13 April 2021 - Rob Doll (REX)

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Food review by Robert Wiggins

Today’s lunch was a special day. It was the annual general meeting, but most importantly it was a celebration of one of our august members, John Rourke, being made a Life Member of the Society, an honour that is rarely awarded.  To become a life member is not a matter of putting in the years, but in putting in the hard yards for the Society over the years.  John has been a member for almost 50 years and is certainly one of the forces that have shaped the Society over this time.

As befitting of the importance of the day, so was the chef; Rob Doll, who is the Royal Exchange’s head chef.

As the rules have now changed and members are again able to have their canapes standing up, conversing and socialising together, just like in the days before covid, there was a festive atmosphere in the room.   Rob started the canapes with an old favourite for some with his devilled eggs followed by a salmon mix on a blini and rounded off with a crunchy dry crouton, topped with peas. This finger food was very tasty.

A plentiful amount of accompanying wines were served, which were befitting of an annual general meeting; they were free! And we are trying to clear out the cellar. A brace of primarily Prosecco, KT Riesling and Holm Oak kept the assembled throng entertained until lunch was called.

Rob served a very tender, juicy fillet of kingfish, with an exceptionally crispy skin, partially immersed in a saffron-coloured sea of extremely creamy mash, with some green crisped lime flavoured leaves, to deliver just the right amount of zest to the fish dish.  This was on an interesting bed of finely grated vegetables, that had most guessing to be celeriac, however, it was eventually revealed as cabbage!  Which was a big surprise to many.

The fish was served with a 2012 St Huberts Pinot from the Yarra and an Italian 2016 Rosso Dei Notri.  Interestingly these wines were great accompaniments, to the fish, as they provided an excellent foil for the very creamy and rich potato mix.

A few at our table thought that the blue-veined cheese was European, however, the Cheese Master James again pulled one of his Australian party tricks, with the origin of this mild, creamy, blue cheese, turning out to be Milawa Blue from the Victorian high country. It was inspired by Gorgonzola Dolce. Amazing at how proficient our cheesemakers in Australia are becoming.

This was accompanied by some dark grapes and a leaf salad, with an interesting dressing that some members thought was too sweet, however, it was so tasty that it was completely consumed at our table.

The wine cheeses were a 2008 Wynns V&A (as Chilly educated us, which stands for Victoria and Albert), from Coonawarra and a big, but elegant 2005 Barossa Shiraz; a Teusner Albert.

The lunch was rounded off with the Society’s now standard coffee and after a few stories about John the lunch was closed.

A photoshoot of five of the attending Life Members; John Rourke, Josef Condrau, Terry Stapleton, Greg Chugg and Ted Davis; assembled, all under the amused eye of the painting of Andre.

There were two guests; one an ex-member, who is re-joining and the other is a Beef and Burgundy aficionado, who should join.

As an important note, the Chairman announced that there will be both a Chef of the Year dinner, as well as the President's Dinner, later this year, at a time that does not conflict with Vivid (we all know the chaos that ensued with road closures at a previous dinner).  There are also plans for an excursion to Tasmania next year.  These events will be publicised closer to the dates, to give everyone an opportunity to attend.

6 April 2021 - CoTD Hal Epstein

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Food and some brief wine memories by James Tinslay

Hal Epstein was once again in the kitchen but this week he was scheduled in the traditional black spot of the Tuesday after the Easter weekend. He was assisted by our Foodmaster, Bill Alexiou-Hucker.

Starters

We were treated to three starters which all looked and tasted terrific.

First off was a simple dish of very deep coloured tomatoes, sliced lengthways with Hal’s garden-fresh basil leaves and dark anchovy inserted in the cut. Simple and fresh. Next off were wonderfully fresh and tender figs (well done to Harris Farm) wrapped in prosciutto. A classic dish. Lastly, frittata/mini muffins a la Stephanie Alexander with grated zucchini, olive oil, chopped chilli, salt, pepper, mozzarella cheese, flour and eggs. A touch of tomato on the top before cooking. These looked so visually appealing it could have been the ’eat me’ scene from Alice in Wonderland. And they tasted terrific.

Main course

Today’s plan was a Middle Eastern style dish. It’s a style that can apparently polarise our membership palate. Being a fan of this type of food I understand the large array of spices that contribute to making often simple ingredients so flavourful.

The protein part of the meal was lamb backstrap which had been quickly panfried before going into the oven to reach serving doneness. The centrepiece, literally, of the meal, was cauliflower surrounded by the portions of lamb. The cauliflower looked and tasted a treat. The main treatment was the use of harissa which gave it some heat with chilly, paprika, coriander, cumin, cayenne, garlic mixed with olive oil. This paste was painted onto the cauliflower and it was then baked until it reached a medium softness.

The marinade for the lamb was cumin, sweet paprika, garlic, coriander, parsley, oil and lemon juice and the lamb absorbed those flavours for 24 hours.

