Luncheon August 18th

With the Presidents' dinner looming we  saw  a small number of members gather for our Tuesday lunch.John Rourke stepped in the kitchen in place of Paul Dressler.

The canapes comprised Hare Pate with Juniper Berries and a red currant sauce on top,goose rillettes and cornichons both served on biscotte. This was followed by a generous serve of Foie Gros on brioche.The accompanying wine was a reserve 2013 Meyer Forre Riesling a typical Alsace wine with full palate good typocity long acid line a good balance to the richness of canapes presented.

 John ventured to Normandy where he has recently been travelling for our next course.It was Veal kidneys with a mustard cream sauce accompanied by a buttery mash and spinach. It was well presented the kidneys cooked to perfection with a light rose jus showing around the edge of the mash.Main course wines were 2013 Chateau di Pizay Morgon Gamay and 2010 Oratoire St Martin Cote du Rhone (80% grenache 20% shiraz).Opinion varied on the best wine match with the food with the Morgon edging out the Rhone,the Morgon was a clean classic style with good balance and long finish. The Rhone an OK style a touch plain ready to drink now.

John explained that he followed the "Traiteur" tradition favoured by Escoffier of sourcing the best products to be prepared by chefs for a meal of of equivalent quality.To this end the canapes were thus sourced as will as the spinach,the magic came with veal kidneys perfectly cooked ,pink and retaining  texture.John advised that he kidneys took  three hours to prepare removing fat and sinew.One member commented that the mustard cream sauce brought the dish together beautifully.  

Our cheese master followed with a "Petit Munster"washed rind cheese from the Franche Comte region. A cows milk  cheese it came to the table at room temperature the rind not too pungent the ripe interior was smooth flavoursome and nutty. The cheese wines proved to be members preferred on the day.A 2008 Vasse Felix Cabernet a typical WA cabernet good balance and quality still time to go.The second an 2005 Bowen Estate Cabernet well made and good fruit.The Vasse was favoured.

Our coffee master finished our tour of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe the time from the Konga region strong dried cherry flavour rich on the palate and a long finish. Our chef provided a dark Lindt chocolate to go with the coffee and our cellar master finished the day of with a Taylors Port. 


Lunch 11 August 2015

This week saw a cast of thousands in the kitchen, starring the reliable Peter Manners (fresh from competing in the City to Surf) and featuring son Andrew with support roles by Nick Reynolds and Neil Galbraith. We kicked off with some terrific duck liver pate on crispbread and simple grilled slices of mild chorizo, with or without supporting biscuit. The main accompanying wine was a 2010 Belgravia Chardonnay from Orange, fresh and showing sweet fruit, but lacking in intensity and length. There was also the predictably great Lustau amontillado sherry on offer for the quick or lucky few.

For the main course, Peter was duck hunting in North Africa and presenting well dissected and varying pieces of that bird – breast, thigh fillets, legs – treated with a Moroccan spice rub, then baked and appearing on the plate inside a ring of tender couscous with peas and chunks of dried dates and apricots for verisimilitude. Good flavours in the duck, although some pieces were a bit chewy on the bone, a spectacular presentation and some good Moroccan notes . A bit of harissa heat might have added to this. Vinously, we were given two masked bottles, both with Austrian themes but one local, one not. They were a 2010 Salomon shiraz-viognier from an Austrian maker on the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA, and a 2009 Triebaumer blaufrankisch from Austria. Most preferred the Oz, showing good balance of fruit and tannin/acid, whilst the import, made from Austria's answer to pinot noir, was a bit thin and lacking in fruit.

Moroccan cheese was mercifully abjured in favour of a L'Artisan Mountain Man washed rind cheese from Timboon in Victoria. Made in small (400g) rounds from local organic milk, this showed a good pale orange rind and nice sticky paste, but fairly lacking in washed rind character and flavour, perhaps because a bit young. A Bhuja snack mix was served with it, moving from Morocco to India.

The matching wines were interesting: a 2007 Devil's Lair cabernet merlot from Margaret River showing lots of the classic, slightly minty flavours typical of the region; and a 2000 Coriole McLaren Vale shiraz, surprisingly elegant for its age and region and drinking at its best.

With the coffee, made from Ethiopian washed beans and showing complex depth of flavour in the mouth with a firm, slightly woody, finish, Spencer Ferrier gave us a final palate-cleanser ; Little chewy macaroons laced with a semi-lethal dose of cayenne pepper. A memorable finish to a top meal.

