Hello and here we are back with our special guest this week; photographer, blogger and food writer Emiko Davies. Yesterday Emiko shared some beautiful photos and recipes from a recent truffle hunt near her home in the ACT. Today she gives the dirt on her favourite places to shop, eat and play in our Nation’s Capital. Thanks again Emiko!
What brought you to live in Canberra? And what do you love about it?
Although I’ve spent more than half of my life living overseas, I was born in Canberra and grew up here. My husband (a Tuscan, born and bred) and I made the move to Australia a couple of years ago and were based in Melbourne but when our daughter was born we soon realised that with a little one we wanted to be closer to some family. So I’m back after more than 20 years, which is basically like living in a new place!
I love a lot of things about Canberra – the museums, the great farmer’s markets, and (it’s undeniable) it’s so very easy to get around, which makes life with a toddler a lot easier! Also I love the weather here compared to Melbourne – the winters in particular are glorious, with many sunny, blue skied days, which makes sitting outside and sunbaking during winter days such a treat.
Can you describe for me your perfect Saturday morning in our nation’s capital?
A trip to the Capital Region Farmers Market is the first thing – get there early to beat the crowd. It’s probably one of the best farmers markets around, featuring proper locally-grown produce and handmade food. I like to make a visit to pick up Cuppacumbalong eggs, Randall organic rice, mushrooms grown in a train tunnel between Bowral and Mittagong and organic seasonal vegetables from Chokubaijo, grown in Canberra, amongst others.
Although I can never resist picking up something to nibble on at the market, a nice breakfast out (or if time doesn’t permit then at least a coffee!) is in order after an early start, usually somewhere close to home like in Kingston, where I might end up at my favourite bakery Silo (not just for their wonderful baguettes or pastries but their short, seasonal menu is a real treat too) or at Penny University for a good coffee or a breakfast smoothie.
What are you loving cooking right now?
I love that winter gives the perfect excuse to cook hearty, warming soups and slow-cooked stews. It’s just what I crave! I’ve been making Sneh Roy’s chicken, chickpea and cauliflower curry a lot lately, it’s become a family favourite, but I also love a good minestrone, a bean or farro soup or a slow cooked ragu. I had my first ragu made with beef short ribs recently, I think it’s a keeper!
Can you give us any of your insiders’ tips on great places to shop, eat and play in your city and area?
The remarkable thing about Canberra is how fast it’s growing and changing – I’m not surprised that it was recently written up about in Gourmet Traveller and the New York Times! I’m still trying to catch up on trying every new restaurant (New Acton, the whole of it, has a very buzzy feel about it these days) but Lonsdale Street in Braddon is a good little spot for boutique shopping and coffee sipping. It’s got an industrial feel to it that remotely reminds me of Melbourne’s Brunswick or Collingwood (ok, I may be stretching it just a bit but you get the idea!). You really can’t go wrong with a coffee at Lonsdale Street Roasters, a shop around the Lonsdale Street Traders (a warehouse with an eclectic mix of shops, including Craft ACT, vegan cafe Sweet Bones and beautiful florist Moxom & Whitney) and a meal at Italian & Sons (seriously good pizza!).
And then there’s the quiet little gem that is Courgette (full disclosure: my husband, Marco Lami, is the sommelier here so I’m only partially biased!). The menu is degustation only, the food spectacular (the venison is of course Mandagery Creek and a must try) and although the wine list is still a work in progress, Marco is trying to bring in an interesting line up of natural, biodynamic and organic wines by small producers, which is pretty unique in Canberra!
For a view, pop into the National Arboretum cafe, which sits on a hill top overlooking Canberra. If you have children in tow, they will love the wonderful playground here too. And do check out either the National Gallery (the sculpture garden is beautiful), the National Library or the Portrait Gallery – or all three! There are some wonderful things here in Canberra that, being the nation’s capital, you won’t get to see anywhere else!
The other thing I love about Canberra is how easy it is to get out of town and out into the countryside. Quaint towns like Bungendore and Braidwood are under an hour away and you can find places like Sully’s Cider at the Old Cheese Factory. Canberra region wines are also worth checking out – Lark Hill, a biodynamic winery and restaurant, is one of my favourites.
Thanks so much for all those great tips Emiko. Before we go, can you give us a bit of your background? How did you get interested in/involved in food and photography?
The short version is I did a Fine Arts degree in the US, I majored in printmaking but had my first taste of photography during art school and loved it. After university, I ended up in Italy, Florence to be exact, to study art restoration and did a darkroom photography course there (teaching eventually too!) and although I have always loved food and cooking, it was this time in Florence (seven years in total) where the food and photography thing came together in the form of a blog. It was something about the traditions, the culture and the approach to food there in Tuscany that really inspired me. That and there are so many good food stories to tell.
Please tell us a bit about your blog and photography work? What inspires you and drives you to keep creating in this space?
The idea behind the blog is to create regional Italian dishes, staying true to the traditions, telling the stories behind the recipes and interweaving it all with home life and the things that go on around me. It’s the food, foremost that inspires, but also places we visit – often, especially in Italy, the place and the food are so strongly connected. We recently went “home” to Florence for three months and inspiration was literally around every corner. Recipes that I read about that intrigue or ingredients that are in season all provide more fodder. But possibly one of the most important things that keeps me going is following other inspiring blogs that create beautiful images or weave beautiful words together that make me aspire to always do better – a bit like, as an artist, you look towards the masters to learn.
And to finish – if you were to have a dinner party this weekend, what would your ideal wintery menu be?
Well, having a truffle in my possession after the recent hunt at Terra Preta farm, I can’t help but have truffles on my mind. It’s also a great thing to share around when you get one as a little goes a long way and they’re best used as fresh as possible! I’d start with a simple antipasto of crostini, perhaps including some polenta crostini with mushrooms and truffles. Then a very simply dressed handmade pasta with fresh truffle grated directly on it and a roast chicken with truffles pushed under its skin, served with cauliflower gratin or mash (after seeing Hannah Plummer’s recipe recently!) and cavolo nero sauteed with some garlic. For dessert, I love a good fruit crumble in the winter, perhaps with pears and hazelnuts and a scoop of truffle ice cream (delicious! – have made it from scratch before, which works well as you infuse the milk and cream with the truffle before freezing it but I think you could even soften some bought vanilla ice cream and grate some fresh truffle into it, stir it through and try that).