Some recent work for the new Madame Shanghai in Darlinghurst, Sydney.
There’s a little bit of darkness in all of us, and I’ve just found it in edible form.
Welcome Domino’s to your Limited Time Only debut. NEW! Bolognese Garlic Baguette, only $6.95 each says the internet. Garlic and herb bread! Aussie ground beef! Rich bolognese sauce! As I suspected, Dominos have taken components that already exist on their bland menu and uncreatively mashed the two together, or rather, one into the other, and burnt it in the oven.
Here’s the thing: garlic bread ain’t bad. Garlic bread is good. As foodie as you aspire to be, no one can resist the allure of the loaf once it hits the table, the warped aluminum a basic blessing. It’s the terrible rich bolognese sauce which drags everything about this baguette through the mud: it tastes exactly like that foundational slop used on $5 pizzas, that snouty base-level meatlovers stuff. The thing opens and reveals itself like a nasty clam: greased up and clumpy. The paramount yet putrid and wet bolognese has made the garlic bread mushy. Add to this the unnecessary rubbered up cheese (the sort of cheese that clogs and clags rather than delights) and a condescending smattering of condescending shallots for that gourmet touch: Taste the colours the stained bag reads, but I feel nothing. Garlic bread and pizza sauce palmed off as something new, what an absolute shocker. No fast food is ever prosaic, but this is stupid and void of fun. Miserable and so sad.
To see the familiarity of garlic bread doomed by a pile of shit is unpleasant. That rich bolognese sauce represents that little bit of darkness in all of us. I have it, you have it, we all have it: the bad memories, repressed trauma, scars of past relationships, romantic or otherwise. All our insecurities, quiet suffering, the bad, bad things that move beyond #relatable #content our followers will never see. Why don’t you ever #tbt to the worst time in your life? This rich bolognese sauce is all of us at our worst. It’s me at my worst. It’s something bad ruining us from the insides, if we let it. On my worst days, as rare as they are, I can feel everyone who’s ever wanted me to fail living inside my head, just really crammed in there, and I spend all the energy I have fighting the urge to exist how people perceive me because giving into these dumb, bad thoughts is simply not an option. It’s momentarily arresting (you could say, for a limited time only), I foresee the end of an unsustainable career, I want to crumble because there’s no reset button. At my worst, my extroversion grabs a hold of me and won’t let go: it turns its defenses, fires inwards, and wreaks havoc. If I let it.
The most successful people in life keep this little bit of darkness inside themselves in check, manageable, and used as a tool for wonderful perspective. Sadness doesn’t define a personality, but anybody who claims to be void of sadness is lying (cough #blessed wellness warriors). Sadness isn’t a parasite, it’s the part in us that helps us understand the light and shade of life, it’s a window to a world of understanding, a scope so vast and clear.
But, Domino’s, if you let that darkness consume you or let it go too far you’ll end up too soft, confused, burnt… and most likely in the bin without having even tried.
Shooting at a half-finished venue days before opening, here’s some recent work for Sydney’s newest viking destination Mjølner.
Assembly line like old times, construction like ravioli, kinda. Cheese, sultanas and two types of dough by experienced hands, the sort of hands who’ve seen more than I ever will in this lifetime, a crown of sesame seeds. These are flaounes, a traditional Cypriot bread prepared every Easter. A tablecloth is drawn over a temporary trundle where the accumulation begins: batch after batch after batch.
Lunch follows: barbecued things over coals, haloumi, olives pickled by papou, melitzanes glyko steeped by yiayia. These are the things you won’t find in any restaurant, only the homes of incredible immigrants. These small acts of tradition flown and sailed over seas are what make Australia so good.
You can’t undo years of taking your culture for granted, but there’s no time like the present to show appreciation.
“This is the worst McDonald’s in Hong Kong”, a young businessman with an American accent jokes beside me. “Hah, yeah, of all the places in the airport I don’t know why I decided to dine here”, I lie, “hahahaha”, and we both laugh, while my eyes remain sternly fixated on the lightbox advertising their limited time only Spicy Beef Burger. I’ve been in line for what seems like 20 minutes, it’s a bloody outrage, or at least that’s what I’d be saying if I were at home in ‘Straya.
I receive my order and apparently accidentally ordered a really large Coke – I offload the enormous cup to my new corporate friend and find a seat to dissect this international oddity before my flight to London. There’s only room in my stomach for one piece of garbage tonight.
Firstly, why the hell is Shrek on the box? Secondly, the “green” iceberg lettuce is more desaturated than a Kinfolk feature on whimsical rooftop gardens. Thirdly, the generous lashings of beef as advertised are actually four limp, perfectly square beef “patties”, the texture as manufactured as discarded, worn out yoga mats (not that I’d really know what that feels like), or some odd, old, thick cut lumpy brown ham. Biting into four back-to-back layers of spongy post-it-note sized beef flaps has me imagining some sort of gross mille-feuille in a bizarro parallel universe.
The sauce is sweet, and to their credit is at least a little spicy.