Not to be outdone by the preceding treatment there was a yoghurt mix to top off the meal with onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, birdseye chillies, tomato paste, olive oil, pepper, salt and orange zest. Whew!

The plating looked brilliant (see the photo) and all of the above was topped with walnuts, pomegranate seeds (it added visually as well as taste) and locally sourced fetta cheese.

Such a well done, appealing and tasty main. It covered all bases.

Cheese

James took us back to a member's favourite cheese, Osso Iraty from the Pyrenees. This ewes milk cheese from the Basque region dates back more than four thousand years. It is made for nine months of the year using the milk of black or red-faced Manech ewes. It contains finely ground Espelette peppers to form a natural barrier to moulds. Our example of this semi-hard cheese was buttery with fruity, herbaceous and nutty overtones. In excellent condition and a pleasure to taste

Wines (not a review but my observations from memory, no notes)

Richard Gibson presented the wines in the Winemaster’s absence. Phil Laffer also provided a detailed appraisal. The wines were:

Robert Stein Mudgee Riesling 2019 (a very good young wine with true Riesling fruit and appropriate acid)

Holm Oak Tamar Valley Riesling 2015 (non-Riesling like but a very enjoyable aged wine)

Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz 2012 (Ok for what it is but much liked by the floor)

Best’s Bin 1 Shiraz 2012 (somewhat extracted but very drinkable)

Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2009 (an enjoyable but unremarkable Coonawarra Shiraz and good value for its entry-level status)

Cherubino Frankland River Shiraz  2009 (what was the winemaker thinking? A Franklin River jammy and extractive Shiraz. Awful!)

30 March 2021 - CoTD Nick Reynolds

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Chilly Hargrave

Food

Our President Nick Reynolds was in the kitchen for our monthly wine tasting.

The theme ‘all-white wine’ would be a challenge for most chefs however Nick took the challenge and produced a great meal for us today.

Wines tasted today were a vertical tasting Tyrrell’s Vat 1 from 2018 to 1998.

Members commented on how fortunate we were to be able to hold a tasting of this quality, indeed probably unique to Australia.

Entrees

To match a brace of Pinot aperitif wine Paul Thorne was up first with his signature consommé of duck with orange zest.

The consommé had great flavour, concentration and mouthfeel. Perfect.

Nick followed up with Peking duck pancakes. The duck breast was cooked sous vide in its juices with hoisin, shaoxing wine, five spice powder, ginger and garlic powder. He then seared them on the hot plate. It was pink, moist and full of flavour. Nick sourced some thin pancakes from a local Asian deli as well as an umami bomb of Peking duck sauce and served the duck with cucumber and shallot. It was as good as you’d get at your favourite Chinese. Members were looking for more!

A great lead in to our main course.

Main course.

There was a lot of preparation evident on today’s meal.

Nick had made seafood sausages with salmon, smoked trout, pork back fat, cream, chives, and egg white.

They were rich, moist and flavoursome with good texture and came to the table at the right heat.

Nick served these with a warm potato salad of pickles, red onion and mayonnaise. Nestled nearby was some caramelised onion and a simply-dressed mixed lettuce salad.

It was a great combination and went perfectly with the wines today and many comments on the quality and taste of the meal. Calls were made for inclusion as a Chef of the Year contender this year.

Cheese

Our Cheesemaster James Healey presented ‘Le Marquis Brie’ for our cheese course today. Origin Ile de France (a region in north-central France surrounding Paris.)

A farmhouse white mould, made with cow’s milk.

In France, it is increasingly hard to find farmhouse cheeses made with milk from a single farm. Most examples are produced in very small quantities from raw milk and these are rarely found outside the area of production. This soft surface mould-ripened cheese, specially selected by Will Studd is a wonderful exception. It is handmade in a modern purpose-built ‘fermier’ that lives in the shade of the Rambouillet deer forest south-west of Paris. Le Marquis is made with fresh pasteurised milk sourced exclusively from a small herd of pampered Friesian cows. The unique combination of moulds, cultures and traditional popular wood box helps ensure the chalky centre of the young cheese slowly breaks down to a soft gooey texture over 3 to 4 weeks of careful ripening. One can tell when Le Marquis Brie is at its optimum because it has a distinctive fungal aroma and is soft when pressed. The cowy barnyard flavours of the mature cheese are a perfect reminder of why ‘fermier’cheese is so special.

With the cheese, Nick served figs drizzled with a special balsamic vinegar that he purchased in Modena.

It was Peter Mannners’ birthday. A lot of us can hope to be cooking for our Society at 97 years of age, Peter provided a Cockburn’s tawny port to go with our coffee and we finished lunch with a rousing rendition the birthday song and a smile.

Wine

Today’s wine lunch was an All White affair with a selection of vintages of the iconic Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon.

