13 December 2022 Bill and Sam Alexiou

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Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Food

Not to be outdone by the iconic Bill and Toni in Stanley Street, our own Bill and Sam sent the Society on its way for the final meal of 2022 with an offering fit for a king.  Being wary of Greeks bearing gifts, our lunch was more Italian themed than Greek, but what the hell, great Mediterranean flavours, aromas, textures, and colours. 

Canapes

The three canapes were in abundance. The first was a beetroot relish, made with the addition of yoghurt, cumin and lemon juice. The second was tuna tonnato, made with tuna, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil and mayonnaise. Members would recall with fondness this cold combination served as a main with veal and tuna mayonnaise; a Piedmontese delicacy. The third canape was a tomato, basil and garlic bruschetta.  Great comments from the 50-odd members on the day. 

First Course

The first course was a vegetarian antipasto with pickled vegetables, Scillian olives, zucchini and a corn frittata. This provided an excellent palate cleanser from the canapes. 

Second Course

Crafted by Sam, we were presented with a slow-cooked pork rib ragu served on pasta with ricotta cheese. Lovely colours and textures, and just enough in terms of quantity. 

Third Course

And just in case we hadn’t eaten enough, we were presented with a wonderfully juicy and pink steak Fiorentina with rocket and spinach salad. 

Cheese

Our Christmas favourite and at most other times too was selected by Dr James Healey: Holy Goat La Luna from Sutton Grange Organic Farm outside of Melbourne.  A wonderful goat’s cheese and excellent flagship for the quality of the cheeses now being made in Oz. James has given us an excellent education, now over many years, on wonderful Australian cheeses. Bill accompanied the cheese with cured meats which were a great match. 

Digestive

Not being able to keep entirely away from things Greek, the Alexous served us with Mastiha, derived from the mastic resin grown only on the Greek island of Chios.  Doing likewise with resin from the Sydney blue gum is not recommended. 

Conclusion

A wonderful lunch with many Society members in attendance. We look forward to 2023. 

Wine

Lots of people, lots of laughs and lots of different wines! A real Xmas Scramble! The traditional WFS last lunch of the year knees up! Many thanks to our Chef Bill Alexiou-Hucker and son Samfor a sensational spread.

This is my wine report which will be a bit truncated as I noticed my last report on the wines on 29th Nov suffered some heavy editing in the last few paragraphs. The gist of those final comments was to the effect that the French Bordeaux blends are a cut above our best Cabernets, even Bin 707.  For the sake of my wine reporting integrity, I needed this to be recorded.

As alluded to, there were many wines on the tables, both reds and whites. I can only comment on those that passed my lips. First was the Tyrrells Belford Chardonnay 2015. I have not seen much of this wine in recent times at the WFS, our predilections fancying the Semillon. To my taste, the Chardy was a bit flat, 7 years of age beginning to take its toll on the fruit/acid structure. By no means a poor wine, just a little disappointing. The next wine I tried was the Yalumba Pewsey Vale Riesling 2012. As always with this never fail wine, excellent. At 10 yo a classic Oz Riesling drinking at its peak. Say no more.

My empty glass soon found its way to the next white I tried a Roussane from the Rhone district.  A cousin of the Marsanne grape, which gained fame when served to the late ER 2 during her maiden voyage to Aust in 1953. A curious selection I have always thought! I recall it was a Chateau Tahbilk.  Nonetheless, the Roussane had a beguiling aroma, hints of honey, thick and mouth-filling, but not unctuous or cloying. A nice wine if you could climb the mountain of distinction between this style with our Oz whites.

In the Red Dept, we saw a number of wines scattered around the room. In the published list there was a 2006 St Hugo, a 2012 Chalambar and a Tyrrells Vat 9 from 2011. Also deposited on our table was a 2014 Ch Rochemorin from Bordeaux and a Bowen Estate Cab from 2008. There were I understand some other wines served but I was not able to either taste or record. It was a busy afternoon!

The St Hugo was to my taste an excellent wine. 14.4 % and now 16 years of age. A fine blend of tannins/fruit and acid all holding the together and no obvious excessive oak. An impressive wine.

The Rochemorin. A non-rated wine from the Pessac Leognan region of Bordeaux 13 %. A Merlot/Cab blend, predominately Merlot. A consistent producer with a reasonable price tag. The wine on our table must have been just out of the fridge as it was quite chilled. The initial impression was, good colour, but the chill on the bottle masked other assessments. Returning to the wine half an hour later revealed a pleasant Bordeaux with plummy Merlot overtones. Overall, a nice wine with no obvious faults.

The Chalambar from 2012. A wine we see here quite often and I am glad we do. As with the Pewsey Vale, a solid reliable performer which never lets you down. Big fruit, loads of flavour a very pickable wine style from Seppelts in the Grampians region. I compared this wine to the Vat 9 {see below} and in my view, there was not much between them. Think about the fact that you can just about buy three bottles of the Chalambar to one Vat 9! An excellent value quality wine if I ever saw one.

The Bowen Estate 2008 Cabernet from Coonawarra was 15%. Despite the heavy alcohol factor, I found the wine to be well-balanced, and very flavoursome. A big wine no doubt, not any elegance here, but overall an enjoyable drink. Holding well together for a 14 yo.

The final wine for our table was the Tyrrells Vat 9 from 2011. Tyrrells said {in 2021} that this wine is fully matured and should be drunk now. I think they are correct. Whilst I enjoyed the wine, I was a little underwhelmed, it was not noticeably a step up from the Chalambar. Both wines were high-quality Shiraz, but the comparison was interesting. You do not the opportunity to make these contemporaneous comparisons anywhere else but at the WFS and only for $85 with wonderful food and superb cheese thrown in. Your membership fee is the best investment you ever made.

This is my final Wine Report for the year. Many thanks to members who have been so kind to express to me at our lunches their enjoyment when reading my material. It is I can assure you taken on board with much gratitude. I do try to make the reports a bit of fun to read, whilst throwing in some hopefully interesting stuff.   SO’H.

6 December James Hill and Kham Signavong

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Food and wine review by James Hill

Marquee chef Kham Signavong was our guest chef of the day for our last mixed lunch of the year.

Kham is known to many members as the chef and owner of Arun Thai restaurants both in Sydney and Hong Kong and the author of two books on cooking Thai food.

Canapés

Betel leaves with smoked trout

Snowy mountains smoked rainbow trout was mixed and marinated with Thai salad and sauce. It was spooned onto betel leaf and then topped with fried shallots.

Spicy prawn salad

The prawns were marinated in the same salad and sauce this time adding some finely chopped lychee to enhance and sweeten the flavour.

All the elements we expect to see in Thai cooking are represented here sweet, salty, and sour, and the fried shallots give a nice crunchy texture to the smoked trout.

