Food Features

Help Kickstart the Fonte ‘Tough Love’ cast iron pan

by Christine Salins on September 9, 2014

Fonte Tough Love cast iron pan

Mark Henry is a man on a mission. I first got to know him years ago when he launched his Füri knives onto the market. They’re still among my favourite knives and have really stood the test of time. Always an innovator, Mark has now created a cast iron pan, which he is launching via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com

If you pledge $99 towards the project, you’ll be rewarded with one of the Fonte ‘Tough Love’ pans, shipped free in Australia. This is the same price the pans will sell for when they are released onto the market, and you’ll have the added bonus that they will have “First Edition” and the casting date stamped on the bottom.

You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve helped get the project off the ground. But you’ll have to hurry as the Kickstarter appeal has a deadline of September 21. (I should stress here that this is NOT a sponsored post. I’m just happy to be spreading the word as I know Mark and admire his work.)

Mark HenryMark is the founder and engineer behind the well-known Füri knives business, which he sold in 2008. After decades of making knives and equipment for chefs in Australia, the USA and France, and exporting them all around the world, he has turned to creating cast iron pans.

While living in the USA, he found it interesting to see that American cooks had a long tradition of using cast iron pans. In recent years, there has been a huge rebirth of interest in cast iron cooking there as people seek a more natural alternative to non-stick polymer coatings.

Mark hopes that with his innovative new version of old technology, Aussie cooks might also embrace the cast iron revival.

Mark wanted to keep “all the good stuff” and improve on the traditional weaknesses of cast iron cookware. “I wanted to retain the best natural properties of cast iron pans, like their even heating and high temperature searing ability, and their famous multi-century durability,” he said. “If you can trust the source of the iron they are also the safest material to cook on, with no non-stick chemicals, just natural oil seasoning.”

The Fonte ‘Tough Love’ pans have been given a graceful French shape like a Lyonnaise sauteuse pan. (It is said that rounded-walled pans best for the sauté toss originated in Lyon, France.

Although cute, the racy love handles of the Fonte ‘Tough Love’ pans, long ergonomic handles with heart-shaped palm pads, are not a gimmick. “They’re carefully engineered for more comfort, control and less heat transfer up the handle – for high performance for chefs. It was about time someone did something about those uncomfortable, hot, stubby little handles on cast iron pans.”

Fonte Tough Love cast iron pans

For food safety, Mark wanted super-clean and trustworthy Australian cast iron. He is proudly manufacturing in Australia, even though he is under no illusion as to the inevitably higher cost.

Fonte Tough Love cast iron pans

The only way to get hold of the Fonte pan initially will be through Kickstarter.com. Once the project is off the ground, the pans will be distributed through retail outlets. The Fonte pan is the first in a long line of innovations that Mark expects will come from his new company, Solidteknics.

“We have three very interesting patents pending for other kitchenware innovations, so if Kickstarter really works for Fonte Tough Love pans in Australia, we may launch the other new products in the same way,” Mark said.

Here’s a link to the Kickstarter appeal if you’d like to become involved.

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Sunday Brunch at Buddy V’s, Las Vegas

by Alise Salins on September 5, 2014

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From Hoboken, New Jersey, to Las Vegas, Nevada, Cake Boss Buddy Valastro has found himself a new home in The Venetian Las Vegas.

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It’s not uncommon for big name chefs to open signature restaurants in the city of sin. Chefs Giada de Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck have all given their names to Las Vegas establishments.

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Buddy Valestro, or the Cake Boss as he’s referred to on his television series of the same name, has brought his home-style, Italian-American cooking to the West Coast. Lucky for me! As a huge fan of the series, when I noticed that the star had opened a Carlo’s Bakery in the Grand Canal Shoppes of The Venetian, I couldn’t wait to visit.

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Stumbling upon Buddy V’s Ristorante was a happy accident. It’s located across from Carlo’s Bakery, and as we were in the mood for something more substantial than cannoli, we decided to check it out. (Don’t worry, there’s cannoli at the restaurant too!)

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The Sunday brunch menu is really quite extensive and at $32.95 per person all you can eat, it’s priced reasonably. To start, there are antipasto options like fresh prawns, cheeses, salami, salads, soups, croissants, muffins and other baked goods. There wasn’t a chance in hell we would leave hungry.

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From the Chef’s Corner, there was a great mix of sweet and savoury, breakfast and lunch options. Mac n’ cheese carbonara, panettone French toast, Sunday style eggs, roast vegetable frittata and let’s not forget Grandma’s meatballs.

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For protein, we dined on applewood smoked bacon, chicken and apple sausages and just-carved maple-glazed ham from the carvery. The experience was very interactive.

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Our server could not let us forget his favourite part, the sweets. After all, Buddy is famous for his sweets! The red velvet cake in particular was exceptional, moist with a hint of chocolate. But I have to mention the cannoli – delicious, and a perfect end to an Italian meal. If neither of those take your fancy, you’ll also find zonuts, tiramisu, coffee cake, an assortment of candy, and much more, to enjoy.

