Cast Off! Sustainability Festival

castoff53_1And so we find ourselves back in the Woy, NSW, and I’m starting think this is becoming quite the groovy place to be. Two organisations seem to be contributing mightily to Woy Woy’s foodie ascendancy – the Gnostic ’empire’ and The Fisherman’s Wharf.castoff31

It’s the latter spearheading Cast Off!, on its second outing for highlighting sustainability in the region. Especially, naturally enough, of fish. But also, importantly from my point of view, obviously, as it’s an Australian do – beer, wine and cider.

Spread out all along the wharf at Woy Woy, and across into Fisherman’s Wharf itself, on a bright and sunny Autumn day, the rows of cheerful stalls ran, mostly representing local produce and enterprises, as well as one or two from further afield.

I was surprised to see that New Zealand had a showing from Cloudy Bay Clams, selling what looked like a seafood curry in a giant paella tray:

The ‘Malaysian sauce’ didn’t taste that authentic to me, but I can’t argue that the seafood – mussels, prawns and two distinctly different types of clam – wasn’t pretty damn tasty. They insisted this was still sustainable seafood, despite being flown across to Oz, vacuum packed. Well, if they say so.

Other seafood offerings from further afield included some lovely, tender octopus all the way from Fremantle, served up by Avoca locals bombini:

Contented customers wallowed nearby in gaily striped deck chairs, soaking up the sun and possibly the cocktails from this chap, of Bar Toto, Ettalong, fame:

castoff45

Though we noticed another bar from Ettalong mixing up the drinks nearby, from Gusto. No wonder everyone looked so relaxed.cast2

Whilst on the subject of drinking for relaxment (do believe that’s a new word, there; you’re welcome) we are lucky enough to have not one, but two, artisan breweries on this bit of the Central Coast. The rather fabulous six strings, of Erina, who’ve gone down the canning route (flying in the face of fashion there) and relative newcomers Block’n’Tackle, who prefer to encourage reusable mini kegs and bottles.

No surprise then perhaps that after all that booze, and watching of bands, we were feeling a tad fuzzy…

Happily there was more food; the fish tacos were good, though very wee, which probably explains why there were orders coming through of half a dozen at a time. Bit steep at $5 a pop I thought but hey ho, I’m notoriously stingy.

Plenty of other options available mind; loads of fish including albacore tuna, swordfish, paella, fish & chips, pippies and pasta, fish burgers, and many more. Coffee boost from the lovely rustic looking All Ears: 

castoff1_12

castoff29

There were take home options too, with Six String Lemonade and Coastie Ale, jars and spice mixes, and gluten free from the No Bull Food Co:

cast1

In the desserts corner were ice creams, churros, margarita slushies (that counts as dessert, surely?) and the rather splendid Fat Meringue, which I obviously made a beeline for. Miso ginger meringues!

castoff57 (2) castoff56 (2)

So excited was I, I almost forgot to pay. I l loved the caramel syringe – as if there was ever any chance of not eating every last sugary drop – it was still fun to inject through the crunchy outer shell.

For those bored with eating and drinking sustainably, there were cooking demonstrations lined up all afternoon long from a variety of chaps; Matt Kemp while we were wandering past, plus an information section with advice about sustainable local (Hawkesbury) fishing, just for the look of it, you know.castoff52 (2)

Finally, sated by the all afternoon nibbling, we headed round the craft and goodies stalls, checking out the lovely plants and homewares:castoff1_1 castoff1_5 castoff1_6 castoff1_2

This sort of do is a real plus for the area, well organised and well ‘stocked’ with quality vendors. Go The Woy!

castoff54_2

Aria: More fishy takeovers in the Woy

After my last post in late 2015, we thought we’d give the ‘Takeover’ series at Fisherman’s Wharf in Woy Woy another go.  This month, current head chef of Aria & fellow Brit, Ben Turner, takes centre stage in the restaurant kitchens.