The salad was made up of coriander, shallots, lemongrass, mint, finely julienned kaffir lime leaves and red chilli. The sauce had equal quantities of fish sauce and lime juice mixed with palm sugar.

Main course

Kham only arrived back in town from Bangkok the night before our lunch so we had to improvise with some of the ingredients for lunch today.

The main course was a red curry of twice-cooked duck, pork and lychee served with some al dente Jasmine Thai rice.

Kham had sent the recipes and REX Head Chef Rob Doll cooked 2.5kg of pork belly for us. It was cooked with star anis, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and whole black pepper. The pork was perfectly cooked, moist with crispy crackling on top.

We sourced some ready-cooked, deboned ducks from Tai Wong butcher in Haymarket. Kham made his sauce of coconut milk, red curry paste, fish sauce, long red and green chilli, birds eye chilli and Thai basil. An alchemist at work.

The duck was poached in the red curry sauce and then served in bowls with a generous ladle of sauce over the duck and pork.

The red curry sauce had an amazing depth of flavour and lingered long on the palate. There was heat evident but not enough to overwhelm the integrated flavours of the dish.

The dish went very well with wine matches today.

There was a lot of comment and praise for lunch today highlighting the authentic taste and quality of the food presented.

Thank you, Kham.

Cheese

Cheesemaster James Healey Presented a washed-rind cow's milk cheese from Italy. It was the Mauri Taleggio almost in theme with lunch today, it had a creamy, salty flavour. It was served at the right temperature and came to the table melting on the cheeseboard. Accompanying the cheese was a bowl of dried apricots and fresh walnuts.

The microclimate in the natural caves where these cheeses are matured, high in the Alps, encourages the development of a unique flora on the outer rind. Washed and brushed several times over a month, the cheese develops a thin bloom flecked with blue penicillium moulds.

Beneath the rind, the ivory-chalky texture of the cheese begins to change slowly as it ripens, becoming buttery and soft. The creamy texture, when balanced with the delicious yeasty taste provided by the rind, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets.

Mauri Taleggio is considered one of the finest DOP cheeses made in Italy.

Wines

Canapé  wines

  • 2013 Leo Buring Léopold Riesling Tasmania

Made in Germanic/Alsatian style high acidity showing. Some residual sugar complemented the wine, drinking at its best.

  • 2014 Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillon Hunter Valley

Showing texture, and a good flavour profile.

Main course wines

  • 2015 Tyrrell’s Belford Chardonnay Hunter Valley

Bedecked with a lot of gold showing a lot of barrel ferment characters. Secondary notes came through on the wine but lacked a little structure and mouthfeel. Promised quite a bit on the nose but fell away a little.

  • 2012 Freycinet Vineyards Pinot Noir Tasmania

At 10 years of age, quite old for an Australian Pinot Noi, but thought it hung on and got better within the main course. An oaky style. Good mouthfeel.

Cheese wines

  • 2008 Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra

Big rich, jammy style of wine, lost Cabernet fruit. Gone more into overdeveloped character. 2008 was a hot year and not enough fruit to show through tannins.

  • 2002 Majella Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra

Very interesting vintage in Coonawarra and it was lovely showing red currant and cassis notes and a bit of mint. Massive amount of oak, and a lot of vanilla. Showed to be the better of the two wines.

29 November 2022 CoTD Keith Steele

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Food review by James Hill and  wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

The room was packed for our last wine tasting of the year, Keith Steele was in the kitchen as Chef of The Day assisted by Shane Redmond and James Tinslay on canapés.

Canapés

As we have seen in the past the canapés were bountiful today and much appreciated and enjoyed by 50 members attending our lunch.

First up with James Tinslay showing his prowess with pastry, mozzarella twirls and a homemade tomato red pepper sauce.

Puff pastry twists. In between two sheets of the pastry layer a tomato sauce (processed tomatoes with the usual Italian herbs) with lots of mozzarella cheese, some oregano leaves, finely chopped pepperoni and finely chopped red capsicum.

Cut with a pizza cutter, twist and bake on high heat after an egg wash.

New member Shane Redmond was up next with some home-cured salmon with whiskey from Lark Hill winery topped with crème fraîche and dill fronds and perfectly executed homemade blinis.

Lastly, we had the terrine a Damian Pignolet recipe simple country terrine of fresh herbs, pork shoulder, chicken, chicken livers and pork back fat wrapped in bacon. With the numbers booked in today, Keith thought he didn’t have sufficient so he bought some duck terrine from his local butcher. Both had great flavour and texture and were simply served with a Dijon mustard spread on fresh white baguette with sliced gherkins on top.

Main course

Today’s main course went perfectly with the wine theme selected by our Cellar master today the sweetness of the beef cheeks and Pedro Ximenez was just perfect for the tannin expression of the wine presented today.

It’s a Frank Camorra recipe from Movida ‘Beef cheeks with Pedro Ximenez Jerez’.

The beef cheeks are simmered with the sherry and red wine plus carrots, garlic and onion Cook for 3 to 4 hours until they reach the right consistency.

Comments from the floor that was so well done that you could’ve just cut them with a spoon rather than using a knife they were so good. They were served on a bed of silky cauliflower cream, some suggesting more cream and butter than cauliflower. The cauliflower cream went very well under the beef cheek with the sauce lovely, rich unctuous and full of flavour. We had some sugar snap peas on the side and plenty of bread to mop up.

Frank Liebeskind said the other Frank would be very proud of what was presented on the plate today.

There were many favourable comments from the floor on all food presented today. Well done team.

Cheese

Our Cheesemaster James Healey presented Society's favourite today ‘Beaufort’ many in the room guessed the cheese and it came to the table in perfect condition. Again a great match for our Cabernet-dominated wines.

Beaufort is hard cow's milk cheese from France.

A naturally rinded cheese from European Alps is traditionally made in 45kg wheels and is the largest cheese made in the world. The cheese is made from late spring or summer milk when the best milk comes from cows that have ascended into the rich mountain passes.

The close-concentrating creamy texture, nutty, slightly sweet lingering flavours are typical of this rare cheese which also has excellent melting qualities.

Wine

On the 29th of November 2022, we were treated to something special winewise. I have no doubt that the wines served were at least equal to or better than anything in the world put on a luncheon table today. Makes your modest investment in membership of the WFS look like a very sound investment indeed.

Anyhow, moving straight to the wines, we started off with a great Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2013 at 12.4%. Now 9 yo, drinking at its peak. Clean, wonderful balance, no sign of fading. The second aperitif wine was a Mader Gewurztraminer from Alsace, 13.5% from the vintage of 2020. Nothing wrong at all with the wine if you like that style. Very mouth-filling and noticeable residual sugar. By no means unpleasant, just not my cup of tea.

