6 September 2018 - Presidents' Dinner 2018

Thanks to James Hill for the photography.

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4 August - Lunch at Courtney's Brasserie

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Special thanks to James Hill for this review

On a beautiful Sydney day fifteen members and guests were treated to a great lunch of fine seasonal food at Courtney's Brasserie in Parramatta.

Courtney's executive chef Paul Kuipers is well known to our Society having cooked many times in the past at the behest of society member John Goldsbrough.

Some chose to cruise up the river on a Sydney ferry with the added enjoyment of pre-made negroni cocktail provided by one enthusiastic member to get us in the mood.

It was a pleasure to be welcomed to Courtney's by Chef Paul Kuipers who organised a private room for us and members brought wine from their cellars, Some gems were spotted on the table and shared. David Gregory's famed muscat made an appearance with sufficient quantity to provide a bottle for consumption on the return journey on the rivercat.

As one member commented 'A great room, food, service and ambience' all made for a perfect day. Paul joined us after lunch Introducing his chef Jenny to talk us through the menu.

The verdict a great day and now to become an annual event!

28 July 2018 Chef of The Year 2017 Dinner

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Thanks to President Peter Kelso for the report on the dinner.

There are times when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and 2017’s Chef of the Year Dinner was one such time. We had over 60 members and guests in attendance, including the former Governor of NSW, Dame Marie Bashir, as a guest of Brian Sproule; we had some superb food from the 2016 winner, Steve Liebeskind, helped by Bill Alexiou-Hucker on canapes, John Banks pitching in on main course and Rachel Borm contributing to dessert; we had a fine cheese from James Healey and coffee of quality from Forsyth’s Coffee; and we had a terrific line-up of wines to complement the food, headed by no less than four fine burgundies, two in double magnums of 3 litres (four bottles) and two whites, all donated for the event by Ray Healey; as were six bottles of champagne by Charles (Chilly) Hargrave. And as if that weren’t enough, we had a great atmosphere of enjoyment and anticipation, culminating in the awards of Chef of the Year and winner of the Chris Alexiou Seafood Dish of the Year for 2017.

Canapes were brilliant: some braised octopus in a mascarpone sauce in pastry cases; some lovely taramasalata, served ditto; and a wonderfully rare sliver of roast beef with a delicate aioli on pumpernickel. All well complemented by a fine NV Bernard Bremont from Champagne, brisk and lively with lovely mousse.

The entrée, conceived in memory of late member Graham Fear who died at the end of 2017, was a “deconstructed seafood pie”, comprising said seafood (white fish and prawns) in a rich veloute sauce balanced by a piece of crunchy pastry to evoke the pie. Accompanying it were 2 of Ray’s wines, the 2014 Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon, delicate and still a baby, and a 2010 Montgomery’s Hill Mulberry Block reserve Chardonnay from WA, rich and golden with stone fruit characters and refreshing acidity, as well as a 2012 Dom William Fevre Les Fourchaumes 1er cru Chablis from the Society’ cellar showing typical tangy minerality but a fairly short finish.

Main course ensued and more than maintained the standard, with lamb cooked two ways (an assemblage of shredded slow-cooked shoulder and a bright pink “log” of tenderloin redolent with aromas and taste from a spell of hot smoking) served with a nicely done purple carrot on a bed of pumpkin and kumera puree with slightly crunchy snap peas and a superior jus made on meat juices and stock. Fantastic with a choice of 2009 Nuits St Georges 1er cru from Jean Grivot, a 2009 Hospices de Beaune Clos de la Roche Grand Cru from Remoissenet, both the gift of Ray Healey, and a 2002 Ch Pontet-Canet from the Society. Although the Bordeaux was probably the best match with the food, who cares with wines of this distinction, complexity and length.

James Healey selected the fromage with a soft and luscious D’Affinois Blue, served with a vinaigrette salad containing pear and walnuts, were two more wines from Ray:a 2015 Romanee Les Barreaux from Cheron and a 2009 Clos de Vouguet Grand Cru from Drouhin-Laroze. Once again, beautiful examples of the grace and structure that is good burgundy, outclassing a 2008 Ornellaia Le Serre Nouveau, a Bordeaux-blend of grapes from Tuscany, Italy.

