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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The return of the duck press

The duck press, one of the more obscure pieces of the classic French batterie de cuisine, is making something of a comeback. It won't be landing at a barbecue near you any time soon, but sharp-eyed diners at Sydney's Momofuku Seiobo may have spotted a press behind its bar. In Brisbane, chef-owner Romain Bapst, one of two maîtres canardiers in Australia, is flying the flag at his Lutèce Bistro & Wine Bar.

Canard à la presse dates from the 19th century. A heavy press is used to extract the blood and bone marrow from a partially roasted duck and the juices are used to create a rich sauce that's served with the breast and legs. The sauce is enriched with the duck's ground liver, butter and Cognac, or sometimes Calvados.

The best-known exponent of pressing is Paris's Tour d'Argent, where the dish is a signature and each duck is numbered. Larousse Gastronomique notes Charlie Chaplin ate duck 253,652, and Edward VII was served number 328 while still Prince of Wales.

To be authentic, the duck needs to be supplied intact with its guts in place, something that contravenes food regulations which require poultry to be eviscerated an hour after being killed.

"At the moment we don't do a lot with it. It's my personal duck press," says Momofuku Seiobo head chef Ben Greeno, who bought the press a year ago. "I've been reading a lot of Ducasse, and I saw it and just thought, 'let's have a look at it'." Greeno has pressed a few carcasses and finds his press works better with pigeon but nothing has made it to the menu - yet.

"We haven't tried squeezing a pork bun in it, but we've tried marron shells and lobster shells. They don't have much in them," says Greeno. "The other trouble is that you can't buy a duck with all its insides in it; you have to buy them separately and put them into it, which is kind of silly. But we'll play around with it."

Strasbourg-born Bapst found his hefty brass press in France 30 years ago and says the dish was popular in the '90s when he worked at Melbourne's Mietta's and Woollahra's Pruniers (now Chiswick).

When done correctly, he says, it's a treat beyond compare. "It's gamy because of the duck liver and because the breast is cooked on the bone until it is medium-rare. It's very unique."

Unable to source fresh duck with guts intact, Bapst intends to buy the hearts and livers separately and plans to confit the duck legs overnight rather than using the traditional method, because he believes mandatory evisceration makes them too tough to handle traditionally. "It's not the same but it's still very nice - the duck is still nice and tender and the sauce is enriched in the traditional manner."

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