Vealy good fare at Danks Street Depot

by Forager on July 8, 2009

Who says Twitter is a waste of time? Ahem *looks accusingly at the co-pilot* Well, thanks to Twitter and my lightning speed response to Chef Jared Ingersoll’s Twitter post – a week ago I scored myself dinner for two at Dank Street Depot’s produce dinner of biodynamic veal!

After an extended moment of exuberant celebration which almost included OH&S unfriendly cartwheels around my office, I suddenly remembered the co-pilot was in Alice Springs with my trusty little compact camera and my lazy digital SLR camera was taunting me at home. I broke out into a cold sweat upon realisation of the lack of camera equipment as I could not possibly enjoy a wonderful meal without a camera to digitally record those memories.

No fear! The resourceful Oggie Bad, my saviour and my dinner partner for the veal feast, comes to the rescue, selflessly offering her boyfriend’s dSLR camera without his consultation. *Phew*

And yes, the lesson of this episode is not lost on me. In retrospect, it is moments like these that make me realise I might be just a little obsessed about food blogging.

With a camera safely in hand, I can breathe a sigh of relief and finally make our way to Danks Street Depot for what promises to be a fantastic meal. When we arrive we find the restaurant humming quietly with the sound of diners chatting, glasses being filled, chairs pulled back – all in anticipation of the feast ahead. Oggie Bad and I decide to order a glass of wine to unwind from the stresses of the office environment and given it’s a veal themed feast, it’s only appropriate we have a glass of pinot – a Delta Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir from Marlborough, NZ.

To kick start the meal, Jared gets up and gives a rousing introduction to the meal in which we’re about to partake. Despite his relaxed and comfortable demeanor in front of the intimate dinner crowd, it is clear that Jared is passionate about environmentally sound, organic and sustainable local produce. He tells us how the night’s meal came to be – how an organic veal farmer, Norm Lambert, called him and offered him an entire vealer for the produce dinner, one that had been fed on afternoon cut hay which has a higher sugar content and ensures better flavour. But what is a vealer you ask? I had to Google it myself to find out – it’s a fat calf of 8 – 9 months old and weighing less than 330kg. And this vealer’s got a name – not sure if it was Norm or Jared’s idea, but they’ve fondly named the vealer, Reg.

Jared goes on to say that almost every course in this 7 course feast contains a bit of tasty, tasty Reg. His bones were used to make a veal stock for a soup, his shins and tongue used in a pie, his leg roasted whole for the grand finale of the feast. The only dish to not contain a bit of Reg is the dessert course, and the veal and tongue pie contained additional veal tongues too as Reg’s tongue could only be stretched so far.

Some of our neighbouring dining companions are unsure whether they like their food so intimately personified, but coming from a traditional Chinese family with parents who forced me to eat my own pet duck at age 5, it really doesn’t phase me.. *twitch, twitch*

As soon as his introduction is done, Jared races back into the kitchen and toils over the hot stoves to get the courses out to the hungry masses.

The first course is a fragrant and moreish french onion soup made with veal stock (boiled down from Reg’s bones) topped with Tilson cheese. It is a powerful and very flavoursome start to the meal and I can hear audible murmurs of approval rise around me.

Soup – French onion soup with tilson cheese

The second course of veal ballotine is just a pleasure to devour. The brisket is tender and the stuffing of ham and confit garlic lends extra flavour. What appears to be a thick slice of tomato turns out to be lovely ripe persimmon and both the sweetness and soft texture contrast and compliment the brisket perfectly.

Ballotine – veal brisket stuffed with artichoke, ham, and confit garlic
served with a walnut, persimmon and witlof salad

The hearty pie that comes as the third course has a buttery, crisp pastry shell filled with tender braised veal shin and tongue. I can’t resist the temptation to open the lid and poke around inside to see if I can distinguish shin from tongue. Looking around I see that many of the other dining patrons are doing much the same, but everyone soon abandons the search, pushes aside any preconceptions about eating tongue and dig in with nods of appreciation.

Pie – Veal shin and tongue slowly braised, turned into a pie and served with
baby onions
braised in caramelised red wine vinegar and Jerusalem artichoke puree

The fourth course of schnitzel and spätzle (a type of egg dumpling typical in German cuisine) is another hearty and generous course. The schnitzel is moist and tender, the spätzle soft and chewy and the cumquat preserve with mustard overtones provides sweetness with the elements of citrus aiding in lifting the dense heaviness of this dish.