Consequently, the aperitif wines were a pair of Pinot Noirs to avoid the Society’s well-known symptoms of tannin withdrawal. A 2013 Seville Estate Pinot Noir was certainly on the money with tannin. Still showing varietal fruit aromas it was losing a little flavour of the palate with a dry finish. Continuing the theme we had a 2010 Tyrrell’s Vat 6 Pinot Noir. After 11 years, the wine had softened significantly with fine tannins and a pleasing texture.

Once we sat down we started on the prepoured Tyrrell’s Semillons. The first was a young 2018 (12.0% alcohol). Still very primary with obvious SO2 aromas. Still, with locked in ferment esters it was perhaps a little on the commercial side. Acids were quite soft with the expected lean palate. The 2014 (11.5% alcohol) was a step up in quality and the preferred wine for many in the room. The aromas were starting to show development although there was still a whiff of sulphur dioxide. A great fruit profile was balanced with structure and acidity. A wine with wonderful purity and length.

To finish the wines from the decade we tasted from the 2012 (10.5% alcohol) vintage. With an alcohol and acidity that we have traditionally seem from the Hunter, it showed some dusty, mulberry, green notes with a lean palate. The 2007 (12.0% alcohol) which followed, was a return to the bigger style. Very much in the toasty, aged Hunter style, it was still bright in the mouth with a fruit richness complemented by a slightly phenolic finish.

The final two wines were starting to show their age. Although the 2004 (10.2% alcohol) was under screw cap it was showing honeyed notes and a suspicion of oak. The flavours had diminished which left an acid finish. The 1998 (10.4% alcohol) was under cork and there was a slight variation between bottles. The best showed aged buttered toast notes and some aldehyde. The palate, however, was still bright with excellent structure and a fine fruit/acid balance.

A truly fantastic experience showcasing Tyrrell’s, Semillon, the Hunter and a spread of 23 vintages. A unique tasting that should have drawn a full house.

23 March 2021 - CoTD Peter Kelso

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Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave.

Apologies for the lack of photos, a misunderstanding. 

Food

Peter Kelso was in the kitchen today preparing a meal that had been postponed from February.

Starters

As we are back to vertical drinking, we started with a cold cucumber soup with onion, pepper et cetera. As a person who despises celery, I have to say I rather enjoyed this cold starter. Next up was a flatbread pinwheel that had been layered with salmon and mustard. There were large quantities but it all seemed to disappear during the aperitif vino.

Main course

The main came with a beautiful presentation. A Japanese based meal, kingfish which had been glazed with mirin, sake and sugar. It had been briefly oven cooked and was served with Japanese dashi stock, vegetable stock, seafood stock and a few other bits and pieces. Udon noodles were added to the brew before serving. Besides the appealing look of the dish, it was very flavourful and the fish was moist. It was tasty and I daresay it was healthy. The dish received very positive comments.

Cheese

The cheese from James Healey today had been sourced from the Calendar Cheese Company and was a Heidi Farms Gruyere which comes in 10 kg rounds. The farm is in Tasmania’s north and Heidi Farm cheeses are produced using milk from neighbouring farms giving them consistent and unique characteristics that are specific to the location.

Sadly, today, the cheese that we had did not appear to be in peak condition and was a little dry and as one member described, boring. It was a shame as we have had this cheese before and it has been enjoyable

Served with the cheese today we had toasted walnuts and figs. This was served with a St Agnes XO brandy, which was wonderful. Deep amber, a brandy that does Australia proud.

Wine

Once again we had three pairs of wines for this week’s lunch. The 2011 Hunter Semillons provided an interesting contrast. The Thomas Braemore was very much what we would expect from a 10 year old. It had moved very much into its most developed phase. Still bright, but with buttered toast over citrus.

The Tyrrell’s (Basket Pressed) Johnno’s was a very different wine. Still showing young lemon fruit and with a very pale colour. It was suggested that this wine is made for the long term and bottled with a high level of SO2. The palate was quite youthful, while the pressing has yielded a phenolic edge. A high acid was a little sour on the finish.

The Piemonte Barbera with the main course were again a contrast in styles. The 2016 Massolino was a little reductive early but opened up to reveal its varietal red cherry notes. The palate was fruity and fresh with the typical acidity. Surprisingly there was a dry, grainy tannin grip on the finish.

The 2010 Vigna Marina Coppi was quite developed and had lost much of its varietal fruit. Barbera is probably best appreciated a little younger than this. It was made in a more traditional style with some oak maturation and again firm tannins. Both of these vintages are well regarded in Barolo and would account for the bigger styles of Barbera seen at the lunch. The fruit worked with the fish, but the tannins were too much to go with Peter’s delicious meal.

The cheese wines were a step up in age, intensity, weight and alcohol. The 2008 Oliver’s Taranga HJ Shiraz (named in honour of Henry John Oliver who planted Shiraz in McLaren Vale after returning from WW2) showed ripe, but pure fruit with strong, but high quality, oak notes, turning a little rancio with age. The palate was rich and full flavoured, but just starting to dry out.

