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Life

Moon Festival

Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Moon Festival is the one of the grandest festivals in Asia. Also known as the mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th is when the moon is at its roundest and brightest, and it is a time of special significance.

Slightly differing from the customs of Moon Festival in China, Korea celebrates the mid-Autumn event by preparing a banquet to pay respects to ancestors for a successful harvest. During the festivities, Korean people travel back to their hometown to spend time with their families and to enjoy food predominately made from rice, which is harvested during this period. 

“The Moon Festival is called Chuseok in Korea,” says Eun Hee An, chef and co-owner with her husband Ben Sears, and wine agent Ned Brooks of Korean restaurant Paper Bird in the Sydney suburb of Potts Point.

“Traditionally, Chuseok is a day to pray to your ancestors in order to assure a good harvest that year. I am from Ulsan, but we have family members in Seoul, Chungju and Busan, so it’s one of the few times a year (along with Seolnal, which is Chinese New Year) that the entire family comes together. We come together, commemorate family members who have passed (Charye) and do Seongmyo, where we make offerings at their graves.”

Family feast

Of course, with the family gathered, food is important to the festivities and Eun recalls her favourite memory from the Moon Festival when she was a child.

“One of the offerings we make is songpyeon: a sweet rice cake, like a mochi, stuffed with honey, sesame or red bean, shaped into a half-moon crescent. Young girls are told that whoever makes the best looking songpyeon will get the best looking husband, so I was always very focused with my mochi decorations!”

Unique to the Songpyeon in Korea is the use of pine leaves. During the cooking process, the Songpyeon is steamed together with pine leaves, which adds a delightfully aromatic twist to the traditional dessert. Along with the Songpyeon, Eun’s favourite dish during the Moon Festival was a pan-fried fritter known as jeon, as well as a special recipe perfected by her grandmother.

“Besides songpyeon we eat assorted jeon, which is a Korean pan fried fritter. My favourites are zucchini and also my granny’s gochujeon, which is a chilli stuffed with minced beef and then battered and fried.

Chuseok in Australia

Ben and Eun manned the pans at Sydney’s iconic Claude’s restaurant before it shut down in 2013, which prompted the pair to start up their own venture. From humble beginnings, Moon Park has emerged as one of Sydney’s best Korean restaurants with the menu featuring a fresh focus on traditional Korean. Dishes such as Sooyuk – cold smoked pork belly braised with artichoke and chestnut in mushroom dashi, sit alongside fusion dishes like barbecued octopus with potato cream, kelp oil, garlic chive kimchi, and crispy fried chicken with  pickled radish, soy and syrup.

These days with Eun making a life for herself in Sydney with Ben, she celebrates the Moon Festival in her own way.

“In a way, Chuseok for me is bittersweet because I am the only member of my family who no longer lives in Korea,” says Eun.

“Of course, I still want to celebrate, so I call my parents and talk to everyone about what they are doing and the food they are enjoying. But it is a time of year I realise how far away I am.”

Eun says they will also celebrate the Moon Festival with their patrons in the restaurant with some traditional Chuseok dishes added to the menu during Autumn, but she doubts the festival will ever get as big over here as it is back home in Korea.

“It would be great, but I don’t think it could ever be,” she says. “Chuseok is a very old tradition in a country where, historically, for many people the quality of the year was defined by the agricultural harvest. Even now, as more people move to cities, it is still so ingrained as a big part of our cultural upbringing.”

NOTE: We ran this article in the Spring issue of Selector followed by recipes for chicken skewers and stir-fry beef, and it could be assumed that these recipes were from Moon Park. However, Ben and Eun were not the authors of these recipes and they are in no way affiliated with the products featured in the recipes. Sorry for the confusion, and to Ben and Eun. If you have a hankering for traditional Korean with a fresh focus, then check out Paper Bird, I think you’ll be rewarded.