At this point, 2017 Foodmaster from 2017, Nick Reynolds took over to announce the awards, with trophies graciously presented by Dame Marie Bashir. Amid rolling drums, the awards were:

Runner-up for Chef of the Year: Steve Liebeskind

Winner of the 2017 Chef of the Year and also the Chris Alexiou Seafood Dish Trophy: James Hill

Finalists: Bill Alexiou-Hucker, Nigel Burton and David Madson.

The good things kept coming, with a sweet and sticky pecan tart served with baked pear, mascarpone and syrup which exploded in the mouth. As did a 1997 Ch Doisy- Vedrines from Barsac, unctuous but still fresh.

The evening finished with a good PNG coffee from Forsyth’s and a Bullers tawny port, a great example of the riches of Rutherglen and a fitting way to top off a memorable event.

 

15 July 2017 Chef of the Year - Steve Liebeskind

 

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Our Chef of the Year dinner chef for the 2017 dinner was of course Steve Liebeskind, the winner of the 2016 award. He was assisted by Paul Irwin in the kitchen with Graham Fear and Paul Gibson also contributing. Cheeses by James Healey and of course coffee by Spencer Ferrier and Paul Ferman as Winemaster.

In the absence of the Foodmaster and President, our VP, Peter Kelso took control of the evening.

Above you will see the full menu for the dinner and indeed it was one that should not have been missed.

This was certainly a dinner not to be forgotten. From the three canapés to begin and an exquisite lightly smoked salmon in broth, followed by the beautifully prepared duck confit. The meal was a treat.

Many of us were aghast at the amount of time that those in the kitchen put into preparing this meal. The praise heaped on Steve and his assistants was indeed very genuine.

And finally, the winners were:

Chef of The Year - jointly Steve Liebeskind and Graham Fear

Alexiou seafood award: Steve Liebeskind

Well done.

Presidents' Dinner - Aqua - 4 May 2017

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HUNTER TOUR 2016

23 September 2106 Lunch at Keith Tulloch Wines and Muse Kitchen. Chef Sean Townsend.

Wines tasted "Epogee" 2016,Semillon 2016, 2010, 2007, Tawarri Shiraz 2014, The Kester Shiraz 2014 and 2006,Botrytis Semillon 2015.

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 Our next stop Mount Pleasant Pokolbin

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Dinner at Hunters Quarter our Host Greg West from Agnews wines and Chef Brian Duncan at Hunters Quarter restaurant.

Wines of the night to begin Aubert et Fils Brut Champagne

2014 Tintilla Semillon 2014 Constable Chardonnay 2015 Tintilla  Chardonnay 2011 Lindeman's Semillon Bin 1155

2011 Thomas Braemore Semillon 2015 3 ponds Nero d'avola 2014 Audrey Wilkinson Tempranillo 2014 Whispering Brook Touriga Nacional

2014 Constable Shiraz 2014 Tintilla Shiraz 2010 Lindeman's Shiraz

2009 Constable Botrytis Semiilon 2006 Stanton and Kileen  Vintage Port

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Friday 24th September Private bin tasting with Bruce Tyrrell Tyrrell's Wines Pokolbin

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Our lunch stop was at McLeish Estate with a wine tasting hosted by Jessica McLeish, Chief winemaker at McLeish is Andrew Thomas.

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 Our saturday evening function at Botanica Restaurant  with JK Walker lecture delivered by Bruce Tyrrell. 

Our hosts at Botanica Clare Bremerkamp and Chef Matthew Bremerkamp.Our society had guests for the dinner Andrew Spinaze (chief winemaker at Tyrrells) Nicole Spinaze, Bruce and Pauline Tyrrell, Don Francois and Dr Jana Jones.