The 2008 Kaesler WOMS Barossa Shiraz Cabernet was a very different proposition. The acronym translates to weapon of mass seduction. Given an alcohol of 15.5 plus, perhaps WOMD may have been more appropriate. It showed overripe fruit aromas slathered with oak. The palate was unbalanced with Shiraz jam flavours and a hot alcohol finish. Very much in the Parker style in vogue at the time, and one that still has many fans today.

16 March 2021 - CoTD Matthew Holmes

 

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Steve Liebeskind

In the last “cook off” for our chef of the year award Matthew Holmes was in the kitchen today with assistance from Nick Reynolds. The standard of food in the chef of the year lunches has been high and today was no exception given comments from members from the floor.

Entrée

We were seated as per Covid regulations (finishing soon we are happy to report) and were served our entrees on a single plate.

  • Broccoli and pea soup with sour cream and bacon garnish, parsley and a pinch of chilli
  • Burrata bruschetta using a semi sourdough topped with snow and fresh peas, broad beans, parsley and mint, radish and chilli, drizzled with chardonnay vinegar dressing.

The theme was garden to plate with some green acknowledging St Patrick’s day. The soup had an intensity of infused flavours, good texture and came to the table at a good heat.

The bruschetta had been served on some sourdough it had an abundance of interesting flavours and was very satisfying.

A good lead in to our main course.

Main course

Matthew’s main course, a Greek-inspired pie ‘spanakopita’ or ‘weed pie’.

It had feta, goat and pecorino cheeses combined with young leaf spinach, roasted pine nuts, onions and dill, all wrapped in filo pastry. Accompanying was a tzatziki dip homemade without the usual garlic to keep it light and refreshing against the full-flavoured spanakopita. There was a lot of preparation in presenting this vegetarian dish for us today.

The presentation was excellent with a medley of cherry tomatoes, olives, red onion, fresh oregano, sparsely dressed with lemon and garlic olive oil. A good balance of acid and texture to cut the big flavours of the pie and a good match for accompanying wines.

The pie was a great version of spanakopita filo golden brown with many layers of buttered pastry, the spinach well dried after wilting so the pie wasn’t damp an achievement in itself.

Our food master was first to comment on the quality and how authentic it tasted.

Matthew served a seeded bread with the main and a sourdough with the cheese.

Cheese.

James Healey presented ‘Shadows of blue’ a farmhouse blue cheese made from cows milk aged approximately three months.

Shadows of Blue is made on the farm in Gippsland from Friesian milk with added Jersey cream. Selected blue moulds are added to the curd which is then hooped and salted before maturation under a wax coating.

The wax denies the blue mould oxygen until the wheels are spiked after two months. This results in a ‘sweeter’ flavour and sets it apart from cheeses matured with a natural rind. The added cream imparts richness of flavour, as well as texture and when ripe, small pocks of blue mould are laced throughout the creamy paste.

Matthew simply served a bowl of grapes with the cheese.

Wines

Our wine master Charles (Chilly) Hargrave selected the wines and unfortunately couldn’t attend the lunch. He provided the following comments on the wines.

The Yabby Lake wines are from 2014 (cooler vintage) and 2015 (perfect season - called a Goldilocks vintage). All wines are fermented with some stalk (up to 25%) depending on the season. Aged in French oak (20% new) for about 12 months.

The two wines from Roche de Bellene are both premier cru, but there are enormous differences in quality. A premier cru in Beaune is very different to one in Gevrey Chambertin.

The Lavaut Saint-Jacques is the closest thing to a grand cru in the Appellation. Perhaps if it was one the other side of the village it might be grand cru. Obviously being Gevrey it is described by firm tannins and mid-weight.

Grèves from Beaune is one of the largest of the village’s which 42 premier crus. They tend to be soft and complex, without any of the fruit complexity or structure of the Gevrey.

Wine review

1st Bracket – two good Semillons under Stevin that showed differently with breathing and food. Overall good examples of varietal and maker styles. One thing for sure is that these two wines both have a long life ahead of them.

2014 Tyrrell's HVD Semillon – Acid, citric and good length. Some sweetness on the finish – could be residual sugar. Solid wine which is balanced with 7 years of age.

2013 Lindemans Bin 1350 Semillon – Acid, fruit initially was short but expanded as it breathed and warmed up. Muskiness to start (could be some sulphur).

2nd Bracket – again two wines that changed significantly in the glass and when accompanying food, the preference of wines changed.

2015 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir– Pepper, sweet fruit good length and obvious tannins from some new French oak. Some stalkiness that balanced out with opening. Ripe fruit improved with breathing and food.

2014 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir – Capsicum, strong tannins with breathing there was a hole in middle palate. Showed a darker colour to 2015. Showed up very well on opening but 2015 finished better as the lunch went on.

3rd bracket – what a treat 2 quality Burgundies that improved from 1st to 2nd wine.

2012 Roche de Bellene Beaune 1er Cru Les Grèves – Big tannins

not initially pretty in glass with a slight bitter finish. The wine changed with breathing quality wine at 18+.