Lunch 4 August 2015

Gary Linnane, with help from James Hill, was wielding the pans to produce what turned out to be appropriate food on a bitter winter's day. It may have been the weather which caused a disappointing rollup, a pity for those who missed out on Gary's offerings. We started with some marinated button mushrooms, testing members' skills at spearing with toothpicks, a gentle egg mayo topped by a suitably salty ortiz anchovy on crisp biscuits and moist and firm smoked ocean trout with mascarpone on blinis – all good and let down a bit by a 2011 Warramate Yarra Valley riesling, an average example of the style with a shortage of fruit and life. No such problems with a nutty dry amontillado sherry from Lustau, also on offer.

It was off to Morocco for the main course, a slow-cooked diced lamb shoulder with eggplant,tomatoes, onions and an undertone of roasted cumin, simply matched with pearl or Israeli couscous. The meat was sweet and soft and the combination clean and satisfying, especially when a spoonful of yoghurt and cucumber sambal presented seperately was added. A couple of interesting wines were on offer, the 1st a 2009 Blue Pyrenees cabernet showing distinctive cabernet red berries but lacking intensity and length. The second, served masked, had many going cabernet franc, with strong briary characters and cool climate delicacy, so surprising when unveiled as a 2009 Huntington cabernet from Mudgee.

The English weather was matched by a good hearty English-style cheese in the form of a Maffra cloth-aged cheddar from Gippsland. It was relatively young and showed a soft paste with obvious cheddar bite which will develop with age. A nicely bitter salad of radicchio and cos leaves was balanced by a balsamic dressing. Both were well served by a brace of older wines, a 2004 Rufus Stone shiraz from Heathcote in Victoria and a 2001 Tatachilla Partners cabernet/shiraz from McLaren Vale. The 1st was better, a high alcohol of 15% not adversely affecting the balance of a big sweet red at its peak; whilst the Tatachilla was past its best but still drinking well for what was a commercial release.

Finally, Spencer Ferrier arranged the 1st in a series of coffees from Ethiopia, this one a Sidamo bean showing perhaps under-roasted lightness in the mouth but some interesting fruity characters and a herbal finish.

wine tasting 28 July 2015

Hilton Chapman celebrated a birthday milestone by presenting an individual but high quality line up of reds from the Society cellar, and provided a single malt whisky to boot.

We got under way with the 2004 Tyrrells Steven Semillon. A bit of bottle variation was inevitable, but most were fresh and zesty, with developed fruit and plenty of acid to keep it alive. From the kitchen, chef of the day Keith Steele, with help from Gary Patterson, provided a tasty terrine on toasts topped by a choice of dill pickle or sour cherry, and pieces of sweet and oily smoked eel on crispbread.

It was a good introduction to a terrific main course of beef bourgignon, made on chuck steak with onion, mushroom and spices including anchovies for salt. Simply served with well- made mash and suitably crunchy green beans, it was a great accompaniment to the wines, as well as being moreish in its own right.

The tasting wines were:

2008 Lindemans Pyrus Bordeaux blend, served masked and generally considered too young

2008 John Duval Entity Barossa shiraz, big and plenty of alcohol but with elegant tannins to generate complexity

2003 Tyrrells Vat 9 shiraz, a favourite with the Hunter aficionados and noticeably lighter in style with its next stablemate

1998 Tyrrells House Block shiraz, lovely drinking in the older Hunter style

1998 Seppelts Drumborg cabernet, a cooler style showing top fruit and no sign of age with a length that goes on and on

1996 Lindemans Limestone Ridge shiraz/cabernet, also served masked, a favourite with many, drinking at its peak, soft and mature.

The quality was such that no wine emerged as favourite, and it was one of those occasions where rankings are odious. Suffice it to say that no glasses were left undrained.

The cheese maintained the standard, and it was local: a Tarago River Jensens Red from Gippsland. The slightly crunchy washed rind lived up to the name in colour, enveloping a paste in perfect condition, nutty and creamy. Grapes and dried apricots were the effective accompaniment, along with the tasting wines, and a wee dram of The Macallan single malt from Speyside in Bonnie Scotland which commemorated Hilton's 60th in memorable fashion. The coffee provided a fitting conclusion, Strictly Hard Beans (the highest grade) from Guatemala, rich with mouth-filling flavour and a hint of nuttiness.

