More and more I find my enthusiasm for cooking is dampened by the necessity of having to go hunting and gathering. All that struggling for a parking space and then queuing to pay; seemingly so much choice but not really anything that you want to buy. How to avoid the tyranny of the supermarket? I am even more conscious of the need to shop pleasantly because it seems to me that in fact we should be spending more time buying food so that we can spend less time preparing it. That is we should be going to whatever lengths are necessary to buy the best and freshest ingredients we can so that when we get them home pretty much all you have to do is arrange them on the plate and then eat them. Well, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea – buy what’s in season and at its best and then mess about with it as little as possible.
When we lived in Melbourne I shopped at Leo’s supermarket in Kew. At the time I thought this was the one stop food shop to die for – wine, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, delicatessen, cakes, bread and, yes even washing detergent and toilet paper all to the accompaniment of Andrea Bocelli. Nothing back in Sydney came close.
The arrival of Thomas Dux made a small but significant improvement to my suburban shopping centre if only because it meant that the competition lifted their game a bit. Thomas certainly has a better ambiance than your average supermarket, the range of products is reasonable – good lighting, well laid out, some good cheeses, more organics, friendly and approachable staff and, in my experience, always clean and neat.
Recently however we have moved and I am now in the process of evaluating a whole new array of shopping opportunities.
In the meantime I have been lucky enough to be introduced to the Fourth Village Providore in Mosman. Peter Quattroville and his team obviously know what they are doing! The atmosphere here is fantastic with a proper cool room for the leafy greens, beautifully presented fruits and vegetables, home made jams and relishes, a fantastic selection of vinegars and oils (including their own pressed from olives grown in the Hunter Valley) – a real foodie paradise with an emphasis on local products and the very best of those imported. They sell caramelised roasted tomatoes which are more than worth crossing the bridge for and the cheese room is absolute heaven (and I could happily take the young man who runs the cheese room – Anthony Femia – home with me too!). On my first visit I enjoyed lunch in the cafe area – a delicious antipasto platter which was served on a wooden trencher. All the food looked spectacular and tasted just as good (apparently there are two chefs – one Australian and one Italian and a pizza chef to man the oven which has pride of place).On a Sunday afternoon the place was full to bursting.
On my second visit I was there for a cheese tasting – four super yummy Italian cheeses matched with Italian wines. My mostest favouritist cheese was La Tur from Caseificio Dell’Alta Langa whose headquarters are in Bosia, a village in the mountains south of Alba in Piedmont. Made from a mix of sheep, cow and goat’s milk this cheese is hand made and matured for only a week to ten days. Each little wrinkled round sits in its own paper cup as much like a dainty cake as a cheese. It has a slightly denser texture in the centre and a gooey creaminess on the outside and a mild but deliciously complex flavour. Janet Fletcher in the San Francisco Chronicle claimed this cheese was ‘as close to love as a cheese can get’ and that it ‘provides the kind of sensory experience that makes tasters roll their eyes skyward and lean back in their chairs’ - which I’d say was about right. At the Fourth Village it was teamed with a spicy panforte and a delightfully citrusy quince paste – ambrosia!
The Fourth Village Providore, 5a Vista Street, Mosman