20 September 2022 CoTD Mark Bradford

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by James Tinslay

Mark Bradford was in the kitchen as Chef of the Day preparing a Basque-themed lunch perfect for this bright sunny spring day.

Canapes

Our canapés were ‘pintxos’, which literally translates as a thorn or spike. These are small snacks typically eaten in bars in Northern Spain.

1. Tortilla Espanola cubes with roasted red capsicum and black Spanish olive.

2. Red and green peppers on pintxo wrapped with anchovy and capped with green Spanish olive.

3. Baked dates deseeded and stuffed with fetta and almond slices and wrapped with Serrano ham and then in the oven for five minutes (Dátiles Rellenos).

The canapés were bountiful with complex flavours and perfectly matched the canapé wine on offer today, the 2007 Tyrrell’s Belford sémillon.

There were many favourable comments from the floor on Mark’s canapé offering.

Main

Our main came to the table and immediately appealed to all our senses sight, aroma and lastly taste.

It was a Basque stew of rolled lamb shoulder trimmed, cubed and marinated overnight in Margan Hunter Chardonnay, garlic and rosemary. Braised then stewed for three hours with sweet paprika, roasted red capsicum strips, chopped deseeded tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, chicken stock and a 2016 Rioja. Mark advised a little reduction was needed.

It was served on a base of turmeric and onion basmati rice and topped with a pea and mint puree. It was garnished with chopped parsley and a slice of rustic bread to mop up the flavoursome sauce.

The meat was perfectly cooked moist and tender with a good flavour and texture and the right balance of paprika and seasoning.

It was a great effort with a lot of preparation and research going into the meal and much appreciated and praised by all for the authentic and interesting food presented today.

Cheese

Agour Ossau Iraty AOP

Our Cheese Master, James Healey, presented semi-hard sheep’s cheese from Larrau, France Basque district in the Pyrenees.

The ewes’ milk cheeses of the Basque region date back more than 4000 years and represent an important link with tradition and regional identity. Ossau Iraty is made for nine months of the year using the milk of black or red-faced Manech ewes, but what makes this particular cheese unusual is the red rind. It contains finely ground Espelette peppers from the region which form a natural barrier to moulds. Matured for nine months the smooth ivory texture has a nutty flavour with a deliciously sweet aftertaste. Interestingly the rind of the cheese had a fishy smell and aftertaste (not unpleasant).

Mark accompanied the cheese course with crackers, dried pears and portions of Jamon and prosciutto.

John Goldsbrough closed lunch today with some personal reminiscences on travelling in the UK and then proposing a toast to the King.

John provided a Bin AD 2000 vintage port called Masterton.

Following the boom of the early 1970s, the late ‘70s were difficult times for the Barossa wine grape growing community. The now legendary Peter Lehmann championed a cause that saved the livelihoods of the growers and their families. So it was by building the winery he committed to the region’s growers. Business was done with a handshake and Peter’s word was his bond.

Phil Laffer advised that this was a wine made by Peter Lehmann and it was at a time that the Barossa was on its knees and Peter persuaded local growers to provide fruit for this wine. Named ‘Masterton’ after the famed American gambler Bat Masterton as it was a big gamble.

During the lunch President Paul Thorne presented a Society tie to our new member Julian Parmegiani.

Wine

As mentioned in the food review above the canapé wine was the Tyrrells Vat 18 Belford Semillon. I am not the only member who finds young Semillon’s not particularly to my taste but wines such as this, with fifteen years of age (under screwcap), are wonderful. The wine was very light in colour, medium to powerful on the nose and a truly wonderful palate. The acid was a perfect match for the lovely fruit.

To match the Spanish food, our acting Winemaster, Nick Reynolds, selected all reds with the main course wines being Priorat and Australian Shiraz with the cheese.

  • 2013 Marco Abella Priorat Loidana. From the first pour, this wine sprang out of the glass with an excellent nose following through with bountiful fruit and excellent structure. Priorat can be hearty and a little extracted, but this wine got the balance wonderfully correct.
  • 2010 Torres Salmos Priorat. Torres is one of the largest producers in Spain with plantings pretty much across the country. The prices range from low to high end and this label in its current vintage is closer to $100 than $50. So, it was disappointing that this wine was barely drinkable. One bottle was so badly corked it was used as an example by our acting Winemaster to have people try so that they know exactly what a badly corked wine smells like. There was a serious brett influence on the bottle on our table. This is very disappointing as I am a big fan of Priorat and the surrounding area, Monsant.
  • 2010 Cherubino The Yard Acacia Vineyard Shiraz. Cherubino has a well-deserved reputation for wine coming from the Margaret River region. This was one of their single vineyard wines and whilst drinking well one feels it may have been better a few years ago. There was a preponderance of oak at the expense of fruit in the wine had become out of balance.
  • 2010 Lindemans Bin 1003 Shiraz. Whilst 2010 was a wonderful year in the Hunter Valley and many other areas, the quality and drinkability of this not-so-expensive Lindeman’s wine was a surprise. At twelve years of age, it lived up to the “Hunter River Burgundy” style with great elegance and freshness. It was an excellent match with the cheese.

13 September 2022 CoTD Steve Sparkes

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

Food

On a cool spring Tuesday, Steve Sparkes greeted us with a delicious seafood themed luncheon, prepared to the exacting standards for which Steve is renowned. And such a gastronomic delight it was. We started with Coffin Bay Pacific Oysters – only one per person was allowed – that Steve presented with a homemade Teriyaki sauce which was reduced slightly and served with chives. Designed to be a palate cleanser, it was successfully so with the subtle sauce working well with the flavoursome juicy molluscs from the Great Australian Bight. This was followed by a light seafood terrine served on a cracker, that included prawn, crab and scallop ingredients, with saffron and egg white. Wonderful flavours again, with lots of colours. Finally, to whet our appetite for the main course, Steve presented Wonton wrappers moulded in a muffin tin filled with prawns, crabs, chilli, coriander, ginger, garlic and toasted coconut. This cleanser had us dreaming of lazy holidays in the Maldives.