The luncheon wines. Now the real fun starts! At the outset, my comments relate to the wines as tasted at our table. I heard that on a few tables some of the wines were poor due to bad corks. The old saying that “there is no such thing as a great wine, only a great bottle of wine“, rings loud.

First was a Ch Meyney from St Estephe 2010 vintage 14.5%.  A non-classified Bordeaux wine, but has a good reputation and splendid value for money. This wine was well received by the room, was in good shape and drank well.

Second was the Lindemans 2008 Pyrus blend. I have always enjoyed this wine when fortunate enough to share a bottle. 14%. Cab/Merlot/Malbec. Big sweet fruit, but beginning to show some tiredness. When compared to the Bordeaux blends it lacked balance and elegance. Probably ranked at the bottom of the list. The competition was very hot.

Next on the list was the Ch Du Tertre, a 5th growth from Margaux 13%. I really liked this wine initially, but it faded a bit after an hour or so in the glass. Still a very enjoyable wine with lots of Bordeaux flavours. Drank well.

Wine number 4 was the Ponet-Canet 2002, a 5th growth from Pauliiac 13%. A very fine wine indeed. A large estate of some 80 hectares, producing silky Cab blends for many years with increasing quality year after year. Very popular worldwide, an estate that should be ranked much higher than its 5th Growth status. In the same league as Lynch Bages another 5th growth which deserves promotion. Such prospects appear remote as the French have only ever made one change to the 1855 classifications, by promoting Ch Mouton Rothschild from 2nd to 1st in 1973. They don’t rush things the French! I think this and the following wine were the picks of the litter. In a word superb. Worthy of its growing reputation.

Wine 5 was the epitome of the classic Bordeaux, Ch Leoville Barton. 2002 vintage 12.5%. from St Julien. An esteemed 2nd growth needing no introduction.  A consistent wine, delivering all those classic Bordeaux aromas we have come to know and love. Via the generous nature of some rich mates, I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions and it never fails. Totally reliable.

The final wine was the Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet 1998 13.5%. This has always been in my view a magnificent wine. Perhaps I have just been lucky in getting great bottles! (See Par 3 above) In fact, when compared to a Grange at the same sitting, I have gone for the 707. The wine today had massive fruit and loads of oak. Trouble was that the wine was so big it was unbalanced and just too powerful with the overbearing oak. No elegance here. Sad to say, but I marked this wine down to second last on the list, just ahead of the Pyrus.

The tasting today to me showed the stark comparison between our finest and the best from France in the Cabernet blends. I may be a little unkind to the 707 as it was 4 years senior to the oldest of the French. In any event a terrific afternoon. Many thanks to Chilly.

22 November 2022 CoTD Steve Liesbeskind

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Wine

Today’s Lunch was our opportunity to mark the passing of Society members who have died over the last two years and due to Covid restrictions, we were not able to acknowledge as a group their contributions to the Society. It turned out to be a splendid lunch, thanks to our Chef de Jour Steve Liebeskind and our Winemaster Chilly Hargraves. I am sure all of the deceased would have more than enjoyed the occasion.

As befitting the occasion to celebrate the lives of the departed we kicked off with some NV Pol Roger, and NV Bernard Bremont. Both delightful. What more can one say? A late addition to the pre-lunch drinks was the Scorpo Mornington Pinot Gris. I have reviewed this wine before. I really like it. Extended skin contact produces a wine with a light reddish/brown hue and an abundance of pear and apple flavours. An excellent aperitif wine. Hope we have more in the cellar!

To accompany the salmon entrée Chilly produced a magnificent Tyrrells Vat 1 from 2004. Grown on the Short Flat and Johnno’s Vineyards, this wine was described by Bruce Tyrrell in 2016 as “drinking well now, but will continue on for another 5 years at least“. I think he really should have meant 15 years. Drinking this wine today, there did not appear to be any reason why it would not last for another 10 years. Simply superb, a wonderful mixture of mellow soft fruit with perfect acid on the finish. Very low alcohol 10.3%, a real treat.

The second wine in this bracket to partner the chicken main was the Tolpuddle PN 2014 from the Coal River region of Tasmania at 12.5%. If a wine could be described as having the benefit of rich parents, this is the prime example. The vineyard was established in 1988 in the Coal River district, on an impeccable plot of land. Parents were indeed rich, cousins Martin Hill Smith and Matthew Shaw. The vineyard and its management were overseen by a team of heavy hitters in the industry, which would come as no surprise. The wine today was in my view and that of our table superb, although some dissenting voices around the room suggested that the fruit was falling off and the wine a little tired. Perhaps a degree of bottle variation. The wine we had was full of mellow luscious flavours with no sign of ageing. Very fine tannins and beautifully balanced.

The  3rd wine was a wonderful Leeuwin Estate Cab 2012 at 13.5%. I have long thought that Margaret River Cab from a good year is as close as we get to a good 2nd or 3rd growth Bordeaux.

This wine was elegant but made a statement. Soft Cab overtones, restrained tannins, with the right mix of fruit and acid to keep it in near-perfect balance. A wonderful wine. Many thanks Chilly.

The 4th Luncheon wine was the Grant Burge Shadrach Cab 2002. 14% from the Barossa. I have been a fan of Grant Burge wines for years, especially his Fisell Shiraz, always consistently very sound. I did not, however, like this wine. I think it was a victim of being left in our cellar for too long.  Tired and exhausted, the 20-year wait proved just too long for all of its component parts.  I am sure a different wine would shown itself if opened 10 years ago.

Finally, we were treated to a genuine Port from the home of fine Port, Taylor’s, a 2008 Vintage Port Quinta de Vargellas.  A delight. Refined flavour, in no way cloying, fresh and clean finishing. As I commented upon in my last report, like German wines, we seem to have lost contact with Port over the last few decades. I am sure most Society members will remember (hopefully), the days in the 70s and 80’s when no dinner party (remember them?) would have been complete without a bottle or two of Hardy’s 1947 Show Port. We seem to have left those occasions far behind, along with the crushing hangovers, to enter the world of non-alcoholic wine, Prosecco and of course the ever-present at any function, Sauvignon Blanc. God help us! Bye for now, until next time.

Food

The room was full to capacity today for a memorial lunch for Society members that we lost in the Covid years 2020 and 2021.

In the kitchen was our well-regarded Chef Steve Liebeskind with assistance from Nigel Burton.

Canapés

First up we had Steve’s homemade gravlax topped with a mixture of sour cream and horseradish topped with fennel fronds on some sliced baguette.

I’m a big fan of this dish, it's a perfect example of gravlax and was eagerly consumed by members.

Then followed some chilli and lime biscuits topped with yoghurt, cream cheese, cucumber and lemon and finished off with a jalapeño slice on top.

