14 July 2020 - CoTD Nico Flipo - guest French chef

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14 July is Bastille Day so what else could we have but a French chef. Nico Filippo has cooked for us once before and is the partner of popular ex-REX floor staff member Jess, who assisted him.

Food

In the Covid restriction mode, we were served to entrées seated in our tables. The first was a poached prawn on iceberg lettuce with a spiced mayonnaise aka a prawn cocktail. The iceberg added a delicate crunch to this small starter. Next up was pea and ham soup with the aromas arousing the palate immediately the bowl was placed on the table. A classic dish to which there was no cream added nor potatoes. The flavour of the smoked ham hock was magnificent. A wonderful way to start.

The main was a rump of lamb had been roasted with jus rosemary, gratin dauphinois and French beans. My meal was cooked to perfection with an enticing pink colour in the centre of the rather large portion. Nico told me that each rump was about 250 g so no one went hungry. The layered potato was decorated with rosemary and thyme sprigs standing proudly upright atop the stack.

Nico explained to us that the lamb had been cooked sou vide for 3.5 hours at 54° C and that in the style of French of serving all the “bits” were served on the plate rather than having side dishes. The dish was thoroughly enjoyed by the Covid reduced numbers in the room.

The cheese selected by James Healey but served by Gary Linnane did cause some confusion as many thought it was Beaufort (including myself) when it was another much-loved cheese, Comte from Jura. The salty and savoury overtones once again confirmed this is one of our favourite cheeses.

The coffee today again presented by our President, Nick Reynolds, was Honduras El Laurel, washed bean. The notes supplied the coffee included “notes of plum and black tea are the highlights of this washed bean, which translates into a caramel-like sweetness’. It was very elegant but personally would have liked a little more dosage to give it a bit more punch.

Wine

Six wines were served all pre-poured in our restrictive mode. The first two wines meant for the entrées were the Leo Buring Leonay Watervale Riesling 2014 and the Meyer-Fonne Reserve Alsace Riesling 2013. The former was surprisingly developed and lacked some of the characteristics of the style that many know so well. Acid and lemon predominated. The Alsace I think was the better of the two with the usual tiny touch of residual sugar. It was a fine wine.

Domaine Nicolas Reau Pompois Loire Cabernet Franc 2013 started us off for the main. Opinions differed on this and I found it had a slight off stink, a touch of brett which distracted from my enjoyment. Next up was Château Peyredon Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2009 which many thought was the red wine of the day. Drinking at its peak, 2009 was a wonderful year in Bordeaux and this Bordeaux was elegant, soft and ready to go.

Others thought that the Nick O’Leary 2009 Shiraz from the Canberra district was the go-to wine for the lunch. Under screwcap, it was showing some degree of brown, but the fruit was intact and it was a very attractive wine. Finally came the Domaine J L Chave Mon Coeur Cotes du Rhone 2009. Chave is a highly respected label but despite 2009 being a very good year, the wine was let down by bretty overtones subduing the fruit. A disappointment.

All in all, an excellent lunch that once again confirmed that even with our current restrictions an enjoyable time can be had. Thanks to Nico and Jess for their efforts to present this fine lunch.

7 July 2020 - CoTD Nick Reynolds

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Charles 'Chilly' Hargrave

Food

Our President Nick Reynolds was in the kitchen presenting a Mexican themed menu. We know when Nick is in the kitchen there’s a lot of research and preparation done beforehand and it was evident in today’s meal.

Entrees

Members took their seats and we enjoyed the first of our two entrees.

A buttery flaky empanada filled with Rick Bayless’ Picadillo Oaxaqueño. (Pork, tomato, onion, garlic, black pepper, slivered almonds, salt, cider vinegar, raisins and sweet spices (cloves, cinnamon). Full of flavour and texture it was served warm, had a great mouthfeel with the many ingredients all adding up to a perfect example of empanada.

Then followed a Green Fish Soup with Tomatillos Salt, garlic, tomatillos, jalapeño, coriander epazote, tarragon, prawn stock, schnapper, prawns.

Served warm it was delicious.

Our entrees were a good match for our two aperitif wines. One of which was the Framingham Riesling, not a society favourite however we were assured there’s none left in our cellar.

Main

Nick is a master of sous vide and we enjoyed a beef short rib cooked sous vide for 30 hours at 64 C then flame scorched served with Mole Poblano of 24 Ingredients. Mole is a traditional marinade and sauce originally used in Mexican cuisine. We had a variety of accompaniments to our beef,

  • Arroz Verda (Green Rice) with long-grained rice, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro (coriander leaf), Cos lettuce leaves, poblano chillis, onion, garlic, and chicken stock.
  • Pico di Gallo. Tomato, onion, lime, coriander, seasoning.
  • Guacamole. Mashed avocados with Pico di Gallo (less coriander) plus jalapeño chilli.
  • Homemade Corn Tortillas fried in lard.

The meal looked good on the plate and better on the palate, perfectly executed with great flavours of spice with some heat none overwhelming the meal.

Members commented favourably on the originality of the dish and the tenderness of the beef.

