Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Vincennes - Home to Kings.

Wednesdays in France:
What can I say - Sorry but we've been in Tasmania and then an unplanned trip to the Gold Coast in Queensland to visit Jack, my father in hospital. Things are working out OK now and Jack is back with my sister now.

OK, back in the system now and Wednesdays in France continues with our 2010 trip celebrating my 60th birthday. It seems like awhile ago and in fact it was because in a week I'm 63. Wahooo!
Spending 2 weeks in Paris allowed for us to relax a little more and not have to rush things too much. I had the chance to ride my bike with my two friends who live in Paris. Leigh is an expat Melburnian and Michel is a true Parisian whom I met at the 2007 Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Sydney.

I'd previously ridden around the parklands of Vincennes where many Parisian cyclists go to do their training and both Leigh and Michel took me there passing by the historic buildings on the edge. After previous visits, we had never visited the castle grounds and so I was determine to have this on the agenda during our stay.

The stairway leading down to the dungeon
Just the place to warm yourself in a drafty old palace.
No spray cans but graffiti nevertheless
The Holy Chapel - not open due to renovations on this occasion

The parklands were the hunting forests of the Capetian monarchs of France in the 12 century. Today as you ride through the parklands you can imagine Royalty on their horses with hunting dogs in the name of sport. That is until you see the homeless amongst the forest in their small tent cities. One must wonder how they survived the harsh recent winter as it was still cold as we approached the northern hemisphere spring.
The castle grounds today contain the Keep, the Holy Chapel, and the classical pavilions which were built later during the 1600s. About 250 metres apart, these huge buildings were the separate abodes for the King and Queen. Sue said that we also needed such a situation where she could leave her shoes anywhere she felt and the same with me concerning my Cds and bike stuff.
As well as being overawed by the big picture, certain details took my interest. Graffiti is carved into the dungeons by the prisoners, including the Marquis de Sade, Diderot and Mirabeau. Later the prisoners were transferred to the Bastille.
In the mid 1600s King Louis spent time there before moving to Versailles. During the 1800s Napoleon used it as a military base.
The Classical Pavilions house statues in each archway. The male statues lost their genitalia during the revolution I believe.

Its difficult to stop taking photos in the surroundings of where the kings and queens of France lived their lives more than 800 years ago. I'm pleased in a way that on previous trips that I didn't decide to look through the grounds on those earlier training rides. It was a delight to share the experience with Sue.

With my Parisian friend Michel, Masters World Champion at the famous Cipale Velodrome on the edge of Vincennes
Our two week stay in Paris was drawing to an end. Its strange, you feel you want to stay longer and yet you are looking forward to home and familiar surroundings. We still had a couple of more "Must See" items before going home though.
One of those places follow next week. 
It's where we see the resting place of French royalty.

PS - Have a happy and safe Easter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Back in Queensland

Once again I missed posting Wednesdays in France (lots more to come) - the reason is that I'm on the Gold Coast to see my father who is in hospital up here. Before I go any further, he is OK with a slight heart thing they are saying but he's in good spirits and that maybe that he has my brother and sister, my daughter and myself all around him. By the way we are celebrating birthdays next week so it is good to all catch up even under the circumstances. Jack turns 92, my daughter Carly is 40 and me 63.

Anyway I had an opportunity to enjoy a really nice dinner with Carly last night. The restaurant is called de Vito's and run by Anthony. I tend to go to de Vito's when up here because I love his food and he's got a great personality. His brother David is a singer with a huge voice and the parents are from Naples, settling firstly in Adelaide before moving to the Gold Coast. Anthony's father suffers from dementia these days but still serenades young ladies in the restaurant occasionally.

Apologies for the quality of pics - they are all taken on the iPhone.
A 2007 Cabernet Franc from the Granite Belt Region - Ballandean.
A present from the owner/chef Anthony.
I'd forgotten that de Vito's is BYO wine and I can't eat without wine. Anthony offered a bottle from his own collection as legally he can't sell it. so he enjoyed a glass from the bottle that we will say he gifted to us. Now I've not had any reds from Queensland that I've enjoyed in the past but I have to say that I was most pleasantly surprised.

