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My favourite city in the world: Queenstown

April 7, 2012 6 comments

I thought long and hard before creating this post with the title that it has. It’s a big call, especially given how many great places I have travelled to. I thought of the obvious places like Rome, Paris, Sydney, San Diego, Vegas, Madrid and then some less obvious but still amazing places like Playa del Carmen, Hamilton Island, Silver Star and Racha Island. But my fourth and current visit to Queenstown has proven its place at the top of my list. I surprised Puneet with the trip this Easter long weekend (she knew we were going somewhere but not where, at least until the damn fools at the aereporto check-in counter gave it up). The city is indescribable. From the pristine water to the friendly locals to the backdrop of mountains surrounding the town and everything in between it is nothing short of perfection.

Queenstown Lake

The air is clean and during the cooler months the smell of fireplaces burning all around town envelops the town. There is so much to do: if you’re into the great outdoors then you’ll find no shortage of adventures or if you prefer to spend your time indoors there are a plethora of quaint restaurants, bars and places to chill out. An obvious favourite of mine is Wine Tastes the wine tasting centre in the middle of town. The idea behind it is that upon entering you are given a card which you can then insert into any one of the many machines surrounding the edge of the restaurant littered with wine bottles and descriptions to get either a taste, half glass or full glass of the particular wine. It is an excellent way to taste wine and the little touches of being able to order cheese or dip platters as well as the warm decor only adds to it’s charm.

This isn’t going to be a particularly long entry, and I will be sure to update at least once more on the specifics of what we did while here but there are two things that have excited me greatly this time that did not on any prior trips. The first is the availability and awesomeness of the Bluff Oyster. I had never heard of it until on this trip when we were walking throughout the streets of town and written in chalk on every specials board of every restaurant was “BLUFF OYSTERS AVAILABLE NOW” or “BLUFF OYSTER SEASON HAS BEGUN”. And if the restaurant didn’t have a specials board, they pulled out a board just to announce the arrival and availability of the bluff oyster. Needless to say I was intrigued.

A little online research of the bluff oyster found countless references to it being the best oyster in the world or, if the reviewer was particularly nitty, it fell to the pitiful rank of one of the best oysters in the world. So, today with lunch, I ordered up half a dozen of the bad boys:

Bluff Oysters

Outstanding. 10/10. The best oyster (perhaps the best thing ever) I have eaten. For starters they were enormous. The were creamy, but not too creamy, especially for an oyster of the size. They were intense in flavour. The first thought that came to mind was “this is a sydney rock oyster on steroids”. They were served with a sherry vinaigrette but they didn’t need it and I didn’t use it. They were perfect as is or with a bit of lemon. Holy moly. You probably think i’m overselling these things, but i’m not. I’ll be eating them every day for the rest of the trip, that’s for sure.

I mentioned two things but the second doesn’t seem all the exciting (at least not yet) compared to what I’ve just written. Tomorrow we’re heading out on a private fishing trip with Clearwater Fishing for 5 hours – something I have wanted to do ever since my friend Daniel went on one in Sydney a couple of months ago. I’ll definitely be taking photos and reporting back with a trip report after the fact but for now i’ll just end with: Queenstown is the nuts and to be continued…

p.s I also found a cool tree:

Tree!

2012 Aussie Millions Recap + A Restaurant Review: The Atlantic

February 13, 2012 3 comments

That time of year has come and gone again where pros and recreational players from all around Australia (+ those game enough to travel from anywhere else in the world) came together for the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne. It’s always a different experience for everyone who comes: some grind a tonne of cash, some play all the tourneys, some just the Main Event and others stop by just for the fun non-poker related activities. For me and the group of friends I was staying with it was mostly a few tourneys + a lot of non-poker related fun. This included a bunch of fantastic meals, a trip to the aquarium and a road trip to Philip Island to see the penguin parade not to mention some more off the beaten track Melbourne exploration. Well I say “off the beaten track” but in reality it was still all very central and beatenly tracky. The thing is — at least when it comes to poker players — anything further than a 5 minute walk away from the casino is basically the outback. So we hopped on our kangaroos and discovered (or re-discovered where others had told us to go, and by others i mean the internet) a few funky bars and one particularly awesome coffee/breakfast joint (ok, this one was recommended by a real person, thanks to Jay “seabeast” Kinkade for recommending it on 2p2!).

