Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A while between blogs

Here we are in November, the weather has warmed up, the race that stops a nation is done and dusted for another year so its time to think about Christmas. At Bent, we have been thinking about it for a while with beautiful gifts in Bent on Life just waiting for you to come and find them. We are working on our gourmet hampers for 2011 and busily printing up gift vouchers for the cookery school, the café and Bent on Life. Christmas party bookings are coming in and we even have a few corporate cooking classes booked. Cooking is a great team building exercise and afterwards you get to sit down together and eat the fruits of your labours with a nice glass of wine.
This month we say farewell to our chef Greg Puglisi who is moving to Far North Queensland for a change of career and we welcome Michael James. Michael is well known in the area as he operated the Bunker restaurant at Tallwoods. We are looking forward to working with Michael and we are excited to have his skills in our team at Bent on Food. A new, exciting menu will be launched soon. Michael begins work with us on Wednesday 9th November.

Mid North Coast Hinterland Experience

Andrew and Therese with guests at Near River
Our first Mid North Coast Gourmet Hinterland Experience in conjunction with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival was held on the 29th and 30th October. The guests travelled to Near River, a sustainable farm growing biodynamic rhubarb, garlic and a vast number of seasonal crops, learnt about composting and biodynamic practices,  and enjoyed banana bread with Hastings Valley yoghurt and Near River rhubarb, lime and ginger compote (available at Bent on Food) in the garden.

Linga Longa

Rhonda and Stephen

We then travelled down to Bago Vineyards where we tasted some wine and spoke to Alistair and Kate from Black Duck Brewery, a few beers were sampled before we headed back to  Linga Longa at Wingham to find out why happy cattle produce better beef.  Here we met the chooks and had more delicious  food with Lauren and Greg. 
Garlic at Near River

Then it was back to check on the suckling pig for dinner. In the evening, 30 people gathered at the cookery school at a long white table to savour 4 courses of local food and Cassegrain wine all from within a 100 mile radius. Greg cooked up a storm, with local oysters, cheeses, produce, beef and pork all on the menu. To see the menu, click here. The following day we enjoyed a 100 mile cooking class conducted by chef Eric Robinson with free range eggs, asparagus and baby spinach all from Near River and locally smoked bacon from Mentges Meats in Taree. Eric showed us how to make the perfect hollandaise and we enjoyed local strawberries and Marrook Farm Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup for a brunchy dessert.

Greg and Lauren with guests at Linga Longa

Mmm this little piggy is looking divine
Check - table is set
Stone Oysters 3 ways with Cassegrain Edition Chardonnay Pinot
Linga Longa Beef Carpaccio with Marrook Farm Brinawa and Wilmaria  EVOO
Lis and Vern Harvey

Grahame and Greg with the suckling pig

Hastings Pannacotta with Near River Rhubarb, Lime and Ginger compote


Eric showing us how to make the perfect hollandaise

Brunch cookery class with  Eric Robinson

Brunch is local strawberries, white mulberries, Marrook Farm
Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup


Eric and class

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

totally inspired just when I need it

Bent on Life
Bent on Life
I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and fate will jump in and assist at the most appropriate time if you allow it to. People inspire me, they drive me and ignite my passion. Food is one of those passions, wine is another but surprisingly for some, money is not. I am quite a material being as long as those material things are beautiful, they do not need to be expensive but they must be beautiful. My homewares and gift store, Bent on Life feeds that indulgence by allowing me to shop for the most beautiful gifts for people and also glorious pieces for their homes. I also get to go to Melbourne for Gift Fair with my beautiful and very patient sister, Andre, who also loves to shop and to eat, although she is a gym junkie so you can't see her indulgence like you see mine.  Bent on Food lets me work with food and with people, and sometimes I get to work with wine too.

Kochie and Marcia
Me and my beautiful sisters
Occasionally our direction gets a bit confused and we forget the very reason why we started what we did. I have made a few decisions about my future and I  feel that I have made the right choices.  I believe that you must seek answers deep inside yourself because generally thats where you find truth.

 Recently I have been blessed by opportunity, its no accident and it hasn't just happened, because I am a driver not a passenger and I believe that I make things happen. Now that is not a brag, it is a message to those that blame everyone but themselves when life doesn't go as planned.  I cant say I met anyone negative at Kochie's Business Bootcamp last month when Marcia Bourke and I took up an opportunity to spend 2 days in Sydney to learn more about business from the most inspiring people in what seems like the whole world. It was a great opportunity to bond with Marcia and we came away like we had known each other forever. We were both so inspired and this is probably what lead me to make the decision to buy the cookery school, Duck under the Table so that is what I am doing, and I can't wait. This is where my passion lies, I just love the way people feel when they learn something new. A few weeks ago I learnt to make bread and it was such a gratifying experience that everyone should  do it. So in a few weeks I hope to post all the news on the new Bent on Food Cheese making and Cookery school. You will be thrilled with what I have planned, well  hope so anyway!