Mussels on pasta, with chilli and garlic - the chilli gave that warm feeling to the pallet and a  touch of lime squeezed over gave it balance and cut the heat of the chilli. 
As much as I enjoyed my Mussels, Carly's ravioli was spectacular.
Anthony takes great pride in his kitchen and you can see he has that true Italian passion for food (and life). Our entrees arrived, mine was mussels on a bed of pasta. The mussels had a real chilli and garlic flavour and were superb. Carly had an entree of pasta which I tasted and next time I'm here I'll have it.
She described it as two types of pasta, Ravioli with pumpkin, sweet potato and biscotti. The other had spinach, rocket, feta and ricotta as ingredients - I may have mixed them up.
The sauce was a sage, chilli and butter and Carly needed to mop it up with bread, leaving a very clean plate.
My main was a veal with peppercorn sauce - I was on the way to having some heat issues after my chilli mussels.
The main although traditional was well cooked with love and was delicious. The Cabernet Franc was a good partner to my main.
Anthony's Sicilian date and fig pudding was share by Carly and I. Yummmmmm.
Our mains although not exotic, were just as enjoyable as our entree - just good Italian food well cooked with love.
The finale was another highlight. Although we didn't order a desert. Anthony insisted we try his Sicilian date and fig pudding with a dob of vanilla ice cream - well, it was magnificent.
As you know, I'm spoilt at home but this really was a delightful meal and I enjoyed it with my daughter, just the two of us.

Anthony in his kitchen with staff - he is a big generous man with a personality to match.
It's Friday morning and so we are off to visit Jack and hopefully he hasn't been harassing the nurses too much - he has the devil in him sometimes (most times).

My Dad, Jack only weeks ago saying hello to me in Melbourne via phone message.
He's a good lad.
Although we flew up, my brother and I are returning by car - Jack's little Daewoo has been given to my brother as Jack has stopped driving. I expect that there will be a post on our journey back through three states of Australia over 2 days. Keep tuned.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cooking with the Indigo Girls

It must be 10 years or more ago now, maybe even 15 since I first heard the Indigo Girls. I was driving to work listening to the ABC 3LO or as it is today 774. They played music outside the top 40, a little from left field really.
You'd hear music that wasn't played on the top 40 and its introduced me to some great artists - since then we have possibly all their CDs.

Sue said, "Would you like to cook with me tonight?" Now there's two things I like when we cook together - music and a glass of wine.

Here's the Music:
Apologies to Diane and Nigel

Here's the Wine:
It was a 2007 Mildara Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon that we selected to go with Sue's Duck recipe.

Coonawarra is one of our favourite wine districts. It is just across the Victorian/South Australian border almost midway between Melbourne and Adelaide. It's their Cabernet Sauvignon that have a great reputation. The vines are grown on a thin strip of soil known as Terra Rossa. Initially established in 1890 by John Riddoch, the Redman family followed and their wines exist today. The bigger wine companies such as Wynn's and Penfolds produce vintages from Coonawarra as well.

Although the Cabernet is the main player, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are grown in smaller quantities.
Coonawarra has a climate similar to Bordeaux.

I remember when I first met Sue, she took a trip with a girlfriend that took her to Coonawarra and she arrived back home with a boot full of wine. It didn't last long.

Our Dinner
Sue speaks in green because she is so envious of me and I speak in red - don't know why, maybe you can explain!
The recipe I used was from a favourite website and was called braised duck tagliatelle.
Leon is a dreadful (how could she say such a thing) when he makes a post and asks me to comment on the on the pics. OK...This is our pasta machine. *sigh*
100 grams 000type flour add 1 large egg and a little salt per person  in a food processor. Depends on the humidity of course, but the mixture should be on the dry side. You might need a little water.Then knead until the gluten starts working and the dough becomes elastic. Then rest for a bit.I cut in into strips to put into the machine,
Put it through the largest width first, for a few times until it feels smooth and silky. I'm sorry , I'm sure there's a term to describe it, but i have no idea what it is.
Go down I thickness a time until it is where you think it looks right. I like it really thin.
Then put it through the cutter on the machine. This is where Leon and I cooked together! Wasn't there for the duck bit. ( I had other things to do, mow lawns, do washing and ironing - a blokes work is never done)  But I needed the back of someones hand to pass the fettuccine over and  put it over the  alfoiled broom handle. Oh Leon, you were a star! (True- that's what I do)
I so love it when we cook together!
Ha Ha! I laugh at the man......but he does the dishes!
This is the ragu after I shredded the duck and added it back to the sauce  with some finely chopped parsley.
Whacked some grated parmigiano on top. ( and it was oh soooo good)
Strawberries are great at the moment. My favourite fruit shop  had 3 punnets for 2 dollars. How good is that!?
They are small. Cut up a punnet and macerated them in a little Cointreau and icing sugar. Made a slurry of marcscapone, cream and vanilla bean and put a tile of puff pastry on top. Yeah....good stuff.
Nights at home are good fun. And last night was doubly good because it was the first night where it was cool enough to sleep under the doona. Roll on autumn!
Hope your weekend was good too - I bet our overseas readers were under the doona as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Labour Day in Launceston

The Eight Hour Day in Launceston.
Although Labour Day is celebrated all over Australia, it was only Victoria and Tasmania that celebrated on March 11. The other states of Australia hold Labour Day at other times of the year which is a bit strange from a business point of view. I have business dealings with both Sydney and Brisbane. Both were unaware that we at the lower end of Australia were having a day of leisure to celebrate the introduction of the "eight hour working day".
8 hours for work and 8 hours for leisure was the idea behind the Labour Movement at the time. I'm not sure if this still applies these days - due to today's technology, we seem to work longer hours.