Judging by the full house, these monthly sessions have been something of a hit. And what’s not to love; the rustic charm of bare floorboards, windows swung wide to the water views on a warm autumn evening, the quiet lapping of the water and the ducks and pelicans drifting hopefully past your table.

ww2

Quiet before the storm


The seafood based menu was short and sweet; 4 courses starting with yellowtail scad; our waiter informing us that this is normally used as a bait fish, but here sustainably re-purposed as sashimi with a Japanese inspired dressing. It seemed a pleasant enough fish; I’ve never understood the public resistance to trying new types of seafood, taking pressure away from the Big Four. Pretty as a picture, accompanied by beetroot stained pickled onions and salty cucumber slices:IMG_0649

This vanished pretty quickly, leaving us to tuck into chunks of crisp, white baguette. Slathering the wonderfully rich butter on my bread was something of a highlight – I suspect properly cultured butter courtesy of Pepe Saya, though I wasn’t moved sufficiently to double check this. It was delicious, anyway. The pat of ‘seaweed butter’  alongside it was also delicious but not because of a particularly iodine, sea-veg flavour – to me it was more of a pleasantly cheesey overtone.

Second from the menu was ocean trout, one of my favourite types of fish. The Petuna trout has featured in previous takeovers here, and comes with an impressive list of Australian famous chef fans.

Initially this looked to be another raw fish dish, but transpired to be sous-vide cooked (sous-vided? Someone help me with my French please??) and then served chilled; I have to confess I was hard pressed to tell the difference between that and sashimi in texture but we enjoyed it a lot anyway. Turns out apple goes terribly well with dill – who knew?IMG_0677

The powdery white stuff there (above) was allegedly horseradish, treated in some exciting modern way to become entirely tasteless. Pretty though, no?

I guess in a foreign kitchen with a full house to serve, it’s easier to have a batch of dishes you can make up in advance, hence the two cold courses perhaps. And indeed, the dishes did come out without that irritating wait between courses, as you often get in these set dinners.

The main, seared sea mullet, had a deliciously crunchy skin, just the right side of too browned, with a hint of gelatinous that I quite like. Adorned with blobs of spritzzy citrus, it brightened up the dish no end. My fairly dull photo, below (the light was going and by gosh if I still haven’t gotten round to reading the instruction manual for the camera) doesn’t bring out the vibrancy of the green powdered wasabi – again, modernity rendering it tasteless – but the fish was  perfectly correctly cooked even if lacking a teeny bit in presentation. ‘Mussel butter’ leant it a nice saltiness – and by the way, joy of joys, a whole meal that wasn’t oversalted! – though possibly made the mussels a little less tender than they could have been. IMG_0683

I loathe reading reviews of meals where the main complaint runs along the lines of “the dishes were so tiny we had to eat somewhere else afterwards”, where value for money is determined by how easy it is for the diner to do up their buttons post repast. Having said that: whilst they were being generous with the protein, there was a distinct lack of carbohydrates. Though a paleo diet pleaser, if it weren’t for the second round of bread we ordered, we would genuinely have been a bit peckish. Not to mention a bit more tiddly, seeing as the matched wines were a terribly reasonable $30 extra per head…

Finally, with apologies for more shocking photography, the dessert was an awesome rich, blob of dulce de leche, with a scattering of crunchy candied pecans and a smear (what modern meal would be complete without a smear, after all) of sweetened pumpkin that even Mr C, a notorious shier awayer from squash of all sorts, enjoyed.IMG_0684

Personally, I wasn’t convinced that the coconut sorbet went that well with the rest of the dish, but it did go ever so well with the accompanying dessert wine, a Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from La Pigeade.

Another successful Takeover, and who wouldn’t love top city chefs rocking up on your doorstep, after all?

IMG_0675

IMG_0663

Hopeful diner

Contact the restaurant for details of upcoming Takeovers:

The Boulevard, Woy Woy NSW 2256
(02) 4341 1171

Fishy Take Overs

Well, been a quiet year here on LeftHandedChopsticks, because conversely, it’s been a hectic one for me personally. But there’s still been food adventures, here and abroad. Part of what I’ve been working on is a series of experiments with kimchi, of which hopefully more later in the year.

IMG_2683

More recently, I’ve been delighted to see those excellent chaps (and chapesses) at Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf (WWFW) have been inviting guest chefs to a short residency at their place, allowing us Coasties to eat out big city style and still be able to walk home. Well, nearly walk home.

Previously they’ve been graced by chefs from such leading lights as Momofuko Seibo, Longrain, and Pilu at Freshwater. This weekend was the turn of Troy Rhodes Brown of Muse fame, all the way from the Hunter Valley.