We had rented a 3br apartment across the road from Crown where we all stayed. It was Puneet and I, Gavin (Gavz101) and his gf Olivia, Mike (gordo16) and his lady friend Emma and Daniel (he plays euro sites so he has no screen name) and his female counterpart, his 27″ monitor.

Puneet and I were only there for eight days, as were most of the others, so that in itself didn’t leave for a lot of time to fit in cash games, tournaments + other stuff. I personally restricted myself to two tournaments and zero cash games. It wasn’t so much a planned restriction but when there were other amazing and more fun things to do the prospect of grinding live poker just wasn’t high on the list. Besides, I was able to at least muster together the motivation to put in a few hours playing online each day. Daniel and I found ourselves waking up at 7-8am most mornings, walking down to St. Ali for some breakfast + amazing coffee then returning home to put in a few hours of poker. Those sessions definitely stemmed my already limited desires to play live cash.

I played the $5k Chinese poker event as well as the $2.5k PLO. I failed to cash in either but both were fun events and I had swapped 5% with both Daniel and Mike who placed 6th and 7th respectively in the PLO. Also congrats to Mike for placing 2nd in the Chinese poker tourney. I forget Mike, did you get a trophy for that? (excuse the inside joke). The only other notable result was Gavz bubbling the main event by a handful of spots.

On the food and drink side of things we managed to hit up quite a few places: Flower Drum, Spice Temple, Movida, Movida Aqui, Lucky Chan, The Atlantic and St. Ali. I’d like to review them all but that would take forever so I’ll start with one or two and add the rest either as smaller/quicker reviews and/or will post them later as I have more time. Let’s start with The Atlantic:

The Atlantic is a restaurant specialising in seafood (surprise surprise) within Crown along the Southbank side. I went here three times, all for lunch, and all were excellent. In addition to the restaurant part of the venue they also have an oyster bar and a downstairs cocktail lounge called The Den. I didn’t try either but Puneet and Emma went to the cocktail lounge one night while Mike and I were in tourneys for a drink and said it was very nice. Despite not trying the oyster bar per se, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order oysters off the menu each time I went. They had four options: Cowell Bay (South Australia), Duck Bay (Tasmania), Cloudy Bay (Tasmania) and Moreton Island Rock (New South Wales). They varied in flavour and texture but all were excellent, very fresh, and perfectly shucked.

Oysters at The Atlantic

Oysters at The Atlantic

The food was consistently very good. Twice we ordered individual dishes and the third time we ordered a bunch of their sharing plate options, the food was great in all instances. The Smoked Slow Roasted Quail with grilled figs, rocket salad, quail egg and blasamic jus gras was my favourite starter and of all the mains that I had and tried the Steamed Wild Barramundi with confit fennel, blood orange, fennel foam and pink peppercorn powder was the best. Drinks went off without a hitch too with all the wine we ordered being great not to mention the excellent cocktails. I’ll give the food & drink an 8.5/10.

Steamed Barramundi from The Atlantic

Steamed Barramundi from The Atlantic

Service was a bit of a mixed bag. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exceptional either. A couple of times we had to wait exceptionally long to place our orders or ask for something else but for the most part it was decent enough. On one occasion our waiter or the manager deduced we were poker players and it was a lunch right before the Chinese poker event Mike and I were playing so he immediately ran to ask the kitchen to rush our food out – that was a nice touch. Overall I give the service a 7.5/10.

