Dani Valent – Writer. Eater. Traveller. Cook.
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Perfect Cheesecake’s Secret Ingredient

Life goes better with Basque cheesecake, a lockdown #2 love affair. I became obsessed with this cake about five years ago when I ate it in San Sebastian at La Viña pintxos bar. It was perilously wobbly and jiggly, somehow both light and rich, creamy white and custardy within but with a bitter edge from the dark, caramelised perimeter. I mumbled, “It’s a miracle,” and I meant it.

Eater

Dani Valent Cooking Thermomix cocktails

Cocktails

You know the Thermomix is actually a cocktail machine don’t you? Yeah, we make food but how about the drinks?! With the cocktail recipes at Dani Valent your anytime party, hen’s night or New Year’s Eve is sorted.

Traveller

Cook

Zhoug & Salmon Salad

I love a big meal-sized salad! Flavoured with green chilli paste, this steamed salmon salad is healthy, flexible and easy to prepare

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  • Kata Kita review
    How do you feel about being served by a robot? A wheeled trundler with a cute cat face is part of the team at Kata Kita, the fabulous new Indonesian restaurant from the Sanusi family, who also have nearby Yoi. Where Yoi is halal – no pork, no alcohol…
  • Chai 'n' Dosa food truck dream brings the dosas to Braybrook
    THEME: FOOD TRUCKS There are so many great things to say about Sreelekha Mekala and her dosa truck but I'll start with how excited, happy and grateful I felt to go there. To stand in an ex-car lot with a bunch of other fans of south Indian food, to…
  • Four Melbourne venues with courtyards for COVID-cautious outdoor catch-ups
    THEME: COURTYARDS Doing anything in Melbourne right now feels like dodging eight lanes of Omicron traffic. It's close to impossible for restaurants, pubs and cafes to find enough staff to work day to day, with so many people COVID-positive or stuck…
  • 'More painful than lockdown': Australia's hospitality industry left reeling from latest COVID wave
    Hospitality owners and workers across Australia are reeling as the Omicron COVID-19 wave sweeps the country. Many restaurants, pubs and cafes have closed temporarily, reduced their opening hours or are operating at restricted capacity because staff…

Instagram

This is me, before the bushfires, before the pandemic, in East Gippsland, where I've been camping every summer for 18 years.

I'm heading off again today - so long as noone has a last minute scratchy throat. Covid contingencies permitting, I'll be there for two weeks, more or less off grid - phone reception is limited.

Last time I turned my phone off for two weeks, there was an insurrection at the Capitol. Who knows what will happen this time.

I feel bad bailing on you all - though I'll probably be back, shivering in my bed, in a couple of days. I am not counting on anything these days!

But I also really, really cannot wait to stick my head in the ocean, watch some birds, write some poems, make some epic paella.

Stay strong, be kind, look after one another, big love.

Here's a poem too.

Threatwreck

i have a heart-braking
sense of foreboding
little crumples of feeling
throat - chest - belly - top of my head -
my chakras i guess

oh this is enlightenment
i didn’t know it would be so scary
i thought knowing would be calm
but it’s frantic

a squall
wind whipping
the threat of a wreck

as i said: don’t worry about me
i won’t make anything hard
you can trust me - people do
but

i didn’t know
lockdown would unpick
me in this way
and those old promises
sound stupid
what kind of hubris
to think about forever
when we can’t even book a restaurant
for tonight
...

Vic, from 11.59pm tonight, January 6:

- density 1 person / 2 sq m for indoor hospitality & entertainment (cinema & theatre exempted). No exception for small venues.

- outdoor no limit

- seated service recommended

- indoor dancefloors should be avoided (recommendation not a ban)

- positive RAT results will be called a 'probable case' & and these people will have the same rights & obligations as people who are PCR positive. They must isolate immediately & must report result to Dept of Health via online form or phone. Will be able to access financial support eg. Pandemic Leave payment, subject to eligibility requirements.

- while RATs are in short supply, symptomatic and close contacts can still get PCR tests but when RATs are more available, don't clog the system unless you get an unexpected RAT positive. 44 million RATs on way to Vic.

- lockdown ruled out

- fyi these orders were signed in by health minister at on Pandemic Order Register - our new legal framework.
...

Victorian hospitality owners and workers are reeling as the Omicron COVID-19 wave sweeps the state. Many restaurants, pubs and cafes have closed temporarily, reduced their opening hours or are operating at restricted capacity because staff either have COVID, are close contacts or are awaiting PCR test results. With most businesses already understaffed, it's been impossible to cover shifts at a time that many restaurants were counting on to recover revenue lost through six lockdowns.

Story via link in bio

@goodfoodau
@zaramadrusan
@barmargauxmelbourne
@mrjonesmelbourne
@entrecotemelbourne
@fimaurer
@jackrabbitvineyard
@jason_chang_calia
@flyingbrickciderco
@nomad.au
@lucyliumelbourne
@ciao.cielo
@blackpearlfitzroy
@restcatering
@katebartholomew
@codalorne
@hibiki.melbourne
@wilburyandsons
...