Wines were sourced from Tyrrells

on arrival 2009 Tyrrell's Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2015 Tyrrell's Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay

Entree : 2005 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2012 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay

Main: 2007 and 2014 Tyrrell's Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz 2006 Tyrrell's Vat 8 Shiraz

Dessert : Dows late Bottled Vintage Port 

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The Society’s annual Chef of the Year dinner had an auspicious start with a full REX dining room of 64 members and guests and a beautiful evening. Our chefs for the evening were the well known duo of Gareth Evans and Ted Davis presenting a Spanish inspired menu. They were assisted in the canapé department by Peter Squires and Bill Alexoiu-Hucker.

Our President, Keith Steele, after opening the dinner handed over to our Food Master Nick Reynolds to run the proceedings.

The Awards. Congratulations tothe 2015 winners presented on the night.

$1·         Chef of the Year - Steve Liebeskind

$1·         Runners up - Bruce Thomas and James Hill

$1·         Best seafood meal of the year - Steve Liebeskind

Congratulations to all especially Steve to win the double gongs. Quite an achievement.

Also congratulations to all the numerous Chefs the Day in 2015 for taking the often nervous decision to cook us all a meal and await peer reception.

Canapés (or should we say tapas). We started with a range of canapés presented on four plate settings including:

$1·         Bacalao Croquetts (the photographer needed to be quick with these as the photo above shows hands diving for a sample)

$1·         Spanish Pickled Anchovy Boquerones

$1·         Taramasalata and humus with a range of toppings including octopus and dried meat.

The canapés were a real treat and much enjoyed with Aubert NV Champagne and Gonzales Byass Amontillado providing a great contrast. Later some members expressed their liking for the Champagne.

Entrée. We were treated to sautéed scallops with sauce romesco with sweet mustard, dill sauce and sea spray. The latter was new to some and it was explained as a coastal fern-like saltwater plant (Suaeda Australis if you must know). The scallops were just cooked with a slight char on the surface but wonderfully soft and succulent. Much liked.

With the entrée we imbibed:

$1·         Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2006

$1·         Simmonet Febrve Chablis Montmains 2008

The Tyrrells was the better wine with the dish as it had a lovely tight oak mouthfeel and had the better of the somewhat fading 2008 Chablis.

Main course. Gareth and Ted gave us a beautifully presented chorizo and black pudding stuffed pork loin with membrillo sauce, white beans and an alicante stuffed tomato topped with pine nuts. The flavours were integrated and the dish was a visual delight. There was much conjuncture as to how the black pud and chorizo were inserted into the centre of the pork. Some suggestions cannot be repeated.

The accompanying wines were:

$1·         Embruix de Vall Llach Priorat 2006

$1·         Domaine Germain Beaune Les Teurons 1er Cru 1996

Two very good wines but the Priorat (favourite of many) had the depth and power to better match the dish if not somewhat overpower the 20 year old Burgundy premier cru. The latter was an elegant wine at the end of its drinking window.

Fromage. James Healey selected a semi hard Queso Iberico in theme from Spain. A mixture of cow, goat and sheep it had a full bodied and creamy flavour very much like a Manchego for which it is often mistaken.

Our busy Wine Master, Paul Ferman, served a wonderful foil to the cheese with:

$1·         Chateau Lanessan 2000

$1·         Lindemans Limestone Ridge 1993

This was an interesting pairing. The 2000 vintage in Bordeaux was excellent. Lanessan is now just a Haut-Médoc appellation but previously held a rating of Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, until this specific classification was removed. It did not open up as hoped but may need more time yet. The Limestone 1993 was judged by many as their top wine of the night. It was in wonderful form with (still) sweet fruit and a mature tannins to match. Almost nil bottle variation.

Dessert. Our chefs served a luscious Basque cherry tart with a teasing chocolate dipped strawberry as an accompaniment. Beautiful.

Two beautiful wines matched this with a Chateau Lamonthe Sauternes 1996 and a Lustau Pedro Ximinez or PX in wine slang. Both were wonderful and luscious in their own very different and special ways.  