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Basically, if you like wholesome, Italian home-style cooking, you’ll love Buddy V’s.

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What I loved about Buddy V’s was the hands-on involvement of the staff. It felt as though we had been invited to a private function, the chefs all working away in the kitchen as we helped ourselves to the warm dishes, displayed so casually on the kitchen pass through. You know at the end of the night when restaurants whip up big family-style dishes to feed their staff and everyone then sits around a big table to eat? This is exactly how it felt.

Fact file:

Buddy V’s
Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian | The Palazzo
3327 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
USA
Tel: 702 607 2355

www.buddyvlasvegas.com

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Dessert For Dinner At Bacchus, Rydges Southbank

by Alise Salins on August 20, 2014

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Thinking about date night this weekend? Lost for a Father’s Day present for your dad who ‘doesn’t want anything’? Don’t worry, I have you covered.

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For those who like to finish a meal on a sweet note, how about beginning on one as well? Life is short, isn’t it? So let’s order dessert first!

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Head chef of Bacchus Southbank, Mark Penna, says: “Life is uncertain, therefore always opt for the Dessert Degustation, it’s five times as sweet.” I adore a degustation, a word used by the French to mean ‘taste carefully’ – and the one at Bacchus is no exception.

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Before the courses actually start, we’re treated with chocolate cigars and homemade marshmallow rolled in coconut. Plus, delicious beignet-type treats with a subtle hint of citrus, covered in fine sugar and accompanied by a creamy condiment for dipping.

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For the main menu, out comes a deconstructed raspberry pannacotta with fresh and freeze dried raspberries, vanilla cheese cake and a deep pink, fruity sorbet. A touch of white pepper balances out the mild bitterness of the raspberry. Sablé lies between panna cotta bites, adding texture to the dish.

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For an additional $20, each course can be paired with an expertly matched vino.

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Next up we have a micro-brownie, with micro mint next to.. regular sized hazelnuts. The chocolate conduit is filled with a delectable hazelnut mousse – is there anything nicer than cracking perfectly tempered chocolate to reveal a smooth creamy filling?

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Switching gears, out comes a mid-course palate cleanser. Cooling and fresh, with light notes of lemon and lime and a sprinkle of mint, I’m ready to continue the feast.

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Now we have crispy, sticky, toasted polenta. A favourite of the table, this dish aims to please. With scorched almonds and toasted meringue brushing the plate, it’s easy to see how.

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Surprise! We’re treated to a walk in the park. Okay, this doesn’t count towards the actual walk in the park I will have to take after this meal, but I’ll take it.

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The chef asks us to close our eyes and imagine rummaging through thick forestation. Feel the crunch of the praline, like rocks beneath feet, the snap of the branch hand painted with edible dye, the rock, a salted caramel ice cream rolled in chocolate dirt.

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Greenery is added in the form of pistachio cake and micro herb. This is not a dish you can pre-make, each one skilfully handmade and plated right before serving.

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Our Head Chef hand delivers the next dish. He carefully punctures the soufflé, and pours a warm cinnamon crème anlgaise inside. The apple crumble soufflé, paired perfectly with a vanilla bean ice cream and simulated cinnamon quill, is a warm delight.

We learn that the cubed apple on the side has been cryovaced, a process in which food is sealed and cooked in airtight plastic which gives it a really unique taste and texture. Head Chef Mark isn’t one for chem-cooking, he says, but merely a slight introduction of molecular gastronomy.

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The last course of the evening is a not-your-average sticky date pudding. Guarded by a perfectly tempered chocolate fortress marked ‘B’ for Bacchus, the pud is warm on the inside and so am I.IMG_6991-imp

Complemented by a prune and Armagnac ice cream, this is the perfect note to end on.

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To finish, a selection of petite-fours, which included Pastry Chef Tammy Cole’s own creation of handmade, miniature Golden Gaytimes. Gold leaf adorns mini macarons, mouth-wateringly moist marshmallows resemble radish and chocolate truffles – all trying to find room in the tummies of happy diners.

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My favourite? The white chocolate shards, sprinkled with toasted fennel – a truly magical combination.

Whatever you do, do not let guilt ruin the experience. After all, dessert is good for you! This is happiness, rolled in a bit of delicious, dipped in lip-smacking crunch. Put this on your to-do list this weekend and at least you’ll get one thing done.

Crafted by Head Chef Mark Penna with 26-year-old Pastry Chef Tammy Cole, the five-course Bacchus Dessert Degustation ($49pp) is a treat. Enjoy after a meal, as a late supper or like me – on its own, in all its glory.

Fact file:

Bacchus Restaurant
Podium level, Rydges Southbank
Corner of Great and Glenelg Streets, Brisbane, Australia
Details: www.bacchussouthbank.com.au

Alise was a guest of Rydges Southbank.

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