The acid of the cream mixture sat well with a chilli hit on the palate.

In making gravlax there’s always some leftover so Steve created the last canapé.

It was a mixture of red onion, coriander and salmon pieces that had been mixed with an Asian sauce and lime juice. The salmon was cured by the sauce the onion and coriander adding flavour and texture to the ceviche.

As it was a memorial lunch Steve generously treated us to two courses today, an entree and a main.

Entree

Confit salmon with herb beurre blanc (including tarragon, chives, parsley) fried capers and finger lime topped with crispy salmon skin.

Loved the textures in this dish ..the salmon was perfectly cooked ..then the crispy salt of the salmon skin sitting on the herby beurre blanc..not overly buttery ..some lively acid burst from finger lime.

I’d call this Steve’s signature dish and we saw why today.

Steve served the entree in honour of Wal Edwards who in the latter years couldn’t digest (and chew food) as well as in the past. He was very happy when we served salmon to him.

We noted that today was Wal’s birthday in the past he would share his Inner Circle rum and tell us the story of buying every last bottle in Sydney in 1986 when the company announced they would no longer produce the rum. We drank that rum for many years after that.

Main course

Prosciutto chicken involtini with ricotta, parmesan, spinach and charred zucchini. This was served on a bed of heavenly mash of roasted pumpkin and sweet potato with perfectly cooked asparagus and beans set on the side. This was then accompanied by a pesto sauce.

Well seasoned, with balanced flavours and great presentation.

The kitchen was busy at service thus delaying service and Steve suggested the chicken could have been more moist.

Bread

Steve’s sourced white sourdough bread from the new bakery ‘Humble’ now in Loftus St Circular Quay.

Cheese

Gary Linnane presented the cheese today in the absence of our Cheese aster James Healey. We are getting better at identifying cheeses at lunch and members were very close to guessing the type of milk and origin.  It was D’affinois de brebis fromagerie guilloteau.

It comes in 1kg squares, is around 6-8 weeks old and according to James, is an extremely well-priced cheese for the quality that is delivered.

This cheese is made by Fromagerie Guilloteau near Pelussin in the Rhone Valley. This cheese utilises ultra-filtration techniques and modern lactic fermentation techniques to boost the protein and calcium levels in the curd. Made with added cream and ripened for three weeks under a thin white mould rind covering the cheese and gradually develops a mild and rich texture that is savoury, building complexity. These modern lactic fermentation techniques boost the protein and calcium levels, it had a good sharp finish. Don’t forget the cheese is made from sheep’s milk.

In between courses we paid tribute to those members that we lost during Covid times when we weren’t able to acknowledge their passing and give them the celebration that was accorded today.

2020

  • Ross Macdonald (Life Member and past Cheese Master)
  • Bob Swinney
  • Frank Johnston
  • Ted Triester

2021

  • John D Edwards (Life Member and Past President)
  • Wal Edwards (50+ Year member)
  • Roger Layton
  • James Muir (past Food Master)

Members spoke with personal reminiscences of those passed with others calling from the floor with tributes and anecdotes.

It was noted that among the members present today there were ten past presidents and our incumbent in the room today, unfortunately, the writer didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo.

Past President Nick Reynolds sent his apologies.

Next time.

To open lunch we were treated to some Pol Roger NV champagne kindly donated by Paul Panichi.

Lunch was closed with a toast of port to the lives and contribution to our Society of those that had passed.

15 November 2022 CoTD Romain Stamm

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Food review by Steve Liesbeskind and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Today we had a virgin cook in the kitchen with Ro Stamm, who was assisted by Bernie Leung.

While Ro was born in and around Champagne, he spent most of his informative years in Paris and this background led us to a terrific lunch today.

Canapes

1.            Puff pastry squares with pear topped with gorgonzola – simple but so effective. The pastry provided crispness and butter flavour and the small rounds of pear added sweetness to offset the moderate power of a very good selection of Gorgonzola.  Together we had a very smart and enjoyable canape.

2.            Colour on a spoon – well-piped roasted beetroot puree with piped cauliflower puree topped with chives. This looked great on the tray and tasted very good. The power and acid of the beetroot were bright and enjoyable, to mix with this we had a subtle and delicate flavour of the cauliflower puree. The cauliflower balanced the beetroot flavour.

Main

Duck breast cooked three ways. The process designed by Ro required the duck to be cooked to ensure the skin was well rendered then handled twice in the REX kitchen. The outcome was a beautifully cooked and presented dish. The breast cut in 3 slices showed pinkness of the flesh and had crispness of skin. The duck was easy to cut and overall well handled with a delightful flavour with balanced seasoning. A well-handled protein for the lunch today. The duck was served with a very good potato mash. This mash had more structure than a Paris mash but the use of butter (a lot of butter) and milk with salt, had the members singing the praise of this mash. In addition, snap peas were prepared and served in quantity on the plate. The peas were well cooked and crispy, a great treat. To round out the meal, there was a light and elegant red wine and stock jus. Great flavour that complemented the duck.

Salad

We had a mixed green salad served with a Dijon-based vinaigrette that Ro makes at home often. The salad had good acid and the Dijon was evident. The salad went very well with the cheese provided.

Cheese

Tete De Moine. This is a cow's milk cheese made in Switzerland. It comes in a 700gm round and is a hard cheese that matures for 7 – 9 months. Normally the cheese is served shaved but today we had wedges that were very enjoyable. The dominant character was that of nuttiness and had a slight complementary style to a Comte. Members were very happy with this cheese and look forward to it being served again.

A great first lunch that Ro should be proud of and the members were very complimentary of it.

Wine 

Today we kicked off with a German Kabinett Riesling from the Mosel Region 2016.  A delightful wine, perfect with the superb pass-arounds prepared by our Chef de Jour Romain Stamm.  Nice balance of fruit/acid, mouth-filling, but without any cloying aftertaste. Fresh and clean at 10.5%. Kabinett is the starting point for German Rieslings in terms of dryness. 

Beyond that, we go to Spatlese, Auslese and so on up to Ice Wine.  I remember with affection, the salesman for Fred Pieroth, with his briefcase of chilled German wine doing his rounds in the Sydney CBD in the late 70s. I think we as a group brought quite a lot of them in those days, they were enjoyable wines, but for some reason, they just dropped off the radar from the 80 /90 decades to become almost non-existent. Perhaps it was the residual sugar and the search for dryer white wine that brought this about. In any event, it was an enjoyable stroll down memory lane for a wine style we no longer drink. As Marcel Proust coined the phrase  “remembrance of things past“. I digress.