Coffee and spirits. Coffee, not disclosed, followed with a white spirit, Mavrakis Tsinoupo. Possibly Russian, definitely high alcohol in the vodka style and definitely led to two camps of love and hate.

An evening much enjoyed.

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Canberra Trip 13-14 September 2015

 

Around 40 members, friends and companions travelled to Canberra for this wonderful function, organised and conducted by James Hill, with wines sourced and presented by Paul Ferman. There is no truth to the rumour that our arrival precipitated certain political events in the city; but certainly we had more fun than the pollies.

The tour got under way at 12:30pm on Sunday 13, when our bus left the tour hotel for lunch in the Grazing restaurant at the Royal Hotel, Gundaroo. After an introductory fizz, alternate entrees of smoked trout croquettes or Manchego custard moulds (both terrific) were matched with a 2015 Eden Road "Long Road" pinot gris, and a 2014 "The Senator" chardonnay from Capital Wines, attached to the Hotel. Then followed a choice of baby chicken done 2 ways, or lamb rump, washed down with a 2013 pinot noir Lerida Estate Lake George, and a 2014 Capital Wines "The Ambassador" tempranillo. Dual desserts of strawberry and vanilla cream tarts, and caramel and salted hazelnut custard brought proceedings to a satisfactory finish.

It was back to the magic bus for our next appointment, a wine tasting at Mt Majura Vineyard, where a range of wines, with an emphasis on Italian varieties, were tasted. The noise level on the bus back to the hotel dropped considerably.

Dinner in the evening was at the Cupping Room, as the name suggests a café with an emphasis on coffee and blessed by having on the staff Caity, daughter of Nick Reynolds. We were treated to a tasting of 3 quite different coffees, culminating in a lovely bright bean selling at $200 a kilo, with olives, local breads and an oil/vinegar dip. Then it was into the main event, starting with carpaccio of hiramasa kingfish and accompaniments (including sliced jalapeno peppers) matched with a 2010 Eden Road Riesling and an interesting Ravensworth marsanne/roussanne blend of 2011. The first main course featured 5-spice rubbed duck breast with root vegetables, rhubarb and chestnut puree accompanied not by the expected pinot but by a spritzy 2015 Ravensworth Charlie Foxtrot gamay and a 2008 The Long Road Hilltops barbera/nebbiolo. Showing our mettle, we then moved on to some rare seared kangaroo with beetroot, red grapes, crumbled chevre and rocket, this time matched with 2014 Ravensworth Hilltops nebbiolo and, at last, a shiraz, the 2010 Eden Road , again from Hilltops grapes. Cheese replaced dessert, a plate of Dutch Reypanaer semi-hard cows' milk, a rich Berry's Creek blue made from Buffalo milk and a French Delice de Bourgogne, supported by a 2007 Ravensworth sangiovese. The restaurant was a short walk, or wander, back to the hotel, affording some settling down.

The morrow dawned fine and still, and after breakfast the challenge began with a trip out to Helm Wines at Murrumbateman for a tasting of some seriously good rieslings and cabernets. All back on the bus for the short trip to The Poacher's Pantry, a country café specialising in smoked and preserved meats and fish with a nearby Wily Trout winery. An opening board of mixed smoked and dried meats with vegetable pastes, beads and lavosh went well with a rose and a chardonnay from the Wily Trout, a choice of pinot and shiraz from the same source accompanying the mains of a choice of smoked duck breast and confit leg, barramundi and vegetable lasagne with crumbled haloumi and polenta. A refreshing dessert of pistachio panna cotta, and raspberry sorbet and coulis brought proceedings to a close. Then back to the magic bus for the anticipated tasting at Clonakilla. The wines did not disappoint, the whites delicate and elegant and the reds living up to their reputation, especially the hallmark shiraz/viognier and straight syrah.

