5 December 2023 Keith Steele
Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
We had three great canapes by three members.
Greg Chugg was again on canapes, again serving his excellent pate (chicken livers I believe he said), this version to fit Keith’s Latino theme, had pate with peppercorns, Tabasco and Mezcal (no worm found in the pate).
Greg’s pate wasn’t hot, but complex in taste, Greg catered for everyone’s taste for heat. Some pate was served on “flavoured” corn chips and his second version was his pate on plain corn chips with a slice of pickled jalapeno on top.
I preferred the latter, great taste in the mouth with the jalapeno kicking in after a few seconds. Well done Greg, you are showing to be a pate master. And a reminder, Steve Sparkes wants you to take another step forward and be the COTD in 2024 ????.
Then came the second canape, a Paul Thorne brilliant duck consommé served in little paper cups. To add complexity and as Paul says, duck and orange is a marriage made in heaven, Paul created an orange and cognac concentrate with orange zest for added flavour, then sprayed the concentrate into each duck cconsommé cup. Brilliant, and no one doubts Paul is the duck king with his consumes and jus and everything duck. Thank you Paul, loved it.
The final canape was something totally different, another favourite in the room, I loved its complexity and combination of tastes.
James Tinslay did Medjool dates with a stuffing of 2/3 goat and 1/3 cream cheese with paprika, Kashmiri chilli and finely chopped chorizo,
and just before oven warming, James pushed roasted pecan nuts into the stuffing, topped it with mozzarella cheese, and then warmed at about 180C until the cheese browns. Very well received and enjoyed by all Members.
Then came the main, by the COTD Keith Steele.
I love “street food” and Keith’s pulled pork “Latino” style certainly didn’t disappoint me. I thought it had the correct balance of flavour and heat, I know some members found it a little too hot.
We had soft and juicy slow cooked pulled pork with chipotle and butter beans, Mexican red rice and smashed avocado.
Keith slow cooked pork shoulder and the heat and flavour came from a small (100g) can of La Morena Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, about 1 can per 8 servings. So if you liked it, but it was too hot, try it and use less Chipotle.
There was also onion, garlic, tomato paste and several herbs and spices. Keith served his dish with Mexican red rice which was cooked in stock then blended with tomato paste and sautéed onions and garlic.
The garnish was a bit of chopped avocado.
Bread today was a real favourite, and many members asked for details and “where d’ya get it”. So Keith said the bread was a light rye sourdough from Cornucopia Bakery in Naremburn, and they have another outlet in Castle Cove.
Today we had an excellent blue that no one picked its origin. Many said Gippsland, but we had Cantorel Bleu d'Auvergne AOP from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France.
From the notes provided by the Cheese Master, this AOP cow’s milk cheese has been made in the Auvergne region for several centuries, traditionally matured in mountain caves where the unique blue mould flora flourished.
Although no longer cave ripened, AOP regulations still stipulate that cheese must be produced at a minimum 500m altitude, in specific geographical regions and using milk only from cows born in the region.
Each whole cheese is foil wrapped to prevent the rind forming and after three months maturation, an even spread of steely blue veins spreads through the body of the cheese.
Mature cheeses have a moist and slightly crumbly texture with a tart and salty flavour. The cheese served was in excellent condition, and enjoyed by all.
Those avid followers of my column will remember that last week after a tremendous lunch, I travelled to Manderley again in my velvet smoking Jacket and wearing my baby seal slippers. Sadly that trip seems to have exhausted me and today I am feeling very flat. Sorry about that. Overall the wines today did do not much to lift my spirits, except for the two excellent Rieslings. and the last red. So it goes.
The first Riesling was a Crawford River from Victoria 13.5% year 2015. This wine deserves its high reputation. Terrific acid/fruit combo holding well together for a 7yo. Some slight residual sugar, but still finishing clean and crisp. Would seem to have many years ahead for further development. I wish we saw this wine more often. Some apple/grapefruit overtones. Lovely wine, high price is a deterrent.
The second wine was again one of my favourites the Seppelt Drumborg 2016 at 11%. A wine from the Henty region of Victoria. An excellent wine, with great fruit and perfect balance. A delight to drink. Mouth filling flavours of apple and citrus, crisp finish. Very hard to have a favourite as both are high quality wines. Perhaps the Crawford River by just a nose.
Next cab off the rank was a Hugel Gewurztraminer from 2018. 13.5% This wine was clearly designed to accompany the rather hot and spicy main course. Very floral and full-bodied with strong aromas of lychee and other exotic fruits. A bit too sweet on the finish to my taste, but none the less a quality well made wine, perfect for those who favour that style.
First Red was a 2012 Gibson Dirtman Shiraz, 14.5% from the Barossa. Big wine by any description and expensive. Huge flavours of ripe fruits, plumbs, spice and cedar. Restrained tannin with high alcohol was slightly noticed. Rich and developed mouthfeel. Still drinking well for an 11yo.
The next wine was Erste + Neue Pinot Bianco from 2020 at 13%, from Northern Italy. A popular dry white in Europe, producing a full bodied wine with some acidity. The wine had no instant appeal to me, without food, but when accompanied by the cheese, it really came to life. Bit hard to define its flavours having just had a very spicy pulled pork, but with the cheese it worked well.
The last wine for the day was a very attractive Franklin River Shiraz 2016, 14%. As stated before, I am not generally a fan of WA Shiraz unlike their Cabernets, but giving credit to where it is due, I really liked this wine. Very good balance between quality fruit, acid and tannin. Mouthfeel ranged from intense ripe fruit, pepper and spice. Overall a very impressive Shiraz with a lingering finish.
28 November 2023 James Tinslay
Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
A full house for our last wine tasting lunch of 2023 with James Tinslay as Chef of the Day assisted Keith Steele, Gary Linanne and yours truly on canapés.
Keith Steele was first up with some prawn cocktail lettuce cups,
New season prawns served in a cos lettuce cup with Rose Marie sauce made with whole egg mayonnaise, chives, lemon zest and juice then seasoned. Crunchy lettuce, a good dollop of sauce and prawns in perfect condition. Delicious.
Gary followed up with a tuna spread on buttery Ritz crackers. It was made from chilli tuna, anchovies, eschallots, parsley and unsalted butter, smooth and flavoursome with a hint of heat on the back palate. This is one of my favourite canapés.
Chicken liver parfait followed served with sliced gherkins and radish sitting on toasted white bread crostini.
As with most recipes equal amounts of liver to butter and a good slug of cognac. The difference is that crème fraîche is added at the end of processing to lighten the mix and it is then passed through a fine sieve for a silky texture.
Plentiful canapés and commended by members today
James produced duck confit served with duck fat potatoes and asparagus.
The duck was moist and tender with a crisp skin and obvious lashings of duck fat used to cook the baby chat potatoes.
Then we had the jus, four litres of duck stock slowly reduced for six hours. A host of Asian ingredients went into the sauce however they didn’t dominate the overall flavour of the jus. Ingredients included Shaoxing wine, soy, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger garlic, spring onion and star anise.
Lip smacking good. A meal of quality, flavour and texture.
