Friday, July 25, 2008

About Life, Rozelle: The SuperDuperMarket.

About Life in Rozelle is 13 years old. Like most adolescents, it began as a small, well established, buzzy little thing with alot of potential, and blew out beyond measure, to everyone's surprise, into one of the biggest, busiest health/alternative operations in Sydney. People come from the East, from the West, from the South and from the North to converge on this Darling Street bastion of all things salubrious, 200 new customers find their way here every. single. week. This is the kind of place that even intimidates the experienced shopper, so vast, so full of choices, so full of pots and jars and packets and tubs and cartons of things you may or may not have heard of. About Life is all about options. Your cereal can be wheat free, full of nuts, rice, oats, your milk can be biodynamic, organic, soy, lite, full cream, your ice cream can be dreamy creamy, rich dairy free, sugar free, soy and fruity or carameliscious and toffeed to the max, your bread can be spelt, kamut, soy and linseed, sourdough, organic, full of raisins and walnuts, essene, gluten free or flat and ready to wrap. If you dare to order for an impressive, glow inducing selection of juices, smoothies, teas, coffees and healthy treats from the cafe, you will be well rewarded with new and exciting tastes that teach you how amazing natural products are when they encounter a little culinary imagination.
That's the manager Vladia. There is no better advertisment for this alternative powerhouse than her happy, glowing face. She has worked for the sister owners, Jodie and Tammie for years, and has nothing but sheer and unadulterated love for her work. What you see at About Life is what you get. What you see is a busy, charged, energetic place where the people that work there have often been on the staff for years and are happy, healthy people, eager to accommodate your every need. If the Haloumi on Turkish with relish needs to be gluten free, just say the word and if the cafe happens to be fresh out of gluten free bread, one of the bright staff will bound out, like a lithe, efficient oompaloompa and retrieve some from a distant shelf, rush it back and whip up a haloumi sandwich that is healthy, safe and happy. I've shopped here many, many times, and this is always the service you get. Food intolerances, allergies, and outright fussiness do not phase these people. 