The Ambiance of the restaurant was incredibly pleasant. Everything from the decor, layout, lighting and presentation of the space to the indoor/outdoor seating areas and individual rooms that gave you a very private dining experience worked wonderfully together. I sat in three completely different areas each time we went and none were even close to the others. They have a large space and use it very well — it’s not just one giant seating area with a bunch of tables. It’s far enough away from the gaming floor that you could convince yourself you’re not even at a Casino, especially if you enter from the Southbank side. I give the Ambiance a 9/10.

The Engine Room at The Atlantic

The Engine Room at The Atlantic

Value for money is always a tricky one. You can usually expect to pay a premium for any restaurant located within or in close proximity to a casino (especially one as prestigious as Crown which prides itself on offering high-end dining). The Atlantic is no exception but it certainly doesn’t use this fact as an excuse to unreasonably inflate their prices either which is refreshing. It’s definitely not a cheap eat, or a “cafe style” lunch but for a bit of a splurge and consistently good food it lives up to expectations. I’ve definitely had worse food for the same or more money and comparing it to the other options available in and around Crown it fares well. Oysters will set you back $3.50 to $4.50 each with a dozen ranging from $38 to $48 depending on the variety. Starters hover around the $25-$30 range and most main courses hit around the $40-$45 mark. Exceptions are the crayfish platter or “today’s catch” which are both sold at market price. All things considered I give The Atlantic an 8/10 for value for money. If the food wasn’t as good as it was this number would definitely drop quite quickly.

Verdict: I give The Atlantic a 33/40. If you’re in or near Crown and you like seafood, this is the place to go. I’ll definitely be returning.

After the Aussie Millions we returned home and Gavin and Olivia came too to spend a few days in sunny rainy Sydney. We made it out to the Hunter Valley one night where we hit up some wineries and had an incredible meal at Muse (more on this later). On the one day of sun we had we took full advantage: an afternoon at Bondi Beach, evening hanging out in our local park by the water and by night we had a feast. I BBQ’d some chicken wings then cooked my infamous rib-eye’s inside. Gavz and Liv made one of the best chocolate cakes in existence and Puneet was on cocktail duty. A pretty much perfect night.

Cake & Cocktail Production

Cake & Cocktail Production

I have much more to say and share but for now I’ll wrap this post up. My plans for the immediate future are more online grinding for a week until I head to India for 8 days for a cousin’s wedding. I haven’t been back for a few years (far too long!) and i’m sure the wedding will be amazing so i’m incredibly excited — i’ll have to remember to take plenty of photos and post some up when I return. Hope everyone is well – Cheers!

Restaurant Review – Jonahs at Whale Beach

January 16, 2012 7 comments

One of my blog goals for the years is to review more of the restaurants Puneet and I go to. It’s no secret that I love good food and with so many great options available both in Sydney and elsewhere these days it can be hard to keep track of what’s good and what isn’t. Hopefully the reviews help others in their choices + serve as reminders for us for the future.

I’ve thought a bit about how to rate each place and what categories to use and have decided on the following: A total score will be awarded out of 40.

10 points each food & drink, service, ambiance and value for money. They’re all pretty self explanatory. Value for money can be tricky when you’re comparing a $150 dinner to a $30 dinner as the former is rarely worth five times as much as the latter (diminishing returns blah blah blah) so i’ll try and use it as an indicator for evaluating a place against other places of a similar price point. There are definitely times when an expensive dinner seems totally worth it and other times when it doesn’t, similarly many times a value dinner will be incredible or just terrible.

Anyway, we have been to several places worthy of review over the past few weeks and I expect to get to the others shortly but to begin with, here’s a review of Jonahs at Whale Beach.

Jonahs Whale Beach

Jonahs at Whale Beach

website

Jonahs is a boutique hotel with restaurant and outside bar located high atop a cliff at Whale Beach. It is a part of the Relais Chateaux (from their website):

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 475 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in 55 countries.

Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its unique art de vivre across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character.

Furthermore, Relais & Châteaux is also a family of hoteliers and Grands Chefs from all over the world who share a passion for, and a personal commitment to, ensuring their guests are privy to moments of exceptional harmony. To choose Relais & Châteaux is to experience an unforgettable celebration of the senses.

From the vineyards in Napa valley to the Northern beaches of Sydney, from the olive trees in Provence to the lodges in South Africa, Relais & Châteaux offers a chance to explore the Route du Bonheur and discover a special place in a variety of destinations.

The Relais & Châteaux signature reflects this ambition: “ALL AROUND THE WORLD, UNIQUE IN THE WORLD.“

Jonahs was somewhere we had been wanting to go to for a long time, and we had high expectations. It didn’t disappoint. Before we even arrived and were driving up the cliff side winding roads we knew we were in for a treat of a view. The restaurant was quaint and house-esque with the decor of a modern French slash contemporary Australian beach side dwelling. We were greeted with great service and seated immediately. We elected to order our starters from the tapas menu and enjoy them on the outside deck while having a drink and enjoying the view then finish with our mains back in the main restaurant area.

Food & Drink

We started with Marinated Sicilian olives and fried Marcona almonds as well as some Garlic prawns Andalusia style. It’s hard to get olives wrong and i’m glad to say that these were up to par. The prawns were especially fantastic. They weren’t overwhelmed by garlic as is often the case and while they were doused in a good amount of oil it was very high quality and not at all over the top.

Our cocktails were very good. I had a gin martini and Puneet had a lychee martini. Again it’s hard to get those too wrong but it’s always good to know a place can do them right.

Before our mains came out I had also ordered their Half dozen Sydney rock oysters served with lemon and raspberry vinegar mignonette. I’m a big fan of natural oysters so any addition usually has to be pretty spectacular for me to like it better than the standard. The mignonette was good but a little too sweet for my personal liking. The oysters themselves were great.

Jonahs Oysters

For mains I had the Spring Lamb — Roasted saddle and  herb crumbed cutlet with zucchini and peas trifolati, baby zucchini flowers and pea purée. Again, very good. The whole dish blended together very well with both the flavours and aromatics complementing each other. The lamb was cooked to perfection, some of the best I have ever had.

Jonahs Spring Lamb

Puneet had the Bomba Rice on a creamy risotto with baby vegetables, semi dried tomatoes and Pedro Ximenez Sherry wine reduction. This was a bit thick and heavy without a tonne of flavour. The flavours that were there worked well and it was a tasty dish for sure but it wasn’t really in the same class as the other food we had.

Jonahs Bomba Rice

We ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregan in the US for our meal (I can’t recall the exact name, shame on me). It was excellent.

We were too stuffed to fit dessert in by the end.

Overall I give the food an 8/10.

Service

The service was good but not phenomenal. We were greeted well and everyone was polite and helpful throughout the evening but once we had been seated we had to wait a while and try and flag down a waiter a few times before getting our order in. That slight annoyance aside, the meal went smoothly. They were very accommodating in letting us have the first part of our meal outside and even brought over a blanket when they noticed it was a bit chilly. I give the service a 7.5/10.

Ambiance

View from Jonahs

Ten out of ten. Perched atop a cliff looking out over the pacific ocean with waves crashing into the rocks and beach below it’s hard to give this place any less. It was quiet, secluded, special. There’s not much else to say – in terms of places with a view to eat in Sydney (better yet, the world) you would be hard pressed to find better than Jonahs. 10/10.

Value for money

Jonahs isn’t cheap but you pay for the view. It also delivers in terms of food quality and competent service. There are probably better places you can go to for a purely fine-dining experience and similarly you can get away with views close to this for much cheaper but combining the two is a rarity. Overall it delivered what it promises without disappointment. I give it an 7.5/10 in terms of value for money.