Cheese

Our cheese-masterly James Healey aware of the theme of today selected a ‘Esparto Manchego. Manchego is the most well-known of all Spanish artisan cheeses and its origins lie in the arid plateau of La Mancha – derived from the Arabic word al-Marsha meaning dryland. Most examples are now produced on a large industrial scale using milk collected from hundreds of small dairy farms across the defined PDO region. El Esparto ‘Artesano’ cheese is a rare exception.

Taking its name from the plated esparto grass belts traditionally used to bind young cheese as it is drained and the heavy stones, each wheel is handmade using milk collected from a single flock of Manchego ewes.

The cheese is matured for six or nine months and humid cellars and the natural brown rind is really white with olive oil to reduce mould. It contains no artificial colours or mould inhibitor. Like all farmstead cheeses, batches tend to vary with the seasons. The best have a slightly sweet, nutty finish and just a hint of the grasses and wild shrubs that grow in the past is surrounding the farm.

Coffee

Nick provided the coffee it is Kenya Thagieni, Natural. This mixed natural process a lot from Kenya is sweet and packed full of fruit. With notes of cherry blackcurrant and toffee with a ruby grapefruit-like acidity on the finish.

Wine

Today’s entrée wines (no longer aperitif !!) were both international cool/cold climate whites. The 2016 Framingham Marlborough was another sweet Riesling. Last weeks was overly sweet and unbalanced. The same can be said of this wine. With some funky wild ferment notes, it perhaps didn’t have the structure or flavour to carry the sugar. On the other hand, the 2015 Timo Mayer Baden Riesling had many layers of flavour and texture. With attractive botrytis aromas to complement the lemon curd fruit it had an attractive dry finish. A good match for both entrées.

Four reds on the table again showed the diversity of Shiraz. The 2009 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage was fully ripe, yet not jammy. It showed the regional black pepper and spice aromas with mouthfeel, length and grippy tannins. The 2008 Seppelt Chalambar still carried a lot of oak which suppressed the fruit. High fruit and oak tannin took the wine out of balance.

Then followed a pair of 2002 McLaren Vale Shiraz. The Burton, while showing generous, ripe black fruits, was still impacted by a lot of oak. On the other hand, the Eileen Hardy was a wine of great poise. Perhaps past it’s best, it had a lovely roundness and elegance.

30 June 2020 - CoTD Mark Bradford

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Food review by James Hill and wine review by Charles 'Chilly' Hargrave.

Food

In our first wine tasting lunch post isolation, Mark Bradford was in the kitchen with a French-themed meal that perfectly suited a winters day. Our tables were plentiful with two glasses of aperitif wine and six glasses for our wine tasting,

Members took their seats as they arrived and shortly after Mark served the first of our two entrees. It was a pork, veal, gammon and green olive terrine topped with cornichon slices. The recipe came from one of Mark’s associate’s great gran who lived in the Beaujolais region. It was moist and appetising with good flavour, A little salt enhanced the overall taste.

Next up was a hot soup of leek and potato with a base of chicken stock served with some cream, chives and crouton on top. It was creamy and textural perfectly seasoned. Both entrees were a good match for our aperitif wines one a Beaujolais, the other a Pressing Matters Riesling, the room was divided as to which wine was the better match.

Mark chose a rich winter dish as the main, deconstructed beef and mushroom pie, a perfect match to our brace of Australian Shiraz and Cabernets in our wine tasting.

The meal was served with a square of crisp puff pastry, a rich and unctuous brisket casserole with Swiss brown and porcini mushrooms, carrot and bacon chunks.

It was accompanied by a tian of zucchini, rice and Parmesan with some sautéed broccolini. The meal was well received by our members commenting on the flavour and presentation of the meal and the wine matching.

Greg Chugg spoke to the wines the majority of which he had purchased in his term as cellarmaster. One of the wines was Burton Mclaren Vale Shiraz and Greg voiced his disappointment that Nigel wasn’t in the room to hear the wisdom of his comments (favourable we may add).

Our Cheesemaster, James Healey, served one of our favourite cheeses a Beaufort.

This huge benchmark cheese from the Savoie region of France is known as the ‘Prince of Gruyere‘. The rarest examples are made the traditional way between July and September when the cows are driven to graze high in the Alps and cheese is produced in small mountains dairies at altitudes above 2000 metres.

Each crusty wheel captures the rich diversity of herbage found growing in these remote alpine valleys and this is reflected in the unique condensed nutty flavour of every wheel. James advised that it is a raw milk cheese cut from 45 kg wheels and he was impressed with our cheese suppliers ability to be so precise with our order and weight request. Mark served some quince paste and cranberry pistachio crisps with the cheese. The fruit in the quince and crisps was a good complement to the cheese.

The coffee supplied by Nick Reynolds was an ONA single-origin.

The notes supplied with the coffee described it as mixed, natural process lot from Kenya is sweet and packed full of fruit. Look for notes of cherry, blackcurrant and coffee with a ruby grapefruit-like acidity on the finish.

Wine

Today’s wine lunch saw 8 glasses on the table. The normal 6 plus 2 for entrée.