Lunch 21 July 2015

A French flavour continued after Bastille Day last week, with Graham Fear turning on beef bourgignon and Paris mash, But first, with assistance from Steve Liebeskind, he had some smashing entrees, particularly a spanner crab mayonnaise (with fresh crab wrangled by Graham from a grateful client) served on ceramic spoons; also a very good foie gras imported from France and smoked salmon with mascarpone in novelty edible pastry spoons. The principal aperitif wine was the 2006 Anne Semillon from McWilliams, mature and drinking well albeit straightforwardly . There were others, including the seasonally popular amontillado sherry from Lustau.

The main course had been advertised as burgundian pie, but what we got was superior beef bourgignon in a bowl topped by a crisp cap of puff pastry. No matter: the meat was wagyu, cooked with speck pieces but without thickeners in a mirepoix of aromatic vegetables with plenty of good (WA) red wine and herbs, notably bay leaves and thyme. Great consistency and flavour, and served with a separate bowl of severely artery-clogging Paris Mash, smooth and oozing dairy. Both ideal on a fine but cold winter's day. The matching wines, served masked, were from the cool climate end of the shiraz spectrum: a 2011 Jamsheed syrah from the Grampian area in Victoria, and a 2010 Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz from near Young. Both had the elegance and pepper influences of cool climate grapes, the Clonakilla being bigger and better balanced, the Jamsheed showing some green fruit characters.

We were still (just) in France for the cheese, an Ossau Iraty ewes' milk number from the Basque area in S-W France. Inside a hard crust was a moist pale semi-hard paste with oily, nutty flavours, a touch of lanolin and a lovely granular texture. It was well matched with a salad of sliced pear, walnuts and watercress dressed with a balsamic dressing, and with a contrasting set of reds: a soft earthy Macquariedale Thomas shiraz of 2003 from the Hunter; and an inky, hot and porty Kalleske Pirathon shiraz of 2007 from the Barossa, featuring an alcohol count of 15%.

The coffee was an unidentified house blend from Forsyths, good rich chocolate in the mouth balanced by some acid notes but a relatively short finish.

Lunch 14 July 2015 - Bastille Day

Yes, it was Bastille Day, and a French flavour pervaded the lunch, starting with a terrific rendition of the Marseillaise on trumpet from Paul Thorne (although the same cannot be said for the accompanying "singing" from the assembly). By way of relief, Martin McMurray with Peter Kelso in the kitchen provided cups of French onion soup with inserted rounds of toasted sourdough baguette and gruyere cheese – a bit messy to handle, but good flavour and texture. The main aperitif was the 2008 Tyrrells Steven semillon, drinking extremely well, with the usual Lustau sherry – the amontillado particularly good with the soup; a pastis, a kir royale and sundry other wines.

For the main course, l'equipe McMurray had prepared coq au vin: chicken thighs and drumsticks cooked in a broth with aromatic vegetables and, of course, red wine. Some rich flavours although it lacked a bit of colour from the wine. It was accompanied by some unFrench but sweet and smooth kumera mash and by some (non-french again) beans which had the requisite crunch. Nothing gourmet, but attractive on the plate and a delight to eat, especially with a brace of vins de France: a 2012 Chirobles from Beaujolais and a 2012 Syrah from unidentified region(s). The Chirobles was an top drink, with typical gamay brightness but some structure on the palate. The other was ok, made in the fruitier Oz style, but lacking distinction.

The cheese Master continued the French theme with a great St Agur, a creamy blue vein cheese from the Auvergne. Firm in flavour without any metallic blue vein notes, this is a Society favourite, and it is interesting to note that it was only been created in the late 80's. An interesting salad of fresh pear, slightly pickled sliced beetroot and walnuts provided a blend of sweet and earthy which matched the cheese (and the wines) well. With these , some bigger wines in the shape of a 2010 Oratoire St Martin Cotes du Rhone, fruit dominant and with a high alcohol of 14%; and a 2007 Crozes Hermitage from Seize Galettes, made by Oz vignerons and showing some big fruit but with plenty of balancing acid and tannins, the latter still slightly hard at the end.

The coffee came from elsewhere, in this case Colombia, with low roast beans yielding a surprisingly rich mouthfeel albeit lacking acid ,especially on the finish.

