Calendar Year 2013
Final lunch 10 December 2013
All good things must end, but 2013 went out in the best way, with a crowd of around 60 attending the final lunch.
Paul Dressler, assisted by John Rourke, was in the kitchen, and some French-influenced food resulted. First, a smooth and tasty duck rillettes paste on mini toasts topped by a piece of cornichon and, for the lucky few, a taste of caviar de mer, or monkfish roe, with intense fishy flavour. With these offerings, the usual smorgasbord of aperitifs, covering a variety of whites, a Manzanilla sherry, a few bottles of red, and even a red wine punch which delivered one. The main course was a soupe de poisson (not to be confused with bouillaibaise), made on an imported stock from France embellished with a heap of fennel and lifted with scallops, prawns and chunks of monkfish or stargazer. A rouille served with it was suitably unctuous, though some craved more chili. Terrific texture and flavour with the seafood perfectly cooked; ideal for a warm end to the year. And with it, a choice of a rose from Triennes in Provence, and a 2003 Tyrrells Vat 47 chardonnay. The rose was typically pale salmon and soft with a bit of residual sugar which matched the robust fish flavours of the soup quite well. Far superior in quality and flavour was the Vat 47, fine intense passionfruit characters with years to go. Better enjoyed on its own than with the food.
We stayed in France with a wonderful Beaufort cheese form the Haute-Savoie region supplied by James Healey, mid-hard in texture with a strong sweet hay flavour which delighted and accompanied a mixed bitter green salad with a tangy vinaigrette. Also present were a 2008 Vasse Felix cabernet from WA, and a Santa gift, the 1998 Penfolds Bin 389. The younger wine had nice if subdued fruit, probably needing more time but good with the cheese. The 389, from a top year, met a mixed reception with some loving it but others finding it a bit too hot and tarry: all that superb earlier fruit going a bit flat.
Presentations were made by the President to the long-suffering kitchen and wait staff, after which Peter Squires spoke movingly in celebration of the life of the late John McGuire, active member and supporter of the Society since 1996, before the traditional green chartreuse toast to John's memory. A reflective end to 2013, but life, and the Society, will go on in 2014.
Mixed lunch 3 December 2013
It was the traditional mixed lunch for the penultimate fixture of the year, and Paul Thorne, with Peter Black, was in the kitchen to provide for around 47 members and guests.
We kicked off with an avocado cream soup lifted with a dash of tabasco and served in mini plastic cups; and some delightfully moist and non-salty local prosciutto wrapped around cream chees and spring onion and chopped into bite-size pieces. Stimulating with a mix of aperitifs from a 2001 riesling through some chardonnays and a Lustau amontillado sherry to a sparkling red and white.
We sat down for a second, and more substantial, soup, this time a cream of cauliflower cooked with onions in chicken stock before being pureed enriched with cream and served topped by a dab of sour cream and lumpfish roe. Rich and smooth with a faint pepper note from the cauli. Accompanying wines were a 2010 Bramito chardonnay from Umbria in Italy, pleasant with a degree of sweetness which proved to be a great match with the main course, and a 2009 Castagna shiraz rose from Beechworth, again with sweetness to balance the tannins and an interesting wine, if not ideal with the soup, though again better with the main course.
Then Peter Black with his sous vide magic came to the fore, presenting a tribute to Tetsuya Wakuda's signature dish, confit of ocean trout. The fish came to the table bright red and warm, cooked for just 10 minutes at 40degrees and showing the soft oiliness of the fish to great advantage. It was served on a bed of thinly sliced fennel and pears topped with a mix of wakami, dried chives and sea salt and surrounded by a moat of intense green parsley and basil oil. A terrific presentation with flavour and texture to match ; perfect for a summer day.
To restore an unhealthy balance cheese master Ross MacDonald presented a decadent double cream St Angel brie from Normandy, soft and sticky with a clean rind and wonderful grassy notes. The accompanying reds were a 2006 Tanjil Gippsland pinot, a good example of the Australian pinot style with attractive nose, and good ripe fruit fading a bit on the finish; and a 2000 Macquariedale Thomas shiraz from the Hunter, showing good mature district characters and better with the cheese. A mixed leaf salad with (a bit too much) vinaigrette went well as well.
The coffee, a house blend from Forsyths, was good and strong with chocolate notes and nothing obtrusive. Floating around the room to go with it were a couple of bottles of 1993 Clare botrytis riesling which had madeirised slightly and made a good dessert wine to sip with the coffee.
Burgundy wine tasting 26 November
Thanks to the generosity of Ray Healey and his friend David Johnson from Tasmania, around 60 members and guests were fortunate to have a look at a range of 3 whites and 9 reds from the well-regarded 2011 vintage from Burgundy.
They were presented in two tranches, the whites and the lightest three of the reds served with a cold entrée, and the remaining 6 reds with the main course and cheese. The wines, all bar one from Remoissenet Pere & Fils, were:
Pernand-Vergelesse, a commune wine
Chassagne Montrachet Les Vergers, 1er cru
Corton-Charlemagne, grand cru
Savigny -Les- Beaune, a commune wine
Beaune Les Perrieres 1er cru, from Roche de Bellene
Beaune-Marconnets, 1er cru
Gevrey-Chambertin Le Trio 1er cru
Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Bousselets 1er cru
Chambolle-Musigny Les Echanges 1er cru
Corton-Renardes, grand cru
Clos Vougeot, grand cru
Charmes-Chambertin, grand cru
Opinions differed, with much debate on quality and price versus the 2010 and 2009 vintages. But all agreed it was a wonderful chance to look at the individual qualities of wines from different communes and price points. Naturally, the grand crus, white and the last two reds, stood out even at this early stage, but in terms of value for money, many preferred the Corton Renardes in the reds and the village white from Pernand-Vergelesse.
The accompanying food from Bruce Thomas and Son was simple but appropriate and delicious. With the white and red 1st tranche, a typical Thomas salmon gravlax, mildly cured and succulent, and a hand-made duck terrine, with perhaps more pork and veal than duck, but plenty of flavour. The 2nd bracket saw an elegant coq au vin, with chicken thighs cooked in plenty of burgundy (or its local equivalent) and served with potatoes anna, sliced thin on a mandolin and given a hit of fresh rosemary and crunch on top by a last-minute zap under the grill. Nicely done snow peas completed the dish.
The cheese had many fooled into going foreign, even St Augur; but it was in fact the Berrys Creek Bellingham Blue from Gippsland, richly veined and a bit riper than last time, with full favours and a hint of ammonia on the rind. A salad of mixed ornamental leaves with a light vinaigrette accompanied it; and the coffee was a Burundi Mumirwa from Burundi in Africa, rich and cleanly bitter on the palate with a touch of sourness on the finish which did not detract.
Lunch 19 November
In a generous presidential move to restore relations with Indonesia, Steve Liebeskind, with help from Graham Fear, turned on his take on a traditional dish from that country.
To start, some pork and chicken satay sticks dressed with the sauce that accompanied the main course, and non-regional but still welcome smoked salmon topped with a sweetened cream cheese on thin sourdough toasts. The aperitif was a 2004 Alkoomi Riesling from WA, bottled under stelvin and showing it, with broad sweet but still delightfully fresh fruit. There was also a bit of Lustau fino sherry for those who wanted it, and it was as reliably apt as ever.
The main course saw a fragrant and medium hot beef rending matched with gado gado, a traditional Indonesian salad based on blanched vegetables with a peanut sauce, a mild and crunchy bean salad and some nicely moulded. if a bit dry, boiled rice. Steve chose to match his food with white wine in the shape of 2007 Barwang 842 Tumbarumba chardonnay, and a Yering Station chardonnay, also 2007, from the Yarra Valley. It was a wise choice, the cool-climate buttery wines complementing the food much better than would a big hot red. The Victorian was the better of the two, but both were good.
As was the cheese, a wonderful ewes milk Ossau Iraty from the Basque region of Spain. Semi-hard with a well-rounded oily texture and nutty palate, it went nicely with a 2001 Ch Lanessan, an unclassified but classy Bordeaux starting to hit its straps; and a 2001 Richmond Grove Coonawarra cabernet served in magnums, richer and sweeter that the French but showing good fine tannins and still improving.
We went back to Indonesia with the coffee, made from Goyo mountain beans from that country, and rich but mild on the palate with a good long soft finish. It needed to be big to handle a super Inner Circle rum provided by birthday boy Wal Edwards, 97 years young and still going strong.
Lunch 12 November
Proving that cobblers should not stick to their lasts, wine master Paul Ferman ventured into the kitchen to produce a meal well up to Society standards, with help from Greg Sproule.
Fish was the go with canapés, pieces of grilled schnapper on toasts with differing pastes made on sun-dried tomato and on olives (tapenade). Delicate with a bit of zing from the pastes, and therefore well matched with some aged 1998 Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling, the best bottles of which showed honeyed fruit characters balanced by continuing acid. A bit of Lustau fino sherry as well, which went particularly well with a cup of dark and mysterious soup also served as an entrée, and revealed as leek and potato, obviously with a good rich stock base.
The main course was a hit with drumsticks (ouch!) Nicely cooked, they were served 2 to a plate separated by a slab of polenta made on a mix of maize and buckwheat enriched with parmesan and butter, under a pleasantly astringent but flavourful sauce made on chicken stock with lashings of vermouth, ligurian olives, capers and oregano. topped by a couple of stalks of well steamed broccolini. Paul, in consultation with fill in wine master John Edwards, provided a choice of white and red with the meal: a 2009 Vasse Felix chardonnay with top fruit, a real whiff of oak on the nose but integrating on the palate, and still a long way to go; and a 2001 Seppelts Chalambar shiraz from Victoria, rich and mature with soft tannins, perhaps a bit strong for the food.
A similar tension between food and wine with the cheese, a delice de bourgogne triple-cream soft cheese in wonderfully oozing sticky condition, served with a 2001 Rosemount Traditional cabernets blend from different areas in SA and a Vasse Felix cabernet from WA, from the same year. The Rosemount was indeed in traditional style, big hot fruit and 14.5% alcohol making for a real mouthful which many loved but which overwhelmed the cheese. The WA was, in contrast, restrained but complex, with a real Bordeaux nose and palate; a much better match and a top wine on the day. A mixed green salad with sliced pears and a superior vinaigrette cleaned the palate well.
The coffee was made on an Indian monsoon bean, with good citrus tang on the finish and robust clean notes in the mouth. Not bad with Paul's parting gift, a Horny Port of dubious origin but with plenty of sweet fruit and spirit; whether it deserved its name is a matter for individual decision.
Melbourne Cup lunch 5 November
The track at Flemington was dead, but not so the crowd of turf consultants, frocked-up ladies, touts and layabouts who invaded the Tastevin restaurant at the Cross for the annual horsefest. It was a quality field, off the track as well as on, with some quality food on the plate and some quality wines, brought by participants, in the glass.
In the mingle before the gates, we were treated to a steady supply of a lesser-known champagne "Camille Saves" premier cru, accompanied by little cheese gougeres,duck liver pate on toast and a tasty salmon ceviche served on spoons. Then it was into the stalls for the main event, starting with a choice of 1/2 doz natural oysters, large, plump and briny, or a hot dish of soft gnocchi in a truffle mornay and mushroom sauce. With the bit between the teeth, the field moved on to a main course choice of barramundi with a leek and carrot fondue, kipfler potatoes and lemon beurre blanc, or chargrilled beef with gratin dauphinois, mushroom fricassee and a red wine jus. Both were winners, and were washed down by a large field of wines, local and imported, to which it is impossible to do justice, other than to say that the party contined long after the 3 minutes or so of interruption by the eponymous event, and the serving of a brie de Meaux in fine fettle. Coffee was unidentified but welcome to those who had to depart.
Our thanks to the Tastevin and staff for putting up with us, and to James Hill, chief steward, Paul Thorne on electronics and cornet, and Gary Patterson, the punter's friend and sweeps organiser.
Wine tasting 29 October 2013
Bruce Tyrrell has been a great booster for the Hunter and its stylish wines for many years, as well as a stalwart supporter of the Society. He combined the functions at the monthly tasting last Tuesday by giving the lucky attendees a look at some of the top medal-winning wines from the 2013 Hunter Wine Show. The 6 whites were from 2013, and the 6 reds from 2011, and all, but especially the whites, were outstanding. The latter, all from the Hunter's favoured daughter semillon, were, in order:
Hart and Hunter SV; Marsh Estate Poppy's Maverick ; Brokenwood Stanleigh Park ; Tyrrells Belford ; Thomas Braemore ; and Tyrrells Vat 1 . Commentary was divided, except for the Vat 1, which met with unanimous support as the best of the bracket (and Bruce's pocket remained dry).Heaps of fruit with strong acidity to balance, and it will last and last. But all the wines on show deserved their gold or silver status. The reds were, again in order and all straight shiraz:
De Iulius; Tulloch Dry Red; Peppertree Limited Reserve; Tyrrells Vat 9; Leogate The Basin Reserve; and Thomas Elenay. Opinion here was more divided, especially as regards the Leogate, which many saw as more Barossa than Hunter with big hot ftuit and 14% alcohol. Of the others, the Vat 9 drew support from lovers of the line, and the Peppertree was also well regarded. Again, all deserved their medal.
In the kitchen, Leigh Hall and Merv Peacock produced food to match, starting with Merv's canapés of moist and luscious chicken live pate on crisp rounds, and good but chili-deficient guacamole on corn crisps. A variety of aperitif wines accompanied, chiefly older Hunter semillons from Rothbury, showing, with some bottles, how the tasting wines might develop. Main course was a tender but slightly overdone piece of water buffalo, marinated for 24 hours in red wine and spices then slow cooked for about 36 hours. We think this meat was another 1st for Society lunches. With it were some simple crisp round beans and a smooth kumera mash.
The cheese had most guessing Oz of some sort, and they were proved right when it was revealed by Ross MacDonald as a Berrys Creek Bellingham Blue from Gippsland in Victoria. Nicely marbled with a butter-yellow paste, it was in great condition and showed lovely soft texture and blue mould flavours across the palate.
Bruce spoke succinctly to both brackets, with a few in-house yarns to leaven proceedings. We thank him for his generosity in organising the wines (and providing discounted deals on most of them for members), and for reminding us that the Society is in NSW and has a part to play in featuring wines from that State.
Lunch22 October 2013
It was a day for the wine side of the Society, with Nigel Burton in the kitchen assisted by newish member Paul Irwin, and Hilton Chapman on canapés. They not only did it, but did it extremely well, starting with Hilton's play on Korean cuisine with chopped pickled garlic chives and spices a la kimchi, served on ceramic spoons; and a top bright red melange made on marinated skate wings, also on spoons. Plenty of heat, but nicely balanced by fresh and lively 2012 Pewsey Vale riesling, a touch of sweetness assisting. Also on offer was another look at the Lustau amontillado sherry, marvellously rich and nutty.
It was a more conventional main course, Nigel sourcing well trimmed racks of lamb from Vic's Meats and baking them in a soy and honey glaze, with plenty of resting time to ensure an even degree of pink and juicy doneness throughout. On the side, a mix of red onion and mushroom cooked with vina cotta and adjusted for sweetness with verjuice, a good not too mushy pumpkin and potato mash and some steamed chunks of courgettes, slightly crunchy. The lamb was top class and well handled; even the sweetness from the glaze and the braise being offset by a couple of Coonawarra cabernets from 2004: the Wynns black label, and the Burtons kindly donated by the providore. Differing degrees of ripeness, the Burtons bigger and more succulent, the Wynns slightly vegetative and needing more time.
The cheese was a good local washed rind, the Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red (apt in view of the bushfire crisis). With nice orange rind and a soft but firm typically nutty paste, perhaps a little cold, it went well with a big ballsy Barossa, the Pirathon 2007 with declared alcohol of 15%. it went even better with a wine served masked but revealed as a 2007 Protero Gumerasha merlot from the Adelaide Hills. It had more style than the grape suggested, with good aroma and wood treatment. Salad was a mix of ornamental lettuces, sliced fresh pear and a few toasted cashews in a mild slightly sweet vinaigrette. Good quality ciabatta bread came from a Burton discovered bakery at Gordon
The coffee was made on organic Mexican beans. which were jumping with flavour in the mouth, showing a pleasant and appropriate winey character on the back palate.
Lunch 15 October 2013
One of the hallmarks of a meal from Nick Reynolds is the care and attention he puts in to both preparation and presentation, and this was evident in the lunch he presented to around 45 members and guests with the help of mate Peter Black and Greg Sproule. It is, of course, the reason he is the current Chef of the Year and holder of the Chris Alexiou Seafood Trophy, and seafood was the order of the day. But first came a mild and creamy, but tasty, terrine of pork and chicken, made by Peter Black and served on thin sourdough toasts with alternative toppings of sliced cornichons and a homemade plum chutney, both accompanying the terrine well. As did a 2002 Pikes Clare riesling, drinking at its peak with long, if slightly broad, flavours and sufficient residual acid. also on offer again was the fino sherry from Lustau, reliably fresh and tangy.
The main course was fillets of John Dory, cooked sous vide and served on a bed of vertically sliced green asparagus poached in a vegetable stock, with blobs of intense green mint oil dotted about and a thin shaving of black truffle on top. Perhaps slightly overcooked to achieve prefect whiteness of flesh, the fish was nevertheless delicious with the subtlety offset by the contrasting flavours of the asparagus, mint and truffle. Terrific presentation on the plate was the coup de grace, and Nick's attention to detail was exemplified by some home-churned butter and a top ev olive oil on the table. Naturally, whites were the order to accompany, and opinions differed on the merits of a 2000 Vat 47 and a 1997 Stevens semillon, both from Tyrrells. The consensus was that the Vat 47 was the finer wine on the day, but the semillon a better match with the food.
Members' mania for red was assuaged by a 2005 Ebenezer shiraz from the Barossa, and a cleanskin 2000 Lindemans Steven shiraz from the Hunter. A contrast in weight and style, with the Barossa showing typical rich fruit and big tannins, while the Lindies was more restrained and savoury, and probably better with an unusual Italian hard goats' milk cheese, a Ubriaco di Capra al Traminer made in wheels wrapped in must from local traminer grapes: firm and with a fruity, slightly salty taste. Some interesting fruit, including macerated strawberries and fresh dates, was all that was needed to set the cheese off.
Coffee was from Costa Rica, a pleasant medium roast in the somewhat bland US style. Nothing bland about a superb single malt Campbelltown whisky presented by birthday boy John Rourke, high in alcohol with an intense peaty aroma and complex palate brought out by a judicious addition of water.
Lunch 1 October 2013
This week we were off on a magic carpet to India, with a dish inspired by the cuisine of the Moghul emperors presented by Peter Kelso assisted by Martin McMurray.
The canape was an eggplant relish, commonly referred to as the "caviar of the East". Caviar it wasn't, but was suitably smooth but tangy when dipped into by prawn crackers and consumed with aperitif wines including a crisp and fruity Semillon/sauv blanc from Vasse Felix, a pleasant chardonnay from Belgravia in Orange and, best of all, the fino sherry from Lustau.
For the main course, deboned legs of lamb were marinated overnight in a mix based on garlic, ginger and spices with chopped fresh mint in oil, then roasted until pink but not too rare and served with a sauce made from the marinade with more fresh mint added, a rice pilaf spiced with cardamom and a simple relish of grated cucumber with lemon juice and salt. Not at all chili hot, but rich and spicy in typical Moghul fashion, and a pretty good match for a couple of 2005 shiraz: the Tyrrells Stevens from the Hunter and a Rosemount shiraz/cabernet (was it Mountain Blue?) from Mudgee. The Stevens was round and savoury, a typical and very good Hunter; while the Rosemount was also fine, but with bigger fruit and stronger tannins.
The cheese brought us back to Oz, and in fact to Tasmania, with a wonderful 12-month old cloth-bound Pyengana cheddar, firm but not crumbly in texture with a long grassy and nutty flavour that went well with two more wines from 2005: Bowen Estate cabernet form Coonawarra, a 15% monster with hot fruit kept in control by good winemaking and yielding a full and firm mouthfeel; and Wynns black label, also from Coonawarra, showing the house style but disappointing on the day with hard notes on the palate - perhaps it needs more time. The salad was a mixed green one with radicchio for extra colour and bitterness in a mild vinaigrette.
Coffee was from India too, a Malabar monsoon medium roast bean which is left exposed to monsoon rains for a period and showed soft but rich and round flavour with some length. Also served was a Bengal chai tea with cinnamon and clove evident on the palate and an interesting drink.
Wine Tasting 24 September 2013
The tasting featured wines of the excellent 2002 vintage from start to finish, commencing with a Pikes Riesling which was as fresh and crisp as the day it was made; an excellent aperitif.
The line-up for the tasting was a flight of 3 shiraz and another of 3 cabernets, with the wines in each bracket in ascending order of price into the Society cellar. All were 14% alcohol; the ones below marked * were the best 3 on the day but all were within 1.5 points according to presiding master of the day John Rourke. They were:
Mt Langhi Ghiran "Cliff Edge from Victoria showed what 10 years can do to fairly modest wines from competent makers. It improved remarkably in the glass.
Grant Burge "Filsel" from Barossa showed strong tannins and length and still has development potential.
*Hardy's "Eileen Hardy" From McLaren Vale was a beautiful wine with great balance and fruit and was generally rated wine of the day.
*Vasse Felix Cabernet from Margaret River showed the quality of the region with great balance and length, drinking extremely well.
Majella Coonawarra Cabernet was a very good wine but shaded by the less expensive Vasse Felix.
*Grant Burge "Shadrach" Cabernet showed just how good Barossa cabernets can be, with an exciting combination of strength and elegance.
