Super-sized hot dogs and thick cut bacon: Major League Baseball snacks come to Sydney

Courtney Merfeld, left, from LA, Executive Chef, George Fouskarinis, and Tessa Nikov, right, with “The Slugger”, a 24 inch hotdog, one of the american themed foods to be sold at the Major League Baseball Series at Moore Park in Sydney.7th March 2014Photo: Janie Barrett Photo: Janie Barrett JEM Big dog: George Fouskarinis with the Superdog. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Sixty-centimetre hot dogs, thick-cut bacon dipped in maple syrup on sticks and super-sized nachos served in plastic baseball caps are just some of the artery-hardening items punters will be gorging on at this month’s Major League Baseball Opening Series event.

The naughty nosh, which also includes Cracker Jacks (caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts), the Chipper (a nachos-like dish made with meat and waffle fries) and cheesecake was unveiled at the SCG on Friday by George Fouskarinis, executive chef at Delaware North, the company that caters for the SCG.

”We’re an American company, so we took into consideration the items we use for our menus in the States and worked closely with the chefs there to come up with hero dishes that would give the Australian market and international guests a really authentic American baseball experience,” Mr Fouskarinis said.

As the food rolled out, nary a lettuce leaf in sight, Mr Fouskarinis joked: ”When you come to a baseball game, you’re not looking for sushi, are you?”

The super-sized menu will presumably also help the more than 10,000 Americans coming to Australia for the series feel more at home, and will be served by a team of vendors specially trained by a ”vending guru” from the US. Vendors will snake through the aisles with their trays, yelling and flinging peanuts at game-goers, at all four games.

Meanwhile, Delaware North has been busy developing menus of a very different kind – high protein, high starch and low fat – for the players themselves.

The menus, Mr Fouskarinis said, catered to the specific needs of the players, which included copious amounts of coconut water and boxes of chewing gum, a smoothie bar and a salad bar. Burgers, fries and buffalo wings will still feature, however.

The series opener will involve the Arizona Diamondbacks playing the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Sydney Cricket Ground over the weekend of March 22 and 23, and is the first Major League Baseball game to be played in Australia.Super-size snacks for the stadium 

The Streaker: Grilled thick-cut bacon (200grams) dipped in maple syrup and cayenne pepper, served on a skewer. About 1800 calories.

The Chipper: 500grams of slow-cooked meat  (chilli beef, pulled pork or smoked brisket) on  chips served in a plastic baseball helmet with toppings. About 1500 calories.

The All American SuperDog: 60-centimetre  smoked frankfurter topped with American beef chilli, cheese sauce, tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese. About 1160 calories.

Where to find the perfect pint of Guinness in Melbourne

A perfect pint of Guinness. Photo: Simon Schluter Enjoying the company and the refreshment at the Drunken Poet in West Melbourne. Photo: Gary Medlicott
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If you, like me, enjoy a beer and have spent time in Ireland (and let’s face it, many who tour the Emerald Isle do so for the drink, with its beauty and aura a secondary consideration), chances are you’ll have been given earnest, even passionate, advice on where to find the best pint.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Dublin or Moylough (a village in county Galway with four pubs and little else), there’ll always be one or more pubs – usually places not overrun by tourists, where the Guinness runs through the lines like water through a tap and where the live music isn’t broadcast on a blackboard out front with the precursor ”traditional” – that are widely spruiked.

Given Melbourne’s love of beer and our strong affiliation with Ireland – highlighted every St Patrick’s Day when city workers and barflies mingle with ex-pats and working-holidaymakers in our city’s myriad Irish pubs – do we have a pub with claims to the perfect pint, where beer-line-cleanliness is next to godliness, and where the Guinness is on par with, say, Mulligan’s in Dublin?

