66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Glory days long gone ... and some decent plonk ... and other stuff

I usually keep a stash of quaffing wine in the kitchen and in the grog fridge, but things have been disappearing at a rate of knots of late. It’s time to stock up again.
So I have dipped into the wine cupboard to keep myself happy of late … and there have been some pleasant surprises.
The biggest surprise was the discovery of another bottle of 2007 Bollini Pinot Grigio Trentino. I’m keeping it for a special occasion. As I wrote on an earlier post, “I’ve seen it described as the “ultimate aperitif wine” … or how about “the fresh, refined style is ideal for frequent, casual consumption”? Frequent? That’s my kind of wine.
It’s fragrant, lively, crisp, fruity, flinty and oh so clean in the mouth. And there’s just enough acid. I reckon it would go well with any sort of food. Without question, for me it was the wine highlight of the week in a week where there were some highlight-worthy beauties on the table.”
The same sentiment still applies … yep plenty of some highlight-worthy beauties.
Among the a 2004 Elderton Shiraz (14.5%), which had a really deep colour, tonnes of fruit on the nose and a bit of a liquorice/peppery thing happening … even vanilla. It was great drinking.
So too the 2011 Waipara Hills Pinot Noir, but the show was stolen by a 2003 Brown Brothers limited release shiraz. I reckon it was a bloody cracker in a week or so where crackers have been on the agenda.
Umani Ronchi Montepulciano 2007 D’Abruzzo was a surprise packet. I read a review of it: “A supple and earthy medium-bodied Italian red that's full of plums, hints of chocolate, nuts and dried herbs and has and attractive slightly floral sting in the tail. Will go superbly well with the Sunday roast, with game. and let's not forget the cheese. Very smart buying." Warren Barton
Because I’m a smoker, my chances of finding all that going on is, well, unlikely … but jeez, I loved it.
There have also been a few chardies around … a 2011 The Seedling from Eden Road, which didn’t quite set my tastebuds on fire … but the fire was burning with a 2010 Camelback chardy from Sunbury. I’d buy it just because of the words across the top of the label … “Man is not a camel”.
The real chardy winner was a 2011 Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken from Pemberton in WA. It’s buttery, nutty, fruity, oaky (plenty but certainly not to its detriment) and a lovely acid balance. I’ll have it again.
I also revisited Domaine Begude 2010 Chardonnay. I wrote a while ago “It’s a bloody cracker, which is my way of saying “Utterly beguiling. Full of flowers, citrus, orchard fruits, and almond, this offers some lushness of texture while remaining bright and refreshing, and displays a shimmering sense of minerality that would be worthy of a Chablis costing three times the price”, which is how Robert Parker’s Bargain Wines Guide 2011 said of the Terroir 11300 chardonnay. It’s available at Vintage Cellars.
It’s all gonna be a hard act to follow. If the next week comes anywhere near the quality of the past couple, then I’ll be one happy camper.
Now, it’s market time and food shopping. I have to take lunch to work tomorrow for EB, my editor at The Weekly Review. Dunno what’s on the menu … guess it’ll be whatever look good.