Chef Peter from REX presented some well prepared crisp skin ocean trout on a bed of leek and fennel accompanied by kipfler potatoes and grilled fresh asparagus which was well received.
Congratulations should also go to Paul Ferman and Brian Sproule who made it back from Mudgee in time for this excellent tasting.
Lunch 17 September 2013
This was a memorable event in more ways than one: a first-ever look at a meat from South America, a professional chef in the kitchen to do it justice, a guest list of some length and depth and John "Goldy" Goldsborough as (nominal) chef of the day who produced it all. Leading the charge at the stoves was Paul Kuipers, owner/chef at Courtneys Brasserie, Parramatta, with a cast including Colin Lock, Ian Masters and Greg Sproule in support. We started with some interesting chopped liver with pickled tongue (produced from the same mystery beast) and garnishes on thin toasts, matched with a variety of mainly Tyrrells semillons of varying ages, with a drop of Lustau fino sherry which was actually a better match
And so to the main event: alpaca cuts served 3 ways, with some lightly seared loin backstraps; rolled and slow braised shoulder and shanks; and some salted and grilled slices of leg. All served simply with a quality reduction sauce, baked potato chunks and a green salad to balance. The meat resembles lamb, but without any fat and hence difficult to cook without drying. But Paul managed it well, the loin tender and red, the shoulder moist and luscious and the ham-like leg slices good if a bit chewy (impossible to do anything else with it, according to Paul). Served with it were a 2006 Cliff Edge shiraz from Langhi Ghiran, and the 2007 Wynns Coonawarra shiraz. They were in the lighter modern Oz style, the Cliff Edge in particular showing rich but elegant cool-climate characters which did not dominate the rather delicate meat.
Cheese was a queso fresco from Spain, young and wet in the ricotta style, but with a firmer texture and some nice astringency on the palate to make it interesting. It was fittingly served with dried incaberries from Peru, a gooseberry-type berry with an intense fig-like texture and sweetness. To go with it, a 2008 Salomon cabernet from Fleurieu Peninsula in SA, with Australian big fruit, but some finesse; and a 2000 Hugo cabernet from McLaren Vale, deep and fully mature, showing evident regional characters.
Coffee was a St Marta Estate bean, from Peru again, smooth. dry in the mouth and refreshing. Goldy turned on a finishing 1998 Seppeltsfield vintage port which was light and sweet in the Portuguese style but without the fire of brandy spirit of the original; and a special treat of hand-made chocolates, as to which see below.
The alpaca comes principally from the Andes mountains of Peru, so it was fitting that Goldy's guests included Elizabeth Castro, Peruvian Consul-General in Sydney, who spoke on the increasing links between the two countries. Also on the guest list (among many others) was Ian Frith, co-owner if the Millpaca Alpaca Stud at Berry and Luis Alemara, whose wife Carmen produced the wonderful chocolates that helped to end a great meal on a high note.
Lunch 10 September 2013
Bruce Thomas made a welcome return to the kitchen, assisted by Mark Compton. Bruce's lunches have always been distinguished by the effort he puts into making his own accessories to the food, and this time was no exception. To start, he produced a lovely moist hand-made pork and veal terrine, topped with a sweet 'n' spicy chutney made by Bruce on apricots, all served on thin pieces of sourdough. There was more, in the shape of Bruce's lightly cured salmon with crème fraiche on buttery toast rounds. Competently matched with a range of aperitifs, chiefly a 1999 Richmond Grove Barossa Riesling, nearing the end of its career, an Annies Lane Riesling, much fresher, and the ever-reliable Lustau manzanilla sherry, briny and beautiful.
In perhaps unwitting tribute to his late namesake Jack Thomas, Bruce gave us some great Luvaduck duck fillets, cooked a l'orange but Italian-style, with a sauce based on duck reduction and blood oranges, including strips of zest. Keeping to the Italian theme, the breasts were accompanied by a yellow polenta cake and by done to a turn asparagus (it must be Spring!) and green beans. Some breasts were chewier than others, but the flavour and presentation left no room for complaint. The wine master rose to the occasion with a brace of 2009 Italian reds, an Isole e Olena chianti and a Colli Tortonesi barbera. The latter was clearly better with good fruit and savoury drying tannins which went ideally with the food.
We stayed in Italy with the cheese, a fontina-style cows' milk, soft and pale with a nice trace of sourness to give it bite. A couple of cabernets, 2009 Den Mar from the Hunter and a 1999 Winooka Park from the Central Tablelands (around Bathurst), were adequate but not exciting, the younger a bit simple in fruit and the older showing its age. A simple wild rocket salad with a mild vinaigrette was a good balance for the mildness of the cheese.
The coffee was a commercial Lavazza blend, showing typical dark roast bitter notes; not bad, actually, with a wonderful 1994 Grand Cru late-picked pinot gris from Alsace provided as a wine master's bonus, brown in colour with rich sweet characters and a refreshing spritz on the ending.
Lunch 3 September 2013
It was the omnipresent Greg Sproule in the kitchen, and once again he managed to come up with a meal fresh in concept and execution.
Canapes were peking duck pancakes, with perfectly BBQ'd duck from the Haymarket in crepes that were a bit dry, but moistened with a drop of hoisin and with crunchy slivers of cucumber and spring onion to balance. A 2000 Gerry Sissingh Semillon from Rothbury, bottled under cork, showed inevitable bottle variation, but even the best were getting broad and flat, with fruit dropping out.
The main course was based on mussels, with packets of fresh prepared and bearded steamed whole mussels crowding on the plate with a piece of eggplant cooked in miso sauce with honey, chopped green herbs (parsley, coriander and mint) and a tasty sauce containing a fair measure of chili oil. Despite the apparent volume, the shells soon vanished and left plump and flavoursome mussels which provided a strong and briney but very moreish combination with the vegetables and the heat of the chili. Pity about the wine match; neither a very good 2006 Macquariedale Thomas shiraz from the Hunter, nor an Epsilon Barossa shiraz from the same year (with 14.5% alcohol) went with the food, although the Hunter, in the modern style with good sweet fruit and a soft finish, was better
The cheese, a Milawa King River Gold washed rind from Victoria, was nicely bouncy in texture with a good rind, but probably a bit young and lacking in the rich nutty flavour of top washed rinds. A straightforward green leaf salad was an unobtrusive accompaniment, matched well with a 2001 Tatachilla Partners cabernet/shiraz from McLaren vale, workmanlike but showing tired notes already and a 1998 Wynns black label cabernet, in the house style but disappointing from a good year.
Coffee was again from medium roast Harrar beans from Ethiopia, good robust flavour and a long finish; ideal with a superb Armagnac, deep brown, sweet and fiery, provided by birthday boy Roger Straiton to the applause of all.
Wine tasting 27 August 2013
An eclectic choice of reds from east to west Australia, some cool climate some hot, and all served masked. That was the task set by the winemaster, and members rose valiantly to the challenge, helped by some superb food which tended to dominate discussion, at least until the wines were unveiled.
In order of presentation, they were, from 2002: St Halletts Blackwell shiraz from the Barossa, Mountain Blue shiraz/cabernet from Mudgee, and Parker Coonawarra cabernet; and from 1999: Lindemans Stevens Bin 1825 Hunter shiraz, Alkoomi Jarrah shiraz from WA, and St Peters shiraz from the Grampians in Vic. All were interesting, although the St Peters disappointed on some tables, but the consensus picks were the Parker, the Blackwell and the Alkoomi, pretty much in that order, with support for the Lindies from a predictable source.
Some great food lifted the event, supplied by Nick Reynolds with help from Paul Irwin and Peter Baker. The canapes were a tasty homemade pate topped by a slice of cornichon on crisp thin toasts and a seared scallop served on pickled daikon in a pastry case. With them were a mixed bag of whites featuring a good zingy Frankland River Riesling from Houghtons, a NZ pinot gris with plenty of flavour but a bit sweet and, again, the Lustau manzanilla sherry, the pick of the bunch in terms of quality and match.
The tasting reds were ideally complemented by some melt in the mouth kangaroo loins, cooked sous vide at 52 degrees with juniper berries for flavour, and briefly seared on the salamander before being sliced and served with a sauce made on various meat reductions infused with junipers and a hit of chocolate with blueberries folded in. Extra elegance on the plate came in the form of a thinly sliced segment of lightly cooked pear with the seed cavity filled with a bacon panna cotta toped by a mushroom duxelles, the heart-shaped segment presenting beautifully on the plate. Also a green in the shape of smallish brussels sprouts, cooked slightly crunchy and, as usual, either a hit or a miss depending on taste.
Nick also supplied the cheese, a pecorinl di sardo sheeps' milk cheese from Sardinia, quite dry with a hard rind but some lovely lanolin notes in a granular texture. Leftover pear cheeks were lightly poached and served with it.
The coffee was good, a medium roast bean from Harrar in Ethiopia, and showing a nice balance of richness and acidity.
Luncheon 20 August 2013
The talented team of Gareth Edwards and Ted Davis were back in the kitchen to provide us with some food one member noted was worthy of consideration for COTY! Gareth reckoned he was in contention for the cheapest meal of the year challenging our resident scribe Peter Kelso.
Aperitif wine was Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2009 which was fresh with some wood evident and drinking young and a Lustau Fino sherry the latter begin a perfect accompaniment to our canape soup which was a Soup de Poisson which we are informed comprised prawn shells and blue swimmer crab shells roasted and turned into stock with addition of gurnard heads and bones (smash up and strain), and otherwise fairly standard recipe. Sauteed leek, onion, fennel, carrot and tomatoes, add stock, fennel seeds, star anise and thyme, the crab meat, but mostly flesh of gurnard, shark and bream, blended up with a touch of tomato paste, a dollop of butter, and served in a cup with aioli blended in rather than served separately.It was full of flavour with a creamy texture.
Hilton Chapman selected the wines for lunch that had resonance to our COTD namely Ingolby 2000 McLaren Vale Shiraz and Clare Valley Stephen John 2000 Shiraz both wines were a perfect accompaniment to the main meal considering the price point of these wines they showed well with Clare noted for its softness.
Presentation of main meal was superb as was the dish, most members comment thought the beef was fillet however we were informed it was Oyster blade: 7 whole blades were used, about 1.5kg each ($10/kg only)!. (The oyster blade has a streak of gristle up the centre which `melts’ on slow cooking and provides the excellent moisture and texture).It was browned in olive oil, add onions, garlic and carrots and slow cook in red wine, provencal herbs and bay leaf until really tender (Bourgignon style). Allow to cool a little, roll out into a long cylinder in gladwrap and allow to set in fridge overnight. Strain and reduce the stock. Cut beef into small cylinders and re-warm in the stock. Serve on fondant potatoes (brown in olive oil and butter, add chicken stock, a sprig of thyme and bake). Served with blanched and braised shallot, mushroom, carrot and parsnip, the reduced sauce, and a gougere `hat’ on the beef stack. Also a stick of broccolini.
Our cheese master provided a superb "Bleu de Laqueille" which came to the table at room temperature and is Blue mould pasteurised cow milk from the Auvergne region of France it had on off-white colour with blue green mould and creamy slightly, salty tangy flavour. Cheese wines were Wolf Blass Grey label 2007 Shiraz members commented on perfumed character and suggested it may have some viogner still a young wine. Some suggested the wine of the day was 1997 Clare Leasingham Cabernet malbec a beautifully integrated wine that was a great match to the cheese.Thanks to Richard Davis who provided a Taminick Cellar 2001 Vintage Port from North East Victoria as a birthday wine.It was perfect match for our coffee an Ethiopian Yirgacheefe rich with a clean acid finish.
There has been comment lately of the temperature of the wines being served. We noted that our cellermaster was every ready with thermometer in hand saying that the wines were a perfect temperature by the time they reached our table for pouring!Lunch ended with the traditional green chartreuse to toast the memory of Dr Peter Geddes an active and loved member of the Society who had died recently.Acting Chair Greg Chugg advised the choice of drink to celebrate such occasions is up the to member and suggested we nominate our preferences now. All correspondence to our secretary!
Luncheon 13 August
Peter Manners led a team of helpers into the kitchen for a piggy extravaganza. We started with some pork dim sum served on porcelain spoons with a spicy soy dressing. Great taste, if the size was a bit hard to handle. Also, departing from the theme, some wonderful little pastry horns filled, some with salt cod and salmon, and some with a mushroom duxelles. Well matched by the (good bottles of) 1999 Alkoomi riesling with still lively spritz and fresh fruit, although others were tired and oxidised. A few bonus bottles of younger riesling and pinot gris were good.
Then it was into the trough of the main course, with a generous helping of roast pork loin stuffed with apple, celery and red capsicum and served with a tangy pickled red cabbage and onion, beans and some nicely roasted chunks of potato. The highlight was some marvellous crackling which had been separated from the loin before cooking and crisped up to crunchy perfection; although a price was paid in that parts of the loin, deprived of their protection, were a bit dry. With this hearty combination, a couple of shiraz from the great 1998 year: Wynns Coonawarra and Piramimma Stocks Hill from McLaren Vale. Both were drinking well, although the Wynns edged out the other in the opinion of most, with fruit and balance of wood and tannins in great shape
The quality continued into the cheese course, the product mercifully being non-porcine. We saw two types of surface-ripened chevre from the Holy Goat establishment in Castlemaine, Victoria: the ever-popular La Luna, with its "bubbly" rind, and an ashed edition, called Brigid's Well. They were terrific chevre, but most agreed the ash did not add much. They were accompanied by sliced fresh pears and (still frozen) raspberries, and by a brace of Coonawarra cabernets, again from 1998: the Zema and the Mildara. Both showed good regional characters, the Zema in particular having a pronounced minty note on the palate and being the better of the two, the Mildara showing some dirty qualities on the nose and finish
All pigged out, we concluded with a pleasant coffee , a blend of 60% Devon from India and 40% New Guinea. A good mouth feel, with assertive but not bitter overtones on the finish.
Luncheon 6 August 2013
Food master Greg Sproule keeps pulling rabbits, or in this case beef cheeks, out of a hat ; practice makes perfect, and Greg has certainly had plenty of that this year.
We started with some homemade smoked trout pate neatly served in chicory "boats" with the bitterness of the chicory a cleansing offset to the fish. A 2000 Rothbury single bottle Semillon was the aperitif; nothing singular about it with rather thin fruit and dull .Better was some Lustau Manzanilla sherry, lovely nose and full, salty flavour.
The aforesaid beef cheeks were long and lovingly braised in aromatic vegetables and red wine, and came to the table soft and gelatinous, boosted by a sauce made on the braising liquid enriched with 85% chocolate. Also on the plate were roasted winter root vegetables, parsnip and beetroot, and a satin smooth puree of cauliflower and potato with lashings of cream and butter for the health conscious. All in all, terrific comforting winter food. The accompanying wines were rich and ripe shiraz from the Barossa: a Ben Schild and a Saltram Mamre Brook, both from 2004 and both drinking well, the Mamre showing a little more finesse and less overt sweet fruit than the Schild.
The prospective heart attack continued with a superb cheese, a Brillat-Savarin cream-enriched brie-style cheese from that region in France. It was ripe and runny on the plate and rightly described as "rich and decadent". An unusual salad of shredded red and chinese cabbages, walnuts and dried cranberries dressed with a vinaigrette base on tarragon vinegar was interesting although the tarragon was not a good mix with the cheese. The 2004 wine theme continued with two Coonawarra cabernets, the Majella and the Burton. Preferences were mixed, with most picking the Majella, but all agreed they showed strong adherence to fruit and region, and needed more time
Coffee was a Pittolito bean from Colombia, with a rich satisfying palate and a good smooth finish in the style preferred by the primary market, the USA.
President's Dinner 31 July 2013
Nearly 40 members, including 8 former presidents, were on hand at The Woods Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel at Circular Quay for the highlight of the Society year. It was a great evening, marred only by a fairly high level of outside noise which deprived many of hearing the short speech by President Steve Liebeskind.
Proceedings got under way with the 2000 vintage Pol Roger, a top champagne with fine bead and a long and persistent, but quite soft, palate. The entrée was unusual: a winter mushroom and Tasmanian truffle salad. An assemblage of fungi, with differing tastes and textures, was enlivened by a hint of fresh truffle, more evident on the nose than the palate, and perhaps slightly deadened by the temperature at which it was served. The accompanying wines were excellent: a 2009 Chassagne Montrachet from Olivier Leflaive, and the 1999 Tyrrells Vat 47. A contrast in styles , with the intense passionfruit nose and long acid finish of the French chardonnay set against the bigger, but still elegant, fruit of the Tyrrells, showing a hint of toast but still fresh despite its age.
A flight of burgundies without a matching course followed; perhaps they, or at least one of them, would have been better suited to the main course which followed. Not that either of them , a Dom Germain Beaune Les Cras 1er cru and a Cathiard Vosne Romanee Les Orveaux 1er cru both from 1995, were all that shabby on their own. The Vosne in particular showed restrained but evident fruit under long soft tannins and great structure, the Beaune a little simpler and slightly hard on the finish.
Main course was a triumph: seared and beautifully pink loins of venison were served with sweet but slightly bitter wood grilled halved grapes, balanced by the earthy cut of baby beets and a rich jus. Two 1994 Bordeaux went with it: a Ch Grand Puy Ducasse from Pauillac and a Ch L'enclos from Pomerol. Both top wines, the Pauillac showing typical cigar box characters on the nose and a big tough cabernet palate and finish needing more time, the Pomerol showing the forward softness of the merlot it was made on, and probably better with the food on the night.
A Beaufort semi-hard cows' milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region of France and a wonderful cheese with creamy sweet nutty flavours. was simply served with bread, crispbread, a berry compote and a few muscatels. It was well matched by an Aussie wine, the1993 St Halletts Old Block shiraz from the Barossa: rich, maturely complex palate with a long finish starting to show traces of volatility.
Then came dessert, The Woods Tart, which turned out to be an apple strudel-like confection. served with a smoked chocolate mousse in which the chocolate was elusive, with chocolate aero which had apparently taken off and roasted pear. Not the best course, but redeemed somewhat by a 1997 Ch Nairac Barsac, nicely aged with sweet apricot notes and a residual acid spine to give it structure. It was, however, topped by the 1977 Crofts Vintage Port, from the President's own cellar, which was served with coffee: light and ethereal with deep sweet rancio characters; an ideal way to end the evening.
Wine tasting 30 July 2013
It was a welcome return to the kitchen by James Hill, with Scott Witt on canapés. And pretty good they were, featuring fresh sardines, or pilchards, lightly grilled, with celery ,oil vinegar and parsley added and served on a choice of porcelain spoons or bread rounds. Also some rabbit rillettes, made by James and served on toasts garnished with cornichons or marinated garlic slices. IT went well with a 1997 Tyrrells Lost Block Semillon, a bit past its best use by date and showing considerable bottle variation from a rich, soft honey taste to the madeirised.
The tasting itself was a vertical lineup of St Hugo Coonawarra cabernet, starting with a young and unintegrated 2006 to a soft and (in good bottles) mature 1993. Everyone remarked on the similarity of style, and noted the increase in alcohol from 12.5% in 1993 to 14.5% in the 2006. In between the extremes were the 2004, 2002, 2001 and 1996. The most popular were the '04 and '02, the '96 being top rated by those who got a good bottle (and being the last of this vintage from the Society's cellar).
The food was simple but flavoursome, just what wine tasters wanted. Large escalopes of veal were rolled, wrapped in prosciutto and baked on a mirepoix of eggplant, red capsicum and zucchini, coming to the table crisp on the outside and nicely pink within, if a little chewy at times. Over the "log" was scattered the mirepoix, with hearty but still firm vegetable flavours which matched the wines well.
As did the cheese, a classic Beaufort cows' milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region of France; made in large wheels, it showed a rich firm paste with a wonderfully penetrating sweet nutty flavour. It was unusualy, but well, matched by a salad of freshly grated carrot dressed with a mild vinaigrette, mustard and garlic.
Coffee was a Malabar monsoon bean from India, showing rich chocolate notes with a touch of bitterness to clean the palate , and low acid. It was overshadowed by a startlingly good Armagnac provide by birthday boy Hilton Chapman, complex notes on the palate underlying fiery spirit.
Luncheon 23 July 2013
It's not often we get a member generous enough to underwrite an extraordinary lunch, but that was what we got , with Ted Treister supplying the food and the wines at his own expense over and above the budgetary allowance, helped in the kitchen by his partner Katerina and by neighbour Grant, with a hand from Greg Sproule.
The extravaganza started with real caviar, albeit from Italy, and the traditional finely chopped egg, served on toasts. The fish eggs were small, but full of the authentic salty intense flavour and were well matched by a vintage champagne, La Femme 1996 from Duval- Leroy, one of the smaller houses in Epernay. It showed strong yeast characters over a firm acid base, with a good mousse: a top example of the style.
Onto the main course, some organic chicken legs slowly braised in butter and eschalots and served meltingly tender with diced potatoes, a half avocado and a piece of roasted and skinned red capsicum with green leaves for garnish. Great colur on the plate and some interesting flavour and texture combinations. The wines were unusual: a 2008 La Syrare d'Alain Gallety, a 100% shiraz number from an estate near Chateauneuf -du - Pape with a whopping 14.5% alcohol hit and some new oak treatment which gave it an evident minty, even pine, nose and a huge palate that the Barossa would be proud of; and a very good Chateauneuf Tardieu-Laurent from 2006, with rich clean flavours and a delight to drink now. A bonus was a sip of a Grand Cru Charmes- Chambertin of 2002 from Lupe-Cholet, kindly donated by Ray Healey: a stunning burgundy with depth and elegance, still in its youth.