2010 Roche de Bellene Gevrey Chambertin Lavaut St-Jacques – quality well-balanced wine from the outset – violets and strawberries, balanced and elegant. Many years ahead of it. Soft tannins, ripe /elegant fruit. Worthy of 19+.

9 March 2021 - CoTD Steve Liebeskind

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Food review by Nick Reynolds

In the fifth of the cook-offs for Chef of the Year, Steve Liebeskind was in the kitchen, ably assisted by David Simmons and Paul Irwin.

Cooking to a packed house, Steve presented an enhanced version of the dish that led to his shortlisting as a chef of the year candidate.

Steve presented three appetisers: Fennel puree on pastry rounds topped with raw salmon and a sprig of fennel; Raw salmon with lemon and other Asian flavours (ceviche) on a spoon (created by Paul Irwin); and a repeat of the potato and broccoli soup in chicken stock with cumin. The soup used leftover potatoes from the main course. All were well appreciated by members.

For his main course, Steve reprised his slow-cooked (10 hours) Mediterranean lamb shoulder, wrapped in caul fat to retain moisture. In a variation on the last time we saw this dish, Steve served the lamb on a smooth roasted pumpkin and onion purée. He retained the duck fat cooked potato rounds, which once again fooled some of us into expecting surf-and-turf as they looked like scallops. In another addition, Steve topped the dish with deep-fried parsnip crisps, which added a textural element as well as providing some additional sweetness. The last component was once again baby eggplant with elegant, crosshatched, knife cuts that was baked with a fine layer of miso paste.

The dish was very well received apart from some comments on toughness in the eggplant skin, which highlights the problems faced by chefs recreating dishes with ingredients that may no longer be seasonal.

At Steve’s request, James Healey presented a soft cheese in the form of a Brique D’Affinois. This unusual brick-shaped cheese is made by Fromagerie Guilloteau near Pelussin, France and is based on the ‘brique’ shape of a traditional cheese of the region. An elegant cheese with a mixed washed/white rind, it was slightly pungent with a mild silky texture.

As an accompaniment to the cheese, Steve served a delicious salad. The salad included peeled red capsicum, which led a number of members to reminisce about when they were introduced to this ingredient by Neville Baker many years ago. A number of newer members were confused about this but it is put in context by the fact that at the same time they were introduced to red capsicum, olive oil was available only over the pharmacist’s counter. Australia has come a long way food-wise since then.

The coffee was once again our house blend, which is gaining appreciation and positive comments every time it is presented.

2 March 2021 - CoTD James Hill

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Food review by James Tinslay

Progressing to CoTY cook-off 4 we had James Hill in the kitchen today ably assisted by Bill Alexiou-Hucker.

The starter came in two parts, on one plate. First off was a consommé made from oxtail and brisket. Luscious meaty flavour sprang into the mouth and left me wanting more. In this case, more was the second starter which was described as Peppers Piedmontese. There were several components to this dish. The red peppers had been roasted and in the centre was a roast tomato, accompanied by anchovy and garlic with a few olives scattered over the top. The anchovies provided a flavour boost for the dish (as they always do, delightfully). The garlic was certainly not unnoticeable and a few at my table would have preferred the garlic to have been lightly fried before going into the dish. A simple but tasty dish.

The main was quail involtini with pork and pistachios stuffing covered. This dish speaks to you about the work involved to prepare it. There were a lot of moving parts. What is firstly evident is the vine leaf that covers the torso of the quail edge providing the curious look of two little leg bones protruding. The satisfyingly moist quail was accompanied by broccoli, kipfler potatoes, onions, grapes, feta cheese and cooked fennel. The quail was cooked with verjuice and butter, which provided the jus for the meal.

Leaving the best last, that would be stuffing. The ingredients were pork and fennel sausage mince with onions, pistachios with fennel and cumin. Once the stuffing was removed from the cavity of the beast, it held its shape and enabled us to enjoy it as a side dish. A very appealing main.

The cheese presented by James Healey today provided a number of us to learn a new term, a truckle. Ignoring “to push (a piece of furniture) along on truckles” it is an English term for a small barrel-shaped cheese which is exactly what James served us today. A lovely cheese, it was a Pyengana cloth bound truckle weighing in at 1.1 kg. Pyengana is a relatively common serving at the Society, but this particular product was new and was marked by a particularly yellowish appearance. It is a seasonal cheese described by its maker as follows:

This small truckle is made only seasonally, just in time for Christmas each year, making it the perfect gift for cheese lovers. The curds are formed using a technique known as ‘stirred curd’ and after hooping, the rounds are clothbound and pressed on an antique Victorian bed press. Pyengana Dairy matures the truckles for 6 months encouraging the symbiotic relationship of the surface moulds and cultures. The result is a fine-textured, crumbly body, with subtle flavours of pasture and a lingering nuttiness.

The cheese was served with terrific figs.

