Wine-centric Sophistication and Storage

Artisan Wine Storage launches in Lane Cove

ArtisanPhoto

This Hungry Expat underwent a kitchen renovation at home about two years ago, and possibly the only regret I have is that we didn’t incorporate a small appliance to store our incredibly humble yet temperature-sensitive wine collection (our north-facing window has been known to boil a bottle or two during Sydney summers!).

So it was with envy and interest that I attended the launch of Artisan Wine Storage in October – a pretty cool event and venue (literally!). The wine degustation event, organised by food-and-beverage PR specialist latin pr, featured a facility tour by Artisan CEO Eamonn Egan, canapés (I could happily eat canapés for three meals a day – it’s one of the reasons I love weddings so much), a selection of international cheeses, and artwork by Art Equity.

The facility

A small, unassuming business park in Lane Cove, just 15 minutes north of Sydney’s CBD, is the unexpected home to Artisan Wine Storage. But the minute I entered the venue, I felt transported. Sophisticated and elegant, Artisan boasts a million-bottle-capacity secure wine-storage warehouse; a dedicated wine-tasting lounge for tastings, food-and-wine-matching dinners wine-education classes, private film screenings (Red Obsession viewing party, anyone?), and other events; and Methuselah’s Cellar, a world-class private dining and tasting room.

If your vino collection is bigger than mine (I hope so) and you choose to house your wine at Artisan, your bottles’ comfy new home features a constant climate-controlled 12°C, 55 to 75% relative humidity, and a dust- and vibration-free environment. And in keeping with the latest techy trends, Artisan provides cloud-based wine-management technology that allows you to virtually manage, report, value and sell your wine. Indeed, if you’re keen to keep your head in the cloud all day, the company even provides a wine pick-up and delivery service.

Methusaleh’s Cellar

For Artisan Wine Storage invitation-only members and corporate businesses, there’s schmick private dining room Methusaleh’s Cellar. (Methusaleh, thought to be the oldest person to ever live, has become a term synonymous with any given thing reaching a great age, such as fine wine.)  

Designed by Egan, the swanky, modern room is the only one in Australia featuring a complete dual vertical of Penfolds Grange bottles (1951-2008) and magnums (1979-2008) on display. It’s a bit beyond this humble blogger’s pay grade, but for businesses looking to impress clients or board members, it would certainly make a stylish spot for corporate lunches, dinners, or board meetings. I’d be happy to attend.

IMG_3646

Artisan Wine Storage CEO Eamonn Egan leads
guests on a tour with a bit of tasting, too.

Airports: One Down, Eight to Go

Because I would be visiting nine airports on my journey, I decided to make the most of each one – to make them travel destinations in and of themselves. A spot of shopping here, a special drink or meal there … you get the picture. A two-hour delay at Sydney Airport seemed to reinforce my plan.

My first delightful discovery was the Lonely Planet Concept Store, which apparently opened in 2009 (the first one in the world) and has eluded me on my previous visits to the airport’s international terminal. (My husband does have a tendency of making me run for flights, seriously limiting time for shopping.) The store is a great airport idea and extension of the brand, I think. It peddles the company’s famous guidebooks (alas, they didn’t have a pocket Bulgaria guide!), as well as other travel gadgets and comforts and interactive experiences.

IMAG0883

 

The Lonely Planet Store, Sydney Airport International Terminal

With my editorial background, it’s also difficult for me to go past any airport bookseller or newsagent without perusing the magazine covers and the latest bestsellers. (Hungry Expat Note: Australian bookstores still feel like foreign places to me, as the cover art on books here is so different from the familiar fonts and themes I came to recognise in the US.) And though I have largely converted to reading on a Kindle, I think it’s an important travel tip to pick up a physical magazine or two to get you through those slow-moving take-off and landing times that require you to turn off all electronic devices. For this trip, I grabbed the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine and the launch issue of Taste.com.au, a new print magazine based on the Aussie recipe website.

I wandered by the Victoria’s Secret. It’s the only one I know of in Australia, only it doesn’t sell lingerie – just perfumes, lotions, and other toiletries. Still … it smells nice.

When it was time to pick up a snack for the plane, I purchased a pouch of my newest guilty pleasure, which I blame on my beloved South African friends – biltong! At the same Good Food & Wine Show that would be the catalyst for this European trip, I also spent an inordinate amount of time at The Biltong Man booth, sampling as many flavours of this jerky-like delicacy as I could. With its headquarters in nearby Mascot, perhaps I should not have been surprised to find The Biltong Man right where I needed him in the international terminal.