Shane's been one of the barristas here for as long as I can recall. We used to chat about Tool (4 degrees off Undertow is his current favourite track) while i'd wait for my signature 'wet' Calma Sutra Chai to infuse fully into a steamy pot of frothed bonsoy. Fast and fluent in the art of tea and coffee. Herbal, dandelion, eco, longshortflatblacks. Whatever you want, get it here, and with any kind of milk. Rice, soy, skim, full cream. I even had them once make my tea with some almond and brazil nut milk i'd just pulled off a shelf.
This is a smart set up. It caters for the home cook who wants to do it all from scratch, it also caters to the sometimes-sort-of-cook who wants to buy a marinated organic chicken and grill it with some beans they've blanched. They've even thought of the busy and lazy among us, who want good food but couldn't really be buggered: they have an express fridge, full of sandwiches, yoghurts, salads and sushi. They even have 2 little express pots of soup to go with little sourdough buns all cuddling together in a bowl near by for those of you who want to be nourished and wamred on the run. Dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, full of organic meat, carb free, laden with brown rice, every option you could ever wants comes at you in fridges, in class cases and in steaming pots. This is a like a twirling, swirling, colour splashed circus of all things healthy.
The product range is dizzying, I have had some hits and some misses, so take a while to find the products you really love, everything you could want is here. Bonsoy, Emundi smokehouse gluten free sausages and bacon, Sonoma sourdoughs and granola, Olive Green Organics trout (the best tinned fish you'll ever buy), Pure Life Essene bread, Stoneycreek flax, Tea Tonic berry green tea, Jannei goats yoghurt and milk, Marbrook Farm Yoghurt, Serendipity ice cream, Maggie Beer ice cream, Duchy Originals oaten shortbread biscuits (orange and ginger!), Dagobar chocolate, Green's chocolate, Spiral condiments, Pittango and Emundi soups, Tetsuya's salad dressings, Yulla dips, Larder Fresh Gluten Free falefal, Capel Cheddar. Beetroot chips, wheat free pasta, flatbread made from oats, marinated organic eye fillet, organic olive oils, almond oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, dried fruits and dried nuts and dried goji berries with and without regal coatings of dark chocolate. About Life brand dips, the moroccan carrot all thick with lush orangeness. More brands of milk than I can count. Teas from all over the world. Toby's Estate coffee fresh to grind. The cheeses alone: roquefort, gorgonzola, pecorino pepato, bocconcini, havarti, goats curd, brie, camembert, aged cheddar, fontina, gruyere, friache, ricotta and more. The grocery section gleaming with organic and conventional avocados, bananas, leeks, grapes, custard apples, potatoes in orange and yellow and brown and red and pale cream. Bright fresh berries. Frozen berries.  Pet food, laundry products, beauty products, herbs, aromatheraphy oils, burners, body creams. You could look for hours without even buying a thing, it's a range I can only describe by calling it truly engrossing.
That's executive chef Pam. You can't tell from the photo, but she has the loveliest Irish accent and a cheeky sort of glint in her sparkling eyes. She's in charge of the menu that serves the cafe and the huge catering trade About Life meets the daily demands of. She's the health inspired houdini behind simple and satisfyingly clean dishes like organic chicken with broccoli and brown rice. The kitchen is a gleaming, silvery workshop where colourful vegetables, organic meats and gorgeous grains are being chopped and grilled and steamed and seasoned. 
The stellar range of organic baby food is a big, big seller. Most people actually become introduced to healthier ways of eating when they become a parent. An interest in the purity of their childs food begins to transform into a concern for what they themselves eat. People around Rozelle must be a randy lot, with lots of young children in the area the shop prides itself on swiftly and conslusively meeting a very high demand for baby products such as organic bottled baby food, porridges, yoghurts, special sugar free snacks as well as eco nappies and baby health and nutrition products. This is an About Life service I have no intention of enjoying for several years to come.
One thing I like about the set up here is that it's not at all preachy. It's got a great good philosophy. Enjoy eating meat, great, choose some beautiful chemical free, organic and well seasoned chicken, beef, lamb, pork, bacon, sausages fish, smoked fresh or frozen. Like dairy? Indulge in some wonderfully creamy, clean ice cream and lush vanilla tasting milk. Does cheese take your fancy? No plastic, synthetic stuff here, just rich, creamy, sharp, tangy, mellow flavours from all over the world. If you still enjoy snacks from a packet, you'll find healthy versions here, more interesting chips than plain old potato, preservative free and low/free in sugar and gluten.
Even the muffins on sale in the cafe can be gluten free or otherwise. They're full of fruits and fiber, all designed to be low GI, sustaining and delightful. They used to have famous ricotta muffins that Candice and I had many treasured, excited and duplicitous moments of gushed and open words over. The banana was amazing, so was the chocolate jaffa, and the apple cinnamon, and the berry, and so was she. Sadly, the man who used to make the muffins stopped (i've never really forgiven him), but Candice and I have kept right on babbling.
The groceries aren't the cheapest you'll find, but the quality is evident in both colour, form and taste. The vegetables and fruits show off their beautiful shades all year round. It's a select mix of the standard and the exotic, dates and custard apples and turnips and more types of potato than you usually spy in any one place. If something you have never seen or heard of before catches your eye and your fancy, don't be afraid. Some of the best advice I got on cooking came from Janella Purcell who told me to just cook things based on what they look like. I once tried roasting some Jerusalem artichokes in with my potatoes, lo and behold, a new vegetable to add to my belly and repetoire. Don't just browse the aisles of packaged foods, walk around the fruits and vegetables, look at them touch them, linger for a while, wonder what you could do with them and what they could go with. These label-less wonders open up world's of flavour and vibrancy you could never imagine. Take the time they deserve to discover them.

If all of these healthy foods and drinks and potions and lotions aren't making you bounce around permanently while annoying your hung over friends with chirpy howyagoing phone calls at 7am on a sunday morning, then make an appointment with the in house naturopath who can prescribe you a remedy from their own little, in house herbal hut, or some vitamins and minerals from a range that includes my favourite, prescription only Metagenics products. This is one stop shopping to the extreme, they've even opened up more parking downstairs. It makes you just want to hug random strangers.

Tammie and Jodie have understood their market exhaustively and brilliantly. They have created more than a shop or a cafe or a catering business, this is a huge emporium of health and food and ideas, it's where like minded people can converge to find the kind of products and ethos which reflect the way they have chosen to live, it's blossomed into something more like a community. This is a vibrant place to be, it encourages you to slow down and look around, to pause and to think and to be mindful of yourself, your body and what you put into it. It's an honest business that has carried out an ethical and laudable vision with perfect execution. It's also nice to know that the owners have are as sincere in their business philosophy as they are when it comes to food. Vladia raved to me about how much the owners respect the staff, how they appreciate them and look to them for ideas and opinions on how to make the business better, something I already gleaned from noticing that several members of the staff are faces I remember from years ago. That's just it, About Life could rest on its considerable laurels, but it strikes me strongly as the kind of business that is always looking at ways to do what it does better. It's inspired and inspiring. The public is rewarding this sentiment, this place opens from 6am untill 8pm during the week (7 til 7 weekends), and rarely sees a quiet hour.

And that what it's all about.

About Life
At: 605 Darling St, Rozelle
ph: 8755 1333

1 comment:

Unknown said...

how ever do you find these places? no, really?