The coffee was the Society’s house blend, for the time being, Calibrate Coffee White Blend. This is a mix of Brazil Fazenda Imperio, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Java Jampit 1X.

Another appropriate meal for a cookoff.

For wine, Chilly Hargrave served us:

2007 Lindeman’s Reserve HR 0755 Semillon

2007 Tyrrell’s Belford Semillon

2015 Georges Lignier Gevrey Chambertin

2014 Pooley Butcher’s Hill Pinot Noir

2009 Tyrrell’s Lunatiq Heathcote Shiraz

2009 Bress Heathcote Shiraz

23 February 2021 - CoTD Steve Sparkes

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Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Richard Gibson

Steve Sparkes was in the kitchen today assisted by Nick Reynolds. In a somewhat unusual circumstance, this was a double-up of a wine lunch and Chef of the Year cookoff (number 3) brought about by a change of cooking schedule. Some of us when we cook prefer to cook for wine lunches as it takes the focus off the food and onto the wine. Today the focus was on both with an accomplished chef and wine lunch quality wines.

Steve started us off with some home-made quail ravioli. Each succulent piece of ravioli was chockablock with succulent quail. The ravioli was served in a consomme based on his chicken stock with herbs and some sliced mushroom to finish off the dish. The result was excellent with a velvety texture. As an aside with the vino, the Italian Verdicchio from BISCI and the Australian Gruner Veltliner from Sinapius (new to me) were marvellous accompaniments.

The main was pure Northern Italian being Osso Buco. The piece I have was quite substantial and had well browned ‘batter’ topped with the traditional gremolata. The latter was not overpowering and added a zesty flavour to the meat. The highlight of the main was the risotto cake made with parmesan, chicken bits and clarified chicken stock. They were scrumptious. Crispy, came apart easily, whilst having an enjoyable crunch. The risotto was prepared the previous Saturday and pan-fried just before lunch. There were some crushed hazelnuts spread around the plate to add further texture to the main.

On the side were some beans and sugar snaps wrapped in a spring onion parcel. The sugar snaps were a little overdone but serving 48 with such a delicate vegetable is tricky.

James Healey was back on deck today and provided us with a Taleggio from maker Mauri based in Lombardy. This washed-rind cow’s milk cheese has an ivory chalky texture which begins to change slowly as it ripens, becoming buttery and soft. This example appeared to be on the younger side and had not developed the beautifully smelly characteristics that normally require it to be stored in your refrigerator with three or four levels of protection. I recall that Taleggio is one of the members favourite cheeses.

The cheese was served with a salad and a fruit roll made by Steve from walnuts and figs. Scrumptious.

The coffee was the Society’s house blend, for the time being, Calibrate Coffee White Blend. This is a mix of Brazil Fazenda Imperio, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Java Jampit 1X.

In summing up his meal, Steve explained it was essentially the same as the one he cooked in October last year. He was disappointed that the butcher told him at the last minute that he could not obtain veal for this occasion and hence he was forced into using beef.

A notable and very enjoyable lunch with 47 in attendance.

Wine

2018 Bisci Verdicchio di Metalica  and  2018 Sinapius Pipers Brook Gruner Veltliner

The ravioli was served with two whites featuring Italian varietals.

The Bisci is made from 100% Verdicchio grapes grown in the cool climate hills of the Marche region in Italy, fermented in steel and aged on lees in cement vats for 8 months.

It displayed fragrant aromas of apple and pear plus floral characters on the nose followed by ripe apple and stone fruits (with hints of honey) on the palate with a flinty minerality – it should age well (given its alcoholic richness (13.5%) and acidity).

The Pipers Brook wine is from the Tamar Valley in Tasmania and made from Gruner Veltliner grapes (the principal white grape from the Wachau region of Austria) - the variety has adapted well to cool climate regions in Australia (notably Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Canberra).  It saw some skin contact prior to pressing and was aged for 12 months in large oak barrels.

It displayed ripe pear and citrus characters on the nose with spice and herbal notes. On the palate, we saw a broad spectrum of fruit ripeness (incl. lemon & pineapple) and good length and acidity.

The textural balance, ripeness, line and length of both wines were a perfect match for Steve’s entrée.

Tyrrells Vat 9 Shiraz vertical

The main course was served with a vertical of Tyrrell’s flagship Shiraz, Vat 9;  the vintages were 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007, 2003 (under cork) and 2000 (under cork).

The wine is made form old vines (average age of 50 years); a mix of whole bunch and destemmed fruit fermented in open vats; aged in large (2700L) French oak 1-2 years.

Considerable bottle variation was experienced with many of the wines (notably the two youngest and two oldest). The wines have are best reviewed in pairs.

The 2013 and 2011 were dry, savoury traditional style Hunter Shiraz, both displaying a cherry/plummy nose with vanilla, tobacco and pepper notes.  The palate of the 2013 showed rich blackberry/jammy characters with plenty of spice – some bottles were perhaps over-extracted.  Tannins were reasonably well integrated with good  acidity .