I was now well and truly ready for my long Qantas flight to Singapore – and so, finally, was the plane.

The Hungry Expat Bites into Bulgaria

Back in June, I had the good sense to visit the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show , where the event’s Cheese Alley beckoned my inner (and outer) cheese addict. What’s more, I had the good fortune to meet Elio Litti, a representative for the EU Dairy Daily, a three-year program that aims to promote Bulgarian – yes, Bulgarian – dairy products in both Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Now, the UAE, I could understand. One thinks of camels, not cows, deserts, not dauphinoise, in the land of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But wanting to gain a foothold in Australia, which already boasts 6,700 dairy farmers and a thriving $13 million dairy industry? How were the EU Dairy Daily and the Bulgarian Association of Dairy Processors going to do that? I was keen to learn more.

And learn more I would. A couple of weeks after my fateful meeting with Elio, I received an invitation to be a delegate on the EU Dairy Daily’s next mission, to, you guessed it – Bulgaria! I would join two other Australian bloggers, an Aussie dietitian, and a handful of delegates from the UAE, among them a cheese importer (my new best friend?), an executive chef, and several businessmen.

For five days in September, I would come to learn a great deal about the Bulgarian dairy industry and its prides and joys, from white-brine cheese, to kashkaval, to its famous yoghurt. But so much more than that, I learned about the country’s interesting and challenging history, its people, the remarkable cities of Sofia and Plovdiv, the land’s beautiful countryside, and its food as a whole. In the coming weeks, follow me on my epic and tasty trip (nine airports in 12 days!) to Bulgaria. I also threw in a long weekend in Milan, Italy, for good measure (though not for my waistline!), where it was a continuing festival of food and friendship. I hope you’ll join me.

BulgariaBlog1Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

 

A Wine, A Woman, and Almost a Song

As I mentioned on The Hungry Expat’s Facebook page, yesterday was National Sparkling Red Day here in Australia. I found out about this bubbly day through an industry newsletter but can find very little information about it outside other web forums such as this one. I will simply suspect marketing genius and leave it at that. After all, it’s an excuse to have a glass of wine, right? (As if we need another … )

So yesterday, I set out for my token celebratory glass of sparkling red at Tapavino on Bulletin Street, near Circular Quay in Sydney. Tapavino has only one sparkling red on its wine list, so my decision was an easy one: the NV Vilarnau Brut Rosé from Penendès, Spain. Described on the wine list as “light and clean with raspberry notes and a likable finish,” the drop lived up to its promise. It was a bright wine with a vibrant, beautiful raspberry colour. It had a gentle effervescence that almost had me singing “Tiny Bubbles” (the other patrons were spared), and its indeed likable flavour didn’t linger too long on the tongue.

According to Tapavino’s Frank Dilernia, the wine pairs well with the tapas bar’s jamon dishes and charcuterie. Or try it with the gravlax. Basically, he said to go for the salty, the fatty, the oily. (Twist my arm.)  And avoid the vinegary.

If you want to follow my lead, you can enjoy a glass at Tapavino for $11 or indulge in a bottle for $68. (In the interest of full disclosure, The Hungry Expat’s glass was on the house.)

Did you celebrate Sparkling Red Day? And even if you didn’t, do you have a favourite sparkling red?

SparklingRedTapavino

Fern Fun

As a follow up to my earlier post, The Hungry Expat played co-host last night at Flights of Redfern at The Fern on Pitt Street. It was an intimate evening of cheese, wine, tapas, and lovely and lively conversation. We had our own private sommelier on hand, and Zigi Ozeri of Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar in Chippendale took us through a trio of cheesy goodness, served alongside Zigi’s own freshly baked (and delectably salty) lavosh.

Wanna know what you missed? Here’s a bit about the tasty tastings.

The Wines

  • 2011 Gentil Hugel: This white wine from Alsace is a blend of numerous varieties, including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Sylvaner. It’s a soft wine with notes of stone fruit (apricot and peach), as well as a hint of spice. It paired nicely with The Fern’s Latin-fusion-inspired tapas.
  • 2009 Pirramimma Grenache: Though I haven’t yet succeeded in conquering The Fern’s entire wine list (not for lack of trying), this Grenache is my favourite Fern wine so far. I am not as often a red drinker, but I love this Pirramimma Old Bush Grenache from Australia’s own McLaren Vale region. The grapes come from the winemaker’s “Prisoner of War” vineyard, and after fermentation were aged for three years in American oak. The nose calls forth aromas of cherry, chocolate, and again that hint of spice that quite nicely complemented the oak-smoked cheddar on the cheese side of things (see below).
  • 2011 Jed Malbec: Also with cherry and chocolate on the nose, this rich, medium-bodied red comes from Valley de Uco in the Mendoza region of Argentina.

