Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Chatter 55 MasterChef Biases are Painful When There's $250,000 at Stake 07/2017

MasterChef Australia had it's grand final last night. Of the original 24 contestants it came down to a battle between Diana Chan, an attractive Accountant and Ben Ugermann a personable Retail manager.
At the beginning of their last 'cook' Ben was three points behind. 
It was a fiendish task to reproduce Kirsten Tibbals a incredibly difficult dessert featuring three beautiful reproduction fruit, filled with complex ingredients and flavour, in four hours. They both struggled and had faults and failures but Ben's effort appeared to be clearly superior and the first two judges saw it that way. Ben scored three nines.
Diana scored eight from Gary Meaghan and eight from George Calombaris. She needed nine from Matt Preston to win. 
Despite her dish being clearly not not as good as Ben's, guess what - Diana scored nine and became the MasterChef winner for 2017.
Diana is a fantastic cook and taken overall is a worthy winner, but not on that night and that's not the point of this post..
The fact there is something remarkably unfair about the whole show.
Consider this.
There have been eight seasons of MasterChef.
Each season begins with 24 contestants and ends with one winner. Twenty three have been eliminated. Eight by 23 equals 184. There have been a few more eliminations because each year one eliminated contestant wins a place back in the contest.
Unbelievably, despite the extremely coarse scoring system, not once has there ever been a draw!
I can think of no other competitive situation except a beauty contest where this could happen. 
Where results are determined by as little as 1/100th of a second there are dead heats. With gross measures where there is approximately a 10% difference between a 9 and a ten, or even more between an eight and a nine this can only come about by collusion among the judges.
Ask any body with a knowledge of statistics.
I wonder if Matt Preston felt a little sick when he drew the short straw to administer the 'coup de grace'.
Pity there is so much money involved because, at the end of the day it leaves a sour taste being so obviously a rigged television cooking show.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bayviews Restaurant and Lounge Bar (Burnie NW Tasmania) 07/201`7

 Burnie continues to surprise me. I had been told that Fish Frenzy had the best fish and chips but had no idea that there is a fine dining restaurant above it. Asking about restaurants had resulted in several recommendations but Bayviews had not been mentioned.
It's a fantastic site 
 overlooking Bass Straight, right at the waters edge.
The restaurant offers inside and out side dining in a spacious rather asceptic looking venue
I thought I might have an entree before going home to dinner and was surprised to be offered an amuse bouche of pear, prosciutto and goat cheese in a herb infused olive oil. 
Several entrees looked appealing and I settled for the quail.

 It was boned well and cooked perfectly, just a little pink. Served with celeriac and fine strips of daikon in a remoulade with crispy chorizo and parley. It was so good I decided to have a second entree of mussels.
Another surprise, a palate cleanser!
And then the mussels.
From the East coast these must have been the most enormous, plump and tasty mussels I have ever eaten. Served in a rich white wine broth with a touch of lemon, chili and garlic with linguini, and coriander which made what added up to a really fine dish.
The only thing I would have liked with both these dishes was a roll or a slice of good quality bread.
Not only do they have a very nice menu but they also offer a six or a nine course degustation menu with matched wines if desired for about 60% of what it would cost in Melbourne.
Next time. 
Score: 16/20

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pier01 (Ulverston - NW Tasmania) 07/2017

This quite striking restaurant occupies a cavernous space 
on the wharf beside the Leven river originally designed for a rowing club. Despite it’s emptiness It has a comfortable atmosphere. A front 
and side wall 
of windows with pleasant views, even on the greyest of days, helps.
Bare tables are well spaced, smallish but adequate size, 

with padded straight backed chairs. 
The girl who served me was excellent. She went through four or five specials in moderate detail and on questioning listed all the ingredients, usually seven or more.
The lunch menu is not large but does have several soups, half a dozen or more entrees plus oysters ($3.2 each). Mains include meat fish vegetarian and poultry. 
Water was served promptly and i was not hassled as I looked through the extensive wine list. It’s quite reasonable with a good selection of Whiskeys. Three of my favourite drinks - Sake, Pedro Ximenes Valdespino sherry and Absinthe, did not appear.
Seafood chowder was packed with seafood, salmon and a white fish, prawns, scallops, pippis (perhaps they were chopped up mussels), a small amount of potato and carrot, all cut to a similar size in a good thick white soup. 
A great dish for a cold day.
Crispy skin salmon with a rocket salad was cooked almost as ordered, a half minute less and I think it would have been perfect. The salad was excellent with a few thin slices of radish, a few roasted chips and some crunchy crushed nuts. 
The salmon sat on a smear of sauce, mayonnaise i presume and was topped with some pickled vegetable cut into scares. I suspect they were crab apples. It came with a big slice of lemon but I would have liked more sauce.
There were half a dozen mundane desserts. I had the poached pear. It was not a go to dish although the presentation was excellent. 
The pear sat in a thick strong biscuit base in a sea of bland custard. The whole dish lacked finesse and the taste was anaemic.
To accompany all this I had a glass of Tasmanian Storm Bay Sav. Blanc which was improved by being served in a very good Stozlol crystal wine glass. 
As they say drinking wine from fine crystalware improves the experience by 20%!
This was a pretty good meal in nice surroundings. I could have done a lot worse.