The 2011 was also jammy (with some capsicum on the nose) and medium-bodied with fine tannins and good acid levels – the better bottles displayed some elegance and balance with a good mouthfeel (one or 2 bottles however lacked this balance).

The 2010 and 2007 were generally regarded by members as the best wines of the flight.

The 2010 displayed oak and leather on the nose with some ‘barnyard’/bret characters. On the palate it was mid-weight, finely textured and balanced showing restrained red fruits and sour cherry. It was a precise, pleasant drinking Hunter.

The 2007 (served blind) was, for most tables, the best wine of the flight.

It showed brooding, sweet black fruits on the nose with spice and earthy leathery characters. The palate displayed a wave of savoury dark fruits and showed some attractive development; fine well-integrated tannins and good acidity levels – a lovely finish with good length. Drinking well now, it will benefit from more aging.

The 2003 and 2000 (both under cork) were highly variable around the room.

The 2003 came out of a dry, very warm year with small early harvest crop sizes producing concentrated fruit.   The nose was barnyard funky and earthy with a fair dose of bret. On the palate, it was medium bodied with plumminess and bitter licorice notes – the fruit appears to be fading and the wine is probably past its peak.

The 2000 (served blind) was the better of the two older wines – the nose showing savoury fruits, spice and dried herbs.

The palate was medium weight and still retains some fruit sweetness (although again offset by a little bret) as well as leather and licorice characters.  The tannins were soft and fine and acidity was ok (but the finish was a little short).

The 2000 was an elegant, clean, medium-bodied Hunter shiraz drinking well now. For some, this was the best wine of the flight (but there was considerable bottle variation).

Overall the flight of Vat 9’s was an interesting vertical which, despite the vintage and bottle variations, nevertheless displayed the consistency of Tyrrell's flagship wine. They were a good match with Steve’s tasty osso buco and the taleggio.

16 February 2021 - Bernard Leung

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Food review by Nick Reynolds and wine review by Richard Gibson

The fight for Chef of the Year 2020 is really hotting up.

Today we had Society's first time chef in September and Chef of the Year contender Bernard Leung recreate the dish that wowed us last time.

Bernard was ably assisted in the kitchen by Steve Liebeskind.

The starter was once again the Heston Blumenthal-inspired Pea and Ham Soup. Masterful handling of the peas during cooking meant that it was fluorescent green rather than the uninspired brown that most of us were served as children. A flavourful ham stock combined with the green peas and nature’s wonder ingredient bacon led to a dish that was silky smooth, vivid in colour and textured with shredded ham from the ham stock and fresh peas with a dash of mint oil.

Well received by all judging from the clean plates returning to the kitchen, it was a wonderful lead-in to the main course.

The main was 48 hour slow-cooked lamb shanks, cooked sous vide at 62C and then browned before service, the lamb shanks were still slightly pink with all the collagen rendered but still coherent such that the meat came easily off the bone as muscle groups and had great texture with bite but not chewy. Bernard served the shanks on delicious buttery mash with blanched crisp broccoli and deep-fried parsnip chips for crunch and texture and chervil as a garnish and liquorice element. It was all surrounded by an intense reduced red wine beef-stock jus of sufficient quantity that members for once did not complain that not enough was served.

Both the entrée and the main were well presented, visually attractive, and very tasty.

We look forward to more meals from Bernard in the future, although he has set himself a very high bar with this one.

The cheese, which was chosen and presented by James Healey, was a Will Studd-selected La Couronne Comte AOP which came to the table at a perfect stage of ripeness. Bernard accompanied the cheese with a green salad, which was well regarded, apart from some comments about the inclusion of Kale which was possibly one green too far.

The coffee today was our house blend, which is a mix of Brazil Fazenda Imperio, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Java Jampit 1X.

Wines

The starter was served with two Yalumba Pewsey Vale Rieslings from the 2013 and 2012 vintages.

Both wines displayed very similar characters.  The nose of both showed intense zesty citrus (lime/lemon) notes and flinty/ stoney minerality.  The palate of each displayed a depth of citrus fruit (lime) and floral/herbal characters and was clean and dry with fresh acidity/minerality.  The 2012 showed some spice and perhaps was a little less fruit expressive than the younger wine – the 2012 also had more developed toasty/brioche characters with a bone dry finish. Both were well matched to the richness and textures of  Bernie’s delicious soup.

The main was served with two Rosemount McLaren Vale ‘Balmoral’ Shiraz.

The 2007 (alc 14.5%) was a cleanskin and perhaps reflected the (rather ordinary) 2007 vintage in McLaren Vale (at least for Rosemount).  The wine was aged in American oak (50%) and French oak (50%).

It had a developed blackberry, plummy nose and on the palate was big, ripe and spicy with supple tannins, plenty of vanilla oak and coffee/chocolate characters.  The fruit was a little short on the mid-palate and finish and the wine is perhaps fading.

The 2004 (alc 14.5%) showed developed blackberry/plum on the nose with cigar box/ coffee characters.

