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.

Lunch 15 July 2014

On the day after Bastille Day, 40 enfants de notre patrie gathered for the usual lunch, this year provided by Peter Kelso assisted by Society Francophile Paul Dressler.

For canapes, there was a choice of Burgundian gougeres, little choux pastry shapes flavoured with gruyere cheese and very popular, and a smoked eel pate served on crisp bread rounds and rice crackers. Besides the ever-reliable Lustau sherries, the aperitif was a sparkling Vouvray from Marc Bredif. Refreshing (if a little warm), with the apple flavour typical of chenin blanc much in evidence.

For the main course, we moved to S-W France with a traditional cassoulet de Toulouse. Lamb shoulder, pork belly, a smoked pork hock and Toulouse pork sausages were slow cookd with white haricot beans, rind from the pork and a few aromatic vegetables, served topped with breadcrumbs. The beans were still quite separate and, despite liberal additions of liquid during cooking, some found it a bit dry. Still, plenty of rich meat 'n' beans flavour, and well matched with a cold grated celeriac salad, bended with grated nashi pear, lemon juice and some finely chopped kale for colour and texture. The wines were also "local", a 2009 Dom Alary Carianne Cotes du Rhone Villages, and a La Gerbaude Cotes du Rhone from the same maker and year. It was an interesting contrast, the first with sweeter fruit but lighter, the second bigger and more tannic, with a longer life ahead of it.

The cheese went from the peasant food of the main course to the aristocracy of Beaufort, a fine (and costly) semi-hard unpasteurised cows' milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes area, with terrific firm but creamy texture and a lovely sweet fruity flavour. The two Aussie wines served with it were a 2006 Macquariedale Reserve Thomas shiraz, a pretty good example of a modern, savoury but clean Hunter red, and the Bowen Coonawarra cabernet from the same year, also a typical example of the area, with big fruit, some mint but all held in balance by fine tannins. Walnuts, dried figs and dried muscatels went well with both cheese and wine.

And finally, to Ethiopia, the home of the coffee bean, whence we enjoyed a brew made from quality Yirgachef medium roast beans, producing a rich and smooth, but assertive, palate with the usual citrus notes leading to a long finish.

Lunch 8 July 2014

James Tinslay and David Madson were new boys in the kitchen, and deserve full marks for a well thought out and presented meal.

For starters, there were tasty bites of pork char sui with a dab of hoisin and diced water chestnuts on rice crackers, and some rich and sweet duck liver pate by Keith Steele (who also presented the wines in place of the Wine Master), enriched with pedro ximenes sherry, on lightly toasted crunchy bread rounds. These were washed down with a 2002 Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling, bottled under stelvin and in very good nick, although a bit of bottle variation was starting to show. There were also the Lustau fino (terrific) and manzanilla sherries, and a brief look at some other stray bottles from the frig.

The main course was long and slow braised beef cheeks, cooked for 6 hours in a braise of vincotta, star anise and juniper berries in red wine, and served rich and unctuous on a bed of mashed potato with some slightly crunchy carrots for colour. The meat was great and the combination of flavours and colour a joy to consume and see; a pity that cold plates detracted from the final product. Some shiraz, naturally, went with it: a 2002 Cliff Edge from Langhi Ghiran in Victoria and a Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna from the same year. Each had its supporters, but the consensus was that the Cliff Edge was better on the day with the food, finer and smoother than the still rather hard finishing tannins on the Penfolds, probably needing more time.

The cheese, presented by James Healey in the absence of the Cheese Master, was a Comte semi-hard chesse from the Rhone-Alpes area of France; smooth and grassy with sweet nutty overtones in the gruyere style, in top condition and simply matched with nuts and dried fruit. The wines were cabernets, and again from 2002: the Bowen Coonawarra, typically big and gutsy with lots of American oak; and the Huntington special reserve from Mudgee, more restrained and elegant, though lacking nothing in strength of fruit except perhaps on the finish.

The coffee, provided by Spencer Ferrier but unidentified, was clean and nicely bitter on the palate with a long ,slightly citrus, finish.

Lunch 1 July 2014

Beer, glorious beer! That was the theme for an unusual, and brave, lunch produced by John Silver, recently returned to the fold after a long absence and back in the kitchen for the first time. It was an all-Silver affair, with all the food and drink provided by him except the coffee. Starting the adventure was a Deus Cuvee des Flandres, a Belgian beer brought to France and matured in old champagne casks before being bottle under cork and wire in the traditional champagne manner. It was interesting, with a good mousse and a citrus, almost sour, note on the palate which reminded some of ginger beer. Served with it were some roasted spiced cashew nuts in little paper cups, just right for the footy.

In another break with tradition, John gave us a sit-down entrée featuring some large freshly-shucked, and briny, Sydney rock oysters, universally acclaimed. To match them, the traditional stout, but this one a dark toasted malty brew called Sinha from Sri Lanka, regarded as one of the best stouts in the world. It was terrific, but tended to overpower the shellfish.