Exhausted digestive systems received a brief respite at the hotel before the bus pulled out once again, this time bound for a lengthy trip to Lark Hill Wines at Lake George for the evening meal. The dinner, with both wine and food from the winery, was enlivened by the unfolding leadership bout at Parliament House, but this did nothing to spoil a great meal, starting with a welcoming glass of bubbles before an entree of either (or both if you shared) blowtorched scallops, cauliflower pure and scattered prosciutto, or meaty field mushrooms, polenta and parmesan. With them a young but promising 2015 riesling and a bigger but still elegant 2014 viognier. The main course saw a choice of medium-rare porterhouse steak, leek, potato dauphinoise and red wine jus, or pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and heirloom carrots, both great and well matched with a 2014 shiraz viognier and, as a special treat, a fully mature, spicy but restrained 2003 merlot. After that, a dessert choice of panna cotta strawberry sorbet and meringue, or pear poached in red wine with condensed milk ice cream and pistachios, balanced by an off-dry 2013 "Eliza" Riesling, provided the last wee morsel before a coffee and a quiet drive home to the hotel.

The tour concluded after breakfast the following morning, as participants went their separate ways, some back to Sydney and some to see the sights before returning the next day. No serious complaints were heard, and special tribute must be paid to James Hill, who put it all together and brought it off with elan.

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Presidents' Dinner 21 st August

President Greg Chugg and 10 former presidents, as well as an assortment of the crème du Society, assembled on Friday 21 August for the annual President's Dinner. The venue was the new home of the William Blue Dining School, in premises known to most members as the original Rockpool site in the Rocks, and the walk up the ramp to the tables at the rear brought back memories for many. In general, the evening did no disgrace to its famous forebears.

Although we were in semi-seperate rooms, there was ample opportunity for interaction and addresses from the divide, the formal parts being, mercifully, kept to a minimum. The wait staff, and the hands in the kitchen, came from students at the School, and they handled a 5-course meal, plus canapes, very well, with just one qualification.

The arriving members were greeted by a welcoming glass of 2002 Pol Roger vintage champagne, reliably good with plenty of mousse and yeast to give interest, despite inevitable bottle variation. The accompanying canapé was simple, freshly shucked rock oysters with a dipping sauce for those who wanted it; a safe and extremely welcome choice.

A 1st entree appeared as a fine strip of ceviche, or raw marinated, kingfish with a little heap of shredded fresh spanner crab, finely sliced radish and a citrus dressing. The last tended to dominate against the wines, but the presentation was great and the flavours well balanced otherwise. The matching wines were a 2008 Barnes Buecher "Steingruber" riesling from Alsace and a 1994 Tyrells Vat 1 semillon. You could (and many did) quarrel with the matching of 2 wines of such different styles and age, but each was a good example in itself, the foreigner initially a bit simple but developing in the glass, whilst the Vat 1 showed a deep gold colour, plenty of Hunter toast and good , if thinning, fruit.

The next course was anything but fowl: a lightly smoked and succulent breast of spatchcock served with a confit leg with just the right amount of salt and falling off the bone, bright red chunks of compressed watermelon, a puddle of cauliflower puree and a rich pepper jus. Delightful, as were two accompanying burgundies, both in top condition: a softer, pleasantly fruit-dominant 1er cru Vosne Romanee "En Orveaux" 1996 from Sylvan Catthiard; and a more complex, deeper Grand Cru Corton "Clos du Roi" from the same year, from Moillard.

And so to the main course: unctuously done beef cheek with a potato puree, horseradish cream baby turnip and fennel crisp, in a shiraz jus. It sounded great, it looked and smelled great – but oh dear, the creamy parts in particular were cold, as was the plate on which it was served, casting its influence over the whole meal. It made the dish somewhat stodgy and hard to finish, despite the obvious thought and care which had gone into concept and preparation. Spirits were lifted somewhat by a couple of classy shiraz: a Guigal Cote Rotie 2007, and a Seppelts St Peters 1998. The age difference again was apparent; the Guigal was a well-balanced wine but needed more time to show its mettle whilst the Oz, rich mature and even porty in style, was at its best.