The main course fish was blue-eye trevalla, aka blue-eye cod, a southern waters fish. Most of today’s diners “guessed” this correctly.  Served on steamed basmati rice, this specially sourced restaurant quality fish was laser cut into 180 gram portions and cooked sous vied to perfection. The curry sauce, Steve mentioned, was that featured in Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish restaurant; Sri-Lankan inspired with seasoning, curry, fennel, coconut and anchovies, but little chilli so as to try to match best the whites and reds on offer.  For most, the closest pairing was with the German resiling.  Being probably the most difficult food with which to match wine, the curry could be enhanced in flavour, for those who dared, with two bespoke chilli sauces that Steve had made some time back that he brought along with him: one hot and one seriously hot. The general feeling was that the Sri Lankan curry was best as presented without the additional chilli that, at least for this reviewer who is a big fan of spicy food, destroyed the palate completely. 

With numbers being a little in decline over some of the previous weeks, we had a full house and rightly so for such a great lunch.  Mention must be made of the impeccable presentation of both the starters and the main dish.  The cheese to follow was a Gippsland Tarago River triple cream from Neeram South, served with ample salad, marinated cumquats and roasted nuts. The cheese is quite different to Brie, with additional cream being added during the cheese-making process.  A great end to a memorable luncheon, and a testimony to the delightful cheeses that are being crafted in south-eastern Australia.

Well done, Steve, with expectations from the gentlemen that this dish will reappear early next year. A massive amount of planning and effort went into today’s lunch.

Wine

We have lunches where the food is the highlight and other lunches where the wine is centre stage. On this occasion, the food by Steve Sparkes was for certain the main performance. Others will comment in detail on the food. but let me say the wine played second fiddle.

We kicked off with a 2017 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling from WA. An enjoyable wine. well made but a little bit too much residual sugar for my taste. Very mouth-filling, I would have preferred something dryer. We were then offered two other Rieslings. a Leo Buring and a Yalumba Pewsey Vale. I was only able to taste the Yalumba wine which was, as usual, quite sound. but a little unexciting. A Manzanilla was also offered which I declined. Then to my horror, I saw some bottles of the dreaded 2008 Chambers Gouais appear. I reviewed this wine in my report of the lunch on the 12th of April this year. Cutting to the chase I commented at that time that I hoped never to see the Wine again. My hopes were dashed when the acting Winemaster Nick Reynolds dragged a few remaining bottles from the cellar to finally extinguish our stock of this hideous wine. I think readers will suspect where I am going on this wine. Hence no further comment.

Moving on to the lunch wines. we all know tricky it is to combine wine with fish curry. Overall, the acting Winemaster did an admirable Job in a troublesome task. We started off with a Tyrrells Bin 63 Sem/Chardonnay 2017. Speaking personally. I have long avoided this blend. I do not know what is the problem. but anytime I taste this wine I think that it is a terrible waste of the two components. which are, as we know, enjoyable wines on their own. One would think that a marriage of two attractive grape varieties would produce an offspring of equal quality. but sadly not.

The combination just does not work. The offspring is dull. boring and without any enjoyable characteristics. Anyhow that is my view which incidentally I have held ever since the blend was released in the late 60s.

Having got that off my chest, I now turn to the remaining wines. The next wine on the list was a delightful 2009 O’Leary Walker Shiraz from the Canberra district probably from the Murrumbatman region. These two talented winemakers originated in Clare SA and have now expanded their production to other quality wine-growing districts. I really liked this wine, medium-bodied, beautiful integration of oak fruit, a modest amount of tannin and a classic peppery/spicy finish. Great drinking for a 13-year-old and still very fresh. Next on the list was a Dr Mayer Kabinett Riesling from 2016. An enjoyable wine with no apparent faults. It is just my feeling that the fondness I had for German wines in the 70s has evaporated due to lack of consumption over the years. I find this style now too thick and heavy to be enjoyed with anything but a sweet peach or a mango. 

We were then served a bolter. not on the published List. an Italian Dolcetto 2016. Like most Italian wines it was a food wine. and married up quite well with the fish. I quite like the style. very drinkable without making a fuss. like many of our oaky/tannic reds tend to do.

Finally, we finished up with a Pinot for the cheese. The wine was a 2016 Pinot from Kooyong Estate in the Mornington Peninsular. A very nice wine indeed. tons of flavour, quite a big wine with a delightful aroma and minimal tannin. 13.5%. I wish more Australian pinots were built like this wine. It reminded me of the Pinots from Otago which generally in my view, have more body and flavour than the local product.

6 September 2022 Bill and Sam Alexiou

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

Our Foodmaster Bill Alexiou-Hucker was in the kitchen today preparing our inaugural “father and son” lunch. He was assisted by his son Sam who is the third generation of the Alexiou family to cook for our Society.

Canapés, Main and Cheese.

Today was a celebration of Greek food and we were treated to a degustation.

Our first two canapés were served on bread.

  • Melitzanosalata a traditional Greek aubergine dip cooked with garlic and lemon and topped with mint …it had a silky texture and perfectly balanced flavour.
  • Then followed taramasalata topped with bottarga. Bill’s tarama is delicious and today was another example, with only four ingredients however it is the execution that wins.

Here’s his recipe:

‘Soak 3 slices of bread in water and drain, I use a hand beater to blend with the tin of tarama, once a smooth consistency slowly add one cup of vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil as this overpowers the flavour of the tarama ). Once you have added the vegetable oil add the juice of half a lemon (or to taste).’

  • Chicken, pork and lamb souvlaki served on skewers came next cooked on the hibachi in the rex kitchen. Needing to pace myself I only had the lamb and it was perfectly cooked, pink and moist with great flavour. I’m told the chicken and pork were as good.