We were then treated with two NZ Pinot Noirs, the 2015 Greywacke from Marlborough and the  Wairau River Pinot from the same district and both 2010. I was somewhat surprised to hear comments from around the room from respected members, voicing a degree of antipathy towards NZ Pinots. I found this strange, as from personal experience I have really enjoyed the quality Pinots from Otago, which I consider far superior to any Pinot from here. A personal perspective. Anyhow, the Greywacke from the legendary NZ winemaker Kevin Judd was in my view the preferred wine, 13.5%, still fresh with nice Pinot fruit still noticeable. In comparison, the Wairau River wine at now 12 yo was beginning to show the effect of 5 years extra bottle age, with loss of acid/fruit balance.

The final two wines were the  Vinden Estate from the Hunter 2010. and the Seppelt Benno  2010 from the Bendigo region. Both Shiraz. The Vinden came in at 13.5% and the Seppelt at 15%. They were both excellent wines,  very enjoyable, the Vinden being basket pressed, and showing some soft tannins. The Benno was in view a slightly better wine, holding its 12 years of bottle age better and showing some delightful plumb/cherry flavours. Despite the big alcohol well balanced and a better long-term proposition.    The Pinots and the Shiraz were excellent wines for the superb duck and cheese we were fortunate to enjoy on this occasion.

8 November 2022 CoTD Scott Witt

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

It was a welcome return to the kitchen for our chef of the day Scott Witt who prepared a French-inspired lunch.

Canapes 

First up was baccala mantecato with fennel oil.

This is a riff on classic Venetian Cicchetti (bar snack), it makes a perfect salty and creamy starter albeit quite acidic.

Cannellini beans, marinated white anchovies, garlic cloves, lemon juice, EVOO, and greek yoghurt are blended then piped into shortcrust pastry cups then topped with fennel seed oil and fennel fronds.

This was followed up with some ’nduja’ (Sicilian spreadable salami) on pumpernickel topped with pickled cucumber and onion and then adding some sweetness fig and balsamic chutney. The salami had a fiery kick which was softened by the other toppings.

Nick Reynolds prepared his very popular 30 layers Patatas Brava.

Potatoes are first sliced thinly with a mandoline then stacked in baking trays. They are then baked while pressed with weights, then vacuum sealed under pressure. For service, they are cut into bite-sized squares and finally deep-fried. The flavours of the dish are savoury, and a little bit smokey and hot from the paprika in the sauce and garlic from the aioli.

My favoured canapé on the day.

Main course

Scott’s main was a duck stew, basically a 'cassoulet-light' featuring duck breast and haricot tarbais beans imported from France. The skin of the tarbais bean is known for its fineness.

Scott added garlic carrots and peas to his dish. The beans dissolved and were integrated into the meal, this didn’t alter the overall taste of the dish. The vegetables were cooked to the right level of doneness. Rich, unctuous and full flavoured.

Scott used duck breasts for the meal perfectly cooked, tender and pink.

A gremolata of parsley and lemon finished with Panko bread crumbs topped the dish.

Some comments suggested a little more seasoning added to the dish.

There were many favourable comments on the dish and the large portion size with one dissenter ..as Paul pointed out robust discussion on food wine is actively encouraged.

Chilly raised the white flag on our table unable to finish.

Bread today was white sourdough from Humble Bakery a new shop at 16 Loftus st Circular Quay.

Cheese

James Healey our Cheesemaster presented a cloth-bound cheddar asking the room to guess the origin ..… no one picked it it was from Wisconsin USA. It was semi-hard cow’s milk cheese ‘Pleasant Ridge Reserve’ from the Uplands Cheese Company.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve is made in the tradition of alpine cheeses by Uplands Cheese, a family-run dairy and cheese-making facility located on ‘Pleasant Ridge’ in southwestern Wisconsin.

The cheese is only made between May and October, while the cows are grazing on fresh pastures. The grass-fed milk produces flavour complexity in cheese that can’t be replicated when cows are eating machine-harvested feed.

The flavours of Pleasant Ridge Reserve are reminiscent of another alpine classic – Beaufort, with hints of caramel and salt, together with complex layers of grass and flora.

Wine

The white wine served with the pass-arounds was from Austria, featuring the name Braitenpuechttorff Gemischter Satz.  I have never seen such a creature before.  More letters than the alphabet. Just hope I am not called upon to pronounce the name. I think it was a blend of several grape varieties, but the label was totally unhelpful in establishing its component parts, vintage 2017. Having said that, the wine was in fact quite enjoyable, a well-balanced combination of fruit and acid leading to a mouth-filling but dry finish. It went very well with the food on offer.

The first red wine was a Craiglee Shiraz 2014  from the Sunbury district of Victoria.  The vineyard was originally planted in the 1860s but eventually fell into disuse until the mid-1970s when it was revitalised by the current owner Patrick Carmody. The vineyard has since produced some excellent Shiraz and is highly regarded by many. I cannot recall having a Craiglee wine at any of our lunches.  In any event, this wine was very enjoyable, if not outstanding. At 13.5%, some nice spicy oak was noticeable. A deep purple hue, with sufficient acid to carry it through for a few more years of good drinking.

The second red was a Shaw + Smith Shiraz from the Adelaide Hills, 2014 vintage at 14%. Quite distinguishable from the previous wine. Much lighter in structure and with a tad more delicate flavour. I must confess that I was a little underwhelmed with this wine, perhaps expecting something better. That’s the burden you carry I guess when a winemaker has a very solid reputation for quality wines, and every now and then up pops a wine that just falls a little short of expectations. I think the wine was fading a little, not helped by its light structure, and it had no lingering aftertaste, just disappearing off the palate. Sorry, was hoping for better.

The cheese wines, (an excellent Californian cheddar indeed) were the Lindemans Ben Ean vineyard Shiraz Bin 1400 from 2014, and the David Thomas Kiss Shiraz from the same year and district. Dealing with the Lindemans first, here was a wine that ticked all the boxes. Great year, one of the oldest and most respected vineyards in the Hunter and a sound winemaking team. Drinking now as an 8 yo and beginning to hit its straps. Elegant, great balance although at 14.5%. The fine tannins and soft fruits carried it through. Slight cherry/blackberry aromas and a dash of leather came together seamlessly to produce a terrific wine.

The final wine was the Thomas Kiss Shiraz 2014.  A celebrated winemaker, David Thomas has produced in recent years award-winning Semillons and Shiraz. This was a lovely Shiraz, 14.2% with an abundance of well-integrated fruit and tannin.  A delight to drink, notwithstanding some over-generous oak influence.

These last two wines were a perfect end to the lunch, with subtle lingering finishes.

25 October 2022 CoTD James HIll

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Food review by James Hill

It was all hands on deck filling an urgent need for a CoTD for our monthly wine tasting. It was good to welcome our Cellarmaster Chilly Hargrave back to the fold after a long research and education tour of Italy and France.