Friday, May 19, 2017

El Puerto (Hervey Bay, Queensland) 05/2017

Part of the Hervey Bay Boat Club
this Brazillian style restaurant, 
offers an all you can eat meat fest. 
Simon, an enthusiastic, hyperkinetic Major Domo has a team of waiters who all try extremely hard to please.
Soon after you are seated at a simply set bare table featuring a South American steak knife, a fork and a pair of tongs on a serviette food
 starts to arrive. A small pot of pesto and a tomato and onion relish are brought early, 
First condiments and a litlle serve of cheese sticks, a warm bread bun and a pastel which is a thin pastry envelope wrapped around a filling and deep fried. Soon after the accompaniments arrive. Plates of rice, steamed vegetables, a garden salad, a plate of chips and a wonderful sort of bean salad made with a pork stock.
Waiters come around constantly with skewers of sausages and meat from which they carve off slices if you want - that's what the tongs are for. Chicken wings and chorizo sausage was first, The sausages were not quite mild and did not interfere with the taste of the following dishes
 Pork sausage and chicken breast. came next.
Every thing was barbecued with a variety of seasoning. 
Beef with a garjic seasoning, 

came next. I requested rare and that's how I got it. Tough but tasty> There was a contiuous flow of different barbecued food. 
Red Snapper, filleted and battered
You don't actually have to tell the waiters to stop bringing food. Each table has a tri-coloured cube on it to be turned red side up if you want a rest and green side up when you're ready for more. 
There were several other meats including pork ribs in a mild sweet marinade, lamb, which was excellent and pork. 
The last thing was a barbecued pineapple, 
peeled and rolled in sugar it was a delicious end to a hugely varied range of BBQ'd proteins of one sort and another. The marinades made the food interesting. The nature of the food preparation and served on long shashlik sticks makes it difficult to serve it as rare and tends to lead to the meay being dry.
Chef Gavin, and his sous chef worked hard in a hot open kitchen.
Simon told me he has a motto. "No breakfast" I might reasonably add No lunch either.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Boat Club (Hervey Bay, Queensland) 05/2017

You get plenty of clues that you're getting to this popular club including a large billboard on the main road through Hervey Bay.  They even provide a free shuttle 

bus to bring people to the clubAt the end of the very large car park a sign welcomes you
and on it's other side thanks you for visiting. 
The club looks a bit like a ship with round 'porthole' windows. 

In side as well as several bars, and pokies, there is a Mexican restaurant, 

a large  no frills restaurant

and and a small, and even less frills, cafeteria
serving limited food and desserts.
It's got a very Australian rural club atmosphere.  Prices for members are about 10% less than for visitors but they're still cheap.  
Meals are quite large. I had fish and chips with a bowl of vegetables.
Four fillets of red skin snapper, lightly battered, were delicate, moist flavoursome and very fresh.  There was plenty of commercial tartar sauce. Vegetables were a little, but not grossly, over cooked Chips were crisp.  That, including gratis tea and coffee was a very decent meal for $16.50.  
Comments: Solid food at fair prices.
Score: 13.25/20

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thr Vinyard (Hervey Bay, Queensland) 05/2017

Introduction: Highly rated by reviewers on TripAdvisor, and close by I got a last minute table on Saturday night although they were heavily booked.  
The restaurant is like a wide L shaped balcony on the first floor of a building separated from the beach by a road and a few trees. 

A great place from which to view the gorgeous tropical sunsets. Indeed their menus have a face page depicting sunset over Orangun pier.

Friendly efficient uniformed waitresses zip around well spaced tables.
I was amused to see an advertisement for a nearby Pizza cafe prominently displayed on the adjacent street corner.

 For no obvious reason some tables have clothes 
and others don't.
Seating is not very comfortable on hard weather resistant chairs.

Little ceramic umbrella shaped tiles are used for salt.

I started with their fish chowder. Served in a hollowed out cobb loaf. 
Packed with seafood, including scallops and prawns it was just a little too peppery for the delicate sea food but an excellent start to a meal.
Fish of the day was barramundi, grilled and served with a small salad.

Slightly more cooked than requested this was still a good dish but a small serve for the price.
Still hungry I finished the meal with a Rosewater creme brulee and pistachio biscotti.
A pleasant dessert missing the rosewater flavour
I enjoyed a pretty average glass of Spanish Rioja marked up about 500%!

Comments: They have a well stocked bar and on their website stress their wine matching but I saw little evidence of this except for some suggestions to go with the deserts. Knocking on the door of very good. 
Score: 13.75/20