Even the cheese was supplied by Ted, a Frrench goats' milk cheese with a most unusual texture reminiscent of Emmental and a great lactic flavour with none of the sourness of an ordinary chevre. The salad of manche, or lamb's lettuce, with chives and a quite tart vinaigrette supported the cheese and did no great harm to the accompanying wines: a 2006 Ch de Pressac from St Emillon, young but with identifiable Bordeaux characters; and a 2007 Les Sens du Temps des Treilles, a 50/50 merlot and petit verdot wine from areas adjoining Bordeaux, with good structure and balance, although lacking intensity.
That could certainly not be said of a surprising XO rum from Guatelama served with the coffee; matured in cognac casks, it was smooth and lingering with none of the fiery spirit of a typical rum. a great match with a terrific Kenya AA individual plantation coffee bean, spoken to by Andrew Forsyth of Forsyth's Coffee, and showing a sweet, almost orange,citrus finish to go with the spirit.
Great thanks to Ted and his team for a lunch with a difference, especially in the wines. Other members are free to follow suit
Luncheon 16 July 2013
Bastille Day had passed, but that didn't stop John Rourke and his team of francophiles from taking over the kitchen for a classy bistro lunch in honour of the occasion.
First off, some duck liver pate expertly prepared by Terry McDowell and plated by him and Peter Madden on wafer biscuits. Washing it down was a kir royale made on cassis and a sparkler (a bit sweet) and a mixed bag of whites featuring a 1997 Tyrrells Lost Block semillon, the good bottles of which were still fresh with developed palate.
The main course featured duck.Confit marylands were cooked under sous vide by the resident expert, Nick Reynolds, and crisped up under the salamander before coming to the table topped by a tricolor flag and accompanied by a sauce made on sour cherries, with smashed potatoes, also cooked sous vide then crisped, and wilted English spinach enlivened with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The result was a great combination of flavours and, despite complaints of uniformity, we were spared the complaints of over- or under-doneness which would undoubtedly have erupted if the duck had been prepared by traditional methods.
Naturally, the wines were pinot, a French burgundy which differed from table to table and a 2002 Rebellion wine from Ballarat which showed lots of hot varietal fruit but lacked the complexity and balance of (most of) the French wines.
For cheese, we stayed in France with a St Maure Caprifeuille chevre from the Poitou Charentes area, soft and quite young with a slightly sour but creamy taste and a beguiling wrinkly, and edible, rind .It was matched with the classic accompaniment of honey and walnuts, with the sweet and earthy crunch the perfect foil for the slightly sour creaminess of the cheese. The wines were a 1994 Ch Lafon Rochet from St Estephe and a 2002 Majella cabernet from Coonawarra. Both top wines , preference between the dark and dusty elegance of the Bordeaux and the softer fruitier impact of the Coonawarra being a question of taste.
Coffee came from Brazil, a Red Bourbon bean medium roasted, with a good bitter hit on the palate balanced by some acidity to clean up on the finish.
Luncheon 9 July 2013
Brian Sproule made a welcome return to the kitchen, albeit in a supervisory role - not that son Greg needed supervision.
It was a fresh start, with some juicy medium king prawns briefly sautéed in oil and garlic, and presented simply with celery and grissini sticks, and a few pieces of marinated mushroom. Delightful with a Giesen (NZ) 2009 sauvignon blanc, served masked in a vain attempt to disguise it. Also on hand was some fine Lustau amontillado sherry, dry and penetrating with some wood age.
The main course was identified by some as goat. A whole young goat from Feather & Bone was butchered by them and cooked long and slow by the kitchen team in white wine, herbs and aromatic vegetables, and served with little cakes of goat mince and silver beet, mixed with egg and pan fried, and some orecchiette, or little ear-shaped pasta, cooked in turmeric and coming to the plate golden yellow. Some wonderful flavour and texture in the meat, and great winter fare. The wines were both Piramimma Stocks Hill shiraz from McLaren Vale, one 1999 and the other 1998. Very similar in the solid McLaren Vale style, with the younger slightly the lighter and more elegant of the two.
James Healey, in the absence of the Cheese Master, provided a top aged Italian semi-hard cheese, a Occelli Testun di Barolo. Made of mixed cows' and goat's milk, and covered with the must from the local Barolo wine, this showed great depth of flavour , with a slightly crumbly texture and a lingering winey lactic palate. It was well served by a couple of 2002 cabernets, a Zema from Coonawarra and a Chapel Hill from McLaren Vale. The Zema showed typical Coonawarra minty characters with a good balance of fruit and acid, but the Chapel Hill was a beauty, with rich cabernet fruit balanced by good tannins and acid, still improving
For coffee, Spencer Ferrier introduced us to Tanzania, single estate Blackburn medium roast beans which yielded a good uplifted palate with some acidity to provide length in the finish.
Luncheon 2 July 2013
Wine master Paul Ferman showed his versatility by acting as chef of the day, as well as providing the wines.
Canapes were a marinated fish, or ceviche, on toasts and a light creamy soup served in coffee cups. Both went well with a 1999 Richmond Grove riesling, bottled under stelvin and still fresh and lively with some bottle development.
For the main course, Burgundy was the inspiration and chicken the vehicle, with drumsticks poached in a red wine stock which formed the basis for a light but flavoursome sauce to lift the chicken. Naturally the accompanying wines were pinots: a Stonier from NZ and a Palliser from Oz ,both 1999. Both good drinking with the food, the Kiwi wine showing more structure and funky notes.
The cheese kept us in Burgundy, an Epoisses washed rind, with a typical orange-hued rind, a strong aroma from the mould and the wine with which it is washed and a wonderful gooey texture which flowed across the plate and a good sweetly nutty taste. It was served with a superior green salad and, as well, poached pears simmered in red wine, pomegranate juice and spices. Wine-wise, the choice was a 2002 Burton McLaren Vale shiraz and a Saltram Barossa Valley shiraz, of the same year. Both were showing ripe fruit with integrated tannins from a top year, the Saltrams edging the Burton as a cheese match, if not in absolute quality.
The quality persisted into the coffee, a medium roast Kenyan AA bean with robust flavour balanced by good acidity in the mouth making for a long finish.
Wine tasting 25 June 2013
It was an interesting lineup on the table, with wines from 3 countries served entirely masked and therefore provocative.
But first, a surprisingly young and fresh 2002 Houghtons Frankland River Riesling from WA was the aperitif. It was matched with some white anchovies and guacomole on toasts from chef Paul Thorne, and a pate of distinction made by Ian Whitter, who was unable to be there.
The reds served with main course and cheese were, in subsequently disclosed order: a 2002 Barolo from Piedmont in Italy; a 1998 Drumborg cabernet from Victoria; a 1998 Le Volte cabernet blend from Tuscany; a Chien Verte cabernet franc from Chinon in France; a 1996 Normans Peacock cabernet from McLaren Vale; and a 1990 Ch Potensac, an unclassified Bordeaux. With such a wide range of areas and vintages, tastes were bound to differ, aided by the inevitable bottle variation; but the Potensac and the Drumborg seemed to impress, although the former was tiring; whilst the Chinon, the Normans and the Barolo (still too young) had their admirers.
The appreciation of the wines was assisted by some great tasting fare from Paul Thorne. A soup base made on smoked pork hocks with lots of herbs and aromatic vegetables was supplemented by peas and diced carrot, and served under a nicely done slice of pork neck topped wit a slice of boudin noir, or black pudding. Rich smooth meat and veg flavours with a touch of sweetness from a mirin coating on the pudding.
Then it was on to a quality cheese from James Hill in the absence of Ross MacDonald. A Clarines des Perrin from the Franche Comte region of France, this was a marvellously oozing brie-style cheese produced in small rounds and rich and lingering on the palate despite being only 27 g fat. An iceberg lettuce salad dressed with ev olive oil and some quite tart balsamic provided a bit of cut to the butteriness of the cheese.
The coffee was unidentified, but was a medium to high roast bean with plenty of richness in the mouth balanced by good bitter notes to give it length
Luncheon 18 June 2013
For no particular reason, we were off on the road to Morocco as Peter Kelso in the kitchen, assisted by new member Grant Montgomery, produced a meal with a definite North African influence.
It started with dukkah, a nut and spice mix, servedwith chunks of bread and olive oil for dipping, and some whole Sicilian olives on the side. Light and tasty with some ditto semillons from the Hunter, especially a 2005 Lindemans which won universal praise.
The main course was slow-cooked boned lamb shoulders, rubbed with ras-el-hanout (a Middle Eastern spice mix) and braised in a bed of onions and garlic with quinces, pomegranate seeds and molasses, eggplant and a few squirts of hot harissa chili sauce to give it a tang. It was prepared in advance and supposedly heated up in the oven on the day. The gremlins intervened and the meat, pink and tender, came to the table cool although the sauce was quite hot. It detracted from what was otherwise a good winter meal, completed with some pearl, or Israeli, couscous, little sago-size balls of pasta cooked in stock and tossed with parsley and mint.
On the wine front, our Master turned on a bin-end variety of wines with 2-4 bottles left in the cellar, so that each table got differing wines with both main course and cheese. Therefore, no detailed discussion is possible, other than to say that most were from the '90's, and were of high quality with no complaints apart from the inevitable bad bottle or two.
The cheese moved north to Spain with a superb Manchego Queso Traditionales sheep's milk cheese, a slightly oily lanolin aroma and a lovely soft, grainy and nutty paste, probably a bit young to display the burnt caramel notes that the merchant extolled. A simple green salad of mixed leaves dressed with a vinaigrette infused with a taste of ras-el -hanout spice matched it well, as did a nicely bitter medium roast Malabar monsoon coffee.
Mixed luncheon 11 June 2013
A good, and vociferous, crowd was on hand for the lunch following the Queen's Birthday weekend. Martin McMurray was the chef, assisted by Peter Kelso, and some good food with matching wines was the result.
A NZ sparkler, Twin Islands, got proceedings under way; a pleasant prosecco-style refresher with some lively acid. Well matched with some lightly cured salmon slices on toast with a mustard crème fraiche and a sprinkle of salmon roe.
To more serious matters, as Martin presented racks of lamb Jean Paul Sartre , a gustatory if not a philosophical delight. The racks were served with stuffed red cabbage rolls containing bacon, apple, walnut and onion, accompanied by a sweet but intense red sauce made on wine with aromatic spices of cinnamon and cloves. To soak up the sauce, pine nut and ginger rice, with grains dry and well separated. The racks were a little unkempt, but fine once you cut the fat off, and wonderfully cooked with the right degree of pinkness. With the dish, a choice of Lindemans 1999 sparkling shiraz, and a Ingoldby McLaren Vale cabernet from the same year. The latter was aged and showed little varietal fruit, but retained enough acid to balance the lamb; while the sparkling was a great example of the style, rich and slightly sweet, but with drying tannins and a fizz which cut through the fat in the meat.
As usual, a triumphant cheese, this time a Quicks cloth-bound farmhouse cheddar about 2 years old, showing wonderful texture and mushroomy notes on the palate. Well served by a rich but balanced 2001 Chalambar shiraz from Seppelts in Great Western, and, to a lesser extent, by a 2000 Coriole McLaren Vale shiraz, a bit hot and simple. A salad of 3 lettuces with pistachios and a tangy vinaigrette completed the picture.
The lunch ended with a choice of a fine ground tea from Sri Lanka, and an organic coffee from Tanzania, good but not outstanding.
Luncheon 4 June 2013
It was a welcome return to the kitchen by Scott Witt, back for the first time since the move to our new premises, and supported by Paul Thorne. Exploiting a contact with Petrossian, an importer of gourmet French products, it was hardly surprising that a bistro theme predominated.
To start, we saw dried caviar mixed with crème fraiche on terrific little blinis, and seared foie gras topped with reduced balsamic glaze on bread rounds. Both had wonderful flavour and were well matched by a 2008 Den Mar Hunter chardonnay, with forward sweet fruit backed by a strong acid line, straightforward but good on the day.
The main course came in the form of thin wagyu minute steaks, perfectly cooked despite timing problems in the kitchen, and lifted by a great duck-based reduction sauce with cep mushrooms; also a notable rustic mash, not overworked and accentuated with a white truffle puree, which weaved its aromatic magic on the plate, and some well handled broccolini. For wines, we had a choice of four 2002 Oz cabernets, two from hot climate areas (Chapel Hill from McLaren Vale and Ebenezer from the Barossa) and two from cooler (Alkoomi from Frankland River in WA and Bowen Estate from Coonawarra)
It was instructive to compare the groups, the 1st two showing heaps of ripe fruit and rich palate, with some hardness in the Chapel Hill, while the 2nd two had less extracted fruit, a long palate with fine tannins and a lingering finish, the Bowen being the bigger and more approachable of the two, though many preferred the more elegant style of the WA, with its French dusty notes.
The second two were definitely better with the cheese, a Gorgonzola dolce latte in top condition though perhaps not the best example of this popular style. A green salad of mizuna lettuce was dressed with high quality walnut oil and an aromatic white wine vinegar containing honey.
The coffee was from Colombia, a medium roast bean showing plenty of warm notes on the palate, with no obvious spikes; a style produced for the US market.
Wine tasting 28 May 2013
It was off to the Hunter to look at some wines from Tyrrells; 3 whites and 3 reds (+the aperitif) to be precise. Unfortunately Bruce Tyrrell had to drop out at the last moment, but the wines were the same, and Ray Healey filled in to some extent for Bruce.
We started with the 1997 Stevens Semillon, bottled, as were all the whites, under cork. Even so, this was a stylish wine not eclipsed by the 2 sems in the tasting, and the best bottles were great, with developed but still fresh lemon fruit balanced by soft acidity. Some nice canapés from chef of the day Gary Patterson, smoked trout, crème fraiche and lumpfish roe on kumera crisps, and on crackers, were a good complement.
The main course was a salmon fillet piece cooked en papillotte (in baking paper) with butter and lemon juice, with a cream sauce with grapes served on the side, and silverbeet cooked with nutmeg and cinnamon, a flavoursome ragout made on swiss brown mushrooms and a kipfler potato on the plate, together with chopped fresh apple and a few (unnecessary) cherry tomatoes. Naturally, the wines were white, in the form of a HVD Semillon, a Vat 1 and a Vat 47, all from 1999. The HVD was drinking well with some toasty development, the Vat 1 was still a baby with the underlying quality fruit yet to develop, while the Vat 47 varied on tables from light gold and cleanly sweet to mid gold and a little oxidised.
Long-suffering red addicts were catered for with the cheese wines: a vertical flight of Vat 9 form 2003, 2000 and 1991.
The popularity was roughly inverse to age, with the 2003 showing a fair amount of French wood and big ripe fruits, the 2000 more austere in style but a typical Hunter, whilst the 1991 had hard notes and , acoording to Ray Healey, a problem with brettanomyces. The cheese was a different one: an aged chevre from the Veneto region of Italy, wrapped in walnut leaves and showing an ivory, slightly oily paste with a nutty taste and lactic notes on the finish. Fresh fruit was the accompaniment.
The coffee was unidentified but strong and with warm woody notes. With it, the traditional green chartreuse appeared to toast the memory of Karl Lorenz and Paul Hunter, two formerly active and loved members of the Society who had died recently.
Chef of the Year Dinner 25 May 2013
It's the night for the "Food" part of the Society, and 65 members and guests were there to eat, drink and be on the spot for the announcement of 2012's Chef of the Year and winner of the Chris Alexiou Trophy for best seafood dish. Chef on the night was last year's winner, Ted Davis, supported by Greg Sproule and Peter Karr (making an overdue return to our kitchen and fellowship).
To start things rolling, a Camille Saves NV Champagne (fresh and dry, with a touch of yeast autolysis) was matched by Greek canapés in honour of Chris Alexiou. Taramasolata, with good roe flavour and enough lemon to make it interesting, was served on toasts with a mint leaf garnish, while some very good homemade dolmades had to be supplemented by a few of the tinned variety when they ran out.
Entrée continued the seafood theme, with stuffed squid on a green (more orange, actually) papaya salad, embellished with a sweet and salt sauce made on soy and sweet chili with chopped peanuts and a garnish of coriander leaves, in honour of previous COTY winner, the late Jack Witter. The pork stuffing contained ginger and onions, lifted by the sauce. The matching wines did that, with a 1998 Orlando Steingarten Riesling and a 1995 Chateay Leonay Riesling from Eden Valley. Wines of this age, bottled under cork,showed inevitable bottle variation, but on the whole the Leonay, on the cusp, outshone the Steingarten for freshness and intensity of flavour.
For the main course, Ted gave us a repeat of his wonderful ballontine of duck, with a boned duck stuffed with a vibrant pork and veal mix and rolled, then baked and sliced. It was lifted even more by a clear but richly flavoured reduction sauce whose only failing was its paucity, and served with nicely crunchy potato chunks cooked in duck fat and braised celery. Due recognition was given to the duckmaster, the late Jack Thomas. To go with it, an eclectic mix of French burgundy, in the form of a 2002 Beaune Clos des Avaux 1er cru from Lupe Cholet, and a Barossa shiraz in the form of the 1996 Tim Adams Aberfeldy. No real contest, the burgundy being mature and complex with a long structure and a bit of funk, while the Oz, though still integrated and showing good balance of fruit and tannins, was simple in comparison.
Cheese, presented in honour of the late Terry Robinson, ,was an artisan Mountain Man washed rind from Timboon in Victoria, simply served with fresh muscat grapes. The cheese had plenty of flavour but was a little young with a chalky middle yet to mature into the luscious paste which was evident inside the rind. To accompany were cabernets from here and France, the 1994 Jacaranda Ridge from Coonawarra and a 1994 Ch Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc from Bordeaux. Here again, the foreign wine won, with nice dusty tannins and a good nose, the Jacaranda Ridge showing its age with less fruit and a slightly hard finish
Next, our man from the Bronx, Peter Karr, provided a trademark New York cheesecake with a raspberry coulis splashed around it. Cooked with real cream cheese and with a sweet and chewy biscuit base, this was a delight to eat and even better with a young (2008) Ch Filhot from Sauternes; sweet with some developed apricot notes indicating an early developer, but great on the night.
Coffee was an Illy Italian blend with bitter caramel notes, balanced by a lovely Lustau Pedro Ximenez tokay-like sherry and, to honour the late Neville Baker, some fluffy chocolate madeleines.
In between all the browsing and sluicing, the President and the Food Master found time to announce that the winner of both the COTY and the Chris Alexiou Trophy was Nick Reynolds for his spectacular salmon, cooked sous vide with "scales" of thin zucchini slices and served with hollandaise sauce and stuffed zucchini flowers. A worthy winner, as all agreed, and congratulations to Nick for taking out the double.
Luncheon 23 May 2013
Cometh the hour, and once again our Foodmaster, Greg Sproule, stepped in to fill a last-minute gap - and fill it with aplomb.
Italian was the theme, and antipasti was the starter, with various morsels beautifully arranged and displayed on serving plates. With them, a 20120 Belgravia from Orange, a good example of cool-climate fruit, showing early development.
The main course was Cotoletta alla Milanese, with a (big) veal cutlet seared rare and sharing the plate with a generous helping of Pizzoccheri, a Milanese specialty of buckwheat pasta with cabbage and potato, lifted by Greg with onions and a bit of tomato for colour and balance; and a rich dollop of sautéed mushrooms made even earthier with a drop of truffle oil. The wines for this and the cheese course to follow were shiraz from the top year of 2002, with a warm and a cool climate wine from each of SA and Victoria. First out were the "cools": a Langhi Ghiran Cliff Edge from Vic and a Penfolds Bin 128 from Coonawarra. Both good , though the Cliff Edge had just that over the fPenfolds and was in fact the best wine of the day for many. Then the "hots": Tyrrells Rufus Stone from Heathcote in Vic and Taylors from Clare. Both had their fans, the Heathcote in particular being well made and balanced despite alcohol of around 15%. All went well with a hearty Italian dish with plenty of flavour and technique, the pasta being particularly well handled.
Cheese was in the Italian style from Victoria, a Berrys Creek Bellingham Blue from Gippsland. A top cheese which had many thinking Europe, with a rich buttercup yellow paste offset by a great gorgonzola-style mould, in peak condition and a joy to eat. Especially so with an unusual salad mix of radicchio and whitlof, their bitterness clearing the palate for the cheese (and wine), dressed with a balsamic glaze and ev olive oil. Coffee followed suit with a high roast, high caramel Illy Blend showing strong bitter notes, but a bit stale and lacking length and freshness.
Jack Thomas Memorial lunch 14 May 2013
John (Jack) Thomas was a longstanding, and life, member of the Society who, until recent illness leading to his death late last year, was an active presence in the kitchen and a two-time winner of the Chef of the year Award. So it was fitting that a team of his friends from the Society and from Escoffier should assemble to present a special lunch in celebration of his life and contribution to the Society, with Jack's widow Sue and other members of the family in attendance. And with Jack's predilection for duck, what else could be on the menu?
Canapes were prepared by David Allison, a member of Escoffier and professional caterer, and presented on the day by Peters Manners and Madden. A 1997 Steingarten Riesling, under cork, showed inevitable bottle variation, but the best were superb, with light gold colour and mature Riesling characters.
The team, headed by John Rourke and featuring Nick Reynolds and his sous vide machine, turned up the pace with a great main course. Duck marylands were cured in salt and herbs, then washed and cooked , sealed, at 82 degrees for 8 hours. John Rourke did something similar with potatoes , and all was re-heated, debagged, heated and served on the day with carrots, buttered spinach and an intense sour cherry sauce. The Duckmaster would have been proud.