Well done James, as Richard Gibson said you’d be happy to have a meal of this quality at any Parisian bistro.
Bread today was from Cornucopia bakery in Naremburn.
Cheesemaster Mark Bradford presented a French cow’s milk cheese today at the request of our chef, a hard cheese made from unpasteurised cow’s milk “Beaufort”
Famous since Roman times, this huge 40kg cheese is often referred to as the Prince of Gruyere. Only cheeses made from late spring or summer milk are selected, called Beaufort, as this is when the best milk comes from cows that have ascended into the rich mountain pastures.
A cooked curd cheese made from raw milk, the close, concentrated creamy texture and nutty, slightly sweet lingering flavours are typical of this rare cheese which also has excellent melting qualities.
It came to the table in perfect condition, you could smell the wonderful aroma of the cheese as it was presented to the table.
Our Food Master Steve Sparkes had the last word “we look forward to seeing this dish again, James”.
One of the best events I have attended at the WFS. A wonderful effort by JT producing 50 duck confit, perfectly cooked and delivered to the tables at the right temperature. Massive effort. Our Wine Master excelled himself in providing us with a mix of superb Pinot, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, heaven! After lunch, I arrived back home to an unusually empty house, whereupon I kicked off my shoes, donned my velvet smoking jacket, slipped into my baby seal skin slippers and retired to my Chaise Lounge, clutching in one hand a snifter of Cognac and a fine Cuban in the other and thereupon reflected upon the good things that have occurred in my life. Soon I fell into a post-lunch haze “dreaming that last night I went to Manderley again” +. My dream was shattered by my mobile ringing and I returned to the present. The first thought that came to mind was how fortunate I was to join the WFS all those years ago. Becoming a member is right up there with some of the best decisions I have made in life.
With regard to the wines, the white for the excellent pass arounds was a Tapanappa Chardy from Brian Croser from the Piccadilly region in 2010 13.5%. From comments around the room, there was some bottle variation. The few glasses I had were enjoyable, but beginning to show some ageing, others in the room were not impressed. That is the sort of result you can get with a 13yo Chardy. Any remaining stocks of this wine should in my view be drunk soon.
We then moved right into the red wines for our main. First was the Tolpuddle PN 2015 13.5% from the Coal River region of Tasmania. A creation of Shaw and Smith with the backing of Yalumba and a top wine-making team working with fruit from one of the best vineyards in Tasmania. The result? In a word outstanding. This wine along with their Chardy must rate amongst our finest. This wine had great PN structures, a superb nose and a soft clean finish. In my view the wine is now fully developed, hard to see it getting any better. A comparison with the following wine is informative.
The next wine was the masterful Cheron Gevrey Chambertin also 2015, at 14%. I now see why PN lovers are obsessed with this grape. A wonderful wine, everything in perfect harmony, producing an elegant, deeply flavoursome wine with a soft velvet-like taste and lingering finish inviting one back for more. As I alluded to above, these two PN illustrated the difference between our locally grown PN and the French. In my view, this wine was still developing with time ahead for further improvement whereas the Tolpuddle had reached full maturity. The Gevrey would handle easily another 5 years or more in the bottle before it reached its glorious best. This is no adverse reflection on the Tolpuddle a superb wine, just a comment on how the same grape develops in different countries. In any event, the Gevrey was my pick of the day, narrowly edging out the following wine.
We then moved onto a Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from 2015 14%, ah, Sangiovese at its best. Mouthfilling and fleshy but with a perfect balance of tannin and fruit flavours. Rich, earthy sensual, I’m beginning to run out of superlatives! Without a doubt the quintessential high quality unmistakable Italian wine. Like the aftertaste, the memory lingers. Wine no 2 by just a whisker.
The following wine was also a Sangiovese by another name the Brunello di Montalcino 2007 14.5% from the Tuscan region, produced under the highly regarded Argiano label. A direct comparison between this wine and the other Sangiovese led to disappointment. Perhaps any wine after the Fontodi would be a let down! Again there appears to have been some bottle variation from comments around the room as you might expect from a 16 yo wine. I felt that my wine was showing some age with a fall off in acid and fruit. Others were impressed. For me still very drinkable but lacking vibrancy, not really sure what was the problem, perhaps just getting old. A definite step down from the previous wine.
The final bracket was the match-up I was keenly anticipating between a Nebbiolo from the home of that grape, the Piedmont in Italy and the locally grown product from the Adelaide Hills from one of our most respected producers Stephen Pannell. The Italian wine was a Nervi Conterno from 2017 at 14.5%. The Pannell wine was from 2013 at 14%. What I noticed at the outset was that both wines in the glass were lighter in colour than I expected. Upon tasting both were medium body with plenty of tannin and high acidity.
2017 was by all accounts a tricky year in Piedmont, and perhaps this was reflected in the texture and structure of the wine. The Nervi was an elegant wine with excellent fruit, probably needing more time as Nebbiolo tends to do. Would be keen to see this wine again in 5 years when some of the tannins may have softened.
The Pannell wine now 10yo seemed to have reached full development. Again strong tannins so typical of the grape. Same texture as the Italian wine but lacking in complexity. A bit thinner in structure. An enjoyable wine but was short on flavour and finish. In the final analysis, the match-up was a bit of a letdown, as to me we were not seeing the famous Nebbiolo at its best.
Once again, thanks to James and Nick for a magnificent afternoon.
+ The opening line of Daphne Du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca.
21 November 2023 Steve Sparkes and Rob Guthrie
Food review by Mark Bradford and wine information by Nick Reynolds
The Society’s last Mixed Lunch (aka “Ladies’ Lunch”) for 2023 saw Steve Sparkes and Rob Guthrie in the kitchen, presenting an all-Italian affair. A first-timer, Rob prepared the three canapes solo without the assistance of the very experienced Steve and did a sterling job indeed. Convalescing from a broken foot, Steve was the Galloping Gourmet on crutches, and is to be thanked for the effort put into the meal with a significant handicap on the day.
We commenced with bruschetta, made with well drained tomatoes, finely sliced red onion, minced garlic, lemon zest, basil, oil, and seasoning. Rob served this on sourdough that had been brushed with oil and rubbed with garlic prior to baking.
Next to come was garlic and pea puree, made with blanched garden peas pureed with roasted garlic, garlic oil, mint leaves and chilli flakes. It was served on crostini made from thinly sliced white sourdough and finished with finely chopped chilli and a little chilli oil.
Finally, Rob presented roasted vegetable tarts, being puff pastry topped with a blend of ricotta and pesto, sliced zucchini and cherry tomatoes, then baked in the oven for 15 minutes.
All offerings were enjoyed by the mixed lunch attendees with highly favourable comments, a triumph of colour and taste.
Steve presented us with pork belly porchetta, using Kurobuta Berkshire Pork from Vic’s Meats in Mascot. The cut was free-range pork belly, hand tied, and stuffed with white pepper, garlic oregano and fennel. Steve air dried it in the fridge for three days, rubbed with a little Kosher salt and left uncovered. On the day, it was brought to room temperature, lightly rubbed and then put in a very hot oven for about 1.5 to 2 hours. There were three pieces, each just under 3 kg, and all was eaten by the 30 odd attendees!
