Presidents' Dinner - Aqua - 4 May 2017
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.
Our next stop Mount Pleasant Pokolbin
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
Friday 24th September Private bin tasting with Bruce Tyrrell Tyrrell's Wines Pokolbin
Our lunch stop was at McLeish Estate with a wine tasting hosted by Jessica McLeish, Chief winemaker at McLeish is Andrew Thomas.
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
CotY 21 May 2016
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.
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.
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.
Visit to Sunshine meats Saturday May 30
One time society member Joe Periera invited members to a special BBQ at his Milperra premises to sample his specialty smallgoods and a BBQ of some quality Victorian beef that was marinated in rock salt and bay leaves.
We brought our own and saw some excellent wines not a dud amongst them.
Our first course was a platter of charcuterie the now famous chili chicken, ham and turkey this was accompanied by Maria's home made beetroot chutney and Sicilian olives with chunky bread.
The meat was BBQ'd on skewers and served on racks, perfectly done great flavour and texture and accompanied by a mixed salad and baked baby potatoes.
We shopped and finshed the day with a Portuguese tart! A great day was had by all.
President's Dinner 27 August 2014
Under the capable hand of James Hill as convenor, the 75th President's Dinner at Bentley restaurant at the Radisson Hotel was a great success.
We managed to get a private room in this trendy and popular venue, but the price was a limit on numbers to 35. This was a pity, but those lucky enough to make it enjoyed an evening combining the Society's three basics: good wine, good food and good fellowship.
The event got off to a great start with 1999 Pol Roger, clean and intense with great yeast flavours and a wonderful mousse. The quality continued into the whites served with the 1st course (after an amuse bouche of a smoked eel brandade tartlet); a 2007 Lindemans Bin 0755 semillon and the Tyrrells Vat 1 semillon from the same year, both of course from the Hunter. The Tyrrells was clearly the better wine, the Lindies having lost fruit and become a bit thin. They matched a disc of pastry topping a creamy cauliflower custard with strong mushroom and black garlic; a good combination when eaten together.
The 2nd course was a lovely combination of Moreton Bay Bug tails, a piece of fish advertised as snapper but more probably John Dory, and an intensely rich and unctuous shellfish broth. Bigger whites were needed, and appeared in the form of a Penfolds 00A chardonnay from 2000, and a Yeringberg chardonnay from the same year. The Pennies was light gold in colour, fresh as a daisy and with top fruit still in balance; the Yeringberg was deep gold with intriguing honey and herb notes on the nose but clearly past its best with a degree of oxidation.
On to the serious stuff, with a course of superbly rare kangaroo loin accompanied by purple carrot and a rich jus containing riberries and native pepper; a well-integrated dish with just enough peppery notes to offset the meat. A brace of2000 Bordeaux was the ideal accompaniment; a Ch Faizeau from St Emillon and a Clos-du-Marquis from St Julien. Both were good examples of their region, the St Emillon softer and fruitier, the St Julien sterner and more uplifted.
The red meat continued with little blocks of slow-cooked Rangers Valley skirt steak served with pieces of fennel and again a wonderful jus with mustard and an unusual olive crumble which made the dish. The wines were eclectic: a 2002 Damilano Le Cinquevigne Barolo with plenty of the famous tar and a bit of rose on the nose, and a deep smooth palate, both of which improved in the glass; and the Burton McLaren Vale Reserve from the same year, a big, smooth and satisfying example of a top SA shiraz.
The gustatory part of the evening concluded with a(short) address from President Greg Chugg, and a dessert of violet ice cream (true to the colour if not the flavour) with cocoa honeycomb and blueberries. Naturally, a class sticky was served with it, a 1996 Ch Nairac from Barsac, apricot in colour and on the nose with luscious baked fruit characters balanced by acid.
The Dinner concluded but festivities continued.
A wonderful evening and thanks to the President for being same, and to James Hill and Paul Ferman for putting it together.
75th Anniversary Dinner 19 July 2014
Photos from left to right Present and past presidents, Food masters, Cellar masters,Cheese master, Life members, Ray Healey Life member, past president and cellarmaster.
For a wine and food society to endure for 75 years is pretty amazing, let alone to do so in flourishing order and condition. So there was plenty to celebrate at the Dinner held to commemorate our Society's third quartile.
It took place at the Pullman Quay Grand Hotel at the bottom end of Macquarie Street, and a cheerful but nostalgic crowd of 82 members, former members and guests were present. They included the President, Greg Chugg, and 10 former Presidents (see below), a terrific rollup which is a good indication of the Society's strength.
It was an evening to remember, not so much for the wine and food, which were excellent but not outstanding, but for the number present, the atmosphere in the room and the short but sweet tributes to the Society from luminaries such as Ray Healey, Ted Davis and Mick Dunne and an appropriate toast to the Society by Terry Stapleton, not to mention a bonus effort from Pat Healey representing the "Society widows". There was much moving between tables and cheerful (at times, deafening) interchange of memories and views.
The evening got under way with the 2002 Pol Roger and canapes of little sausage pieces wrapped in prosciutto and a creamy mushroom foam in plastic cups. Sitting down we were regaled with:
A poached quail egg with a mildly spicy crème fraiche, a flavoursome slightly bitter duck tea jelly and a (minute) bit of osietra caviar. Beautifully matched with a slightly sweet but incisive Egon Muller " Schartzhofberger" Riesling; a 2005 Tyrrells Vat 1 semillon was good in its own right but not as sympathetic to the food
Seared Canadian scallops, imberico jamon ham and truffle infused sea urchin butter. The dish was well balanced ,with the scallops a touch overdone; and surprisingly well suited to a 1996 Marc Bredif Vouvray sec, with nice toasted apple notes and still strong acidity.