With it, a 2006 Tyrrells Vat 6 pinot which showed more Hunter than Burgundian characters and probably needed more time, and a Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna from 2002 wit terrific wood and fruit in the house style.
Hearts beat faster (if they could) with the cheese, a triple cream Delice de Bourgogne, with powdery white edible rind and a soft sweet buttery paste finishing with a touch of sourness. Simply balanced by some savoury poached pears from Peter Madden, and further cut by a pair of cabernets: a2000 Vasse Felix from WA and a 1996 Ch Haut Bages Liberal from Bordeaux. Both top wines, the local at its best and showing long tannins and a wonderful balance, the French still a bit closed and tannic, though it did open up in the glass and indicate its potential.
A very good coffee was surpassed by a 12 yo single malt scotch from Arran,slightly peaty but superbly complex. It elicited many reminiscences of Jack and the lunch culminated with the presentation of FWFSA Awards to John Rourke and Marcus Bleasel for their contributions to the Society's enjoyment of food over many years.
4th cook off 7 May 2013
The round of cook offs for the 2012 Chef of the Year ended with a bang, with Nigel Burton and his team recreating the dish that got him there.
For the second time, Hilton Chapman demonstrated unexpected versatility, presenting canapés of duck live pate and marinated eggplant mousse topped with fresh tarragon flowers, both served on toasts, and both well supported by a 2007 Cloudy Bay pinot from NZ, good funky nose and palate and drinking well now.
It was a tasty lead in to the main event, Burton's seafood medley: a powerful lobster-rich reduction bisque base, enriched with real lobster, prawns, scallops and scorpion fish and cooked sous vide with a filo pastry chunk, porcini and enoki mushrooms and a fresh zucchini flower. Terrific flavour and presentation, a worthy contender. The accompanying wines were a 2009 Vasse Felix chardonnay, with elegant cool climate fruit and creamy wood, but shaded by the 2004 Tyrrells Vat 47, brilliant gold, rich fruit offset by bracing acid and still to hit its straps.
Special mention should be made of the "salad" served with the cheese: sweet warm fresh figs wrapped in bacon and served with roasted pine nuts. Soul-warming and especially good with a top-class Papillon Roquefort, balancing its salty sour sheep's milk notes well. They were reasonably well served by a pair of Hunters; the 2003 Macquariedale Thomas shiraz and the Tyrrells Vat 9 from the same year.An interesting contrast, with the former an obvious, average, Hunter style, whilst the Tyrrells was big, deep and needing more time. A medium roast coffee was of good strength and length.
Wine tasting 30 April 2013
The Wine Master developed wanderlust for the April wine tasting, with whites and reds from 1997 spread across the continent from NSW to WA.
To start, the Tyrrells Vat 4 HVD semillon, showing classic Hunter toast on the nose and good acid under some well developed fruit. The accompanying canapés from Food Master Greg Sproule were cucumber rings topped with a chili avocado dip and some crunchy puff pastry circles with caramellised onion and ash chevre; both good.
The tasting wines were: Lindemans Ben Ean Bin 9410 shiraz from the Hunter; Huntington Bin fb34 cabernet from Mudgee; Rosemount Balmoral shiraz and Woostocks The Stocks shiraz, both from McLaren Vale; Orlando Lawsons shiraz from Padthaway; and Vasse Felix cabernet from Margaret River. As usual, opinions were divided, but the 2 cabernets, and especially the Vasse Felix, were favoured by many , although the Lawsons and the Lindies had their supporters. What was not in doubt was that the marinated and seared 'roo fillets on a bed of mash with a bit of onion jam and some fresh asparagus topped by béarnaise sauce was a good match for all the reds and a pretty good meal to boot.
A quick visit to Tasmania for the cheese, a cloth-bound Pyengana cheddar in top condition, with great cheddar consistency and not too much salt. A refreshing salad of bitter leaves offset it well
3rd Cook off 23 April 2013
The battle for supremacy as 2012 COTY continues, with Graham Fear back in Spain (and elsewhere) in the 3rd of the cook offs, to an encouraging throng of 51 members and guests. He began with 3 canapes: slivers of duck liver loaf cooked in cryovac and topped with a piece of quince paste on toasts; rare wagyu beef fillets slices , also on toasts, with fresh horseradish cream; and pastrami of NZ king salmon, briefly cured and wrapped in ground seeds, including coriander, on toothpicks. A good but not outstanding riesling, the 2005 Wilson Polish River, was a suitable accompaniment, although a stray bottle or two of 2000 Macquariedale Hunter semillon was better.
Spain entered the ring for the main course, with some sizeable beef cheeks lovingly slow cooked for over 6 hours in a rich poaching liquid of aromatic vegetables, herbs, red wine and 2 types of sherry, one being a sweet and powerful Pedro Ximenes, bringing a note of sticky sweetness to the sauce when strained and reduced. Also on the plate: a smooth and luscious puree of cauliflower with cream and butter, a crisp-skinned potato cooked in goose fat and some green and butter beans in nice crisp condition. The meat, topped with a sprig of fresh thyme, was soft and flavoursome and the whole a grest presentation on the plate. With it were 2 reds, but differing bottles on each table so no comment is possible. Suffice it to say the mix produced only one complaint.
On to the cheese, which was not Spanish despite the cheese master's best endeavours, but the next best thing, a Osseau Iraty semi-hard ewe's milk cheese from the Basque region of France with a firm nutty, olive-like flavour and a firm paste. It went well with a dollop of quince paste and a salad of mesclun, apple and walnut with a good, slightly sweet, dressing made on white balsamic vinegar and, naturally, Spanish olive oil . The wines were again a mixed bunch of a chardonnay and a pinot noir, including, for some, a Vat 47 and Scotchmans Hill pinot, both very good. Best with the cheese was a luscious Muscats de Beaumes de Venises kindly donated by member Roger Prior
The coffee, rich and long in length, was a medium roast single estate bean from Devon Estate in S-E India. It was also an appropriate accompaniment for a toast in the traditional green chartreuse to the memory of Merv Goronszy, a largely non-resident member who died recently while working in India.
Lunch 16 April 2013
With the memorial lunch for the late John (Jack) Thomas coming up in May, his namesake Bruce Thomas gave a preview featuring John's staple, duck.
But it was no slavish imitation, with some creative canapes of homemade cured salmon, fresh and tangy but not salty on toasts with chervil leaves as garnish, and an unusual tapenade made on green Sicilian olives and showing a good hit of anchovy, again served on thin toasts. A 2000 Rothbury Black Label semillon was a good match; still showing some sweet fruit but starting to drop out and somewhat broad.
The duck itself was some Parton-sized breasts from Luvaduck, carefully trimmed of fat and seared skin down to remove the fat under the skin, then briefly baked. They came to the table moist, pink and wondrously tender, topped with a dollop of paste made from almonds and garlic, accompanied by some jus made on leftover pieces of leg, some finely mandolined potato slices cooked in a bit of duck fat in muffin trays, and the final touch, still slightly crunchy brussels sprouts baked wth pancetta and cream. Typically French (except for the sprouts), the meal was matched by a 2006 La Bastide St Dominique Cotes du Rhone, which came up in the glass and proved a good match, and a 2009 La Zona barbera from King Valley in Victoria, still a bit tough and tannic and needing time to settle.
The cheese followed in the French theme; a Rouzaire brie de Nangis from N France in top condition with a fine white bloom on the rind, a sticky and luscious paste and no trace of ammonia. The quince paste, again Bruce's creation, served with it was great, if not the best match; and some siced corella pears went well. The wines were less successful, a 2000 Macquariedale Thomas shiraz, the name in theme but the wine a bit tired if still holding together; and a 1993 Tollana Eden Valley shiraz, remarkable for its age but again with fruit fading and a hint of acetone on the back palate.
Coffee was unidentified but more than acceptable, and a birthday muscat from Stanton & Killeen provided byJosef Condrau was totally so.
2nd cook off 9 April 2013
Nick Reynolds garbed up for the fray for the 2012 COTY and threw down the gauntlet to all challengers with a superb meal. Assisted by Greg Sproule and James Hill, he started with white anchovies preserved in oil, and a startling smoked tomato sorbet on sourdough crisps, plus a wonderful match of lightly grilled squid hoods stuffed with minced chorizo sausage, served sliced with toothpicks. A good if not brilliant Lustau extra dry fino sherry accompanied; also a mix of whites including a Macquariedale semillon and a sylvaner and a Vouvray from France.
Capitalising on a great start, Nick then presented his signature poached salmon, intricately leaved with sliced zucchini "scales" and cooked sous vide perfectly, with pink but not red flesh still moist and flaking. A memorable hollandaise (or bearnaise with a bit of chopped tarragon and saffron through) and steamed zucchini flowers stuffed with a vibrant ratatouille completed the picture. The wines served with it were interesting rather than great, a 2004 Providence chardonnay from Tasmania with a lifted nose and some good fruit, showing nutty developed characters; and better with the fish than a 2010 Cuvee de Batonnier rose from Provence, with a nice onion-skin colour but lacking any fruit definition or character.
The cheese was Nick's choice (more brownie points): a Spanish Queso de Murcia al Vino, a mature semi-hard goats' cheese with none of the usual sourness, but a soft slightly crumbly paste with a sweet fruity taste; and you could eat the wine-washed rind. Served with it was an appropriate salad of mizuna lettuce, sliced bartlett pears and fresh walnuts with a balsamic dressing; and vinously,a 1996 Redman (decanted from magnums) and a 2000 Brands Laira, both cabernets from Coonawarra. The Redman was the better of the two, with still fresh fruit balanced by good acidity and soft tannins, showing the benefits of ageing in magnum; the Brands, although still drinking well, is on the way out with a slightly hard finish.
The coffee, served anonymously, was very good, rich but with a touch of acid to give it length.
Mixed lunch 2 April 2013
Around 45 members and guests (including some members who failed to book) attended the lunch after the Easter break; enticed, no doubt, by the presence of Roger Straiton, assisted by James Hill, in the kitchen. They did us proud, starting with some plump and gold-seared Qld scallops in a butter and lemonthyme sauce on porcelain spoons, and a dip of complexity built on prawns, served on Iggy's sourdough slices. Both terrific with a choice of Salinger fizz and a 2010 Belgravia riesling from Orange; as yet a bit dumb but will improve with time.
The main course saw some chicken thigh fillets, nicely cooked and finished in the oven, under a rich sauce based on fried shallots, verjuice and butter and finished with cream and chopped tarragon, giving a slightly citrus aniseed note to cut the richness. Accompanying this comfort food were some glossily glazed carrots and baked potato wedges. A choice of colours to go with this, a 1999 Lindemans sparkling shiraz, velvet with bubbles, and a wonderful 1998 Tyrrells Vat 47, with all the passionfruit nose and complex fruit with acid to balance that one could want.
Cheese was the chef's choice, a classic Pont L'Eveque washed rind from Normandy; perhaps a little young and rubbery in texture, but with lovely rind development and subtle nutty notes in the paste. A green vinaigrette-dressed salad with crunchy walnuts went well, but a 1997 Tyrrells Stevens-De Beyers semillon was thin and lacked the fruit neede to match the cheese, while assorted aged reds, different on each table, varied from the glorious to the forgettable. A medium-roast house blend of beans from Forsyths was a satisfying finish to a lunch which once again proved the curmudgeons wrong.
Wine tasting 26 March
It was welcome back James to former frequent chef (and previous COTY Winner) James Muir, in the kitchen to poroduce a seafood dish to go with a vertical tasting of Limestone Ridge. It doesn't sound compatible, but in fact the spicy but not overwhelming food went well with the mature spicy shiraz characters in the wines on offer.
But first, some freshly steamed marinated mussels served in the shell with a hit of chili, and baby chats baked, cooled and served split with a bit of sour cream, salt and chives provided contasting flavours to a wonderful 1994 Steingarten riesling; some bottles a little tired but most fresh with high acid converted into something softer to sustain some great mature fuit.
The lineup of Limestone Ridge was from 1999, 1998, 1996, 1993, 1991 and 1988. The outstanding feature was the similarity of all wines, a style which relies heavily on Coonawarra shiraz with just a touch of cabernet. The 1988 was particularly favoured,as were the 1998 and 1999. But all were top silver or gold medal wines and an experience to see.
The food, as stated, was spiced Moroccan-style seafood, with a rich aromatic sauce made on pawpaw enriched with pomegranate seed and molasses, fungi and spices, especially cumin.Fresh monkfish (stargazer), octopus and prawns were lightly cooked and served with the sauce over on a bed of wilted kale with salmon roe scattered about for colour and extra taste. Terrific, if a little light on due to a misunderstanding on numbers.
The quality continued into the cheese, a Tomme de Chevre, or semi-hard goat's cheese from the south of France with a lovely sour caramel taste and a hint of salt. Top salad to accompany, with greens, including samphire, avocado, pine nuts and seeded cheery tomatoes in a sweet multi-ingredient vinaigrette.
The coffee was a high roast bean from N Sumatra with big slightly bitter mouthfeel and a long finish. Birhday boy Dennis Cooperwon many new friends with a 1985 Delord Bas-Armagnac, wonderful colour and brandy spirit with real length and a superb nose. A fitting finish.
1st cook of for 2012 coty 19 March
The annual tussle for chef of the year got under way last Tuesday, featuring Josef Condrau revisiting the Central European game themed lunch which he did for the late Heinz Wicki's 90th birthday, assisted by Greg Sproule and Peter Kelso.To start, some superior whisky-smoked salmon was served atop a bed of shaved pickled fennel on porcelain spoons, along with sour cream and salmon roe on a choice of pumpernickel or cracker biscuit. The delicate refreshing flavours were well matched by a 2006 Bloodwood Schubert chardonnay from Orange, lively with a clean acid note to good fruit.
A competition booster saw an entree, in the form of sauteed mushrooms with fresh herbs, and sweetbreads poached and served in a cream sauce, both complemented on the plate by a little rectangle of puff pastry. With it, and continuing into the main course, a 1986 Rosemount Hunter pinot, remarkably good for its age , showing Hunter rather than pinot characters; and a 2009 Ernst Triebaumer blaufrankisch from Austria, made with that country's answer to pinot and showing some of its roundness, although this version was a bit young and hard.
The main course was venison, strip loins marinated in dried herbs and olive oil, then seared and baked until red rare and tender. On top, a sweet fuit-based jus with plenty of flavour and with it, sauteed red cabbage and apple topped with chestnuts, beurre bosc pears poached (not for long enough) in spices with a lingonberry jam dollop, and a whirl of noodles. A lot on the plate, with some defects more than balanced by the quality and texture of the venison.
Everyone picked a Swiss cheese, but not the L'Etivaz cooked cheese, in the style of appenzeller, which it turned out to be. Great grassy and fruity flavours with rich semi-hard paste. A couple of good cabernets to go with it, in the form of a 2001 Vasse Felix from the West, top fruit and a slightly green canopy nose, but going well, and a Ch Lanessan, a cru bourgeois, from the same year, identifiably Bordeaux but starting to fade.
With a rich and round coffee made on Devon Estate medium roast beans from India, we enjoyed an equally rich and round 1976 Reynella vintage port courtesy of birthday boy Gary Linnane.
Lunch March 12,2013
Myles Hedge presented a superb lunch that should qualify for Chef of the Year from the acclaim from the floor. Canapes were Seared raw Tuna with a Togarashi coating (Typical ingredients include ground Japanese dried chili, black pepper, sansho, ground tangerine skin, black and white sesame seeds, and dried seaweed flakes) on a sesame hand made potato wafer finished with wasabi sauce and a sprig of chive. The accompanying 2000 Macquariedale Semillon was a good match with limey notes apparent 90/100. We then broke tradition with an additional dish of avocado soup topped with succulent prawns. The soup had been enlivened with a subtle use of cayenne and prawns sprinkled with paprika making a very attractive presentation.
This was followed by a five hour spice poached corned beef that was from Myles region of Orange and was extremely flavorsome and tender, this was married with 1997 Coriole Shiraz 90/100 warm and malty notes and 1994 Tantichilla "Foundation" 92/100 fleshy in good shape. Myles accompanied the beef with a rich mash, carrots and beans to present a very balanced plate. We then savored a semi hard cheese from the French Alps in the Jura "Comte" which was in excellent condition and worked well with 1998 "Frank Potts" Beasdale 91/100 balanced and savory and the masked 1991 Morris Durif 93/100, a society favorite confounder, which Paul Ferman confidently described as the best Durif he had tasted.
Lunch 5 March 2013
Our foodmaster Greg Sproule was Chef of the day with a meal inspired by a recent trip to Peru. Canapes led off with “Cerviche” uncooked ocean perch coriander,ginger and lime and lemon juice served on a corn chip .The lime was dominant and overwhelmed the other flavours. It may have matched with younger reisling however on the day we had a variety of aged reislings.. the favoured one being Richmond Grove limited release Watervale 2000.
Main course has members guessing as to what the meat was with suggestions of armadillo or perhaps a fat guinea pig. it was revealed as a Peruvian lamb shank stew with onion, carrot, mango chili, corn and peas served with two different types of potato kipfler and desiree. The meal was a great introduction to Peruvian cuisine.
Wines theme was Maclaren Vale Shiraz ,three of which were wines donated by member Roger Prior. Thank you Roger. In the first bracket of wine we had society provided Pirramimma Stock Hills 1996 and Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 1996 the Piramimma was preferred as a lighter style best suited to the dish compared the higher alcohol in the Kay brothers.
Our cheese was Quickes Traditional Farmhouse Cheddar from Devon a semi hard cow’s milk. It came to the table at the right temperature and had distintinctive grassy and full rounded flavour and a creamy texture and not to acidic.
Salad comprised samphire,corn,parsley,fennel, chive, basil and baby cos with a lime dressing that was a good balance with the cheese Our cheese wines were Coriole Lloyd Reserve 1995 and Rosemount Estate Balmoral 1996.
James Hill provided a birthday winea Grant Burge 10 year old Tokay from the Barossa, sweet and complex; a good accompaniment to Forsyth blend coffee which delivered a complex layering of caramel, almond apricot. The coffee is one of a series presented to the society including major labels.
Wine tasting 26 February
The last lunch of summer met the first wine tasting of the year, and the marriage was pretty amicable.
The tasting was pinots, preceded by a 1997 Tyrrells Stevens-De Beyer semillon, good and, in most bottles, still lively but not as great as some from this house. Also a couple of Lustau sherries, the Amontillado pipping the Manzanilla for quality. Greg Sproule, assisting James Hill in the kitchen,came up with mediterranean canapes in the form of pesto on croutons, simple slices of a sweet and citrusy Italian sausage and some chunks of fresh fig with gorgonzola, on bread rounds.
It was a top lineup of pinots, featuring in order: 2002 Beaune 1er cru Clos d'Avanx; 2000 Spy Valley from Marlborough NZ; 1999 Seville Estate from the Yarra Valley; 1999 Yeringberg from the same place; Fixin 1er cru from Philibert; 1988 Rouge Homme,mainly from Coonawarra; and, as a birthday bonus from Ross Tzannes, a 1995 Echezeaux grand cru. It is clear some members still have trouble with the greater acidity and finesse of the French burgundies, but most found them superior, certainly the Beaune, and the Fixin was a surprise, with the grand cru in a class of its own. But Yeringberg in particular rated highly, along with the forward nose and big soft fruit of the NZ wine. All were very drinkable, even the somewhat tired Rouge Homme, and all were a great match for a superb poussin (or spatchcock), large organic birds baked and served whole with a stuffing of herbed ricotta (which included Australian bush berries, or muntries) on a bed of braised chicory. The fowl was more than fair, well done but still succulent, and the portion size was fine, with nothing extra needed.
The cheese appropriately came from the Bourgogne; an Epoisses Berthault, a well matured washed rind number with a strong winey aroma and great runny paste. It was well balanced by a green salad of frisees, mint,chives and thinly sliced golden shallots in a sharp but not acidic vinaigrette, accompanied by some of those bushberries, fresh, small and soft with a slight apple flavour.
The coffee was Illy, the superior commercial blend and a good base for comparing some interesting regional beans already, and to be, seen
Luncheon 19 February 2013
John (Goldy) Goldsbrough returned from Germany entranced by a meal he had in the Black Forest. He enlisted the help of chef friend Paul Kuipers to work it up and, on the day, of John Rourke to realise it. All succeeded. Canapes led off with seared tuna served on a spoon with peppers, semi-dried tomatoes and olive tapenade with capers: a flavour triumph. Almost on the same level was beef carpaccio with rocket, lemon oil and shaved pecorino, and the same beef simply served, again on spoons, with a net of grilled pecorino on top. The tuna inparticular went very well with a 1998 Richmond Grove Barossa riesling, aged and losing riesling character but beautifully complex and still fresh.
The reprised main course was herb crusted and seared loin of lamb from Isis River (near the Hunter), rich tender and rare with a super smooth carrot puree, pickled carrots, a top red wine jus and some wonderful fried dumplings, made with flour and yeast mixed with pureed olives and anchovies. A top meal, whether or not it was true to the original. And pretty well matched by two Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec, the 1997 and 1996. the latter won the vote as the better, with soft round characters to soften the austerity of the malbec.
The cheese had most thinking Europe, but James Healey did it again, with a great Tarwin Blue from Berry's Creek in Gippsland Soft nutty paste with an enticing blue mould, it went well with a helping of lightly grilled fresh figs sprinkled with truffle-scented honey and a helping of rocket, with prosciutto slices on the side. Bin 56 continued with the 1995, not as good as the 1996, and a 1997 Richmond Grove Barossa shiraz, showing remnants of big sweet Barossa fruit balanced by aged tannins, although slightly volatile
And for no reason other than generosity, Goldy gave us a taste of a Seppelts Grand Tokay, sweet and complex; a good accompaniment to a medium roast Malabar Monsoon coffee, rich and pungent but smooth and low in acid.
