Lunch 23 September 2014

Members and guests assembled for Graham Fear's 3rd rendition of his fish pie, and were not disappointed. Assisted again by friend Keith Tanaka, and by Steve Liebeskind, it just keeps getting better.

But first, let's talk about the canapes, setting a new high standard. There were finely just done scallops with a piece of morcilla, or black pudding, with chopped iceberg lettuce under, served on spoons; lovely white anchovies with red and yellow capsicum strips and mayo with a hint of chili on crostini; and crisp and crunchy spring rolls, loaded with barramundi, hollandaise and chopped shallot before being deep fried. All were good, different and very moreish. The aperitif wine, 1998 Tyrrells Stevens semillon under cork, showed inevitable bottle variation, but most was fresh, with toasty notes starting to develop. There was also a Lustau Amontillado, predictably rich and nutty.

In a labour of love, Graham had cooked individual pies in ramekins, with a pastry lid. Underneath, monkfish pieces and prawns swam in a rich cream sauce thickened with arrowroot and specked with parsley and blanched shallots. Smooth, fishy and satisfying, there was a bit of glug in the underside of the pastry, but who was complaining. There were also some nicely diced potatoes fried in duck fat served on the side, for those who had not OD'd on the canapes and the pie.

The accompanying wines were, controversially, both red shiraz at Graham's request. Both from 2007, there was a Cliff Edge from Langi Ghiran in Victoria and a Wynns Coonawarra. Both good wines, the Cliff Edge got the vote as the better match with the food, showing softer cool climate tannins with quality fruit.

The cheese continued the quality: a non-pasteurised Comte cows' milk number from the Jura in France, produced in large wheels and showing rich long caramel-like sweetness with nuts in as well. A good green salad with sliced pears had the tangy note of some wasabi mayo to lift it; while Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz and The Yard Frankland River shiraz, both 2010, showed young and still developing qualities, the Clonakilla drinking better at this stage.

And to finish, there was coffee made with medium roast Ethiopian Harrar beans, from the source of modern coffee, with a dry, vinous character which lingered on the back palate.

Lunch 16 September 2014

A few weeks ago, it was father and son in the kitchen: this week, it was brothers, as Steve and Frank Liebeskind joined forces to produce a great lunch.

First off was Frank on canapes, with a well- made terrine made on pork touched up with Chinese sausage and topped by Frank's own pineapple chutney on brown rice crackers. Even better were some nicely done slices of pork neck under a spicy Asian dressing with green bits of coriander and shallots on a terrific freshly made pork bun piece with softness that caressed the mouth. Steve challenged with an Asian-inspired soup in a cup, made on carrot, pumpkin and onion with coconut milk, stock and just a hint of chili. Across all this was a 2006 Delatite Riesling from upland Victoria, still young under stelvin caps with a bright floral nose and a long soft palate which matched the food well.

Then it was the duck: truly lovely breasts from Game Farm, well handled, tender and moist on the plate. Seared with a crust of cinnamon and star anise, they came to the table drenched in a reduction sauce heavy on orange and zest and a little (totally inoffensive) hit of chili, sweet to balance a slightly acidic side of chopped red cabbage, a luscious field mushroom baked and some steamed bok choy for greens. Great colour combination on the plate, not to mention the flavours. To go with it, a 1999 Lindemans sparkling shiraz which, despite Ray Kidd's entreaty that it should have been served as an aperitif, actually matched the exotic sweetness of the dish, especially once the carbonation dropped; and a 2009 Guigal Cotes du Rhone, good in its own terms but a bit hard and thin for the intensity of the food.

It was back to the West with the cheese, a young but still delicious Pont- L'Eveque washed rind from Normandy, with so far soft rind but a lingering nutty and stinky character which deepens with age. A mixed green salad featuring pomegranate seeds and baked chili walnuts was sweetly dressed with a white balsamic mix, all very interesting with a choice of SA shiraz's from 2002: Burton McLaren Vale and Saltrams Pepperjack Barossa. Nigel Burton was on hand to receive the accolades, the eponymous wine being rich, smooth and a delight to drink next to a slightly tannic and hard, though stylish, Barossa past its best.