We paired a white with a red to match Mark’s terrine. The 2015 Pressing Matters R9 Riesling is so named because it suggests a residual sugar of 9 g/l. While this wine showed some attractive apricot, botrytis notes it had a very sweet finish which left it unbalanced. The 2013 Laurent Gaulthier Vielles Vignes Morgon Beaujolais was made in more of a Burgundian style than Beaujolais. With a deep colour, there was very little carbonic maceration character and, in its place, some firm tannins and strawberry fruits.

Six more reds followed these two. Three Shiraz of varying age showed the diversity in this variety. The 2008 Oliver’s Taranga HJ Shiraz was a bit of a monster. Very strong oak vanilla aromas and flavours dominated some rich McLaren Vale fruit. Oak and grape tannins left a hard finish. The 1998 Seppelt Great Western Reserve Shiraz was still in pretty good condition. Berry fruit notes were in harmony with the oak and soft tannins. Former cellar master Greg Chugg (congratulating the cellar master on purchasing this wine) advised the lunch that later releases of it were rebranded as St Peters. A third Shiraz was the 2004 Burton McLaren Vale. A much better-balanced wine than the Oliver’s it was drinking at its best with bright berry fruit and fine tannins.

Then followed a pair of Orlando Jacaranda Ridge Coonawarra Cabernets. The 1998 showed the typical character of this renowned vintage. Bright cassis fruit with soft tannins and well-managed oak. Perhaps lacking a little texture and length. The 1996 version was the day’s mystery wine. A wine with more complexity and depth showing more Coonawarra mints notes than red currant. It drew a number of comments and guesses from the floor - a few came close. The final wine, from the same vintage, was the Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet. Still, in excellent condition, it was a sophisticated wine with the Cabernet offering excellent support to the Shiraz. Again a wine of great balance and harmony.

Pleasingly we today extracted (with great difficulty for the 1996 wines) 15 corks and, albeit with some variance between bottles, we found no TCA. A good strike rate.

23 June 2020 - CoTD David Madson

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

Food

For our second post isolation lunch, David Madson was in the kitchen assisted by members Peter Fitzpatrick and James Tinslay. It was a cold Sydney day and the food was channelled to these conditions.

Given the restrictions on assembling canapés, et cetera, we started with an entrée of pea soup. The pea soup was served hot, although it could have been served cold in a summer climate. The soup was a combination of masses of iceberg lettuce and spring onion which were blended to present a beautifully complex soup with mouthfeel. The soup was topped off with wonderfully crispy croutons which had been fried with Parmesan and then sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

David chose a rich winter dish as the main, chicken à la Normandy. The chicken presented was thigh, skin-on bone-in, which had been charred on a barbecue before being cooked with the ingredients of butter, bacon, cider, double cream, Dijon mustard and of course apples. The presentation with green beans and baked potatoes was simple and lovely. The comments from the room indicated that David hit the spot with the meal for the day.

Our Cheesemaster, James Healey, served one of our favourite cheeses with a Will Studd double cream Le Dauphin, a cow's milk cheese from the Rhône Valley. Heavenly. It was served The Cannery bread and fruit and nuts.

A much-admired meal.

The coffee supplied by Nick Reynolds was an ONA single-origin Nicaragua. The notes applied with the coffee described it as a hand-selected blend characterised by tropical sweetness, intense floral aromas and notes of yellow stonefruit that become more prominent as the brew cools. It was a medium strength coffee that showed come complexity without being overpowering.

Wine

The wines for today’s lunch were most generously supplemented by a couple of his Glandore Savagnin whites from our chef of the day. One with the soup and another with the main. The older wine, 2012 vintage, was showing some toasty development and a rich flavour with some typical spice notes. The current release, 2019 vintage, was a much fresher fruit-forward wine with an overlay of complexity from oak treatment.

The matching wine for the soup was a Lustau Jurana Fino. Perhaps showing a little flatness from time in bottle, it still had a delicious nutty flor note that was another good match for the entrée. Although not a Manzanilla, it has a refreshing salty tang on the finish.

To match the 2019 Hunter Savagnin there was a Gun Dog Estate ‘The Chase’ Semillon from the same vintage. Although under 11% alcohol it was quite full flavoured with the distinct regional citrus varietal character. That said it was perhaps a little light to match the chicken.

Our cheese was matched with two 2011 Crozes-Hermitage reds. The first from David Renaud was the cuvée, Georges Reynaud. This is sourced from 100% Bio vineyards with a long macération in concrete fermenters for over a month. It showed bright Shiraz fruit, but the tannins were still dry and tough. Perhaps an indication of the lack of softening from oak maturation. The final wine for the day was the Alberic Bouvet cuvée from Gilles Robin. Sourced from 50 years old vines in 3 separate sites close to the Hermitage hill, it was in a very different style. After 15 months in oak, it presented as a much softer style with more balance, although showing a little aldehyde which flattened the nose.

