Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I think calling Subo my neighbourhood gem is a big stretch since it is located in Newcastle, about 2hrs drive from Sydney. So I'll call it my regional gem.

Run by a husband and wife team, Subo does exactly what they aim to do "provide high quality, delicious and interesting bistro food in a relaxed, contemporary and modest setting". Their menu focuses on local produce and changes monthly. 

Subo on Hunter Street
The most elaborate decor for this small, intimate restaurant is probably its front door, made of blocks of wood that could easily be mistaken as a brick wall from a few paces back. Inside, the brick wall theme flows through the venue, exposed bricks breaking up what otherwise would be a simple but functional room with polished concrete floor, whitewashed walls and dark wood dining furnishing. The overall feeling is minimalistic, relaxed and inviting, with a bit of funkiness thrown into the mix. I spotted a few animal head wire sculptures on the wall, but what caught my attention were the giant wooden pegs near the entrance, they made pretty cool cloth hangers.

Greeted at the door, we were led to our table by Suzie, the "Su" in Subo, it just so happens we were seated in her section for the night. We gave the 5 course tasting menu a quick once-over and confirmed that we were happy with the dishes. Substitutions can be made if you are allergic to, or have a strong dislike towards certain ingredients on the menu.

The December menu is Christmas themed, so we kicked off the evening with Tasmanian Salmon Smoked In-house with Hickory. The salmon had a lovely smokiness to it, without being overpowering, so you are left to fully appreciated the freshness of the salmon. The Yuzu kosho mayonnaise and fennel fronds were excellent companions to the fish.

Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Glazed ham is probably one of the things I look forward to the most at Christmas, so I had high expectations for the Sherry and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham accompanied by pumpernickel, native muntries, riberries and gravy. It was the first time I had muntries and riberries so it was pretty exciting for me. The native muntries, little berries that looks like mini apples, gave the dish its subtle sourness which offset the sweetness of the glazed ham perfectly. The riberries had a clove taste to them, reminiscent of the flavours of a traditional Christmas ham. The grainy, coarse texture of the pumpernickel was a complete contrast to the soft, tender ham and gave the dish more character. The only way I could sum up this dish was, Christmas on a plate!

Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison
The main course of Roasted Mandagery Creek Venison was served with pepperberry, juniper, parsley root and parsnip puree, shio kombu and pinenuts. And it came with a side of stuffing. I'm usually not a fan of stuffing, but this one, made of sourdough, celery, garlic, onion and thyme, was delicious. I just wish I didn't have to save room for dessert. Even though Suzie smiled and told us that we shouldn't feel obligated to eat everything on the plate, but the truth is, when the food is so delicious it feels like such as waste to leave even a crumb behind.

Following the savoury dishes was the pre-dessert, Mulled Wine Granita with buttermilk granita on top. I love mulled wine in winter so a granita version of it in the summer is such a treat and brilliant idea I might add. It was so very refreshingly delightful. Dessert came in the form of Brandy Baba. It was served with vanilla custard, confit quandongs with candied orange and a few extra splashes of St. Agnes Brandy at the table. Need I say more? 

Suzie volunteered to "peg" herself for our photo,
brilliant, don't you think?
At the end of our meal Suzie came over for a chat and her responses to my questions only highlighted just how much they cared about what they put on the table. When I asked her why they stopped offering the a la cart menu alongside the set menu, she explained that with a small team they found it hard to offer food at the quality they wanted, by removing the a la cart menu they can focus on the set menu and serve only their best.  

With its contemporary bistro setting and fine dining quality food, Subo has a strong local following and well deserved 2 hats from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide. While the decor may be minimalistic, the food and service are anything but. It is also one of the best value for money restaurants I've come across. The portions are so generous, there is no chance of anyone going home hungry. Food coma on the other hand, is very likely.

So was the 2hr drive to Newcastle just to have a meal at Subo totally worth it? You bet!

Subo: 551D Hunter St, Newcastle West 2302   Subo on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 6, 2013

Salt Meats Cheese

I have driven pass Salt Meats Cheese (SMC) on numerous occasions, while I was always curious about it I never got the chance to step inside, that is until the Mutti Pasta Bar launch event last week. So on Saturday I decided to venture back and explore.

I wanted one of everything for my pantry
Located next to The Grounds of Alexandria, SMC is an Italian grocery store run by two passionate Italian boys, Stefano De Blasi and Edoardo Perlo. Besides offering high quality products from around the world at wholesale prices (that's right, you've heard me right, shopping at this place won't break your bank), they also do private dinners, catering, events and cooking classes.

The vast warehouse space is filled with olive oil, vinegar, salts, jam, grains, sauces, pasta, cheeses, cured meats, sweet and savoury snacks, the list just goes on and on. If you don't have specific items in mind, you could easily spend a good part of an hour looking through the shelves. I certainly did!