A rich cup of medium roast Brazilian coffee topped off a top lunch, with woody chocolate characters on the palate and a bracing but rather short finish

Lunch 9 September 2014

Memories were racked and opinions divided, but the consensus was that Gareth Evans and Ted Davis had turned on the first tapas lunch at the Society in living memory.

We entered the ring with a superb bacalao (salted cod) fried ball with aeoli dressing; crunchy on top, melted salt fish mash with potato inside. Equally authentic, a baked baby mushroom stuffed with tomato spice and chopped chorizo. Both well matched by a 2011 Red Robin Clare riesling with quality fruit and plenty of floral nose, ending with good acid but a bit lacking on the finish; one for current drinking.

And so to the main event of a series of tapas dishes, featuring:

Casseroled rabbit in a white wine and grape sauce, a bit dry but great flavour and who can criticise the depletion of this species which this dish helped along;

A crunchy peasant toasted bread dish featuring a terrific black pudding of soft texture and rich but mild flavour;

More beans in a tomato ( fresh) sauce with sautéed tripe, soft and elastic but with surprising flavour;

White beans in a cream sauce with chunks of full but mild pork and garlic sausage and braised fennel to add more flavour; and

Pan fried okra, soft but chewy with loads of soft gummy flavour.

It was a no bull meal (ouch!) but a total win for the toreadors. The food was matched with a 2007 Rioja (tempranillo) from Valdespino, nice nose and dry tannins with fruit to balance the spread of flavours; and a Valdespino Deliciosa manzanilla sherry from (where else?), a brilliant example of the style with a nose that went on forever with iodine sea characters and a fine dry palate which went well with the rabbit and the white beans.

A pasa doble with the cheese, an aged manchego sheep's milk cheese with typical slightly oily texture but a great nutty flavour and a clean cutting finish; well matched by a simple green salad of iceberg lettuce and a tart but not intrusive vinaigrette. We went OTT with the wines from the Barossa: a huge, sweet ripe and unsubtle 2004 Elderton Ashmead shiraz (14.5%) and a big but more balanced and elegant Saltram Mamre Brook shiraz, also Barossa and also 2004.

To finish, we enjoyed a repeat of last week's coffee; a medium roast bean from Panama, full in the mouth but long and pleasantly citrus on the finish. Top coffee, sadly out of stock for the time being.

Lunch 2 Sptember 2014

For the first lunch of spring, Bruce Thomas and son Ben gave us a spring pie. Aptly named, as we will see.

Before the main event, some predictably good canapes were provided: a chicken liver pate seared with eschalots and plenty of butter, served on crisp toasts; and Bruce's signature cured salmon, matured in cling wrap to reduce the amount of salt required with beetroot, giving a bright red and earthy quality to the product, on sour cream on the same toasts. The chief aperitif wine was a 1998 Tyrrells Stevens semillon, bottled under cork and showing inevitable bottle variation, but in the main still fresh and the best showing sweet toasty notes. There was also Lustau sherry, two in fact: a fino and an amontillado – both great examples of their styles.

The spring pie, the pastry made on Bruce's adaptation of a Maggie Beer recipe with butter and sour cream to "lengthen" the result, was terrific, the pastry done (under trying conditions) sufficiently well; but the filling, based on the proverbial spring lamb, redeemed all. It was organic saltbush lamb from Mildura, slow cooked with aromatic vegetables and herbs, and wonderfully sweet yet meaty. With some slightly al dente green beans, the first of the local green asparagus and a simple mash with shallots, it was positively energising. And it was quite well matched by a couple of Coonawarra cabernets: 2009 Wynns black label and 2008 Bowen Estate. Opinion was divided, both on taste on the day and longevity, so your scribe can only give his preference – the Wynns, still a bit hard but more complex than the Bowen on the day.

With the cheese, provided by Deputy Master James Healey, opinions were not so divided; it was the Holy Goat La Luna semi-aged chevre from Victoria, one of Australia's best and most individual cheeses, with distinctive "bubble" rind and a smooth yet tangy and refreshing palate. It was well served by Bruce's own quince paste, and by the accompanying reds: a young 2010 Salomon shiraz from the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA and a 2000 Stephen John shiraz from the Clare. The younger wine showed promise with elegance in tannins to go with big fruit; but the Clare won the vote, an excellent mature balance of acid and tannins, soft and earthy.