Once seated we were served grilled octopus on skordalia with a slice of lemon. Bill told us he cooks the octopus in a little water then it is grilled, a chef’s secret to keep them moist. Skordalia is a garlic-based dip made with bread while the garlic is the main ingredient it didn’t overwhelm the dish, a perfect marriage with the octopus.

What’s a Greek lunch without spanakopita (spinach pie)? This is a Greek savoury pie and the go-to green is usually spinach however in this case a variety of greens were used as a change to the norm.

A Greek salad came next with large chunks of feta cheese dusted with oregano with cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes, peppers and a vinaigrette. The acid and olive oil dressing prepared our palates for the next course.

Our last course was Moussaka a rich tomato lamb sauce layered with orzo pasta and topped with yoghurt. What a finish! Full of flavour with many comments. A surprisingly light dish with one member describing it as featherweight.

Thanks Bill and Sam for the huge effort and authenticity of the food. The attention to detail and presentation was widely and favourably commented on by our members in the room today.

It is said you don’t leave a Greek lunch hungry and today was no exception Bill provided us with a digestive ‘mastika’ a liqueur produced with the mastika resin from the island of Chios. The mastika tree only grows on one island in the world.

I could almost speak Greek after this wonderful feast.

We must thank our club kitchen brigade and waiters for helping to make this one of the most successful lunches in our Society we have had the pleasure to enjoy.

Our Cheesematser, James Healey, provided feta as requested by our CoTD it was ‘Aphrodite Barrel-Aged Feta’, an artisan goat’s-sheep milk cheese from Greece.

Authentic handmade Greek barrel-aged feta is rare, and it tastes very different to modern feta matured in brine in airtight tins. This cheese has been carefully ripened in small, old beechwood barrels using traditional techniques that date back to the time when nomadic shepherds roamed the hills of northern Greece.

The barrels enable small amounts of oxygen to reach the salted curds as they ferment under whey, and the natural flora in the wooden staves helps to encourage a unique yeasty aroma. After three months of maturation in the barrel, the feta develops a soft milky texture and a creamy peppery finish that is very different from modern brined feta matured in sealed tins or plastic.

Barrel-aged feta is now produced by just a handful of small dairies in Greece because of EU regulations and the skill and expense involved in the production. Each barrel of Aphrodite feta has to be filled with curd by hand and after the cheese has been removed, it must be broken down stave by stave, washed and rebuilt by a skilled cooper.

Wine

The “Father and Son“ lunch kicked off with two superb Rieslings, the Seppelt Drumborg 2019 and the Leo Buring Clare Valley 2014, both excellent. First the Drumborg. The vineyard is located in the far southwestern corner of Victoria First developed in the mid-’50s by the legendary Colin Preece and further developed by the great Ian McKenzie. It is one of the top six Rieslings of Australia in my view and now just over 3 years old, the wine has all the potential of being in 4 to 5 years a classic Great fruit/acid balance, elegant with a superb fresh aftertaste. More please.

The Leo Buring was an 8-year-old from the Clare valley. I just love aged Riesling from that region. This wine was in my view drinking at its peak, mellow with just the right amount of acid finish without overpowering the fruit. A beautifully textured wine with real character and will still be drinking well in another 5 years Both wines were excellent choices by the Winemaster

For the main course wines, we started with the 2017 Viognier by Farr. Gary Farr is responsible for some of our finest reds and whites from his vineyards in Bannockburn. Putting my cards on the table, I confess to being very lukewarm about this grape as a stand-alone drink. Too unctuous, too thick, cloying and without a parting enjoyable aftertaste. I must say however, I found this wine reasonably pleasant and went well with the first course of the octopus. Viognier when mixed in small amounts with good quality Shiraz can produce wines of exceptional flavour and texture eg, Clonakilla Shiraz, but I am inclined to the view that Viognier should be confined to that use and not drunk as a stand-alone white. We have an abundance of better-tasting white wines!

Next Cab off the rank was the Greek Alpha Estate Xinomavro, a red wine proudly proclaimed as “the Noblest grape of North Greece “.  Well, that may be so, but I think that most of the good folk at my table would have been happy to see the wine remain in Greece. Light body with a slightly sweetish taste, with 14 % alcohol it was the kind of wine which tastes great when in the thrall of an overseas holiday syndrome, when everything is exciting and wonderful, in a lake or seaside location in the company of fellow happy campers. The same wine when consumed back home after time has passed never tastes the same.

The next wine was the ever-popular Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz 2009. Another creation of Seppelt’s Colin Preece. A very easily recognised style, big ripe fruit flavour, spicy and mouth filling. A wine that has been popular for decades and drinking the wine now as a 13-year-old it was in perfect condition and should remain so for years to come.

The final wine on the list was the Hardys 08 HRB Shiraz from Clare and McLaren Vale. Sadly I am not able to review the wine as it failed to make its way around the table, the bottle hitting empty before it reached my place. All I can say is that it must have been good!

30 August 2022 CoTD Nigel Burton

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Food notes by the COTD and canape chefs and wine review by Stephen O'Halloran

Nigel Burton was the main course chef today. He was assisted by former Foodmaster Greg Sproule and long-term, but newly returned to Australia, member Greg Brunner.

Greg Brunner offered a version of a southern French classic Pissaladière.  Puff pastry was spread with onions cooked with thyme over low heat for an hour and a half until sweet and caramelised.  This was topped with black olives, anchovies, and grilled red capsicum. His second canape was a Hungarian cheese spread, Körözött, on toasted baguette.  A mixture of buffalo and cow’s milk ricotta was mixed with a little Greek yoghurt to create a creamy spread.  To this was added just a little Dijon mustard and the main flavourings of Hungarian paprika and caraway seeds. This was topped with chopped Hungarian apple paprika (capsicum).

