I recently spent two hours in a room waiting for a phone call. I wasn’t alone. There were quite a few others there, mobile phones kept close on a pristine stainless steel bench. Intermittently, one would ring, and the owner would rush to put on their jacket and leave.
When the couple beside me received their call, they let out a little squeal of joy, kissed, and then skipped gleefully out into the cold night.
Finally, it was our phone ringing. And yes, as hoped, it was Phillippe from Garagiste. Our table was ready. We’d finally been accepted into Tassie’s No.1 restaurant, a place too cool to take bookings, and so fabulous people are prepared to sit in a waiting room around the corner for up to two hours to eat there.
And I guess it was worth the wait. The food was great, not outrageously expensive, and the staff looked like they should be in Coldplay. But I’m not entirely sure we should be making such a big deal of carrots, even if they do come in a very rich and creamy sauce that, to be honest, would make any vegetable taste good.
I was in Tassie for a weekend with two old friends who love their food. They’re both great cooks and hearty eaters, and they were absolutely determined we were not leaving the island until we’d eaten at all the hot spots.
I was in a food cult, and I followed blindly. I wasn’t complaining, either – they knew where to go for good coffee, amazing breakfasts, lunches with views and dinners you needed to wait for, which was OK because I was pretty full anyway.
All weekend we feasted, and all of it was seasonal and local, including the wine.
And I love that idea of using what is freshly picked or butchered just around the corner. No food miles, no freight, just a lot of burping and farting for the consumers later in the evening. And clearly the food/art boom in Tasmania is doing a lot for tourism and the economy, so it’s win/win.
But it does feel weird, after a weekend of gormandising, tasting, sampling, sipping and saluting, just how much emphasis we put on food. And why do we need to garnish, fuse, froth and sauce what is essentially a basic need? I just feel sometimes that the current Western obsession with food, celebrity chefs and grand eating is a bit uncouth when millions don’t have enough to eat.
Some friends ate at one of the restaurants where the waiter delivers a theatrical monologue about each dish as he or she puts it on the table. By the end of the night and 10 courses, they were drunk and in fits of laughter about the audaciousness of it all. It just seemed a bit vulgar, all that aggrandising about the layers and beds and methods, when it just a bit of lamb, really. You can’t put it in a frame on the wall or drive it to where you need to go. And it never really looks that flash the next day, if you know what I mean.
Which brings me to emulsions. Food science, chemical artistry, whatever you want to call them. I just think you wouldn’t be ordering a spoon of froth with an insy-winsy shrimp and a sprig of something if you were starving – after a hard day in the office or a trek across the Ethiopian desert. Either way, they’re just bubbles.
Anyway, this week I’m a bit emulsioned out. I will never admit this to my travelling companions, but on the way home I stopped in for some Red Rooster.
Sometimes you just need potatoes and gravy.