Mixed lunch 10 June 2014
A gratifying 43 members and guests turned up to appreciate the culinary efforts of James Hill, supported by Paul Thorne in the kitchen, and by Paul Ferman on wines, the same James Hill on cheese and Spencer Ferrier with coffee ( and tea).
Canapes were a cultural mix, with a well-flavoured and nicely textured duck consommé served in mini plastic cups , and an Eastern-influenced prawn mix, hotted up with chili, black garlic and palm sugar, on ceramic spoons. The customary eclectic selection of wines accompanied these, featuring a variety of whites both still and sparkling, a couple of reds and the Lustau amontillado sherry
The main course was worth the wait resulting from a doneness problem, and the deboned and flattened chicken marylands came to the table cooked through but still moist and juicy. The chicken was braised in a liquid built on star anise, chili, kecap manis and ginger which served as a sprightly slightly sweet but not too spicy sauce over a bed of nicely done jasmine rice and accompanied by an Asian dish of green beans with ginger, shallots and some sliced garlic which had been a little burned in the cooking. Served with this dish (as distinct from matching it) were a 2008 Stoney Rise Riesling from the Tamar Valley in Tasmania, soft with inviting powder puff fragrance but no match for the spice in the food, and a 2006 Epsilon Barossa shiraz, with a surprising balance of fruit and wood, but still hot (14.5%) and awkward with the sweet and salt subtleties of the sauce.
We almost ended our tryst with Asia when the cheese arrived; a Comte Gruyere from the Franche-Comte region of France and presenting in perfect condition with a cream-coloured, slightly elastic curd showing sweet milk and nutty overtones. It went well with the vestigial Asian influence of a sweet-pickled thinly sliced cucumber and daikon salad. They were well matched this time by the wines: a2008 Craggy Range shiraz from Hawkes Bay in NZ, showing top cool climate fruit in excellent balance with fine tannins, a touch of class; and 2000 Stepping Stone Cabernet from Coonawarra, a budget-range wine which has lasted extremely well, with Coonawarra softness in the fruit, although starting to tire.
For coffee, Spencer showed us a rare bean from Panama, picked and left for 12 months before roasting and showing high acid content with a touch of licorice on the palate, and a long and refreshing finish. It was well set off by a drop of Lustau Pedro Ximenes liqueur sherry, green in colour with wonderful complex sweet flavours akin to a top Aussie tokay (or whatever it's called now). Also on offer was an Earl Grey tea, dry and fragrant with bergamot (orange rind) oil
Some good comments, including contributions from the ladies, to complement good food and wine