11 September 2018 - CoTD Hal Epstein
Hal Epstein was in the kitchen today serving rabbit/lapin/coniglio. In the function notice I had mentioned that within recent memory no one had served rabbit. I have been corrected on that point on a couple of occasions now and am pleased that we are still serving food that many of us remember from our childhood, albeit not always fondly. Hal was assisted in the kitchen by the ever present Foodmaster, Bill Alexiou-Hucker.
Canapés. Two canapés today, the first being a hummus and chickpea combination on a salad leaf. Simple and very enjoyable. The other was bottaga on some Iggy’s bread. That salted fish roe really packs a punch and cut through the aperitif wine.
Aperitif wine. Our Winemaster, Paul Ferman, was back in the building today after an overseas trip and served us a New Zealand white, Wairau River Albarino. Most found the Albarino very unlike its Spanish and Portuguese counterpart, as it was a little sweet with insufficient acid and a touch of sulphur. It was not a bad wine, but Paul observed later that it was not showing as well as it did when he bought it earlier in 2018 as an aperitif wine for a lunch. It certainly ticked the educational quota box!
In Spain and Portugal, Albarino is known for its intensely aromatic and redolent character of peaches, apricots and almonds. An everyman wine from budget to high quality.
Main Course. Every member has their own stories of eating rabbit. Many of them not good. Ray Kidd, for example, has said that he ate so many rabbits as a child he cannot bear to eat it again. I can concur with mothers who had no idea of cooking rabbit, but recently having spent some weeks in Piedmont I had five excellent examples of rabbit from roasted to stews.
Hal’s rabbit was in the latter category here with tomatoes, Belgian beer and other ingredients (including rosemary taken from the Double Bay Park). The rabbit was wonderfully tender and each of us has had a different cut of the rabbit from legs, ribs, et cetera. The overall deal was wonderful. Comments around the room were so positive that it was suggested that the dish should go on the shortlist for Chef of the Year.
- Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2009 (cork, 14.5%)
- Balnaves Shiraz 2008 (screwcap, 14.5%)
- Framingham Select Riesling 2016 (screwcap, 8.5%)
- Andrew Buller Cannobie Tokay NV (cork, 18%)
The two reds with the rabbit provided a stark contrast in styles. For those who like Southern Rhône with its spicy Grenache body, it was the winner with the main. Certainly not a light wine but was very elegant, compared to the Balnaves which was in the rich Australian style, and unfortunately over-oaked, over-extracted with an abundance of tannin at 10 years of age. It was the lesser of the two wines.
Matching wine with a Roquefort is an interesting exercise. Paul chose to go down the classic French route with the New Zealand Riesling with substantial residual sugar and an alcohol content of only 8.5%. As is common with the style of wine the room was divided. Some don’t like the style, no matter what it is served with but there was a proportion, including me, who loved the richness with the salty, sharp Roquefort. The Tokay from Rutherglen was as expected, and its richness also matched the cheese. The Society is about education and this was a good example.
Cheese and coffee. At the final barrier before lunch today, our Cheesemaster, James Healey, was struck down by a dreaded lurgi and left before lunch started. It was a case of physician heal thyself. In any case, James had picked the Roquefort from Papillion (presented by James Hill) which was course unpasteurised. It was smelly, powerful and delicious.
The salad was a last-minute exercise in the kitchen by Hal and Bill and was cabbage with a Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. Very tasty.
Spencer Ferrier had dropped off the coffee in the morning and once again we enjoyed a high-quality Kenya AA which Spencer described as medium bodied. My dosage of the French presses may have been a little high and we ended up with a wonderfully powerful end to the meal.
Hal spoke to his meal and genuinely seemed to enjoy his first experience in the kitchen at REX. Hal spoke of trialling wild rabbits which produced a good shoe leather replacement and he finally settled on farmed rabbits which of course the room enjoyed. We hope to see him back in harness sometime in 2019.
This was the second consecutive week in which we had a new chef in the kitchen and the VP, Nick Reynolds, presented Hal with his Society apron.
An excellent lunch.