Yes, according to Peter Mitcham, an amicable and quick-witted house-husband and beer expert with the best freelance gig in the world (”I get paid to drink and write about beer – I’m so used to it now I no longer feel the need to brag about it”), who is assisting me in finding an answer to this question. We’re no sooner settled into our seats and first pints (of Matilda Bay Itchy Green Pants; a fruity, highly drinkable pale ale) at our meeting point, P.J. O’Brien’s in Southbank, when he dispels my long-held theory about Guinness being best in its native country.

While he says some places don’t look after their lines as they should, ”[Guinness] is brewed here in Australia the same way as in Dublin, and the rating system used by [Guinness’ Australian producers] Lion is the same at each pub – whether it’s here, or at St James’ Gate Brewery.”

He believes enjoyment of a pint is primarily dictated by other factors, such as the atmosphere of the pub, or the occasion. ”You’ll always enjoy your beer more if you’re at a good pub and in good company,” he says.

There’s a gentle hum around us, even though P.Js – a popular and spacious burst of Irishness nestled in the Southgate entertainment precinct – is filling up. Our conversation swings from the place’s authenticity – Guinness placards, wooden panelling, Irish-accented bartenders, Setanta Sports on the TV – to the rise of craft beer. He links the slow-food movement, and a growing interest in farmers’ markets and beer-and-food matching – ”where once upon a time it was a green can and a pie at the footy” – to the trend.

”Look, there’s nothing wrong with VB and Carlton Draught, but they’re ‘for drinkin’, not for thinkin’.” He holds up his half-drunk pint to the light and gives it a little shake. ”There’s a bit of aroma here, it’s a little cloudy, there’s an Australian-developed hop called Galaxy …”

I comment that many craft beers taste sweeter than their production-line counterparts; that I lose my enthusiasm after a few. Mitcham nods. ”It’s all about the prominence of the hops,” he says, adding that boutique beers actually have less added sugar in comparison to the mainstream product.

”And yes,” he concludes, ”[craft beers] aren’t necessarily conducive to binge-drinking sessions – which isn’t such a bad thing.”

Our next port of call is the Sherlock Holmes Inn in Collins Street, a minimalist, olde-England-influenced, basement bar with a smattering of drinkers on bar stools and a two-level spread of tables occupied by hushed early diners and not-so-hushed late-lunchers. It does a good trade and is renowned for its fresh beer.

We clink our glasses, this time filled with Little Creatures Bright Ale. ”Oh, I nearly forgot,” Mitcham says, handing me an envelope with the handwritten words ”Pete’s Perfect Pint Prediction” on the front. ”Don’t open this until tomorrow.”

My brother-in-law Phil – a seasoned drinker whose advertising nous I thought may prove invaluable – joins us. Mitcham and Phil get acquainted and the conversation soon turns to the focus of sponsorship in the ever-changing world of beer-brewing.

”The bigger breweries are more about sponsorship than the contents of the beer,” Mitcham says. It leaves the boutique brewers able to pitch themselves to drinkers as a quality, artisan product – and little more expensive, but worth it.

Noting a young man handing over $10 for a Corona, Mitcham agrees with Phil’s reasoning that many drink it for the aesthetically pleasing clear bottle. ”No doubt it has its place – when consumed very cold on a very hot day – but in reality it’s a poor beer masked by lemon or lime, bought by men who like to be seen to be drinking a beer, but don’t actually like the taste of beer.”

We drink enthusiastically, our conversation moving somewhat inevitably, to women – in particular their drinking habits.

Says Mitcham: ”The female palate is more sophisticated, more attuned than that of a male. The modern girl doesn’t want to be told what to drink, and doesn’t want to be given fruity, pissy beers or girlie drinks; they’ll go for Belgian ales, saisons; and beers that are poured in female-friendly shaped glasses, even champagne flute-style glasses. The ones who haven’t discovered craft beers go for cider.”

Mitcham’s beer-related history lesson continues, touching on hops, and the impact shipping has – no matter how short the distance – on beer.

”The Germans have a saying: you should only drink beer in the shadow of a brewery.”