The coffee was a triumph, a Tanzanian medium roast from Spencer Ferrier which, as Ray Healey pointed out, showed a silky balance of acid and tannins which went beautifully with the Stephen John Wine. It also showed elegance on the finish with dried herb characters replacing the more common surfeit of bitter chocolate.

A great start to spring!

Wine tasting 26 August 2014

A light 32 members were on hand for the monthly tasting; perhaps due to the President's Dinner the following evening. But those who attended were treated to an interesting presentation of wines, 5 Oz and 1 French, from the great year of 2002, with some pretty good and complementary food from Peter Black and new boy Denis Redfern.

The wines were served blind, with members asked to give their favourite(s) without too much analysis. Ray Healey provided the template, talking about the moods in which each of the wines would best be enjoyed. Opinions were mixed, with many favouring the last 3 wines, but No.3 also attracting support and none were rejected. Unveiled, they were: Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra shiraz; Majella Coonawarra cabernet; St Hugo Coonawarra cabernet; Rosemount Mountain Blue, shiraz/cabernet blend from Mudgee; Hardys Eileen Hardy Barossa shiraz; and Ch Dufort-Vivens, a 2nd growth predominantly cabernet wine from Margaux.

Preceding the tasting, we saw an attractive 2009 Bloodwood chardonnay from Orange, accompanied by a chicken, pork and chicken liver terrine with pistachios, terrific in visual appeal as well as flavour, and a superior duck liver pate with plenty of orange flavour to balance. The main course was osso bucco, good meat from Vic's cooked sous vide in parcels with aromatic vegetables, tomatoes and herbs, with the liquid refined and served as a jus over a bed of pureed cauliflower, accompanied by al dente broccoli. Rich but not intrusive flavours and lots of lovely marrow for those careless of their cholesterol

This insouciance continued into the cheese course with a triple cream Delice de Bourgogne, soft and mousse-like in texture but wonderfully rich and full-flavoured on the palate. An accompanying green salad of mizuna lettuce with vinaigrette dressing was a suitably tart contrast.

The coffee, unidentified, was rich in the mouth with a similar aftertaste, although finishing a little short

Luncheon August 19th

TThe cool and rainy weather didn't deter our members in attending lunch with Leigh Hall in the kitchen, Paul Ferman was on wines, Ross MacDonald on cheese and  Spencer Ferrier in charge of coffee.Canapes were toasted pesto, cashew and chevre  as well salmon,philly cheese with capers on an olive baguette. Accompanying them was the Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling 2001 drinking very well and fresh no bad bottles under stelvin . The Lustau sherry was also on offer this time a very dry example.

The main course was thickly sliced roast pork tenderloin stuffed with prunes,walnuts, onion, garlic and bacon which came to the table moist and tender under a very good veal stock . Also on the plate  green beans and a dried fruit side stuffing. The pork was served on a kumara potato mash with some caraway seed to further enhance the flavour.Great colour and robust flavours,COTY contender was the call from the appreciative audience. Served with it were a Lindemans Sparkling Shiraz 1999 the sparkling wine had a mixed reaction from members some suggesting it was not a good food match others saying a perfect match. It had a velvet spritz with mushroom palate. The second was a  Bress Shiraz from Heathcote Vic 2009  young with sweet fruit which will see improvement.

The cheese this week a  Bleu des Basques from Midi Pyreness a blue mould sheeps milk a good aged example nutty and salty.Simply served with dried figs, muscatels red raisons  and cashews. The accompanying wines a Macquariedale Reserve Shiraz 2006 Hunter Valley and 3 Drops Cabernets from Mt Barker 2005.The shiraz was solid, dark a little underdeveloped with a long end palate and the cabernet had a herbaceous nose, a good style of wine. The shiraz was the preferred wine match with the cheese.

The coffee was Monsooned Malabar from India the blend is heavy bodied pungent with a chocolatey aroma and not so acidic. The harvested and processed beans are exposed to the monsoon winds for a period of 3/4 months causing the beans to swell and lose the original acidity resulting in sweet and syrupy brew.  