Luncheon 12 February 2013
It was a pleasure to see Gareth Evans, supported by the esteemed ted Davis, back in the kitchen, and equally pleasant to have around 40 members and guests there to enjoy a quality summer meal.
To kick off,the Welsh wizard went to Scotland to produce a haggis mix of sheeps' heart and other bits , mixed with oats, onion and spices and rendered into a flavoursome duxelles served in crunchy pastry boats made by Ted. Also on hand were thin slices of a wonderful Spanish salami from Rodriguez Meats at Yagoona, whence came many of the ingredients for the main course. The wine was a cleanskin which turned out to be a 2005 Houghtons White Burgundy, pleasant but a bit sweet, and excelled by an excellent Manzanilla sherry from Lustau, light and redolent of the sea.
And so to the main course, in which offal featured prominently (althugh no one was told until they had enjoyed it). Along with the adverised pork rillons, chunks of pork belly slow cooked with fat still on for flavour, were slices of lambs tongue, soft and luxurious, delightful pieces of sweetbread, and best of all, a chunk of black morcilla, or black pudding, from Rodriguez; all served warm on a bed of assorted lettuce,with roasted shallots and a freshly acid dressing to cut the richness, topped by some freshly shaved and baked kumera and beetroot chips. Great flavours and assembly, and ignorance certainly was bliss.
The matching wines did that pretty well, wiht a 2000 Stepping Stone cabernet from Coonawarra, and a Hugo cabernet of the same year from McLaren Vale. The former showed typical Coonawarra minty fruit, but a touch of volatility, and the Hugo was better, an honest Oz cabernet drinking at its best.
The cheese had most fooled, and turned out to be an ash chevre from the Yarra, very French in the quality and texture and very good for an aged chevre. Simple grapes came with it.
The coffee maintained the standard, a strong Kichwa Tembo bean from Kenya with a big, almost meaty palate and good lemon acid finish.
1st luncheon 5 February 2013
Once again the Society sun smiled on members, as the year began in style, with great seasonal food matched by some exceptional Oz wines.
James Hill was in the kitchen, with some assistance from James Healey and Greg Sproule, and he got proceedings under way with a nicely flavoured and moist homemade terrine on sourdough reounds, one lot sweetened with quince paste, the other enlivened with a cornichon on top. It was equalled, if not surpassed, by an aged (1993) St Helga riesling, showing lovely complex characters and colour without a hint of kero. A few other odd rieslings also served were more mixed.
For mains, a succulent roasted stuffed salmon (which was actually ocean trout), filletedthen reconstituted with a layer of fresh herbs between the fillets, coated with chili flakes for the bold and baked. Some variation in doneness, natch, but wonderfully moist and tasty, especially if you ate the skin. With it, some warrigal greens stir fried with fresh ginger, a couple of well boiled chats and some warm cherry tomatoes which sprayed well, if not accurately, when pierced. The accompanying wines were a contrast; a superb 1991 Tyrrells Vat 1, mid gold in colour and with complex straw and honey characters that exemplified the Hunter; and a 2004 Dom Georges Michel pinot from Marlborough NZ, 14.5% alcohol and showing it with a hot palate and robust fruit and tannins which overpowered the fish.
The food quality continued with a terrific Cusie Chestnut cows' and sheep's milk cheese from Piedmont, aged for 18-24 months wrapped in chestnut leaves and similar to parmesan in texture but with a richer more delicate palate showing lovely nutty hints. With it a simple salad of finely sliced pickled cucumber in a sweetish dressing. The wines were the 1998 Wynns Coonawarra black label cabernet, great fuit and balance and near its best; and a 1993 cabernet (with a bit of merlot) from Lakes Folly in the Hunter. The latter was pale in colour and fine and soft on the palate with just 12.2% alcohol. A museum wine and a joy to drink in memory of Max Lake, although the magic faded fairly quickly once left in the glass. Special thanks to Roger Prior for providing this delight.
The coffee was the Illy commercial blend, strong espresso in the Italian style. To match it, a St Halletts vintage port from the racehorse series in 1980, good Aussie style and another thank you to birthday boys Keith Steele and Roger Straiton.
Calendar Year 2012
Final lunch 11December 2012
And as 2012 crept like snail unwillingly to its end, over 60 members gathered at the REX for the last lunch of the year. Great things were expected, and they were in the main delivered.
In the kitchen, executive chef Nigel Burton presided over an eclectic team featuring Hilton Chapman and Anton Crouch on canapes, Chris North on soup, and Greg Sproule helping with mains, with technical assistance form Nick Reynolds. Canapes were Chapman's chopped chicken liver terrine and Crouch's cream cheese infused with fresh herbs, both on baby toasts. Like Dr Johnson's dog on its hind legs, the wonder wasn't that they did it well, but that they did it at all. Accompanying, if not matching, them was a Lindemans sparkling burgundy, bottled under crown seal and a delight to drink, with fresh fizz and some mellow fruit.
An unusual touch was the tomato water soup served with some of the extracted pulp on a round of bread in the middle. An intense tomato flavour in the clear liquid, amplified by mixing in a bit of pulp with the bread.It was a pity we didn't have more appropriate soup bowls, but no bad marks to Chris on that account. It didn't quite integrate with either of the two classy Hunter whites served with it and the main course: a 1994 Tyrrells Vat 18 Belford semillon and a 1997 Tyrrells Vat 47 chardonnay. Both were great examples of their style, the Belford in particular showing terrific toast and honey characters balanced by still fresh acidity.
The wines came into their own with the main course, a seafood surprise. Lobster, prawns, scallops, calamari and rock cod pieces were sorted into individual bags and cooked sous vide to maintain freshness and texture. The result was served on a sauce nantua of sumptuous richness, made on heavily reduced fish and lobster stock, topped by a mountain peak of puff pastry, light and delicious, especially when mixed with the sauce. Some steamed asparagus spears rounded off the dish, and here the Vat 47 blossomed, with sweet stone fruit notes overlying tight acidity. Not the best 47, but more than good enough in the company.
Cheese followed: an Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red from Victoria. This is a cheese we have seen before, and this time it was a little cold and lacking full washed rind flavour, but still good eating with a Waldorf-type salad base on apple and walnuts. The wines were both from 2002, the Mountain Blue cabernet shiraz from Mudgee and the Burtons McLaren Vale shiraz. Both still young, the Mountain Blue a lighter style with a bit of hardness on the back palate, the Burtons bigger but perfectly balanced in wood and fruit and with some time to go.
To conclude, a Papua-New guinea peaberry medium-roast coffee showing great chocolate richness in the mouth and a good long finish. This went with a traditional green chartreuse and a toast to the life of recently deceased member Chris Foskey, ably spoken to by Paul Dressler. The lunch and the Society's year then concluded, but to paraphrase a certain secret agent: we will be back.
Mixed lunch 4 December 2012
It was a case of "O Solo Maddo", with Peter Madden on his own (save for staff) in the kitchen producing some top Italian food. But he was not alone in enjoying it, with 62 members and guests filling the room.
For starters, some great cured ocean trout and mascarpone in a roulade on a mini-cake of rosti, and a superior terrine thick cut and topped with a relish on toasts. The accompanying aperitif was a Rose du Vallon from Provence (close to Italy), brilliant onion-skin colour but lacking vibrancy on the palate.
The main course was the classic vitello tonnato; nuts of veal slow cooked in a broth of aromatic vegetables and white wine, allowed to cool in the broth, then thin sliced with an electric slicer and served in thin sheets on the plate topped with a thick smear of the sauce, a puree of tuna,mayonnaise and anchovies, scattered with baby capers and served with crunchy Italian flat beans picked that morning. The veal was a little overdone, but the combination of flavours was there in spades: the original "surf and turf". THe wines were a 2009 La Zona barbera from King Valley in Victoria and a 2009 Cotes du Rhone from Les Courtilles. The first was pleasantly savoury. light but with enough tannins to match the food; the second was a bit monodirectional,made predominantly with grenache and lacking the peppery characters of a good cotes du rhone.
And so to the cheese, a predictable favourite in the form of gorgonzola dolce latte, young but with typical sweet mould characters and an ivory coloured paste. The matching wines were a 1998 Leasingham Bin 56 cabernet malbec, French in style with a great balance of fruit and acid in a mature setting; and a 1992 Rockford grenache from the Barossa, well made but showing its age and with an off-putting acetone note on the nose and palate. Other tables had different wines, on which your reporter is unable to report. Some tables had honey and walnuts to accompany the cheese, others not.
A festive audience was quietened by the final act, a tribute to life member John (Jack) Thomas, who died the preceding Friday after a long illness. His contribution both in the kitchen and out of it was remembered by those who spoke, and the usual toast was drunk in green chartreuse. A special memorial lunch will be held for Jack next year.
Wine tasting 27 November 2012
The monthly wine tasting coincided with the tribute to the late Brian Shackel, so it was not surprising that around 50 members were on hand, creating a challenge for both the wine master and the chef of the day. In the latter role, Robert Rae, assisted by Nigel Burton and Greg Sproule, met the challenge with a simple but well conceived and prepared meal, starting with canapes of freshly steamed mussels served on the shell and handmade blinis topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and salmon roe. A 1994 Steingarten riesling showed inevitable bottle variation, but the good ones were great with fully developed but still taut fruit and acid. A 1999 Mitchell Watervale riesling was broader and less interesting.
With the tasting itself, the kitchen crew turned on a nicely baked chicken maryland covered with chopped tomato, olive and Mediterranean herb salsa and served with a baked and smashed potato and some suitably crunchy green beans. The wine lineup was lesser Bordeaux, comprising: 2001 Ch Lanessan; 2000 Ch Faizeau; 1996 Ch Patache d'Aux; 1990 Ch Laroque; 1990 Ch Lanessan; and 1990 Ch Potensac. Apart from the Laroque, which had a fault, all were sound, identifiably Bordeaux and worth trying. Especially so were the Faizeau, a popular favourite, the Patache d'Aux and the 2 Lanessans, particularly the older.
The French influence continued into the cheese, with a Le Conquerant Grand Camembert from Normandy. This had a rich sticky paste right to the centre and terrific flavour despite being made from pasteurised milk. A salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado and macadamia nuts garnished with pomegranate seeds was dressed with a mild vinaigrette. The coffee was from Rwanda, medium roast beans showing some citrus acidity to freshen the palate and a longish finish.
The lunch concluded with the traditional green chartreuse toast to the memory of Brian Shackel, an active member (and former President) of the Society to the end. A number of members spoke of their involvement with Brian and of his bonhommie coupled with a warmth and consideration for others which showed in his reassurance of new members and in his family life, especially with his grandchildren. Farewell, old friend; you will be missed.
Luncheon 20 November 2012
Graham Fear, with friends and neighbours Keith and Lintong, returned to the kitchen to produce a great meal: quality ingredients, well handled and served with flair. To start, a comfort canape in the form of pigs in blankets: one- bite frankfurts wapped in pastry and baked. Also, moving upmarket, were thin sices of rare duck breast with a tangy mango dressing on seeded bread croutons; and a chilli crab and cream cheese paste piped on to wonderful little pastry spoons. To accompany you could choose between (or have both of) a fresh and salty Lustau fino sherry and a 2008 DenMar chardonnay from the Hunter, straightforward but with zing balanced by a bit of bottle age.
All this was but a prelude to a superb main course: beef cheeks carefully trimmed and skinned then baked for 5 hours in a low oven with a base of 50/50 Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry and shiraz and heaps of onion, carrot, garlic and fresh thyme which was later pureed and adjusted to form a rich and complex sauce on the plate together with a powerful and smooth cauliflower puree, some potatoes cooked in goose fat then squashed on the plate, and some nicely crunchy green and butter beans. The meat was unctuous, the flavours were rich and integrated - more, please. A good red to go with it in the form of 1998 Potts Bleasdale cabernets blend from Langhorne Creek, showing varietal characters and length, with no pretensions to greatness. Also a Spiraz sparkling shiraz, a typically soft and dry example of the style but lost with the food.
The cheese was a Comte gruyere from the French Alps, an unpasteurised but cooked curd which produces a semi-hard, slightly elastic pate with lovely sweet and nutty notes. Ideally matched with a salad of baby rocket and watercress, slices of corella pears and walnuts in an unusual dressing made on pear puree and blue cheese. The accompanying wines were a 1998 Coriole shiraz showing good McLaren Vale fruit and tannins, and the 1993 Tyrrells Stevens Semillon, which came as a surprise but which apart from inevitable bottle variation and a mismatch with the red, went well with the cheese
The coffee, from the Masai Mara area of east Africa, was a low-medium roast which maximised the lemony acidity and made for a refreshing cupful. Sorely needed with a birthday Inner Circle rum supplied by the irrepressible Wal Edwards, 96 years young this year. Like a good wine, he improves with age.
Luncheon 13 November 2012
Behind every good man stands a strong woman, and this was certainly the case on Tuesday, with titular chef of the day Paul Hunter more than capably supported by wife Brenda, who conceived and largely produced the meal. She was helped, especially in the canape section, by Peter Karr, making a welcome reappearance at the Society, and by Bob McCann. The aforesaid canapes comprised sliced sugar-cured kingfish on a bed of buttermilk curd and pureed celery in pastry boats; and a firmly fishy-flavoured consomme with lemon and tomato served in shot glasses. Both were of quality in flavour and appearance and reasonably well matched by a mix of Hunter semillons, the best being a 2000 Macquariedale Old Vines, a 1998 Rothbury Black Label being a bit past it, though still sound.
The main course featured roast pork rumps, sliced and served with plenty of crisp and crunchy crackling (no mean feat), a jus made on pork hocks, some very good gnocchi flavoured with sage, and wilted savoy cabbage. The jus was a little diluted by the moisture from the cabbage, but there was still plenty of good meat texture and flavours to satisfy healthy appetites. Muted satisfaction, too, with the accompanying wines; a 2004 Providence "Miguet" chardonnay from Northern Tasmania, showing good development and residual acid, if slightly evident wood, and a 2001 Mount Schank pinot noir from T' Gallant on the Mornington Peninsula, with a fine varietal nose and a light but elegant palate which was a tad overpowered by the food.
It was obviously a foreign cheese, and turned out to be a sheeps' milk cheese, Ossau Iraty, from the Basque region of south-west France. An excellent cheese, semi-hard with an oily nutty texture and a salty rind which did not overwhelm. The salad was unusual, warm with chunks of eggplant, shaved fennel and mache lettuce with a minimal mild dressing that went really well with the cheese. As did a 2004 Bethany Barossa shiraz with sweet but restrained fruit and good balance of tannins; an Elderton wine from the same grape, area and vintage was not so obliging, with big hot fruit and higher alcohol not cut by any balancing wood or tannins.
The coffee was an organic freetrade medium roast Fiech bean from Mexico, rich and smooth with low acidity and finishing clean but short. With it, some traditional green Chartreuse to toast the memory and contributions of three recently deceased members or former members: Robert Hughes, John Walker Jnr and Des Ward.
Wine tasting 30 October 2012
It was another serendipitous conjunction of great wine (shiraz from 1998) and food (produced by Ted Davis assisted by Gareth Evans). The curtain-raiser was a 2008 Lehman riesling from Eden Valley, fresh and good fuit if a little broad, and a bit of the 1997 Steingarten riesling, a good example of what an aged Aussie riesling can become with honey notes and bright gold colour. Some simple but tasty canapes of olive tapenade and hummus, both on homemade short pastry rounds, were a good match.
The lineup of reds for the tasting was: Bannockburn (Vic);Lindemans Hunter River Bin 9603; Tyrrells House Block; Rosemount Show Reserve (SA); Rosemount Balmoral (McLaren Vale); and Elderton Command (Barossa). They divided into two types: the 1st three lighter and more elegant, with lower alcohol, and the 2nd three big fruit wines with higher alcohol. Preferences were individual, with some going for the lighter wines, especially with the food and especially the House Block, while others liked the bigger hit of the SA trio, the Balmoral and the Command being the favourites. But all were top quality with no duds, the top three being the House Block, the Balmoral and the Elderton
And no duds either with the food, well-marinated kangaroo loins seared, sliced and served rare with a marvellous sauce made from the marinade of red wine enriched with port, cognac and red currant jelly. With it was a cone of nicely mashed potato browned under the grill, and a mystery vegetable with little fingers of crunchy bitterness which were revealed as beach bananas, a native food. Inspired by a traditional venison meal from Magdalen College Oxford, this was a successful transition from Old World to New.
We stayed in Oz for the cheese, an Old Telegraph Road Baw Baw Blue from Gippsland Victoria, light orange in colour and with a wonderful blend of sweet and salty flavour in the smooth paste with intense marbling. The matching salad was torn leaves of iceberg lettuce simply dressed with a sharp vinaigrette which cut the cheese well.
The quality flowed to the coffee, medium roast beans from Harrar in Ethiopia, strong and astringent with a long citrus finish. A nice touch was a drop of Lindemand Vintage port supplied by the President, showing great sweet spirit notes with good fruit
Luncheon 23 October 2012
Peter Manners proved once again that his culinary talents are not limited to canapes with a great lunch. Assisted by Peter Squires, Bob Swinney and Richard Davis (who produced the canapes), the theme was retro- English, starting with devils on horseback (prunes and almond wrapped in bacon for those too young to know, or too old to remember) and some lovely little short pastry tartlets filled with mascapone custard and topped with a blend of varieties of sauteed mushrooms. The joys of nostalgia, assisted by a nostalgic look at the 2001 Macquariedale Old Vines semillon from the Hunter, bottled under cork and showing some bottle variation, but most fresh and tangy, if a bit light on fruit.
Victory was far from assured with a main course of beef wellington, a dish notoriously hard to do well, especially in numbers. It was a near run thing, as the Duke would have said, but for most the doneness of the pastry and the enclosed fillet of beef were beyond reproach.The beef was coated with a duxelle of mushroom inside the pastry case and accompanied by a baked field mushroom with some intense home made duck live pate nestling in its cup, crisp green beans and a dollop of pickled red cabbage (a gesture to the Prussians). The flavours were well integrated and the textures fine, despite some inevitable sogginess in the pastry. Well done, chaps! Blockbuster reds to accompany, both 2004 Barossa shiraz: Ben Schild with a whopping 15% alcohol, big and porty with a slightly dirty finish, and Murdock, restrained in comparison at only 14.5%, but showing more balance of fruit and tannins.
For cheese, what else but a Stilton; a Cropwell Bishop from Nottinghamshire. Unfortunately served cold due to late delivery, it nevertheless showed the typical earthy but lively flavour of the style with a wonderful crumbly texture. Bob Swinney opined that the milk came from France or Belgium or somewhere; obviously a colonial upstart. A couple of very good cabernets matched it well, the 1998 Mildara Coonawarra (on all tables but one) and the Wolf Blass Yellow Label from the same year. The Mildara was the best winer of the day with pronounced minty characters recalling the famous "Peppermint Patty" and great length; while the Wolf Blass, a commercial release at a moderate price point, was still in fine order and condition, albeit slightly lacking in complexity in comparison. Some toasted cashhews, and dried figs and apricots were a sweet and crunchy touch.
Finally, a very good coffee made form El Salvador Bourbon beans, originally developed on the island of Bourbon (Reunion), medium roasted and showing a big flavour in the mouth, sweet and with chocolate notes.
Luncheon 16 October 2012
The Society's resident muso, Paul Thorne, was playing in the kitchen, assisted by Peter Manners and Marcus Bleasel, and came up with some sweet gastronomic music from the African side of the Mediterranean.
The overture featured small pieces of camel, braised and dusted with spices, served with a piece of date on toothpicks; also a tangy red pepper salsa, and some baba ganoush, both on toasts. Winewise, we saw the start of a day of bin end selections, with some pretty classy semillons, rieslings and chardonnays, all with a bit of age and most bottles in good condition.
The exotic meats continued into the main programme with a symphony of flavours and colours in a tagine made on goat, slow-cooked in chicken stock, white wine and ras el hanout (a Middle Easternn spice blend) and served on a bed of kumera and carrot with chickpeas, livened by a dash of harissa. Terrific taste, and in the main well matched by a medley of reds, served masked but with no table getting the same wines. Detailed analysis is not possible, but they included pinot, shiraz and cabernet (and blends thereof) from Aust and France, plus a Durif from Mick Morris by way of exotica.
So to the cheese, a Holy Goat Brigid's Well chevre from Castlemaine Victoria, a comparatively young but well textured ashed chevre made in rings and a cool follow on to the mild heat in the main course. Some dates, walnuts and pistachios made a typically Moroccan accompaniment and a wonderful finale.
The concert concluded with a strong brew of Lavazza, a commercial blend, which wrapped things up nicely. Encore!
Lunch 8 October 2012
John "Goldy" Goldsbrough is just back from a trip through Russia, the pretext for turning on a bit of locally domesticated "wild boar" which had good flavour and presentation assisted by visitor Colin Lock, albeit lacking in Russian character. Before that, however, we were treated to some top crispy canapes in the form of duck mini-spring rolls with a rhubarb relish dip, fresh garlic bulbs in crisp pastry and salmon and potato croquettes with a dab of pesto on top and an aeoli to dunk them in. All washed down with the 1993 Tyrells Steven semillon, under cork and with inevitable bottle variation, but in the main mature and full, with the fruit starting to drop out.