Schnitzel and spätzle Veal sirloin breaded and served on spätzle
with a piquant cumquat preserve

The saltimbocca that comes next is a welcome sight when I see that it is a relatively small portion. Saltimbocca means “pop in the mouth” in Italian and this dish certainly tantalises the mouth. The veal rump is encased in home-cured pancetta made from Berkshire pigs and adds an intense richness to the dish. The acidity of the balsamic undermines the richness, as does the cavalo nero, a dark leafy green common in Italian cuisine. I quickly realise that one couldn’t eat a large portion of this – it’d simply be too rich and flavourful!
Saltimbocca – Escallope of veal rump with home cured pancetta and sage,
panfried with balsamic and served on cavalo nero

Before the grand finale of whole roasted leg of Reg, I decide to take a peek in the kitchen to see Reg in his element. It turns out to be perfect timing as I spy Reg resting in his cauldron of caramelised milk curds, sage and lemon all in a delicious chicken and pork neck stock. Like a lovely piping hot tasty Reg bath.

Just then Jared decides Reg has had enough resting time and gets to work on him, kindly allowing me to photograph and shoot blinding white flashes at him whilst he carves up Reg’s leg with an undoubtedly sharp knife. Given it wasn’t my own camera, I was fumbling about trying to figure out where the functions were and flashing away unnecessarily at the chef. It was a wonder he wasn’t blinded by the flashes and cut himself.

And the wait is over – the grand finale of whole roasted leg of Reg. For a grand finale succeeding 5 meaty, rich courses, it sure was a generous portion. Two enormous steaks of roasted veal leg sat there challenging and taunting me. The flavours in this dish are more subtle than preceding ones – the milk curds give it a creamy richness and the lemon and sage fragrant notes that are just detectable. The leg itself is so very moreish – particularly the roasted crust exterior, but I’m already so full I can’t manage more than a few bites. Luckily the wait staff were very understanding and packed our leftovers away in a doggy bag.

Grand Finale – Whole leg of veal roasted in milk, sage and lemon
with soft polenta and radicchio traveso

Just when we thought we could not possibly fit anything more in, the 7th and final course of dessert arrives and suddenly, everyone finds room for dessert. And I’m glad we did. The pear was just delicious, drizzled with smears, dribbles and splats of honey. The hazelnuts were so crunchy they almost appeared candied and the soft goat’s curd the perfect amount of light creaminess on the side, and according to Jared, apparently the goat’s curd is a digestive. Excellent! All the more reason to gobble it all up.

Pears and honey – Corella pears roasted in honey and
hazelnuts and served on a soft goat’s curd

All in all this was a fantastic meal designed to really appreciate the origin and source of the food we eat. Necessity breeds innovation and some of the tastiest cuisines have utilised innovative techniques and flavours to make unpalatable lower grade cuts of meat palatable during times of food shortage and famine. In today’s developed society, we act like fairweather friends, quick to shun those lower grades for only the top grades of meat, no longer thinking about how we can use produce sustainably. I have read that hanger steak is becoming popular in New York – but given there is only one hanger steak per cow, the sustainability of restaurants ordering 50 hanger steaks (i.e. 50 cows required) and choosing to serve this steak as a regular on menus is questionable.

So I certainly appreciate the reminder when I see the creativity required to create this degustation in homage to using veal sustainably. Thanks to Jared for a great feast and a timely reminder. Is this rant just my way of justifying my love for offal? Maybe. Quite possibly. But I’d prefer to think of it as doing my bit to promote sustainable eating.

And the ultimate and unexpected bonus for myself and Oggie Bad? Meeting our lovely and equally food obsessed dining companions, Patrick O’Neill and his partner Stella Downer who incidentally owns Stella Downer Fine Art in the Danks Street neighbourhood. They were a endless source of banter and information about everything from Latvian political history to the origins of the word “sepia”. For instance, did you know that the Danks Street Depot logo is the specific shade of Kodak yellow it is because it currently stands on the old Kodak warehouse site? Information and wonderful company courtesy of Stella and Patrick.

