I've always been partial to things that stain. Whether it be people or objects. Smudged ink, in red or black, on hands that have just written. Raspberries on fingertips, pomegranate pink on SweetSour lips or ghostly circles of tea-cup prints on solid, wooden coffee tables. Dark Red Wine. Rich Coffee on Something White. Mmm-hmm. There's such an earthly loveliness to it all. I respect resilience. There has always been something beautiful about the indelible. The ingrained and the never really forgotten. Even a transient permanence can be meaningful. Memories are stains on the mind. I can still recall in an instant the way Dan's face looked riding up to me in Hyde Park years ago, now, or the way I felt the first time I read Lolita, which was almost the same as the way I felt when I finished the Museum of Innocence - or first really Got Johnny Cash. Stains keep us out of time, just for a little while.
The white, shiny hollow of an innocently pearled plate is the perfect stage for staining, like fresh white paper is to ink. Sometimes I think plates look more heartbreaking when they're emptied of the food that filled them up, and just left with smudges and swirls of flavour's remnants. Traces and Trails of what has been.
Nothing stains quite like red, which is what I was reminded of today at one of my favourite Sydney places to go from Hungry to Full:
Forbes + Burton, it's been too long.
We all have it, you know we do. One or two ingredients, their inclusion in any meal means that we can't help but order THAT, even though we pretend to read on and consider other options on the menu, like judges in a pre-fixed Miss Universe Contest. I have quite a few of these sucker ingredients. Coriander with chalk and pencil shavings? Why, that sounds amazing! Ginger with baby's vomit and cough medicine? If you insist. Earl Grey infused Tennis Shoe? Do you have that in a main instead of entree? Chocolate stuffed with Chocolate. Does that come with a side of chocolate? You catch my drift. Well, one of my must do ingredients (besides the ones above) especially at places where I know the quality is promising, is buffalo mozzarella. Oh, Baby. I don't just like it, i've got a thing for the stuff.
Buffalo mozzarella - innocent and soft, like baby's cheek as cheese. Breathless and creamy to the last, almost as viscous in form as ambrosial in texture. It feels like a delicious daydream - you don't digest this stuff, it just disperses as if it had never really been. The only way you know you've eaten it is the agonizing and lingering salted creaminess. Soft and pure and so serendipitously salty. Angelic cheese, in little discs of Dionysian descent.
Add to the charms of this cherubic cheese, the fact that it seems to effect a singular wonder on those who work with it: it begs for the simple. It implores only a few other ingredients, just a scant assembly, and well chosen, too. Buffalo mozzarella is far too subtle for anything more, it can never be overpowered or the final effect is lamentably lost, all at once and forever more. Like Good Career Choices on Jennifer Aniston or fashionable daywear on Chem Students.
F + B just never disappoints. The truly simple in life is the best fodder for over analysis, and over analysis goes something like this...
They keep it Chanel Suit Classic in this stunning salad of Roasted Red Beetroot, Fractured Hazelnut, Buffalo Mozzarella with just a Tinge in Fresh Tomato, a little Tell Tale Basil and the perfect dose of some drunken Vinaigrette - at once sweet, oiled and achingly astringent. Mother...Look at the colours and the shapes, and the way that the light and the shadow catch the oiled edges and make them shimmer and hum like something precious.
Cut and section. Bite and Close eyes. Slowly, you are sharing it with Claire. Soft voluptuous spheres of maroon red, dark and decadent, singingly sweet beetroot flesh. Like Full Moons sent up from the ground below. So wonderful and dense. It's like a rare steak for a recent pescetarian - honestly! Solid and Sweet. Heavy and Sweet. Cunning and Confident and Courageously sweet. A song on a fork.
Swirls and Swirls on white. Crescendos of colour. A watercolour in flavours. Pink and red and oiled. Confused and smudged and heavy. Deeper in spots and lightly fading - gorgeous. Flickerings of perfectly roasted hazelnut like scattered jaw jewels in a sea of plum-hued pinks. It takes a lot of self control not to break out into fully fledged finger painting.
I was suspended between colour and taste. This was divine. Claire and I were both dying. So astute, so sure of itself - it was a mesmerizing, dizzyfying Dish Wish. Usually these salads taste quite fresh and light. This incarnation was unique. It was decadent and dark, heavy with beetroot, heady with beetroot and dressing. But it somehow stopped short of being too heavy. The little globs of glistening fresh, oiled tomato lightened it up in just the right proportion. It aches to look at the photos now, it's only been 4 hours and I want it again. And Again. And Again. If this meal was a room in a house it would definitely be the cellar, dark and secret and hidden and full bodied.
It comes out like a mountain upon a plate. Such a huge serve but we finished it all. You have to try this if you possibly can. It was definitely more than the sum of some sumptuous parts.
I had my camera but decided to settle in for a relaxing lunch with Claire and Heidi and Penny. It was only on almost finishing this that I decided it couldn't go un-immortalized. Indelible as it already was to us. This place is heaven, and this Dish is hell to part with. It's probably the only meal I could actually see The Devil and God being happy to both share - it's got something of them each in it.
And the only thing sweeter than the buffalo with beetroot:
Ms Hilton and the Loveliest Corporate Regulator. Can you even believe they did law?
F + B happens at 252 Forbes St, Darlinghurst. Call them on 9356 8788. Order this or anything, they're always wonderful.
And followed by a solid latte. God, I love Sydney.