PIECE OF CAKE
Not-quite-unassuming Sydney high-school teacher by day, pastry-queen superhero by night, Katherine Sabbath's rapid rise to Instagram stardom (94,000 followers and counting) via the media of tall cakes, technicolour icing and no small amount of panache is a story to stir the admiration of home bakers everywhere.
WAX ON, WAX OFF
"It's got a lemongrass-kaffir lime flavour to it and we use it like kaffir lime - from savoury to sweet. It's really versatile," says Perth chef and Restaurant Amuse owner Hadleigh Troy of the lemongrass native to WA. Troy features it in dishes ranging from a ginger and Geraldton wax ice-cream to salsa verde. He began using the plant around four years ago, following a tip-off from his mother-in-law. It has featured on every menu at Amuse since.
THE WRIGHT BUFF
Kris Lloyd at Woodside Cheese Wrights uses milk from SA's first dairy buffalo herd to produce rich, luscious buffalo curd rather than the more familiar mozzarella. The buffalo, farmed on fertile Murray River flatlands at Mypalonga by Corey Jones, produce milk with full, creamy richness, which is balanced by a slight acidic bite in the seasoned Buff Curd. Jock Zonfrillo at Orana was the first chef to use it, while chef Tom Reid at Coriole Winery combines Buff Curd with quandongs and crisp saltbush. Lloyd's Artisan buffalo range also includes Persian-style feta and Buff Brie.
It's the powdered green tea savoured in Japan for its potent flavour, frothy constitution and nutritional zing, making waves overseas in the form of matcha "lattes" and desserts. With all the Nippon buzz at the moment, we think it's bound to go larger on our shores - in fact, Cho Cho San in Sydney has already worked it into a very popular and widely Instagrammed soft serve.
Swedish baking culture is having a moment. From small, cute places such as Fika café-bakery on Sydney's north shore to the world-beating bread chef Mikael Jonsson makes at Hedone in London, Swedes are making waves with their dough. Back in Stockholm, it's top chefs such as Mathias Dahlgren and Daniel Lindeberg opening the likes of The Green Rabbit and Lindeberg Bakery & Pâtisserie, respectively. Cinnamon buns ahoy.
Anthony Skara's intensely flavoured free-range Kangaroo Island bacon could well be the best rasher on the market. Skara, who recently expanded his processing butchery in the Adelaide Hills, has organised a reliable supply of outstanding free-range pigs from the Florance, Hodge and Bott family farms on Kangaroo Island. The same Humane Choice-certified pork is also used in Skara's ham, chorizo and other smallgoods.
When Mayumi Siu couldn't find decent miso in her adopted home of Brisbane, she tried her hand at making it. The artisan producer now offers a range of small-batch organic miso, using traditional production methods. Her miso features barley and different types of rice, as well as soybeans. Miso Club is run as an adjunct educating consumers about miso. Sasakani Kobo - the name roughly translates to "family first factory" - also sells koji and makes non-alcoholic amazake, a creamy fermented rice drink made with the same koji spores used to make miso and soy sauce.
THE RAW DEAL
Everything's coming up raw red meat right now, especially as a tartare. And while we love the classic French approach, right now invention is the order of the day, whether it's beef done as a tartare with oysters and potato chips (Ester), with clam mayo and mustard leaf (SuperNormal) or sauced with walnuts (Acme), or the wilder likes of wallaby with bunya nuts and purple carrots (Attica), goat with kale and Banyuls vinegar (Café Paci), or lamb with preserved lime, harissa and radish (Gerard's Bistro). We are meat-eaters, hear us raw.
THE UNI CYCLE
Remember that time when sea urchin roe wasn't everywhere and on everything? A happy time when the "#uniporn" (uni being the Japanese name for sea urchin) hashtag wasn't the lightning rod for the foodist equivalent of frat-boy boasting? Intensifying interest in Japanese food culture combined with the strength of the Australian dollar over the past decade, plus government programs encouraging abalone divers to diversify their catch, and a reasonably clean bill of health in terms of sustainability have placed it front and centre at our sushi bars and top tables, and there's no sign of it going away anytime soon.
THE BIG RED
It's big. It's red. And its dial is definitely set to delicious. Red Robin Supper Truck is the 1.5-tonne lovechild of Patience Hodgson and John Patterson (of The Grates) and chef-mate Rory Doyle. You'll find it parked semi-permanently in a beer garden behind Southside Tea Room in Morningside, east Brisbane - Hodgson and Patterson's spanking new eight-keg tap-house.
Is Aleppo pepper the most underrated spice in Australia? Shane Delia, chef-owner of Melbourne's Maha, reckons so. "In the Middle East, it's the go-to flavour. It's like air."
