Monthly Archives: July 2008

Gluten Free Pasta – Getting Closer

When making pasta dishes, I normally use dried pasta from Bi-Aglut (a division of Heinz), which is pretty good stuff for a gluten-free product (made from lupins, amongst other things). However, I do get the occasional cravings for fresh pasta, despite the effort involved in making it.

Previous essays at making gluten-free pasta from rice, amaranth and maize have been reasonably successful, but did not produce a dough suitable for rolling, or hand-forming – just extrusion. Maize produced some of the best texture, but tasted of – well, maize. Too much maize.

A couple of days ago, I fancied fresh pasta and decided to see how a mixture of 50% rice, 50% maize flour turned out. The answer was extremely well. Just shy of a cup of each of the flours, blended with about half a teaspoon of guar gum, was combined with a couple of eggs. The resulting dough was a little on the dry and crumbly side so I added water little by little, working it in by hand until the dough felt right.

This dough went well through the extruder, the pieces coming out not collapsing or sticking to each other as sometimes happens. When I cleaned out the extruder, I had quite a large lump of dough left which I rolled out (no sticking to the rolling pin or the bench) and cut into strips.

The dough handled very well so I was able to get the pieces extruded, cut and dried in quite a short space of time.

When cooked, this pasta had a fairly neutral flavour – certainly not too heavy on the maize as I was expecting.

It now just remains for me to completely strip and clean my pasta roller which is full of nasty gluten crumbs, full of gluten. With that done (if I am able to get the machine apart/clean/back together), I will try out some flat pastas such as tagliatelle, lasagne and ravioli.

Adelaide Hilton

Adelaide Hilton, seen from Grote Street
View from Grote Street
(Links to larger picture)

Preamble

Two doctor visits in as many days made me decide to stay the night in Adelaide rather than endure the 200-plus mile round trip two days in a row. My choice of the Hilton, booked through Wotif.com, was primarily due to its location in Victoria Square – mere yards away from the Central Market and just round the corner from the wall-to-wall eateries of Grote Street.

My previous experience of Hilton hotels was the Leeds Hilton (West Yorkshire, England) – one of the worst hotels in which I have ever stayed, seemingly designed by someone more familiar with hospitals or possibly prisons. Despite that past experience, I entered into this with an open mind.

The Good

  • Location, location, location – including good communications. Trams and busses run through Victoria Square down King William Street and the coach depot is just round the corner in Grote Street.
  • The staff were pleasant and seemed well switched-on and were not the humourless bunch I have encountered in other large hotels.
  • Hotel bar prices somewhat less extortionate than the norm, friendly and efficient staff. (The bar at the Leeds Hilton was unmanned; after waiting some time we ended up going to the pub over the road.)
  • Two ‘proper’ restaurants in the building including the excellent Brasserie which I have reviewed elsewhere.
  • A pillow menu. I didn’t read this properly at first and assumed it was snacks in bed. However, one can actually choose different types of pillow for optimum comfort. As most of my hotel stays have required the services of a chiropractor afterwards, I found this idea excellent and wish it would spread to all hotels everywhere.
  • Power point right next to bed. Not something that most people would consider important, but as a CPAP user I assure you it is – no scuttling off to the concierge to borrow a power extension cable.
  • Room was quieter than many hotel rooms in which I have stayed.
View of Victoria Square from hotel room
Victoria Square, from hotel room
(Links to larger picture)

Requires Attention

I won’t call this section ‘The Bad’ as these are just minor niggles about information that I feel should be given at checkin, apart from the plumbing. I expect to find fault with hotel plumbing and have rarely found otherwise.

  • As a security measure, the lifts (elevators) require the insertion of a room key to gain access to the guest floors. There is a label stating this, but I am a) not in the habit of reading notices at waist-level and b) am not in the habit of looking for instructions in lifts anyway. The information is also displayed on a small directory of floors, but who would read this if they knew where they were going already? In a lift, you press the button, the lift goes up (or down). But in this case it doesn’t unless you have swiped your card. The simple and obvious fix for this is to tell guests that they need to use their key to operate the lifts when they check in.
  • My 14th floor room had a view – from a window that started below knee-level. I have a serious problem with heights and walking in on this view which I might call vertiginous or even just “arrgh!” made me feel quite ill. I ended up crawling across the floor to shut the curtain to block said view out. I am not the only one bad with heights – a simple warning would have been nice, as the shock was the worst part of it. (In the morning – when I was expecting it – I was able to get close enough to the window to take the photograph shown here.)
  • Plumbing. I don’t know what it is about hotel plumbing – there is nearly always something wrong. In this case the issue was with the shower. Firstly, the control to divert flow through the overhead rose and an adjustable head was very erratic in operation. Secondly, the mixer control appeared to work backwards and used only colour to designate hot and cold. To me, logic says that turning the control in the direction of the red mark should increase the flow of hot and vice-versa. However, moving the control towards the direction of the red mark turned the hot off instead.