The reason I mention this is that we thought Launceston would be closed on Labour Day, and much of it was however there were still shops, cafes, museums and art galleries open to fill our last day here. Although our favourite cafe up on the hill was closed, we found another on the water's edge for breakfast.

Our favourite cafe on a day it was open. We must have had  breakfast, lunch and dinner here, we lost count. The Chef, Andrew cooked a small but wonderful menu.
Every day as we ventured back across the Esk River, an estuary to the Tamar, we crossed this iron bridge and as you crossed, if you look over your shoulder you saw the view below. 
I should remind you that the main city of Launceston is just as you cross this river.
Wilderness and city combined.

Breakfast on the water's edge.
It was our plan to enjoy a leisurely breakfast before moving off to explore what we thought would be a deserted Launceston CBD (central business district).

Looking out the window of the Cafe across the Tamar River.
That closed window was where we sat having breakfast.
A Stroll in the City
We thought with it being a holiday, we could walk the streets of the CBD and window shop, appreciate the architecture of Australia's third established city - at least we would be encouraged to spend on the day. We were wrong!
Despite it being the day to celebrate the introduction of the eight hour day in the mid 1880s, shops were open. We browsed book shops, shoe shops and even popped into a chemist. I guess staff didn't mind working and being paid penalty rates for the day.

Launceston has some amazing architecture which spans from Georgian to what we call Federation, a mixture of Art Nouveau and Edwardian. There are two story Victorian Terraces and in the same block you might find intriguing examples of Art Deco from the 30s. Launceston has it all from the early 1800s to now. I guess many Australian cities do,  but here, they are all in a more confined area.
Launceston has its Malls and this one, the Quadrant arcs its way through a city block. It has some wonderfully well preserved buildings - all you need to do is look above the modernised shop fronts to appreciate the various styles.
Although this Mall has a modern canopy, the buildings still reflect Launceston's historical past.
In the Park
Launceston has a number of parks and gardens that break up the bustle of the city. The main park is strangely called "City Park". We entered by the grand gates beside a lovely period building. On this day, the park was visited by young families. It was a very hot day, in the mid 30s and the park offered a refreshing environment from its greenness and large leafy trees.
The gates of City Park. The park was established in 1820.
This ornate fountain once was at the entrance gates of the park. Its original foundations can just be seen. It now is deep within the park.

Initially the park was developed by the Launceston Horticultural Society and then handed over to the City of Launceston in 1863 to become known as the people's park.
The John Hart Conservatory was established in the 30s and sits not far away from a duck pond. Further up the path to the opposite side is the Japanese Macaque Monkey enclosure. I didn't take any photos as they looked a little sad and besides, would you like for someone to take photos of you in your home?
Inside the Conservatory.

Then off to the Art Gallery
After our lunch of fish and chips on the Tamar River's edge we returned to the CBD to explore the art gallery. Before arriving in Launceston, we were unaware of the major art competition, The John Glover competition was on this very weekend. Several of the entrant's paintings were on exhibition at the Gallery, although not the winning painting. The John Glover Competition is for landscape. In Victoria we have the Archibald Prize for portrait.

Launceston's Art Gallery
A few of the paintings that took my eye.

Finishing off at the Museum
Attached to the Gallery by name, yet not actually attached, is the Launceston Museum. The two are connected in name as the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Foundation. The Museum is across the Tamar river in the Inveresk Precinct. It sits within the preserved workshops of the Launceston Railways. Old photos of Launceston during the 40s show that the city had a system of tramways through its streets.
There were a few exhibitions that I really wanted to see - firstly any early history of Launceston, and also the sporting exhibition.

The Last Supper
It was our last night in Launceston and as it was Labour Day, not a lot of places to dine were open, especially our favourite Cafe Culture on the hill. The port restaurants seem to never close so it was pizza and wine with a view.
And this was our view over the Tamar River port and the hills of Trevallyn.
I realised that we didn't blog on food while we were away. Tasmania has some wonderful produce with its farming industry, great local wines especially the whites - Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and the lighter reds of Pinot Noir. We had some great beef and lamb, some duck but that's hard to beat while in France. The fish we had on the waterfront cafe was excellent. Strangely enough our last supper was pizza and a bottle of local Pinot Noir. It was a balmy night and the atmosphere looking up to the hills with the street and house lights illuminating suburban Launceston was a nice way to saying goodbye to a very comfortable city. I think we may return very soon.

Hope you enjoyed our little sojourn to Launceston.