16 June 2020 - CoTD James Hill

Food review by Nick Reynolds and wine review by Charles "Chilly' Hargrave

 

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Today saw a welcome return to WFSNSW lunches after 13 weeks of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

25 members entered the strange new world of dining with restrictions, sitting at their table on entering the Club and having all the wines already poured in front of them.

The President, Nick Reynolds, visited each table to welcome the members back to lunches and to discuss how the lunch would proceed. The restrictions were taken in good grace and members settled in to enjoy their lunch.

And what a lunch it was.

Our stalwart chef, James Hill, was in the kitchen ably assisted by the Royal Exchange Club chef, Leo. Paul Thorne sourced the seafood for one of the appetisers and also acted as principal prawn peeler in chief.

James treated us to two canapés. Under the new restrictions, they were served at the table to each individual diner, meaning that they were received more as an entrée than an appetiser. Appetiser wines were already poured at the table to enjoy with the food and a number of members kept some of the appetiser wine to try with the main course.

The first appetiser was a plate of assorted seafood, comprising natural oysters served with a small squeeze of lemon, the Paul-Thorne-peeled prawns, and smoked trout. These were served on a celeriac remoulade with chervil. It was a delicious start to the meal and was well-received by all members, with the smoked trout being a favourite in the comments.

The second appetiser was James’ famous prawn bisque to which he, unusually, added cream. Rich and with a massive depth of flavour, it rounded out our appetiser/entrée course wonderfully.

The main course was a masterpiece of balanced flavours. Tunnel-boned quail was stuffed with finely minced pork and garlic with pistachio pieces to add texture. The quail was wrapped in a vine leaf, which added a very interesting tangy flavour to the dish, resembling lemon. The leaves also kept the moisture in the baked quails making for a delicious eating experience. Accompanied by a rich quail jus, the dish was served on a kipfler potato salad with finely sliced fennel adding not only texture but also an aniseed element to the dish that complemented the flavours of the stuffed quail. The final element in the dish puzzled some as it resembled the long-stemmed broccolini in shape but was pure cauliflower in taste and texture. In his comments on the meal, Paul Thorne opined that it could be called “Cauliflowerini.” It was a new vegetable-hybrid called the Fioretto Cauli-Blossom (Paul’s name is probably more evocative). Fioretto means little flower in Italian. This sweet, delicious, creamy vegetable rounded out what was a top-class plate of food.

As usual with James’ meals, we were treated with Iggy’s bread during the meal and to accompany the cheese.

In line with our dining restrictions, the cheese and coffee were both served at the table to each individual.

The cheese was a Maffra cloth-bound cheddar, which is rapidly becoming a Society favourite. When given a quick options game, members picked it as a new-world, cow’s milk, cheddar, which was spot-on but omits the high quality of the cheese. James Hill served the cheese with a slice of Spanish quince paste, which proved an ideal accompaniment.

With Spencer Ferrier having stood down from his role as coffee master, the President sourced some coffee from one of the top roasters in Australia, Ona Coffee (declaration of conflict of interest – his daughter is the Ona’s Retail Group Manager). The coffee was a single-origin filter blend called Ethiopia Violet, Natural. The tasting notes for the coffee, which follow, are very like wine tasting notes, and reflective of the direction in which the coffee world is heading. Coffees in Yirgacheffe are typically grown as ‘garden coffees’, before being sold through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). This lot has been created through extensive screening of coffees, which separates them according to size and shape while being prepared for export. For this lot, the smaller coffee beans/seeds were gathered together, tasted and named ‘Violet’ for its intensive purple notes in the flavour profile, which include blackcurrant, grape and violets. The coffee displays deep fruit notes of blackcurrant, grape and plum, with a hint of orange-like citrus and violet-like florals in the aroma and finish.

In all, the lunch was thoroughly enjoyed by all and James presented a perfect example of a contemporary Society lunch to welcome us back after lockdown.

Wine

Today’s lunch started with a couple of Chardonnays. The 2014 Tyrrell’s Belford was very oak driven with rich melon fruit (not particularly varietal) and good mouthfeel. The 2014 Fraser Gallop Parterre again showed obvious oak aromas and flavours. It was a little simple regarding fruit flavour and quite lean. Certainly more an aperitif wine than something for a main course.

With the main, we had a white and a red. The 2011 Tyrell’s Vat 1 Semillon was still fresh and lively, even with a little residual SO2. It showed typical regional varietal character although starting to develop a little toast. Similar fruit was apparent on the palate with good weight and length drawn out by a slight phenolic finish.

Then followed three Cabernet wines. A pair of Wynns Black Labels provided an interesting comparison of styles and vintages. The 2012 showed a lovely bouquet of mint and cassis. An excellent cool vintage has yielded a wine of great purity. Tannins and oak were perfectly in balance promising a great future. The 2005 (another highly regarded vintage) perhaps lacked the defining characters of the former. That said, it was closed under cork. It was a big wine with rich, ripe fruit characters and some developing oak notes. The palate was of similar size with some rather grippy Cabernet tannins.