The Cheeses

  • Jensen’s Red: This washed-rind cow’s milk cheese hails from the Tarago River Cheese Company in Gippsland in Victoria. Tarago River is a family-owned and -operated business founded by the Johnson and Jensen families in 1982.  The cheesemaker sources milk from its own herd of 400 Friesian Holstein cows. The Jensen’s Red cheese is named for original cheesemaker Laurie Jensen. This is a soft, creamy, mild cheese, and my take was that it was the favourite on the night.
  • Quickes Traditional oak-smoked cheddar: Though some guests found this cheese just a tad too smoky, I love a smoked cheese, and this hard cheese from the UK had just the right degree of smokiness. The cheesemaker naturally smokes the cheese for three to four hours over oak chips from the farm’s own woodlands.
  • Marte blue cheese: For those who are a bit shy about blue varieties, this is a great entry-level blue cheese. This Italian cheese is a blend of gorgonzola and Roquefort, and it, too, tasted quite nice alongside the Pirramimma Grenache.

The Tapas

  • Fresh olives
  • Chorizo skewers with apple and smoked maple syrup (Proprietor Paula Westerman admits to trying a bevy of sausage combinations before finding this winning and delish combination.)
  • Corn tostadas with fish, avocado, and chipotle mayo – a very flavoursome bite with just the right amount of kick

Other small plates on The Fern’s menu include:

  • Beef empanadas with pico de gallo
  • Chilli chicken wings
  • Pulled-pork sliders

We hope this will be the first of many such tasting nights at The Fern, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can regularly find these wines and tapas on The Fern’s menu, and you can sample the cheeses to your heart’s content (or demise!) at Zigi’s. See you there!

Flights of Redfern

For those of you in Sydney, what are you up to this Tuesday night? If you’re anything like me and love all things wine and cheese, you should join The Hungry Expat on June 18 at The Fern Food + Drink in Redfern from 6 to 10  pm. My friend and colleague Paula Westerman, The Fern’s snazzy new proprietor (she took over the reins just a couple of months ago), is hosting Flights of Redfern, a special evening of international wine and cheese pairing. For only $60, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a flight of three delicious wines matched with lovely boutique cheeses – not to mention great music, lively conversation, and heaps of fun! (I’ve been to The Fern – I know of what I speak!) Plus, if you’re still hungry after your cheese teaser, you can sample Paula’s excellent selection of Latin-inspired tapas.

The Hungry Expat is co-hosting this inaugural tasting with Paula and Zigi Ozeri of nearby Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar in Chippendale – the first of what we hope will be a series of such “flights of fancy.” Zigi and his sommelier will be on hand to give you a crash course on the two tasty trios and to answer any questions you may have. Please join us! To book, please call The Fern on (02) 8399 0070. Hope to see you there.

The Hungry Expat Chef’s Spotlight: James Kidman

The Hungry Expat shares her interview with chef James Kidman, who recently joined Sydney’s Doltone House catering group as group executive chef after eight years as executive chef at Otto Ristorante and time as executive chef at the National Gallery of Australia and the Sculpture Garden Restaurant in Canberra.  

JamesKidman

The Hungry Expat (THE): What has been the focus in the first few months in your new role? What can people expect from Doltone House’s food going forward?  

James Kidman: My focus has been to build a team that has a number of key staff who can deliver on production and administrative areas of the business so that we have as much flexibility as possible. The food in the future will focus on seasonality and be represented in a more à la carte fashion.

THE: How do Doltone House’s kitchens differ from previous kitchens in which you’ve worked?

JK: The DH kitchens differ primarily in that the staff is really event-focused. Since the bulk of the business is events, everyone is well-organised, and they’ve been really fantastic to work with.

THE: Because Doltone House is known for hosting events, and now you’re directing much of the food for such events, what are some of your favourite dishes to feed a crowd?

JK: I really like the simple dishes that have a comfort feel to them, like braised beef cheeks with a creamed potato puree, or canapés that have a sense of style.

THE: What’s your favourite culinary destination within Australia?