The main course was a lemon and herb-crusted pork loin chop presented on a bed of cauliflower puree and scattered with nicely crunchy shaved kumera crisps with a splash of fresh apple, accompanied by a sweet onion jam and pickled heirloom tomatoes. A lot happening on the plate, but good contrasts of flavour and texture. The accompanying wines were up to the task, a 1999 Macquariedale Thomas shiraz providing a good example of a mature Hunter red; whilst a 1997 Leasingham Bin 61 Clare shiraz was even better, with a chocolate nose, rich but integrated fruit and tannins and bright red in colour.
From Russia to France for the cheese, a brilliant unpasteurised Roquefort with intense salty but soft blue flavours which lingered, simply served with quince paste. Probably not well served by the reds, 1998 Rufus Stone McLaren Vale shiraz from Tyrells and the 1997 Pirramimma Stocks Hill McLaren Vale shiraz. Both nicely austere but a bit hot, the Stocks Hill probably the better of the two.
A medium roast coffee to finish, with beans from Harrar in Ethiopia but a bit weak. Nothing weak about a 2010 vintage port from Canowindra , kindly donated by member Graham Timms from Tom's Waterhole Wines. Still sweet and fiery, but give it 10 years or so...
Luncheon 2 October 2012
It was a mixed lunch, but there was a uniform high quality in the food,and the wine. Newish member Nick Reynolds,in the kitchen for the second time, produced a mealwhich not only tasted great but had terrific presentation, with a simplicity belying the effort that went into it.
Assisted by Gary Patterson and Greg Sproule, Nick started with tapas: an intense anchovy fillet with a wonderful smoky tomato salsa and capers on wafers of toasted sourdough, and mild chorizo sausage roasted and inserted in calamari hoods which were lightly cooked and sliced, presented with toothpicks. The aperitif wine was a top match, a 2000 Wine Society Eden Valley riesling wirh fruit development and a broad but zesty palate with a hint of kero.
Main course was a triumph: salmon fillets poached sous vide and presented topped by "scales" of steamed zucchini slices: a labour of love and a joy to behold. With it, some delicate but tasty zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and a mirepoix of finely chopped vegetables, and a hollandaise sauce with choped parsley and red capsicum, a tad thick but great with the fish. To accompany, a choice of 1999 Rothbury Black Label semillon, ageing extremely well, a 2010 Provence rose which most found deliciously fruity but dry, and a 2011 Yalumba "Y" series pinot gris, simple but with plenty of flavour and a clean finish.
Perhaps to honour our special guest Eva Wicki, James Healey turned on a Viamala semi-hard cheese from eastern Switzerland; a firm brick-coloured rind revealing a smooth yellow paste with lactic notes and a caramel bitterness on the finish; a top cheese. A simple green salad on rocket leaves with a soft vinaigrette dressing was all that was needed, along with a couple of reds (at last!): two '98 Coonawarra cabernets, the Zema Estate and the Wynns balck label. The former was more integrated and balanced, with some fine tannins and subtle wood, whilst the Wynns was more clumsy, with very good fruit, probably needing more time.
A bonus with a fine coffee made from a blend of peaberry and El Salvador beans: a 1996 Gramps botrytis semillon, with toffee on the nose and luscious sweetness and complexity on the palate.
In addition to our guest Eva Wicki, we were pleased to have members of the Sydney Ladies' Wine & Food Group join us. It should happen more often.
Wine tasting 25 September 2012
It's not often we get a monthly tasting which is so good it is likely to linger in the memory for some time; but this tasting was such an event, featuring as it did a vertical tasting of Mt Langhi Ghiran shiraz from 1983-1990.
The wines, most of them generously donated by Ray Healey, were from each year except 1985, and even that year was present in a small sip from a single bottle. Opinions inevitably differed, with the 3 oldest, the '83, '84 and '86 attracting most preferred comments, but the unanimous view was that they all shared a singular standard of style summarised in the word " elegance". With a quality fruit dry on the palate, softness of tannin and remarkable length, they were a joy to drink, pointed up by 2 blind reds served with them, which turned out to be a 1998 Seppelts St Peters from the same region, and a 1996 Tim Adams Aberfeldy from Clare. Both fine wines, the Clare actually being closer in style to the Langhi, but lacking its intensity and length. Special thanks to Ray Healey for giving us a look at these wines.
They were well served by some great comfort food from President Steve Liebeskind, assisted by Paul Gibson and Bob Swinney. Lamb shoulders were dry rubbed with aromatic spices, then roasted in a low oven for 12 hours. The meat came out moist and tender, simply served on a bed of kumera mash accompanied by a flavoursome ratatouille of eggplant, zucchini, tomato and herbs.
Before it, some welcoming canapes, a chicken loaf lifted with horseradish. and a good gravlax with a dill sauce and capers, both served on toasts and well matched by (good bottles of) 1999 Steingarten riesling, showing fruit development but not a trace of kerosene.
The standard remained high with the cheese, an Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red washed rind cheese from Gippsland Victoria with the reddish rind typical of the style and a wonderfully sticky and nutty paste which would not have disgraced a top import. A Colombian medium roast coffee brought the meal to a close, with good honest flavours in the softer style favoured by our American friends.
Luncheon 18 September
Our foodmaster Greg Sproule stepped into the kitchen again and warmed things up with a menu with a mexican theme.
Canapes were beetroot coloured corn chips with pea puree with ricotta and mint topped by baked peeled red capsicum
corn chip with rare beef and chimichimi-paste of fresh parsley, coriander, garlic and olive oil.Our aperitif wine was Sherry Lustia Manzanilla a good style of sherry with texture and flavour and bone dry.This was followed by Macquariedale Semillon 2002 a good semolina however here was some bottle variation.
Quinoa with butter, almonds and celery , a challenge for our wine master Paul Ferman who rose to the occasion by offering Wolf Blass Chardonnay 2003,buttery and oaky, and Christamont LA Zona Barbera 2009,bright berry sour cherry good style of wine, the later being members favoured wine match with the food.To go with the cheese we celeriac remoulade and fresh baguette and sourdough bread provided by Peter Kelso.
Acting Cheese master James Healey provide a Los Lianos Manchego Artesano a sheep unpasteurised cheese from La Mancha Spain. It came to the table at a perfect temperature with hint of sharpness and cheddar characters.It was perfect example of this type of cheese. Wines with the food were Zema 04 Cabernet,a good balanced wine with fruit showing and Wynns Black label Cabernet 04 a good structured wine perhaps will show better in later years with the Zema being the preferred cheese match.Spencer Ferrier supplied a great coffee for perfect end to the luncheon.
Luncheon 11 September 2012
Yes, it was 9/11, but that didn't stop a good crowd of members and guests getting stuck into some definitely non-terrorising food, prepared by Ian Witter with help from a friend,Richard O'Brien. Starters featured some fresh, and beautiful, prawns sauteed in butter and garlic, which were acclaimed. Also a vegetable paste made on smoky eggplant and garnishedwith parsley on small toasts. With them, a better than average 2000 Eden Valley riesling under the Wine Society label; good aged characters and length, if a little lacking in intensity.
Plenty of robust flavours in the main course, a casserole made on oxtail and pork belly in a sauce made on quality chicken stock with onion, wine and tomato paste to enrich. The oxtail segments came in various sizes and hence various degrees of doneness, but even if you had to chew the bone a bit, it was worth it. The pork was suitably soft and oleaginous, and the whole was well execeuted, accompanied by boiled quinoa (which many thought was couscous) and green peas. Some robust wines, in terms of alcohol at least, were a 2009 Angullong sangiovese from Orange, and a 2006 Langmeil Valley Floor shiraz from Barossa. Both a little disappointing; the sangiovese juicy but with little grip or Italian character, whilst the Barossa, although better,started to show its 14.5% alcohol after a while in the glass.
A rise in wine standards with the cheese, a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese from the Basque country in SW France, soft but chewy with complex nutty flavours and some "lanolin" characters. The wines were a 2009 blaufrankisch from the Adelaide Hills, and a 2002 Taylors Clare shiraz. The former was interesting; made from Austria's answer to pinot noir and showing an uplifted nose with a dry palate and licorice notes, it is likely to improve in the short term. The latter, a commercial release, was rich and smooth, but lacked depth and showed its age. The accompanying salad was green leaf one, livened with some walnuts and dressed with a sweetish dressing of ev olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.
Coffee was a mid-roast blend, principally of organic beans from Peru. A nice balance of bitter and chocolate notes, with a clean but somewhat short finish
Luncheon 4 September 2012
James Hill was in the kitchen, assisted by pro chef member Michael Milward, and some pretty good Spring nosh was the result, kicking off with bruschetta (warming would have imoroved but great tomato flavour and the usual quality of Iggy's bread) and perky little arancini-like balls of pumpkin risotto served on porcelain spoons. The aperitifs featured the first of a series of wines from Belgravia Estate at Orange, a riesling and The Apex chardonnay, both from 2011. Both good wines, the chardonnay in particular showing cool climate characters but dominant wood requiring time to integrate.
On to mains, some really tender and tasty lamb backstraps wrapped in pancetta and roasted with rosemary potato chunks and cherry tomatoes, the lot coming to the table with Society-preferred crunchy green beans and an intense veal reduction sauce. Good fresh flavours and the right amount of pinkness in the lamb, although as the chef said the pancetta would have been better if sliced thinner. Three Belgravia wines to go with it: a cabernet, a syrah (or shiraz) and a straight merlot, all from 2010. Again showing lighter more fragrant cool climate characters, the cabernet was quite forward, the merlot a little thick and tannic at this stage and the syrah pleasant but needing more time.
Cheese was a treat from Italy, in the food theme of the day, a semi-hard goats' milk cheese from the Veneto region in the style of Tomme de chevre, with a chewy granular texture and a good mix of sourness from the milk and complex sweet flavours from ageing. The accompanying salad deserves special mention: grilled zucchini chili and mint, served warm with a good vinaigrette and tangy (but not too hot) lifted by the mint. With it, the only ring-in wine of the day, a 2002 Mamre Brook shiraz from the Barossa, big hot and full of sweet fruit, simple and therefore popular with members; a contrast to the 2003 Belgravia shiraz/merlot/cabernet, similarly developed and rich but with lighter tannins and less power (and alcohol).
Coffe continued the Italian theme, with Illy, the best of the commercial pre-ground coffees but lacking the freshnees and zing of newly-gound beans.
Our thanks to Will Hattersley, manager of the REX and associated with Belgravia Wines, for showing us some of the range from an up and coming label in a rapidly growing region.
Wine tasting 28 August 2012
luncheon 21 August 2012
Back to the northern shore of the Mediterranean this week for some hearty mid-European smoked meat stew, produced by Food Master Greg Sproule. First,a canape of quiche pieces, cooked in a fairly short pastry, flavoured with tarragon and chevre and washed down with some 1999 Rothbury semillon ,which had seen better days but was still a good drink. The main course was made on smoked pork hocks, simmered long and low with winter aromatics (onion, parsnip, turnip) then (largely but not completely) deboned and finished with chopped winter greens of kale and silver beet. and served simply with a little square of puff pastry on top. Rich warm flavours and a sauce crying to be mopped up with some good light rye sourdough. A somewhat curious choice of a 99 Lindemans sparkling shiraz (resulting from a late change in chef and food) was a really good example of an aged sparkler but was lost with the food. Not so a 2009 Austrian Blaufrankish, a pinot-related grape which had enough acid to cut through the meal and enough fruit, at or just past its best, to match it.
The cheese was a young chevre from Meredith in Victoria, soft, silky and with a refreshing sour lactic note. Slightly overpowered by a couple of 1999 shiraz, a Normans Old Vine from SA regions and a Walter Lindrum from, probably, Hunter and MIA. The former, with 14% alcohol, was surprisingly well integrated with warm fruit and solid tannins; while the latter was lighter but also fading. A very good salad of lambs lettuce and slivers of red grapefruit with an olive oil dressing.
Coffee was a blend of 75% Costa Rica and 25% high-roast New Guinea beans. The latter gave the blend a welcome lift in mouth feel, but the finish was a bit short. Not so a 1997 Reynella vintage port supplied by Birthday boy Richard Davis, intensely sweet with good spirit characters to balance and linger.
Luncheon 14 August 2012
The weather is improving, and so is the food; this week, Bruce Thomas, assisted by Michael Crowley, took us to the Mediterranean (mainly the southern rather than northern shore) for some seriously good grub.
It all started with an import from further north in the form of gravlax, quite lightly cured, sliced and served on a pumpernickel as a canape. The other was anchovy and caramellised onion, sweet and pungent, on toasts. a great start with a 2010 Vouvray Sec to accompany, interesting with residual sugar to balance the natural acidity of the chenin blanc.Main course was a marvellous melange of flavours from North Africa. Lamb backstraps, rubbed with chermoula spice mix, were seared then finished in the oven, and came to the table deep pink and rare on a bed of homemade humus, with a tian of burghul or cracked wheat and roasted capsicum with sliced and seared eggplant and zucchini. Not only complementary flavours, but colourful to boot. There were 3 accompanying Cotes du Rhone: a 2006 Bastide St Dominique (with 14.5% alcohol), 2000 Dom de l'Oratoire St Martin, and the 2000 Guigal. most enjoyed the 1st with the food, but the other 2, and especially the Guigal, were more elegant and better structured.
A palate-cleansing salad of baby spinach leaves , pine nuts and tiny raisins with a dressing including sherry vinegar led into the cheese, a Coeur de Savoie. This was a cooked curd cows' milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region, aged for at least 8 months and showed a firm slightly plastic texture with a pleasing nutty/caramel flavour which improved when the cheese was allowed to warm up. With it, sweet and sticky homeemade quince paste, and in the vinous department, 2 1996 shiraz from Mc Laren Vale, the Maglieri and the Pirramimma Stocks Hill. The former was better, showing good use of wood with firm tannins and a touch of licorice on the palate, the latter somewhat dirty and hard on the finish in comparison.
Coffee was from Illy, an excellent drop showing again that this is the best commercial pre-ground blend available. And with it, a superbly unctuous Grandfather Port from birthday boy Paul Hunter, following a tradition which more should emulate.
President's Dinner 9 August 2012
A total of 39 members, including 11 former presidents, were on hand for the annual Prsident's Dinner, this year held at The Bridge Room Rerstaurant in Bridge Street, City.
After pre -dinner drinks (the 2000 Pol Roger showing typical tight fuit and quality yeast characters) at the Royal Exchange, we adjourned up the road to the restaurant. It was a pity that we had to share it with other diners, but there was no denying the quality of the food from chef Ross Lusted, and wine master Paul Ferman's selections were worthy, if not always brilliant.
To start, a small amuse bouche of prosciutto with a very good comte cheese custard, pomegranate molasses and hazelnuts was light but inviting, as was an accompanying 2008 1er cru chablis wuth good fruit and some minerality.
a terrific entree of spanner crab followeed, highlighted by intense citrus flavours in a lemon cream and shards of jelly, balanced by a celeriac salad. With it, a brace of Chassagne-Montrachets, a 2007 Morgeots 1er cru from Maison de Grand Esprit' and a 2006 from Olivier Leflaive.Both had length in spades and opinion was divided on preference,with a majority preferring the racy tang of the Leflaive.
Main course was a triumph, with some wonderfully smoky ash grilled duck breast and a fine not too salty piece of confit matched with pears , green raisin grapes winter greens and a blood plum sauce. The fruit worked really well with the duck, as did at least one of the burgundies served with it, a 1997 Nuits- St George les Roncieres 1er cru from Jean Grivot, with fine bracing fruit and fine tannins, and a long finish. The other, a 1996 Volnay Les Brouillades 1er cru from Philibert was not as good, with offputting acetone notes on the nose and a slightly dirty palate.
To Bordeaux with the cheese , a mild blue Fromage d'Affinois showing subtle blue mould chatracters and well matched by some grated apple, date, fruit bread thins and a dab of quince paste. The wines were both 1996 from Pauillac: the Haut Bages Liberal and the Haut Batailley. both good examples of bordeaux, lean and long on the palate, but the Batailley showed up as superior, especially after a rest in the glass.
With a dessert of chocolatechestnut mousse, caramel campose and butterscotch, a 1997 Ch Bastor-Lamontagne, a cru bourgeois from Sauternes was always going to struggle , and it did. Simple sweet fruit, an ok drink but overwhelmed. And finally, with coffee and some quite savoury burnt caramel cream, pistachio and mint salad, a superb old Pedro Ximenez sheery from Lustau, dark and luscious with real muscat similarities.
A short toast to the Society was given by VP Greg Chugg, struggling against the noise of other diners, and it was time to depart.
Lunch 7 August 2012
Winter continues,and Peter Kelso chose to show it by presenting a powerful pile of glossy black risotto, accompanied by mixed seafood. Before that, there were canapes prepared by Ian Witter of bruschetta with a capsicum and tomato puree topped by a white anchovy, and a tuna mayonnaise dip on mini-toasts. Both mild but flavoursome and well matched by a soft and mature 1999 Draytons semillon.
The cuttlefish ink risotto was cooked in 2 batches on a base of chopped onion with lemon zest and frozen peas, but not enough salt, added. Topped with a bright red ribbon of roasted capsicum, the colour certainly stood out, and the pieces of freshly sauteed cuttlefish and prawns provided a softer contrast. With it, a Tyrrells Vat 47 of 2000 was a great buttery but zesty wine which did not go well with the iodine notes in the risotto, whilst a Macquariedale Thomas shiraz from the same year and region, although simpler, worked better.
Cheese was a vintage Pyengana cheddar, cloth matured for at least 12 months and a wonderful cheese with grassy and mushroom notes and suitably crumbly texture. With it a mixed leaf salad including treviso radicchio with a dressing based on lemon, coriander seeds and garlic. The wines, both from 2002, were a Chapel Hill cabernet from McLaren Vale and Coonawarra, and a Majella cabernet from the latter region exclusively. And it showed it, with still young vibrancy and good tannins, the Chapel Hill lacking intensity in comparison.
Coffee was a Timorese organic bean, showing strong dark chocolate characters on the palate and a slightly acidic bitter finish.
lunch 7 August 2012
Wine Tasting Lunch 31 July 2012
Society Wine recorder John Rourke presented a tasting of the following wines; Bracket 1 Penfolds Bin 128 1997 and 2002. Orlando Lawson 1994 (the Orlando was served masked) all Coonawarra shiraz
Bracket 2 Penfolds Bin 28 1998,1998,2002.
Aperitif wines were bin ends mainly Tyrrells Moon Mountain 2002 and Lost Block.
Chef of the day James Hill assisted by Scott Witt produced a Canape of WA blue swimmer crab, Celeriac remoulade and sangiovese verjuice jelly served on spoons.Main course was poached beef fillet served with potato mash sprinkled with spring onions, broccolini and dutch carrots. The beef was served with a sauce of reduced veal stock,some of the poaching liquid and lescure butter.The beef was sourced from a bio dynamic grower in Victoria grass fed hereford cattle aged on bone for 3 weeks. Cheesemaster Ross MacDonald showed us Tarago River Jensen's Red from Gippsland Victoria a washed rind pasteurised cow milk cheese. Our chefs accompanied the cheese with a mixed leaf salad dressed with sweet cabernet vinegar and olive oil. Bread was Iggys sourdough and three types of foccaccia. Coffee by Spencer Ferrier. Birthdays were celebrated for Hilton Chapman and Ted Treister who supplied Armagnac and Port for the birthday toasts.
Luncheon 24 July 2012
COTY 2011 Finalist Roger Straiton was back in the kitchen ably assisted by Ian Witter. Canapes were skewered Chorizo and grilled cauliflower florets topped with ground cumin. Followed by two types of oysters #1 Pacific from Tasmania served with French eschallot vinegar #2 Sydney rock from Port Stephens served with lemon and pepper. The accompanying wine was a Larry Cherubino "The Yard" Margaret River Chardonnay favourably commented by members as a good match to the food. For mains Roger had baked a standing rib roast grain fed 120 day from Wagga weighing in at 20kgs! Served with Baked potato, snow peas,asparagus and a sauce of Creme Fraiche and Horseradish. Portions were generous and presentation and flavour heralded by members. Wines to match were Shottesbrook McLaren Vale and Vasse Felix both Cabernet Sauvignon 2001. The Vasse Felix was voted wine of the day. Our cheese master Ross MacDonald presented a Le Conquerant Grand Camembert Origin France Region Normandy white mould Pasterised cow's milk. To go wth the cheese our chefs supplied a baby spinach, radiccio and cos salad with walnut, truffle and olive oil mixed with balsamic dijon mustard. Cheese wines were Leasingham Bin 56 Clare Valley Cabernet Malbec 1998 and 1997 the latter was masked. Spencer Ferrier supplied the coffee which was form Costa Rica San Juanillo and commented that is is a superb espresso coffee and agreed with the description that it has a floral aroma with hints of watermelon,plum and malt.
Luncheon 17 July 2012
It was first time in the kitchen for Colin Hammond, and he refused to play it safe by producing in honour of Bastille Day a cassoulet, that deceptively simple peasant stew. Before that, tastebuds were titillated with mini-croques monsieur, featuring warm and runny brie cheese in a toast parcel with a dab of cranberry sauce, and pastry cases filled with caramellised onion and topped with a goat's cheese sorbet. The wine served with these was mainly the 1997 Rothbury black label semillon, variable but past it; and a bit of the 1995, which was great, still fresh but developed.