After all the earlier talk about Guinness, it’s time to order one. As we watch the barmaid do her thing (filling the glass three-quarters full before placing on the bar for the ”surge and settle” effect to take hold), a young – and obviously thirsty – woman is handed her just-topped-up pint … and commits the crime of any Guinness drinker: not waiting for the bubbles in the body of the pint to disappear; therefore subjecting herself to what Mitcham refers to as ”coffee-grounds bitterness”.

Mitcham notes the lack of shamrock in the head of the pints handed to us. ”The shamrock is the test of a good bartender,” he says, ”and the test of a good Guinness is for the shamrock to remain until the bottom.” No, Ireland’s most recognisable symbol isn’t on show here, but each sip leaves a ring on the inside of the glass – another pleasing sign – and it tastes fresh and, most importantly, the conversation is good, all the way down.

We exit the building, a buzz in our heads and step, and, having made the decision to forgo visits to the Irish Times and Mitre Tavern as planned, hail a cab to Carlton: a suburb more known for Italian restaurants than Irish pubs, but, to be sure, it has several worthy ones.

Our cabbie pauses at the Corkman on Leicester Place, a ripping little pub with excellent Paddy’s Day entertainment, but bafflingly, it’s closed to the general public on weekends. I should have done the research but, really, what sort of pub is closed on a Saturday afternoon?

So it’s on to the Dan O’Connell instead, one of Melbourne’s most iconic Irish watering holes and home to its biggest St Patrick’s Day celebration. Every year it takes on a celebration of rock-concert proportions. Thousands spill out of the pub and into the adjoining park, where live entertainment starts early afternoon and maintains a frenetic pace well into the night.

Today it’s a little more low-key, with a small number of drinkers in the public bar and a few groups at tables out the front and in the grungy beer garden. But Dan’s isn’t confined to a typical Irish template; its interior is unremarkable in a wholesome way, while the craft beer selection is as inspired as it is long. It’s here we sample two home-grown, American-style pale ales – the Hawthorne IPA, a perfectly balanced brew with just the right injection of malt to contrast the citrus; and the Mildura Brewery Storm Ale, a full-bodied, copper-coloured brew that draws the praise of the bartender and Mitcham – while being entertained by leathery local (in face and garb) Grant McCracken, an Irishman who runs a poetry event in the pub every Saturday afternoon.

McCracken’s choice of tipple, Thunder Road’s limited-release dark rum ale, prompts Mitcham to talk us through the virtues of whisky- and wine-infused beer. But Mitcham’s voice gives way to the hard-living and hoarse Irish lilt of McCracken’s, and in between sips of beer that coat his ragged beard, our new friend reels off an animated, poetic history of the pub before another local – one of many who know McCracken by name – recites a poem dedicated to the man himself.

We’re having a blast, but it’s time to move on. As we exit the building to hail a cab on busy Alexandra Parade, I tell McCracken to meet us at the Drunken Poet later. McCracken shakes his head: ”I was kicked out of the Drunken Poet once … for being a drunken poet!”

From here it’s a frantic procession of cabs, loud music and, of course, Guinness. Brunswick’s Snug Public House, situated in Sydney Road, is aptly named: the brick-walled front bar is a cosy squeeze of bar stools, sectioned-off booths and beer paraphernalia. Run by an Irish couple and frequented by Irish Melburnians whose voices seem to harmonise with the fiddle-prominent music, the place carries itself with an air of authenticity in line with its website’s mantra: ”A little bit of Ireland in the heart of Brunswick”. It’s great ”craic”, but after two pints we’re back in a cab, headed for our ”settle-in” destination.

The Drunken Poet is heaving when we walk in. Punters crowd the lengthy, pint-scattered service area, their focus torn between trying to catch the eyes of the two run-ragged barmaids and the melodic mongrel-rock of rising four-piece the Shivering Timbers.