Accompanying the pork was peperonata, a very old Northern Italian dish that was cooked by Steve’s wife Marina. It had lots of capsicum, onion and tomato, with a touch of chilli. Some of the capsicum were blackened to add to the depth of flavour, and then all was cooked with a lot of olive oil very slowly for a few hours. The dish was topped with a small pickled fennel, green apple and rocket salad with just a touch of olive oil. And, in the Italian way, a fresh green salad with celery, tomato and red onion followed the main. The bread was a Country White Loaf from Burke Street Bakery.
The main was an absolute delight. The pork crackling was incredibly delicious with bubbly, puffy and crispy skin which shattered in the mouth, while the fat was soft and the meat tender, but still able to be carved in the fashion of a true roast. The comments – aplenty from the ladies – were highly favourable.
Steve requested a hard Tuscan cheese, and a Pecorino Toscano DOP Stagionato was provided by the Cheese master. It is an artisan cow and sheep milk cheese that is produced by Il Forteto (the fort), northeast of Florence. A great example of a Tuscan pecorino, it is aged for over four months, while the rind develops a burnt golden colour and the nutty texture gradually becomes dense and flaky with a slightly sweet finish. Complex flavours of sweet and savoury highlight the quality of this classic cheese, which was appreciated on the day.
The cheese was accompanied by brandied cumquats (brandy, sugar and vanilla pod, left for approximately one year) with nuts spiced with rosemary, sage, a touch of fresh chilli and cayenne pepper.
Appetisers were served with a fresh NV Jansz Premium Cuvée Sparkling from Tasmania.
The main was accompanied by a 2010 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay and, in line with the Tuscan theme, a 2010 Poggio al Tesoro Mediterra, which was a Super-Tuscan made from a blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Tuscan theme was continued with the wine accompanying the cheese, which was a 2015 Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico Sangiovese. The cellarmaster also provided a bottle of Chardonnay to each table from surplus stock in the wine fridge.
14 November 2023 Steve Liebeskind
Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
Two words pop into my mind, at my brother’s COTD luncheon, “brave” and “crazy”.
Steve did 3 canapes, individual Beef Wellingtons, and a salad. Steve was assisted in the (prep) and kitchen by fellow member David Simmonds.
As you read below, try and count the number of elements that Steve had to prepare and serve, for 46 of us who attended, “crazy”.
And individual Beef Wellingtons for 46 of us – “Brave” (high risk, high rewards comes to mind.
These were plentiful and brilliant, with the beef tartare the standout, the artichoke-based canape different and excellent, the chevre pastry shell very good and the simplest of the three.
All were well received, the beef tartare was everyone’s favourite, Steve used the offcuts from the eye fillet used in the Wellingtons, and added everything from tabasco, salt (lots he said), capers, herbs and spices until he was happy.
So we had, and more than enjoyed:
- Chevre (goat cheese) and beetroot chutney in a pastry shell
- Artichoke, fruit chutney (homemade) and parmesan on cracker
- Beef Tartare (generous amount) served on a spoon
Individual Beef Wellingtons, brave. The presentation was excellent, and every element was full of taste,
Steve served the “pastie” (Greg Chugg’s word not mine) with his beetroot chutney and a brilliant ratatouille of onion, zucchini, eggplant, red capsicum and tomatoes.
Beetroot chutney was full of taste and a sweet/sour that complimented the beef, and the ratatouille was tasty, complex and matched perfectly.
How were the Wellingtons? Very well received, pastry cooked well, but as Steve admitted, the beef was a little more cooked than he had hoped.
The eye fillet used was excellent, soft and easily cut (not the Harris Farm economy eye fillet, but a quality fillet sourced from the butchery in the Edgecliff Centre).
Steve tied the fillets with string, lightly seared the seasoned full-eye fillets, rubbed fillets with mustard, refrigerated them overnight before cutting them into individual portions, then wrapped them in the pastry and an egg wash and sesame seeds before they went in the oven.
Included on the Wellingtons were Steve’s famous homemade chicken liver pate and his Duxelle (mushroom, onion, thyme and butter). Some members hoped the mushrooms were not of Chinese origin from Melbourne.
Every element was full of taste and combined perfectly for an excellent dish.
Then a cup of jus was provided to each table, tasty, be it a little thin, and it softened the pastry a little on my plate, I personally am not sure the jus added anything to the dish.
Steve, not taking the easy way out (with nuts/fruit), then served an excellent of green mixed leaves, roasted capsicum, roasted almond slivers and Steve’s version of a white balsamic vinaigrette, which was excellent, and a beautifully balanced dressing.
In the morning as Steve took all the elements to the kitchen, I asked him how he was feeling,
his answer was, “I’ll feel better when the Valium starts working”, then I asked him after lunch, and he said “relieved, and he felt he had been on his feet for 48 hours”.
A lot of effort that provided an excellent lunch was enjoyed by all, thank you Steve.
I loved today’s cheese, and it was well received and commented on by the members.
Mark served us a Chabrin from Onetik Dairy in the Basque region.
Chabrin is a naturally rinded pressed cheese, aged in the cellars for three months resulting in a dense but smooth, creamy texture that coats the palette and lingering mineral aroma.
It lived up to this description.
Mark wrote to me “It comes from the Onetik cheese dairy in Macaye, France some 20 km southeast of Bayonne in the Basque Country, it is a goat cheese, but can be mistaken for a sheep cheese if left out for a while, and I can see why Roger McGuinness thought it was a Manchego. The cheese dairy is an artisan one with about 20 dairy suppliers and it also makes Ossau Iraty (which is sheep). The terrain is probably too hilly for dairy cattle although they do have a cow's milk cheese, but goats and sheep can get around quite well. I thought it to be an excellent hard cheese”, I agree with Mark, an excellent cheese, happy to enjoy it again.
We have had some great days over the last few months, this however was not one of them! “Into each life, a little rain must fall” as the old saying goes, and you have to take all in your stride and remain positive for better days ahead. I thought the wines across the board today were very disappointing. I will leave it to others to comment on Steve Liebeskind’s great efforts with the food.
The wines with the excellent pass-arounds were a NZ Riesling from Framingham Estate 2016 at 13.5% and a Seppelt Salinger Sparkling 2010 Vintage at 12%.
I am not the person to objectively review NZ Riesling, I just do not fancy it. Their Chardonnays are at times wonderful, but their Rieslings are to my taste too sweet with lots of residual sugar. Phil Laffter said he had detected a hint of botrytis. The wine itself was well made and quite drinkable and would appeal to those who liked that style. It did go well with the food on hand. The second wine, the Salinger is one of the Top Australian Sparklers. Now 13 yo, but holding itself very well I thought. Good bubbles, at least initially, but finishing with a sweetish aftertaste, which several members commented to me upon. I think it was always going to be that way. Nevertheless enjoyable with the food, if not everyone’s cup of tea.
We then moved on to two red brackets, the Wynns and the Rosemount at first, followed by the St Hugo and the St George. At first blush, this looks like an attractive lineup but looks can be deceptive. What we had was a group of Australian ‘Old School’ red wines, all getting on in years and all big on alcohol. Age ranged from 2004 to 2012. Trouble brewing I suspected?