The floodgates opened. Who knew there were so many ways to be upended by a pandemic?

A lot of pain in my stories / highlights, so much exhaustion. Noone is alone, though it sounds like this is a very lonely time for many ❤️ Hang in there. Reach out.

We need kindness from all. Hospo needs urgent government assistance. Visa holders need certainty. We all need compassionate, capable leadership.

It's chaos, this runaway Omicron train. It's not possible - or extremely challenging at best - to run businesses without staff. Staff can't survive without work, let alone buy rapid tests.

As many people said, it's harder than lockdown.
...

Bring it in, Australia.❤️ ...

National Cabinet met yesterday and changed rules around close contacts, testing and quarantine.

Vic gov has brought in pandemic order aligned with this. The Vic order also has additional obligations for workplace contacts deemed 'exposed'.

Summary as applies to hospo:

- there are no workplace 'close contacts' anymore. If you have a case at work (customer or staff member), there is no requirement for anyone else to isolate or test. They must monitor for symptoms.

[However, Vic gov recommends rapid tests for 'exposed' persons - see below]

- the only 'close contacts' are those who have been with a case in a home setting for 4 hours plus. They must isolate for 7 days & test only if have symptoms.

- isolation period for positive cases is 7 days, from date of positive test, whether vaccinated or not. No need to retest.

- close contacts take RAT on day 6 - -ve can exit iso. If +ve, take PCR test. [According to Vic gov doc, if can't access RAT take PCR] UPDATE: Fed gov dumped this, no test nec. But still in Vic law

- rapid tests must be purchased at retail outlets (no discussion on whether business or individual to purchase). Free provision is being discussed for vulnerable and concession card holders.

- Vic gov extra info on 'exposed' people who do not meet definition of close contact but would cover most restaurant settings:

- an exposed person has spent at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact or two hours in an indoor space with an infected person.

- if a workplace operator is aware of a case at work, they are obliged to notify all workers who may have been exposed. Operators must keep a record of exposure and all people notified.

- if an exposed person experiences symptoms, they must have a PCR test and isolate until negative result.

- exposed person without symptoms is strongly encouraged to take rapid tests for 5 days following exposure. (Good luck with finding & funding this!) If positive, they must take PCR test.

For clarity:
- QR code check in still required
- everyone must still be vaccinated to work/dine in
- anyone with symptoms go straight to PCR test & isolate until negative

Good luck, stay safe 🤪💖

Will link to docs in my story.
...

The Innovators 5/5: Shane Delia

Chef and restaurateur Shane Delia used Melbourne’s first lockdown to add ‘tech entrepreneur’ to his CV. Frustrated with existing delivery paradigms (high commissions, soggy food), he launched Providoor, a finish-at-home food delivery service for upmarket restaurants. Taking a smaller cut than major apps and offering better quality control through cold-chain delivery, it was a lockdown lifeline for restaurants including Supernormal, Entrecote and Longrain, as well as Delia’s own Maha.

Providoor expanded to Sydney in July 2021, with Apollo and Rockpool among those hopping aboard. Brisbane will launch early 2022, with new CEO Tim McKinnon quitting eBay to keep Providoor scaling.

As well as the benefits of selling food for delivery, Delia notes that 70% of customers encounter a restaurant for the first time through the platform and 20% of those translate to in-room diners. “It’s not just about driving boxes to houses, it’s about getting bums on seats,” he says.

**

This is the final excerpt from The Innovators, my article for @goodfoodau's Good Food Guide about changemakers of 2021. Catch up with the other four in my previous posts. Read the original article via link in bio. Purchase the Guide at newsagents. Keep being awesome!

@shanedelia
@providoor
@maharestaurant
...

The Innovators 4/5: Tarts Anon

Pastry chef Gareth Whitton lost his job in February 2020, when Dinner by Heston closed its doors. He was stacking shelves at Woolworths and baking tarts for home nibbling when his girlfriend Catherine Way convinced him they were good enough to sell.

A flyer drop in their apartment building went ballistic and Tarts Anon was born, a frenzy built on scarcity and excellence: Anon tarts have thin, crisp pastry and fillings like pear and almond, and oozy chocolate and caramel. “Anyone who doesn't love tarts needs to have a long hard look at themselves,” says Whitton.

Initially, he made just 15 tarts a week from a tiny domestic oven; production has now scaled up to 200 tarts from a pro kitchen in Cremorne. Coffee and slices are sold onsite too.

Pick-up orders open Monday nights and are snapped up quickly, sometimes in as little as one minute. The tarts are certainly the business but Way’s whipsmart Instagram posts have been a huge part of building a joyous community around a sweet treat.

