Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Announcing February

Daniel thinks he is probably better at pouring wine than cooking

January's inaugural Cooking Your Calendar event was loads of fun, and we've been inundated with 'offers' from friends to fill chairs at the dinner table for February's do. To keep each dinner interesting and varied we long debated how to approach it and who to invite. Daniel suggested we tie it in with his 35th birthday on the 25th but then got greedy thinking he'd never be able to cater for each of his 670 Facebook friends.

Our dear friend and neighbour, Elizabeth Stanton, offered her apartment for the event and suggested we link it with Valentine's Day. An inspired decision we thought, knowing deep down Liz was single and probably hoping we'd invite her future husband. That remains to be seen, but we can announce our invitees for February as reality television producer Jackie Martin, advertising & design director James Hossack, filmmaker Heath Davis, and of course curator and arts writer Elizabeth Stanton - our already mentioned hostess with the... you know how it goes.

Our Cooking Your Calendar team has three excellent cooks, as you saw with Pete's stellar effort this month. None of us, however, can claim professional chef status - despite Drew thinking he's professional by bloodline because his chef twin brother has cooked for big name international superstars. Daniel is the exception, freely admitting he'd rather organise an iTunes playlist, re-hang the art collection, set the table or pour the wine than have to ever cook. He last cooked something in say 1990-something-or-other. So to prove his opposable thumbs aren't entirely primate in the kitchen, he volunteered to cook February's recipe, which is Spaghetti Puttanesca by Leanne De Bortoli.

Speaking of Leanne De Bortoli, she actually emailed during the week to say "Great to see this project up and running. Even better that we didn't think of it ourselves". Leanne also mentioned that the history of the dish is quite amusing and worth Googling. Curiosity got the better of us and we learned via Wikipedia that spaghetti a la puttanesca is a "whore's dish"! Well, not exactly today. But the three potential origins for the dish claim it is made from the "odds and ends found in the larder... any kind of garbage". It also derives from the Italian word for whore puttana, and according to one chef quoted on Wikipedia, it was a quick cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers.

Sounds delicious and mind the pun, pretty 'easy', which suits amateur chef Daniel to a T.

We promise not to take it this far with the "whore's spaghetti"
(image found thanks to Google Images)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooking January

Rachel and Julia chat over a glass of
De Bortoli Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay

Sunday night was our inaugural Cooking Your Calendar dinner party – a raging success as far as we were concerned. Our guests, Kate Murphy, Vincent Sheehan, Don Cameron and Julia Park arrived to the delicious aroma of Emeri De Bortoli's recipe Pollo in Tecia (pan cooked chicken), at our dinner party venue in Kings Cross.

Our slow-cooking king, Pete, asked to be head chef this month, which worked well as the tiny kitchen is only built for one. He used two organic chickens sectioned by our local butcher and herbs picked fresh from Rachel’s Dad’s vegetable garden in the Blue Mountains. Pete can never be trusted to follow a recipe to a T, and true to form he freestyled it a bit.

Pollo in Tecia (pan cooked chicken)

With the chook doing its own thing, simmering in the tomatoes and wine, we headed upstairs to the rooftop terrace to kick off the evening with a cheeky glass of bubbles - De Bortoli’s Windy Peak Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay. With fruit bats flying overhead we toasted the start of our year-long project. Our guests were genuinely excited to be inaugural invitees to our project as we talked about some approaches we’re workshopping for future dinner parties. Julia shamelessly angled for a February invite when she caught wind that our next dinner party is scheduled for Valentine’s Day.

By the time Pete served dinner on the roof, the lights of Sydney had come to life and everyone was deep in conversation amid the sounds of the street below. There was definitely a creative vibe to the evening, with a filmmaker, film producer, curator, designer and several artists around the table. So conversation flowed easily as we all made connections and exchanged banter. When the discussion turned to recent films we’d seen, Daniel was disgraced for being the only one not to like Avatar (though Drew did chime in that he'd read a review about how it was seemingly ‘racist’ in tone).

Keeping the film theme alive, an idea was voiced about famous food scenes from movies making a great recipe book. Vincent thought the ‘french toast’ scene from Kramer vs Kramer could work; Drew proposed the ‘offal and human flesh’ scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an edgier option (though only Pete agreed); while Rachel dreamed of cooking every food ever mentioned in Enid Blyton's books. Clearly our ideas are a bit half-baked (no pun intended).

January's chef, Pete, in a product placement moment

The De Bortoli calendar recommended teaming the Pollo in Tecia with the Sero Chardonnay Pinot Grigio. Several glasses later, we were all in very cheery agreement that this combo was well matched. With this, Drew hoofed it to the local bottle shop for replenishments.

Risking sore heads on a ‘school night’, the party dispersed around midnight as a Chardonnay eclipse enveloped the apartment. Already today in the ‘wash up’, Drew and Rachel have been fiercely debating the guest list for February (which we will announce in a week). Do we play Valentine’s Day cupids and matchmake our single friends over glasses of love potion 12.1% proof?

Post-dinner chatting back in the apartment

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On the radio

The De Bortoli Wine Arrives

On Wednesday a De Bortoli truck arrived with the wine, making the Cooking Your Calender project a reality. That same day we were contacted through the blog by radio personality Pete Dillon, inviting us to chat on his 94.9 Joy FM (Melbourne) food and beverage show. Daniel contacted Pete to lock in the time, which is today (Saturday) at 1:30pm. If you're in Melbourne at that time, make sure you tune in!

Only 8 more sleeps now until we host our inaugural Cooking Your Calendar event.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to Cooking Your Calendar

In December 2009, the four of us went to see the Fleetwood Mac concert at the Hunter Valley. We visited several wineries and De Bortoli's cellar door was by far the stand out.

After spending big from doing our Christmas shopping at De Bortoli's, we were all given complimentary 2010 calendars. Each month of the calendar features delicious recipes written by the De Bortoli family paired with a particular wine.

While drinking the presents we bought for other people and talking about how much we loved Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia, we made a pact to cook De Bortoli's calendar. Month by month we would host a dinner party featuring the dish and of course the wine.

We approached De Bortoli with our project and to see whether they'd provide the wine. They fell in love with the idea and the rest is history. As 30-somethings involved in the arts, we plan on inviting pretty hot guests.

Pete is cooking the first recipe Pollo in Tecia (Pan Cooked Chicken) on Sunday 17th January. We are inviting video artist Kate Murphy, film producer Vincent Sheehan, filmmaker Don Cameron, and designer Julia Park.

Stay tuned...