Glory days are long gone

I started to venture into the wilds of Albert Park in the very late ’80s … somehow I’d managed to find my way there. I was a northern suburbs bloke who had little, OK no, knowledge of the southern suburbs back then.
I used to go there for a Sunday breakfast … a big brekkie was a novelty in the north. OK, a café that did that sort of thing didn’t exist in the north.
The place was called Morning Glory. The food was always good and the coffee was par excellence. It won an award from The Sunday Age as having the best coffee in Melbourne. From memory, I instigated that the judges check it out.
I can even recall being there about 20 years ago and telling a bloke at the next table to put his smoke out … I was in a non-smoking stage. I still talk to him most mornings when I’m wandering up the street, sometimes stopping and to have a smoke with him. Yeah, times change.
The restaurant at the same site claims to be one of the area’s best … specialising in attention to detail and a friendly atmosphere.
Like I said, times change.
I went there with a friend for a late breakfast recently … nothing big planned, just a cuppa and some eggs.
We grabbed a table out the front and ordered a pot of English Breakfast tea, a latte, some water and poached eggs with spinach on the side and a serve of eggs Benedict (on English muffins).
We sat there shooting the breeze for 10 minutes or so (it was a beautiful morning) and finally the waiter appeared again. “Did you get your coffees?”
“Well no, and it was a latte and some tea.”
“Sorry,” he said as he disappeared inside.
Back he came with another sorry. Apparently the paper with the order on it had been lost.
Lost? It’s not that hard, after all, attention to detail is one of the place’s strong points. Yeah, right.
Finally, after a 15-minute wait, we had our drinks.
The latte was as dark as the inside of a dead dog’s guts. It couldn’t have been any stronger. My friend would be bouncing off walls in no time.
And then to the tea. OK, it was fine but the small milk jug left more than a bit to be desired. There were dark smudges around the lip (it needed an up-close-and-personal scrub) and several black bits floating in the milk. Attention to detail?
The food finally made an appearance, but only after the waiter had reappeared earlier to say that the kitchen had run out of muffins. “What sort of toast would you like with that?” I opted for multigrain.
The eggs got a pass mark. Not so the attention to detail. No salt or pepper on the table. My friend asked the waitress who was busily cleaning the next table whether she could have some pepper. It was almost a surly delivery of a pepper grinder, plonked just so on the table, no “sorry about that, there should have been one on the table”. It was almost as if the waitress was doing us a favour.
She went back to cleaning a nearby table, armed with a spray bottle, which probably wasn’t ideal given that there was a bit of wind about. My friend copped the residue of the spray all along her arm. Yep, that’s just what you need, the chance of some chemicals on your food. Attention to detail?
I walked inside (for the first and last time there) to pay the bill, rather than wait for the waiting staff to offer one. In effect, we were the waiters … waiting, waiting …

Golden Fields revisited

There’s a lesson to be learnt for the joint above. They should send all their staff to dine at Golden Fields not just for the great food, but for service that goes above and beyond.
A friend and I had a latish dinner there on Friday. As usual, the place was jumping and we were told that there would probably be a 45-minute wait.
The staff was attentive … constantly getting back to us with updates and organising a seat at the bar (the barman would win an award for politeness) so we could have a pre-dinner drink.
We didn’t feel left out at any stage. Update followed update … just 20 minutes had past when we hit a table out the front (the weather was pleasant). We were settled by the waitress, who said something about my friend being a regular. No so, but it made her feel at home. The waitress said she would get us a menu. “No need,” I said. “We’ll start with lobster rolls, pork dumpling, soft-shell crab and twice-cooked duck … and a bottle of 2010 von Buhl Riesling. We’ll see how we go after that.” No menu, no notes, no need. The waitress knew her stuff.
So too those in the kitchen. I reckon the wine was a cracker with the food (I’ve mentioned it elsewhere on this blog several times).
But it was the staff and the attention to detail. My friend suggested that had it not been for the pleasant demeanour and efficiency of the staff, we would have gone elsewhere, given the possibility of a 45-minute wait. She was right … but it was worth the wait.

Carbon footprint?

Does social media have a conscience? Judging by some figures given to me by my Crikey mate Luke Buckmaster (he of the Crikey film blog Cinetology), the answer is an emphatic no.
To wit … every 60 seconds there are:
2 million YouTube views;
700,000 Facebook messages;
175,000 tweets;
7630 hits on StumbledUpon;
7610 searches on LinkedIn;
3500 hits on TAGGED;
3125 Flikr pictures uploaded;
2000 checkins at FourSquare; and
1090 Pinterest visits.
Think about it: every minute. That amounts to an awful lot of power (courtesy of coal-fired generators, no doubt).
And that’s just the social media sites. Add to that the billions of page hits for other shit on the net.
Is there anyone out there who could extrapolate the figures and work out just how much effect the internet has on global warming? Surely, an academic could snaffle a grant from somewhere.

The son shines

And while on the subject of things involving technology, getting my iPod up to speed was not something I could cope with.
The iPod hadn’t been synched with my new laptop (I had to get a newie because I spilled wine on the keyboard of the old one … See “A byte to drink” elsewhere on the blog) and it was beyond me, given that I’m a Luddite.
I had dinner with Joel, my youngest son, and put it on him to fix it.
“No problem.”
He somehow managed to copy the 11,000-odd songs from the iPod and another 2000-odd from the separate hard drive (see, I know technology terms, just not how it works) and synched them for me.
I owe my whole wireless set-up to Joel … the printer in the office, the router (whatever that does), the home network (whatever that is) … the whole shooting match.
Go Jo-Jo, you’re a gun.

