Monthly Archives: June 2010

It’s a Birthday Tiramisu!

4.32pm, Saturday 26th June, South Cove, East Perth, Western Australia
Well folks, we finished the jobs for Perth last night, and I’m going to catch up all three events as the travelling roadshow gets washed, ironed, sorted and packed today.

Catchup Friday, 25th June: Consumer & Trade Dinner at Maurizio’s Restaurant, North Perth
I walked in yesterday to open the wines for the event and straight into a proper Italian restaurant where any English spoken is with a heavy accent. All of a sudden my hands took on a life of their own as my Italian side took over, and I fit straight in.

One big canape with Jansz

Once we were set up, owner and chief cook Maurizio pan fried half marron in olive oil, garlic and chilli and tossed them in pasta for the staff dinner. We were able to sit in and started the night exceptionally well ‘a la famiglia’. The canape this evening was a big one: a whole wheel of 36-month-aged Parmiagano Reggiano carved into small chunks to go with the Jansz NV bubbles. This  was followed by a mixed antipasto ‘del mare’ plate of baked scallops, scampi and octopus terrine with the  two 2008 Viogniers from the one vineyard: the Eden Valley and The Virgilius.

Then one of the more original dishes I’ve seen on this seven-week tour came out next with the 2006 and 2007 vintages of the Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet: a risotto made with the Menzies incorporated into the chicken stock and laced with fresh radicchio. This is something that Maurizio saw years ago as a youngster in Treviso in the Veneto area featuring a local red wine, and he’s done this version of it with ours.

Maurizio's birthday tiramisu: (l to r back) Nicola, Jackie, Maurizio (front) me, Lee, Josie

We finished up with a surprise birthday cake of Tiramisu, and in the picture in the back row left to right is Nicola the front of house (just won best maitre’d in Perth at this week’s restaurant awards) , our gal in Perth Jackie, and Maurizio himself; front row trying to hide behind me is Lee – our head gal in Perth. Lovely way to finish up our whole tour actually – on a really sweet note!

Catchup Friday, 25th June: Twist Club Businessman’s Lunch at Chez Pierre, Nedlands
This is the sixth annual Yalumba lunch we’ve done with the Twist Club boys, and trust me, it is definitely one of my favourite jobs of the year – me and 45 business blokes – all with an extremely healthy interest in big red wines. It might sound like a loud, noisy, boisterous event – and you’d be right!

Twist Club duck and The Reserve

But the restaurant they choose always turns out some great food, we always make sure our very best of the reds are poured for lunch,  the boys are  an amazingly well wine informed bunch, and I save them some of my more interesting stories from the road, so it all seems to go very well! Bring it on for next year gentlemen, as I’ve promised to show them our new release 2006 Single Site shirazes as well.  As my pick of the day, I went with the duck leg and layered potatoes with the treble of 2006 FDR 1A, 2005 Signature and 2004 The Reserve. Special!

Catchup Thursday, 24th June: Vintage Cellars Shenton Park Consumer Dinner at The Platform Restaurant, Woodside Plaza in downtown Perth
We’ve set up a great relationship with the Vintage Cellars folk in Perth, and Shenton Park is their flagship store with its  special ‘downstairs red room’ – site of many Yalumba master classes over the past few years. This was our first consumer master class with Paul and the boys, and it was at Platform – a red hot and hospitable restaurant and bar around the back of the Woodside Plaza. They have an excellent canape/tapas menu and put together strong tasting plates to go with the 10 wines on for tasting. It’s one night when I should have taken my camera and didn’t – as even the individually skewered tempura prawns looked great as well as tasting the same. The wasabi & sesame crusted Tasmanian salmon wedges were spot on with the Viognier and Chardonnays, and the seared peppered tuna on zucchini & haloumi fritters held their own with the Cabernet Shiraz set, as did the mini beef mignons!

Great bar as well, if you’re looking for somewhere to hide from the manic get-out-of-the-city evening traffic – and nice folks at both the bar and stoves. Thanks to the folks from VCs, and also to Emma – our new gal on the sales team in Perth, from the Barossa actually – job well done!

Winning Palates in Perth

11,02am, Thursday, 24th June, East Perth, Western Australia
Wow, before I even get to last night’s events over here in Perth in the last week of the Yalumba brand building trek, I’m watching our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard being sworn in! That makes it a big day for starters!

34 very interested palates packed into Your Shout's mezzanine

Today is  a classic big blue sky day in Perth, and it does feel a bit special this morning. We won some big time ‘hard to impress, very well wine informed’ palates last night at our first master class with the folks at Your Shout Liquor in Mt Lawley. As soon as I walked into the store last night, though, I knew I was going to like these folks – Neil and Patty Wodcke – because of the strategically placed collection of lava lamps, neon signs, trinkets  and especially the Elvis wall clock!