If I had to make a single recommendation on how to improve the hotel, I would say to get in a usability/user experience (UX) consultant. Nobody’s going to fix hotel plumbing – it’s a global conspiracy.

Conclusion

The Adelaide Hilton is one of the best hotels in its class in which I have stayed. I would certainly consider it for future visits, definitely over any of the North Terrace hotels, unless I was attending the Festival Theatre. Hopefully this good experience should help me forget the trauma that was Leeds.

Adelaide Hilton on the web

Telephone: +61 8 8217 2000

Location Map (Google)

The Brasserie – Happy Circumstance

Preamble

Appointments two days in a row saw me making an overnight stay in Adelaide (South Australia). The choice of the Hilton as a place to stay was almost entirely influenced by this hotels proximity to the Central Market and the innumerable eateries of Gouger Street.  I have reviewed the hotel here.

My original plan had been to dine at Auge on Grote Street but after a quick look at the menu I discovered that there was absolutely nothing there that appealed to me. After having scrutinised the wall-to-wall eateries of Gouger Street, I singled out a Szechuan restauraunt and returned to the hotel to refresh myself before returning for dinner.

When the time came to move food-wards, a long day plus the demon Chronic Fatigue had left me in no fit state to do so, so I writing off my research, I decided to eat in-house at The Grange. Which was closed for Winter holidays. This set of circumstances left me with a Hobson’s choice of The Brasserie – a restaurant the very existence of which I was unaware. (Which made the surprise all the more pleasant.)

It seems that a kindly Fate had put me in the very place where I should have been in the first place.

Local? Yes, We’re Local

(For non-South Australians, this is a former catchphrase of an Adelaide TV station.) The Brasserie brands itself as ‘Seriously South Australian’ and makes a fine job of showcasing the produce of this state – even to the extent of having the provenance of various items printed on the menu. The proximity to the wonderful Central Market makes a restaurant thus themed all the more practical.

(To those who think that Australia is just a country of beer, I would like to point out that South Australia is a producer of many world-class wines, and that’s fussy me saying this.)

On the Table

I was first presented with some hot bread, a small bowl of olive oil and a small bowl of coarse salt – a perfect follow-up to the (definitely not South Australian) Ricard that I had taken for my aperitif. Not entirely sure how I was supposed to handle this dish and having just that day received blood test results that showed my sodium level to be low, I dumped the entire bowl of salt in the oil and dipped the bread. Very pleasant.

My first course was ocean trout from Springs of Mount Barker (a name synonymous with quality fish products) cured and served with an avocado mousse. Unlike the softness of many cured fish, this had a firm texture and was very pleasant washed down with a glass of Alta Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris if you are French).

The main course was the Haute Cuisine version of ‘bush tucker’ – Pepper berry & bush tomato rubbed Macro Meats roo saddle, bush banana salad, quandong & desert lime glaze, crispy saltbush (I quote from the menu.) This was accompanied by a bottle of Dominic Versace Sangiovese (quite excellent.)

My final course consisted of a cow/goat cheese from Woodside Cheese Wrights – producers of Ediths Cheese, one of my all-time favourite goat cheeses. This was served with sour dough bread, butter and quince paste.

A Question of Wine

The Sangiovese that I enjoyed through my main course and cheese was not actually my original choice. My waitress (Meg) took the role of sommelier to the extreme, not just matching wine to food but matching wine to person. A single-blind tasting of two wines gave me what I really wanted rather than what I thought that I might like.

I find this wine service noteworthy because, whilst I have been directed in my wine choices before, this was the first time that it had been done by someone who did not actually know me and my tastes.

Meet the Chef

When I indicated that I wanted contact information and a menu so that I could write up my experience in this humble publication, I was asked if I wished to speak to the chef and was thus introduced to Simon Bryant, the man behind it all. I sincerely appreciate Simon taking the time to talk to yours truly and to be able to deliver my appraisal face-to-face. Excellent food, wines and service and a chef willing to listen make The Brasserie a restaurant to be reckoned with.

I have to say that this rates as one of the best dining experiences that I have had in Australia.

Bits and Bobs

Apart from the bread (of which there was not that much), the food was all but devoid of Stodgy Starch making for a healthy high protein, low carbohydrate meal. The menu does actually mark ‘Healthy Options’, although I tend to ignore such things unless I know the given value of ‘Healthy’. Looking back over the menu, I think that the value here may actually be HPLC.

Yes, The Brasserie is able to serve gluten-free food. In a real kitchen with a real chef, I have far more confidence in this claim than in other places that I can think of where the food starts off gluten-free but ends up otherwise due to poor hygiene and handling. The Brasserie, therefore, is being filed under Life Without Gluten.

The Brasserie is on the ground floor of the Adelaide Hilton in Victoria Square (between Gouger Street and Grote Street). There appears to be an entrance from Grote Street to save traipsing across the whole hotel lobby. As far as I can recall, wheelchair access would be from the ramp at the main hotel entrance.

Telephone (08) 8237 0697

www.thebrasserie.com.au

Opening hours are here to save hunting.