Muse, currently boasting 2 SMH Good Food Guide Hats, consistently gets good reviews from punters, and we could certainly see glimmers of that on Saturday. The ambience was there (they’d rolled out the actual linen napkins rather than paper towels!), the candles were twinkling, the view over the water as good as ever & our waiter was knowledgeable, attentive and generally awesome. All of which is, of course, WWFW rather than Troy/Muse themselves, though when I mentioned my food intolerance, they were more than happy to accommodate it, despite it being a major part of the dish in question. All the more disappointing therefore that the food itself, though excellently cooked, largely came out on the bland side. Our expectations were fairly high here and, whilst it wasn’t actually bad in any sense (and it must be tough working in someone else’s kitchen) it’s just that my socks were not really much moved, let alone knocked off.

Yes, I know this is a matter of taste; purely subjective & so on, but there we have it. With the exception of the dessert and the more gutsy Squid and King Brown Mushroom Noodles dish; easily the best of the evening for our table (as well as at least the one next to us, judging by their reactions), I came away wanting a bit more pizzazz. That squid though; local, Hawkesbury Squid shredded alongside the mushrooms to form thin, perfectly cooked noodles, dressed with a custard of miso and sake and topped by a (faintly sinister looking) black tapioca crisp, coloured by squid ink. Blobs of yuzu and ginger gels along with pretty pink garlic flowers zazzed up the flavour further.IMG_2693 IMG_2696

sans disturbing looking wafer

Other dishes of the set menu included a week-long marinated tuna – with a seaweed & ginger/garlic crust that neither of us could actually detect – which tasted…mildly of tuna. Medium rare and with an oddly crumbly surface texture, presumably from whatever it was marinated in for all that time. Much was made of the 9 hours roasted truss tomato which in my case was very salty, not very tender and off-puttingly refrigerator cold alongside the otherwise warm dish. Mr C ate it for me, which had the benefit of his being able to compare and contrast – mine was both colder and saltier than his so I guess that was just one of those plating up errors. Along with the rather tough piece of fennel.IMG_2699

The other appetizers fared slightly better, with the ocean trout rillettes coming out in cutesey little pots, differing on each table and paired with the only carbohydrate of the evening, some rather nice warm sourdough. IMG_2685The rillette itself was nice enough – apparently teamed with New Zealand wasabi, though again, neither of us were aware of it. I couldn’t help thinking it would have been stronger if the trout had been smoked perhaps; as it was I was having a hard job working out what kind of fish it was. Ditto the kingfish tartare – could’ve been any white fish. Looked a picture though. IMG_2689I wanted it to be more zingy, and from the looks of the write up, it should have been – pickled choko, shaved eschallots, shao hsing reduction, coriander, lime and spinach – absolutely none of which we could identify.  By the time it was wrapped in the baby cos leaves, it basically disappeared flavour wise. It’s a rum do when your dish is overpowered by lettuce.IMG_2691

I did like those little crunchy bits of what I’m sure were porky crackling, though it wasn’t mentioned in the summary.

Let me not give you the impression it was all dull, heavens no.

The share plate dessert, Coconut Cloud, was a perfection of frozen coconut cream offset beautifully by the tart mulberries, with tiny crunches from the black coconut sugar crystals and a bit of body from the coconut water sago pearls. IMG_2703IMG_2705Liberally sprinkled with flowers, it looked gorgeous – and huge, but strangely disappeared everso very quickly. Mr C displaying his more Labrador qualities whilst I was distracted by trying to get my camera to operate in the low light, I suspect.

We didn’t have the matched wines, though these were a very reasonable additional $30 (did say it wasn’t quite a walk); instead I had the rather splendid Victorian (but French style) La Sirene’s Saison, which I’ll be having again just as soon as I return. Which of course I shall. It may not sound like it from our grouches here (oh & did I mention the wait between the courses really was a touch on the lengthy side?) but we’re actually pretty keen to support any small business in the region keen to try out something new; and I do believe these guys are worth supporting.

So vive la guest chefs! Next up is the turn of Merivale’s Mr Wong – 4th & 5th December. Get in quick, Coasties….

Woy Woy Take Over, Woy Woy Fisherman’s Wharf, The Boulevard, Woy Woy

$80 per head plus drinks