JK: [My favourite] food destination has to be wine regions, like the Barossa, [and my favourite] restaurant has to be Sepia in Sydney.

THE: What’s your favourite culinary destination internationally?

JK: My favourite culinary destination has to be Italy.

THE: You spent several years in Canberra as executive chef at the National Gallery of Australia and the Sculpture Garden Restaurant. How do you think the dining scene differs from Canberra to Sydney?

JK: The difference between Sydney and Canberra is quite marked. Sydney is an international city that has a huge variety of eateries and competition. What Canberra has that Sydney doesn’t is an amazing array of local produce: berry growers, lamb and cattle farmers, truffles 10 minutes from the city centre, and a really unique small wine industry. Both have their positives and are incomparable.

THE: You’re known for your affinity for (and cooking of) Italian cuisine. In my experience, Italian cooking in Australia is quite different from Italian cooking in Italy. Do you agree? 

JK: The differences in Italian cooking between Australia and Italy are huge. Both have amazing positives. What is important to remember is that Australian Italian food has almost its own regionality to it. The quality of produce in Australia is fantastic across the spectrum. To say one is better is not fair. Australian Italian food probably has a little more flair, and I think sometimes a bit more technique.

THE: If tonight was your last meal, what would you like to eat?

JK: Caprese salad, veal wrapped in prosciutto with figs, and chocolate ice cream.

THE: First George Clooney, now you! A PR friend told me that you’ve recently teamed up with ubiquitous coffee powerhouse Nespresso to create a few recipes using the company’s new limited-edition coffees. How did that partnership come about?

JK: It’s nice to be put into the same sentence as George Clooney! We hosted the launch for Nespresso’s new limited-edition Napoli and Trieste grand cru coffees at Signorelli Gastronomia [one of the Doltone House venues] and a few other events with the company, for which I created some bespoke recipes.

THE: With your love of Italian cooking, do you enjoy thinking outside the mug and using coffee as an ingredient?

JK: Yes I do. Tiramisu is a perennial favourite and is heavily flavoured with coffee. Also, chocolate desserts with a slight coffee flavour are great. [James shares his tiramisu recipe below.]

THE: What do you like to do when you’re not in the kitchen?

JK: When I’m not in the kitchen, I love to spend time with my partner and daughter. Family is the most important thing in the world. Apart from spending time with my family, I love football. I used to play until my late 30s. Injury prevents me from playing now, but I follow all football (soccer) heavily.

James Kidman’s Tiramisu

5 egg yolks
1 egg
150 ml Tia Maria
100 ml Kahlua
5 egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks
9 gelatine leaves, soaked in water
400g mascarpone
500g cream, lightly whipped
500 ml espresso
200 ml sugar syrup
24 Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Cocoa, for dusting

Make tiramisu cream: Whisk egg yolks, egg, Tia Maria, Kahlua, and sugar over a water bath until light and extremely fluffy. Melt softened gelatine in a little water and add to egg mixture. Fold in mascarpone, cream, and egg whites. Refrigerate until ready to make the final tiramisu.

Make tiramisu: Combine espresso and sugar syrup in a bowl. Dunk each biscuit in coffee mixture and line the bottom of a ceramic dish with 12 biscuits. Cover liberally with tiramisu cream. Repeat, making sure the top layer of tiramisu cream is smooth. Dust with cocoa powder, and serve.

Ch11_Tiramisu

Thanks James!

 

Around the World in 10 Olive Oils

Eliunt took The Hungry Expat’s tastebuds on an international trip.

Thanks to a PR friend, I recently attended an olive-oil tasting at the temporary pop-up Eliunt shop at Westfield Bondi Junction. Eliunt produces high-quality extra-virgin olive oils (EVOOs) and has only lately launched in Australia.

While I waited for the tasting to begin, I did a loop around the kiosk, admiring the sleek, colourful, and sophisticated packaging and teasing my nose with each of the oils’ aromas. Eliunt produces 10 oils, each representing a different country: Sonoma (the US), Vitality (Australia), Oasis (Tunisia), Tradição (Portugal), Olivar (Spain), Anfora (Italy), Athena (Greece), Monte Ida (Turkey), Holy Oil (Jordan), and Ahiram (Lebanon).

