One of Australia’s most successful and endearingly loved magazines is Better Homes and Gardens. With a circulation of over 300,000/month, it has an extremely loyal following. While the magazine is successful enough to stand on its own merits, it is certainly benefiting and remaining in the spotlight from the outstanding success of the Better Homes and Gardens TV show that airs on Channel 7 every Friday night.
While the first issue of the magazine was published in 1978, it was another 18 years before the first episode of the lifestyle TV show was aired.
Because both the magazine and the TV show have such an enormous and loyal following, Better Homes and Gardens is hosting live events to be held in October in Perth and November in Sydney. This is everyone’s chance to not only benefit from cooking demonstrations, gardening advice, pet care, craft skills, styling tips and renovation advice, but also an opportunity to be up close and personal with the stars of the show.
Ahead of the live events, the team from Better Homes and Gardens invited the media to a pre-season launch at The Greens, North Sydney.
Now…I’ve been meaning to get to The Greens for a while because since it was given a serious makeover, I have only heard positive reviews. The Greens is located on the edge of a bowling green (hence the name), and is within a NSW registered club.
Two chefs have come across from The Grounds at Alexandria and have brought with them healthy, fuss-free, real food that’s fresh, seasonal and beautifully presented.
The Better Homes and Gardens event was held on a Spring day at lunchtime. What a shame the weather didn’t co-operate and I was once again wrapped in layers of winter woolies.
The Greens created a special cocktail for the event that was fabulous. It contained Saint Germain, green chartreuse, green apple juice, lemon and coriander. Such beautiful fresh and summery flavours.
While enjoying the cocktail we stood around cafe tables where they served the Barman’s Platter. The food on the platters was served on what looked like newspaper and contained pork terrine, cured meats, scotch egg, house pickles, marinated olives, triple cream brie, heirloom tomatoes, bread & lavosh. It was a fantastic mix and almost a meal in itself.
Wandering around the room I found the TV show’s chef, Ed Halmagyi, also known as ‘Fast Ed’ who isn’t lacking in height. He was tempering white chocolate that after the lunch we would put into moulds to make sunflowers and then once set, paint the petals with a gold lustre. If it was me having to temper chocolate in front of a camera-thrusting crowd who was also asking a broad range of questions I would have broken out into either a rash or a sweat, but Fast Ed looked extremely calm under pressure.
We sat down at long tables and sitting opposite me was the show’s presenter, Johanna Griggs. I’ve admired Johanna for many years as she first came to fame in Oz as a member of the Australian swimming team where amongst many other successes, she won a Bronze medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. With her sparkling personality and beautiful smile, she became the darling of the Australian swim team.
Johanna was extremely warm and welcoming and friendly and went up and down the length of the table shaking hands with all other guests and setting everyone at ease. She converses easily and naturally with people and you immediately feel you’ve made a lifelong friend.
The editor of the magazine, Julia Zaetta introduced the event and told us about all the exciting things that will be happening at the live events. She is very witty tells a good story and mentioned how people at the live events only come up and talk to her if they want to find out where they can find the real stars of Better Homes and Gardens.
Johanna then spoke and while she did there was cheeky banter being added from Fast Ed and Jason Hodges and the warmth and the relaxed way they interacted let you know these presenters are a very cohesive team who not only get along really well, but truly love not only each other but what they do. If there’s ever a job going as a presenter you’d want to be part of this team.
The food served at the lunch was amazing confirming my objective to get there soon for a good night out. We started with a variety of enticing salads that were put at intervals along the length of the table and shared. We had Heritage Tomatoes with watermelon gazpacho, sun-dried black olives, basil and whipped goat’s milk feta. While I enjoyed the watermelon and olives, I thought some of the tomatoes could have done with a few more days of ripening. I did love the bread/cracker that was so thin it’s what I call music paper bread.
The next salad I tried was the grilled haloumi with pickled grapes, mint, puffed rice with a caraway dressing. I do love haloumi and this was beautifully grilled and the pickled grapes were delightful with the cheese and the puffed rice gave the dish terrific crunch.
My favourite salad was the grilled asparagus with shaved pecorino, crumbed egg and white truffle oil. I’m going to ring them up and ask how they crumb the egg – I’d like to attempt that. This was very seasonal and beautifully presented.
There was a salad of baby beets with pickled apple, walnut, bronzed fennel and cress. I do love beets and their flavours were heightened with the pickled apple and walnuts. Again, this was an attractively presented salad.
I loved the salad of poached free-range chicken with kale, quinoa, pear and yoghurt. This was a very generous serving with plenty of chicken. The variety of salads was outstanding and you certainly become very aware that at The Greens you’re not dining at any ordinary club.
There was a hot salad of smoked trout, wile rice, pickled cucumber, soft centred crumbed egg, preserved lemon and chilli. Although I didn’t try this salad, it was very pretty in colour and everyone said the pickled cucumber and preserved lemon with the smoked trout was a wonderful combination.
By then I had had more than enough however, out came a 12-hour slow-roasted half shoulder of lamb with roasted seasonal vegetables and a lemon and herb salsa. This was fabulous and I will be returning to The Greens for this alone. The herb salsa was magnificent with the extremely soft, succulent and tender lamb.
It was served with hot chips with a lemony aioli. The chips were excellent with a great crunch to them and a pillowy inside.
After the very generous lunch that I thoroughly enjoyed that was paired with beautiful wines and sparkling waters, it was time to get down to business with the aim of making white chocolate sunflowers.
Except I was engrossed in conversation at the table. I’d been at the table talking to Johanna about raising boys and swimming and work-life balance and of course, food. And I missed my moment. I thought I was to go home without any tempered chocolate moulded into sunflowers.
However, I hovered around the tables displaying all the chocolate sunflowers and Fast Ed took pity on my plight and handed me some sunflowers he’d made as extras. Excellent! I could go home with a chocolate parcel after all! And then he gave me a paint brush so I could add the gold lustre. And after watching my efforts he told me off. For using too much! And because I was stroking it on when you’re supposed to swing the brush around in circles so the gold becomes buffed giving it great luminosity. I have plenty of room for improvement.
And then with my four excessively heavily applied gold-lustred sunflowers, I picked up my November issue of the magazine and hot-footed it to my car.
At the live events you won’t just be wandering around; you’ll have the chance to meet the presenters, do hands-on workshops for just small numbers of people, and have all your questions answered on DIY, pets, craft, landscaping and gardening. The small taste I had of being around the crew of Better Homes and Gardens was inclusive, intimate and informative. If that is just a small taste of the experience you will have at the live events, they are something not to be missed. Tickets are selling out fast so order your tickets through the website and get along for an entertaining, informative and relaxed day out.
The Greens: 50 Ridge Street, North Sydney
Ph. 9245 3099