Sea salts sold by the gram
Oh and who knew there are so many different types of salt! Black truffle, Thai ginger, Spanish rosemary, aged balsamic, roasted garlic, just to name a few. But I think the best part is, at SMC, you can buy as much or as little of these gourmet natural salts as you want. 

Among all the imported products, you'll also find SMC branded items, some of them are made on site, and since these are done by hand there is no mass production, once something is sold out, like their freshly made mozzarella, it is gone for good till the next batch.

Galeria Del Jamon
A visit to the Galeria Del Jamon, "Gallery of Ham", is a must. Some of the best cured meats and cheeses are on offer. Not sure what you want? Grab a stool and menu and start tasting. Yep, you can taste anything on the menu. And if you are hungry, the Galeria staff will be happy to make you sandwiches with meats and cheeses of your choosing.

By the way, there is a foosball table too, a great way to keep the kids busy while mum and dad do their shopping. Or, the big kid in some of us might just challenge our mates for a game or two.

freshly baked bread
To further share their passion for fine food and cooking, a second SMC has been penned in for opening in February in Martin Place, no doubt it'll be a massive hurray for those work in the city. The Mutti Pasta Bar will likely to follow some time soon after, as it was announced last week a specially designed pasta bar will be launched at the Alexandria location early next year.

There are certainly a few things to look forward to in the SMC universe in 2014, but for now, you can swing by for all the goodies, catch some live sausage making action on the weekend and get your hands on freshly made mozzarella, courtesy of Stefano himself, which is simply divine.

And if you are feeling inspired after wandering around the warehouse then get your hands on the SMC recipe app (available free from Google Play and App Store). Worry not, all the curated recipes in the app consist of recipes with 10 ingredients or less, so you won't need bags after bags of ingredients, and there are pictures and tips in preparing the dishes too. Happy cooking I say!

Come to think of it, I should add a pasta machine and pasta & ravioli cooking class at SMC to my Christmas wish list!

I have to thank the gorgeous Bridget, a.k.a. the Internet Chef, for introducing me to SMC, I was hooked the moment I walked in. It is a wonderland for home cooks, aspiring chefs and of course, me, a lover of all things Italian, and yes, the accent too!

P.S.: Santa, I have been a very good girl this year! 

Salt Meats Cheese: 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria NSW 2015   Salt Meats Cheese on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mutti Pasta Bar @ Salt Meats Cheese launch

I think I fell in love with Italian food ever since the first time I tried it and nowadays, pasta is my go to comfort food. It doesn't matter how tough a day has been, a big bowl of delicious pasta, especially with a tomato based sauce, seems to lower my stress level right down. So when I received an invite from the lovely Sarah at Thrive PR for a pasta bar launch last week, I couldn't wait to say yes.

the Bloody Mutti
Upon arrival, guests were greeted with drinks, including Bloody Mutti, a special version of the Bloody Mary made just for the night, served in a Mutti can. While canap├ęs from Chef Massimo Mele circled the massive space that is Salt Meats Cheese (SMC), we also got to watch a live demonstration of mozzarella making from Stefano De Blasi (one of the owners of SMC), followed by Chef Massimo Mele serving up some great pasta, and of course not to forget the delicious freshly made pizza from a giant pizza oven. 

Mr Francesco Mutti, a 4th generation Mutti and the current owner and CEO of the company, was on hand to talk about his family brand, their love for tomatoes, and what makes them the most loved tomato brand in Italy.

Mr Mutti talking about his family brand
Based on a tradition of taste and innovation since 1899, Mutti focuses on quality and integrity in their production process. Today, sustainability is at the heart of their business model and all Mutti products are made from 100% natural ingredients with no added preservatives, colours, artificial flavouring or thickening agents. It is also noted that to capture the freshness of the just harvested tomato, attention is given through out the whole chain, from seeds selection in January to harvest in August to rigorous quality control and checks before the tomatoes are turned into the Mutti products we see on the shelves. 

It was formally announced on the night that a Mutti Pasta Bar will open for business at SMC early next year, and since it's a partnership between Salt Meats Cheese, Sydney's fastest growing gourmet retail outlet, and Mutti, Italy's number one tomato brand, I think it's going to be a pretty special pasta bar. 

If only there is a fast forward button... but in the mean time I suppose it's make your own at home.

Mutti, taste of Italian harvested tomatoes

Mutti tomato products available in Australia include: 'Polpa' Finely Chopped Tomatoes, Baby Roma Tomatoes, Passata, Double Concentrated Paste, Pizza Sauce and a selection of ready made sauces.

Coming soon: Mutti Pasta Bar Salt Meats Cheese: 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria NSW 2015