The final of the trio was a Cabernet blend (Sauvignon, Merlot and Franc) from the Haut Médoc classified Chateau Lanessan. From a consistent producer that is well represented in our cellar, it was starting to show its age. The fruit was a little diminished with a dominant earthiness and slight Brett taint. The palate had red currant fruit with genuine texture and balance - finishing with fine, grainy tannins.

The consensus of the room was that the Semillon was the best match for the quail and the 2012 Wynns was the best of the reds.

17 March 2020 - Nick Reynolds

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The final COTY cook-off lunch was presented by Nick Reynolds. Unfortunately, the CV panic has hit and booking number dropped where we only had 31 members and guests show up. I must say if you feel unwell or not comfortable attending then you should stay home until things settle down. Nick prepared the food and he was ably assisted by James Hill. The theme today was “Duck 3 Ways”.

Canapé

There were two canapés served today. The highlight canape was fresh cucumber peeled, cut and a centre piece scooped out to allow a terrifically prepared Gazpacho ball to be placed on the cucumber. What looked simple and colourful was full of flavour that exploded in your mouth when you bit into it. The Society has had Gazpacho soup in the past but when you add a little gelatine and place them in ice cube rounds, you have something special.

The other canapé was duck pate and cornichons served on toasted bread rounds. The flavour was very good however there was a slight processing malfunction in the kitchen and it came out runnier than one would like and the colour was more on the grey side. They were all enjoyed and eaten.

Main Course

The main came to the table wonderfully presented and having a good blend of colours and elements. The three duck components were confit duck Maryland (sous vide), a duck spring roll and a whole duck egg. The duck Maryland was well cooked, tender and it fell off the bone (not crispy). It was served on top of lentils cooked in red wine and chicken stock and the sauce was added to finish. We should not forget there were a couple of finely cubed vegetables added for colour and texture. The duck spring roll had great flavour from different elements used, however, it lost the crispness as the main came to the table 20 minutes behind schedule (let's blame the lentils 😊). Finally, the 64-degree duck egg (sous vide) sat on a green folly of mixed leaves which was sprayed with balsamic vinegar for bitterness. The egg provided the fattiness to match the vinegar when the yolk was broken.

A great way to finish the COTY cook-off series.

Wine

Today’s luncheon wines were either curate’s eggs or roller coaster rides. Given the current state of the stock market, perhaps the latter should apply.

The whites served with the canapés were both Australian and proved again what a joy Australian white wines are. The 2015 Crawford River Riesling from Henty in Western Victoria was in excellent condition. It still showed pure lime, Riesling fruit with none of the toasty development that might be associated with a Riesling of 5 years age. A touch of sugar balanced the high acidity common to this region. The 2014 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon likewise impressed with its purity and youth. Showing classic Hunter citrus characters with a hint of complexing aromas, its acidity matched the fullness of flavour.

The outstanding duck main course was paired with a white and a red. The white, a 2014 Chenin Blanc from Sebastien Brunet in Vouvray was closed under cork. As a starter, the corks were short and wet through. On pouring the wine was a deep golden colour, and the nose carried an impression of this development. Made in the ‘modern’ yet traditional style it first showed aromas of natural (wild yeast) fermentation, followed by some apricot, botrytis notes. The former was found unpleasant by most, many suggesting it was corked. This character often expresses itself as flinty matchstick, but in this case, it was over the top, moving towards bilgey.

The roller coaster continued with the second wine. Pinot Noir is a favourite wine to serve with duck, and today we had a 2015 Bernard Huber from Malterdinger in Baden, Germany. It’s rare to find a Pinot from Germany, but this area, at the foothills of the Black Forest mountains, in this warm southwestern region of Germany, has been growing this variety for over 700 years since the Cistercian monks brought it from Burgundy. It was well made with lively cherry fruit notes, although the tannins were a little green. Unfortunately, the use of oak could at best be described as over-enthusiastic with strong, pencil shavings aromas and flavours. There was no doubting the quality of the oak, just its intensity.

With one of our favourite cheeses (Beaufort), I managed to split the room. A 2013 David Reynaud Crozes Hermitage had a bright red colour with the recognisable spice and white pepper typical of cool-climate Syrah. The palate was quite rich for 13.0% alcohol with hard tannins (not unusual) and slightly ripe, jammy fruit flavours. In this warm year, it lacked the elegance one might expect from the Northern Rhône.

A counterpoint to the French wine was a memorable Barossa Shiraz. Sixteen years has yielded many changes to the 2004 Torbreck “Strewth” Sturie. Over time the ripe fruit and new oak aromas have evolved towards those of a rancio tawny port. These sweet fruit characters were again present on the palate with tannins still quite tough. An example of the traditional Barossa style, it was enjoyed by many of the members. It may well prove an early vaccine against the little C.

10 March 2020 - Steve Liebeskind

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Food review by Nick Reynolds and wine review by Charles "Chilly" Hargrave

Food

Steve Liebeskind faced a packed house in his cook-off for Chef of the Year.

He was ably assisted in the kitchen by Paul Irwin and guest cook Romain Stamm.