The wrong way to catch a bus

My other son, Liam, he of Vanuatu, has had a rough time of it of late.
The other day he was cruising on a motor scooter through Port Vila at lunchtime.
He was travelling behind a bus and could see another sitting at the kerb. When the bus in front went by the parked one, the driver put on his indicator and pulled a U-turn. Liam saw him coming and hit the anchors. Too late, he T-boned the bus.
He was OK, a bunged up ankle and maybe a broken finger and a cut hand.
“I hope you were wearing a helmet,” I said.
“Shit yeah and lucky I was. I took a big chunk out of it,” he said, “but I’m OK.”
And the scooter? “Yeah, I managed to get myself between it and the bus, so as I gave a hip and shoulder to the duco, the scooter was OK. There’s just a bit of a bend in the handlebar.
“The driver was pretty pissed off. He said ‘didn’t you see I was indicating?’. I explained that indicating didn’t give you the right to charge out into a U-turn.”
“I told him to fuck off after he suggested that he would see me in court.”
Yeah, good luck with that

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It’s easy being green

For several weeks now I’ve been eyeing off the sometimes hard-to-get ingredients … green mangos and green pawpaws among them … at my usual fruit and veg bloke at the market.
At the weekend, I thought damn it; it’s time to make a green mango salad with prawns for dinner. I checked the pantry to make sure I had the ingredients … OK, I’d run out of fish sauce, sesame oil and fresh garlic … so I made a list … Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, rice noodles, bean shoots, limes, roasted peanuts, coriander and tiger prawns … oh, and a green mango or two. Done.
I wandered around the fruit shop gathering the goodies, but bugger me, no green mangos or pawpaws for that matter.
I got to the checkout and the bloke said: “Back again.” Yep. “Have you got any green mangos?” I asked, figuring that because there were plenty of ripe mangos of varying quality dotted around the shop, he’d say yeah, over there or something like that. “Season’s over,” he said. Bugger.
Off I went to the last-chance saloon … aka the Chinese grocery, where I’m a regular. “Got any green mangos?”
“Sorry, no more but we have green pawpaws.” Done. It was gonna be the sort of recipe that I’d make up as I went along anyway.
I got all I needed and made a beeline to Swords wine shop to see if the new chardonnay and pinot noir had made an appearance.
“Not yet, they’re still in the warehouse.”
I was keen to reacquaint myself with both after David, the manager, had gifted me a bottle of each to try.
The pinot, under Swords’ label The House of Rabbit, is a very drinkable wine (aren’t they all?) from up Sunbury way.
The label says cherries, plums and brambles on the nose. I get it with the cherries and plums, but does anyone know what brambles smell like? I’ll take their word for it. For me there was also a chocolate and oaky thing happening. There’s acidity enough (it’s 12.5 per cent alcohol) and soft tannins (I like that) to round it out. I seem to remember that it’ll be a sub-20 buck wine, something I’d happily pay again and again.
The chardy? A review for another day.
I had a chat with Dave about what would go well with my green pawpaw salad and riesling won the day.
Given the option of dry or something with a bit of fruity sweetness, I went for sweet … 2008 Rockface Riesling from Waipara Valley across the ditch in New Zealand.
I bought the prawns (I asked for eight because they were a decent size) and the market was done … OK, I bought a new wok on the way out.
Seasoning the wok (it’s a steel wok, not one of those new-fangled non-stick things) was easy. A thorough scrub with warm veg oil and a scourer, and then it was onto the stove to heat it until the oil started to smoke. (I rolled one at this stage, so I smoked too). Turn off the heat, let it cool and then fire it up again. Three times is enough to be ready to wok’n’roll (yeah, piss-weak joke, I know).
Hunger started to kick in after watching the rugby league season opener … go Storm, who made hard work of putting away the Canberra Raiders.
First up I made the dressing … fresh lime juice, fish sauce, vegetable oil, palm sugar, chilli (reckon I put a tad too much. No matter.), garlic and black pepper. It’s wise to taste as you build. My only change was a touch more lime juice. I also deep-fried some garlic chips.
To ready the pawpaw, I peeled it and then hacked into it with a cleaver, each cut as close to the last as I could manage. Then I used a vegetable peeler to cut away the shreds. Too easy.
While the prawns (I got 12) were cooking in the garlic chip oil with chilli, I assembled the salad.
Pawpaw, some rice noodles (soaked in boiling water), bean shoots, garlic chips, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, coriander, roughly crushed roasted peanuts and deep-fried shallots. Again, too easy.
When the prawns were ready, in they went followed by the dressing. A good toss (a lot of people reckon I’m a tosser anyway) and it was show time.
Bloody go show it was, too. I held back on the riesling while I was eating … the chilli was a bit heavy-handed and wasn’t doing the wine any favours.
When my tastebuds had settled, I had a decent crack at the riesling, a medium-bodied wine that had some citrus up front and for my liking, just a little too much in the way of sweetness, which wasn’t really such a bad thing after the chilli assault. It’s a pleasant enough drink, but not one that I’d rush to try again. Maybe it would work well with a cheese board or even with a dessert.
Given there’s a couple of pieces of eye fillet in the fridge, I may double up with a green pawpaw and rare beef salad in a couple of days. Sounds like a plan.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hair, an eight-minute pasta wonder and the wonder of wine