I nurse the sad burger in one apathetic hand and at a glance notice four floppy beefy tongues sluggishly toppling over one another. Four stupid razzing tongues right up in my face. They look like four :P emoticons. Oh god. The worst emoticon of all time, used solely by awkward boys and wielded exclusively by fedora-wearing men dipping their terrible toes into the unpredictable waters of female companionship via MSN Messenger or text message (“you’d have a nice time if you came to my bedroom haha :P”). Cannot unsee. :P is the biggest cop out, a linguistic tool reserved only for the spineless. I’ve never met a good man who used :P and I’ve never ended a friendship on good terms with a man who used it frequently. I remember them all. :P is not cute and this burger reminds me of the lame boys I used to know offline and converse with online: cautiously gauging interest, lacking the ability to stand by their own tasteless convictions and instead opting to hide behind the world’s most cowardly suffix of an emoticon. A tepid, confused and flaccid mess.
The above is an excerpt from my self-published book Holiday Notes.
Hungry? Excitable for what’s cool and good? The following filthy premonitions (photos and words) were commissioned by and appeared in Curium Edition Four. Big thanks to Jessi for getting me involved.
The New Namaste Bowl
Imagine being the kind of person who’s so damn boring they relocate to coastal New South Wales just to form some sort of personal brand, a tattooed shell wading in a pool of wide brimmed hats and tepid artistic notions – one of those annoying bastards raking in instagram likes and dollars, hurling transparent sponsored posts to naive and oblivious followers. Another photo of an immaculate smoothie bowl served in a half coconut? Nobody has time for that sort of self care! Here is the real namaste bowl for us working men and women: Moccona Medium Roast whipped smoothie adorned with every sugary cereal in the supermarket aisle, in whatever bowl is clean, served on your table still stained from last night’s filthy MenuLog binge. Good morning, world! Brown is the new green.
We Get It, You’re High Right Now
No longer satisfied with the subtle wink and a nudge associated with being a little hungry after you know what, the powers that govern our online social behaviours have reached unanimous agreement: if you got it, flaunt it. If you blaze it, praise it. Gone are the days of subtle 420 references. Huge green leaves are plastered on venue walls literally spelling out that stoner food is our lethargic future of cool. Prepare a peanut butter and brownie pie, dye it green and top it with crumbled brownie and enough Doritos, Twisties and Cheese and Bacon Balls to leave even the most proper connoisseur of green with cheese matted fingertips. Smoke drugs. But first, tell everyone that you do.
How’s your instagram follower count going? Are you ready to celebrate your paltry number of followers yet with a sweeping, calligraphic thank you message to all of your supporters? Need a little boost until then? Well here you are: rainbow scrambled eggs and avo, a perfect brunch accompaniment to a subpar social media presence. It will look great next to your timely regram of Bondi Icebergs.
Double down or go home boys! Two beef steaks cradle cheese, peanut butter, Nutella, a donut and tomato sauce. Has outlandish burger culture surpassed the need for burger buns? Has the Nutella laden lifestyle of Sydney infiltrated each and every culinary crevice? Much like the recent extreme milkshake calamity of Sydney, structural integrity is irrelevant now – to become successful simply hurl what you can at at the godforsaken thing. Appease your inner manchild, who is clearly cruisin’ for an disgusting oozin’.
Pub culture, or RSL Chic as I have penned the phenomenon, is reaching its inevitable peak: fine hors d’oeuvres served on Jatz, the “revival” of the roast chook (which actually never, ever went away, but whatever), dishes possibly imagined from the worst “Easy Microwave Dinner” cookbooks of the 70s, and white bread as far as the white guy can see. Behold, the seafood extender sandwich: combining facets of both New Casual Dining and 90s Australiana. Pair this fistful of minced ocean dregs with a shit beer and bask in the knowledge that you ate That Cool Thing at That Cool Place first.
A Foraged Lunch
When times are dire we are all urban foragers in our homes – your living room carpet a gentle, rolling moss. Mastering good plating by way of negative space and immaculate objects means you’re 90% there to creating a Michelin-starred masterpiece! Stale old cracker? Cool. That half packet of M&Ms lying around? Even better. Crusty old miso paste? Quenelle it. A single rocket leaf in your failing balcony garden grasping at its last few moments of life, an anchovy fillet, some really old muscatels from the cheese plate of a dinner party hosted with your last thread of dignity and a smattering of… stock cube? Yummy. Rene Redzepi eat your flawless Danish heart out. Be the forager you wish to see in the world.
It seems every 1.5 years I visit Melbourne and write about Melbourne – it’s so great, I’m so sad, life is pain. My life is garbage, Melbourne is good. My emotions are incorrect, my skills are subpar, and Melbourne is good. I’m trapped in a cage and Melbourne is good. Here’s Exhibit A and Exhibit B. But 1.5 years is a significant amount of time to grow and has evaporated most of those feelings of Melbourne existing as a hypothetical space of what I could have been.
So my guide to enjoying Melbourne in 2016 is simple: Melbourne is so nice, but this time the grass is greener on my side.
Good places to eat and be: QT Hotel Melbourne, Higher Ground, Biggie Smalls, Bad Frankie, Top Paddock, Tivoli Road Bakery, Stagger Lee’s, Brighton Beach, Marion Wine, Lune Croissanterie, Four Pillars Distillery, Beechworth Bakery, Yarra Valley Dairy, Manchester Press.
Being a photographer with roots in food blogging makes me a resolute holiday snapper. I’ve just returned from a few days in Melbourne and while I normally produce entire blog posts of photos recounting days of eating and nice symmetry, tonight I’m isolating some holiday snaps from the amazing Lune Croissanterie. I don’t do lines, but the climate-controlled cube, the polished concrete floors and negative space coupled with the art of doing one thing and one thing well… let’s just say I’m no longer eating pastry unless it’s mathematically correct. If you can, get there.