1/2 Danks Street, Waterloo; (02)9698 2201
Open Mon – Wed: 7:30am – 4pm;
Thurs – Fri: 7:30am – 11pm;
Sat: 8am – 11pm;
Sun and public holidays: 9am – 3pm.

Foodie in the know:
Danks Street Depot regularly runs produce dinners or themed events – check out the upcoming events section of the site to find out what’s on.

Danks Street Depot website

View Danks Street Depot in a larger map

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephcookie July 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

Did your parents really do that with the duck? I'm fairly certain my parents have done (or at least talked about) something similar, hahaha! That's a pretty cool fact about the Kodak yellow :) You are so good at picking up twitter freebies, I saw you get the dress from ProjectRunwayAU the other day, was extremely envious!

2 Simon Food Favourites July 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm

sounds like a great event. poor duck twitch twitch hehe. that's veal overload. hoping to visiting one of the Dank's St Depot special dinners. they sound fantastic.

3 Tangled Noodle July 8, 2009 at 1:59 pm

How in the world do you stay slender?! This incredible veal dinner on the heels of the 35-course Greek feast at Perama – I seriously need to hang out with you!

Hope the pet-duck incident isn't simply lying dormant, ready to rear its traumatic self sometime in the future. 😎 Reg's self-sacrifice was greatly appreciated by all, including those of us who just get to read and look.

Can't wait to see what Twitter-related dining event you score next!

4 Belle@Ooh, Look July 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm

You've done well in getting over your pet duck – all those fab meals over the years might have blurred the memory. Haven't they? Fab photos of your night at Danks St – the carving of the leg looks vicious but delicious!

5 Helen (AugustusGloop) July 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Lucky you winning the dinner! I'm all for nose-to-tail eating and applaud Jarrod's approach. The meal looked great and I love the action shots in the kitchen!

6 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 8, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Well done! I saw Jared's tweet too. The food looks great! But your parents made you eat your pet duck at age 5? Ouch! That's rough!

7 Mr. Taste @ tastedbytwo July 9, 2009 at 12:20 am

That's such a great idea. Reminds me of that Simpsons episodes where they go to the steakhouse and pick their cow.

Were there any pics of Reg in the field, in his barn, etc?

8 Forager July 9, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Hey Stephcookie – Yes they did make me eat my pet duck. I was so upset that when my pet quails mysteriously disappeared "they got taken by the neighbourhood cats". At least I didn't know when I ate them. And yes, I've been fairly fortunate with Twitter freebies of late :)

Hey Simon – Poor duck? How about poor me? 😀 It's a miracle I can eat duck still.

Hey Tangled Noodle – Funny you should sasy that! Self enforced portion control diet starting this week. I have been a glutton too frequently this winter! I'm starting to look like I'm storing chestnuts in my cheeks in preparation for hibernation. I bring up that duck incident every now and then with my parents. It always makes them look guilty and sheepish.

Hey Belle – Yes, I do like duck now. No problems eating it. I think it was my parent's no nonsense attitude. They weren't going to allow me to refuse to eat it and eventually I guess I repressed the memory. The veal feast at Danks St was delicious – so good to feel like we were not being wasteful either.

Hey Helen – I'm a big fan of the nose-to-tail philosophy too. Jared pulls out all the stops when it comes to being frank about the meal – there was certainly no wrapping it in cotton wool.

Hey Lorraine – Yes, my parents forced me to eat my duck, just after my siblings' ducks mysteriously disappeared too. They don't really subscribe to the sensitive parenting philosophy. More the what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger philosophy.

Hey Mr. Taste – No, there weren't pics of Reg. I think that may have been too much information for even the most outspoken supporters of sustainable eating! Having said that, if you go to Vic's Meats'warehouse in Botany early on a Saturday morning, you can sometimes choose the side of cow you want your steak from.

9 Anita July 9, 2009 at 10:52 pm

What a fantastic night out! Lucky You!!

10 Forager July 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Hey Anita – Thanks! Good food and great company! What more could one ask for? :)

11 Forager July 30, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Hey Yu-Tze – Your comments had me researching the cheese. The wait staff spelt out "Tilson" for me, but I can't find that anywhere. I have a feeling it actually should be "Tilsit". Oops! Either way, it was a very lovely full flavoured cheese.

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