The Verdict

I give Jonahs at Whale Beach a 33/40. I would definitely recommend it to others and it is somewhere everyone should go to at least once. If we were to go back anytime soon I think we would sit on the outside deck and have a few drinks + tapas rather than opt for the full meal. It would be a wonderful place to chill out with a few people and take in the view.

Avocado-Melon Salsa #ThingsThatAreDelicious

October 23, 2011 2 comments

The topic of avocado as a key ingredient came up in The Lounge Food Blog on 2p2 recently (which then proceeded to descend into a heated debate over bacon vs avocado. Bacon won, of course). A recipe posted was for grilled mahi mahi with an avocado melon salsa and damn if it didn’t look scrumdiddlyumptious (what, Google Chrome, that isn’t a real word? go away red squiggly line!) — If it’s good enough for Roald Dahl and Willy Wonka then it’s good enough for me. Hmm.. and people say I get side tracked. Oooh look, a ball. Okay, enough digressions.

The recipe itself comes from the food site epicurious and i’ll post the recipe at the end of this post for anyone who wants to give it a shot. I couldn’t get my hands on mahi mahi at my local fishmonger so I ended up settling for swordfish. Then I couldn’t get my hands on jerk seasoning at the grocery store so I took it upon myself to throw on a bunch of spices myself. It turned out good enough — a bit too salty perhaps, and next time I will endeavor to make homemade jerk seasoning but anywho..

Swordfish w/ Avocado Melon Salsa

Swordfish w/ Avocado Melon Salsa

As I said earlier, scrumdiddlyumptious!

The salsa being as good as it was I made it again the next night with some prawns. I panfried the prawns for a few minutes then added some garlic, butter, white wine, lemon, chili and parsley and created a sauce. I then moved it all to a ovenproof dish and threw it in the oven to finish while I made the salsa and sauteed some spinach to go along with it. Everything turned out just perfect this time around:

Garlic Prawns in a Lemon, Herb, Butter & White Wine Sauce

Garlic Prawns in a Lemon, Herb, Butter & White Wine Sauce

Served w/ the avocado-melon salsa & wilted spinach

Served w/ the avocado-melon salsa & wilted spinach

This entire dish was unbelievably flavorful and delicious through and through. Will definitely be making again.

And here’s the recipe for the salsa as promised:

  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 1 cup 1/3-inch cubes cantaloupe
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated lime peel

Source: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Grilled-Mahi-Mahi-with-Avocado-Melon-Salsa-109581#ixzz1bYqwwf9J

I added half a finely chopped red chili to mix it up a little so if you like a little spice I recommend doing that too.

If you’re an avocado lover (and even if you aren’t) then give this salsa a shot – you won’t regret it! Anything you pair it with will turn to gold.

Categories: Food Tags: , , , , ,

Labor Day Long Weekend Pt. 2

October 9, 2011 3 comments

Picking up where I left off a few days ago.. Sunday was more of a rest day than anything else. We woke up late, went grocery shopping, and had the idea to make some home made pizzas.

Rolling out the dough

Rolling out the dough

First up is a garlic pizza

First up is a garlic pizza - Some crushed garlic + EVOO + Chopped parsley. We added some mozzarella cheese to one side

Finished garlic pizza

Thrown onto a pizza stone in the oven at max temp for 6-7 mins and you get one delicious garlic pizza

Next up is a margarita pizza

Next up is a margarita pizza - a tomato sauce base we made beforehand, a few basil leaves and some mozzarella cheese on top (to protect the leaves from burning)

Finished margarita

Margarita out of the oven

Pepperoni Pizza

Last up was a pepperoni pizza. Exactly the same as the margarita but we replaced the basil with pepperoni

All in all it was some of the best pizza we’ve ever had and one helluva tasty dinner!

