NCH – WEEKENDER – Jace Blunden. Chef at Quint Cafe. Photo by Marina Neil – 20th March 2014.Your signature or favourite dish?
One of my main roles at The Essential Ingredient is to showcase, and experiment with, the products that are available on the shelves of the store – hence why I work with a small but focused menu and a large selection of daily specials. With new grains, spices, cheeses and other wonders arriving daily from all over the world it’s impossible to stand still long enough to have a signature or favourite dish, but with Newcastle’s best food store at my disposal it’s an enviable position to be in. However, I do worry that if there are no quiches or carrot and haloumi fritters on the specials menu my regulars might chase me down Darby Street with pitchforks and torches.
Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?
Newcastle is really spoilt for choice at the moment. Breakfast with Ben at Three Bean has always been magnificent and Alice at Baked Uprising seems capable of culinary alchemy. I’ve always had great experiences with Raul at Bocados and with local legend Mark Hosie at Rustica. Anything Tom and Jacqueline Brown have their hand in is always high quality, from Sprout Dining and Canteen at Honeysuckle to Taco Place on Darby – and I’ll always eat anywhere Lesley Taylor is cooking. If I’m out for a drink the Reserve Wine Bar is simply stunning and the cocktails at Moneypenny are works of art.
For a big occasion I’ll let Suzie and Beau at Subo or Chris at Restaurant Mason spoil me rotten any day – always a difficult choice! And lastly a trip to the Valley presents you with the impossible choice of deciding between Muse Restaurant or Kitchen, Margan Estate, Bistro Molines or Roberts – although you would be hard-pressed to choose anyone over Roberts if you can wrangle a garden tour with George and his chickens!
What’s on the menu when you cook at home?
With anything from zero to five kids to feed at any one time meals at my house can swing from a lovingly crafted romantic dinner for two to whatever I can cook quickly, and in bulk, to feed a small army! When all the kids are about I will favour homemade pizzas, heaping bowls of spaghetti or even a few roast chickens torn apart and jammed into flat breads with lashings of chipotle mayo. For dinners that have less of a mess hall vibe I might do a risotto, a nice piece of fish with some seasonal vegetables or some grilled chicken – lathered in a spice mix from The Essential Ingredient, of course, with a nice, nutty salad. I also like to take my work home, so there is generally a few bags of interesting ingredients from the store that I am lucky enough to play with before they appear on the shelves or the menu.