Greg also sourced the bread, which came as impressive rings provided by Raffael’s bakery in Haberfield. When the order was placed a request was made for “very crusty” and the baker did not disappoint.

Greg Sproule presented three different canapés: Pickled Beetroot with Goats Cheese and Walnut; Date macerated in Chardonnay with Dulcetta- Blue Cheese; and Pastry Case stuffed with Mushrooms, Onion, Creme Fraiche and Prosciutto

As usual with a wine lunch, the food was tailored to enhance rather than detract from the wines. Although with a Penfolds wine tasting, the food would have to have some power to overwhelm the wines.

Nigel chose to cook within a Hungarian theme, repeating a prior glory when he won Goulash of the Year under John Rourke’s presidency (it was the only Goulash that year, so he was a shoe-in to win). 

Today he made this classic east European dish which can be made using meat, veal, chicken, or pork.  Nigel chose shoulder blade steak to which he added the usual ingredients of red and green pepper, garlic onion, sour cream, ground and sweet paprika, and plenty of mushrooms.  This was slow-cooked for 5 hours.  To be different and consistent with being deconstructed each of these ingredients was placed along the plate making a unique presentation. One of our members, who has Hungarian ancestry, commented that he immediately reconstructed it when it was placed in front of him! Another commented that the colours of the accompaniment matched the colours of the Hungarian flag.

Also on the plate was homemade spaetzle, with its traditional pinch of nutmeg. A Thermomix recipe replicated 12 times!  Finally squeezed through a colander, immersed in boiling water, then ice water and finally browned off to provide both substance and crunch.

The dish was deliberately toned down from a heat perspective to ensure that it did not overpower the wines.  Some members expressed a personal preference for more paprika and on reflection, the wines were big enough to have coped.

The salad was again Hungarian in origin being cucumber, onion oil and vinegar left to marinate for 48 hours in the fridge.

Our Cheesemaster, James Healey, presented Maffra Cloth-Ashed Cow’s Milk Cheddar which was in great condition. Nigel accompanied this with a salad that was again Hungarian in origin comprising cucumber, onion oil and vinegar left to marinate for 48 hours in the fridge.

We were treated today with a  sensational lineup of Penfolds RWT Shiraz and St Henri  Shiraz, from various vintages ranging from 2001 to 2009.    The aperitif wines were a Black Label  Penfolds Chardonnay and a  Teppanata Chardonnay, both from the Adelaide Hills Region, and both from the 2017  Vintage.  The wines were poles apart.  Penfolds has made great strides in recent years with the development of high-quality Whites such as the Bin A  series of Chardonnay which is a terrific wine, however sadly, the wine served today was a long way removed from that class. Over oaked with a blousy finish, the wine was not attractive at all.  I have not previously seen a Penfolds white in a black bottle.  I have now been warned and will avoid it. 

The second Chardonnay was the Tapanappa from Brian Croser immediately brought back memories of his yellow label Petaluma Chardy from the 70’s and 80’s. Taut, structured and tight, a very different wine from the Penfolds.  Plenty of flavour, but restrained. Excellent.

Moving now onto the main course and cheese wines, we were thrilled to have three RWT’s, two St Henri and one Bin 389.  Penfolds in my view seem to have adopted the attitude of “give me a lot of money and I will deliver a great wine “. Sadly they omit to say when that wine will be “Great“.  In the case of the RWT serious greatness acquaints with the 12th of never in my view.  My first tasting of RWT years ago revealed a wine that needed to be tasted again in 20 years.   Massive fruit, sweet oak and tooth-pulling tannins were the order of the day.  In my opinion, nothing much had changed with the wines served today, especially the 09.  

The RWT (Red Winemaking Trial) got underway in the 1990s with the first vintage being released in 1997.  The concept was to have 100% top quality Barossa Shiraz from various vineyards, 20 to 100 years old, picked at optimum ripeness then matured in new French oak for  12 to 15 months.  The result is the RWT series which we were fortunate to enjoy today, an 09, an 05 and an 01.

For the sake of comparison in this ultra high-class Penfolds range, we were also able to enjoy two St Henri from 09 and 01 and finally a Bin 389 from 05.  Talk about being indulged!

I do not intend to analyse all of these wines separately but will give my overall assessment.  My preference was for the St Henri, both vintages. Elegant, and well-balanced fruit/oak combination.  Restrained tannin influence.

St Henri has a small percentage of Cabernet, which I think distinguishes it from the RWT. Matured in large old oak, it does not have the overpowering influence of the small new oak used to mature the RWT. My pick was the 01, a beautiful wine.  The quality of St Henri has waxed and waned over recent years, however, this wine was a beauty. After the two St  Henri, the 05 Bin 389 was my next favourite. Everyone loves 389, Australia’s most cellared wine, after Grange.

My pick of the RWT’s was the 01, a rich intense wine with still huge concentrated fruit and sweet oak.  A delight, if you like this style!

Overall a wonderful array of Penfolds near finest. We were privileged. Incidentally, none of these wines showed any sign of ageing, all good for another 10+ years.  My only hope is that I live long enough to see the 09 RWT blossom into something resembling a mature, smooth and balanced wine that is flavoursome with minimal tannin.

23 August 2022 CoTD Hal Epstein

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

Hal Epstein was in the kitchen today answering a call to arms from our Food Master as he needed a ‘volunteer’ as chef of the day.

Canapés

I like it when Hal cooks he usually issues us a challenge to identify a secret ingredient or product. Today it was the salami unusual in that it was a duck salami with juniper berries served on seeded bread.

Next up was rollmops (pickled herring with onion) served on spoons with radish and watercress.

To round the canapés off we had some pork crackling, a commercial pack from Station meats. Tasty and moreish.

Good comments on the canapés.

Main

Hal set the scene with his description of lunch.  

“Spring will be with us shortly.

