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By Jackie McMillan

In a post Atkins world, we have forgotten how to eat. The new no-carb puritans seem to have robbed us of the pleasure of starches and staples. But what’s bacon and eggs without toast’ What’s a steak without mash’ It’s pleasing to note that all is not lost on the carbohydrate front what with sterling take-home gnocchi; a great Polish restaurant in Glebe; and a ripper Bread and Butter Pudding ‘ all of which I happily tried in the last week. All those carbs made me crave a bit of cheese, and luckily there’s an exciting new opening on that front too.

You might not believe that I eat at home much, and on that count you’d probably be correct. But when I do, I love to eat good produce. So when I spied the plump pillows of Potato Gnocchi ($14.50) made by chef George Sinclair at the Yellow Bistro and Food Store, I was instantly sold. Once home I sampled them with a simple butter sauce, made more interesting with some truffle oil, and I was very impressed ‘ even with the reasonably high price tag. While you’re in the store, scratch your bread itch with pastry chef Lorraine Godsmark’s Bread and Butter Pudding ($11/eat in, $9/takeaway) ‘ you wont be disappointed.

With your gnocchi in hand, a piece of grating cheese may well be the next thing on your mind. Recently opened in Alexandria, The Cheese Room is just the place to go and get it. Proprietors David and Virginia Carr will impress you with their knowledge of cheese in a sparkling clean café come cheese room. (You may remember their faces from the C’est Cheese stalls they ran at a number of Sydney’s markets). They have a special interest in Australian farmhouse cheeses that you wont find anywhere else. I was particularly impressed with the Capparis cheeses from Gloucester (which I have since enjoyed in dishes served at restaurants including Astral and the Gazebo Wine Garden).

But the best cheese I tried was a piece of Mutschli ($49.95/kg) from Fromart, a farmhouse cheese maker in Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains who specialise in Swiss style cheese. In purchasing these cheeses, you really are supporting artisan producers. Cheese-maker Christian Nobel explains: ‘We produce about 150kg of cheese every week, which is like a little mosquito production compared to industrial cheese manufacturing (often several hundred tons a year).’ They cut their cheese by hand ‘ in fact all of the process steps are controlled by human senses (like touching, smelling and tasting) because as Christian points out, ‘even the best testing device can’t compete with the experienced nose and taste buds of a cheese-maker.’

Christian’s interest in hand made Swiss style cheese came on a hike in the Swiss Mountains with his wife who was expecting their first child. As the trip was too far to make in one day, they stayed overnight in a small alpine hut where farmers spend a few months of the year milking their cows and turning the milk into cheese. Christian told me that they had a fantastic time that night: ‘We loved this cheese-maker character, the hut was very cosy and the location simply magnificent. The cheese that night was so aromatic, so full of flavour (a raw milk cheese) that I promised my wife to carry for her a one kilo piece up the mountain in order to take it home. That’s how little gestures of love go a long way, especially if your pregnant wife craves good cheese.’ So of course you wont protesting the short trip to Alexandria to try your own piece of Fromart cheese from The Cheese Room.

Bread, cheese and potatoes all feature on the menu of Polish restaurant Na Zdrowie, who were doing a roaring trade on the night I attended. A bowl of Pierogi ($15.90) or dumplings, filled with white cheese and potato made me very happy indeed. Teamed with a main of Placki ($19.90) or potato pancakes with mushroom sauce, I was almost in carb overload ‘ luckily I was made ready for dessert with a restorative glass or two of the Wyborowa Vodka we brought with us (the restaurant is totally BYO). It’s a lighter interpretation of a hearty cuisine, in a convivial atmosphere made richer by the upbeat conversations held by Polish speakers on neighbouring tables, and the accents on the stripy shirt wearing staff. And if you’re also partial to the three stodges, you’ll find this restaurant well worth a look!

Yellow Bistro & Food Store
57-59 Macleay St, Potts Point (02) 9357 3400

The Cheese Room
34 Henderson Road, Alexandria (02) 8394 9384 www.thecheeseroom.net.au

Na Zdrowie
161 Glebe Point Road, Glebe (02) 9660 1242 www.nazdrowie.com.au