With the festival celebrating pigging out on chocolate mere days away, I thought it was high time I mentioned ethical chocolate. The two companies that scrub up best this Easter, in terms of their commitment to ending child labour; using ethical cocoa; and having a clear timetable to phasing out the use of any non-ethical cocoa in their Australian range, are Cocolo and Green & Blacks. If you are wedded to Cadbury (and I know many of you are), keep your eyes peeled for their Fairtrade Certified™ Cadbury® Dairy Milk™ egg. Since Cadbury haven’t committed to a timetable to end the use of unethical cocoa in their Australian products, it is important for us ethical foodies to show them that this is the only product of theirs we’ll consume.
As a warm up event, I dropped into Port D’Anvers down on busy Dixon Street. Situated adjacent to the information pagoda, this chocolate café right in the centre of Chinatown, is a joint venture between Tasmanian Confectioner, Igor Van Gerwen from Anvers Confectionery and Sydney’s Harbour City Group. Young managers Victor and Chloe Ho were very keen to explain their product range, which includes decadent fudge based on rich Tasmanian cream and butter, chocolates and a range of drinks. I tried out their area-appropriate signature Asian Range of four chocolates – my favourite being a dark chocolate with green tea jelly and ginger. Keep it in mind as the perfect post-Szechuan mouth refresher.
Another of my preparatory pig-outs was the launch night of Tommy’s Beer Café in the old Prague site on Kellett Street, Potts Point. Surrounded by a crowd of strapping Czech lads, including Tommy’s handsome brother George behind the bar, I was treated to a rather lovely rendition of pig on a spit as an opening night special. After one mouthful of succulent pork, I was determined to get back here and properly explore the menu, which includes meter long sausage sold by the centimetre. If you’re suffering pig envy, you can get your own all-you-can-eat share ($39.50/head) of well-trussed pig on Easter Monday (6th April) by booking your place at their Glebe venue today. I’d be hard pressed to think of a more fitting pig-out to celebrate the resurrection of zombie Jesus.
If you want to avoid being a sexist pig, spare a thought for the low numbers of women who end up advancing to the top jobs in Sydney’s kitchens. Tasting Success is a program designed to inspire young women chefs to go all the way, co-founded by food personality Lyndey Milan. I was lucky enough to attend the Tasting Success Graduation held at The Apprentice Restaurant at Ultimo TAFE. For one graduate, Chompat Vaipetch, the program allowed her to taste a truffle for the very first time, during her mentorship with Uwe Habermehl at Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. She was delighted! For another graduate, Thi Le, who mentored under Christine Mansfield, the program has resulted in ongoing employment at her mentor’s renowned restaurant, Universal. For me it was a delight to watch powerful chefs and food personalities taking the time to nurture young women from such a wide variety of backgrounds. My only disappointment was the absence of The Hon. Pru Goward, Minister for Women, though I did stumble across her the very next evening enjoying a steak at The Cut…
My final excursion last week was to the launch of The Craftsman’s Bar in The Exchange Hotel, where I made a pig of myself with honey prawns and passionfruit mojitos featuring my favourite Licor 43. While pub renovations to prohibition style fit-outs are a dime a dozen these days, this one warrants a gander. Firstly it’s in a beautiful old (1885) pub, so the backdrop is there. Secondly they’ve incorporated local Balmain history, namely the larrikin tradie culture of The Painters and Dockers Union. In one space you’ll even find photos of The Bachelor’s Club, a rather dandy set of blokes enjoying a gala picnic. In the bar itself you’ll brass plates paying homage paid to the local tradesman and artists who contributed to the project, like boat builder Christopher Ellard. Another eye-catching highlight is Courtney, barely contained in her white shirt and braces. She lights up the room with her warm and friendly attitude, and is a dead cert. to recognise you if you happen by again.
Why should I have all the fun? If you’d like to pig out on Italian wines grown on Aussie soil, head to Global Gallery in Paddington for an inexpensive ($30/person) Sunday arvo educational called Sip Your Modo held from 2pm-5pm on Sunday 22nd April. If you’re new to Italian grapes, it’ll help you sort out your sangiovese from your nebiolo, with some moscato, prosecco, vermentino, arneis and sagrantino thrown in. Italian themed nibbles and live music are thrown in too.