My International Shopping List: Lauren Eldridge, Head Pastry Chef at Van Haandel Group


Lauren Eldridge has seen the world – and its kitchens.

The award-winning pastry chef creates magical desserts for the Van Haandel Group, encompassing 4 venues: Stokehouse St Kilda; Pontoon and Fatto Bar & Cantina in Melbourne; and Stokehouse Q in Brisbane. That expertise comes by way of stints in a number of the best eating places on the planet, together with Osteria Francescana in Italy, Le Cinq and Guy Savoy in France, and in Australia at Marque restaurant. In 2015 she gained the Josephine Pignolet Award for younger chef of the yr.

Away from the excitement of worldwide kitchens, a three-month tour of Europe in 2016 offered lots of her best consuming experiences – from eating at Frantzén, a three-Michelin starred restaurant in Stockholm, to feasting on churros and jamón in Madrid.

With so many meals miles on the clock, we requested the gifted chef for recommendations on her best worldwide meals experiences, be they only a scrumptious reminiscence or one thing extra tangible.

Dining out in Copenhagen
Eldridge, whose boyfriend is Danish, has visited Copenhagen so typically she’s virtually an area. “Copenhagen is a really good place for foodies,” she says. “It’s a beautiful city as well.”

On her first journey she dined at Noma, Rene Redzepi’s much-lauded restaurant. Eldridge labored with Mette Brink Søberg, Noma’s analysis and improvement chef, at Marque in Sydney. “After the meal at Noma she gave me a tour of the kitchen,” says Eldridge. “It’s something they do for all their guests – they like to show people around. It was an amazing meal. I’m trying to convince my boyfriend to go back when we visit this year.”

On her most up-to-date journey to Copenhagen she ate at fine-dining eating places Amass and Kadeau – “I’d recommend both,” she says – in addition to Relae, which “is a bit more casual in terms of service, but it’s the type of food Australians like to eat. A lot of Australian chefs try to eat at these places when they go.” A standout dish that lingers in her reminiscence is, unsurprisingly, a dessert, albeit an uncommon one: Jerusalem artichoke cooked in house-made malt syrup.

Eldridge loves consuming at much less glamorous institutions too – particularly people who serve smørrebrød: open-faced sandwiches produced from sourdough rye bread and toppings resembling pickled herring, boiled eggs, cured meats or smoked fish. “Copenhagen has some old traditional restaurants that do that really well,” she says. “It’s classic Danish food – what people eat every day.”

Danish design
Eldridge, a fan of Scandinavian fashion, trawled Copenhagen homewares shops on her most up-to-date go to in search of gems to package out her new house in Melbourne. She picked up glass- and tableware “bits and pieces” at shops like Søstrene Grene, one in every of Copenhagen’s quite a few giant homewares chains. “We don’t have that sort of thing here,” she says. “It’s like a Scandinavian version of Muji, the Japanese homewares store. I bought as much as I could physically bring home with me!”

Portuguese tarts in Lisbon
Eldridge says it’s value travelling to Lisbon, the Portuguese capital situated within the western nook of the Iberian Peninsula, simply to attempt the town’s well-known pasteis de nata, or custard tarts.

When Eldridge visited she stayed a couple of doorways up from Manteigaria, a well-known pasteis de nata bakery with an open kitchen providing an unimpeded view of the whole baking course of. “As they pull a tray of tarts out of the oven, it goes into the front window and then you buy them,” she says. “I could stand there for hours watching and eating them.”

Shockingly, Eldridge has by no means made a Portuguese custard tart – which might clarify why she loves consuming them a lot. “I find the more I produce something, the less I enjoy eating it,” she says. “Sure, I could make them myself. But it’s never going to be like in Lisbon, watching them come out of the oven fresh. When it’s made in this traditional way, and made so well, I’ll leave it to them and have that memory.”

Marvellous Modena
In 2016, Eldridge spent two months working at Osteria Francescana in Modena, a small regional metropolis in northern Italy well-known for its balsamic vinegar and, extra just lately, for its starring position in Master of None. Eldridge’s arrival coincided with the crowning of Osteria Francescana as primary on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants listing. “It was probably the best possible time to go,” she says. “Everybody was excited and there were all kinds of special events going on. I got to participate in all of that.”

While there, she immersed herself within the native meals tradition. “Modena’s a small city, it’s all cobbled streets and quaint apartments,” she says. “The food venues aren’t big chains, they’re all independently owned, often with no English.” She notably liked the stand-up espresso tradition (“It’s not like in Melbourne or Sydney where you go in and order a flat white, they all look at you like you’re crazy.”) and gnocco fritto, an area delicacy made out of fried pastry dough served with prosciutto. “I would eat as much as I could,” she says.

The recent produce in Italy was unimaginable. “You’d go to the markets in Modena, and all the stalls had the same produce,” she says. “It’s not like you’d go to one to get your apples. If apples weren’t around, no one had them. I was there in summer and it was cherry season and there were always big boxes of cherries everywhere. They were best cherries I’d ever eaten.”

Finding bitter almond
One ingredient plentiful in Modena however unattainable to seek out in Australia is bitter almond – distinct from the ever present candy almond. When uncooked, bitter almonds include hydrocyanic acid and are probably poisonous to people (baking removes the poisonous compounds).

The cooks at Osteria Francescana typically used bitter almonds in desserts. “I really like the flavour,” says Eldridge, who has searched unsuccessfully for recent bitter almonds in Australia. “To get the bitter almond flavour here, you have to buy it bottled and artificial,” she says. “There, you could buy bags and bags of bitter almonds.”

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