The crowd is prominently 20-something, and many are clutching pints of Guinness, indicating two things: it’s a good place for the ink-black stuff (crisp, fresh and so wholesome that, in our case, dinner has long been forgotten); and the appeal of Ireland’s national drink isn’t lost on the next generation.

Later, several more beers to the good and with the witching hour looming, we call it a night, and Mitcham and I, strangers only hours before, shake hands with a warmth that brings to mind a quote by W.B. Yeats: ”There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”

The following afternoon I’m in a quiet corner of Flemington’s ever-reliable Irish boozer, the Quiet Man, a hair-of-the-dog Bulmers and ice to hand. I tear open Mitcham’s hand-written envelope and, despite my hangover, find myself smiling.

His perfect pint prediction? ”The beer (whatever it may be) that we had in the third pub we visited.”

I think back to the Dan O’Connell and those titillating craft beers, the three of us straddling that delicate line between the buzz of ”a few” and the slur-riddled freefall of ”a few too many”.

Mitcham has it nailed: the perfect pint is one that’s savoured in a good pub in good company, early in proceedings; not one being hoofed down in the pursuit of inebriation. It’s an old chestnut, quantity over quality, but something to consider on March 17.

Recipes to dial up the garlic

Saute of snapper with fresh tomato and olive sauce. Saute of snapper with fresh tomato and olive sauce.
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For garlic lovers: Saute of snapper with fresh tomato and olive sauce. Photo: William Meppem

Garlic recipes.

Saute of snapper with fresh tomato and olive sauce

8 cloves garlic, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 x 180g fillets of snapper, skin on

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

100g unsalted butter

50ml good-quality red wine vinegar

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced

12 black olives, stones removed, roughly chopped

3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Serves 4

Place the garlic in a saucepan of salted water and bring to the boil. Immediately refresh in cold water and repeat until the garlic is tender.

Dry the fish with paper towels and season with sea salt.

Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the fish pieces skin side down and cook for 5 minutes or until the skin is nice and crisp. Turn the fish over and add the garlic. Cook for a further 3 minutes until the fish is about three-quarters done.

Remove the fish and keep it warm; the residual heat will continue to cook the fish as it rests.

Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Then add the tomatoes, olives and a little sea salt. Cook for 5 minutes then add the remaining butter and whisk until it melts and forms a sauce. Add the parsley and a little freshly ground pepper, then check the seasoning to finish.

Pour a little sauce on each plate and place fish on top. Serve immediately.

Broccoli and anchovy penne

500g broccoli (about two large heads)

100ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

12 anchovy fillets

5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

400g dried penne pasta

parmesan cheese, to serve

Serves 4

Grate the broccoli and set aside.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil and add the anchovies, garlic, chilli flakes and sea salt. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring continuously, until the anchovies start to melt into the oil.

Add the broccoli to the pan with a dash more oil. Braise the broccoli slowly for about 20 minutes, or until well cooked and soft.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente. Stir the pasta through the sauce and cook for another minute.

To serve, spoon into four deep pasta bowls. Grate the parmesan over the top and finish with a grind of fresh pepper.

HOT TIPS

• The snapper can be replaced by any fish you like. The butter gives the sauce a really nice silkiness.

• We use thick steaks from larger fish – about 3kg to 5kg. If you use thin fillets, adjust the cooking time downwards to suit.

• Make sure the fish is a little undercooked in the kitchen so it’s perfect by the time it gets to the table.

SOMETHING TO DRINK

FianoOriginally hailing from southern Italy, the fiano grape variety is well-suited to the Australian climate. The 2013 Coriole Fiano ($25) from McLaren Vale is a lively wine with flavours of melon, lemon rind and stone fruits. The texture highlights the purity of the snapper, while the acidity complements the tomatoes.

Photography by William Meppem. Styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Dominic Smith.