On to the main course, a very presentable Singaporean (or Malayan, more accurately) chicken curry, made on skinless thigh fillets and containing the usual panoply of ingredients, including tomato paste, tamarind, coconut milk and blachan or dried shrimp paste. It was medium heat, with chopped birdseye chilis on the table for those who wanted to step it up a bit, and grilled naan bread on the side. The accompanying beer was a light and relatively bland Hooten lager from Holland, refreshing but not much more.

The cheese saw another ale, aBlue Chimay Trappist dark beer from Belgium, with a fine and subtle malt and hop blend and 9% alcohol to give it punch. It was a good match with a super-ripe Red Square washed rind from Tasmania, nicely oozy but with bit of ammonia on the rind which some found acceptable and others not.

Spencer Ferrier gave us a repeat of last week's blend, a superior coffee from an estate near Victoria Falls in Uganda, with plenty of rich bitter chocolate in the mouth and a good lingering slightly tangy finish. No need for a beer with this one.

Wine Tasting 24 June 2014

Wine Tasting

On the table, wine master Paul Ferman gave us 6 reds: 5 cabernets, 5 from WA and 1 foreigner which might or might not be from WA. The permutations were many, as were the opinions on which was the odd man out, but most settled correctly on no. 6 as a shiraz, before the wines were revealed as all from WA except one: 2010 Vasse Felix cabernet, 2008 Vasse Felix cabernet, 2008 Yalumba The Cigar cabernet (from the Coonawarra), 2002 Vasse Felix cabernet, 2000 Vasse Felix cabernet and 2001 Vasse Felix shiraz. It was an interesting lineup, with no one picking the SA stranger, and most favouring the youngest wine on the table. The 2002 Vasse Felix, which together with the Yalumba was the biggest wine on the table, also attracted support, reception of the rest being warm but restrained.

In the kitchen, the sous vide wizard Nick Reynolds did it again, with a Moroccan-influenced dish designed to complement the cabernets. Preceding that, some spicy merguez sausage, made on beef and pork, was served with slices of cleansing radish, and with the usual potpourri of aperitifs, including a 2000 Alkoomi riesling which was in surprisingly good , if soft, condition; various Tyrrells whites below the top Vat numbers; and, of course, the reliable Lustau fino sherry. Nick's other canape was an attempted seafood roll, containing scallop and calamari with lemongrass and chili which failed to set and was served as a light subtly flavoured mousse on rice crackers.

The main was shoulder-end lamb backstrap, rubbed with a multi-ingredient Moroccan spice rub and cooked sous vide at 57 degrees for 48 hours. It was fall-apart rich and sweet, served on a bed of pequillo peppers, oil and garlic, mild and slightly smoky, with crunchy green beans and some slightly mealy Israeli couscous with chopped parsley. It was a dish more than worthy of the tasting wines.

The cheese course moved west, with an excellent Cabot clothbound cheddar from Vermont in USA, a great rebuttal of the received wisdom about US cheese. Soft-textured with low salt content and a sweet caramel palate with mushroom hints, it went well with a choice of dried fruits, including dates, muscatels and a dark organic dried apricot. The tasting wines continued into this course and were an acceptable match.

Last, but definitely not least, came coffee made on beans from Pacific falls estate in Uganda; a new region for the Society but a beauty, with rich satisfying mouthfeel balanced by a long soft finish ; more, please.

Lunch 17 June 2014

The cooler weather is definitely with us at last, and no doubt contributed to a disappointing attendance of 32 at lunch. In the kitchen was Martin McMurray, assisted by Peter Kelso, Paul Ferman was on wines, Ross MacDonald on cheese and an absent Spencer Ferrier in charge of coffee..

Canapes were some old time but ever popular salmon gravlax, served on toasts and some rice crackers with toppings of crème fraiche and salmon roe, and mustard dill sauce. Accompanying them was the last remnants of our 2002 Rothbury semillon, and it will not be missed, with even the best bottles thin and tired. Thank heavens for the ever-reliable Lustau amontillado sherry also on offer.

The main course was thickly sliced seared then baked pork fillets which came to the table moist and tender under a good demi-glace sauce. Also on the plate was a melange of vegetables: glazed carrots, lightly steamed green beans with a strongly vinegar-influenced walnut sauce and braised celery with apple slices (for the pork, you know). Great colour and some good mainstream flavours. Served with it were a choice of 2013 Tellurian marsanne from Heathcote, big and sweetish with 14% alcohol, but a good fruit salad palate and length to go with the dish; and a 2008 Hahndorf Hill blaufrankisch from the Adelaide Hills, pleasant enough but certainly not the Austrian pinot as touted, and a bit hard for the food.

We were spoiled again with the cheese, this week a superb Papillon Roquefort, wonderfully soft and creamy with the expected, but not excessive, salty ewes' milk lactic character. A simple green leaf salad with a good tart but not acid vinaigrette was all that was required. It was a step up in quality with the accompanying wines, in the form of a 2004 Burton McLaren Vale shiraz and a 2002 Rufus Stone shiraz from Heathcote. The Burton unanimously won out, with its rich fruit and drying tannins matched by some elegance on the palate and finish; whereas the Heathcote, while equally flavoursome, was a touch overripe and straightforward. A touch of a basic French Sauterne left over from another function was passed around to vindicate the Wine Master's view that stickies are a better match for a blue cheese.

The coffee was acceptable, but unidentified.