Canapés

First up, ajvar served on spoons. Unfortunately, due to a kitchen mishap, our shortcrust pastry shells were burnt. They meant have added some texture to the canapé. One comment on the quality was that there is better quality served in jars…well spotted ...it was out of a jar!

Ajvar is a condiment made principally from capsicum and eggplants. The relish became a popular side dish throughout Yugoslavia after World War II and is popular in Southeast Europe.

Next up Gary Linnane provided some delicious caramelised red onion tarts topped with goat’s cheese. They were sweet with the goat’s cheese adding flavour and texture. They left a long lingering taste on the palate.

Nick Reynolds prepared some pintxos. Known for his innovation Nick didn’t let us down today. They used haloumi and chorizo that were baked in the oven and then served with pickled and pressed watermelon.

Looked good, and tasted even better with the sweetness of the watermelon enhanced by the spice of the chorizo.

Lastly, Peter Kelso served some herring sour cream on rye topped with a garnish of dill.

This was a sweeter style of herring and it had good texture with integrated favours and was very moreish.

Some in the room said this was the preferred canapé of the day

Main course

Our main course today was a celebration of spring.

A hearty meal of braised lamb shanks cooked in the kitchen for three hours. The braise consisted of red wine, stock, garlic, onion, carrot, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme and long red chillies.

Once the cooking was complete and the shanks ready, the braising liquid was strained and the liquid reduced to make an unctuous, rich, full-flavoured sauce. The shank was served on a mound of creamy mash.

It was accompanied by a spring salad of zucchini, peas green asparagus and dressed with mint, lemon juice and zest and EVOO.

The acidity of the salad was perfect to follow the richness of the lamb dish.

Comments suggested it may have been better-suited match to Cabernet tasting rather than Pinot.

Most agreed it was a good course for a wine tasting.

Our kitchen brigade was thanked for their assistance in getting the meal prepared.

Bread today was Iggys ‘super long’ white sourdough with Italian butter.

Cheese

Selected by our Cheesemaster James Healey we had Comte.

A semi-hard milk cheese from the Franche-Comte region of France.

Today we had a perfect example of this cheese served at the right temperature and quality.

Made from unpasteurised milk, its quality and flavour characteristics vary between producers, and most examples are sold simply on the basis of age. This is no guarantee of quality. Every batch is different and influenced by when the cheese was made, and where and how it was ripened. This cheese was matured in the damp underground cellars of Marcel Petite at Fort Saint Antoine high in the mountains that border France and Switzerland in the Franche-Comte. It wears the prestigious red ‘crown’ of quality on the basis of its rich concentrated nutty texture, elegant caramel sweetness, and lingering kaleidoscope of flavours rather than on how long it was aged.

Simply accompanied by some sliced pear and walnuts.

We do need to invest in some new cheese knives.

18 October 2022 CoTD Merv Peacock

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Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

A Society favourite, duck was on the menu today, presented by a very confident Merv Peacock, with the aid of his son Gavin. Numbers aplenty for their “gros canard”. 

Canapes 

Merv got the ball rolling with “tuna spoons”. No, they were really bone china, but they contained finely chopped tuna tartare, a little onion, vodka with tomato tea made from tomatoes, basil and other bits and pieces. 

Next to appear were crunchy toasts loaded with sliced fillet steak and horseradish, along with Merv’s very own homemade spicy chutney. They were both very tasty and abundant, many opted for seconds and some even for thirds. 

Lastly, we were served mini chicken pies made by Merv’s wife.  Thank you, Kerry. They were delightful with chicken, mushrooms, leaks and sweetcorn. A favourite of the Peacock clan, certainly a treat for young and old alike. 

Main 

Our main course was a comfy duck Maryland with cassoulet. It was terrific. “Cassoulet” has a rich history in France, believed to have originated in the town of Castelnaudary and is characterised by white beans with protein on top. There are many varieties and these alter from region to region. Merv chose to confit the Marylands and serve them resting on the cassoulet; the ducks spent 24 hours in a dry marinade and were then confyied over the weekend for 6 hours, remaining in fat until Tuesday morning. The cassoulet was prepared from beans, tomatoes, pork spec, onions and the sausages were a mix of Cumbrian and Italian.  Paul was served gluten free pork chipolata sausages in his mix. Croutons were added at the end. 

The room was buzzing with praise for the main, with not the remotest hint of negativity, and mention being made by many that even in France, a better cassoulet had never been tasted. Well done, Monsieur Paon. 

Cheese 

Our Cheese Master, Dr James Healey, chose a Cantal AOP from the Auvergne, that same French region being the home of cassoulet.  A cow’s milk cheese, it is semi-hard with a fat content of 45%. This natural rind cheese is one of the oldest cheeses still made in France. It has been traced back at least 2000 years when cheese from Gaul was popular as far away as Rome. Being a large cheese, the flavour is mild unless it is matured over a long period, typically 12 to 18 months. It came to the table in perfect condition and attracted very favourable comments on the day. Merv accompanied the cheese with walnuts, dried apricots and sliced pear. 

A memorable meal indeed. 

Wine

We were treated today to a truly excellent Lunch both with regard to food and wine. Sincere thanks to Merv Peacock for a wonderful Cassoulet and to Chilly for his selection of some terrific wines. After a lunch like that who would not want to be a member of the WFS? My comments on the wines served are as follows.

The aperitif wine was a David Thomas Hunter Semillon 2011, coming in at 11.5% Thomas has become a bit of a cult hero with his Semillon, and it was easy to see why. Even with now 11 years since vintage, the wine was a delight. Fresh and clean, great balance between fruit and acid, years still ahead of it. What a great gift Hunter Semillon is to wine lovers!

The first red was a Yarra Valley Seville Estate PN 2013 at 13.8% An enjoyable wine, with light silky tannins with a pleasant PN flavour. A good food wine.

The next wine was a Christian Clerget PN 2014 from Burgundy at 12.5 %. The wine presented with some immediate problems for our table. Some speculated that it was corked, however, after more careful examination it was agreed that it was just a dud! Hardly any detectable fruit, bland and dull. The wine brought back distant memories of a bad date. Superficially an attractive prospect, with just about the desired level of maturity and background. As the evening progresses however it becomes clear that the date is unexciting, dull and boring, leading to increasingly frequent glances at your watch praying that time would fly by to enable the evening to be brought to a respectable finish quickly.  Overall a disappointing night out.  