Imagine being in a Swiss Alps Café overlooking the flowering meadows below.

You might choose this traditional dish which would be on most menus,

the always enjoyable Cordon Bleu schnitzel and to wash it down with a glass of fresh young white or red.”

It was a true Aussie bleu cordon schnitzel and yes bleu it was.

Rose pink on the inside and made with two pieces of meat, the secret here is to have a low melt cheese to meld the schnitzel together. The filling was Emmental cheese and ham.

It worked although Hal thought the meat could have been thinned out a bit more. Some of the servings were a little cool and our ever-obliging chef offered to warm them up.

There were a lot of comments on the meal with a good history of schnitzel provided by our expert on hand Josef Condrau who opened comments today.

This was accompanied by a perfectly executed red cabbage with apple/butter/cider vinegar per Stephanie Alexander and potatoes.

Many asked about how the potatoes were cooked. Something we have not seen before, these were chat potatoes simmered to tender in highly brined water and let dry - salted skin is the attraction. 

Well done, Hal.

Cheese

Our cheese master James Healey presented an Emmental cheese as requested by our chef. It was ‘Chabert Emmental De Savoie’

A hard cheese cow's milk from Savoie in France.

Made from partially skimmed Alpine cows’ milk these huge cheeses are possibly the largest in the world. Made with a natural, oiled rind and large walnut-sized holes interspersed through the body of the pale yellow paste. The whole cheese is matured for a minimum of 12 months and cheese is made during the summer months when the cows graze the rich pastures of the high alpage. The flavour is buttery with a distinct sweet fruity flavour and smooth chewy texture.

The bread was from Organic Bread Bar, baguettes, seeded stick and five seed loaf.

When Paul Irwin cooked earlier in the month many comments were made regarding the quality of the bread. It can be ordered at Bar Mammoni, in the Hinchcliffe House complex. They bake every day and they’re happy to take orders. Just ring the day before.

Wine

The report on today’s lunch wines will be quite brief as there was not much disagreement around the room on any of the six wines on display. Unusual. The opening white was the delicious Tyrrells Belford Semillon 2017. Hardly a critical comment was heard. Balanced, great flavour, lots of time ahead. At five years from vintage, fresh and crisp. Potentially a classic in the making. Review in five years. Perfect with the canapes.

The next wine on the list was served with the main course of veal. The wine was a German Riesling, a Kabinett from Dr Mayer.  Very nice wine indeed, good mix of fruit/acid, medium-bodied, nice wine with food. A bit more thickness on the palate than our Rieslings. Enjoyable. The next wine was from a close neighbour, a Pittnaeur from Austria. The label was of no assistance whatsoever in identifying the grape variety, other than being a red wine, so the experts in the room eventually came up with a suspect, Blaufränkisch a popular Austrian red, much favoured by the local Viennese. The wine was greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm by our group, drinkable, but forgettable. Perhaps a remnant of Paul Ferman’s efforts to expand our horizons.

Wine No 4 was indeed a “sweet little thing “, the literal English translation of the grape Dolcetto. Those at my table regarded it as being an excellent accompaniment to the veal. the producer Paulo Scavino produces some excellent reliable Italian wines and this wine was most enjoyable. Medium body, five years of age, nice fruit, a little thicker than the same grape we see here occasionally. A great wine to glug down with a pizza.

The cheese wines were the Lindemans 2010 Bin 1003 from the Hunter, and a Majella Coonawarra Cabernet hailing from 2004.  In reverse order, dealing with the Majella first, it nearly leapt out of the glass with huge Cabernet flavours and aroma. POW! No mistaking this was Cabernet. After the initial bravado and with ten minutes or so in the glass, the wine began to fall away into a stewed fruit cocktail of various flavours and a blousy flabby finish, no elegance here.

The final wine for review was the Lindemans. Generally regarded at my table as being an excellent Hunter Shiraz. Drinking at 10 yo, the wine had plenty of time left and was a vibrant deep red colour, with an excellent clean finish. Very drinkable. Would very much like to see the wine again in 5 years.

16 August 2022 CoTD Paul Irwin

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Food review by Steve Liebeskind and wine review by Nick Reynolds

Paul Irwin produced a lunch worthy of a COTY nomination for 20 members. It was disappointing to have a small roll up but that allowed for a more personal lunch for those who attended.

The theme today was Middle Eastern utilising some recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi.

Canapes

There were two starters today.

Firstly, Paul went off-theme with tuna seared on a spoon. The tuna was lightly seared in long rectangular pieces rolled in sesame seeds, and sliced with a raw middle. Topped with shallots and a sauce with citrus (orange juice), soy and smoked capsicum oil. The canape looked great and the flavour is what you would like and expect to pair with the aged Riesling served today.

Second, on theme, we had cauliflower fritters. The cauliflower pieces were combined with cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, parsley, garlic, flour and egg. This mixture was divided into pieces and fried. The fritter was served with a dip of yoghurt with lime juice and zest, then garnished with chives and parsley. The fritter did lose some of its crispness but the flavour was terrific. The spices came through however what little heat (minimal) there was, was cut by the dip. The lemon juice and zest enhanced the flavour of the fritter and the texture and feature of cauliflower were on the front foot.

Main

Members were presented with an attractive plate of colour and quality produce.

Atlantic salmon was seared to crisp the skin and then baked in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes. The salmon sat on a bed of Israeli/pearly couscous which had been cooked and tossed in olive oil and chopped herbs. On top of the salmon was a good serving of capsicum and hazelnut salsa.  To finish the plate there were broccoli pieces blanched with slivered almonds, sliced garlic, sautéed serrano peppers with lemon juice and zest. A dash of salt lifted the citrus flavour.

