Stepping on stones. Day 42

Stepping on stones. Day 42

What? I can see that you’re all confused by the lack of day 41 on the website. Or maybe you didn’t notice. I hate to tell you folks but day 41 was literally spent sleeping. After a full flight with very little sleep I needed a day of rest. When we finish this holiday I think I’ll need a holiday!

Waking up and feeling fresh Jess and I decide to explore the city. Grab a quick panini stuffed with mortadella, oozing Brie and rich tomato sauce and we are set to go. When you’re in Zurich get yourself a 24 hour pass called the Zurich Card. It gives you access to all public transport within the city. Trains, trams, boats, buses, I reckon you could hail a horse and cart with it if need be. We hop on board the train and speed off towards Üetliberg, also known as, the top of Zurich. Jess throughout our travels has developed this obsession with great views so we best get this great view of the Swiss countryside.

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I can say one thing, we definitely aren’t in Kansas anymore! This busy little European city is brimming with banks, designer stores and of course loads of food. This city is like a macchiato. The raw and industrial city filled with machines contrasted by the sweet, cherubic steepled houses where all anyone wants to talk about is fondue. The contrast between the old and the new is palpable but in a good way. Rather than removing its history like so many major cities the Swiss are proud of their heritage. We see some of this history at the Swiss National Museum.

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The museum resides in the revamped Castle of Prangins and is filled with Swiss history; from its Celtic and roman background all the way through to its industrious nature in the modern day. After wandering around this beautiful site my stomach is growling and what do you eat when you’re in Switzerland? The answer of course, Bratwurst. The Sternen Grill is a wurst institution. For those of you who are unsure wurst is sausage. We grab some St Gallen Bratwurst and chomp in. Ok they are suspiciously large and you may need to push the thought of horse penis from your mind but I insist they are deliciously spiced pork meat. The outside has a great char from the grill and the meat has plenty of flavour. A delicious side street snack as we walk along the Bahnhofstrasse, a massive designer shopping sect where Prada, Bvlgari and many others feature prominently and we’re in Switzerland so there is of course. Chocolate.

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Lots and lots of sweet, milky, creamy chocolate. Jess is in heaven. We want to steer clear of the main brands but and opt for a little local chocolatier not far off the beaten track. The cobblestone streets crackle delightfully underfoot as we trot up the path to visit the immense stone churches. Stained glass glistens as we walk through the sacred spaces. Churches are wonderfully historic in Switzerland, the gothic architecture, the woodwork, everything is preserved and looks from the Middle Ages.

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We mosey back to our hotel through old town. This is Zurich, I feel like I’m walking through a medieval village, knights swinging swords and blacksmiths toiling over molten flame. In fact I’m staring at Swiss Army knives and perfectly tuned timepieces but the feeling is still the same. History. It’s beautiful, so beautiful in fact that it is making me want to eat like a warrior. Dinner time I think.

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Now this is time for Swiss food. Vienna schnitzel and spatzli. Jess and I are at the local hangout, Schlachthof, where meat is served as it should be, huge, breaded and fried. With a pint of whatever the guys beside us are having Jess and I settle in to old school Zurich. Ok the menu is in German, the language your surrounded by is foreign and slightly drunk but this is travel. This is what thetraveltotaste is about. Perfection comes in many forms my friends. Food brings people together, that’s what I think we love most about it. The plates arrive piled high. For Jess a succulent pork schnitzel cordon bleu, meaning pork stuffed with bacon and melty gooey gruyere cheese. For me the classic Veal Vienna schnitzel with spatzli. Andy, my first chef would be so proud. The spatzli, a german form of pasta, is golden and crisp with lashings of melted butter and the schnitzel is served as it should be. Simply. A lemon wedge to garnish. This is food from the heart, it’s not fussy, it’s honest and wonderful. The stuff memories are made of. Ok maybe the beers are starting to get to me.

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Home to bed, Germany calls.

Gute Nacht Meine Freunde

Goodnight my friends

Josh and Jess

Restaurant Mason Newcastle

Far beyond the city streets, dining at Restaurant Mason.

It’s lunchtime. I look left, I see Jess. I hear a stomach rumble. Mine or hers?Either way we’re hungry so we sit down at Chef Chris Thornton’s Restaurant Mason. Chris has spent much of his time in what is considered to be one of the most difficult kitchens in the world. Chris was a chef at Brett Graham’s The Ledbury. He is now settled amongst the busy suburbia of inner city Newcastle. Mason makes a bold statement with crisp white linen, friendly service and a pair of tattooed arms at the pass. We settle in on an outside table. Jess and I love to watch the hustle and bustle.

This is food with precision. As we sit we are greeted with house made bread and churned butter. Our starters are friendly flavours but this is food that you want to keep eating. For Jess roasted prawns with rosemary gnocchi and a butter sauce. The gnocchi is featherlight and contrast the crisp prawns wonderfully. For me I chose a salad. Yes I know, a salad. Now I have nothing against salad but I am usually a protein followed by more protein person, but a salad of quinoa, crisp squid, rocket and ratatouille was way too good to pass up.

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A breeze picks up and suddenly I am reminded that winter is almost here. The next two dishes are a reminder of winter warmers, a thick wool coat, uggies and everything else that makes the cold weather fantastic. For Jess, pork belly, braised red cabbage and roasted carrots. It’s like a roast dinner on steroids. The slightly pickled cabbage cuts through the rich and fatty pork and the carrots have just enough sweetness to drive home the deliciousness.

image Now after a salad it is time for me to dive into some protein. And here it is. A porterhouse steak, a sauté of local mushrooms and a golden potato rosti. Salivating? You should be. The mushrooms are cooked in butter and finished with thyme, the steak is a perfect medium are and the rosti is a little gold friend crashing the party. I broke records devouring this plate. I barely had enough time to notice the huge bowl of triple cooked chips next to me.

imageNoticing a wayward parking inspector checking out my car it’s dessert time. Jess has a textures of chocolate plate, a touch of naturalism here. The dessert looks like a chocolate forest, mousse, berries and an oozing chocolate fondant.

imageMy dessert is something else entirely. I have the Restaurant Mason carrot cake. Layers of carrot cake are pressed with sour cream, cream cheese and finished with an intensely savoury carrot purée. There’s also a silky looking quenelle of chai ice cream. This blend of sweet and savoury is something I really enjoy. Not only for the fact that carrot cake reminds me of baking with my mum but for the taking of the past and thrusting it into the future. It is food with love but there is a deft touch here. A touch of a professional.

imageMason may be set in amongst the urban sprawl of hunter street but it is a setting that is anything but. You may find yourself in a little hustle and bustle getting a table but the food here is tight, neat and tasty. The tattoos give it away. Chris works hard and his food shows. From that tiny little kitchen he can take you far off the Newcastle streets and into a world where the only touch is his own.So take a moment. Step out in Newcastle and let Restaurant Mason take you far beyond the city streets.

Dined May 2013

3/35 Hunter St, Newcastle NSW

http://www.restaurantmason.com