Thursday, June 16, 2011


Nearby my new office, amid the office buildings and shopping centres, there is a tiny corner. See? Here it is on Google Maps.

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Yeah, it’s there, but you can’t see it. That’s because this place was willed into existence.

That little laneway corner thing? Someone nailed a roof on it, stacked some kitchen counters and cabinets and a few camp stove burners, then started piling things up, stacking things around, and making coffee.

This is Circa.

As anyone who follows me on “the Instagrams” knows, I have been sneaking many a photo of this place. That’s because there is so much to see in this small space. There are old timey bicycles nailed to the walls, there is a hatrack with a top hat, a flat cap, and whatever the hell the owners and baristas wore to work that day. There are wine crates full of books about anything from graffiti (I had a leaf through Banksy’s Wall & Peace) to ballet & photography. There is an inlaid mother-of-pearl backgammon set. There is a record player and a stack of 45s. The cakes they made in-house that day sit in a kitchen cupboard on the wall. The menu is written on butcher’s paper & stuck on the wall.

The three guys who run the place are hard at work, but are constantly talking with customers both regular & drop-in. Though the walls are concrete, they’ve built windows and painted them with seaside vistas. The music playing is a far cry from Cafe Del Mar or any Chillout mix. It’s James Brown, Ray Charles, soul and funk from the 70s, and even some US. It comes either from some of their records, or it’s one of the guys’ iPhones plugged into a dock by the door. The music is usually good enough that I take off my headphones when I enter, which is unprecedented.

Today, I sat at the back of the place and had my coffee & listened to the owner chat with a woman who had come in. She mentioned that she had brought them more books (including some comics from the 90s), and that she was happy to print them up some cards to give to people. This woman was not affiliated with the cafe, she was just a regular. She then started talking about which pork roast was best, then segues into how, “Yes, Lisa, it’s a wonderful, MAGICAL animal.”

Hearing it, it made me want to be a regular too. More so than at any other cafe I’ve been to.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meet the Meat.

*Warning: This post not for the squeamish or puritan vegetable folk*

I was just intimidated by a piece of meat. Tonight, I'm making Aussie Berko. At Marrickville, I asked the butcher for 4 pieces of beef Osso Bucco (the shin piece). Those 4 pieces came to a kilo and a half due to two of them being enormous. As part of the recipe, I have to brown the pieces in the casserole dish before it goes in the oven. These two pieces are so big, I have to brown the meat in two batches. I then take the meat out to rest while the veggies cook. As it was resting, I glanced over at the topmost and biggest piece. And it grossed me out.

I'm not that squeamish, not really. Admittedly, I don't like things that stick to my hands while I cook (like egg or mince or flour or things like that) so I rinse my hands a lot. But this? Okay. I'll try to explain.

Osso Bucco, or shin beef, looks like this. That is fine. But this piece had been badly cut, which meant that in addition to the central bone, there was a second half-piece of bone stuck to the bottom. This second piece was belled outward, so it was most likely fron the end of the bone near the joint. You know what else is near joints? Tendons. Ligaments. Things that look like tubes or straws. So after I'd browned the meat, I took off this second piece of bone and there was a reddish mess of tubes and I nearly gagged.

Yes. I understand meat comes from an animal, an animal that was once alive. I get that, I understand that. For some reason though, that just hit me.

The meat is now in the oven. I shall conquer my moment of fear by consuming it in a delicious tomato-dark beer sauce.

....or I might cut that bit out and leave it on the side of my plate.

On an completely unrelated note, last night, while making Sausage & Zucchini Carbonara (a future Cooking Post), I was zesting a lemon overzealously, and manages to drag the zester across my thumb. Here it is after a day of healing (it bled like a mofo). Today Tanja and I stopped in at Caketown to pick up something, and chatted with the guy who runs the place. As he handed us out purchase, he noticed I had a bandage on my thumb, and showed his own thumb, which had a cut a few days old on it, and said we were in the same boat. "No," I replied. "Lemon zester." He made a face, turned away and threw his hands up all in one motion (which was a thing to behold) and declared "Eyargh! That's why I work with pastry, not with meat! Ugh!"

So I got to feel tough.

Edit: A post-script. The meal turned out to be so bad as to be inedible. The meat was tough, even near the bone, and the broth, which is usually rich and flavourful was bland and tasteless. Clearly, I should have gone with my gut instinct and backed off. So the whole pot (meant to be two nights' dinners) went in the bin. I'm further frustrated because Tanja is always hesitant to have this dish, as stews are not her favourite thing. The first time she had this, she did not like it. The second time she did. This time, I had to convince her to have it for dinner. Which then failed spectacularly. I don't think I'll get to make it a fourth time. [glum]

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Trop tarde.

(Written Thursday morning, uploaded Friday night, not posted until Sunday. Work ethic!)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

For the want of a look.

So today I bought myself a new 2 terabyte hard drive & some blank DVDs. They were in my satchel, which I could barely close. I went into Kmart, looking for Blutack & raffle tickets, found the Blutack. I was a little worried coming up to the cash register, because if they wanted to check my bag, I'd have to take everything out to get the receipt for the HD & DVDs. So I pay for the Blutack, she asks if I want a bag. I say no, I'll just put it in my bag. I then cram the Blutack into my overloaded bag. Which is clearly full of stuff. I wait a second to see if she's going to ask to check. She thanks me for shopping at Kmart. Okay. I leave. THE GATE BEEPS AS I LEAVE. I stop, turn back, and she waves me on. Incredible. And how can I get away with this amazing implied larceny?

Stealth technology. Camouflage. A cloak that allows me access to the benefit of the doubt and respectability. 

I am, of course, talking about corporate attire. 

It got me out of a train fine last week. I've not had a bag check at JB Hifi. Everyone is polite, and smiles. It's insane.

I mean, sure, I hate bag checks. Hate them so much that I'm tempted to steal something for every time they check my bag unnecessarily. But now I almost want them to. But I want them to for principle. Because that's why they've always said they've checked me before. "Oh, we check everyone." Which is bullshit. The addition of an eyebrow ring, two centimeters of sideburn on each side, and the removal of a collar? I'm criminal.

Of course, the opposite is true too. At one point, Tanja and I were at the Union having dinner, and I engaged the barman in conversation about some of the craft beer he orders. He was older than me, a real rockabilly guy, with tattoo sleeves, long sideburns and slick hair. As the conversation went on, I felt the urge to say something to show that I was cool, that I knew his scene or something. I resisted, thankfully. I hate those "Aw yeah, I used to have hair like that" conversations.

And yes, I'm aware of the hypocrisy of my resisting one group judging me on my (corporate) appearance and encouraging another group relating to me based upon my (non-corporate) appearance. 

I'm not done on this issue, but frankly, I'm confused as to my own message.