On Monday we decided to get out of the house and do something. We left home driving towards the city with no real plan of where to go or what to do. I jumped on my phone and looked up “what’s on in Sydney” for the weekend and there wasn’t a whole lot. A couple of art exhibits that didn’t seem too interesting and that was about it. In the end we wound up driving down to the Royal National Park – The world’s second oldest national park after Yellowstone in the US.

We didn’t know what we’d find or what there would be to do there but it was only an hour away and we had all day, so why not? It turned out to be a day of driving. We spent an hour driving through and around the park and probably still only saw a tiny portion of it. There was a long stretch of driving through beautiful rain forest-esque scenery and when we came out the other side this is what we saw:

Tasman Sea

After driving through the park we had made our way down to the eastern coast of Australia and were looking over the Tasman Sea

Tasman Sea 2

It was an awesome lookout point

So we were now three quarters of the way between Sydney and Woolongong and thought what the heck, might as well make it all the way. The rest of the drive was wonderful and scenic and reminded us of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. We made a few pit stops at random beaches along the way and I snapped some more photos:

Beach Shot

I don't remember the names of all the places we stopped but this one was in Woolongong and alongside a huge park

Random Beach

This was a stop between the Royal National Park and Woolongong. It was a small beach with both sides blocked with rocks and the tide was going crazy

Some Random Beach

And this was just some random beach, I can't remember where

We never ended up actually doing anything in Woolongong other than driving straight through. It was getting late now and we were ready to head home, but we had one more stop to make. Puneet mentioned there was the Nan Tien Temple nearby. An amazing Buddhist temple & monastery  that she had stopped at before so we thought we’d go check that out while we were in the area. The photos I took from my iPhone don’t do it justice so here are a couple of snaps of the place I found on the web:

Nan Tien Temple 1

Main Temple Entrance

Nan Tien Pagoda

Eight story pagoda

We spent an hour or so at the temple before finally getting into our car and heading on home. The trip back took us just short of 2 hours. We had some dough left over from the night before and decided what would be better than more homemade pizzas?! I won’t bore you with a repeat of the photos but they turned out just as delicious as the night before. Puneet also took it upon herself to whip up a delicious chocolate mud cake:

Chocolate Mud Cake

Yummy!

 

It has since hardened and turned into more of a chocolate brownie but it’s nomnomalicious and we’re picking at it every day.

So there you have it – a long weekend spent away from poker and thoroughly enjoyed. My next update will be poker-related and I’ll talk about how Sept was and what Oct and the rest of the year has in store for me.

Labor Day Long Weekend in a (not-so) Sunny Sydney

October 4, 2011 1 comment

After a tumultuous week at the tables I was looking for a break and a long-weekend was exactly the excuse needed to take a few days off. It started out slow with a quiet Friday night with a couple of glasses of wine and few episodes of The Shield (wow, what a show btw) followed by an awesome dinner at our local Italian joint.

Saturday was more eventful. Puneet and I went to see Crazy, Stupid, Love — as far as chick flicks go this was one of the better ones (read: I didn’t fall asleep).Crazy, Stupid, Love We had dinner reservations with another friend at Spice Temple – Neil Perry’s take on modern Chinese cuisine. I’ve heard amazing things about this place from people whose opinions on food I respect greatly so we were super excited. Before dinner we made a pit-stop to have a cocktail at Sake (the ‘nobu’ of Sydney). We ordered a couple of starters and everything was excellent. Buzzed and happy, off to Spice Temple we went.

Soooooooo, you know how sometimes a restaurant will open a sister restaurant right next door to the original? It turns out that’s what happened with Spice Temple; it was opened next door to the infamous Rock Pool Bar & Grill. Long story short we ended up there instead of at Spice Temple. Not a bad thing at all, the place makes an outstanding steak. Before our meal we had a drink at the bar. A super chill atmosphere. I gave the drinks list a cursory look over. I usually know what i’m getting whenever I sit at a bar. An olive martini or a beer. I’m not a big cocktail person and I like to leave wine for the table. But I always look through the menu. Just in case. In case they have it. And they did. Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon. Probably the best liquor I have ever had. This was only the 2nd place in Sydney I have ever seen it at (and only the 3rd in Australia). I had to get some. And I did. And it did not disappoint. It never does.