My blog Mick on the Road (there’s a link just down the page a bit on the right) was compiled during 10 months on the road. The trip ended about two years ago and I’ve added nothing to it since … but still, it seems, it has regular readers every day.
I reread the whole thing a week or so ago and relived the trip, and the bloody good time it was.
Same thing applies to this blog. It’s still getting plenty of page hits daily despite me pulling the pin on it a couple of weeks ago. It’s heading towards 10,000 hits.
So I reckoned, bugger it, let’s get back on the horse.
I was gonna detail my Landcruiser ute today and put it on the interweb thing to try and sell it (anyone wanna buy a good Landcruiser? …an ’05 version that has done just 110,000 kilometres).
Anyway, rain won the order of the day … no car cleaning … and rather than immerse myself in housework (OK, I’ll do it later), I thought, bugger it, let’s blog.
I mean, there’s been some good times and great rock’n’roll since I last put pen to paper ... and the odd breakthrough.
Talking of same, the world of haircuts is, for me, a real breakthrough. After having two haircuts in 3½ years … yeah, there’s still the urge to retain my ’60s hippie roots (hair that is, not any of the women I met way back then) … I’ve been to the hairdresser twice in six weeks.
I’ve been going to the same bloke since 1975 and although he was never gonna get rich with me as a customer, we’re still good mates. He is, however, hard to nail down … he doesn’t work on Friday afternoons, which is the only time I’m free from work.
He will hang around for me though, if I bring wine.
Yep, blackmailed by the hairdresser.
I arrived at his joint last weekend and he bolted out the front door as I parked the car. “Did you bring wine?” was the offering, not a how are you or whatever.
“Yeah, there’s wine.”
“OK, roll me a smoke (he never has any) and I’ll get some glasses. Then we’ll cut the hair.”
The wine was a 2009 Les Nuages Touraine Sauvignon Blanc from Loire and it got the hairdresser’s nod of approval. As it should.
On the nose, it’s got nothing of the huge sav blanc aroma of the Kiwi kind (some of them are like using smelling salts). This is pretty laid back, a little bit spicy and with a bit of fruit. It’s actually really fresh in the mouth.
“This is better than the wine you brought a few weeks ago,” he said as he poured his second glass (just the one for me, I’m driving).
Yeah, right.
As he poured his third, he said: “I don’t think we’ll do the colour thing (yeah, I hide the greys … OK, I found a dark on the other day. Sure, it’s a vanity thing). I reckon it’s OK.”
Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.
“Listen, you will do the colour thing. You just want to piss off and drink with your friends, that’s why you don’t want to do it.”
“You know me well,” he said. “Well do the colour thing. Now roll me a smoke while I mix up some stuff.”
OK, it’s cut and coloured. All he needs to do is some thin plaits to tidy up the rat’s tail he’s left at the back (yeah I asked for it).
“I don’t do plaits.”
“OK.” I was heading to the market later to buy some food … there’s a hairdresser there. Someone there will do it. And they did.
“See you in six weeks. And don’t forget to bring wine.”
Done. That’ll be the day before my friend Andrew’s wedding, so, for once, I’ve got the timing right on something.