Cuts to Medicare support for PTSD cause sufferers more harm

Mary*, a Sydney woman in her 20s, has a recurring nightmare of her childhood. It is like the final scene in Apocalypse Now , where Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz loses his mind, only Mary dreams that her “abusive, warped, religious fundamentalist and controlling” mother is Brando amid the chaos and madness that was her early life.
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Her mother probably had post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, she thinks, but because it was never treated she passed it down to the next generation.

One of Mary’s siblings killed herself. Mary married an abusive man, and she thought she was to blame for the terrible way he treated her because she was conditioned, as a child, to accept abuse; that it was always her fault.

Her early years were full of shouting and fights, so noisy children trigger memories of being constantly terrified, making her either withdraw completely or lose her temper.

After two years of weekly sessions with a psychologist, she can function better and she hopes to start working or studying soon. Most importantly, Mary has not passed on her mother’s legacy of complex trauma (a form of PTSD) to her own children because of the treatment she has received.

Jan*, a Sydney woman in her 30s now living in the US, grew up in a chaotic family. Her mother has bipolar disorder. Jan began therapy for depression in 2009, seven years after ending regular in-person contact with her mother, but it took a year before she accepted the therapist’s suggestion that she had PTSD. “I had previously thought of PTSD as something suffered by war veterans or victims of severe physical abuse,” she says.

Teacher Wendy*, from Hawaii, had the same reaction when she was diagnosed.

“I was in disbelief until I started researching it,” the 29-year-old says. “Then I realised, this is me.”

Since then Wendy has met 30 fellow sufferers, including nurses, lawyers, doctors and secretaries.

PTSD was first associated just with combat personnel, but research is uncovering how widespread it is. Triggering traumas include accidents, bushfires, strokes and heart attacks, surgery and being homeless.

The most common causes are sexual assault, domestic violence and motor vehicle accidents. The Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health (ACPMH) estimates 800,000 Australians have PTSD, and one in 10 will suffer from it in their lifetime.

Sessions with a psychologist are thought to be the best treatment. “The gold standard is 12 to 16 [sessions],” Sydney psychologist and trauma specialist Jay Spence says. Other experts put the number slightly lower or higher.

Complex PTSD can require many more sessions than this, yet the previous federal Labor government reduced the number of Medicare-funded sessions from 18 a year to 10 in January, for people older than 25.

An online petition by the Alliance for Better Access (ABA) pressure group calling for the cuts to be reversed has reached about 20,000 signatures. Campaigners hope a review of mental health policy by Coalition Health Minister Peter Dutton will restore funds for this service.

“Ten sessions is like having half a dose of antibiotics,” ABA spokesman Ben Mullings says. “The symptoms go away for a little while and come back full force. You don’t do half an operation. It’s not on in physical healthcare and it shouldn’t be on for mental healthcare either.”

A paper in Psychological Medicine in 2012 says three-quarters of the 8841 people sampled for the 2007 national survey of mental health and wellbeing had experienced at least one potentially traumatic event; 7.2 per cent had developing PTSD; half had the disorder by age 26, and three-quarters by 42. The median length for remission was 14 years, but a third still had the condition after 30 years.

ACPMH director of policy and service development Andrea Phelps says two-thirds of Australians will be exposed to a traumatic event by age 16, leading to the group issuing its first guidelines for adolescent treatment.

“We used to think kids would be resilient,” Dr Phelps says, “but it’s probably been under-reported for some time.”

One in 10 children caught up in the Tasmanian bushfires in 2012 showed mental health problems, including PTSD. A quarter of people who have had strokes or heart attacks develop the condition, and studies suggest women get PTSD at twice the rate of men.

Dr Spence sees five women for every one man in his practice. “The men I see are at a very severe stage of symptoms. Women are more likely to figure out something’s going on when there’s a good chance for it to be manageable.”

Whether the cause is war, sexual assault or an accident, the clinical picture is similar. Women get more anxious, men more angry. There can be moodiness, withdrawal, anger, insomnia, nightmares and intrusive memories, sights, sounds and smells pitching them back into the traumatic incident.