4 September 2018 - CoTD Merv Peacock
With potentially the first food based on Mauritius cuisine (in recent memory) we had first time chef of the day, Merv Peacock in the kitchen. For the past 10 to 12 years, Merv has travelled to Mauritius a couple of times a year for business and has and has enjoyed the cuisine of the island. He was assisted in the kitchen today by his son Brett and our Foodmaster Bill Alexiou-Hucker.
Canapés. A range, and a must be said a diverse range, of canapés kicked off proceedings. The beef-based curry puffs were a massive hit with members today. When Merv cooks again the curry puffs with crisp and flaky pastry will be the go to starter. We also had yogurt and mint on sliced cucumber and very tasty poppadum (that’s one spelling anyway) scoops with mango, onion, chilli and lime juice. The starters were in the groove for what was to follow.
Aperitif wine. As the room last week enjoyed the range of aperitif wines on offer the Winemaster of the day, Chilly Hargraves, gave us Three choices. They were the St Huberts Chardonnay 2013, Tyrrells Belford Semillon 2014 and the Brokenwood Semillon 2014. The two Semillons were both drinking remarkably well at such a tender age for Hunters with developed fruit but still good acid. The Chardonnay was a little flabby but was hanging in there.
Main Course. Merv delivered on his promise to cook a Mauritius curry. The chicken and prawn curry was served with rice and a slightly pickled salad of onion, garlic, beans, cabbage and some mustard seeds. The curry was wonderful, turmeric based, with a light to medium heat with delightful spiciness. Some would have preferred a bit more heat but given the challenges of matching wine with such food to suit the varied palates, that may have exacerbated the problem and ruined the spice for those who wanted spice without own undue heat.
To top off the main Merv had cooked large poppadums which were perfectly cooked, sometimes no easy thing.
- Pressing Matters R9 Riesling (Tasmania) 2015 (screwcap, 11.9%)
- Seppelts Jaluka Chardonnay (screwcap, 12.5%)
- Kalleske Pirathon Shiraz 2009 (screwcap, 14.5%)
- Charles Melton Grains of Paradise Shiraz 2009 (screwcap, 14%)
Once again, the slight off-dry characteristic of the Tasmanian Riesling attracted adverse comment, although a number thought it went very well with the spice in the curry. The Seppelts Chardonnay accompanying the Riesling with the curry was selected by Chilly because of its prominent acid and the wine had not undergone malolactic fermentation. It a had enough acid and fruit to work well with the curry.
The cheese wines were two 2009 Barossa Shiraz. There were no surprises with these wines with the Pirathon being the lighter (relative) of the two with a nice touch of spice presumably from good handling. The Charles Melton whilst not huge was a little over extracted and over oaked with a furry finish.
Cheese and coffee. Our Cheesemaster, James Healey, took us to France today for our cow’s milk Cantel Entre Deux. Whilst the term entre-deux means between two and six months of age, James suggested it may have been older. Whatever, it was still moist with a semi-hard texture and a milder flavour with buttery overtones. A wonderful cheese for any event.
The cheese was served with a salad of rocket, walnut and pear.
Spencer Ferrier spoke to the coffee today which was a blend and he expressed some disappointment as it was stronger than planned with a finish that was a little bitter and tarry. For some of us it was certainly stronger but that is sometimes no bad thing.
For the second time in a year or so all the wines served today were under screwcap. This was a reflection of the fact that we had an all Australian cast today, but it is something that is a positive trend given the weekly issues that occur with cork.
The President presented Merv Peacock with his Society apron and we look forward to seeing him back in the kitchen in the future.
28 August Wine Lunch - CoTD James Hill
And so, the end of another month of 2018 and of course we enjoyed our special members only wine lunch. In the kitchen yet again was prolific chef of the day, James Hill. As I and others have done, who have cooked at wine lunches, you tend to chill a bit about the food as the focus is on the wine. Not James, not with this lunch he didn’t! James was assisted by Gary Linnane and James Healey.