This store is a champion of regional West Australian wineries, as well as boutique and small volume wines from over in our part of the country. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find the same catalogue of local Barossa wines of that nature in an Adelaide store as they have at Your Shout.

Top tastes to go with the wine

We had 34 people up in the mezzanine tasting section of the store, and we kicked off well into a set of 10 wines that covered four winegrowing regions – Pipers River in Tasmania, Barossa , Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills – and seven wine styles. With the wines,  Neil and Patty put on enough platters  of  top  antipasto to feed a small army, and we were away!

The highlights?

2004 Pewsey Vale ‘Contours’ Riesling travelling gracefully down that aged Riesling path, and the opportunity to illustrate how Cabernet Shiraz from the Barossa works with the quad set of the 2008 Scribbler, 2006 FDR 1A, 2005 Signature and the 2004 The Reserve

What a great tasting group to work with – two boys added to the evening by bringing along back vintages of Signature – the 1998 and 1994. Both still in form with the ’98 showing a bit of warm jam reflecting that vintage, and the ’94 as smooth as silk.

We also got into a discussion on regional Cabernet style when looking at the 2007 Menzies from Coonawarra – contrasting Margaret River, Coonawarra and the Barossa Valley floor – generally known for shiraz rather than cabernet. And to show exactly what we were talking about,  Neil generously opened two bottles of 2008 Rusden – made by Christian from local winegrowing family Canute – Barossa 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  These are the nights you like – long answers to short questions, genuinely interested folks, no one in a rush to go, and a lot of fun had by all. Looks like we’ll ba back next year with a different set of wines for a bit more of the same.

Thanks to Your Shout for having us and everyone for coming along – and special mention to  Nick and Lawrie – the personal trainers from Gym Care – for your staunch support. And our man in Perth Byron B for making it all happen.

Big Call: The Best Pork Belly Dish Ever

11.12am, Wednesday, 23rd June, Royal Street, East Perth, Western Australia
It’s a really nice day across here in Perth, and last night we did our second wine dinner at The Silver Spoon– right on the infamous kidney-shaped roundabout in Victoria Park – with Stephen the owner and Michael Illari the chef. This time last year when we did our first wine dinner with the Spoon, they had only just opened, and it was their first-ever wine dinner. Whilst everything that night was great, they’ve gone to seriously new heights 12 months on.

The Silver Spoon pork belly

One dish that seems to be having a big run wherever we’ve worked these past 18 months is pork belly. And last night, Michael’s version of the dish is THE best I’ve seen, anywhere that I’ve worked in the world over the last six months. See the picture I put in with the 2008 FDW[7C] Adelaide Hills Chardonnay (100% wild ferment). I tried to get a good side on view of the Chilli Glazed Pork Belly, Celeriac and Apple” so you could see exactly what Michael did that was so special – and resulted in us being able to shred it by just waving a fork gently through it.

I had a long chat with Michael afterward to get the details, and here’s how it went:

He put the whole strip of pork belly into a ‘master stock’ loaded up with Chinese herbs and aromatics to soak for two days. Then he cut the top layer of skin off to ensure that the fat layer got the attention it needed, sealed it up and cooked it through, crispy grilling the skin and chilli glazing it before adding it back to the meat before serving it up. The master stock had chicken stock added and was reduced to a sweet salty syrup the consistency of honey, which was dribbled around the pork, celeriac puree was added, and the shredded apple and apple juice foam sat on top of the crispy skin to take the sting out of the chilli.

With the flavours and acid levels in the Chardonnay – magic!

And it stayed the same from there on into the Grilled Snapper, Shitake Broth, Coriander and Nouc Cham, which was set up with the 2008 Virgilius Viognier – and as you shifted your nose from the glass of Viognier and went across to the broth – the aromatic lift was almost identical with a  lemongrass and ginger thing going on.

Goat cheese and beetroot

Let alone the Goat Cheese, Candied Beetroot and Pistachio with the 2005 The Octavius Shiraz – basically beetroot done three ways and making a neat creamy sweet and savoury finish to the evening.

 With the sharp bar, excellent local (Western Australia) and ‘imported’ (rest of Australia) wine list, and the extremely talented Michael Illari at the stove , The Silver Spoon is hammering now and destined for great things! And we love our annual outing there – wouldn’t miss it for anything!

PS Nice to see more Coffin Bay oysters from our South Australian (Eyre Peninsula) part of the world served three ways last night as a starter with the 2005 Vintage Jansz. These shellfish are being used more and more as the premium oyster of choice for chefs across Australia – and it’s great to see the little town making big foodie waves.