The salmon came to the table in perfect condition. The skin was crispy, the meat was cooked through and remained pink whilst retaining moisture and flaked with a fork. The capsicum complemented the salmon and added a wonderful dimension to the protein. We haven’t seen Israeli couscous for a while and it worked so well. The pearls were soft and well seasoned and complemented the salmon and capsicum.

Not to be forgotten was the outstanding soughdough bread that had a wonderful flavour and char on the crust. While the bread was lighter than Iggy’s it certainly was right up there for enjoyment.

In summary, the members were very complimentary of the lunch and felt fortunate to have attended.

Cheese

Today we had a D’Affinois Bleu a cow's cheese that came in a 2 kg round. Jean-Claude Guilloteau created a method of ultra-filtration that occurs before the cheese-making process. The process utilises pasteurised milk being passed through a series of membranes to extract protein and water. The outcome is a wonderfully silky and creamy texture to the mouth. The blue is light and subtle and today's cheese was in perfect condition. To complement the cheese we had rocket with pear slices with a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil.

Wine

We started off with 2012 Pewsey Vale Riesling. Although it retained its classic Bickford’s lime cordial taste, the wine was starting to verge into a honeyed and aged expression of Riesling. Some thought it may be the petrol/kerosene notes thought to be generated as a by-product of sunburnt grapes common in Australia. However, this characteristic is also common in aged German Rieslings so it was probably varietal related. Whichever it was, the wine was well balanced, aromatic, and well received.

With ten members at each table, we had three wines with the main Salmon dish. The first was a 2017 Tapanappa Picadilly Valley Chardonnay made by Brian Croser. The wine is fermented with a proprietal yeast blend and was aged in one-third new oak with the remainder second and third fill. It sat on lees for around nine months before bottling. Stone fruit and marzipan dominated the palate and the wine was well balanced and mouth filling. Some commented that it was a big Chardonnay but there was no evidence of excessive malolactic fermentation, instead the wine had the cheesy note that comes from lees. The second main course wine was a 2014 Christian Clerget Bourgogne Rouge. This vintage in Burgundy started out with some pretty severe hail and finished with sufficient heat for an unusual breakout of vinegar flies (Drosophila Suzukii), which can cause fruit rot. The selection of fruit reduced this issue and today’s wine was supported on purchase by Ray Healey as a very good example of regional Burgundian wine. Today, eight years after its production, while the structure was still good the fruit had fallen away. Each of the two tables had a second bottle of Australian Pinot Noir, one made in 2012 and the other from 2015. A number of members preferred the more fruit expression of Australian Pinot Noir, others the structure of the French. Perhaps the ideal would have been somewhere in the middle? As usual, there was some disagreement as to which wine best matched the main course, with the Chardonnay probably winning out.

The cheese was served with two red wines. The first was a 2008 Hardy’s Clare Valley HRB D646 Shiraz, which is a blend of McLaren Vale and Clare Valley fruit. The former can be excessively alcoholic and fruity, while the latter is more a cool climate product with sophistication and fine structure. In this case, the blending worked extremely well with the final product being well balanced with good fine tannin structure, underlying sweet black fruit, as well as some chocolate notes. I look forward to seeing this wine again. The second was a 2017 Paolo Scavino Dolcetto d’Alba. In Piemonte, the order of planting sees the best vineyards devoted to Nebbiolo, the next best to Barbera, and the remaining to Dolcetto and other grapes. Dolcetto translates to “little sweet one,” which when combined with its status on the pecking order of grape plantings means that it is typically a simple fruity wine that doesn’t see any form of oak. That being said, Paolo Scavino is a higher-tier maker; moreover, today’s wine comes from 50 year old vines, which makes it unusual in a number of respects. The wine came to the table as a combination of the light sweet fruit with a backbone of tannin from the grape. Balanced and with a decent length, it was appreciated by many in the room but not as much appreciated by those with a personal preference for more Australian-style lighter wines.

9 August 2022 CoTD Nick Reynolds

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Food review by Matthew Holmes

Canapés

Today the canapés were prepared by Matt Holmes and designed to set the scene for Nick Reynold’s Moroccan lamb dish. First out was homemade hummus on a home-baked tortilla base. The hummus was topped with roasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, garnished with paprika and parsley. The pomegranate added a lovely sweetness and a textural crunch as you bit into their seeds. The hummus was made with hulled tahini to prevent any bitterness.

Next and out of the oven, organic dates stuffed with feta cheese, wrapped in prosciutto with parsley garnish. A hidden ingredient came in the form of a pistachio nut that replaced the date pip, the pistachio added texture and more complexity to the flavour. Both canapés received a favourable response from the members.

Main course

For the main course, Nick produced Moroccan lamb shanks served on steamed cauliflower purée with diced carrots and celery. The lamb shanks were dusted with Moroccan spices then cooked sous vide for 48 hours at 64C and then held at 55C for 24 hours. The steamed cauliflower purée was made with sheep’s yoghurt, salt and sumac.

Garnishes included dehydrated and deep-fried chickpeas with Ras al Hanout spices, cinnamon-infused prunes, pine nuts and a gremolata-style relish of olive oil, parsley, garlic and preserved lemon. The sauce was a combination of porcini mushroom powder, beef stock, roasted chicken stock, red wine, port, pomegranate molasses, and duck jelly.

The dish was served with homemade Harissa paste made of fried and ground spices including Thai, ancho and pasilla chillies, cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, salt, caraway and garlic granules. The spices were made into a paste using olive oil and lemon juice. Once again, the king of sous vide was triumphant with the dish being well received by the members.

Cheese

The cheese today was from the French Basque Country. Chabrin is a natural rind, pressed cheese made in the traditions of the region using milk from a cooperative of farmers. Each wheel is aged in their cellars for three months giving the cheese a lovely mineral aroma. It is mildly goaty with sweet and nutty overtones and was enjoyed by all.

PS: the final image is of Matthew's hands whilst plating. His hands may be stained for days!