Steve presented three canapés, each of which was delicious in its own way. The first was a spicy pumpkin soup served in large shot cups. This was followed by fennel purée with fresh salmon on puff pastry rounds. The final canapé was inspired. Steve took the leftover trimmings of steak from the main course and cut them finely, combined with the appropriate condiments, and served the resultant steak tartare on crisp bread rounds. As you can see from the pictures, all the canapés were presented with Steve’s normal attention to detail and tasted every bit as good as they looked.

The main course again showed the attention to detail and fine cooking that we associate with Steve. A superb piece of eye fillet steak was cooked to perfection and served with a reduced beef stock and red wine sauce. A number of accompaniments were served with this. The first was caramelised onion served with onion pieces that had a bitter-sweet char around the edge. The second was zucchini topped with tarragon, with the aniseed flavour that accompanies steak so well. The third was a baked field mushroom served on a roasted pumpkin dish, again giving a sweetness and umami that added depth to the steak dish. Lastly, but by no means least, was a bowl of mashed potatoes served in a bowl for each table. Rich, creamy, and buttery, these served as an unctuous accompaniment that many wished had been provided in larger quantity (but our members always say that, no matter what the serving size is).

The meal was well received by members with empty plates going back to the kitchen as ample evidence of their enjoyment.

A Society-favourite soft cheese, Taleggio, was served with salad greens, shaved fennel and toasted pine nuts drizzled tossed in a simple Vinaigrette. An ideal end to a lovely meal.

Steve presented a worthy dish that will provide stiff competition for the other chefs cooking in the competition.

Wine

Today’s lunch was matched with three pairs which strongly reflected vintage conditions but also changes in winemaking and winemakers. Of interest was that the two reds were produced under Southcorp stewardship for the older wines and then Fosters (TWE) for the younger ones.

The 2013 and then 2012 Seppelt Jaluka Chardonnays showed distinctive vintage variance. The warmer 2013 vintage yielded a fuller, richer wine while the 2012 has more precision and tension. Both wines, however, showed the same hand of winemaking with subtle barrel ferment characters and fresh acidity in a wine that rarely undergoes any malolactic fermentation.

With the main course were a couple of Rosemount Balmoral Shiraz. The 2010 vintage showed the bright fruit expected from McLaren Vale with admirable oak restraint. The tannin levels remained very high. The 2004 had lost the fruit profile of the younger wine and showed many secondary characters. Again the tannin levels remained high becoming unbalanced as the flavours diminished with time.

The delightful Tallegio cheese was paired with two Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet. The younger wine from the excellent 2012 vintage showed a lot Shiraz fruit aromas with the Cabernet being very much in the background. A little disjointed with oak, fruit and tannins yet to become integrated. The 1999 wine at 21 years of age was in fantastic condition. Following on from the much-admired 1998 vintage, this wine would have sat in the shadows but has turned out to be a sleeper. It was a wine of great class with an aged harmony of flavour, oak and tannin. It showed both Shiraz and Cabernet in abundance. Most likely at its best, it to me was the highlight of the day.

3 March 2020 - Denis Redfern

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Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave

The cook-off caravan moves on, and this week it was Denis Redfern for cook-off 4. Supporting him was Team Redfern made up of his wife Trish Redfern, Jennifer Darin and Josef Condrau. Numbers for the lunch went up and down like a yoyo with walk-ins, cancellations and every combination thereof. When we sat down, we were some 45 members.

Canapés

Denis is nothing if not organised and he had telegraphed beforehand that there would be four canapés for us. These were:

  • • Escargots a la bourguignonne on brioche
  • • Duck rillettes on toasts
  • • Potage parmentier in shot glasses
  • • Coquilles St Jacques on a spoon

There appears to be a growing trend of members being spoilt with three or four canapés before we sit down, and I have not heard any complaints.

All four canapés were appealing and satisfying. In particular, the duck rillette was special. The duck had been sous vide and then combined with orange and Hennessey XO to give it more depth of flavour.

Main Course

The main course was of course duck. Dennis had brined the ducks with a mixture including orange and then sous vide them at 65° in a specialist tank i.e. a Bunning's tub. The potatoes, or roasties, had been parboiled and then roasted in ghee and finished at REX in duck fat. To die for. Which reminds me, a defibrillator at REX may not be so silly with so much duck fat recently!

The duck was served on jus and was accompanied by some just cooked and crunchy beans with slivered almonds and some cranberry (I think) jelly. The dish looked good and was scrumptious.

Cheese

Today was a smelly cheese day and James Healey served us Epoisses, sourced from Côte-d'Or, from maker Berthaut. It is a washed rind cheese with a very strong flavour finishing off with some barnyard characteristics that make it, apparently, one of the smelliest cheeses on earth. It was wonderful. The cheese was served with grapes.

Coffee

Spencer Ferrier was absent this week but continued his long walk to find a Society Blend. This week he supplied us with a high roast espresso-style coffee with a flavour note of roast and a slightly burnt flavour. It was a blend of five beans treated in various ways with a major quantity of Kenya AA. The coffee had a very good mouthfeel, medium-bodied, but not overpowering with, as expected, a slightly burnt finish. An excellent coffee.