And my fabulous partner Grahame remains forever hopeful that I will not turn every moment into a business opportunity. x

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women of Wisdom

Maggie Beer and I

Sandra, Maggie Beer and I
Yesterday on the 19th floor of the Commonwealth Bank building, overlooking Darling Harbour, I celebrated 100 years of International Womens Day amongst 130 of the most amazing women,  all successful in their own right. It was a wonderful event focusing on the contribution of women to the food industry. Even the fabulous sparkles matched to each course and supplied by the effervescent  Champagne Jayne was made by a woman. I was like a little girl in a toyshop,  incredibly excited to be there and to meet my idol Maggie Beer. I witnessed some incredible comradery amongst the women who attended and all of them were so interested in what we were doing there. While lunch was a huge bonus, I was actually there with Sandra from Red Plateau Organics to promote Manning Valley Produce and our Manning Valley Naturally Tourism brand. We built a beautiful display full of local  produce which was adored by all in the room. Many great contacts were made and I was reacquainted with old friends.  I was so happy to run into industry mates and to see them doing well with their careers and their personal lives.  It was nice to meet new people and I must congratulate the  lovely ladies who organised the day, happy to help us with anything we requested.

Our display
I love the way we women share, we share our views on almost anything, we share our secrets, we share our heartaches and we are always happy to tell the truth about life and its ups and downs. Yesterday, we  listened in awe to two women, well actually three if you include the dynamo Sue Bennett, editor of what I call "the bible" otherwise known as "The Good Living",  who was compere of the day. Sue asked Maggie Beer and fellow panelist Ronni Kahn about what inspired them and how they managed to stay inspired. Maggie said exactly what I always say; do something you love doing and then it isn't like going to work every day. It's all about following your heart and I can honestly say after 18 years in the wine industry working with winemakers and chefs, followed by 6 years working in my own business, I have always remained passionate about the industry. I get tired, I get broke, I even cry, but deep down I know that I do what I love.

Ronni Kahn and I
It was great to hear the difference that Ronni Kahn makes to peoples lives, collecting food from supermarkets and restaurants and feeding the homeless and the poor. This year her program will go National. Her word of advice to me when I said I wished I could give more, "just give a little each day, give a coffee to a customer who has no money or give a donation, just give a little'. I felt better then. After listening to these women, I know there is so much more to give, we are all busy, but these are the women that inspire us, they certainly inspire me and I never once heard them say those words that I hear time after time, those words that I am banning from my vocabulary "I am just too busy".
Ronni Kahn, Maggie Beer and Sue Bennett

Kerry from World Par tea with Maggie Beer

Friday, January 7, 2011

Long lost family

I apologise if I sound a bit "all about me" with this post rather than giving you an update on the happenings at Bent on Food, but the cafe is run by real people and one of those people is me. And Bent on Food is a family affair, with my head chef chef choosing to cook lunch for 19 of my extended family on Christmas day, rather than go surfing, although I suspect this was so that he could indulge in the late night cocktails with both my brother in laws.  I often feel  like my customers become family as we live through their ups and downs, giving them an obligatory coffee to settle their nerves on the child's first day at school or singing happy birthday with a citrus tart and a lone candle that we manage to keep alight as we step cautiously under the fans, dodging the people waiting for one of Will or Amanda's fabulous coffees.

So this post is about family, they say you can't pick them,  but you always love them and no matter how many years, or how much water flows under the bridge, they will always be blood. In just two days I have learnt that I have more relatives than I ever imagined. I am thrilled that I have managed to find that my Great Grandfather  was born in Penang in 1863, there is no information before that but we suspect he was either an orphan or that there may have been some embarrassment about his Asian origin at the time. Nevertheless, he and my Great Grandmother managed to have quite a few children and in the past few days my mum and I have been in contact with a few of their descendants, cousins that I never knew existed. I asked my mum last night, how does a family lose each other for so long? When I think of my relationships with my sisters, brother, nieces and nephews, it seems impossible that we could ever lose contact. I guess life just gets busy, and before we know it, years have passed and we have forgotten to make that phone call that we meant to make yesterday, only yesterday has become yesteryear.

I am grateful to my partner Grahame, who has far more patience than I, because he has managed to trace my family tree which is how we found my new family members. In the meantime he is learning about family too, but his story is a little different and he is a little more private than me so thats where his story ends in this post.

I have one more story about family, this one is about Doug and Monica Fletcher, yesterday Monica celebrated her 90th birthday, we did the catering at Cundletown Hall, and 55 family members attended, with daughter Margaret suffering jetlag as she had travelled all the way from London to be there for her mum. Aunties and Uncles met children they had never seen before and Doug was thrilled to throw a party for Monica that he hoped wouldn't be her last. There was so much love in that room and most of it came from Monica and Doug.  He was so proud and she was quietly thrilled to see all these people gathered in the one room just for her. I had one helper, my mum, and we worked together to make the day great for this wonderful couple.

I do not have children but I am fortunate to have family, be it the blood, or the staff that feel like family, the customers that have become like family,Grahame and of course Ben, the dog who loves to sit at my feet while I write, and Sam the python who likes to curl up on my wrist. And now I have more family to meet, and I am really looking forward to sharing some stories with them.
 And there are always my friends, next post maybe, time to spend some time with my family.