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:
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!
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.
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 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.