The wine was medium/full-bodied showing layers of savoury, spicy black fruits, and reasonably well-integrated tannins. However the fruit was fading on the mid-palate, it was over-oaked and lacked balance with a short, hot finish.  It was nonetheless a better wine than the 2007 and well matched the textures of the excellent osso buco.

 The cheese was served with two SA Shiraz wines from the very good 2002 vintage:

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2002 and

Torbreck – The Struie 2002

The Bin 28 (alc 14.5%) is sourced from multiple vintages/multiple vineyards from the SA region and made very much to a Penfolds ‘style’ – rich, robust and generous.  The 2002 was aged for circa 12 months in aged American oak.

The nose displayed developed, rich plummy /blackberry fruit, spice and licorice with vanilla and coffee/ choc notes.   On the palate we saw rich, ripe (but not over-extracted) fruit, a medium body with well integrated oak and soft tannins as well as some mid-palate complexity and denseness. The finish was long and dry – it was a balanced and elegant wine, drinking very well now but retains enough fruit to age further.  It was generally regarded as the best drinking red of the day and well matched to the osso buco and cheese.

The Torbreck is made from fruit grown in the Eden (40 yr old vines) and Barossa (60 yr old vines) valleys.  It was aged for 18 months in seasoned French oak (80%) and new French oak (20%). 

The wine’s nose displayed big, rich raspberry and plum fruit with coffee and pepper tones.  On the palate, it was full bodied, rich, ripe and opulent yet showed a nice savouriness and elegance. The tannins were soft and well integrated  (with no ‘heat’) - secondary herb/earthy characters were also present.

In summary, the Torbreck was a balanced wine, showing intensity and complexity and drank well on the day and was an excellent match with the Comte.

 

9 February 2021 - CoTD Nick Reynolds

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Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave

The President Nick Reynolds was in the kitchen today for the first of the Chef of The Year cook-offs. There will be six in all and members will be able to see who and when in the program details contained in the weekly lunch notice.

As befits a CoTY cook-off and Nick’s track history, the starters were beautifully presented. There were three of them being chopped egg and smoked trout tapas, prawn and romesco sauce pintxo and finally, a gazpacho bite.

Last item first, the gazpacho bite was a fascinating looking beast with cucumber hollowed out and replaced by a circular mould on the top which gave it somewhat of an eclectic look. The image above does a far better job of describing the plated outcome. The smoked trout was served on top of an egg-based sauce on toasted sourdough. The romesco sauce had a veritable legion of ingredients including almonds, hazelnut, peppers and cherry tomatoes. A small amount of chilli flakes along with the hot smoked paprika gave it a zippy and full of roasted tomato and pepper flavour.

The main was blue eye, served on a potato rosti with Canadian scallop, asparagus and soubise sauce with dill oil. The potato rosti was delightfully crispy as was the skin on the blue eye. The effect of the smattering of dill oil on the source was very effective. Even a poor fish eater like myself found the fish beautifully cooked, flaky and tender. The asparagus looked a little grey and may have been a little overcooked.

James Healey, in absentia, had selected a goat’s cheese from Holy Goat, La Luna, but in one of the new pyramid shapes. La Luna is always popular and at a retail price of well over $100 per kilo, it should taste excellent.

The coffee was Calibrate Coffee White Blend. This is a mix of Brazil Fazenda Imperio, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and Java Jampit 1X. The coffee was well received and is being adopted as our house blend for the time being.

An excellent start by Nick to the cook-off series and with larger numbers allowed from 23 February more members will get to enjoy these lunches.

Wine

A pair of 2014 Hunter Semillons were served with the entrée. The Brokenwood was a bigger style with more colour in the glass. It was developed with mature Hunter lemon curd notes. The Tyrrell’s Belford was a much tighter wine. It was fine and mineral although not showing the flavour intensity of the Brokenwood.

Two Chardonnays were matched to the main course. The first, a 2018 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis was quite a fruity wine that lacked the minerality we expect from Chablis. Similarly, the palate was full with low acidity - undoubtedly due to malolactic. The 2012 Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnay was for many the best wine of the day. Coming from a rather unique vineyard in the Henty region it was still a young wine. Citrus fruit was balanced by attractive barrel ferment characters. The palate was tight and long with fresh acidity. With this wine, there is no malolactic.

A couple of rather interesting wines finished the day. A 2012 Tyrrell’s Belford Chardonnay (covered in wine show award bling) was a big wine. Showing a lot of artefact of new oak, barrel ferment and natural yeasts, it was a real mouthful. A high acid level pulled the wine up on the finish.

The COTD had requested a Loire Sav Blanc to go with the cheese and it surprised many - the cellar master included. The 2012 Château de Ladoucette Pouilly Fumé was still fresh with bright gooseberry fruit aromas. These were complemented by a subtle apricot botrytis note. The palate was quite rich with obvious sweetness and proved a good match for the Holy Goat.