Lunch 12 August 2014

In the kitchen, Robert Rae, assisted by (the longer standing member ) John Edwards no less, came up with comfort food to match a mixed barrel of wines. To start, canapes from John were a superior chicken liver pate on bread rounds, topped with, variously, quince paste, cornichons and olive halves; and a blend of blue vein cheese and mascarpone, also on rounds and similarly topped. The accompanying wine was a 1999 Tyrrells Stevens/ De Beyers blend of semillon, bottled under cork and showing variation, but with the best still lively and lemony, a Tyrrells straight Stevens from 1998, also under cork but generally a better wine; and the usual Lustau fino sherry for those who appreciate it.

The main course is best described as a southern French beef daube, with some good quality gravy beef slow cooked in wine, tomato, herbs and garlic and the added touch of cinnamon and orange zest, finished off with capers and olives for a Mediterranean feel. Lots of flavour, served on top of a potato and gruyere mash, although maybe a touch of verjuice or other acid may have lifted it. The wines were also French, a 2009 Les Courtilles Cotes du Rhone and a 2008 Cave de Claremont Crozes-Hermitage. Both from the Rhone, the younger was initially more attractive on both the nose and palate, but the Crozes-Hermitage showed its superior breeding after an initial stink vanished, and will undoubtedly improve with age.

The cheese fooled nearly everyone: a quite hard , sweet and nutty cows' milk cheese which most sourced in France but which turned out to be a 2-year old from Victoria, a personal discovery by Ross MacDonald in a large wheel, showing how good some of our local makers are becoming. A well dressed green leaf salad with pine nuts offered on the side accompanied it, along with a 2001 Seppelts Chalambar shiraz, reliably well made, rich but elegant; and a 1999 Alkoomi Frankland River cabernet, distinctive fruit on the nose and palate, but falling a bit short and probably slightly past its best.

Not so with a Lindemans 1980 Vintage port served with the coffee, sweet and luscious but with spirit to balance. The coffee itself was from Tanzania, with a good firm structure and lighter citrus notes on the finish

Lunch 5 August

Robert Wiggins and Michael Milward were in the kitchen, and deserve praise for a innovative and well presented meal.

For starters, there were antipasto platters chock full of  Asparagus,artichokes, ham, proscuito ,salami,gherkins,roasted red pepper, zucchini, and olives with a yoghurt fetta sauce for a dip.The first time in our collective memory that we have had starters served in this fashion.It was widely appreciated not only for flavour and variety of presentation it was the colour on the plate .

 This was washed down with a 2006 Gartleman Hunter Valley Semillon bottled under stelvin a good well made wine, pleasant on the palate. 

The main course was veal with an eggplant topping covered by a robust flavoursome sauce of reduced tomato.lime,sugar,soy sauce and garlic with some anchovies.capers,black olives and parlsey on top. Served with roasted cocktail potatoes and beans with almonds flakes. The veal was moist and the eggplant barbecued, to enhance the dish our chefs had chopped red chillis and served the dish with a slice of lime. Those that added this to the sauce commented on how much it lifted the dish and flavour spectrum. 

This dish called for some gutsy wines and our cellar master obliged with a portuguese red wine "Dao' 2009 13 % a blend of Touriga Nationale and Tinto Roriz* a well balanced wine clean dry red with flavour and a 2007 Calo Reserva Tempranillo 13.5% this wine showed a tannic end pallet it had some quality and style but astringent with hard edges..the preferred main course wine was the "Dao" 

The cheese, presented by Ross Macdonald our Cheese Master, was a Fromager d'Affinois a white mould cows milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes area of France;  it was sweet satiny and buttery lingering to a pleasant lactic aftertaste if  a little cool due to late delivery. Simply matched with a leaf salad with pistachio and mandarin segments.

 The wines were firstly a Wynns black label cabernet from 200614% alc a wine commented upon as a work in progress good fruit yet under developed , and  the second wine the 2005 Ebenezer Shiraz from the Barossa 14.5% alc flashier, juicy, round full fruit firm grip with a good future. However the wine match was the semillon if you had some left in the glass!

The coffee was Royal  Exchange club blend.