Wisely eschewing the traditional topping of breadcrumbs, impossible for bulk servings, Colin, with help from Graham Fear, gave us a nicely wet and tasty cassoulet, with beans (never enough) in a rich sauce showing smoky meat flavours, chunks of an unidentified but quite mild sausage and a whole duck leg, not confit but well cooked with the meat falling off the bone. Satisfying, and none left on plates with bread scraping much in favour. To go with it, a couple of Rhone wines: a 2009 Cotes du Rhone Mon Coeur from J L Chave, and a 2007 Crozes-Hermitage Les Seizes Galettes. Although humbler, the Cotes du Rhone was much the better of the two, with a rich palate showing some wood treatment and punching well above its weight, while the other was a bit extracted with a hard finish.
Cheese was, of course, from France, a Forme d'Ambert blue from the Auvergne region with good blue mould notes if a little rubbery in texture, and served a bit cold. Two Oz wines with it, 1996 Wynns Coonawarra shiraz and 1995 Pikes Clare cabernet. Both good wines, but the Pikes especially showed mature fruit and a long silky finish which charmed. A green salad of roquette and sliced pear with a well balanced vinaigrette went well, as did a Colombian medium roast coffee, good and strong with clean bitter notes on the palate and a long finish.
Luncheon 10 July 2012
Spain was the theme, and if the economy is stuffed, its food and wine certainly aren't. Producing the food were those two conquistadors of the kitchen, Terry McDowell and John Rourke, and they got proceedings off to a fine start with some whole scallops lightly cooked and served with slivers of serrano ham on toothpicks, and a puree of roasted garlic and anchovies on toasts topped with a sliced black olive.Very tasty, especially witha fino sherry from Lustau showing fresh salty notes with a long, if slightly hard, finish.We also had a look at the 2000 Brokenwood semillon, already showing some bottle variation but the best still bright and fresh.
The main course was a hearty stew of meat and veg featuring diced lamb rump and pork neck steaks(the latter sadly largely dissolved into the sauce) plus mild and hot chorizo pieces and a heap of veg and spices including potato, capsicum, paprika, bay leaves and a (little) chopped jalopena chili as a garnish. Good firm flavours with mild heat and plenty of sauce to be mopped up with bread. There was strong support from a 2001 Aurelio Crianza, made from tempranillo grapes, and a 2003 Willow Bridge from Geographe in WA, also tempranillo. The Spanish was lighter and more savoury, the Oz intense and needing more time. Most preferred the former with the food, but the latter as a wine.
Espana continued into the cheese, with an unusual Quesco Iberico semi-hard cheese from central Spain, made from a more or less equal blend of cow, goat and sheep milk. Good firm texture and a sweet nutty character with a trace of lactic acidity showing the influence of the 3 ingredients. A home made quince paste was a sweet and sticky foil, and a brace of Aussie wines also went well; the 2004 Burton McLaren Vale shiraz and the Majura Coonawarra cabernet from the same year. Both likely to improve further, the Burton rich and fruit-dominant, the Majura more restrained with less ripe, even green, fruit.
Coffee was good, especially considering it came from Rwanda, where a fledgling iundustry is evolving after the horrors of the recent past under US support. Firm, if bland, flavour with wood notes but well worth looking at.
Luncheon 3 July 2012
It was (nearly) Independence Day, and star-spangled new boy Nick Reynolds was in the kitchen for the first time, assited by John Banks and sundry other good ole boys from Escoffier including Peter Manners and Peter Madden. They produced a tour de USA, starting with three variations on the theme of reuben sandwich: the original, with home made pastrami, ditto sauerkraut and swiss cheese on sourdough; a charlotte, omitting the cheese and the butter; and rachel, featuring smoked turkey instead of pastrami. All by Banks, and all delicious. The accompanying wine was a French rose of pleasant grapey palate and dry finish, not a bad match if a bit overwhelmed.
We headed south-west for the main course, some terrific pork spare ribs marinated in a dry spice rub, lightly smoked then cooked for 2 days at low heat under sous vide in individual parcels. Served topped with a tangy but not too chili-influenced sauce based on onions and bourbon, and accompanied by some Boston beans,featuring home smoked bacon, and a coleslaw with enough acidity to cut through the richness, this was kickass food with distinction from Dubya's home region. Dubya would not, of course, have had the wines, a Rossi di Montalcino 2009 from Italy and a 2009 Guigal Cotes du Rhone from France. Both surprisingly good with the food, the Italian showing typical meaty but subdued tannins and the French better fruit with acidity to balance.
The old adage about Americans and good cheese being incompatible was proved wrong with a beaut cheddar, the Cabot cloth-wrapped from Vermont. It showed good crumbly texture and strong nutty characters with a bit of sweetness, and was well matched by a 2001 Rosemount Traditional, a confectionary of cabernets grapes from different areas showing big ripe fruit and enough wood to balance. Also a quality red which varied from table to table, many left over from last week's wine tasting. Served with the cheese, a selection of fruits (pear, apple and lebanese cucumber) sliced and slightly pickled, again under sous vide, with differing liquors including gin with the cucumber, the most controversial of the array. Coffee was good but unidentified; certainly not brewed in the US style.
Wine tasting 26 June 2012
Wine master Paul Ferman took us on a trip down memory lane, with a horizontal tasting of top Oz reds from 1991 (save for one). As was to be expected with 21-year old wines, there was bottle variation, but on the whole the quality was there, and still evident. The wines from '91 were: Wynns black label Coonawarra cabernet; Jacaranda Ridge, also a Coonawarra cab; Limestone Ridge shiraz cabernet; Lindemans Bin 8200 shiraz from the Hunter; and McWilliams Hilltops cabernet, a predecessor to Barwang; while the ring-in was a Barwang shiraz from 1996 or 2000, depending on table. The Limestone Ridge proved the most popular, with sweet fruit still evident, but the Jacaranda Ridge and the Hilltops also had support. All complex and not a dud among them (in good bottles).
The aperitifs were the usual cellar-clearing mix, with an old semillon and a couple of riesling from WA and Victoria among them. All good with some robust canapes, a terrific home-made chicken liver pate and a chicken terrine made with purple carrot and fennel, both served on crusty sourdough slices.
The quality of food, from Keith Steele and James Hill, continued into the main course, a heart-warming lamb shank, cooked to the required falling-off-the-bone standard, served on a bed of mash with green beans on the side. With a good vegetable-based sauce adding flavour, it was ideal for the wines and the weather.
Cheese maintained the expected high standard, with a classic French Beaufort from the Rhone-Alpes area; a hard cows milk cheese showing great mature sweet grassy notes with a touch of nuttiness, Accompanying it were some really tasty fresh stawberries and toasted walnut pieces. To finish, a well made coffee with Kenyan individual plantation beans medium roasted and quite rich and round on the palate with enough acid to give a long finish
Luncheon 19 June 2012 COTD Paul Ferman
A masterful day in the kitchen with our wine master Paul Ferman assisted by Foodmaster Greg Sproule. Canapes were Kingfish cerviche drizzled with lime and EVOO served on Quinoa bread and followed by tomato and garlic coulis spread on bread topped with an Ortiz anchovy.For mains it was a Stephanie Alexander recipe of Chicken thigh and leg baked with eschallot, olives, swiss brown mushrooms and lentils.
This was served with corn and buckwheat polenta, zucchini
and carrots and pancetta, sprouts and herbs added to further enhance the flavours along with a superb reduced chicken stock. Bread was "Iggys". Cheese Papillon Roquefort AOC served with a mixed leaf salad with pear and walnut drizzled with lemon juice.
Canape wine Den Mar Chardonnay 2008 Hunter Valley, Main course wines De Clairmont Croze Hermitage 2008,Mount Langi Cliff Edge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.Cheese wines Elderton Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa 2001, Joadja Shiraz Cabernet Grenache 1995 from Berrima.
To finish we had a Fonseca Porto 2001 with Illy coffee.
Luncheon 11 June 2012
Graham Fear and his team, Sandy and Colin, produced a top meal for a disappointing number of members and guests (no doubt a result of the long weekend). Kicking off, we enjoyed some chili crab mousse served on edible pastry sppons, complete with handle; hot-smoked salmon chunks with mayo on unusual pumpernickel-like biscuits made from zucchini and almonds; and a seafood version of the classic spring roll, with sweet chili dipping sauce. All well though out, and well matched, on the whole, by the 1997 Tyrrells Lost Block semillon, showing inevitable bottle variation but the best a good Hunter with sweet fruit supported by still fresh acid.
The piscatorial theme continued with individual fish pies. The fish, in this case ling, was macerated in milk, which formed the base for the sauce, enriched with lots of parsley and a few prawns cooked just so, under a layer of green shallots and a lid of well browned mash with a sprightly puff pastry fish swimming on top until devoured.Deceptively simple, but with real fish flavour and good texture. The wines with it were a couple of Cotes du Rhone from 2009 from Dom Alary: a La Gerbaude with a cocktail of grapes, soft and unpretentious, and a Cairanne commune wine with more substance but hot and a bit hard. Neither supported the pie well, though the lesser was better.
After a pie, what better than a cheddar, and they don't come much better than the Quicks classic cloth-bound cheese from England, perfectly mature with a faint aroma and taste of mushroom and a terrific texture with lower salt content than many local copies.It was well complemented by a refreshing salad of apple and daikon straws dressed with a light and tangy Japanese mayo; Graham managed to carry the seafood even this far with a sprinkle of salmon roe on top. To wash it down, a Hugo McLaren Vale cabernet from 2000, and Brands Coonawarra cabernet from the same year. No contest here, the Brands showing typical minty notes, and good fruit with fine tannins, while the McLaren Vale was hot, simple and a good example of why cabernet is not a grape for this area.
Finally a medium-roast organic Egyptian coffee, full in the mouth but a bit dull in the after-palate.
Luncheon 5 June 2012
Bouncing back from the COTY Dinner on Saturday,members assembled to enjoy a hearty repast provided by Gary Patterson, with canapes by the master, Peter Manners.
Pork was the theme, so Peter produced three variations: nuggets of roast pork and apple sauce in baby pastry cases, spicy rillettes on croutons and mortadella and cream cheese layers in pretty little squares. All good, and well paired with a 2011 Yalumba pinot grigio, showing pear notes in a somewhat sweet palate with a short finish.
Determined we should not go home hungry, Gary gave us a well structured vegetable soup, made on a quality meat stock with heaps of chopped winter veg and chunks of pork hock for more body. Clean but tasty, and well complemented by a fine amontillado sherry,a style of which we see too little.
After the soup, a light main course was on offer, and well received. Pork fillets were well, but not too well, cooked and served in chunks on a bed of coral lettuce with kernels of fresh corn and chopped red capsicum, topped with a sweet sauce made on persimmon juice and pears. A hint of heat from the capsicum lifted it; more would have been welcome. The Spanish influence was emphasised by the wines, a Las Rocas Garnacha (grenache) of 2009 and a Creta Roble tempranillo from the same year. Both big in flavour (and in alcohol), the grenache in paricular being hot and grapey in the mouth. Best with food.
Spain continued to dominate, with a Queso Mahon Grande hard cows' milk cheese from Majorca. It had a firm, mildly flavoured paste with a pleasant sweet lactose aroma and went fairly well with two medium range reds, a 1996 Maglieri McLaren Vale shiraz and a 1994 Richmond Grove Barossa shiraz. The former, although straightforward, pipped the latter, most bottles of which were tired and ready for anasthesia, if not euthanasia. Fresh, slightly underripe, slices of Packham pear were a good accompaniment.
The coffee was a medium roast from Uganda, an up and coming coffee region. Well made, it showed rich but astringent characters in the mouth and a short finish.
Chef of the Year Dinner 2 June 2012
The glitterati of the Society were on hand to witness one of its premier events- the annual awards for Chef of the Year and for the Chris Alexiou Trophy for Best Seafood Dish. No less than 74 members and guests made for a noisy but memorable Dinner.
Steve Liebeskind presided, as one would expect, Paul Ferman oversaw the wines and Ross MacDonald was in charge of the cheese. But food was the star, and providing it was last year's winner of COTY, Nigel Burton, assisted by Keith Steele, Robert Wiggins and Peter Kelso, with dessert by Greg Sproule. A great start with Robert's canapes of herbed mushroom tarts and baby octopus with chorizo and smoked paprika served on toothpicks. The mushrooms were rich and sticky with a crunchy pastry base, while the octopus was juicy and tender and married brilliantly with the smoky and spicy sausage and paprika. The accompanying champagne was a NV Camille Saves, a family firm, and was bright and clean, if a bit simple.
The seafood note was taken up in brilliant fashion in the entree, an intense tomato-and crustacean- infused bisque surrounding a soft and juicy slab of blue eye trevalla with a few vongole, or clams, scattered about for extra texture and flavour. To accompany, we got two top examples of their style, a 1993 Buring DWT 18 riesling from Eden Valley, and a 1997 Tyrrells Vat 47 chardonnay from the Hunter. Both a pleasure to drink.
The main course depended heavily on its feature, eye fillet slow cooked in the oven then sliced, and we were not disapointed. From Vic's Meats, it was unctuously tender and flavoursome, cooked rare and appeared on the plate with a red wine jus which matched it in intensity of flavour, potatoes gratin and a piece of courgette doused in a tangy horseradish sauce. Top ingredients, well handled, and well matched by a 2001 Burton McLaren Vale shiraz (thanks to the man on the label for generously donating it) and a Huntington Estate Reserve shiraz of the same year, from Mudgee.
After that, the Le Conquerant Camembert was a bit disappointing with the interior paste still unripe and crumbly although the outer ring of paste and the crust showed its potential. No complaints about the wines, 1990 Ch La Tour St Bonnet, a cru bourgeois from Bordeaux, and an outstanding 1991 Limestone Ridge shiraz cabernet from Coonawarra
Finally, dessert saw a macadamia nut pie, with plenty of whole nuts which lacked fresh oil to hold the well handled pastry together. It still had plenty of appeal, as did the good half bottles of the accompanying 1997 Ch De Malle Sauternes, showing some toffee and honey notes but still with acid structure. Coffee, unidentified but tasting full and round with a clean finish, concluded the feasting part of the event.
It was around this time that the president made the awards which were the raison d'etre of the evening. After suitable drum roll, the Chris Alexiou Trophy went to Paul Dressler for his Soupe de Poissons Sauvages; whilst the top award went to Ted Davis for his highly original and beautifully executed ballotine of duck. Ted was unfortunately unable to attend, but it was a fitting win for the man who initiated the COTY award in the '70s
Wine Tasting 29 May 2012
This month saw a very interesting vertical lineup of Bowen cabernets from Coonawarra (with one masked ring in), presented by wine master Paul Ferman. With good food from food master Greg Sproule, an excellent cheese from cheese master Ross MacDonald and top coffee from Spencer Ferrier, it was, all in all, a masterly performance.
There was a less than auspicious start with a 1997 Mitchell Clare riesling. Bottled under cork, many bottles showed tiredness or outright oxidation, although the good ones were eminently drinkable with paler colour and good residual acid to balance the mature fruit. The acompanying canape was a superior pork terrine, strong with spice, topped by a dollop of cranberry sauce and a crunch of dried pork crackling on a water biscuit.
The main course took us to North Africa, with lamb backstraps roasted medium rare, diced and served in a rich sauce based on caramellised onions with cumin, sliced green olives, crumbled toasted almonds and a touch of honey. Served with twice-peeled broad beans and some rather underdone chat potatoes, it matched the tasting wines very well. And they were, in descending chronological order, the Bowen from 2008, 2006, 2005, 2002 and 1998. All in the house style, with big fruit and ripe tannins, the most stylish was the 2002, with the 2008 still much too young and the '98 mature and either at or beyond its peak, according to taste. A masked wine, which many found the best on table, was a St Hugo cabernet, also from Coonawarra, of 2002, lovely sweet fruit with integrated wood and a long finish.
The cheese was a triumph, a Viamala semi-hard washed rind from Switzerland, made from organic mountain milk and showing intense nutty and grassy flavours in a silk-smooth paste with a hard rind best discarded. The salad with it was a simple leaf one with mache, radicchio and baby spinach leaves in a soft oil dressing, the acid being supplied by some sliced fresh strawberries.
Coffee was from Ethiopia, the classic Yurgachef bean, medium-roasted and of good strength, with fine dry chocolate notes in the mouth but some citrus to lengthen the finish.
COTY cook off 22 May 2012
The final cook off for the 2011 Chef of the Year, and the Chris Alexiou Trophy for best seafood dish, saw Paul Dressler and his team John Rourke and Peter Madden in the kitchen revisiting Paul's dish for the final luncheon for last year. Soupe de Poissons Sauvages, generally if incorrectly referred to as bouillaibaisse, was made on a base of imported seafood stock with added tomato and thickened with potato, to which were added chunks of fresh monkfish, prawns and whole scallops with roe on. It was served in large bowls with fresh croutons and hand made rouille, or chili aeoli. Terrific depth of flavour with the added seafood cooked moist and tender, it is a worthy contender for either prize at the Dinner on 2June. Very well recived by a good crowd of 45 members and guests.
Some interesting if not brilliant wines were served with it, one a French white which on most tables was a 2006 Vouvray and on some a 2008 Bourgonne Hautes Cotes de Nuits; the former cidery with a sweetness that was ok with the soup, the latter showing some stone fruit characters but a bit thin and acid. Also served was a 2010 Provencal rose, delicate pale pink in colour and delicate also on the palate with another lick of sweetness.
Mention should be made of the canapes : "vintage" sardines (whatever that means) in filo cups and an unusual paste of monkfish liver, a French delicacy, on couton rounds. Another Vouvray, this time from 2010, went well, although a simple wine in structure with crisp acidity.
The cheese was an ultra-fresh chevre only about 10 days old from the Lower Hawkesbury region, bought by Paul at a growers market and served in little conical rounds with a delicate rind and a mild , almost wet, paste showing its youth. With it, a 1990 Ch Laroque from St Emilion, which was past its best, and a great masked wine which revealed itself as the 1990 Wynns Black Label cabernet in terrific condition and 12 years young. Special mention of the salad, a soft and flavoursome accompaniment to the cheese made from mache , or lambs tongue lettuce.
Coffee was an individual plantation, a medium roast Kichwa Tembo bean from Kenya.Served a little weak, it still showed good bitterness on the palate with chocolate notes and a long, slightly citrussy, finish.
COTY cook off lunch 8 May 2012
The latest in the intermittent series of cook offs for the 2011 chef of the year fatured Roger Straiton. He was assisted by Catherine, daughter of member Michael Hobbs and a trainee chef, and it showed in the style and presentation of the meal.
We started with seared chorizo sausage slices with zippy dijon mustard under a soft and sweet piece of caramellised pink lady apple, all on a crouton; and a crab meat and (grated) mozzarella cheese salsa in fine filo pastry cups. Both had rich falvours and visual appeal, and were matched with a miscellany of older whites from the cellar, including '89 and '87 Tyrrells Vat 1, a golden mellow '97 Capel Vale Riesling and a younger and fresher riesling, a 2005 Clare.
The theme of flavour plus presentation continued into the main course. Large Cowra lamb racks were roasted to the right shade of pink and appeared on the plates topped with a dab of herb butter and with the ribs propped on a brick of well done potato dauphinois. Next to them, a puddle of bright red casicum in which nestled a tasty minced lamb and oregano mini-meatball. A yellow squash provided more colour than flavour, but a vertically sliced piece of bok choy, glistening with oil and showing minorah-like structure of trunk and leaves, gave both. A meal with quality ingredients, well conceived and brilliantly executed. Nothing shabby about the accompanying wines, a 1990 Bowen Coonawarra cabernet, big and rich in the house style, and a wine served masked which turned out to be a 1990 Ch Latour St Bonnet, a cru bourgeois which showed a bit stinky on opening but morphed into a pleasant if not outstanding Bordeaux.
The cheese was a Pont L'Eveque, one of the great washed rind cheeses from Normandy. Perhaps a little cold but showing typical nutty notes with a good, slightly elastic, texture. To go with it, a 2001 Vasse Felix, a good Oz example of fruit and tannins at their best, and the surprise, another masked wine unveiled as the 1986 Wynns cabernet/shiraz (red stripe), a basically commercial wine which was a delight with complex mature characters, if a bit short in the finish.
Served with the cheese and the coffee (an organic Mexican bean, mouth-filling if a bit woody) were some crunchy biscotti pieces with a sweetness that contrasted with the cheese and the wines but went well with the coffee and with a marvellous old Pedro Ximenes sweet sherry provided by Michael Hobbs, luscious with aged green tinges and an almost viscous consistency.
lunch 1 May 2012
It was Mayday, but no help needed in the kitchen, whence Miles Hedge, assisted by Martin McMurray and the staff turned out a great lunch, with some interesting wines to match.
Canapes were a chicken and mushroom melange, enlivened with cognac and served in good short pastry cases. A masked aperitif turned out to be a cleanskin which turned out to be a 2005 Houghtons White Burgundy (oops) Museum release, flavoursome if a bit sweet and simple.
Seafood was the go for the main course in the attractive shape of a mussell and saffron pie, with a top fish stock cooked with aromatic vegetables and some chunky schnapper pieces and served with said basics and a hit of cream in individual bowls under a nicely browned puff pastry lid. Honest seafood flavours with plenty of saffron to balance and accompanied by some well turned out mash and green beans with requisite crunch. The wine master chose to present all four table wines together, the 2006 Bloodwood Schubert chardonnay and the 1996 Yarra Ridge pinot noir obviously intended for the food. The white was a pretty good match with some bottle age softening some quite sweet fruit in broader style from this cool area. The pinot was true to style, but a bit hard on the end and probably past its best.