***

All this week, I'm sharing The Innovators, an expanded version of my article in @goodfoodau Good Food Guide. Scroll back for the first three; last one tomorrow! Link in bio to the original & buy your print version at newsagents and online at @theageaustralia.

@tarts_anon
#melbournefoodies #melbournefoodiefinds
#melbournedesserts
#melbournefood
#melbournefoodscene
...

The Innovators 3/5
Al Dente

Celebrating the gamechangers of 2021 via stories that first appeared in the Good Food Guide and @goodfoodau. Buy the Guide at newsagents or via theage.com.au. Read my article via link in bio.

🤩

Italian chef Andrea Vignali was a key employee at Grossi Florentino when the pandemic descended. Though the Grossi family gave their chef as much lockdown work as it could, Vignali was on a temporary visa and thus ineligible for JobKeeper.

Much better at making pasta than sitting still, he started hand-making tortellini in his tiny sharehouse kitchen and selling it via Instagram. Melbourne - carb-loading like maniacs in lockdown #1 - went crazy for his tortellini cacio e pepe and silky pappardelle.

Vignali’s social media hustle expanded via ready-meals platform Cookaborough and - along with best friend and business partner Davide Bonadiman - Al Dente was able to employ other visa holders to make lasagne, lamb ragu and lemon tart and deliver all over the city.

The two Italians, together with Vignali’s hospo powerhouse girlfriend Michelle Badek, then took on a bricks-and-mortar space in Carlton, opening Al Dente, first as an enoteca and now as an elegant restaurant, testament to the power of cacio e pepe and community.

@vigna.liandrea @al_dente_enoteca
@bonadiman_davide @michellebad_
@cookaborough

📸: @parkerblain
Reposted from @al_dente_enoteca
...

The Innovators 2/5: Joost Bakker

Plenty of people advocate for sustainability. For 25 years, Joost Bakker has lived his eco-campaign in ways that included opening a zero-waste soup bar where the main ingredient was bones discarded by restaurants (Brothl) and harvesting urine to use as fertiliser (Greenhouse).

In 2020, with Melbourne in and out of lockdown doldrums he built his most ambitious project yet, Future Food System at Federation Square. A collaboration with chefs Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, the 87-square-metre three-storey house is a closed-loop ecosystem, growing vegetables, edible insects, fish, honey and grain, generating gas from captured methane to fire a barbecue, and electricity from 36 solar panels on roof, fence and walls.

“I want people to get excited about urban food,” says Bakker. “We can grow a lot of food where we live and we can reduce waste by using it where we live.”

He will maintain the house on site until April, when it’s moving to Monbulk to be his mother’s new home - and farm, and power plant, and waste management system. “This is a really serious possible alternative to our food system,” he says.

The Innovators is a piece I wrote for @goodfoodau Good Food Guide. Buy the Guide at newsagents & read the whole article via link in bio. I kicked off my share-fest with Nornie Bero yesterday & will continue over the next few days.

📷 @kateshanasy for @melbfoodandwine
Reposted from @joostbakker
@futurefoodsystem @jobarrett @chefmattstone @camsmith_eat_it @fed.square
...

Over the coming days, I'll be sharing The Innovators, my piece for @goodfood's Good Food Guide about the game changers of 2021. Grab the print version of your 2022 Guide at your newsagent or follow the link in my bio to see the article. As often happens, my piece was cut a little for length so I'm glad to share the full versions here.

Thanks to editor @mjmharry for having me on board.

First up, the amazing Nornie Bero.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” says Nornie Bero, of her restaurant Big Esso, the colourful Federation Square dining room and bar that builds on Mabu Mabu, her Indigenous cafe and catering concept. That the ‘great start’ included trading for just four days before Melbourne’s sixth lockdown says a lot about Bero’s particular brand of upbeat gratitude, expressed even in the name of her restaurant: “‘Big esso’ is Torres Strait slang for ‘the biggest thank you,’” she says.

The menu showcases Islander food Bero grew up with - coconut-cured kingfish, rock-baked yam - plus mainland native foods like emu and green ants (great in a martini), invader foods like lamb and chicken, and an appreciation for First Nations food and career paths generally.

“It’s about being accessible and visible,” she says. “Indigenous cuisine exists. I don’t feel like that’s ever been showcased before. I want everyone to experience the amazing cuisine I grew up with.” She also presents a path to other First Nations people. “I didn’t work in fancy restaurants for any famous chefs - in that sense, I come from nowhere,” she says. “But my food says I come from somewhere. People from First Nations countries - whether it’s mine or another - tell me they feel they are represented by seeing me.”

@mabu_mabu_aus
@fed.square
@visitmelbourne
...

Feels like anything could happen at any moment but in the meantime might as well smile like a gingerbread man cos I'm lucky to be enjoying lunch at @grossiflorentino. More in my story.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And big, warm, hopeful wishes for anyone whose day is subpar for whatever reason xxx
...

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