The main course and cheese wines were:

2010 Chateau Meyney

2010 Charteau Sociando-Mallet

2008 Lindemans Pyrus

2006 Yalumba Signature

The Bordeaux were in excellent condition and drinking at their peak and should hold for some time. The local wines were the source of some differences in liking fruit versus aged characteristics. I think the Bordeaux won the day but that is not a reflection on the two local wines.

2 August 2022 CoTD Peter Kelso

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Food Notes: Nick Reynolds; Wine Notes (incorporated): Chilly Hargrave

Only 20 lucky members attended Peter Kelso’s lunch.

Why lucky?

Because it was one of the best-balanced, well-presented meals that we have had all year and the wines matched the main course to perfection.

Peter had prepared two canapés but due to an oven incineration incident, we missed the choux puffs.

The one we had was a simple, comforting egg and avocado dip on toast. These were accompanied by a 2014 Leo Buring Reserve Bin Riesling from Watervale. A wine that carried a certain richness and ripeness (12.5%) but was still in bright condition with delicious lime notes. 

While native ingredients are trendy today, it hasn’t always been the case. Kangaroo meat has been legal for human consumption only since 1980 in South Australia. In New South Wales, it could only be used as pet meat until 1993 and it was only as recently as 28 January 2021 until kangaroo could be harvested in Victoria for human consumption.

But, what’s that Skip? You’re delicious, healthy and nutritious as well?

Kangaroo meat is very high in protein and low in fat (around 2%). It can be overcooked extremely easily but today it was cooked to perfection. Kangaroo has a game-like flavour that is ideally accompanied by a sweet berry or similar accompaniment.

Peter Kelso marinated his kangaroo loin fillets in olive oil and juniper berries for 24 hours before searing them quickly in a pan. Instead of berry, he used a dollop of homemade quince jelly. Anyone who has made this knows that it is the equivalent of kitchen napalm spitting on the oven so Peter went well beyond the call of duty in creating this for us to eat today. The kangaroo was accompanied by diced and roasted root vegetables (beetroot, red onion and carrot) mixed with a spicing of smoked paprika, ground cumin and olive oil with brown lentils preserved lemon and parsley. It was served topped with a dressing of yoghurt lemon juice and garlic. The whole gave a sweet/sour combination that matched the protein perfectly. Our Winemaster, Chilly Hargrave outdid himself by matching this dish with two Aussie cool-climate Shiraz. The first was a 2012 Wynns Black Label Shiraz that showed spice and fruit notes that were a perfect fit to the main. The second wine, a 2010 Cherubino Acacia Frankland River Shiraz, was a more complex, savoury, and layered wine. At twelve years of age, it is still alive and now drinking at its best. 

While everyone easily identified the cheese as a washed rind variety, its origins stumped the room. James Healey presented a Jensen’s Red from the Tarago River Cheese Company. It came to the table in perfect condition and was accompanied (for nostalgia) by a salad with small bacon bits. The salad was a mix of bitter leaves: radicchio, endive and arugula. Peter dressed them with a vinaigrette based on walnut oil and sherry vinegar with a dash of Dijon mustard. With the cheese, we tasted an interesting match of 2 aromatic, tannic varieties. The 2016 Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba had a vibrant nose and colour with its varietal tannins softening, but perhaps the fruit is going with them. We returned to Wynns Black Label for the last wine, but this time the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a Society (and Australian) favourite and this was true to form. As with the Shiraz, it showed obvious vanilla oak notes, but the fruit and tannin balance carried through. Not the best vintage in Coonawarra, but this wine is still shining.

26 July 2022 CoTD Paul Thorne

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

Today President Paul Thorne was in the kitchen and as he said at the lunch, he was looking at providing comfort food in the midst of the winter cold and to complement quality wines being presented at the lunch.

Canapes

Paul was given support by a few people to prepare and provide the canapes – lucky boy. We were presented with:

1.            Tuna dip in a pastry cup

2.            Red capsicum spread on a toasted bread round topped with charred eggplant and parsley

3.            Creme fraiche with wasabi in a pastry cup topped with white anchovy

4.            Crème fraiche and goat’s cheese in a pastry cup topped with Tartufata (Mushrooms and truffles in oil).

All canapes were well received and each provided a punch of flavour to start the lunch.

Main

We were served pork neck plated on a base of pea and ham soup. The pork comprised four pieces cooked in the oven for 4.5 hours at 135C. The pork was cooked in trays and sat on a base of onions and duck stock. The pea and ham soup was a combination of many vegetables and legumes/pulses including carrots, peas, beans (2 or 3 types) barley and lentils.  The ham hock flavour was infused and then shreds were throughout the soup.

The meal came to the table smartly presented.  The pork had terrific colour and showed it was cooked perfectly. Pork can be a challenge to get right and, as it rests, it still cooks. The pea and ham soup provided good colour and the broth provided additional flavour and moisture to the pork. Overall, the flavour was delicate and the seasoning was a personal preference. The meal complemented the wines. 

The bread was from Haberfield bakery an old favourite of the Society from years gone past.

Cheese 

Latteria Perenzin Formajo. This is a cow milk cheese that was wrapped in grape skins for added flavour when maturing. The cheese is made in the Italian Alpine foothills. The cheese was semi-hard, had a nutty character, and was sweet and fragrant with notes of fruit. Served with the cheese were caramelised walnuts on the board. In a bowl were dates and hydrated dried figs. The figs starred as they were soaked in orange juice and ouzo. 

Wine

The lunch today had as its centrepiece six Grand Cru Burgundies.  Impressive to say the least.

The aperitif white was a French Chardonnay CH Marsannay 2017 from the Cote de Nuits, near Dijon.

The wine had a medium-deep yellow colour, was well matured and smooth on the palate, moderate alcohol, @ 12.5%. Despite its sound presentation, the wine in my view lacked character.  By no means unpleasant, just not very interesting, perhaps the acid had fallen away a dash.  I would not have picked it as a Chardonnay.