In my view, all of these wines had spent 3 or 4 years too long in the cellar, with the exception of the Rosemount.
Starting with the Wynns Black Label Coonawarra Shiraz 2012 at 13.5%, this was always going to be an acceptable but boring wine. You get what you paid for. I felt the acid had fallen away, leading to a flabby finish, although, I did hear some comments that they had detected a trace of mint. Good luck with that! The wine just lacked life.
Next was the Rosemont Balmoral Shiraz 2004 the elder statesman of the group. Now this was a wine that actually showed some life, albeit now 19 yo. Gossip around the room stated that this wine had been kept in cask for 8 years. Whatever was the secret, the wine was clearly more flavoursome than its younger companions. A big wine at 14.5%, but had a good balance between its huge Shiraz fruit and oak and tannin elements. It was the surprise wine of the group, far better than what I was anticipating.
Next was the 2009 St Hugo Cabernet at 14.2%, normally a reliable wine, but the few bottles the room consumed failed to deliver, at least mine did, and several others in the room expressed the same view. Oxidised, tired, hopeless. Enough said. Sad.
The curtain on this disappointing afternoon was brought down by the St George Cabernet 2008 at 14%. Normally a match-winner, but, perhaps being drunk 5 years beyond its peak failed to show it at its best. Far better than the Sad St Hugo, with good residual fruit of Cabernet and acceptable aftertaste, yet still it was a step down from some of the fine St George’s I have had in the past. Perhaps I am expecting too much!
So there we have it, a day when wine wise it was uniformly below our usual high standards. On many of our lunches over the last 6 months say, there has always been one or two standouts, even if the majority are unexciting. Not so today, no stars. That’s life.
31 October 2023 Mark Bradford
Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
Mark served up a fantastic lunch and was assisted in the kitchen by Denys Moore.
I think it was one of Mark’s best lunches, and the attention to detail was appreciated and reflected in a great lunch that totally complemented today’s wines.
As it turned out were all vegetarian but full of flavour and mouth-filling.
First out was a chilled cream of asparagus soup, brilliant, thick and full of flavour. Mark, sautéed onion in butter, chopped asparagus cooked in more butter and chicken stock. The soup was pureed with a stick blender, thick cream added (but not too much), seasoned and garnished with dill and chives.
Next came falafels. Mark said he made them with overnight-soaked dried chickpeas, shallots, coriander, cumin, baking powder and chickpea flour, all put through a food processor.
Mark formed in small bite-sized balls and fried at home. As Mark said, they would possibly have been better fried on the day, they were a little dry, but as President Bill said “he’s never had a falafel that isn’t dry”.
The third and final was a simple Calabrese bites, but its simplicity made it an exciting flavour bomb in the mouth. Mark used a Bocconcini ball, fresh basil leaf and cherry tomato threaded onto a toothpick. Drizzled with reduced wine of Moderna balsamic, which was reduced in the kitchen before serving, loved it. A perfect lead into the main.
Mark served a brilliant version of Polpetonne. And beautifully presented it was, easily the best presentation of a “meatloaf slice” I’ve seen, great colours too, reminded me of the Italian flag colours.
It’s usually mixed pork and veal baked in a log, wrapped in pancetta with string and having a filling such as cheese. Mark wanted to try individual portions and was concerned about leakage of cheese during baking, so chose to blind bake impervious shortcrust pastry shells. These were lined with prosciutto (sides and base) and filled with a mix of Feather and Bone pork and veal mince, garlic, oregano, fresh rosemary, panko crumbs, egg and parmesan and cooked in batches for 40 minutes.
Topped with taleggio and cooked for a further 20 minutes. The individual meatloaf in its pastry shell was served on rings of mash, white and green. The white was a silky Paris Mash of unpeeled washed potatoes put through a potato ricer, lots of cold butter added, as well as warm milk. The green ring was pea (frozen) and mint (fresh from Mark’s garden) puree. Sauteed garlic and French onions, peas brought to a simmer for two minutes then blitzed through a food processor with a small quantity of mint, salt and white pepper. Then forced through a sieve to remove pulp. Looked great and tasted even better.
But the dish needed red, and Mark created a topping of homemade tomato sauce of (high-end) canned diced tomatoes reduced slightly in sauteed garlic, treated with a stick blender and forced through a sieve to remove pulp. Warmed on the day with fresh torn basil leaves, and Mark’s pièce de resistance, carrot shaves atop the pie!
Bloody great meal. I want it again, and perfect with the Shiraz served today.
Mafra Cheddar. Gippsland, not far from Bairnsdale. Two types as per the links below. The one served round was the red, and the flat was the cloth-ashed, aka black.
I thought they were great Aussie cheddars, and the best Aussie cheddars I’ve had in a long time, so full of flavour, they were very well received and served with dried fruit (including figs and pears).
Being Halloween, the eve of All Saints Day, I thought our deputy Wine Master being the playful type he is, may have visited upon us his version of Trick or Treat. Mercifully he desisted and we were treated to a great lineup of reds and whites.
The first wine was the majestic Tyrrells Belford Semillon from the wonderful vintage of 2014. 11.5%. From the comments around the room, this was by universal acclaim a superb wine, fresh, clear colour of light straw with a crisp finish despite being mouth-filling with quality fruit. No sign of ageing should last for years, and all the right structures in place. We are fortunate to have our wine masters in years gone by secure a significant supply of the 2014 vintage. A great decision.
The next wine was one of my favourites, the Seppelts Drumborg Riesling from Vic, 2016 and 11%. I was standing next to Phil Laffter when I took my first sip, expecting a delightful wine, and I said to him straight away “not as good as other Drumborgs I have had“. He then took a sip and said one word, “Botrytis “. I naturally concurred, unmistakable I said, although I could not quite pick it up myself! The benefit of standing close to an expert. My initial reason for the disappointment was the lack of the usual crisp acid finish we expect in Riesling of this calibre. The wine was still quite drinkable, but overall a bit of a letdown.
We then had a bracket of two Tyrrells Hunter Shiraz from the acclaimed vintage of 2007, the Vat 9 and the 4 Acres. Both at 13.5% I was like a kid in a lolly shop. Both wines carried their age well at 16 years, and both had rich complex flavours of spice and blackberry with restrained tannin. Both medium medium-bodied, with the Vat 9 tending to finish with a slightly jammy aftertaste. For my money it was the 4 Acres, slightly lighter in structure and a more elegant wine, but with full flavours. Others at my table disagreed, and there was not much between the two, but for me, it was the 4 Acres.
We were then presented with two excellent French Syrah, both Guigal wines from the same year as the Tyrrells wines, 2007. First was the Guigal St Joseph Vignes de L’Hospice at 13.5% and the second was the Guigal Cote Rotie Brune Et Blonde, also at 13.5%. How blessed are we to enjoy these two fine and expensive wines from the Rhone district.
The St Joseph vineyard is just near the famous Hermitage vineyard. Highly regarded. The wine had little aroma, but on the palate, it was rich and opulent. A straight Syrah. My impression was that the acid was beginning to fall away a little, resulting in a small degree of loss of flavour. However, it was a most enjoyable Rhone classic.