Our fortunes were mercifully greatly improved by the last three wines, and what a bracket they were. Chilly stand up! Seppelt St Peters Shiraz, Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz and the Glatezer Bishop Shiraz. What a trio of our finest Shiraz, all well-matured and drinking in perfect condition. Stand by for some generous, but well-deserved praise. Here we go. First in the bracket was the Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2010 from the Grampians region coming in at 14%. The vineyard under the guidance of the legendary Colin Preece produced a wonderful Shiraz marketed as Seppelt Great Western Shiraz. A superb wine coming from some of the oldest shiraz vines planted in that historic region. Under the helm of the great winemaker of more recent origin Ian Mc Kenzie, the vineyard continued to flourish and in recent years was rebranded as the St Peters Shiraz. The wine today was just superb. Generous fruit, spicy and soft with gentle tannin overtones. Years ahead of it. One of my favourite Australian Reds. The vineyard is in fact very close to the Bests vineyard, just across the road. Not surprisingly Bests top shiraz, the Bin 0 and the Thompson Family Shiraz are remarkably similar to the St Peters.

The next treat was the Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz 2007. I met Bruce Tyrrell at one of our lunches 10 years or so ago. I commented to him that I really liked the Old Patch wines. His reply was “just hang on to them for the long term“. Drinking this wine today, now a 15 yo, I think his advice was spot on. Not a hint of ageing, massive deep purple colour, but balanced and so full of flavour at 13.5%.  The wine was all class, as it should be coming from what is the oldest vineyard in the Hunter first planted in 1869, and regarded by many as the best in the district. Sold to Tyrrells some years ago by the then owner Neil Stevens, Bruce Tyrrell regards it as the jewel in the Tyrrells crown. Simply a wonderful wine.

The final wine in this glorious bracket was the Glatezer Bishop Shiraz 2012 at 14.5%. Comparing the three wines together, this wine was lighter in colour, with a strong sweet fruit flavour. Of the three I felt this wine was the odd man out, by no means inferior, just different. Barossa fruit from Ebenezer, the wine was dense with layers of modest oak, tannin and velvety ripe fruit. A delight.

Picking a favourite is near impossible and probably a pointless exercise, however, to get the discussion going I will stick my neck out and vote for the Tyrrells.

11 October 2022 CoTD Paul Ferman

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Food review by Mark Bradford and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Esteemed artist Paul Ferman (alias Paulo Fermano), after a stint in Italy, returned recently to Sydney and presented French-themed canapes and an Italian chicken classic for the main.  A renaissance man extraordinaire, Paul is careful about selecting his ingredients, and where possible sources organic and sustainable foods. James Hill, as he so often does, assisted with the canapes. 

Canapes

First up was foie gras served on a spoon. Luckily for our arteries but not so much for our taste buds, only one per person. This was followed by a Raymond Blanc-inspired simple country terrine.  While the Blanc version is based on pork livers and other bits of swine, Paul used chicken livers as well to give it some sweetness.  We then had a very green soup of good texture served in a cup dominated by leak and cauliflower, thickened with potato, and a variety of condiments. In addition, some walnut oil – which Paul had on hand (who doesn’t?) – was used to lift the flavour. Very good comments were made on the canape offerings. 

Main

Today, Paul gave us chicken cacciatore – aka “hunter chicken” – served on white polenta. The chicken legs were free range; Paul attested to their big strong bones being from their ability to run around and these bigger birds were 16 weeks old, double what is normally found. They had a wonderful texture and were cooked to perfection.  The chicken stock had milk and butter. The Po Valley white polenta was corn-based (polenta is usually yellow) and procured from Simon Johnson Providore. Green olives enhanced the presentation and taste. The salad served by Paul was an integration of salad spring vegetables and nuts, arriving on the table before the main.  It looked and tasted great with a wonderful dressing. Paul explained that his organic days go back to his mother, who grew organic vegetables at home a long time back. All comments were very favourable. 

Cheese

Society Cheese Master James Healey provided us today with Casa Madaio Calcagno, semi-hard cheese with some similarities to Pecorino.  The milk hails from the rugged Sardinian hills, when the mistral winds retreat, and the wild herbs and grasses grow, the local ewes rear their lambs. In July, excess milk is collected to create large wheels of Calcagno. Casa Madaio is located in Campania, and the wheels mature at their caves at Castelcivita, where the sweet and herbaceous milk is concentrated in flavour during a maturation over 7 to 8 months duration.  The offering somewhat divided the floor, with comments ranging from an excellent cheese to a bland one.  Paul accompanied the cheese with pears and pecan nuts, soaked to just prior to germination before drying

A very pleasant offering indeed Paul, enjoyed by a capacity gathering on the day. 

Wine

The wines served today kicked off with two Pewsey Vale Rieslings from the  Eden Valley produced by Louise Rose and her Team at Yalumba.  This wine is always a solid performer, and today we enjoyed a 2012 and 2013. Both wines were presented on the central table in the room and sadly I was only able to taste the 13, the 2012 not finding its way to my glass. Some Sherry also provided escaped my glass, save for a few drops.  In any event, I really enjoyed the 13 Riesling, fresh and clean, in pristine condition despite it now being 9 years since vintage. High-quality aged Riesling like this one are some of my favourite Society wines. I normally arrive for lunch at 12.30 pm, so I will from now on I will set my alarm to arrive a bit earlier so that I can report on all of the pre-lunch wines on offer, some of which I have in recent times missed out on.

The first lunch wine was a Seppelts Drumborg Chardonnay 2017 at 12%. Drumborg is in Western Victoria and produces my favourite Riesling, also from Seppelts, but sadly that regional excellence did not carry through with this particular Chardonnay. Frankly, I thought the wine was a bit of a flop, not objectionable, but nothing to get excited about, no real character. I would have much preferred to keep on with the Riesling.

The first red wine of the day was a Tasmanian Pinot from the very talented winemakers Glaetzer and Dixon.  Vintage 2010  and 13.4 %. I really liked this wine.  Holding its age exceptionally for a PN, the wine was delicious, with soft and smooth low tannins and a velvety texture. The PN fruit was still there after 12 years. Quite a big wine for a Pinot, with lots of body, not thin at all. Some commented that the wine would have been better if drunk 3 or 4 years ago, which is probably right, however at today’s lunch, I found it most enjoyable. My wine of the day.

The second red of the day was the 2012 Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Shiraz. The wine was served still quite cold and took a fair while to reach room temperature, even when cradled in my eager, warm hands.

A  reliable Shiraz, the wine was quite drinkable, even touching on pleasant after some encouragement. I am aware that Wynns make an exceptional St Michael Shiraz from Coonawarra in good years, which often has that much sought-after cool mint flavour, however, this wine had none of that as one might expect.  At 13.5 % the wine was well-balanced and a good accompaniment to the delicious Chicken dish created by Paul Ferman. In my view, however, the wine never rose to any great heights and was basically unexciting. Question: is Shiraz the right grape for that region?