Lunch 7 July 2015

Andrew Mitchell, assisted by Steve Liebeskind, was in the kitchen, and some pretty classy Indian food was the result. As starters, there was a thick spiced pumpkin and kumera soup served in teacups, and pork satay sticks, marinated in Eastern spices with a chili hit, and grilled just so. To wash them down, it was chiefly a 2003 Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling, sound and soft, and an array of others, including both the Fino and Amontillado sherries from Lustau.

For the main course, it was a roghan josh –style lamb curry, with diced lamb leg cooked in a rich sauce with English spinach leaves, sliced green chilis, plenty of garam masala and coconut milk for extra flavour and texture. Not very hot, but sliced fresh birdseye chilis served as a garnish provided plenty of burn for those who wanted it. Long grain rice was well cooked and served in moulded discs with a spicy date chutney. There were authentic curry flavours with a delicate hand on heat so as not to disturb the faint-hearted. Delicacy was the key to the accompanying wines, a 2013 Tellurian marsanne from Heathcote, high on alcohol at 14% but a bit dull; and a 2013 Rose from the same maker, made on shiraz, grenache and nero d'avola (a Sicilian grape) which was definitely in the crisp and savoury French style and a much better match with the food.

The cheese arrived late, but although slightly cold was a delight: one of the Society favourites, Taleggio washed rind from Lombardy in Italy. With golden rind and delicate nutty paste, this worked very well with some simple sliced apple and strawberries, and with a couple of bigger wines: a 2012 Avance pinot from Tasmania from the Glaetzer-Dixon stable and surprisingly robust and potentially long-lived considering the variety and origin; and a 2004 Bethany Barossa shiraz, restrained at 13.5% alcohol and in style, fine tannins underpinning a lovely drink at (or maybe slightly past) its best.

The coffee came from medium roast Monsooned Malabar beans from India, so called because the green beans are exposed to monsoon rains after harvest, losing some acidity in the process. It was robust and pungent with a clean finish. Some home- made coconut balls from the chef were a sweet and soft accompaniment.

Wine tasting 30 June 2015

As if EOFY problems weren't enough, our industrious Wine Master presented a lineup of 6 reds with no identification except that 1 was from each of California, France and Italy and the rest were from Oz. We were told to identify and talk about the style and fruit/acid/tannin balance rather than their origins, but that didn't stop members from trying, with varying degrees of success.

Fortunately the food, from Master Nick Reynolds, was not masked, and indeed deliciously apparent. Canapes of rich smooth sweet and creamy chicken liver on toasts, and of crème fraiche made from the leftovers from the handmade butter on the tables inside a round of cucumber topped by salmon roe, were a nice match for a few aperitif whites, notably a 1999 Lindemans Bin 9455 Hunter River Semillon which was still in good order although with fruit starting to drop out. The usual Lustau sherry was somewhere in the mix as well as a couple of rieslings which went fast.

To accompany the mystery wines, Nick produced a simple but elegant (if cholesterolic) dish of lamb shank with sauce on mash. Ah, but with differences: the shanks had been cooked sous vide for 48 hours at 60 degrees, the sauce combined a warm mirepoix of vegetables with a variety of stocks and 2 bottles of good red; and the mash was of the Parisian variety ,with a load of butter which would do Guillaume Brahimi proud. The meat was the star, the slow cooking removing all trace of greasiness from the cartilage and yielding a soft, uniformly pink, meat on the bone. As to the wines, they were finally revealed as: 2011 Seghifio zinfandel from California; 2010 Cerotto nebbiolo From Italy; 2008 St George cabernet from Coonawarra; 2007 Balmoral shiraz from McLaren Vale; 2005 Ch Lanessan from Bordeauz; and 2001 Shottesbrook Cabernet from McLaren Vale. Opinions varied wildly but there was a consensus that wines 3, 6 and 5 were the pick, with Balmoral not far behind and the 1st 2 foreigners lacking, at this age at any rate.

For no particular reason (other than taste and quality), we were taken to Spain with the cheese, a Queso Iberico made on a mix of cow's sheep and goat's milk and showing the distinctive plaited grass imprints on the rind. A medium hard cheese with a distinct nuttiness and sweet finish on the palate, it was once again a crowd-pleaser, accompanied by a simple green leaf salad with a mild, slightly sweet vinaigrette.