The second wine was the Cote Rotie, which I preferred. A silky smooth finish, with soft rounded tannins. A little bit more flavoursome than the St Joseph. Perhaps a touch of Viognier? A lovely wine. Wish I had some.
We then finished the afternoon off with two Australian classics, the Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2007 and the Penfolds St Henri Shiraz from 2009.
The St Peters at 13% comes partly from the famed plot below the Seppelt winery in the Grampians and surrounding districts. Developed by the legendary wine Colin Preece back decades ago, the wine was originally called Seppelts Gt Western Shiraz, then some years ago under the great winemaker Ian McKenzie, was rebadged as St Peters. A great wine, always one of my favourites, this wine lived up to my expectations. Deep purple in colour, gentle tannin, and an aftertaste of spice and mellow fruit. Wonderful.
Our last wine was the 09 St Henri. We seem today to be blessed with a number of saintly wines both in name and quality. The St Henri today was a very full-bodied wine, distinct tannin with a typically dry Penfolds style finish. Powerful fruit, but well balanced with gentle oak. I really liked the wine. If asked to make a choice between these two great wines, I would go with the St Peters by a narrow margin, probably because I have stood in the vineyard and Ian McKenzie was one of my winemaking heroes!
24 October 2023 Gary Patterson
Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
Gary Patterson was the chef of the day and assisted by his friend Neil Burn.
Gary promised Seafood Delights, and delight us he did. Gary your seafood soup has made us all forget about your beef cheeks.
Gary’s main was scallops, prawns and salmon in a rich soup with salad. The seafood was green banana prawns, Atlantic salmon fillets and scallops (roe off), I think they were saucer scallops of Japanese origin. Gary sourced the seafood from Faros Brothers in Marrickville.
Gary made the soup using prawn shells, white wine and sherry, herbs and spices including paprika. A brilliant soup base, with the seafoods carefully pan-fried before being added to the soup base. The soup was served with lemon wedges.
Gary loves his salads, and the salad with the soup didn’t disappoint. Iceberg, pine nuts, baby spinach, grape and cherry tomatoes, capsicum, red onion, carrot and avocado served with crumbed feta, it was well received and some of us put a squeeze of the lemon on the salad too.
Gary served one canape, a herring fillet from Norway on a blini and topped with a dob of sour cream and chives. President Bill helped prepare the canape. A quality herring, but the consensus was it should have been marinated in the sour cream before serving, and the blini was a little dry unfortunately.
Today we had coffee provided by Paul Ferman, a brilliant Australian coffee from Jaques Coffee Plantation, grown in Mareeba Queensland. Very well received and members wanted to see it again. And as Paul said, great to be able to support an Aussie-grown product.
Mark Bradford served us a very interesting and unique cheese (circa $100/kg wholesale).
Mark served Yarrawa Australia’s first raw milk cheese, from Pecora Dairy in Robertson, sheep’s milk (East Friesian sheep), a semi-hard farmhouse cheese. As per the description, “Named after the indigenous word for Robertson’s unique cool climate rainforest, Yarrawa has a supple paste with hints of butter, cashews, caramel and grass “.
Comments from Members were that the cheese wasn’t one of our favourites, it was dry served by itself and would have possibly been better served with fruit or a (quince) paste.
Today’s Chef was Gary Patterson who served up a delicious seafood lunch with some very satisfying pass-arounds. See food review.
The wines for today were a very impressive collection of some quality whites and equally classy reds. Great choices by our stand-in Winemaster. The first two whites were a Petit Chablis from William Fevre 2019, followed by a Burings Leopold Riesling from Tasmania 2013.
The Chablis we have had often before 13% and always reliable. Given that it is the entry level for Chablis it was nonetheless an enjoyable wine. Quite acceptable with the accompanying
Food. Good structures with a nice clean finish. I did notice that when moving around the room, there seemed to be a degree of bottle variation with the colour, Some glasses I noticed were distinctly darker than others. Perhaps a red flag for more extended cellaring.
The next wine was a cracker, the Burings Leopold Tasmanian Riesling from 2013. Despite 10 years of bottle age, drinking like a charm, matured and balanced but still fresh and clean, with an excellent steely finish. 11.5% This wine was I thought very typical of Riesling from Tasmania, with very floral overtones, but with a crisp finish, inviting another taste.
Leo Buring B 1886 in South Australia with the full given name of Herman Paul Leopold Buring, was the son of the founder of Buring and Sobel, for those who can remember that old wine company. A career in wine was a clear pathway for young Leo, who in turn became a household word in Australia by the 1940s and 50s. He recruited John Vickery in the 50s to craft Riesling as the company’s flagship wine and the rest is history, with the Team producing several classics in Riesling during the 60’s and 70’s. This wine bears Leo’s full name and is made from selected parcels of fruit from Tasmania. Intended to be Burings standout Riesling along with their Chateau Leonay. A great wine.
We were then treated, and I mean it, to two wonderful wines from Yabby Lake in Mornington Vic. First was the Chardonnay then a Pinot Noir. The Chardy was from 2010 at 13%. Utterly delicious, well developed now at 13 yo, but still fresh, with huge citrus overtones of delicate peach and enough remaining acid to power it through to a wonderful crisp mouth filling finish. One of the best Australian Chardys I have tasted. The Winemaker Tom Carson is rapidly carving out a reputation as one of our finest.
The second wine was the Pinot Noir, also from 2010. 14%. Classy wine, silky smooth with a fine tannin trace. Powerful PN aroma, with a lingering finish. A first-class wine.
We then moved on to the final two wines, both Shiraz, both from the wonderful vintage of 2014. First was the Shaw and Smith from the Adelaide Hills 14%. A terrific wine from this talented team who have the resources to create fine wines. Plush and velvety shiraz with spice and pepper and a hint of tannin, but in great balance.
We were blessed by our winemasters of past times in securing both the Shaw and Smith along with a Society favourite, the Tyrrells Stevens Shiraz. What a treat.
2014 will go down in Hunter's history as one of the great Vintages in the last 50 years or more. This wine bore an eloquent illustration of this claim. Typical Hunter, medium body, tons of flavour, ripe fruit of plumb and cherry, restrained oak. This has always been one of my red wine favourites.
Having said that, I found myself preferring the Shaw and Smith. Big call I know, but on this occasion it was the first wine by a narrow margin, Wine experts always say you have to make a bottle-by-bottle comparison and today I thought the S and S was a little more alluring, refined and elegant. It was for me a case of THIS bottle, was my choice over THAT bottle. There, I’ve done it, shunned a Society Icon. Fire at will!
17 October 2023 Bill Alexiou and Voula Price
Food review by Frank Liebeskind and wine review by Steve Liebeskind
17 October 2023 Bill Alexiou-Hucker and Voula Price
Bill and his friend Voula Price (Bill refers to Voula as the “Greek Chef”) were chefs of the day, and what a Greek feast it was. Apollo Restaurant, eat your heart out.
Bill always provides a great meal, but I think working with and inspired by Voula, Bill went to the next level today.