*Touriga Nacional is the most revered variety for port and has now become Portugal's poster child for fine dry reds. Deeply coloured,concentrated, tannic rich in dark fruit and in some cases distinguished by their fragrance aromas such as bergamot, rosemary or violets.Many believe this is better in blend as in the case of this wine "Tinto Roriz " which is the portuguese name for tempranillo. 

source "Wine Grapes" Jancis Robisnon, Julia Harding, Jose Vouillamoz 2012

Wine Tasting 29 July 2014

The monthly tasting gave us a look at some new and not so new warming reds from the Barossa, complemented by a good tasting meal from James Hill, assisted by Dubbo friend and winemaker Stuart Olsen

To kick things off, Paul Ferman gave us a single aperitif wine (plus a Lustau manzanilla sherry, always welcome). It was the 1998 Tyrrells Stevens Semillon, under cork but still in the main showing fresh chalky lemon notes with some sweet fruit starting to come through. It was well matched with white anchovies on a bed of shaved fennel on a baguette slice, and a scallop on a sweet corn puree with a dash of chili, served on porcelain spoons.

The lineup for the tasting was, all Barossa and all shiraz: 2009 Charles Melton; 2008 Kaesler Old Vines; 2008 John Duval Entity; 2006 Glaetzer The Bishop; 2005 Tuesner Albert; and 2002 Torbreck The Struie. An interesting mix of views emerged, some (including our visiting winemaker who had worked in several of the wineries represented)favouring the lighter, more tart Tuesner, while others found it a bit volatile. Popular opinion was divided between the Torbreck, big and sweet from a top year, and the younger Duval and Glaetzer wines, still developing, but nearly all had their supporters. The food was a tender and juicy sliced pork neck, slow-cooked with a basting of mustard and brown sugar and a hit of flamed cognac and served with a sauce made from the pan juices,prunes and a bit more cognac on a bed of garlic mash with sweated silver beet for greens

The cheese stumped everyone, turning out to be a semi-hard goat's milk cheese from Wisconsin USA, cloth-matured for 15 months and showing a fine soft granular texture with little lactic character and a little bland on the palate. A green salad with a generous amount of vinaigrette completed the course.

The coffee came from Guatemala, and was full in the mouth, with a slightly short finish. No such problem with a superb 1980 Crofts vintage port provided by birthday boy Hilton Chapman; light in colour but with a lovely sweet rancio character from the brandy spirit, and a taste that went on for miles.

Lunch 22 July 2014

This week, the pelleton found itself in Spain, as chef John "El Cid" Rourke, assisted by Peter Madden, whipped up a terrific dish based on oxtail (and that's no bull!). In addition to the food, we had the experience of some top wines, all generously provided by Ted Treister to celebrate his 65th birthday. Would that all members were this generous.

Starters were light and appetising in the tapas style: pieces of marinated octopus on toothpicks, and ditto of smoked eel. The initial aperitifs were some Hooten beer left over from the ale extravaganza a few weeks ago, and a sherry which was good but not up to the usual Lustau standard. But then we sat down to table to be greeted by a 2008 Corton Charlemagne white burgundy by G C Bonneau du Martray, a painstakingly made and superb example of the style, with piercing passionfruit acidity on the nose and palate matched by top chardonnay fruit sweetness yet to develop fully, and a finish kilometres long.

The oxtail had been cooked sous vide with a prepared sauce based on tomatoes, stock and herbs for 16 hours at 82 degrees. It was succulent and needed nothing more than the sliced baked potatoes and red onion that accompanied it. The wines were also Spanish: a 2004 Felix Callejo Ribera del Duero and a 1998 Cosecha Rioja. Both made from tempranillo grapes, the first a big wine with sweet jammy fruit partly balanced by good drying tannins, the second much finer and softer with nice slightly floral fragrance on the nose and good soft tannins to go with more developed fruit.

We stayed in Spain with the cheese, a Manchego sheep's milk cheese with great grassy but lactic notes and a slightly oily texture which held it together well. Roasted capsicum and whitlof leaves provided a contrasting note of bitterness, needed to balance an enormous Barossa shiraz in the form of the 2002 Elderton Command with ripe fruit, and sweetness as yet unintegrated with the rather tough underlying tannins. The other red was a Grant Burge Filsell from the same year and district, also typical of Barossa but with better balance and elegance.

Coffee was a medium roast from Colombia, not in the usual US bland style, but with good strong mouthfeel and a distinct citrus note which carried through to the finish.