Canapés. The team provided two canapés for us today. The first was an organic duck liver parfait on Iggy’s bread (naturally) with a cornichon perched on the top. Iggy’s bread by itself is a joy to behold but the duck liver parfait was sublime. Next, served on spoons, were freshly fried sardines with a crumbly mixture of rye, fennel, capers, dill and spring onion. Both the sardines and the base were tasty in their own right.
Aperitif wine. It was a Riesling start to the lunch. There were two of them. The Alsace Hugel 2013 and a Tunkalilla 2008 from Willamette Valley in Oregon. The latter vineyard is owned by well-known Australian winemaker Brian Croser which he planted in 2005 with 2008 being the first vintage.
As an observation, it must be said that our members have very Australian palates when it comes to Rieslings when a slightly off-dry style was served. The scrunched-up faces are a sight to observe. The Hugel at only about 4 g/L was certainly not off-dry but had a fruit characteristic that many Australians find challenging. The American wine at about 9 g/L was on the edge of becoming technically off-dry and was not popular. That is a shame because the fruit was excellent, and I thought a great match to the canapés. Both wines were under cork and despite excellent cellaring the cork seal on both bottles led to issues.
Australian Rieslings such as Eden, Clare et cetera still reign supreme with our target audience. Just as well we have plenty!
Main Course. James opted for chicken today with thigh stuffed with Tuscan sausage, wrapped in prosciutto and cooked in red wine jus. This was served with sugar snaps, baked baby potatoes and zucchini flowers which had been stuffed with ricotta, spinach and parmesan. The picture above saves me from more words. Very flavoursome with the jus topping off a great dish. The sugar snaps had been softened somewhat by the wonderful jus, but such is life.
- Lignier Gevrey Chambertin 2011
- By Farr Sangreal Pinot 2010
- Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2010
- Cos Pithos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Nero d'Avola/Frappato 2011
- Penfolds St Henri 2002
- Hardy Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2002
James Tinslay was winemaster of the day and working in conjunction with Chilly Hargraves in the absence of Paul Ferman. The theme was no theme. The only wines served blind were the two Australian Shiraz with the wines being identified, but not the order. The exercise was to see if there was a difference between the Penfolds, aged in large oak, and the Hardy wine which was aged in smaller French oak.
Taking the wines in pairs, as was intended, the first pair were in stark contrast. The Lignier was surprisingly light in colour but did not lack power for a Village wine. It was clean and crisp. The By Farr wine attracted a range of comments from good to bad. No doubt bottle variation but some bottles were distinctively funky and its deep colour belied the grape type. Some had it wine of the day, I had at the least of the day but bottle variation played a role.
I thought the Chianti and the Sicilian wine were the best pair of the day. The Antinori was a Riserva and had real power and 2010 was a very good vintage. The Sicilian wine was new to many people being a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato. Lighter in colour but with length and a nice lick of tannin to finish making it a wonderful wine to accompany food.
The two Australian Shiraz wines also saw some problems with cork, with one Hardy wine being undrinkable and clearly corked. Picking which one was which was difficult but not unexpected given that the St Henri often shows as a more powerful wine than one would expect given its wood treatment. Nobody was going to mistake these wines for anything but what they were and most thought the Penfolds wine was superior on the day. Both high quality Australian wines but made in the style that many now enjoy as the exception rather than the rule.
Cheese and coffee. Today we enjoyed one of the pinnacles of Australian cheese with the La Luna Holy Goat, the Brigid’s Well version. Selling at about $220 a kilo in David Jones it was a special treat. Luckily, we buy wholesale. The Holy Goat is made by the Sutton Grange Organic Farm in Castlemaine and this Brigid’s Well version is a smaller ashed variation of the ever popular La Luna ring. It is an amazing full-bodied, creamy cheese and we were all left wanting more. There was definitely none leftover for sale.
Spencer Ferrier delivered coffee for us today without providing any clue as to what it may be. It was a very pleasant mid-bodied coffee.
James Hill, when running through the food prepared today, thanked Milan, the REX and Brick Lane chef, for his guidance and assistance in the kitchen.
A great lunch with nobody having to complain about the lack of variety of wines to match the wonderful chicken. There were a few members lingering after (some time after) the lunch as you will see from the photograph on the site.