This is all normal for the first two days, Dr Phelps says. The problems start when the symptoms persist and research suggests symptoms can take years to show. Anthony Parsons, from Melbourne, runs the MyPTSD爱上海同城论坛m website. ”You may have this really huge trauma early in your life. Later in life, it suddenly catches up with you,” he says.

Candace*, 23, a Melbourne woman who is heavily pregnant, has a father who saw “no problem in belting the crap out of his kids”. She ran away from home at 16, but soon got caught in a web of destructive relationships. One alcoholic boyfriend offered her to his dealer for drugs when he had no money. She was drugged and gang raped. Her PTSD surfaced briefly with another boyfriend during sex.

Then she was sexually assaulted while working as a trainee nurse. “Within two weeks I had really bad nightmares. I was screaming and thrashing around in bed.” She was often unable to get out of bed for days on end and ground her teeth so badly while asleep that she chipped the enamel.

For Virginia*, a Sydney PhD student, it took seven years for her PTSD to roar to the surface after suffering six years of sexual abuse between the ages of 12 and 18. She is scared to leave the house in case she runs into her abuser and suffers chronic insomnia. She says she is “either too frightened to go to sleep or has disrupted sleep because of nightmares and flashbacks”. Her studies are suffering as a result. ”Some people try and force themselves to live around the condition, or just not mention it and carry on, like the great Aussie battler,” Dr Mullings says.

“That only gets you so far before it starts leaking around the edges.”

Dr Spence says: “The main misconception people with PTSD have is that it’s some kind of moral, intellectual weakness of capacity. That’s part of the real insidiousness of it.

”People try to make meaning of the trauma by attributing a high degree of blame to themselves.”

It can be hard for others to understand, he says. “PTSD is like a flaw in the alarm system that otherwise functions to keep us safe. It’s run by the part of the brain trying to detect threats in the environment. Trauma changes the sensitivity of that reaction. Things that are a minor threat are perceived as an extreme threat.”

Jack*, 48, a businessman who developed PTSD after serving in the Defence Force in East Timor, recalls meeting one woman at a support group. There had been an accident at her house in which people were injured, and despite not being there herself, she had “pretty extreme [PTSD], even compared to some military personnel”, he says.

“She was on edge, highly reactive to small things and ready to snap like a mousetrap, with seemingly little awareness of how she was impacting on people around her. I was struck by the contrast to the very contained and dormant nature of most military people’s PTSD.”

Jack has been in weekly or fortnightly therapy for years, funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and says he is in a “reasonably good” place. Candace sees a psychiatrist up to twice a week, with unlimited access once she reaches the Medicare out-of-pocket threshold.

Not all sufferers want to take prescription drugs for PTSD, and psychiatric intervention is not always effective. This is where the funding limit of 10 sessions becomes a problem: the ABA quotes a study estimating half the people in therapy will show no change in that time.

”There’s enough to get them back to a basic level of functioning, but cured of symptoms? Definitely not,” Dr Spence says.

‘The cuts actually hurt the people who are most in need,” Dr Mullings says. He thinks 18 sessions are a “little on the low side”.

“They can’t afford it; they don’t have private health cover or aren’t covered by their insurance. A lot of people look at 10 sessions they now have and go, ‘That’s not sufficient for me, so what’s the point of me starting?'”

Dr Mullings says there is only a “slim hope” the Coalition government will change the funding model.

A spokesperson for Mr Dutton confirmed all options were being considered and that the minister had said mental health care would be a priority in the first 100 days of his ministry – a deadline that ended on December 25.

Virginia now has to weigh up if she can afford the sessions she needs once she reaches the Medicare limit. Mary would like psychological therapy put on a par with psychiatric therapy, at 50 Medicare-funded sessions a year. “I feel very strongly that not funding Medicare access is a huge mistake, both socially and economically,” she says.

* Names have been changed.

Visit The Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health (acpmh.unimelb.edu.au), Alliance for Better Access (betteraccess爱上海同城论坛) for more information.