At Maha, a pomegranate and chocolate tart has a smoky nougatine that incorporates black Aleppo pepper, while cured swordfish comes with preserved lemon and Aleppo pepper dressing. "There are three varieties and they each have different strengths. The dry red one can be a bit harsh, the deeper red has more of a sweet heat and the black is ballsier, more pungent," Delia says. Chef Ben Williamson, at Brisbane's Gerard's Bistro, is another advocate of its "deeply savoury toasted flavour".
At Gerard's, the pepper is emulsified into a buttermilk dressing used with freshly shucked oysters. It amps up a tuna crudo, featuring salted blackberry and shiso leaves, and is mixed with buttermilk to add smokiness and heat to coal-grilled purple king beans.
Take soft serve. Now make it sea-salty. Divide it by watermelon. Add caramel popcorn. And marshmallow. And fairy floss. Multiply it by Instagram, and you've got Aqua S, the Sydney ice-creamery that's about to take over the world.
COMING OF AGE
If you're going to eat your beef cooked in 2015 in an Australian fine-diner, chances are it'll be dry-aged well beyond what has traditionally been considered usual. Restaurants such as Momofuku Seiobo have been experimenting with grass-fed wagyu aged as long as 154 days. Expect deep, rich, complex flavours - and a serious price tag to match.
Going beyond the use of micro-flowers, chef Ayhan Erkoc at Celsius is serving tiny matchstick cucumbers with the flowers still attached. He sprinkles them with yoghurt and vinegar powder, and serves them as a delicate snack to start the tasting menus he changes daily, based on produce picked that morning at his brother Kasim's farm in Murray Bridge. The micro-cucumbers have caused a stir - chefs all over Adelaide are after them, but Erkoc has this private stash to himself. Celsius, 95-97 Gouger St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8231 6023
KING OF CARLTON
The apparently unstoppable momentum that's given Carlton smoking-hotspot status on the food radar in recent times will get another shove this year as 131-year-old food-and-wine store King & Godfree undergoes a major renovation. Channelling the mega Enoteca chain Eataly, the new-look K&G will include a takeaway food depot, café and restaurant. If the first stage of the transformation - Pidapipó, the excellent gelateria that opened late last year - is anything to go by, the Valmorbida family's reboot of the institution will elevate Carlton's food credentials to even dizzier heights. King & Godfree, 293 Lygon St, Carlton, Vic, (03) 9347 1619
RICE & SHINE
Sesame cucumber, pickled carrot and ruby red grapefruit? At Rough Rice, a Hobart pop-up project from Tricycle Cafe's Adam James, the layering of flavours on the (biodynamic) brown-rice bowls may be complex, and sometimes unexpected, but it's always simpático. The season at MoMa (MONA's summer market) may have come to a close, but eager converts are marking the days till the next outing, planned during Dark MOFO's mid-winter festival, June 12-22. Tide yourself over with the @roughrice Instagram feed in the meantime.
We have the good people behind Yardbird and Ronin to thank for the term "curated convenience". The restaurateurs behind two of Hong Kong's hottest properties have branched out with their latest offering. Sunday's Grocery in up-and-coming Kennedy Town takes a tiny shopfront and turns it into something like the world's coolest 7-Eleven, with a tub of beers on ice and brilliantly edited products on the shelves that run from deeply obscure Japanese whisky brands and yuzukosho to Swedish sea-salt soap and bincho-tan charcoal. The short-and-sweet menu takes in hot sandwiches (roast pork, a killer katsu sando) and a choice of regular or Korean-style fried chicken.
IS THE BING THE NEW BAO?
The soft white bun seems pretty unstoppable, but its fellow Chinese invention the bing (specifically, the jian bing, a savoury pancake pliable enough to be used as a wrap and nicknamed the "Chinese breakfast burrito" by expats in Beijing) is equally compelling in terms of portability and potential for deliciousness. A fact that's already being exploited in Sydney by the likes of chains (or would-be chains) such as Beijing Alley, Mr Bing and Bing Master.
Australia is sold on the umami benefits of nori, wakame and konbu. And yet if chef Jared Ingersoll and academic Pia Winberg at Phyco Food Co have their way, we'll develop a taste for a homegrown weed they're branding as Kujee - also known as ulva or sea lettuce - which is being grown by Phyco at NSW's Shoalhaven. It's one of the ingredients in Phyco salt, which blends hand-gathered Tasmanian wakame with Olsson's macrobiotic salt. Via Phyco, the duo also sells Canadian sweet konbu, Portuguese ogonori and nori, plus colourful Hana Tsunomata, a sibling to Irish moss.
Edited by Pat Nourse & Eliza O'Hare Words Dominique Afacan, Max Allen, Akash Arora, Sophie Dening, Fiona Donnelly, Sue Dyson & Roger McShane, Michael Harden, Kendall Hill, Natasha Inchley, Maya Kerthyasa, Shane Mitchell, Katie Parla, Besha Rodell, Maggie Scardifield, David Sly, Anthea Tsaousis & Max Veenhuyzen