We started with three traditional meze, all handmade (including the 100 dolmades) by Voula:
- Spanakopita (spinach pie) spinach, eggs, fetta and pecorino cheese, filo pastry, and the best Spana I’ve eaten, great flay filo and generous filling, loved it.
- Keftedes – meatballs – 25% pork mince, 75% beef mince, grated tomato, fresh herbs, coated in flour and deep fried. Brilliant and popular, served with 2 sauces, but personally would have preferred them served with tzatziki, or another tangy Greek yoghurt sauce.
- Dolmades – stuffed vine leaves – hand rolled, stuffed with rice and herbs, EVOO and lemon juice made these the best dolmades I’ve eaten, and I’ve had more than a few (and in Greece).
The entrée is another of Bill’s excellent octopus dishes and with a few differences. BBQ octopus, chorizo, kipfler potato and rocket salad, lemon/olive oil dressing.
The octopus was steamed at home by Bill, and char-grilled at the REX, served lukewarm, soft and succulent, a great entree and really well received, the chorizo added a complementary hot spice to the dish. Loved it, happy to have this again (please).
Main by Bill A-H, and another level to traditional Greek lamb.
6-hour roasted lamb shoulder, yoghurt/tahini smear, yemista (stuffed tomatoes – rice, roasted cumin and fennel seeds, sultanas, sautéed onion), charred eggplant, crispy roasted cauliflower florets.
The photo doesn’t do justice to this dish, The lamb was shredded, juices added back to keep it soft and succulent, the cauli was brilliantly crispy and tasty, and the stuffed tomato made this a hero dish.
I doubted Bill had stuffed the tomatoes, but he said he did (and 47 of them, where were the other two?), great main.
I bought a container of Bill’s leftover lamb, and I went home happy ????.
Greek salad/barrel-aged fetta, see below for feta review, an excellent salad, generous tomatoes, red capsicum and Lebanese cucumbers. Personally, with some red onion slices and a little lemon juice, it would have been perfect.
But a generous lunch didn’t stop there, Voula made us a dessert, her family favourite, and now mine too.
Galaktoboureko/Baklava – walnut baklava base, baked milk custard, filo pasty, syrup, brilliant, and had both my favourite Greek desserts in one (photo of it on the benches behind Voula and Bill’s photo)
Aphrodite Barre. Aged Feta from Will Stud, a goat & sheep's milk.
The description provided says:
Authentic handmade Greek feta that has been carefully ripened in small, old beech wood barrels using traditional techniques.
After three months maturation in the barrel, the feta develops a soft milky texture and a seriously creamy peppery finish.
And the cheese was brilliant, not too salted, not dry, creamy and smooth, so good I bought some that was leftover.
Today we had a Mixed lunch with 45 in attendance.
- NV A by House of Arras – Premium Cuvee, Tamar Valley Tasmania. Arras and Tasmania keep on improving and show they are a leader in winemaking. While we went for a non-vintage today we did see a very well made sparkling at a very good price. The structure and flavour were very smart. The wine showed a complex and inviting aroma with subtle notes of the forest floor and exotic spice. The palate had opulent flavours of lychee, butter mushroom and apples. The wine is composed of 55-60% Pinot Noir, 30-35% Chardonnay, 7.5% Pinot Meunier, and spends three years on lees.
- 2019 Robert Stein Dry Riesling, Mudgee. This multi-gold medal wine showed crisp acid, good fruit and cool climate characteristics. There were lime and fruit characters you would expect, with a racy finish with a slight touch of sweetness. This wine has the ability to age beautifully.
The next 4 wines are in my view ‘Society favourites’ that have 10 to 13 years of age. All showed exceptionally well, were drinking at their peak, were well received by all and complemented the food they were served with.
- 2013 Seppelts Henty Jaluka Chardonnay, Victoria - Straw colour that is going towards golden. Fragrant aromas of white peach intermixed with cashew are followed by apple and peach. Medium bodied with a slightly creamy, elegant mouthfeel the palate has flavours of white peach, cashew and spice. There was a slight stalkiness on the palate. Clean dry finish and balanced. This went with the octopus, chorizo and rocket.
- 2010 Wynns Black Label Cabernet, Coonawarra - a great rich luscious fruit-driven palate of blackcurrant & cassis. At 14% alcohol, the wine was not overpowered and was drinking with balance and elegance. There was great length with a hint of mint coming through.
- 2010 Chateau Lanessan Haut Medoc – Cru Bourgeois – A smart Bordeaux structured wine that has been a staple for the Society for many years. Well balanced wine with good oak and skin tannins. Deep crimson colour, good length and cigar characters present. The Merlot helped soften the Cabernet fruit.
Wines 4 and 5 went with the lamb dish.
- 2010 Guigal Cotes du Rhone, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (dominant varieties). After 13 years this wine was showing good mature characters. The Grenache shone through and the Mourvèdre added characteristics of wood. The wine was earthy, balanced and had a soft to medium body. Fresh fruits with berries and spices were present. Was served to complement the fetta cheese and Greek salad.
10 October 2023 Hal Epstein
Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
A good turnout for our chef of the day Hal Epstein. Hal usually challenges us with some special ingredient to identify, today he challenged himself with a degree of difficulty in producing bountiful canapés and a pasta-based dish for the main.
Canapés were mixed antipasto consisting of:
- Bundnerfleisch is an air-dried meat that originated in Switzerland served with sun-dried tomatoes.
- Liverwurst topped with Polska Ogorki (pickle). Sourced from the German butcher in Bexley North.
- Olive paste both served on seeded ficelle.
- White anchovy on cucumber.
- Perfectly cooked spring asparagus with hollandaise and secondly bread crumbs.
Lasagna al forno and ensalada.
Hal had cooked the lasagne over the weekend and reheated it in the kitchen. It didn’t detract from the flavour and texture producing a very good example of lasagne.
He used the traditional ingredients lasagna flat pasta, Italian bechamel sauce (also known as besciamella) and ragu (sauce made with beef, carrots, celery, wine and tomatoes). Al Forno in Italian means from the oven or a dish that was baked in the oven.
A spring salad simply dressed with a vinaigrette olive oil and vinegar consisting cos lettuce rocket radish and cherry tomatoes accompanied the main.
Many favourable comments on both canapés and main today.
Quote of the day ..thanks Bayne:
“Lasagne when you’re hungry
Good red wine when you’re dry
A lover when you need one
Heaven when you die.”
Hal reminded us that as chef of the day, it’s not only lugging in, preparation and cooking but sourcing food and products for your lunch that are your many tasks.
Bread today was a crusty sourdough baguette from ‘baker bleu’ Double Bay.
In theme, our cheese master, Mark Bradford, sourced Mauri Taleggio a washed rind, cow’s milk cheese from Italy Maurice
The unique micro-climate in the natural caves where these cheeses are matured, under the Grigna mountain, is key to the flavour and profile of this cheese. The Mauri family have made cheese near the village of Pasturo for four generations and are the only producers to claim Stagionatura di Grotta (cave ripened) on their products.
Washed and brushed several times over a month, and matured in stacked wooden pine boxes, the cheese develops a thin bloom flecked with grey yeasts and blue Penicillium mould on its distinctive orange rind.