Pappy Van Winkles

Moving on. The rest of the meal was super good. Great starter, great steaks, great sides, great wine, great great great. Great. I’d love to tell you the name of the wine we got but we couldn’t pronounce it at the time of the meal let alone remember it two days afterwards. The rest of the night was pretty blurry but i’m pretty sure it involved getting home and going to sleep. Well, I woke up in bed. Seems logical right?

I’m heading out now to play a live dealers choice game with some new Sydney mates but I will return to post a new update tomorrow of the rest of our weekend. It involved home made pizzas made from scratch, a chocolate mud cake, 5 hours of driving scenic routes through and around the Royal National Park and more pizza. omnomnom!

Roast Chicken à la Thomas Keller

September 17, 2011 5 comments

Let’s rewind time a few hours – specifically to 2pm this Saturday afternoon. My time is of course being spent productively. And by that I mean watching Seinfeld. Specifically the Kenny Rogers [it would be remiss of me to link to anything other than that song when mentioning KR in this blog] Chicken episode (any Seinfeld fan will know the episode). Every time I watch this particular ep (the number of times I’ve seen it must be in the double digits now) I get a hankering for some chicken. Today being no exception I got me a hankering for some chicken. P.s I love the word hankering.

My thought process that followed was something like this: Mmmmmm chicken! > Yeah i’m hungry now > I want chicken > Where can I get chicken? > Should I go to the place down the road and get a quarter chicken & chips? > Mmm.. chicken > Hey remember that video you watched a few weeks ago of  Thomas Keller making chicken? > Yes? > You should try that! > Oh yeah what a great idea > Okay let’s double check the recipe & procedure then go get the ingredients > Yay > Mmmmm.. chicken.

And thus begun my endeavor to replicate what has been dubbed by many as the best roast chicken recipe ever. The simplicity of it is astounding. It’s basically this: You get a chicken, add some salt and pepper, and chuck it in the oven. In essence that IS the recipe. There are a few more steps to it than that though that I will go through in this post; this was my first time ever roasting a chicken. Hopefully I did the great man’s recipe justice (it sure as hell tasted justifiably worthy).

Getting Ingredients Ready

Gather all your ingredients. I chose to roast some veggies along with the chicken: carrot, parsnip, turnip, sweet potato and onion. Thyme is an optional addition to the seasoning of the chicken - I decided to take full advantage of my fresh herbs and go with the thyme.

Wash the Chicken

The first step is to wash your chicken under cold water, inside and out. I figured filling a bowl with water and rinsing a few times running under water ought to do the job.

Pat the Chicken Dry

After thoroughly washing the bird, pat it dry with some paper towels. Don't forget to dry the inside too.

Removing the Wishbone

This is an optional step, but one that Thomas Keller highly recommends so who I am to argue. We want to remove the wishbone prior to cooking so that carving is easier.

Close-up of wishbone

To remove the wishbone place your chicken breast side up. At the neck cavity opening you can feel the bone through the meat. Get your knife and scrape along side the bone all the way around so it's visible.

Wishbone

Disconnect the bone from the joint at the wings and trace it up to the top with your fingers, a bit of wiggling and knife work should allow it to come out fairly easily. Voila!

Salt and pepper the inside

Season the inside of the cavity with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Emphasis on the generous.

Truss the chicken

The next step is to truss the chicken. Basically what this means is getting some butchers twine to tie the chicken together so that it a) the breasts are protected and b) it cooks more evenly. The goal is to make a figure 8 as shown above and then wrap the string around the rest of the bird and tie it together. I won't go into all the details of how to do this (google it ftw) but suffice to say getting this right was the hardest part of cooking the dish for me, but definitely a good skill to learn. Future trussing will be much easier!