Swanning About in Perth and the Burbs

On the Swan

1.58pm, Tuesday, 22nd June, East Perth, WA, the other side of the country, Australia
True to the form of this tour, we’re sticking with the water theme and are staying on the Swan River, across in East Perth. This is week 7 of 7. Then this particular Rare & Fine Great Australian Red Story tour is done, all done!

We’ve got an interesting week of jobs to finish with, and we started last night out in the suburbs in Forrestfield at the Hale Road Tavern – our second wine dinner with this family owned, old-school pub. Everyone who works there is like a big extended family. Sisters Shaunagh and Lee-Anne are the hostesses with the dangerous mostess! They work hard and play harder, and they are staunch Yalumba supporters with our wines in the pub dining room and the bottle shop – one of Perth’s busiest! The team did a great job of looking after everyone last night.

Pick of the Night

I chose the stuffed leg of roast lamb with The Cigar Coonawarra Cabernet as the combo of the night – great old fashioned family dinner stuff. If you’re looking for that great Australian pub experience, you can’t go past the Hale Road Tavern – huge wall-sized screen to watch special sports events, live music most nights of the week,  and classic pub food dishes like Surf & Turf with pretty solid bloke size serves. Thanks all, new chefs Andy, Carlos, Jason & John, and the long serving crew – Shelby & TC,  not forgetting Murdoch. See ya next year – either in the Barossa for Vintage Festival, or back at the Hale Tavern.

Food and Wine Fly High in Townsville and Port Douglas

9.01am, Sunday 20th June, Brisbane Airport, Queensland, Australia
Well, in the past two weeks I’ve seen a lot of the Sunshine State! Now I’m about to do the transcontinental dash and finish this seven-week Rare & Fine tour with a week in Perth. Before I leave Queensland though, I need to give you a couple of absolutely outstanding food and wine addresses. I wrote up both at this time last year, and they are annual fixtures on our tour calendar.

Catchup: Yesterday, A Touch Of Salt,  Ogden Street, Townsville
Instead of flying from Cairns to Alice Springs and on to Perth on Saturday, I decided to go via Townsville and Brisbane, so that we could do another event with the family at A Touch of Salt. Dad Peter owns it, one lad, Michael, is the chef, and the other lad, Mark, is front of house. We had 70 people fill the place for lunch, and the boys did not disappoint.  We took the opportunity to do two wines with each course – contrasting the ‘little sisters and brothers’  wines to the big guns in each category – and it went over quite well. Being able to illustrate things in the glass saves half an hour of explanation! The complete five-course session was strong, but I’ve chosen threecomplete winners where the food flavours, textures and aromas slid straight in and out of the wines. There’s a lot to be said for working with the same chefs again and again, as they really get to know your stuff as well as theirs:

  • Touch of Salt souffle

    The 2008 Eden Valley Viognier and 2008 Virgilius – two parcels from the same single vineyard – with the Twice Baked Pumpkin Souffle, Moreton Bay Bug, Lemon & Ginger Dressing: the slight crust of the souffle and its fluffy centre, the fibrous bug and the twangy citrus finish met the viognier well!

  • The Bresaola of Beef, Camembert Beignet, Roasted Pimento & Mint Pesto with the 2008 Cigar and 2007 Menzies – both Coonawarra Cabernets. Easy choice as a winner here – the mint pesto and the mint eucalypt of The Cigar, and just quietly, those camembert beignets should be in baskets to plough through as bar snacks with these reds!
  • Mark and the venison

    The two Barossa shirazes – 2008 Patchwork, the little brother, and 2005 The Octavius big gun – with the Slow Baked Venison, Black Cherry Crumble, Roasted Fennel & White Chocolate Mash. One of the great giveaway characters of old vine Barossa Shiraz are the shades of licorice you get, and Michael’s roasted fennel nailed that, let alone the way the venison fell apart.

Townsville and fine dining? Probably not the two things a lot of folks would put together, but one of the best kept foodie secrets in Australia is out! Townsville has it – try Watermark on The Strand, A Touch Of Salt on the Quay at Ogden Street, or for breakfast get into the Shredded Indonesian Omlette at Jam Corner at the end of Palmer Street – also magic coffee. With the V8 Supercars visiting town shortly, those three spots WILL be hot.

Catchup: Friday, 18th June, Cafe Salsa, Port Douglas
Now it’s a long way to travel to Far North Queensland both for the Coffin Bay oysters that opened the day with the Vintage Jansz 2005 and for me! But  Salsa Bar & Grill at Port Douglas is one of THE best places to eat in Australia. Full stop!