Beneath the thin, crusty rind the ivory texture of the cheese begins to change slowly as it ripens, becoming buttery and soft, balanced with a distinctive yeasty flavour. Mauri Taleggio is considered one of the finest DOP cheeses made in Italy.
We’ve seen this cheese before it had a firmer texture than when served previously.
The spring salad was reprised as the cheese accompaniment.
Hal Epstein was the Chef Du Jour today and he served up a very nice meal indeed. The initial pass arounds were excellent.
With regard to the wines, we kicked off with a Nicola Bergaglio Gavi from 2021, 13%. An excellent way to start. We have enjoyed a few bottles of this wine over the last few months and I for one am really warming to it. Fresh and clean with good acid/fruit balance. The grape variety is Cortese, grown in the Piemonte district. A very popular white wine in Italy for good reason. A great food wine. Garcon, another bottle, please!
The second wine was a Soave from Monte Tondo 2021, 12%. Another enjoyable Italian aperitif wine. Made from the grape variety Garganega grown in NE Italy, with some Trebbiano sometimes added. Again a well made wine with good structures. I did however prefer the Gavi, a little more complex and a better finish.
We then moved on to our red wines for the afternoon, commencing with delightful Chianti Classico from Marchese Antinori 2010. Sangiovese at 14%. A really lovely Chianti in my view. No flim flan light red in a basket, this was a serious wine, great structure with gravelly tannins, deep cherry colour and flavour and a strong lingering finish. My wine of the day!
Next cab off the rank was a 2012 Primitivo from Monili, 13%. The grape is Zinfandel and is grown mainly in the Puglia region of Italy. The grape originates from Croatia. Large plantings have been made in California and South Africa. Marketed in Italy as Primitivo, the wine enjoys reasonable success. A strongly flavoured, big wine, but somewhat hard. I very much preferred the Chianti. The final bracket with the fine cheese was two Australian reds of distinguished pedigree, a Saltrams from the Barossa and a Lindemans Coonawarra.
This was for me, a real stroll down Memory Lane, but sadly, without a happy ending.
Back in the late 60’s when I was commencing my wine odyssey, Saltrams was a huge player in the Australian wine scene. Their Mamre Brook Cabernet and Pinnacle Shiraz were highly prized. I have many fond memories of lunching at the Papallion in King St where mine host Peter Damien would serve the best roast duck in Sydney, washed down with a glass or three of Pinnacle Shiraz, as one played under table footsies with the right companion. Ah the memories, my heart shall be dust before I forget. I digress.
Some years later Lindemans under Ray Kidd’s stewardship produced the famous trio of Coonawarra Reds, St George, Limestone Ridge and Pyrus. All wonderful wines, I think Pyrus was my favourite. These were state of the art quality wines. I am now of course going back 40+ years.
The wines we had today were the Saltram No I Shiraz from 2010, 14.5% and the Limestone Ridge Cabernet Shiraz 2012, 14%.
Consuming these wines today made me experience that sensation you get when you go back to your old primary school and think to yourself “I remember it being much bigger, it is so small“.
Having had a few Saltram’s wines from time to time in recent years, I was not expecting much and I was not surprised. Big alcohol, hard and heavy, strong tannins masking any fruit, out of balance. I did not enjoy it at all.
The Limestone Ridge was better, but still tannic and hard. A tad disappointing. Mind you, it has been some years since I have drunk any of this famous trio. So what has happened?
Were these wines from all those years ago when our palates were less educated, as good as we remember? Do we remember them through the rose coloured glasses of relative youth? Have our tastes changed dramatically away from this style? Have these wines been gradually downgraded in quality by the producers?
For my part, I think it is a combination of all three, leading to a somewhat sad, but perhaps inevitable conclusion to our jaunt back in time to the Australian wine scene 40+ years ago... My old mentor Marcel Proust summed it up in his expression, “Remembrance of things past“.
3 October 2023 Romain Stamm
Food review by Steve Liebeskind and wine review by Paul Irwin
Today we were treated to a visit to Japan with a focus on Umami.
We started with two canapés - both were flavour bombs with the cucumber salad being fresh and having a lovely acid structure complemented with a touch of chilli. The dry seaweed rounded off the flavour. The eggplant was umami on a cracker and the flavour lingered to have the palate ready for the main course.
1. Sunomono (cucumber salad)
Finely sliced cucumber cured in rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, chilli flakes, a dash of sugar and sesame seed for about two hours served on a spoon. Topped with coriander and seaweed flakes when served.
2. Nasu dengaku (miso roasted eggplant)
Eggplant glazed with miso paste, mirin and sake roasted in the oven. Served on a rice cracker with coriander and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
Pork Tonkatsu with miso red cabbage and rice
The main came to table in a colourful presentation due to the rich brightness of the red cabbage planking the golden brown panko pork which was leaning on a serving of rice. The tonkatsu sauces was swirled over the pork and rice for additional flavour and colour. There was coriander to garnish.
The food came to the table quickly and hot. The pork was a little tough to cut but it was fresh and soft for chewing. The panko crumb was excellent and was complemented by the tonkatsu sauce. The red cabbage was a further highlight with great flavour and texture. The miso butter served on top of the cabbage lifted this vegetable to the next level. The rice with its stickiness and slight nuttiness rounded off a terrific meal.
Pork katsu. Pork loin chops crumbed with flour and eggs and then dipped in panko crumbs. Then just before service, the pork was shallow pan-fried for approximately 5 minutes. This was a bit of a production to ensure the pork came to the table fresh and crispy.
The rice was a Japanese sticky style rice - not as long as basmati yet not round like sushi rice.
The red cabbage was cut into wedges and roasted in the oven for 40 minutes. It was then topped with miso butter (a blend of one-third white miso paste and two-thirds butter) to melt in the flash oven at the REX.
The Tonkatsu sauce was a blend of soy, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, onion and garlic powders with a touch of sugar.
Bread was a sourdough from Bourke Street Bakery.
Cheese and salad
We were treated to a ripe Milawa Gough’s Bay Brie. This was a goat’s milk cheese from Milawa Vic. The making is from a special blend of cultures added to the milk before the curds are formed, then scooped into moulds before draining to remove excess whey. The wheels are then salted in brine before the surface is inoculated with white mould spores causing them to slowly develop a white velvety rind and mushroomy aroma. For the next two weeks, they are carefully turned by hand each day before being wrapped and delivered to us.
The cheese had an ivory white paste, soft and creamy with an open texture and delicate goat’s milk flavour. Positive comments were shared by members. Many thought it came from overseas and all were happy to see this quality product.
The salad was a mixed green leaf salad with a dressing of equal parts soy and sesame oil. The sesame was dominant and would have been helped with a dash of acid.
All in all, we were presented with an excellent lunch that was complemented with some good Italian reds and an Aussie Pinot.
Today’s wines were from a Frenchman cooking a Japanese lunch, which included a fried pork katsu. The wines presented commenced with a Domaine Oratoire St Martin, which was a Southern Rhone Blanc blend of a number of grapes, predominantly Clairette, Roussanne, and Marsanne and were showing as flat and oxidised. Next was the Hochirch Riesling, which was a German-style wine from a Victorian producer. At 11 years old it was showing good development and went well with the appetisers.