Wine

Canapé wines were a contrast of styles and colours. A 2010 Montgomery Hill Chardonnay from Margaret River was a complex mix of wild, barrel ferment and bottle age. Still bright and clear, it showed the rich fruit characters typical of the region. It was paired with the same vintage of a Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir. At 10 years of age, it impressed with its drinkability. While the tannins were a little firm, there was still fresh varietal fruit notes on the nose and palate.

To match the duck there were a pair of red Burgundies. A 2015 Christian Clerget Bourgogne Rouge was the preferred wine. It had lively, berry fruit aromas with a complex, well-integrated palate of red fruits and firm tannins. The 2016 Domaine Collotte Marsannay Champsalomon was an interesting move further up the Côte de Nuits towards Dijon. Although Marasannay is little heard of, it is starting to be considered further as the climate warms and these cooler vineyards achieve better maturity. The wine had lovely berry fruit characters with soft tannins and genuine Burgundian texture. Perhaps not as pure as the village wine from Clerget, it still impressed.

The cheese for the day was a burgundy favourite - Époisses. Traditionally this is paired with a Pinot Noir, but today we also tried something different. Taking a leaf from the Alsace playbook we had a 2012 Gewurztraminer from Hugel. Locally this is often matched with Munster. With its slight sweetness and spicy fruit notes, the wine was an excellent match. The more traditional 2015 Pinot Noir from Greywacke was another good match with its strawberry fruit and soft tannins.

25 February 2020 - CoTD Peter Kelso

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Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave

Our first wine lunch for 2020 and Society President, Peter Kelso, was in the kitchen with his wife Catherine. They were assisted on canapés by Mark Bradford.

There were two notable factors about the lunch. One good and one not so good. Starting with the good, Winemaster Charles “Chilly” Hargrave opted for an all-white selection of the six wines which was commented during the lunch. On the worrying side was that there were six members who had booked and had not arrived for the lunch. Some of these attempted to signal their inability to attend at the last minute, but somehow communications did not get through.

Canapés

There was an abundance of the two canapés today with the first being beetroot stewed in orange juice and beef stock and then served in pastry cups topped with some Chevre. The next was a taramasalata on toast topped with not just fish roe but caviar. Both were commented upon favourably.

Main Course

Being a wine lunch, Peter instinctively cooked a dish that would complement the white wines, not compete. We had fish in a parcel or poisson en papillote. Inside the parcel was what looked like a lettuce leaf wrapping the fish which had been topped with a prawn to enhance the presentation. Shrimp paste, lemon, dill and bits of other things had been used to complement the flavour. The fish was pink ling and it was perfectly cooked so that the segments fell apart easily to the fork. This was simply accompanied by rice coloured yellow with turmeric to which preserved lemons and toasted almonds had been added.

A simple and very tasty lunch.

Cheese

The cheese selected by James Healey today was the subject of many informed guesses, none of which were on the money. It was the Tarago River Triple Cream from Gippsland, a white mould pasteurised cow’s milk cheese. This cheese has a fat content of 36% and was rich and buttery with a texture that was creamy. The cheese was beautifully fresh, and much enjoyed.

Coffee

While Spencer was absent this week, he had asked Peter Kelso (who clearly had nothing else to do on the day) to source some Illy coffee for the lunch. Peter had freshly ground the beans before the lunch. Illy is a commercial favourite for Spencer as it provides a smooth experience in the cup, as it did on this occasion.

Wines

Today’s wine lunch started with a pair of Tyrrell’s Johnno’s Semillons that really showed that we have vintage variation in Australia and the Hunter in particular. Curiously in Riesling bottles (perhaps a throwback to Hunter Valley Riesling) we tasted/drank the 2011 vintage followed by the 2010. Preference was split between the two, but there was general agreement on the quality of the wines. Both showed the slight phenolic edge typical of Johnno’s, but also the impact of vintage conditions. The 2010 wine was full-flavoured and textual, perhaps drinking at its best, while the 2011 was pure in fruit, very pale in colour with fine acidity - an absolute keeper.

The wines on the table were a selection of six Chardonnays. This drew comment on the lack of red wine (a rare occasion for the Society) with further discussion about matching cheese with white wine.

First up a 2012 William Fevre Chablis from the Grand Cru vineyards of Bougros. One of the earliest maturing wines of the seven Grand Cru, it showed richness and depth with some influence of lees ageing. These characteristics are what separates these top wines from the rest of Chablis. This Fevre wine, although it still carried some sulphur dioxide, was showing some development, unfortunately also under cork. Perhaps it would have shown better at a slightly lower temperature.

In a slightly confusing layout (a copy and paste error from the clumsy cellar master) we had a pair of wines from the cellars of Benjamin Leroux which were fortunately under screw cap. The 2014 Auxey-Duresses Blanc reflected its terroir, with some lees notes, full flavour and tension. Probably closer to its neighbour Meursault in character than the Montrachets over the hill. On the other hand, the 2014 Chassagne Montrachet was outstanding. It had the minerality, mouthfeel, length and poise that one would expect of Premier Cru or more. A great example of the purity and tension that can be found in Chassagne.