The cheese course featured a red Leicester when the hoped-for Pyengana cheddar was not available, and the gap was obvious. Pleasant but not startling, it was served with some crisp lavosh, dried fruit and quince paste, all workmanlike, but not up to the wines served with it: Wynns John Riddoch Coonawarra cabernet of 1996 and the Ch Haut-Batailley from Pauillac in Bordeaux, of the same year. The French opened a little stinky but improved in the glass to a lovely example of the more austere Bordeaux style, while the John Riddoch was all fruit, rich but with balancing tannins and acid to give panache.

To top off the food, a crumbly cherry shortcake was served with dabs of raspberry concentrate and lemon curd and a good sabayon dressing to provide moisture. It was not too sweet, and a fine match for a really good 1996 Ch Doisy-Vedrines sauternes, showing rich toffee apricot on the nose and deep sweetness of mature fruit on the palate, balanced by drying tobacco notes on the finish.

Coffee was not served, but a 1980 Lindemans Vintage Port was, with remarkably consistent qualities of sweet fruit and minimal rancio character, little changed each time we see it. And for those who felt the need for more alcohol to fortify them for the trip home, a shot of Gaia Barbaresco grappa: a cigar for those who could identify the grape.

A good time was had by all, as evidenced by the accompanying photos.

Chef of the year Dinner 20 June 2015

Our Chef of the Year night is one where we celebrate, not only the members who have been nominated for Chef of the Year, but all of those who cook at our lunches. This is what makes our society one of the most active and unique in the world.

 

 

In the kitchen was last year's  winner and nominee for Chef  the year for 2014 John Rourke, whose preparation and cooking of the food for the evening showed why he was Chef of the year for 2013 and a previous winner in 2006. 

The food was  matched with wines chosen by Wine Master Paul Ferman. To start, canapés of Feuillete of feta cheese and beetroot which were tasty and slightly salty. They say we eat with our eyes, this proved true with great colour and presentation, as was the mini Quiche Lorraine accompanied by NV Aubert et Fils Champagne and a Gonzales Byass Amontillado Sherry.  

Our entree was  Terrine of Ocean Trout and Ling with a delicious sweet mustard and dill sauce. It looked good on the plate and even better on the palate!Perfectly cooked with flavours of fish not overwhelmed by the sauce.The matching wines were a 1996 Marc Bredif Vouray, soft and simple but probably better with the food than the 1997 Leo Buring Leonay Riesling. Both in good shape with golden colour, the richness of the vouvray was a good match with mustard sauce. 

The main course was Confit of duck with sour cherries, creamed spinach and crunchy roast potato. Great flavours and presentation, the duck tender and moist and served with a red wine jus. This dish was matched with a 2010 Tyrrells Vat 6 pinot noir and a 1996 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Rommanee 1 er cru. The Hunter pinot was young and pleasant, the Vosne Rommanee shone, a mature elegant wine high colour and showing some tannin on the palate. 

John then presented the cheese and dessert on the same plate. The Tarago River Shadows of Blue matched with a poached pear in cinnamon and vanilla wine. 

The accompanying wines were 1998 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabenret Shiraz and 1998 Bannockburn Shiraz.The Penfolds was favoured by members, drinking  very well, good fruit flavour and an elegant wine. The Bannackburn, we were reminded by  Ray Kidd, was made in the bushfire year with fruit coming from other areas of Victoria, it was in balance with sweet fruit showing. 

Poured at the same time was a 1997 Chateau Nairac Sauternes This was a fine vintage for barsac and the wine was excellent good balance and age, not too sweet with "Barsac mouthfeel" and a 2008 Taylors Qunita de Vargellas Port.

We finished with a coffee from Yirgacheffe with good acid and spicy flavour and for those who wanted a digestive there was a grappa from Italy!

Vice President Keith Steele presented the awards for 2014:

The Chris Alexiou Seafood Trophy, to Bill Alexiou;

The Chef of the Year Award, to Gareth Evans ;

With knife presentations to the other finalists, James Hill and John Rourke.

The other finalist Ted Davis was unable to be with us on the night.

It was well thought out and executed meal, with attractive wines; and a happy group of members and guests.

It was a memorable evening.