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Gourmet Destinations - Argentina
Words by Guy Wilkinson on 6 Mar 2015
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Dubai | Utopia
Words by Mark Hughes on 12 Jan 2015
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Wine
Riverina: Farming, Food And Wine
Words by Nathalie Craig on 16 Mar 2018
The Riverina region has undergone a renaissance that’s seeing its established traditions given a fresh makeover. The result is a dynamic food and wine experience presenting local produce with European flair. The Riverina  has long been referred to as Australia’s food bowl. This south western region of New South Wales between Griffith and Wagga Wagga is abundant with citrus and stonefruit, grapes, figs, olives, nuts, lamb, beef, chicken, wheat and rice. What is not so widely known is that there is a shift happening in this rural farming centre. It’s being led by a growing number of innovative chefs, winemakers and growers dedicated to providing new and unique wine, food and agritourism experiences. Dining Out
The wealth of fresh produce available in the Riverina , combined with a strong history of Italian immigration following the World Wars, means there is no shortage of quality places to dine. Chef Luke Piccolo, who owns and runs Griffith’s renowned Limone Dining , cut his teeth at Sydney restaurants Pilu at Freshwater and Pendolino before returning home to Griffith to open his own fine-dining establishment. Luke, who is of Italian heritage, won the Council of Italian Restaurants Australia (CIRA) Young Talent Award in 2013. His nonna, who cooks beautiful rustic Italian food, was the first to show him the ropes in the kitchen. “When he left school, Luke came to help at our family restaurant and we were blown off the planet with what he could do,” his father, Peter reveals. “We were blind to what had been going on for the past decade. Then all of a sudden there he was in the kitchen at 16 years of age with amazing cooking skills, work ethic and creations.” Luke’s nonna taught him about the no waste policy, which you can now see woven into Limone Dining. The place is built almost completely from recycled materials and Luke offers an evolving seasonal menu featuring local produce. Think fresh tagliolini with spring lamb ragu followed by char-grilled quail with pancetta finished off with blood orange almond sponge and lemon custard. For full-blown Italian dining in Griffith, visit Zecca Handmade Italian in the old bank building. Run by returning locals, Ben, Michaela and Daniel, Zecca’s regularly changing chalkboard menu is packed with delicious Italian staples. Their Maltagliati, casarecce and pappardelle pastas are lovingly made by hand each day. Plates of house-made antipasti are packed with olives, salumi and baccala from local Murray cod. Another restaurant not to pass by is Pages on Pine in the main street of Leeton. It is a stalwart of the area, run by French-born chef Eric Pages and his wife Vanessa. They serve up French fare with a creative twist and are huge supporters of local producers, including Coolamon Cheese, Bruceron pork, Riverina  lamb and Randall Organics. They also offer a three-course set menu, matched with Leeton wines from Lillypilly and Toorak. Coolamon Cheese
A nirvana for cheese-lovers has been formed inside an historic 1920s co-op building in the main street of Coolamon. Cheesemaker Barry Lillywhite and his son Anton Green have filled the space with top-of-the-line cheese making facilities, a commercial kitchen, deli and generously sized dining area. All their cheeses are handcrafted on site using just four simple ingredients: local Riverina milk, starter culture, rennet and salt. “By hand-making our cheeses in small batches we can tend to them more closely, watch them mature cheese by cheese and release them to our customers at exactly the right time,” Barry explains. Barry’s signature collection of native Australian-flavoured cheeses pack a punch. Right now he has lemon myrtle, river mint, bush tomato and alpine pepper cheeses on the menu. Other cheeses available include vintage cheddars and oil-infused fettas, blues and runny Bries and Camemberts. His soft cheeses are a far cry from varieties you find in the supermarket. “Our soft cheeses are not stabilised and this is why they are soft and gooey and have a mind of their own,” he explains. “In fact, the only preservative we use in any of our cheeses is salt.” Visitors to Coolamon Cheese can taste test the cheeses or sit down to a cheese-inspired meal from the cafe menu. Here the cheeses are served with a range of gourmet accompaniments like tempura saltbush, cold roast lamb, pickles, onion jam, sticky prunes and balsamic strawberries. Guests are also invited to take a tour of the factory led by one of their cheese makers. “We want visitors to understand where their food comes from and the processes it goes through to get to their plates,” Barry says. Wine a plenty
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The Murrumbidgee Irrigation scheme, coupled with rich red soils and a warm Mediterranean climate, allows most varieties of grapes to grow well. Although the area was once looked upon as a producer of table wines, successful Italian varieties are fast becoming the star. “What is exciting is what we are learning about alternative varieties, such as Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, Vermentino and Pinot Bianco,” chief winemaker at Calabria Family Wines, Emma Norbiato says. “By controlling the yield and the canopy, we are seeing some beautiful fruit and making some exciting wines. “In the next five years, I would like to think we will see more thoughtful viticulture and winemaking in our alternative varieties. Montepulciano , Nero d’Avola , Pinot Bianco are new to our region and haven’t even reached their potential yet.” Vermentino has also been a successful addition to Lillypilly Wines. Their first vintage of the dry Italian white was released in 2015 and went straight on to win the trophy for Best Dry White Varietal at the Perth Royal Wine Show and another gold at the Small Vigneron Awards in Canberra. General manager of Mino & Co, Nick Guglielmino says while Italian wines are not new to Griffith, there is now a higher demand for them. “We are experiencing a time where these varieties are being more accepted by consumers,” he says. “Griffith indeed has a rich history of Italian culture, so it makes sense for us to follow the style of wines we are familiar with, that of Italian authenticity yet grown in Australian conditions similar to that of their origins.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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