, suggestions and emails and I get a lot of pleasure in sharing my love for all things culinary with you. May the Kitchen Goddess bring us more exciting culinary adventures in 2012!



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