A grapefruit Campari sorbet refresher, in which the Campari predominated.
20-hour cooked Wagyu beef, topped with specks of bone marrow with porcini mushrooms, cauliflower puree and a bordelaise jus. Terrific flavour and texture in the beef, obviously slow cooked sous vide and seared, with an interesting bracket of big reds; a 2006 Vall Llach "Embruix" Priorat from Spain weighing in at 15.5 % alcohol and our own Penfolds St Henri shiraz, 2002 vintage and no shy flower at 14.5%. The Spanish was a blend with grenache dominant, and was a bit dirty in the mouth, while the St Henri showed full ripe fruit but needing still more time for the tannins to integrate.
A bouche d'affinois surface-ripened cheese from France, with kumara paste, walnut log and lavosh. The accompanying wines were a little disappointing: 1999 Yeringberg Cabernets was mature but with a slight degree of volatility; and the 2000 Ch d'Enclos Pomerol was a solid example of the region without exciting.
A velvet citrus tart, which lived up to its description, with a pineapple wafer and a refreshing lemon curd ice cream. A little numbing for the 2008 Ch Filhot Sauternes served with it, though the wine drunk separately was fine and restrained, still a long way to go.
Tea and coffee with a 1980 Lindemans RF1 vintage port, sweet but some good aged rancio characters coming through; and a Ornellaia grappa, about which "true to style" is the best description.
The former presidents in attendance were ,in descending periods in office: Terry Stapleton (1987-88 and 2004-05); Ted Davis (1989-90); John Edwards (1991-92); John Banks (1995-96); Ray Healey (1997-98); John Rourke (2002-03); Josef Condrau (2006-07); Marcus Bleasel (2008-09); James Hill (2010-11); and Steve Liebeskind (2012-13).
Chef of the Year Dinner 24 May 2014
Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life
Thus it was a joyful over-capacity audience who left the Royal Exchange Club after a meal which would have pleased a 4-star diner and which set a new standard for care and quality in Society food.
It was all down to last year's winner (and current food Master) Nick Reynolds, who not only did most of the preparation and cooking, but embellished it with touches such as homemade butter, quince paste and even cheese crackers. Truly devotion above and beyond...
The food was, in the main, backed by some pretty classy wines chosen by Wine Master Paul Ferman. To start, canapés of anchovy (hand filleted) with smoked tomato sorbet on sourdough toasts were tangy, salty and disappeared rapidly, as did homemade tartlets filled with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and salmon roe; all accompanied by an average sparkling Vouvray and a terrific 2000 Lindemans Bin 9655 Hunter Semillon with youthful acid under developing toasty fruit.
An amuse bouche of a mushroom cappuccino had all the intense mushroom flavour, lifted by onion sweetness and topped with a creamy broth, one could ask for. The Lustau amontillado sherry served with it cut across beautifully with rich nutty aroma and flavour balanced with tangy flor notes. There followed one of the evening's highlights, bresaola (air-dried) Parma ham thinly sliced and served under a dusting of crunchy seared cauliflower pieces and grated truffle-infused pecorino cheese. The ham was moist and subtle, and the textures and flavours on top all enhanced the result, especially with a drizzle of olive oil added. The matching wines were a 2009 Marina Coppi barbera from Italy, soft and simple but probably better with the food than the 1999 Steingarten Riesling although this was a superior wine with golden maturity still held in check by zippy acid.
The main course was a repeat of Nick's signature zucchini-scaled salmon fillet with ratatouille-stuffed zucchini flowers and béarnaise sauce. The salmon was cooked sous vide at 70 degrees for 5 minutes and came to the table red and unctuous, with the laboriously hand-applied wafer-thin zucchini "scales" still crunchy. The sauce set the richness of the fish off well, whilst the flowers, a little mushy from the wet contents, had plenty of hearty tomato and eggplant flavours to balance the protein. The display on the plate was a joy to behold, and the whole was well matched with a 2006 Tyrrells Vat 6 pinot noir and a 2002 Vat 47 from the same maker. The red was a bit young and aggressive for the delicacy of the food, but the chardonnay, always reliable, shone with lovely sweet fruit supported with still developing acid complexity. Ah.....
An Ossau Iraty semi-hard cheese from Italy was in good condition with nice nut and lactic notes, and well accompanied by dried apricots (hand dried, of course), nuts and the aforementioned quince paste and crackers, light and crisp. The accompanying wines were again an international mix, with a 2002 Damiliano Barolo and a 2002 Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet sauvignon. The Italian was predictably tannic but showing signs of the vaunted "tar and roses" character, whilst the local hero was a big, very well made Barossa cabernet with fruit, tannins and acid starting to come together.
Finishing off the food was a dessert of chocolate orange mousse, swimming in a lake of rich chocolate confiture with a homemade spiced fruit brioche and a cool and pleasant yoghurt sorbet.
The accompanying Ch la Rame Sauternes was adequate but lacking in intensity and botrytis richness.
A good, slightly citrus, Devon estate coffee from India concluded proceedings, interrupted earlier by the presentation by President Greg Chugg of the awards for 2013:
The Chris Alexiou Seafood Trophy, to James Hill;
The Chef of the Year Award, to John Rourke;
With knife presentations to the other finalists, Nigel Burton, Nick Reynolds and Bruce Thomas.
Nowhere else in Sydney could you get such a well thought out and executed meal, with such attractive wines; not to mention such a happy and gregarious group of members and guests. It was a really memorable evening.