A toastie designed and made by a two-hatted chef? Yes please.
Muse Restaurant owner and chef Troy Rhoades-Brown is behind a new venture - The Press and Pickle - and it will "pop up" at Hungerford Hill Wines over the Easter long weekend, 11am to 3pm.
"As you know I only open Muse Restaurant for five dinners a week now, no lunches, so one of my senior chefs Gordon Cooke and I decided to create and run a pop-up on the estate at Hungerford Hill over the long weekend," Rhoades-Brown told Food & Wine.
"Gordon will be jumping out of the fine dining restaurant to show just how amazing the humble toastie can be.
"The challenge to create the ultimate pressed sandwich hasn't been taken lightly. Casual it is, but the focus is firmly set on quality local produce with everything made in-house.
"Wood-smoked, salted and cured pork; beef pastrami; haloumi made from local jersey milk; ferments; pickles; rye sour dough and Cuban pork lard loaves are all made in-house to create this very unique, tasty offering for the Hunter Valley."
The Cubanos (smoked and pulled pork shoulder, eight-month cured pork neck, mojo marinade, Swiss cheese, dill pickle and mustard on Cuban bread) is joined on the menu by the Reuben (Angus pastrami, sauerkraut, Pyengana cheddar on rye sourdough with dill pickle and Russian dressing); the Haloumi (house-made haloumi with mother fungus mushroom, Muse miso and kimchi on togarashi focaccia); and a cheese and ham or tomato and cheese toastie for the kids.
Chips with rosemary salt, and the Hunter Valley Splice (Udder Farm vanilla yoghurt, Hungerford Hill verjuice, lime granita, fingerlime and honey) round out the menu.
The idea is that you can bring a picnic rug, buy a bottle of Hungerford Hill wine (or attend a tasting), and relax with your toastie on the winery's grounds while listening to live music. There will be a jumping castle for the kids, too.
Or, you can order and take away.
Plate Date is value for money
The Inaugural Newcastle Food Month is fast approaching and one of the highlights is Plate Date. Participating cafes, restaurants and pubs will offer a main meal throughout April for just $25, which includes a beverage.
Darby Street has come on board in force, with Three Monkeys, The Autumn Rooms, Goldbergs, Beach Burrito, Coal River & Co and the Delaney all offering the $25 meal and beverage deal. Not to be outdone, the East End has thrown its hat in the ring. The Falcon, Edmonds and Moor are involved, and on Hunter Street you will find Plate Date specials at Ground Floor Cafe, The Ship Inn, The Basement, Momo Wholefoods and the soon-to-open Neighbours on Market Street.
You can find details of these offers online at newcastlefoodmonth.com.au.
Star in the kitchen
If you see a familiar face in the kitchen at Star Anise in Belmont, it is likely to be the lovely Steph De Sousa, of MasterChef Australia fame. She has been busy adding to her skill set since finishing 11th on the cooking show in 2019, catering events and preparing meals to order as well as embarking on her own podcast journey, The Last Supper. Now she's going back to basics: working with a chef in a kitchen. Her dream is to one day open her own restaurant.
"I felt like I needed some more kitchen experience before branching out on my own," the Warners Bay resident told Food & Wine. "I'm working with Rowell [Davidson]. He is such a nice guy and a completely different cook to me so I hope I learn a lot."
Greek Fest in the Hunter
A new event, Greek Fest in the Hunter, is coming to Hope Estate in May courtesy of the popular Greek Festival of Sydney.
"We're so excited to give the people of the Hunter a taste of what Sydneysiders have been enjoying for decades," Greek Festival of Sydney director Pamela Proestos said.
"Being able to offer an event that is so distinctly Greek allows us to promote our food, music and culture to a much wider audience and form a connection between the Sydney and Newcastle communities. We can't wait to celebrate with wine and ouzo and see Greek dancing, local musicians and international artist Dimitris Basis on the Hope Estate stage."
In addition to market stalls and a Kids Zone there will be food stalls offering honeyed loukoumades, souvlaki, creamy fetta, olives and spanakopita, as well as a VIP Greek Fest Lunch or a pre-ordered hamper picnic for two.
Pre-sale registration for tickets is now open at hopeestate.com.au/greekfesthunter to register. Tickets: adults from $29; children (12 to 17 years) from $15 (plus booking fee).
Mixing it up
Lake Mac Brewing Co at Morisset has been working on its food offering. First it was hot chicken wings, and now they have a grazing platter for two. Also, Newy Distillery has opened a tasting bar at Edgeworth (unit 13-14, 17 Aluminium Close). It's open weekends, 10am to 5pm, and tastings and tours are free.
Cafe Alejandra on the Pacific Highway at Belmont is under new management and is now Cassowary Cafe.
The 'one-bowl wonder'
Little Singapore Restaurant & Takeaway at Jesmond Bowlo has been making delicious-looking Chinese pineapple tarts to order for $20 a jar. I was too late to grab one, but there's always next year.
"The pineapple tarts were just for a limited time only, during the Chinese New Year period," Denise Lee said. "It's a traditional snack that you can find in any home during Chinese New Year, and it's very popular for tourists to bring home from the airport."
There is, however, a new dish on special worth mentioning: the Japanese chicken or prawn donburi.
"We call it the one-bowl wonder. It's a popular Japanese rice bowl dish with a delicious teriyaki-style sauce topped with either crumbed chicken or tempura prawns."