21 August 2018 - CoTD Bill Alexiou-Hucker
Today our Foodmaster, Bill Alexiou-Hucker, was back in the kitchen. He was assisted by one of the ‘canapé masters’, Peter Manners. Today was always going to be a bit of fun as the wines were odds and sods that had been collected in the REX wine cabinet left over from other lunches.
Canapés. Peter was responsible for the canapés today and he gave us three. In no particular order, there were wonderfully handmade pastry cones filled with a salmon mousse, home-made pate on a biscuit base and ‘elephant ears’ or palmiers baked and filled with a mushroom mixture. All three were tasty and of course there were none remaining by the time we sat down at 1 pm. Have a look at the photograph above of the work that went into making the pastry cones and the wooden cone-holder knocked up by Peter specifically for the dish.
Aperitif wine. We enjoyed a selection of seven wines ranging from Rieslings to Semillons to Chardonnays. Not everyone got a taste of every bottle of course, but it certainly is stimulated conversation and was a bit of fun.
Main Course. Bill being a first-class seafood man served us octopus. Each octopus weighed about 500 g and they were each halved so that we had a very well sized portion. The octopus had been slow cooked in white wine for about 4 hours with bay leaves and tomatoes. The octopus was served on polenta with oregano. It was full of flavour and extraordinarily tender.
The Wines. Far too many wines to list today, but they varied from average quality to very high quality. Commentary from members was obviously table-based but the Tyrrells Old Patch, Orlando St Hugo, Seppelts Benno and a Sardinian Cannanou (Grenache) were well thought of. Eclectic and enjoyed by the majority. Chilly Hargraves as winemaster of the day did a great job balancing the wine sets on each table.
Cheese and coffee. James Healey selected for us today a Maffra cloth-aged cheddar from Gippsland. The presentation of this cheese in the black cloth is stunning. See the photograph above. Maffra cheeses are well-known, as is their handmade traditional method and is arguably Australia’s best cheddar although many would argue Pyengana from Tasmania was a more interesting cheese. It was moist and slightly crumbly and was another wonderful choice by James.
Spencer Ferrier in absentia provided Yirgacheffe coffee from Sidama in Southern Ethiopia. Light to medium body it is always a pleasant coffee and works well in the French press.
In the absence of the president today, the VP Nick Reynolds closed the lunch complementing Bill on once again doing a great job.
14 August - CoTD Mark Bradford
7 August - CoTD Peter Kelso
It was a Presidential prandium, with Peter Kelso in the kitchen, assisted by Martin McMurray. Inauguration was a choice of canapes: anchovy puffs made on choux pastry with a subtle hit of anchovy (memo to chef: more next time) and a “salmon salad” with fresh salmon, spring onions and green capsicum dressed up with a splash of mayo and some paprika, served on lavosh bites. Well supported by wine master of the day Charles Hargrave’s choices of a 2007 Tyrrells Vat 1, in terrific condition showing some toasty notes, and a 2012 Pewsey Vale Riesling, surprisingly developed with a phenolic edge and not for long keeping. There was, of course, the usual Lustau sherry, this week the excellent Fino.
For the main event, Peter put Australia first by presenting ½ of the Oz flag in the form of seared kangaroo strip loins served on a bed of spiced roasted root vegetables, baby carrots, baby beets and red onion, with a piece of zucchini on the side and a yoghurt dressing. The meat, reliably handled in the kitchen by the irreplaceable Leo, was in the main suitably rare and the veg, despite murmurings from beetroot opponents, colourful and tasty on the plate. The accompanying wines both went well, a 2010 Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo probably a better match, with fine tannins and youthful fruit, than the 2012 Fraser Gallop cabernet from Margaret River, showing good regional fruit bit a bite of firm tannins on the finish.
We stayed local with the cheese from James Healey: an aged Heidi gruyere from Victoria. Beneath a hard rind was a firm but friendly paste with great nutty flavour. It called for, and got, some big reds, In the shape of a 2010 Seppelt Benno shiraz from Bendigo giving an attractive perfume on the nose and rich soft tannins; and the Entity shiraz from ex-Penfolds winemaker John Duval, a brassy Barossa in the Penfolds style with heaps of wood and ripe fruit balanced by evident tannins.