The third red of the day was the Rosemont Balmoral Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region 2004 vintage and 14.5%.  A bit of a blockbuster with huge jammy fruit and still some tannin overtone. Very drinkable, but at 18 years since vintage was beginning to show signs of tiredness. Others may disagree, but I thought that the wine was drinking 6 or 7 years past its prime. The wine was certainly in my taste at least, a pale imitation of some of the great Balmoral Shiraz produced during the 80s and 90’s when Rosemont was a dominant force in the wine market.  

The final wine of the day was the 2009 Blue Pyrenees Estate Cabernet from Avoca Vic. Coming in at 14%, it was for sure a big wine but was well-balanced and very enjoyable. Quite flavoursome and now with 13 years of bottle age under its belt needs no further time in the cellar. Went very well with the cheese. Loads of plummy fruit, but in harmony, a suitable wine to finish the enjoyable lunch.

4 October 2022 CoTD Greg Sproule

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

The room was full for our mixed lunch today with Chef of the Day, former Foodmaster, Greg Sproule in the kitchen providing a Spanish meal.

Canapés

As we’ve seen recently canapés have been bountiful and today was no exception. We began with a Spanish omelette - with Carisma potatoes served on spoons topped with yellow pickled capsicum.

Carisma potatoes have 25% fewer carbs, a lower Gi rating, gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Perfect for mashing, boiling and roasting. Full of flavour.

Next came Spanish green olives and lupin beans. We had to spear them ourselves. what the bean was, kept the room guessing but no one quite got there. Simple and tasty.

Then jambon croquettes with serrano Iberico and bacon. They were deep-fried, not greasy and perfect with our aperitif wine.

To finish our tapas experience Greg served some serrano ham.

Main

Always up for a challenge, Greg presented a ‘Zarzuela de Moriscos’ a shellfish stew from the Catalan coast.

It consisted of green king prawns, monkfish, king dory, mussels, clams, pippies, lobster, vongole, calamari, saffron, paprika, parsley, almond and dill. The mussels and clams were served in the shell.

You may not have got all the ingredients in your serving however you got the lovely flavour profile of the stew.

This was served with a Pipirrana salad, a typical Spanish salad originating from Andalusia. It has numerous variations because each province has a different method of preparation and different ingredients. However, one of the more traditional versions is made with cucumbers, onions, green peppers and tomatoes. Today Greg added quail eggs, fried bread, parsley, sorrel, watercress and en choy (en choy aka amaranth or Chinese spinach). The combination worked well with flavour and texture a highlight,

There were many favourable comments from the room some suggesting a little more seasoning lifted the dish.

Bread today was the Iggy ‘super long’ a lovely crusty white sourdough perfect to mop up the sauce of our main course.

Cheese

Our Cheesemaster James Healey continued the Spanish theme today serving a ‘Merco Mahon Curado’ a hard cow’s milk cheese.

Mahon is the capital of the rocky island of Menorca, the most northerly of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. Cheese has been made on the island since 3000BC. Today, two ancient breeds of dairy cattle, red Menorquin and black/white spotted Frison, graze on dense island grass and are milked on small family ‘fincas’ or farms which total 600 on Menorca.

Traditionally, this cheese was bound in cloth before pressing which is still done on a small scale on the island. A larger proportion of production is now made in a more efficient modern way which uses square moulds instead. The result is a consistent cheese that captures the true essence of the original. The rind is still rubbed with olive oil and paprika which imparts a rusty-orange colour to the exterior.

The wheels are then ripened for a minimum of six months on wooden shelves. When mature or ‘curado’, the cheese maintains a milky character and has developed a nutty flavour and characteristic tangy finish.

Keith Steele again showed his impressive knowledge of cheese correctly guessing the cheese being cows and the country of origin.

A mixed luncheon produced very healthy numbers, with the room near full.  Nice to see the ladies present to witness their menfolk indulge in their dark arts of a Tuesday afternoon.

Wine

Drinks wise we kicked off with a sparkling wine,  which I did not taste.  Quite happy to leave it to those who enjoy bubbles.  The second wine was a 2017 Scorpo Bestia  Pinot Grigio from Mornington.

This was an excellent wine for the pass-arounds.  The wine had a distinctive reddish colour as a result of extended skin contact.  Great flavour,  good balance and a really enjoyable wine. I must get some.

Next on the list of our luncheon wines was Brian Croser’s Tapanappa Tries Chardonnay from 2021.  I hesitate to be critical of a Croser Chardy,  which I have enjoyed on many occasions over the years, especially if like me,  you like his tight, structured disciplined style. This wine however had no appeal to me.  Too acidic with a sharp, unpleasant initial first taste.  Perhaps in 2 to 3 years, it will develop into something more attractive, but today I just did not like it. Happy to suspend final judgement until 2025.

Next cab off the rank was a 2015 Pittnaeur from the Plains of Austria, being a  Blaufrankisch with possibly some other bits and pieces. We had this wine not so long ago and I suspect the acting Winemaster is engaging in some cellar clearouts.  Perfectly sensible. Nothing can be more horrible than having a cellar full of wines well past their best drinking date. I actually really enjoyed this wine, a good food wine with, a nice balance and length. I have from time to time over the years used a Blaufrankisch at my annual masked wine tasting competition, to add a bit of bastardy and humour to the occasion, given that none of the competitors would have heard of or tasted the wine.  When announcing the results, with not one soul picking the wine, I would say something like “ I am surprised none of you recognised wine no 4,  I thought it was a very typical Blaufrankisch. We drink little else around here”, or some similar smart arse remark. At any masked wine event, you have to inject some levity and humour along the way.

The second last wine was a Pagliarese Chianti Classico DOCG from 2014.  A Sangiovese that really packed a punch. Great fruit, It went very well with the cheese at 13%, robust flavours medium red brick colour, elegant and very drinkable. Great choice. 

The final wine was a real, for me,  a real eye-opener and my wine of the day. It was a Glandore Estate Tempranillo 2011 from the Hunter Valley. I have had some Tempranillo from the Hunter but not many. This wine really impressed me, massive colour, inky black and it just about sucked the light out of the room!  But seriously, this was a first-class Temp.  Great balance, with everything coming together to produce a beautiful wine at  13%.  Despite it now being 11 years old, there was no sign of ageing,  just delicious mellow overtones.  I have always enjoyed Rioja Temps and this wine was right up there with their best. The wine was in my view a little thicker and more mouth-filling than its Spanish counterparts which strike me as being somewhat lighter in texture. I understand Society Member David Madson has an interest in the vineyard.  Great to see one of our Society members involved in the production of this high-quality wine.  

Wine Served:  2017 Scorpo Bestia Pinot Grigio, NV Charles de Cazanove Brut tradition Champagne, 2021 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, 2015  Pittnaeur Pannobile Blend, 2014 Pagliarese Chianti Classico DOCG, 2011 Glandore TPR Tempranillo, 2014 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2007 Tyrrells Stevens Vineyard