The final burgundy was a 2012 Vincent Girardin St Aubin ‘Les Murgers des Dents de Chien’ 1er Cru. This is the most highly rated vineyard in St Aubin. Situated on the other side of the scrubby hill (mont rachet in French) from the Grand Cru vineyards of Chevalier Montrachet, it shares a similar terroir. The Girardin wine was full-flavoured and textural. It was impacted by the used of old oak and starting to show colour. An excellent example of the impact of cork on white wines, it lacked the expected precision and structure.

Finally, we had a pair of Chardonnays from Curly Flat. The ‘basic’ Chardonnay from 2015 had an excellent balance of fruit, acidity and barrel ferment with a touch of struck match. It was fresh and lively with lingering melon fruit flavours. The 2012 ‘The Curly’ was a different creature altogether. Fermented and aged in 100% new oak with a high proportion of malolactic it was a bigger wine with a richness of flavour and mouthfeel. It still had lingering oak aromas and tannins that tended to dominate the fruit. An interesting pair of wines to compare with the burgundies. They lacked the purity of the first four but were still excellent examples of the variety and were probably the best match for the cheese.

Finally, I thank Frank L, James T, James H and Matt H for their assistance in pouring, always a difficult exercise in a crowded room

18 February 2020 - CoTD Matthew Holmes

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Lunch review by James Hill

Matthew Holmes was in the kitchen today for our third cook-off for coveted Chef of the Year glory. He was assisted by Nick Reynolds and Richard Gibson, who presented the wines in our Winemasters’s absence.

Canapés

He followed his previous theme of Japanese inspired menu we started with Sydney Rock Oysters from Merimbula that were served with a Japanese dressing of ginger, mirin, soy, sake and topped with some caviar roe and spring onion. Then followed black tiger prawns sitting on top of wasabi mayonnaise and pickled cucumber and topped with dill. Both were well received by members today, great flavours and texture and matched well with our aperitif wines.

Canape wines

KT Riesling Clare Valley 2015 fermented in a blend of stainless steel and old French oak had high acid over citrus, a little out of balance, not a typical Clare Valley Riesling. The Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2011 had a good fruit focus, balanced with lemon/lime acid and good length, and was the preferred wine of the two presented.

Main Course

Norwegian salmon marinated in home-made miso with a sauce of soy, sesame, lime and ginger. It was accompanied by soba buckwheat noodles, seasonal mango and watercress. The salmon was cooked well and flavours perfectly integrated with peppery watercress, sweet mango and noodles. A great effort.

Main course wines

Our Winemaster chose two Chablis from 2018 vintage to complement the main course today. The first was Chateau Defaix and seeing this early so reflects that mineral/salty attribute with razor edge acid with a medium weight. What was most preferred in the room today was the William Fevre. It was vibrant with good density and length with lemon/lime citrus and minerality.

Cheese

Our Cheesemaster James Healey presented a new cheese to our Society today with no one hesitating a guess. It was a ‘Mont Enebro’ blue mould, a surface-ripened pasteurised goat’s milk from Central Spain presented in two logs. It is 100% artisan handmade cheese with the cheesemakers inoculating the logs with penicillium Roqueforti the same mold used to make Roquefort. However, rather than piercing the cheese in the traditional way and allowing the blue range to develop throughout, the mold grows on the rind of the cheese adding to the complex flavour and with a distinct ashed appearance. The interior is pure white and has a chalky flaky texture. Flavours are mild, nutty and citric with just a hint of blue at the rind. Today was an example of the cheese served young. Apparently, when it matures it is not for the faint-hearted! Our CoTD served the cheese with black grapes and sesame biscuits.

Cheese wines

Our cheese wines were Houghton Wisdom Shiraz Frankland River 2009 showing cherry fruit, full of life and tannins with some bottle variation. Some thought a bit jammy. We also had the Tyrrell’s Old Hut Shiraz 2014. This was an excellent vintage, fruit-forward, rich red and ripe with good tannins and length.

Coffee

Spencer Ferrier continued his coffee theme this year of coffee blends today deliberately skewed towards the high roast end of the roasting spectrum. High roast simply means that the beans are cooked in the roaster for longer.  They are distinguished by a blacker or darker brown colour. The effect is that much of the acidity in the oils in the coffee are removed by the heat leaving residual flavours that include the simple sensation of burned vegetable material.

This style is used with low-quality beans when mass quantities are required.  It is also deliberately done when an element of the burned, cooked and charred quality is to be introduced into the coffee drink.  It is common practice for quality beans to be used but more for the purposes such as to provide an element of this flavour spectrum rather than as a whole flavour of itself. In today's blend, he had mixed a much higher quantity of high roast coffees than for normal coffee drinking, but the beans, when left unaltered, will give an 'espresso' style to plunger coffee.  The darker bean also does pretty well in the espresso machine, and it is not uncommon in Italian-style espressos. This is the third of examples of coffee styles that build a flavour profile for blending to achieve a preferred taste.  It is generally popular but usually is better expressed with a more middle-roast coffee to provide other parts of the coffee palette.