31 July 2018 - CoTD Denis Redfern
Special thanks to Peter Kelso for this review
Presented by former Wine Master Greg Chugg, we saw a selection of 2008 Oz cabernets, mainly from SA but with a couple of masked intruders which turned out to be from WA. In order of pouring, they were:
Wynns Black Label (Coonawarra); Bowen Estate (Coonawarra); Vasse Felix (Margaret River); Yalumba The Cigar (Eden Valley); Lindemans St George (Coonawarra) and Houghtons Gladstone (Margaret River).
Opinions were divided, although in general the 2nd bracket of 3 were preferred to the 1st. However, all agreed that it was an outstanding standard overall from a very good year.
Preceding the tasting was a bracket of equivalent quality aperitifs: a 2010 Richmond Grove Riesling from Watervale, and a Peter Lehmann Riesling from Eden Valley, also 2010. Both showing mature toast characters but both still fresh, with the Richmond Grove ahead on points. And a Lustau Manzanilla sherry maintained the standard set by the other two.
It was a welcome return to the kitchen for Denis Redfern, with some assistance on canapes from Josef Condrau. Denis started with a tasty smoked salmon pate paired with avocado (smashed of course) on toasts and some lovely little mini-quiches, bought in but none the worse for that.
His triumph came with the main course, a beef bourguignon of deceptive simplicity which was unanimously voted a perfect match for the wines. It was actually a labour of some days, with diced chuck steak marinated in pinot overnight, then browned and slow-cooked with carrots, pickling onions and mushrooms for about 12 hours, to produce tender but not stringy meat. The dish was served with a smooth and cholesterol-ridden Paris mash potato and green beans, suitably crunchy.
The cheese from James Healey was another highlight, a wonderfully sticky Epoisses washed rind number form Burgundy in France, with all the orange rind and rich nutty paste that we could want. The bread with it was also a hit, brought in par-baked and finished off warm and very crusty in the oven on the day.
Finally, Spencer Ferrier provided his own blend of coffee, a mix of Yirgacheffe and Rwandan beans with a touch of Sumatran thrown in. A barista in the making, he gave us a full and satisfying brew with enough citrus notes to give it length.
24 July - CoTD Milan from Brick Lane
Special thanks to Peter Kelso for preparing this lunch review.
Something a bit different this week, with Milan Thapaliya, the executive chef from Brick Lane, producing some authentic Indian/Nepalese food. The owners of Brick Lane run the kitchen at the REC, so it was great of them and Milan to serve us.
Canapes were some freshly fried papadoms (natch), but also a crunchy-coated pakoras made on slow-cooked onion and besan (chick pea flour) with assorted spices and coriander leaves deep fried, and some wonderful “chicken tandoori” rolls, with moist chicken, onion and spices cooked in a fried filo pastry case – a sort of Indian spring roll. To wash them down, we had a choice of Seppelts sparkling shiraz from 2010, and a Jay Tulloch Semillon from the Hunter, also 2010. Both stood up to the spice and (mild) heat of the canapes, although the sparkler was probably a better match.
The main course saw a lamb rendang-type curry of medium heat accompanied by a mild raita blend of vegetables and a finely cooked long-grain rice dressed up with sultanas and whole green cardamoms to give a burst of flavour in the mouth. Plenty of melding flavours and certainly only too hot for the wimps!
Nick Reynolds on wines had thought long and hard about the match of wine and curry, and provided us with an eclectic selection, some kindly provided by him. They were:
2017 SC Pannell Aromatica, a blend of mainly gewurtztraminer with riesling and pinot gris from the Adelaide Hills, which lived up to its name; a bit too aromatic for some, but with a soft sweetness which cut well across the complexity of the food;
2017 Helm half-dry Riesling from Canberra, made off-dry and therefore with residual sugar, but finer in palate than the first, an excellent wine in its own right;
2013 Craiglee Shiraz from Sunbury in Victoria, a cooler climate wine with a good dry but light body which matched the food well;
2004 Wynns Black Label Coonawarra Cabernet, showing typical Coonawarra nose and good fruit although starting to tire.
The four wines were all served with the food, allowing all to be drunk against the spice; although the prudent saved some of the reds for the cheese, which was preceded by a gulabjamoon, a sweet ball of milk and flour fried and served on a ceramic spoon with sugar syrup and a bit of yoghurt.