The coffee, from Master Spencer Ferrier, was the Illy commercial blend, the best of the commercial coffees with plenty of Italian-style dark roasted bean flavour.

Lunch 23 June 2015

With Scott Witt in the kitchen, some quality (North) American food was inevitable, and we got it. Assisted by the ubiquitous James Hill, Scott first presented canapes of chopped liver, the New York version of a pate only more chunky with chopped boiled eggs and plenty of chicken liver flavour, served on thin toasts, and clams/vongole/pippis served on the ½ shell under a crust of citrusy toasted breadcrumbs. A variety of wines appeared with these, chiefly a 2004 Alkoomi Riesling from WA, sound and developed but lacking intensity. There were also a few leftovers from the COTY Dinner on Saturday night, including a '98 Bin 389, a classy Bannockburn shiraz and a bit of Tyrrells Vat 6 pinot, together with the usual, but always welcome, Lustau sherry.

The main course was made to satisfy, with tender marylands of chicken twice dipped in a light batter flavoured with herbs and a touch of chili, then deep fried, coming to the table moist and succulent with a crisp but light batter coat. Accompanying it was what Scott called a broccoli confit, with florets cooked low and slow in oil infused with spice and chilli (again, but mild) resulting in a soft and unctuous dish, and some well -cooked chat potatoes. Two wines from 2002 were the matches: a Tatachilla Partners cabernet-shiraz and a Burtons Limestone Coast merlot. Both were drinking surprisingly well for their age and quality, the Tatachilla soft and mellow with nowhere to go, and the Burton more structured but still in balance and at its peak.

The Cheese Master, Ross MacDonald, pursued the US theme with the universally popular Cabots clothbound cheddar from Vermont, a real find with the texture and soft mushroom flavour of an English cheddar, accompanied simply by dates, walnuts and lemon-sprinkled sliced apple. We stayed in 2002 with the wines: a monster (14.5%) Taylors Clare shiraz dripping with ripe fruit and chocolate notes; and a Pepperjack Barossa shiraz, also 14.5% and fruit-dominant but with clean tannins giving it greater life on the palate and most members' pick as wine of the day.

The American theme, mercifully, did not extend to the coffee, a medium roast from Sidamo in Ethiopia, showing warm chocolate and spice notes on the palate with a good hit of acid to prolong the finish. A splash of leftover Taylors port made a welcome addition.

Lunch 16 June 2015

As winter closes in, the inventive Greg Sproule returned to the kitchen to give us boiled bunny- but not as you know it. But first, it was waste not...with the canapes, the kidneys from Greg's rabbits providing tasty snacks on sticks together with a good rich pate on croutons and pieces of fresh celery filled with a chevre broken down with cream. A 2006 Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling was still in fresh and zingy condition, whilst a Lustau amontillado sherry was available, smooth and nutty, for those who wanted something a bit warming.

Back to the bunnies. Large farmed rabbits were cut up and casseroled in a sauce of aromatic vegetables, which were served with it on a bed of potatoes Anna, accompanied by prunes and mushroom caps filled with a hit of bitter chocolate for extra flavour. Rabbit always tends to dryness, and Greg did a pretty good job of counteracting that and lifting the blandness of "underground chicken", although a bit of extra salt helped. Wine master Hilton Chapman went French with the wines, 2009 Coudulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone, and Guigal Crozes-Hermitage from the same year. Both were typical of the Rhone, but the Cotes was the better of the two with good fruit and acid from mainly grenache grapes, the Guigal, predominantly shiraz, being slightly sour and under-ripe.

The cheese was also French, and a 1st look at a washed rind D'Affinois, usually known for its brie-style surface ripened cheeses. It came to the table a little cold but once it warmed up it showed as a wonderful washed rind, with a lovely amber-coloured rind and a paste of delicate nuttiness which had many thinking taleggio. An accompanying salad of green and red leaves was dressed with a good, if slightly tart, vinaigrette, and both were well covered by a brace of Aussie cabernets from 2002: the Huntington Estate Special Reserve from Mudgee, and the Orlando St Hugo from Coonawarra. Both had their features, but for most the rich ripe characters of the Mudgee wine, still well in balance, outclassed the softer, restrained character of the St Hugo, not up to its usual strength of fruit.

The coffee, arranged by Spencer Ferrier,was a medium roast bean from the Aceh region of NW Sumatra. It showed a good palate on the light side, with refreshing acidity on the finish.