Eliunt2

Eliunt’s chef, caterer Carlos Pancorbo of Casa Pancorbo, who originally hails from Spain, led us through the tasting, pointing out the subtle but important differences between the oils, which range in colour from pale to bright yellow and in flavour from subtle and soft to strong and bitter. Everything at the tasting was delicious, such as the Manchego with just a drop of the Lebanese EVOO to the carpaccio with the Anfora oil. I also tried a number of the oils drizzled atop hummus and flatbread or simply with fresh baquette and a pinch of salt.

One one-bite entrée stood out for me, however, and has now entered my entertaining repertoire: a white anchovy perched atop a sea-salt potato chip, drizzled with just a touch of Eliunt’s Sonoma olive oil. What a brilliant, easy party starter! I am a huge anchovy fan, but my love doesn’t really extend to the higher-end white variety – I prefer the saltier, less vinegary, more plebeian little fishy. But this combination – the crunch of the potato chip, the texture of the fish, the pop of the vinegar, and just the right amount of salt – snacktastic! For those who completely shy away from anchovies, try this! It may bring you into the fold. (I converted my anchovyless brother-in-law and skittish 10-year-old niece.)

Eliunt is quick to point out that you don’t cook with these olive oils. They aim to enhance other foods and to be a finishing touch – a great last-minute drizzle for salads, pastas, grilled meats, grilled fish, veggies, fruits, cheese, and desserts.

(Hey … if your mum’s a gourmand and if you’ve been a bit slack leading up to Mother’s Day, these 60-ml EVOOs would make a nice addition to her kitchen. Maybe you can’t take her on a trip to Athens, but you can give her the Athena EVOO.)

The Eliunt pop-up kiosk has since popped back down, but you can still order Eliunt’s EVOOs online at www.eliunt.com. They come in packs of three, five, and 10. I got a three-pack: The American in me chose the Sonoma olive oil; my new Aussie roots grabbed the Vitality oil; and, because the Spanish tasting chef was so passionate about his country’s oil (it really was tasty), I opted for that one, too.

What’s Cookin’? Williams-Sonoma Inc Hits Aussie Shores!

2013-05-01 21.13.54

Last night, The Hungry Expat attended the prelaunch of American homeware retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc’s four new Sydney-based stores: West Elm (modern furnishings), Pottery Barn (furniture, home décor, and gift registry), Pottery Barn Kids (kids furniture and baby registry), and Williams-Sonoma (cookware, cooking school, and gift registry). The foursome of shops have all taken up residence in Bondi Junction’s Exchange Building—just across from the Westfield, on the corner of Oxford and Grosvenor streets. The launch marks the first time this fabulous foursome have come together under one roof, and it also marks the opening of the company’s first retail locations outside North America.

The shops officially open their doors this morning at 10 am (right about now!), following a ribbon-cutting ceremony by New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell. Though the retailers seem excited and ready (the shops and shelves looked perfect!), I’m not sure they know what they’re in for with the enthusiastic Aussie shopping audience (remember the queues when Gap and Zara opened in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall?). I suspect eager customers will empty those perfectly presented shelves in no time. A First World problem for Williams-Sonoma, no doubt.

Attendees to last night’s prelaunch were treated to a tour of all four stores, followed by a casual, stand-up-and-wander dinner in the Williams-Sonoma space and cooking school. For me, what was fun about the tour was not the stores themselves. I’m already a frequenter of Pottery Barn and Willams-Sonoma every time I return to the US and have seen the flawless way they present beautiful bedding, stunning table settings, and other inspirational décor. Instead, it was the joy of feeling that a familiar piece of home has followed me here and of seeing the stores through the eyes of the clearly impressed, excited, and ready-to-shop Aussies. (And on a bonus nostalgic note, one children’s bed at Pottery Barn Kids featured Star Wars sheets that I confess to sleeping on more than 30 years ago!)

2013-05-01 19.09.39

A Pottery Barn Kids display you just want to hug!

2013-05-01 19.08.48Love a monogram! 2013-05-01 19.08.30My Star Wars sheets were dark blue!

2013-05-01 19.08.22Anyone for afternoon tea?

 

2013-05-01 19.01.45

A sampling for Williams-Sonoma cookware

2013-05-01 19.00.54Beautiful bedding! 2013-05-01 19.00.03Stunning table settings

The dinner hinted at the quality of what you can expect to taste when stepping into a Williams-Sonoma, what you can attempt to cook up yourself with the store’s cookware, and what’s on the horizon for the Williams-Sonoma cooking school. To start, there was a fantastic cheese table (the stuff of The Hungry Expat’s dreams!). Next, we sampled polenta with wild mushrooms, laid out like an enormous metre-wide pizza on a round table (sorry, but my blurry picture doesn’t do it justice), salted-caramel soufflés (the salted-caramel craze continues, with amazing results—and a reason to sign up for Williams-Sonoma’s upcoming soufflé class). If only I’d left room for the crushed-meringue dessert!