Trussed Chicken

It should look like something like this when you're done. I probably did a very average job of it all; just one of those things that you get better at with practice.

Salt the chicken

Season the chicken with a generous (there's that word again) amount of salt. Like before, don't be shy with it. You want to use flakes of salt as they are easier to handle and will texture the skin better. Also, drop the salt from a height so that it disperses evenly over the skin.

Add pepper & thyme

Season further with some freshly ground pepper and thyme (optional).

Get your veggies ready to be prepared

Get your veggies ready to be prepared. Make sure not to use the same chopping board or knife that you handled the chicken with (and wash your hands!). Salmonella is a real concern when dealing with raw poultry and cross-contamination is something a lot of people forget about.

Peel, wash, trim

Chop the ends off, peel and wash your vegetables as required. I decided to chop mine into chunks of similar size and planned accordingly.

Chop chop chop chop chop

Dice, cube, chop away!

Place vegetables in roasting tray

Place the veggies in a roasting try with a bit of oil (I used canola) and toss to coat. You can also do this in an oven safe pan.

Add chicken to roasting pan

Place your prepared chicken on top of the vegetables. It's worth noting that at no point have we added any sort of fat to the bird -- don't oil it, don't butter it, and we won't be basting it. The natural fats will be more than enough to cook it beautifully and the skin will come out nice and crispy and super delicious. It's now ready to go into your oven pre-heated to 230°C or 450° F.

Wine

No dish is quite complete without a complementing wine imo. I chose a 2007 Trinity Hill Chardonnay that went down very nicely. An interesting note about chardonnay is that it should never be drunk very cold (ie out of the fridge). Doing so kills a lot of the flavours and aromas. You are much better off drinking it only a few degrees below room temperature, so either put it in the fridge an hour or so before you plan to drink it or leave it in the fridge but remove it a couple of hours before it will be drunk.

Remove from oven

After 40mins to an hour (depending on the size of the chicken) take the tray out of the oven. The juices of the chicken should run clear when cut into.

Bone out

To give you an idea of just how succulent this turned out - I was trying to move the chicken from the tray to a chopping board to be carved. I tried to pick it up from one of its wings and it literally teared apart and the bone fell out, without any excessive force or utensils required. I of course ate it right away, so good.

Ready to carve

I finally managed to move the bird over to my chopping board. Remove the twine and it is now ready to be carved.

Plating up

Time to plate up. Crispy skin, succulent meat, well seasoned. It's looking good.

Adding veggies

Add some vegetables to that plate. These were some of the best vegetables I've ever tasted in my life. So simple, so good. Gives further credence to the KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid acronym.

Final plate w/ wine

And there you have it. My first attempt at roasting a chicken: Thomas Keller style. Seasoned only with salt, pepper & thyme and simply roasted with some chopped vegetables. Served with a glass of excellent chardonnay - this was one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

Final consensus: a definite success. This is an amazing meal and you can surely bet on it becoming a regular dish in this household. Added bonuses are that the entire thing cost less than $15 (and this is with a large, free-range, organic chicken) and had enough leftovers for at least one more lunch or dinner, or a few yummy sandwiches. It took a while to prepare and get the dish ready (partially b/c of all the photos, partially b/c of learning the techniques for the first time) but I can probably prepare a chicken to be roasted next time in 10 minutes from start to finish – another bonus. It probably sounds like i’m trying to re-invent the wheel with this post (a roast chicken, how hard is that?) but given this was my first time roasting a chicken I wanted to get it right. And right I did.

One last interesting note: The more I cook, the more I come to realise that the best recipes and dishes are the most simple. There is no need for elaborate marinades for your steak or constant basting of your bird. All you really need is some salt, pepper, and fire. The cavemen had it right from day 1. KISS.