For the main, we had a 2010 Tasmanian Pinot, from Goaty Hill which was slowing well. Good development of forest floor, and plenty of acid to go with the pork. It was however shown up by the 2016 Massolino Barbera d'Alba, which had clean dark juicy sour cherry that paired well with the dish.
For the cheese course, we stayed in Italy, with a 2014 Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo, which had great red cherry, was tart, and had great acid and tannin. It was paired against a 2009 Gaja Sito Morseco Langhe, which was a blend of Nebbiolo, Merlot and Cabernet which was showing well, with tertiary development of cedar and spice and a pleasure.
Great lunch, with great company. It was a pleasure to be the stand-in Winemaster for the day.
26 September 2023 Paul Irwin
Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran
Members are constantly reminded that “wine lunches are all about the wines” – all of which were indeed exceptional – but so was the food; provided by Paul Irwin with the assistance of Society member Alan Langridge in the kitchen. Given the time of year, a healthy turnout on the day.
We started off with twice-cooked sticky pork belly, braised in Szechuan spices – being star anise, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns and red peppers in place of chilli – as well as soy sauce and brown sugar.
Following this, pork and shallot pot-sticker dumplings came around. These were pork and shallots marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper. The fried lace (aka dumpling skirt) was a flour and water slurry.
Tasty, both received very favourable comments from the floor.
Paul served Hainanese Chicken Rice for the main, a dish associated with China’s tropical resort island of Hainan, to the south-east of Hanoi. The meal was a delight to taste, sight and smell. The chicken master stock comprised of shallots, ginger, coriander, garlic and onion. Paul had worked on topping up this master stock over a couple of months and cooked the chicken sous-vide to ensure consistency of the quantity needed. The result was a moist and tasty chicken, even the breast portions. A second sauce was served in individual bowls as a dipping sauce, using the master stock with grated ginger and garlic stock. The rice was cooked in the chicken oils and the stock on the day, and the chicken was also served with cucumbers, wilted Bok Choy, grated garlic and lime. A six-week fermented hot sauce was also served (but deseeded to reduce the heat), co-fermented with garlic, coriander seeds and ginger. The result was excellent, and seemingly a first at the Society for the members on the day. Much effort and skills were evident in the dish, which was accordingly met with favourable comments.
The cheese presented was a Swiss Gruyere View AOP, from Fromagerie Aeschlenberg in Canton Fribourg, Switzerland. It was a cooperative unpasteurised hard cow cheese with a fat content of 45%, aged in alpine caves.
Dating back to the 13th century, Gruyere is the most popular cheese in Switzerland. The quality of the milk and area of production is strictly controlled under Swiss ‘Appellation’ but the quality varies between the cooperative dairies. The thick crusty rinded cheese was made by Jean Marie Dunand in the Le Cret sur Semsales dairy and carefully cave-ripened for at least 18 months. The condensed nutty texture is scattered with small horizontal fissures known as ‘lenures’ and tiny crystals of calcium lactate which add a deliciously sweet crunch to the powerful lingering nutty flavours.
A delicious meal was prepared for us today by Chef Du Jour Paul Irwin. Some very tasty pass arounds followed by a superb poached chicken main, finished off with a great cheese.
Our Wine master was away and in his absence, his deputies played the age-old game “when the cat’s away the mice will play”. As you can imagine, we had a pretty good afternoon.
We began with two Rieslings, a 2013 Meyer-Fonne from Alsace 12%, followed by an Egon Muller from the same year, a Mosel wine 10.5%. The first bottle of the Meyer-Fonne was a tad oxidised and not assessed. The second bottle was fine, 10 yo and drinking well, smooth and supple with a long dry finish. Very enjoyable, a quality wine. The second wine was a very typical German Riesling, possibly a Kabinett, with some obvious residual sugar. Great flavours, well balanced and enjoyable with the food. Even though this wine is towards the lower end of the sweetness spectrum in German Riesling, I found it not to my liking, a bit too sugary and I was not racing back for more. Years of drinking dryer Australian Rieslings has I think prejudiced my palate against the German style. Nothing wrong with the wine, quite excellent, just not nowadays my cup of tea.
The party really got started with the next bracket of six Reds, two top Aust PN, two top Burgundies and two state of the art Hunter Shiraz. All of this for $ 95? “Tell ‘em they‘re dreaming“ Only at the WFS.
The first two were the Pooley PN from Tasmania 13%, followed by the Farrside PN from Geelong Vic. 13.5% Both from 2014. The Pooley was from the Butchers Hill vineyard in the Coal River region near Hobart. Those ardent readers of this column will remember I reviewed this wine in my report of the 25th July lunch. In summary, my assessment was, “outstanding “. On this occasion, we had the priceless opportunity to compare glass for glass two of our best PN. A wicked treat that I relished. The Farrside is Gary Farr’s top of his range in PN. The aroma of both wines was roughly the same, but the colour of the Farrside was somewhat darker than the Pooley. On tasting, the Farrside was more intense, with more complexity of flavour. Both wines had a long, typically PN lingering finish. To my taste, the Farr finished very slightly ahead on points, but really, there was not much in It.
The next two were the French Burgundies, both from the great 2015 Vintage, the Philippe Cheron Gevrey - Chambertin 1st Cru and then the Clegert Echezeaux Grand Cru. Wow, were we having a jolly old time here!! Upon first tasting, both wines were “dumb“ and half asleep, so I left them to sit in the glass. Probably the proximity of the two Aust PN ‘s with their intense fruit-driven flavours had some influence. I ventured back 20 minutes later and found that they had both developed in the glass and were beginning to show some of their undoubted class. It did seem to me that despite eight years since vintage, these wines need more time. Both wines were elegant, restrained and showed true class, which will probably be recognised in another 5 years or so. Just babies in my view, hope we are not drinking our 2015 stock too soon. With regard to the two wines today, nothing in it, but the Echezeaux by a close margin, just a tad more flavour and power.
To end this glorious afternoon, we were presented with two of our finest Shiraz from the Hunter both from the highly acclaimed vintage 2014. First was the Lindemans Reserve Bin 1400 14.5% and then the Tyrrells 4 Acres 14%, both wines in impeccable condition.
The Lindemans came from the famous Ben Ean vineyard acquired by the company in 1912, which along with the Sunshine vineyard nearby form two of the most prized vineyards in the Hunter. This was a superb wine, with great deeply coloured fruit, with a smooth silky finish delivering some soft tannins in the aftertaste. Traces of spicey pepper and blackberry.
The Tyrrells 4 Acres came from one of the oldest vineyards in the Hunter planted in 1879 in the Tyrrells Ashman vineyard. In direct comparison with the Lindemans, the 4 Acres was a little lighter in colour and texture, with great fruit and acid balance creating an elegant yet powerful wine with gentle tannins. Both wines showed the potential for extended further cellaring.
As to my choice, again nothing in it, but perhaps the Tyrrells with a little more complexity and elegance.
Thank you, deputy Winemasters, for this rare treat.