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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

Secret Tuscany

A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Discovering Macedonia

Like its oft-disputed name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia defies simple definition but its rich diversity extends from the dinner table to the welcoming locals, writes Richard Cooke.

Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Meet the producers: Voodoo Bacon

Voodoo Bacon

Voodoo Bacon

It's bacon, but not as we normally know it: nitrate-free and dry-cured.

WHO Mississippi-born chef George Francisco has been busy finessing his bacon recipe since migrating to Australia in 2001. His aim? To recreate the intensely flavoured, southern-style, dry-cured smoked bacon he remembers from childhood. Last year, the expat left his executive chef role at Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley and relocated to sunny Noosa to set up Voodoo Bacon.

WHAT Each slab of bacon is handmade. Francisco sources bellies from free-range pigs from Ipswich in Queensland and applies a dry-cure of rock salt, brown sugar, juniper, thyme, garlic and assorted spices. The applewood used for smoking is from the Sunshine Coast. "As you cure, it gets salty, so you need smoke to get the balance right," says Francisco. "The applewood gives an equal amount of smoke, salt and sugar." Most commercial bacon is wet-cured to add bulk. Dry-curing takes longer and intensifies the flavour, but sheds around 40 per cent of the original piece of pork's weight. Francisco currently produces around 300 kilos per week, and his goal is to up it to 1,000 kilos. "I want to keep it artisanal." He cures his pork bellies skin-on for 10 to 15 days. "I've tried to reduce the salt level and change the recipe, but you just lose flavour."

WHY Voodoo bacon is nitrate-free. "There's nothing in there no one's not heard of," says Francisco. "Lots of bacon contains preservatives or they've used liquid smoke - you can smell that as soon as you open the packaging." He argues that with sell-by dates and refrigeration, there's no need for preservatives and we should get used to the natural colour of bacon, which turns brown when it's exposed to air. While Francisco sells it in super-thin slices for convenience, his preference is to sell it by the handbranded slab. "Nobody buys pre-sliced onions because they oxidise and taste bad, so why buy pre-sliced bacon?"

WHERE Voodoo Bacon is available wholesale at Vic's Premium Quality Meat Sydney and Melbourne. For retail, see Edgecliff's Gourmet Life, Victor Churchill and Vic's Meat Market at Sydney Fish Market. In Queensland, see Forest Glen's Kunara or Noosaville's Eumundi Meats. Customers can also order online from voodoobacon.com.au.

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