The other two wines to match the cheese (assuming self-control) were the 1994 Rymill Coonawarra shiraz and a Pikes Clare shiraz from 1995. The expected bottle variation, especially with the Rymill, some drinking very well but others showing volatile acetone characters. The Pikes was not as popular, but came up in the glass and was a good example of an older Clare wine. Neither went especially well with the cheese, a soft and sticky Le Dauphin cheese in the Dauphinois style, good texture but lacking the complex flavours we usually get with an aged Rhone-Alpes white mould cheese. A shaved cucumber salad had good texture but its cream content made it a better match with the food.
The coffee, a medium roast from East Timor, was a clean finish to the meal with good astringent notes in the mouth and a long dry finish.
Wine tasting 24 April 2012
The depth of the Society cellar in wines of the Hunter was exemplified by this tasting of four whites and two reds, all from the House of Tyrrell.
Before that,a brave move by Wine master Paul Ferman to turn on a rose, the 2011 Tyrrells Old Winery. Fresh, with brilliant colour, it was a sweet and simple but good match for a chicken and cream pate served on crispbread and topped with a crunchy cornichon courtesy of the chef, Food master Greg Sproule. Good as Oz roses go.
The lineup with some whole leatherjacket, baked and served on a mash of potato and celeriac coloured with turmeric and accompanied by a zingy sauce made on mayoonnaise, brandy and tomato sauce, started with two masked whites which were later unveiled as Vat 1's from 1989 and 1987. The younger of the two still had fresh acid with aged complexity and wonderful Hunter toast, but the other was oxidised and best forgotten. No such problems with the two unmasked Vat 47's from 1997 and 1993. The younger was a bigger , more forward style with sweet fruit, and the older more delicate with fruit dropping out to show bottle age, but still sound. A division of preferences,but both great examples of the line.
The cheese was a Tarago River Strzelecki Blue, a blue goat's milk cheese in terrific condition which had most members thinking France. With it and an understated green salad we saw , of course, Vat 9's from 2003 and 1993. The younger was still a baby with ripe fruit yet to integrate with strong tannins; while the older was starting to fade, with good soft round flavours but a bit hard at the finish. Long may the Hunter form an important part of our cellar.
To top it all off, a Tanzanian high altitude bean, medium roast, showed good lemony characters under some broad rich notes on the palate
Coty lunch 17 April 2012
Every now and then the Society achieves serendipity at lunch, with good wines matched with exceptional food, and cheese and coffee playing their part. Such was the case for this lunch, with COTY finalist and long-term member Ted Davis venturing down from the Central Coast to give us a fresh experience of the dish which put him in the cook off.
It was a simple but effective start, with pickled octopus pieces served with (a balanced degree of) chili and lime juice in whitlof leaves, which provided crunch and a touch of bitterness to complement the wine, a 2005 Delatite riesling from Victoria showing strong fruit on the nose and palate, if perhaps not the intensity of a top SA.
Then the piece de resistance, a ballotine of duck, made by peeling the skin and meat off the carcass and rolling it round a pork forcemeat, wrapping it in muslin and baking it. Sounds simple (until you try it) but the wow factor came from the care with which Ted, and assistant Gareth Evans, put the flavours into it and presented it. The stuffing featured, in addition to five spice and lots of (true) shallot, slices of chinese duck liver sausage and dried pork belly pieces; a reduction sauce made from the carcasses had everyone reaching for bread to sop it up; and a restored dried shitake mushroom with a steamed whole baby bok choy provided contrasts in flavour and texture. A perfect example of the fusion food to which Ted introduced the Society years ago, and to which most are now addicted.
The wines were a 2009 Tamar Ridge from Tasmania and a 2008 Coldstream Hills from the Yarra, both obviously pinots in the Oz style, and good drinks, especially the first, but eclipsed by the food.
The Asian influence continued into the salad made on finely chopped chinese cabbage and bean sprouts with a smidgin of chili and a mild, slightly sweet, vinaigrette. It went well with an artery-clogging, but superb, triple cream soft cheese from France, a Delice de Bourgogne in terrific buttery condition. THe wines, a 2002 Penfolds Bin 407 and a Grant Burge Shadrach cabernet from the same year were fine wines but , particularly the 407, a little tannic for the cheese.
The coffee, a medium roast individual Devon Estate bean from India, was rich and mouth-filling with a touch of citrus to provide length.
The lunch concluded on a sombre note with the traditional green chartreuse toast for Haydn Lloyd-Davies, who died only the day before after a long illness which prevented him from attending lunches only towards the end. We know he would appreciate being sent off with a lunch of this quality.
Mixed lunch 10 April 2012
"Twas the day after Easter, and the usual mixed lunch was attended by a small but dedicated band of members and guests, ready to break Lent in appropriate manner.They were well rewarded by chef Michael Millward, assisted by James Hill, kicking off with no less than 3 canapes: white anchovies on Iggy's sourdough slices, brined NZ mussels in a creamy pimento sauce served on porcelain spoons, and a rich and tasty gazpacho in a shot glass. All washed down with a mix of aperitif wines, mainly an '09 Ocean 8 Chardonnay but also, for the lucky, a random bottle of 1996 Lakes Folly Chardonnay, fading but still showing great fruit.
The Spanish note in the canapes continued into the main course, with a large and succulent pork cutlet grilled then baked and served simply with a cold vegetable stew similar in style to a ratatouille, with red onions capsicum and tomato roasted in their skins then peeled and mixed with olive oil and herbs - ole! Carbohydrate came in the form of some well-cooked brown rice. Good sunny flavours which worked surprisingly well with a couple of pinots: a 2003 Coldstream Hills from the Yarra and a 2004 Georges Michel from Marlborough NZ. Most preferred the Oz on the day, although the Michel has a longer life ahead of it. Also served with the meal, and extending into the cheese, were a 1994 Richmond Grove Barossa shiraz, sadly past its best, and a quality wine which varied from table to table but included a Bin 389 and a Tyrrells Vat 9, both with age. No complaints were heard.
And speaking of cheese, it was from Spain, a semi-hard cows milk in the Manchego style, but more delicate and softer in texture. A mixed green salad with ev olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a suitable accompaniment.
Coffee was from Peru (once a Spanish colony): a good quality medium roast showingburnt caramel notes in the mouth and a long finish
Luncheon 3 April
John "Goldy" Goldsbrough was the nominal chef of the day, but the heavy lifting was done by Goldy's friend Paul Kuipers, operator of Coirtneys Brasserie at Parramatta and a great exponent of fresh local produce. That was evident right through the wonderful meal he presented, starting with crab done 2 ways: as a tangy blue swimmer salad in porcelain spoons,and as an intense bisque, served in shot glasses. As if that weren't enough, there were also some Port Stephens oysters lightly grilled with a dash of horse readish and grated pecorino cheese, another flavour hit. A mixed bag of aperitif wines sometimes complemented the canapes; even the Nepenthe sauv blanc was ok.
Paul's technique came through in the main course, venison pie on a vanilla -flavoured mash with an unusual baked purple carrot, jam made on dried plums and a spicy chilli chocolate sauce. The venison, wild from the Mudgee region, was marinated in a mix including juniper berries which lent a real gamey character to the pie,handmade with golden short crust pastry.The chilli was a bit evident for some, but all agreed it was a rich satisfying dish with punch. As were the wines served with it by Paul Ferman, our new wine master: Ebenezer shiraz (cabernet on some tables) and Grant Burge Filsell shiraz, both 2002 and both from the Barossa. They were typical of the region, showing big sweet fruit in a bold style barely softened by age. Most preferred the Filsell, bur both went well with the richness of the food. Special mention should be made of the samples of cocoa/ chocolate in various stages of processing which Paul Kuipers handed round and spoke to.
After that, it was a nice contrast to move to a good flavoursome cheddar in the form of a Quicks cloth-matured cheese from Old Blighty, simply served with a hand made quince paste and some thin and crisp Lavosh . Plenty of grassy, nutty notes in an aged cheese, and the paste was nothing like the commercial version in texture or flavour.
The coffeee was from Antigua in the West Indies, medium roast and smooth in the mouth, though lacking the richness and length which would have made it a top ending to a top food and wine experience
2nd cook off for COTY 27 March
Undeterred by publicity that someone else was cooking, or by the fact that it was a red wine tasting lunch, Marcus Bleasel entered the lists for the 2011 Chef of the Year with a variant on his mediterranean meal, this time featuring salmon. First, to go with a pretty classy, if infant, 2011 Red Robin riesling from the Clare, a ricotta spiced with sherry vinegar and served on rice crackers; and some rillettes-style pork, made on offcuts from a whole suckling pig produced by Ian Witter the previous weekend, topped with a slice of cornichon and pepper, this time on a rice and seaweed cracker.
As a concession to the main course fish, the tasting started with a 1993 Tyrrells Vat 47, a great example of the style still with fruit and acid,showing a bit of age. The other wines in the tasting, Greg Chugg's swansong as winemaster, were (all from 1998):
Lindemans The Abbey merlot, served blind and fooling most
Limestone Ridge shiraz/cabernet in top condition and one of the popular choices
Orlando Lawson Padthaway shiraz, served blind again and beguiling many with its spicy cabernet-like nose
Orlando St Hugo, again a top wine despite bottle troubles on some tables
Seppelt Great Western Reserve shiraz, another blindie and good but not up to the company
Seppelt Drumborg cabernet, a rich, cool climate wine which most selected as best on the day
All this was consumed with, or after, a baked piece of salmon filletcovered with labne or mid-east yoghurt enlivened with lemon juice and garlic, and surrounded by a salad/salsa of toasted almonds, grapes, baby capers, lemon juice and olive oil with various green herbs and a hit of red chilli. Served warm, not hot, the dish had strong but complementary flavours which married well with the fish and, at least, the chardonnay.
The cheese was not local as many assumed, but a dauphinois-style surface-ripened cheese from the Alpes region of France. Still fresh with grassy notes and a lovely smooth paste. The salad, produced by Paul Thorne, saw warmed fig slices with glazed walnut pieces, cress and fresh nectarine slices in a dressingof walnut oil and mixed citrus juice: a triumph. Special mention, too, of the bread, a wholegrain sourdough from Sonoma bakery.
Continuing the chronological tour of coffeee regions,we came to Indonesia with a cup of the original Java: high-roast, good bitter notes in the mouth with a bit of dark chocolate to help the flavour linger
Heinz Wicki 90th 20 March
It is a fine, if all too infrequently displayed, tradition of the Society to honour the 90th birthday of a member with a special lunch. So it was gratifying to see nearly 70 members and guests attend the lunch for nonagenarian Heinz Wicki. The birthday boy brought, notably, his elegant wife Eva; but also an ever-increasing quantity of Australian sparkling to whet appetites. Josef Condrau, who introduced Heinz to the Society, was in the kitchen, and turned out some simple but effective pieces of air-dried beef,(or Bundnerfleisch, if you must) and seasonally ripe rock melon on toothpicks to accompany some 2007 and 2008 Clover Hill sparkling from Tasmania and an additional supply of Jansz, also from Tas.
The meal featured an entree, a pillow of puff pastry filled with a duxelles of various fungi, including swiss browns, and slivers of sweetbread, which added to the flavour without causing rebellion by the offal-adverse. An excellent Tasmanian chardonnay, 2004 Providence, showed good fruit intensity and still fresh acid.
The main course continued the mid-European theme, with seared and still bloody loins of venison festooning the plate along with some well prepared ribbon pasta (to replace spaetzle), zesty red cabbage sauteed in red wine with spices, a dab of chestnut puree and a poached half pear filled with loganbeery puree. All teriffic, and well matched with a couple of 1999 Hunters, a Lindemans Steven and a McWilliams OP & OH. The former was heavier and more densely structured than the latter, despite a lower alcohol content, but both drinking very well.
Better, in fact, than the two cabernets served with the cheese; a Vasse Felix Margaret River 1999 and a lesser growth St Emillon from 2000. The latter was a nice drink but nothing more, while the Oz, at least in some bottles, seemed tired and a bit dirty. A pity, because the cheese was superb ;a raw milk mountain cheese from Switzerland, in the Appenzeller style but with heaps of great nutty aroma and taste; a rare delight on our table. Special mention, too, of a softly bitter salad of mache, or lambs tongue, with an unobtrusive but complementary dressing.
The coffee, a medium roast from Devon in S -W India, had good mouthfeel but a touch short on the finish. To go with it, a Basler Lackerli, best described as a spiced oatmeal cake with a hard sugar icing. Sounds far less delicious than it was.
Paul Dressler, in proposing the toast to Heinz, mentioned othe members who had in recent times been so honoured: James Street, John McDowell, Harold Wilkes and, of course, the everlasting Wal Edwards, who was at the lunch. Heinz joins him as an ultra-senior member: long may he remain so.
13 March 2012 Peter Manners
Our acclaimed "canape master" Peter was in the kitchen ably assisted by Peter Squires, Richard Davis and Bob Swinney.
He produced a meal that had wide acclaim from speakers on the day.
Mini sandwiches Belina sausage with cream cheese.
Chinese fillings in won ton wrappers.
Water chestnuts. bamboo shoots,Chinese mushrooms and minced pork.Pork terrine Richard Davis
Main Seasoned Loin of Pork with crackling and red cabbage/apple cooked in red wine..The prune source quite thick so as not to spread all over the plate.
Cheese with Fresh figs, dates, dried figs,almonds.
Cheese Le Conquerant Grand Camembert Origin France Region Normandy White Mould pasteurised Cow's milk
Wines Alkoomi Riesling 2000, Belgravia Merlot Orange 2010,Phaedrus Pinot Noir Mornington 2007
Burton Maclaren Vale shiraz 2002. Ebenezer Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
6 March 2012 Paul Ferman
Forty of us gathered to taste the first of our Chef of the year Cook off with Paul in the kitchen.
The food had flavour and authenticity however timeliness of service detracted from scores.A theme of comment is that "less is more"!
Menu Canapes, Sushimi salmon [ lime juice, salt pepper olive ] on toasts
Lobster, fried in butter seasoned + tomato coulie, drops of SJ white truffle oil
Main Organic chicken drumstick , brine 6hrs, 8% solution , dried , lightly floured [quinoa] browned in goose fat, reserved onions leeks, garlic, simmered,flamed cognac , braised in reduced red wine and chicken stock , herbs , seasoning , button mushrooms, eschalots fried/simmered goose fat,the lot braised for 60 mins, peas added at last 10 mins, garnished with dijon mustard, grated parmesan and comte, drizzle SJ white truffle oil
Roasted pumpkin+ kumar, simmered dutch creams and grated beetroot, mashed with olive , butter seasoned
Carrots simmered, tossed , butter, olive oil, seasoned
Cheese Queso Valdeon Origin Castila y Leon Spain Pasteurised cow and goat with blue mould
Aperitif Richmond Grove Riesling 1995,
Main Dom de'loratorio 2010,Jules Rochebonne 2006 both Cote du Rhone
Cheese Taylors Jarraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
COTD Paul provided 2001 Fonseca porto
Winetasting 28 February
A full complement of 40 was on hand to look at some whites at the close of summer, and to sample some matching food. To start, a 2006 McWilliam Anne semillon, slightly bigger than the Elizabeth and showing some bottle development. Also a 2009 Ocean 8 chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula, offering a good nose bur disappointing in the quality of fruit. To accompany (at the last moment), some slices of pissaladiere, a sort of French pizza, with plenty of flavour from caramellised onions, olives, anchovies and herbs on a thin puff pastry, with flavours which dominated the wines.
The chardonnay theme continued, at least to start, with 2007 McWilliams Barwang from Hilltops and 2005 Shannons from the Granite Belt in Queensland, coupled with two masked wines which were clearly older. Unveiled, they were a Lakes Folly from 1996, and a Tyrrells Vat 47 from 1992, both chardonnays. Both museum wines, with bottle variation a factor; some thought the Lakes was superior with white burgundy characters, while others found it too oxidised and preferred the Vat 47.. Of the younger wines, the Barwang was decidedly better, withstone fruit on the nose and acidity on the plate giving it some years to go. The "banana" wine showed defects, with a metallic hardness on the back palate.
Seafood with these, in the form of a baby calamari, stuffed with tentacles, pork mince, prawn meat and pine nuts and a couple of nicely seared but strangely bland scallops, served with a reduction stock based on duck. Good, and complementary to the wines, but a bit small on the plate; a couple of green leaves would have helped, as would more bread to sop up the sauce.
The remaining two wines in the tasting reverted to red, the Orlando Lawsons Padthaway shiraz from 1994 and 1992. Both still showing big fruit, the older being softer and better integrated, the younger fresher but a bit awkward. Both had their admirers, as did a superb Cala La Luna Holy Goat chevre,a surface-ripened cheese produced in logs and showing both developed paste at the outside and fresh acidic chevre in the middle. The cheesemaster did it again. Salad was green leaves and cherry tomatoes in a soft vinaigrette, and the coffee was Illy, still the best commercial blend around.
Luncheon 24 February 2012
In the kitchen our Foodmaster Greg Sproule ably assisted by Sproule Snr. Wines Greg Chugg Cheese Ross MacDonald
Coffee Spencer Ferrier (in absentia)
Canapes Figs grilled with blue cheese and creme fraiche, Mango with raspberry vinegar on corn chips.
Main Pork fillet with mustard peaches and samphire on a bed to potato onion and beetroot with cabbage and apple
Salad Endive with roasted almond slivers, pears and red radish.
Cheese Old Telegraph Road Jacksons Track: Jindi Cheese co.Origin: Aust. Washed rind Pasteurised Cow's Milk
Coffee Harrar Ethiopian Coffee
Wines 2002 Pikes Riesling 1998 Macquarriedale Semillon Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2007
1998 Wynns Shiraz 1998 Seppelts Drumborg Cabernet Sauvignon (both served masked)
Luncheon 14 February 2012
Maybe it wasn't love that was in the air, but 44 romantic members and guests turned up to celebrate Valentines Day anyway. In the kitchen, Peter Kelso, assisted by Martin McMurray, played Cupid, starting with some Middle-Eastern inspired canapes of spiced roasted eggplant on toasts. They were matched by a mixed collection of aperitifs, the 2003 Howard Park riesling being a standout.
Everyone knows that fish is good for the heart, so on it came: monkfish, or stargazer if you prefer, was served in fillets, baked in individual foil parcels with leaves of chinese broccoli, a sprig of wild fennel, a couple of prawns and a prawn reduction infused with lemon myrtle, a native tropical tree whose leaves have a uniquely high proportion of the chemical that gives lemon zest and lemongrass their flavour. With it, some simple mash to soak up the sauce, uplifted with a trace of parsnip. Good flavours, but subtle, a description which applied also to the wines, Tyrrells Vat 1 semillons from 2003 (under cork) and 2004 (under stelvin). Opinions divided, some preferring the freshness and spritz of the '04 to the fuller more developed style of the '03, but both terrific wines in the Vat 1 tradition.
The lovable food continued with a superb aged blue goats' milk cheese, a Tarago Strzelecki Blue from Victoria. Great rich texture and a mild flavour in which the goat character was evident but subdued. The salad accompanying was rocket and endive with sliced fresh figs (in season and in theme) and pistachio nuts with a soft vinaigrette. The accompanying wines were a masked one and a 1998 Bowen Estate Cabernet from Coonawarra. This was a fine big red in the Bowen style, but no match for the other, which turned out to be the 2002 vintage of the same wine; great nose, plenty of fruit but more elegant than the older wine.
Lunch concluded with a good but not great example of Yurgachef coffee from Ethiopia, the home of the coffee bean. Lively lemony flavour but a little light in the mouth. In non-Valentine mode, a toast was drunk to ex-member Ian Cameron-Smith in the traditional green chartreuse, before those present left to attend to their affairs.
First lunch 7 February 2012
The old and the bold assembled for the inaugural lunch of 2012, featuring President James Hill, assisted by James Healey, in the kitchen, with Hilton Chapman on wines, Ross MacDonald on cheese and Spencer Ferrier (in absentia) on coffee.
As starters, some interesting shaved air-dried beef with filling of bocconcini,grilled white nectarine and rocket,and a lovely crab salsa with a hit of chili served on a bed of soft polenta in porcelain spoons. They were well matched with a Macquariedale 2000 Old Vines Semillon, developed but fresh save for one corked bottle, and a taste of a 2001 Mount View Semiillon, also from the Hunter, showing more complex characters, fully developed but still sound.
The main course saw some carefully semi-boned quail, with a stuffing made on pork and fennel mince with pistachio kernels, thyme, fennel and cumin seeds, wrapped in vine leaves and baked in wine with grapes and feta. It came to the table pink and moist, accompanied by some baked par-boiled chat potatoes enlivened by salty capers and chopped olives,in great condition and some simple snake beans. plenty of gamey flavours and some fine little leg and wing bones to chew on. The accompanying wines were a 1997 Lawsons Padthaway shiraz, rich fruit and fully mature with a hint of tar on the back palate, and a 1999 Lindrum Walter shiraz from unspecified fruit (probably McLaren Vale and Hunter), soft and also mature, probably better with the delicate quail.
The cheddar, served with a terrific salad of wild rocket, radicchio and shaved fennell in a mild and sweetish dressing of EVOO, Balsamic and lemon, had everyone fooled; it turned out to be from Vermont (yes, USA) and had a sweet nutty flavour redolent of gruyere with a nicely crumbly texture. With it, 1996 Parker Terra Rossa Coonawarra cabernet, and the Wynns Black Label from 1991. Both very good wines, with the Wynns pipping the Parker in terms of complexity.
Coffee was a Rain Forest Alliance bean from Brazil, medium roast and smoothly rich with no spikes.
A toast was drunk to late member Ian Cameron-Smith, who died over the Christmas break, with Martin McMurray eloquent on Ian's life and contribution to the Society.