|This is Gunabul Restaurant & Function House, Gympie...I was the cook/chef there for 4 years...1998-2002|
Pushkin, circa 2000
My spirits were low…I’m not referring to spirits that come in glass bottles. The early, unapologetic winter chill in June not only froze my butt off, but my fingers, toes, ears and nose, too. I was a walking (hobbling) human ice block. There was a tribe of us, I’m sure.
Out of the cold, blue air on a Thursday mid-June I received a phone call from a couple of valued Gympie friends. They were heading to Tamborine, down in the valley west of this mountain, on the Friday thereafter to get tanked. That is…to go for a military tank ride. When told what they were about to do, I suggested they, instead, should sit atop their water tank at home rugged up against the cold. Scoffing at my idea, they ignored my suggestion.
Fortunately the tank rides are still operating..,for now. The military monsters are being sold off, one by one, and eventually, the whole operation will be closed down.
The generous owner fulfilled the promise of the voucher purchased by the male in the relationship as a surprise gift for his lady. My friends invited me to join them for lunch up here on the hill after their thrilling, rumbling experience.
It had been a few years since we’d last met up in person. On the Friday I defrosted myself, and agreed to meet them for lunch at a venue I’d chosen. Arriving at the warm cosiness of Elevation Café before my mates I enjoyed a warming latte in the meantime (followed by another later), while chatting with a friendly couple at a nearby table. Upon seeing my friends’ smiling, familiar faces, my spirits lifted even further.
What a delicious fare host Michael has on offer at his café. The servings are most generous as are the friendly smiles of the staff. Those in the hospitality industry work hard. They work long hours…often, without thanks, unfortunately. The long hours are spent on their feet. Dealing with the public is not always easy. However, smiles, friendly words, swift service and delicious food…loads of it…are all on offer at Elevation Café.
Feeling wild and free who am I to deny myself self-indulgence once in a while? Without a morsel of guilt I gave into my wanton desire that particular Friday. A slice of decadently rich chocolate torte with a mountain of whipped cream on the side was my shameless choice. My friends each chose an appetising savoury meal, which they devoured and, obviously enjoyed. I almost was sorry I’d not ordered similar…almost…maybe next time.
Warmed by my friends’ company, the café’s ambience, and the delicious fare, I even considered discarding my thick jumpers!
As an aside, when the temps lifted a little the following week, I was to blame. It was because I purchased a new blanket…a doona, in fact. Extra warmth on my/our bed won’t go astray. My two bedfellows are contented. I may not need a crane to lift my spirits, but a crane may be needed to lift the bed covers. The temperatures did dip again…The crane is on stand-by!
The feminine member of the couple and I became friends 24 years ago when she worked with me as my part-time kitchen hand at the Gympie restaurant-function house in which I cooked. Loyally, for four years, she stood by my side on Friday and Saturdays (she and her partner are both long-time employees of the Mains Road Department). Able to stand the heat in the kitchen, when I needed her assistance for other festive occasions, she never hesitated to heed the call.
At the beginning she was very reserved, but chip by chip, I knocked down her walls. Our firm, lasting friendship was forged. Together, we had many fun times. Long conversations at my home at the end of work on Saturday evenings…with Pushkin, my ginger cat curled up on my lap, joining in when he felt it necessary…and well-deserved and earned glasses of red wine.
The day after our get-together in June my friend sent me an email. Her words, the nicest said/written to me in a very long time, brought tears to my eyes; words I shall cherish forever more.
Valued friendships with valued friends are heart-warming and uplifting.
Chicken Parmesan Pasta: Heat 1tbs x-virgin oil in ovenproof pan over med-high heat. Add 1/4c panko crumbs and 1tsp minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until panko is golden brown. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Wipe pan. Heat 1tbs oil in pan over med-high heat. Add 500g skinless chicken breast cut into ½-inch pieces, 1tsp Italian seasoning, 1/4tsp salt and 1tbs minced garlic. Cook, until chicken is no longer pink on the outside. Add 3c chick broth, 1-1/2c crushed tomatoes and 270g penne. Bring to boil; cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until pasta is cooked and sauce has reduced and thickened. Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the upper third of oven. Preheat grill to high. When pasta is cooked, sprinkle ½ c shredded mozzarella over pasta. Place pan under grill until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown,. Top with the panko mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh basil.
Irish Whisky Chocolate Mocha Cake: Preheat oven 175C. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan, Melt 170g dark chocolate along with 4tbs strongly brewed coffee (mocha or mocha java) and 2tbs Irish whisky; let cool. Beat together 6tbs raw sugar and 113g butter until pale and fluffy; add yolks of 3 large eggs, 1 at a time. Whisk egg whites in another bowl with pinch of salt to soft peak stage. Add further 1tbs raw sugar; beat until firm peaks form. Have 6-1/2tbs plain flour at the ready. With a spatula, blend choc mixture into creamed mix; then stir in 1/2c freshly ground blanched almonds, and a few drops of almond extract; fold in a spoonful egg whites, then a spoonful of flour; continue until all is blended in. Scrape mix into pan; bake 25-30mins. Cool in pan 10mins; turn cake out onto a rack. Irish Whisky Glaze: Melt 37g dark choc and 2tbs whisky until satiny smooth; remove from heat; beat in 4tbs butter, 1tbs at a time. Stand bowl over iced water; continue beating until combined, but not quite a light and fluffy butter cream; spread glaze over cake; let it dribble down sides.