The cheese, simply served with a homemade chutney from Milan, was an Ossau Iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region of north-west Spain, an ancient variety showing a slightly pressed firm and oily texture with a nutty almost olive-like flavour. It was especially good with the Wynns.
The coffee was a bean from Sumatra, with rich drying flavour in the moth and a refreshing hint of acidity.
17 July - CoTD Gary Linnane
Special thanks to Peter Kelso for preparing this lunch review
10 July 2018 - CoTD Peter Manners
Peter Manners and his experienced group of assistants provided us with a Christmas in July lunch which has apparently gained popularity throughout this city. His assistants were Bob Swinney, Neil Galbraith and Tony Scott. There is a lot of knowledge and experience in that group.
Canapés. Three canapés greeted us. We first enjoyed a seafood bisque made up of southern New Zealand crayfish and snapper. No reduction of a sauce but simple high-quality seafood cooked quickly and served quickly with a dash of hot water. Clean and beautiful.
The next two started with a chicken pate on a thin biscuit topped with capsicum. The pate was beautifully rich but there were some comments that the biscuit had started to soften under the moisture of the pate. Then came a triangular pastry beautifully browned and filled with a meat sauce.
Aperitif wine. Keith Steele’s selection of wine today began with the Denmar Chardonnay 2010 under screwcap. The wine had been divisive in the past and continued its reputation. At 8 years of age it was still in a good condition and there were some comments about the richness and suitability to taste such as pate.
Main Course. The main today was, in the Christmas spirit, roast turkey. It came with peas, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin and a light sauce which added a fragrant flavour. Some of the comments suggested that the turkey was somewhat dry but nonetheless it was flavoursome.
- Tamar Ridge Kayena Pinot Noir 2009 (screwcap, 13%)
- Seppelts Sparkling Shiraz 2011 (cork, 13.5%)
- Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (cork, 14%)
- Zema Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (cork, 14%)
Serving turkey, a sparkling Australian Shiraz was a no-brainer. Some chose to suggest it should have been served with the cheese, but we stuck with tradition. Charles “Chilly” Hargrave spoke to the Seppelts sparkling as he was the chief winemaker responsible for sparkling wine with TWE at the time. He explained the technique of sparkling red wines and the higher degree of residual sugar needed to deal with the tannins. The Pinot Noir at nine years of age was still in strapping condition showing some of the sweet southern hemisphere style but drinking very well.
Two Coonawarra Cabernets were served with the cheese, the Wynns Black Label and the Zema. The Wynns was fuller in colour than the Zema but both were midweight, clean and classic Coonawarra Cabernets. The Zema had more lifted fruit but opinions were divided around the room about the favourite.
Cheese and coffee. No one had any particular difficulty in picking the Stilton that was served today. Apparently, Stilton no longer comes from Stilton, but this particular producer comes from Nottinghamshire and had classic crumbly yet firm Stilton characteristics.
The cheese was served with Iggy’s bread sourced by James Hill and as usual was excellent.
A treat was had with Peter Manners providing tiny puddings on a white chocolate base topped with cherry. Look above for the photo.
Spencer Ferrier in absentia provided us with a Costa Rica coffee which was quite strong in flavour but very smooth and balanced.
Time was set aside to remember past President and good friend to many, Peter Madden. John Rourke provided a spirited memorial speech to Peter with a few stories about his quirks and style. We all stood and remembered Peter was a toast of the traditional Green Chartreuse.
Peter Manners spoke to his concept and presentation of Christmas in July pointing out that the Society had no “real” December party so he decided to turn it on in July. Apparently, Christmas ingredients such as turkey are difficult to find in July in Sydney.
A fine lunch experience with the combination of our cooking team and fond memories ofPeter Madden.