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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.

Perfect match: Pasi Petänen and Giorgio De Maria pop-up this March

Pasi Petänen and Giorgio De Maria outside Mecca Alexandria

Pasi Petänen and Giorgio De Maria outside Mecca Alexandria

Pasi Petänen said no more pop-ups. Then Giorgio De Maria called.

Former Marque and Café Paci chef Pasi Petänen and Rootstock Sydney co-founder Giorgio De Maria are teaming up for That's Amore, a series of 12 dinners kicking off next week and running through March.

Taking over Mecca coffee's HQ in Sydney's Alexandria, the pair are doing things a little differently. Instead of matching wines to each dish as per tradition, Petänen's weekly five-course set menu will be based around the flavours found in a selection of natural Italian wines under De Maria's own import label, Giorgio's Fun Wines.

"We're not going to plan too much ahead," says Petänen. "We want it to be as spontaneous as we can be."

They have a working outline, though: each Tuesday, De Maria will walk Petänen through the tasting notes of the wines he's chosen. Early the next morning, they'll seek out similar flavours at Sydney's Flemington Markets to create dishes that carry those same characteristics before opening on Thursday night.

"The dishes will be inspired by Giorgio," says Petänen. "It'll be spontaneous, sweet and sour, maybe a little bit salty as well. And Italian-influenced, just since he's super-Italian. But it'll be a little bit of him, a little bit of me."

While technically cheating, Petänen and De Maria have one course pre-planned: agnolotti del Plin, dumplings filled with rabbit and cabbage from De Maria's childhood but made with Petänen's own rye sourdough recipe. To match the acidity and rich buttery sauce, De Maria will pour either a pear cider from Tasmanian brewery Two Metres Tall, or a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from Italy's Collio Goriziano wine region. Maybe both.

As he looks for a permanent space, Petänen is breaking a self-imposed pop-up ban after spending last year bouncing between Sydney kitchens, including Yellow, Acme and Clayton Wells' auto.lab. But he couldn't resist De Maria's call.

"The only reason I'm doing this is Giorgio," says Petänen. "He's bigger than life, and just so positive and energetic that you can't say no when he gets so excited."

The pop-up's name is as much a nod to their love for fine food as it is to their respect for one another's work. De Maria counts himself among the biggest fans of Café Paci's roasted cabbage with pomelo and cavolo nero, while as a self-professed "dumb wine drinker", Petänen admires De Maria's enthusiasm and sharp pairing abilities.

Suitably, That's Amore is an intimate affair: while the café seats 60, the plan is to stagger the sittings in groups of 15. Candlelit tables not confirmed.

That's Amore at Mecca Alexandria, 26 Bourke Rd, Alexandria, NSW; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2-25 March. $75, plus wines (pairings by the glass and bottle). Bookings essential: email thatsamoreinsydney@gmail.com.

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