2013-05-01 19.15.08Say cheese!

2013-05-01 21.06.29 2013-05-01 20.57.56-2 2013-05-01 20.25.46

The night’s delights (from left to right): crushed meringues, salted-caramel souffles, and wild-mushroom polenta

Williams-Sonoma’s cooking school teaches tools and techniques as well as such recipes as sparkling drinks for the whole family, perfect panini sandwiches, soufflés (see above), and first autumn soup. I’m hoping to sharpen my own knife skills at a complimentary class next Tuesday. Check out the schedule for Williams-Sonoma’s May cooking classes.

Another albeit brief highlight of the night for me was the chance to meet the esteemed Maggie Beer. When I left the US, I was addicted to The Food Network. I didn’t yet know what the Aussie equivalent would be and which food folks I would be keen to follow. Beer was the first Aussie food professional and personality to fill that void for me. I quickly came to admire her and feel connected to her. Plus, I love her Pheasant Farm pate!

For you Aussies outside Sydney, don’t fret. Williams-Sonoma aims to open numerous other stores in the coming months.

For those of you who are close by: Happy shopping! Happy cooking! Happy eating! And let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to visit the shops.

 

In Honour of Boston: New England Clam Chowdah—The Ultimate Comfort Food

In light of recent events, I am feeling homesick for and saddened for Boston, my beloved American hometown for 19 years. There has been some absolutely heartwarming commentary in the media on the strength of Boston and its wonderful people in the midst of this tragedy, from Bostonians and non-Bostonians alike, writers and nonwriters alike, and in many cases, I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself. But still, there is that need to do something in the wake of this horrific event—to both find comfort, and offer it. With this in mind, I humbly offer you a delicious recipe for New England Clam Chowder, Boston’s best comfort food. (I may even indulge in a bowl myself.)

For those of you who don’t know, New England clam chowder is the creamy-based variety. There is also Manhattan clam chowder, which is tomato-based, and Rhode Island clam chowder, which is broth-based. But when you’re seeking true comfort food, doesn’t there just need to be cream?

Aside from my friends and family, New England clam chowder is what my Aussie husband misses most about Boston. He certainly takes comfort in many a mug or bowl whenever we visit. Don’t get me wrong. He loves the city. But he LOVES the chowder. I hope you will, too. (Note: I have used Aussie measurements for this recipe, but you can easily convert them at a website I have found indispensable since my move to Australia: www.onlineconversion.com.)

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER (Makes approximately 1.5 litres)

¼ cup diced bacon
30g butter
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
2 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp dried thyme
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups tinned clam juice*
2 cups fresh or frozen clams**
½ cup pouring cream
½ cup milk

* In Sydney, I know you can find tinned clams in the Blackwattle Deli at the Sydney Fish Markets; Australians outside Sydney should chime in with any tips for finding clam juice or tinned clams. Drain the tinned clams, retaining the juice for the recipe. Do not use the tinned clams for this recipe; the fresh or frozen clam meat works better. Instead, place the tinned clams in an airtight container, cover them with water, and refrigerate for use tomorrow. I recommend using them in Emeril Lagasse’s  Linguine with Clam Sauce recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/linguine-with-clam-sauce-recipe/index.html

(I made this pasta dish while my brother-in-law was visiting, and he ate it for brekkie(!) several mornings in a row.)

**Again, there are one or two places at the Sydney Fish Markets that carries the frozen clams (at a very reasonable price), or you can opt for vongole clams or pipis. I have also used Cloudy Bay clams, which you can find in select shops or order online.

In a large pot over medium-low heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add butter and melt. Add celery and onion, cooking until veggies are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add flour, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. (Mixture should form a paste.) Add thyme, potatoes, and clam juice; stirring constantly, bring to the boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Add clams and bring quickly to the boil, stirring constantly. Add cream and milk; return to the boil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot with crusty bread or Arnott’s Salada crackers for dipping or crumbling into chowder.

If this recipe seems like too much effort (though I think it’s worth it), try one of these Aussie spots that have seafood or fish chowders on offer:

Then again, if chowder’s not your thing but you’re still seeking comfort food, there’s always that favourite Aussie standby, pumpkin soup.