Reckon I’ve been off the hops (apart from the occasional one) for about 10 months now. It’s all about the weight thing. Seems every time I have a beer, it sticks to me, so in those 10 months I’ve managed to drop nine kilograms. So it’s bye bye beer.
Mind, I was in Swords wine shop recently to see if the new chardonnay had arrived. It hadn’t. I had my usual chat with Dave, who runs the place, and was just about to leave when I spied some La Trappe Dubbel Trappistenbier.
“What’s the deal with that, mate? Is it a good drop?”
Sensational was Dave’s verdict.
“Righto,” I said, “I’ll have one.” Given that it is 20 bucks for one longneck, one was enough … but it was stinkin’ hot and it was to be a treat. And the glass (reckon it pings like crystal) was included in the price.
And what a treat.
It’s a deep red-brown Trappist beer and smells of caramel malt, and is a tad (how much officially is a tad? sweet. The head is thicker than an English soccer hooligan. It’s 7 per cent alcohol, which means that one longneck really is enough. The recommended pouring temperature is 10-14º. Dunno what mine was when I cracked it, other than bloody brilliant.
Reckon if summer somehow manages to re-manifest itself in Melbourne, I’ll have another.
By the by, longnecks are known as king browns in the bush, something I learnt while I was on the road.
So there.


I was watching Anthony Bourdain the other night. He was in Rome and doing his food thing. That’s why I watch, I guess.
Anyway, he was served a pasta dish (yeah, OK, it was Rome) that is going to be a regular on my menu for several reasons … it’s quick, simple, tasty and there’s bugger all washing up to do.
I boiled (in well-salted water) enough spaghetti for one and while that was doing its thing, I melted a stick of butter (not margarine please, this is about flavour) and lobbed a handful of ground black pepper into it. Then I grated about a cup (or thereabouts) of 36-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano. I tossed the spag into the butter, coated it and then stirred through the cheese. Dinner was done and dusted. And let me tell you, it doesn’t get a lot easier or tastier for that matter.


I managed for, I reckon, the fifth or sixth time to have a degustation dinner at Eis, my favourite Japanese restaurant.
It’s still great value … eight courses and five wines (it’s now $120 a head.
A starter of a fresh oyster shot with mint vodka, sliced chilli and wasabi tobiko, some ocean trout carpaccio with basil pesto and a glass of Louis Boillot Champagne from Bourgogne.
While starters don’t get a lot better, the beef tartare that followed was close.
The quality didn’t wane … but I reckon that’s it for the degustation. The menu has changed just once (from memory) and, while it’s not tired or anything, next time I’m there I’ll be ordering from the menu.
As for fruit of the vine, there have been many and varied being popped at my joint of late.
To wit, Domaine Begude2010 Chardonnay. It’s a bloody cracker, which is my way of saying “Utterly beguiling. Full of flowers, citrus, orchard fruits, and almond, this offers some lushness of texture while remaining bright and refreshing, and displays a shimmering sense of minerality that would be worthy of a Chablis costing three times the price”, which is how Robert Parker’s Bargain Wines Guide 2011 said of the Terroir 11300 chardonnay. It’s available at Vintage Cellars.
Oh, and there was a Spaniard in the works, too. Bajondillo Mentrida Toledo tempranillo/merlot . It’s the sort of wine you could drink with anything … or nothing. I loved it.
As I did the Jim Barry 2006 First Eleven Cabernet Sauvignon. Being the cricket tragic that I am, I’ll try any drink that links to the great game. This cabernet would get a game in my first eleven.
Maybe 12th man (and not because it’s out of form) in my team would be Wild Rock Cupid’s Arrow 2009 pinot noir. I’ve been having a real crack at pinot and I’d probably have a go at this again. It’s fruity and herby, although the 14.5 alcohol (for me) was a bit on the sharp side.
During the absence of blogging, there have been a few other wines that have passed my lips. I used to keep a list of what I drank but gave it up with the blogging.
OK, it’s back to making lists ... and blogging.
Now it's off to the market to get some ingredients to make a green mango salad.