It’s as if we walked out yesterday and back in today without the 12 month gap in between. These folks know how to make you feel special, and that’s even before they look after you with the food, wine and coffee. This day’s lunch menu was put together by Galen and Dominic, with Billy being reduced to ‘garnish boy’ (Rhys said that, not me!) and again, they did not disappoint. With the shutters all wide open and a beautiful breeze spinning through the place, it was the perfect FNQ day to be looking at the big reds on the list. As to the highlights – pick a course, any course! But here are mine:

  • Half Shell Coffin Bay Oyster with the 2005 Vintage Jansz. Nat Fryar is doing magic things with the Jansz Tasmanian bubbles, and with this parcel of fruit she’s really starting to show off what she and those vines can do.
  • Salsa salmon

    Maple & Juniper Smoked Chinook Salmon with a Goat Cheese Blini and Beetroot Puree with the 2009 Heggies Eden Valley Vineyard Riesling. Now this isn’t something that we usually do, but up north in this weather, cold, crisp, snap crackle and pop Riesling travels well – especially when it gets to work with salmon like this. I have no idea how the boys managed it, but they did the preparation and smoking of the fish themselves, and I kid you not – it was like a solidified mousse! The whole combination was gold medal good!

  • House Made Gingerbread Dusted Kangaroo Pastrami with Classic Waldorf Salad & Black Cherry Viniagrette and the 2008 Virgilius – just worked! The lovely flavours of the pastrami – soft as silk and not gamey – with the chilled shredded apple and cabbage are the sort of thing that makes this place so out there on its own.

And we haven’t even got to the reds yet!

The lamb loin

The Herb & Dijon Mustard Crusted Lamb Loin with Pont Neuf Potatoes, Roast Garlic & Jerusalem Artichoke Skordalia and Confit Truss Tomatoes went with the double header  of 2005 Signature Cabernet Shiraz and 2007 Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet. And I ran out of adjectives about here.

As you can see, it’s no surprise that they sold out the lunch and stopped at 80 people. We love coming up here, it’s well worth the trip anytime at all, and Salsa will always be our Port Douglas home. Thanks Salsa – for everything!

PS New at Salsa! The  tapas menu and a banquette couch down the wall opposite the bar – perfect way to do FNQ Fashionable in my book. Try the Quinoa Crusted Sardine Fillets, Smoked Chicken & Mango Quesadilla, or the Salsa Fish Taco. You cannot have a bad day at Salsa! See ya there next year. Definitely.

That’s Why People Live in Queensland

4.05pm, Departure Gate 3, The Airport,  Townsville , North Queensland, Australia
I knew as soon as I went outside this morning that it was going to be hot today. At 8 am you could  already feel the sting of the sun through the T-shirt  as I walked down the street to breakfast, and the morning mist was burned off Magnetic Island. I’ve had outstanding weather this week up here in North and Far North Queensland, as the reports from the Barossa  have been cold and colder! It was 0 degrees C at Light Pass on the Valley Floor at 8am the other morning, and everyone at home seems to be  toasting up in front of the fire of an evening.

Not me! I’ve had mostly cool really early mornings then warm days and balmy tropical evenings – pushed around by nice night time breezes. As the locals have been telling me all week – this is why we live up here! I’m heading south to Brisbane and I’ll catch up yesterday’s job at cafe Salsa up in Port Douglas, and today’s job at A Touch Of Salt here in Townsville – once I’ve got my computer humming this evening.

Thank You to the Boys at HMAS Cairns

HMAS Childers

5.32pm, Friday 18th June, Gate 27, Cairns Airport, FNQ, Australia
I’ve just got back to Cairns from our trade and consumer lunch in Port Douglas – one of the best jobs on our annual calendar – with the crew at Cafe Salsa. What a magic operation they have up there, rain, monsoon or shine. I’ll give you the course by  course description tonight when I’m on my own computer. Yesterday was our trade and consumer events in Cairns, and I’m just waiting for the plane ride back to Townsville, as we finish our Far North Queensland section of the tour there  tomorrow with a consumer lunch for 70 people at A Touch Of Salt.

Before I leave Cairns though, I have a massive ‘thank you’ to go out to the boys at HMAS Cairns, the naval base up here, which is home to four of the Armidale class patrol boats – yep the same as my ‘Sea Patrol’ favourite – the fictitious ‘Hammersley’. The boys who look after Yalumba up here in FNQ – Benny and Damien – heard that I was a big fan of the show, and they arranged for me to have a tour of the base early this morning. As luck would have it, we were able to have a look at one of the patrol boats –  HMAS Childers  – which happens to be at home right now. I was a bit like a kid in a lolly shop – but trying to remain really cool – as we were shown around, as it was literally like being on the show – only for real! What a great treat!  Didn’t I just say a couple of days ago how much I like my job? It just doesn’t get much better than this. See ya when I’m back in Townsville and I’ll fill you in on the Cafe Salsa lunch – out there on its own in a good way!