There was a second bottle presented, a  Scorpo from Victoria I am told, as I never saw the bottle, More like what we are used to in Chardonnay, nice wine, despite only having a mouthful.

We were all in a state of excitement as we waited for the arrival of the Main Act,  the Burgundies.  The wines spanned vintages from 1999 to 2009, from the Jewel in the Crown Of Burgundy, the famed Nuits St George Commune. Before preparing this report I did a quick vintage report check on the Red Burgundies on display.

1999 was rated highly, 2002 well regarded,  2003 tricky, very hot year, some excellent wines made, but variable. 2009 is generally regarded as a good vintage, so, all looked promising.

The first two served were the 2009 Maison Roche de Bellene Lavaut St Jacques and the  09  Maison Charmes- Chambertin Grand Cru.  I found these wines hard to separate. Both wines were light to medium body in colour of red brick, just beginning to fade, slightly acidic aftertaste.  Enjoyable, but not outstanding.

Wine no 3 was the  Bichot Echezeaux Grand Cru.  Great wine, just perfect! Velvety and smooth, utterly seductive and drinkable in large amounts if possible. No sign of browning, deep ruby red colour, beautiful PN nose. We were given a real treat by our Winemaster.

Wines 4 and 5 were the 02 Lupe Cholet Chambertin and the 99 Clos Vougeot. My glass of the Chambertin showed distinctive signs of ageing with a flat finish.  Much the same comments apply to the Vougeot, which is disappointing. Both of these wines were I feel struggling to cope with their age, with fruit and acid falling away. I would have loved to drink these wines 10 years ago.

 Wine No 6. Sadly there was no joyous farewell from the 99 Cholet, Latricieres Chambertin. once again I found myself confronting what should have been a superb wine, only to find the peak drinking period had passed maybe 10 years ago. My remarks about this wine are the same as wines 5 and 6, namely, tired and fading.

From  a very personal perspective, I feel the afternoon  became an example of the old saying  “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive“

I fully understand that many others in the room may have a different view, particularly if you like aged Burgundy.

None of these comments is intended to reflect adversely on our Winemaster’s selections who clearly has the hard task of selecting suitable wine from a cellar of several hundred ageing French wines, many highly regarded, but which will have silently slipped past their use by date.

We all know with Old Wine, “you pay your money and you take your chances“.

19 July 2022 CoTD Madan from REX

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

Our chef of the day was Madan the third member of our talented and professional team in the kitchen at the Royal Exchange. venturing into the kitchen our senses were heightened as took in the aromas and spices of the Nepalese lunch being prepared for us.

Canapés

First up was Kwati - a mixed bean soup that is specific to the mountain regions of Nepal. It has seven different types of beans that are sweated for forty-eight hours before being made into soup. It was creamy and aromatic with a lingering depth of flavour, spice was evident but not overwhelming heat.

Pork sekuwa - this was marinated for twenty-four hours in ginger garlic and coriander and was served on skewers with a tomato chutney dip. The meat was barbecued, perfectly cooked, moist with complex flavours and had a great aftertaste.

Lamb choila - Fried with mixed masala and served in pastry cups.

The lamb is first marinated in ginger, garlic, and lemon and set aside for grilling. After grilling the lamb was garnished with more spices to restore its rich flavour.

The canapés were bountiful with complex flavours and perfectly matched with wines on offer today. There were many favourable comments from the floor on the canapé offering today.

Main 

Now to our main course this certainly impressed members.

Minnas machha - this is Nepalese-style fried fish curry. The fish was barramundi marinated in tomato, onions and herbs for a day, it was delicate and cooked perfectly. The curry sauce was complex consisting of lemon, turmeric and cumin not too rich, and long on the palate.

The accompaniments to our fish were some Basmati rice, warmed sliced carrot and white radish and a potato and chickpeas pickle.

It was a great effort with a lot of preparation and thought going into today's meal and much appreciated by all for the authentic and interesting Nepalese food presented today.

Cheese

The cheese was supplied by our kitchen team a soft pasteurised cow’s milk cheese from France “Royal Faucon Brie” this was served with lavosh style crackers and truffled honey.

It was good to see some long-term members back at lunch Paul Bookalil and Miles Hedge, perhaps they’d heard it was John Edwards's birthday who very generously shared some Para Port to celebrate and finish our lunch.

Wine

The first on offer was the 2015 La Jalousie, Chenin Blanc at 13.5%   At 7 years just a pup in the Chenin Blanc world.  These wines last forever. I have had several over the years 20+ years old and still fresh and fruit driven. An excellent choice for the pass-arounds which were terrific.

The second wine to be drunk was the Bernard Fouquet Cuvee Silex Vouvray 2016 at 12% also a Chenin Blanc. Good wine, well-balanced fruit/acid, many many years ahead of it. My wine of the day.  The producer Marc Bredif is also a top producer of good Vouvray.

Wine 3 served was the 2012  Cuilleron Syrah at 12.5% an excellent wine from the Rhone District. Great depth of flavour but with medium body and strong tannin finish.  Most drinkable.

Wine 4 was the Kooyong Pinot 2016 at 13.5% from Mornington.  Thin, lean with oak overpowering the faint fruit flavours.  Overall unimpressive. 

Wine 5 was the Cuilleron Roussanne 2018. A wine style we do not see much of here. Loads of quality fruit, 14% a thick oily finish, quite luscious, Bit like a Marsanne only more intense. Very good wine, highly regarded by several at our table. Would in my view take a little time to get used to, a very different dryer style from what we in Australia are familiar with.

Note re wines: Tables of ten have an extra different bottle served and if a wine is found to be faulty it is not served but substituted with a different wine. Sometimes the Winemaster will be using up odds and sods (usually very good wines) to clear out the wine frig.