9.57am, Sunday 22nd May 2011, Palmer Street internet cafe opposite Bistro One, Townsville, Tropical North Queensland, Australia
Dark, stormy tropical morning to you folks, and where was I last night?
Parked on the edge of my chair at the local youth club staring up at the boxing ring put up for one night only as the really big guns – specifically Joel “2 GUNZ” Casey (current PABA Light Heavyweight title holder) came out punching at “MAY MAYHEM”. What’s that? A full card of Townsville boxers including 3 Australian title fights. You never never know what’s going to be on in any given town when you have a night off – so for something completely different – that’s where we went.
However, first we did dropped in to the Brine family’s new venture on Palmer Street – Saltcellar. They have run A Touch Of Salt on the river in the town centre for several years, and we’ve done our Rare & Fine event there for the past three years. Saltcellar has just opened and is ‘divided’ discreetly into four dining and bar areas, completely doing away with the traditional big open breezy venues up this way. And it works. Lots of chocolate brown, greys and blacks give you a cool not-too-dark hideout where you can dodge the humidity and explore the seriously extensive wine cellar, cocktail list and spirit specialist top shelf.
A private dining area seats 20 people comfortably (with a big flatscreen – this is a sports town folks!) that really catches the old-fashioned idea of “the snug” and is going to be christened “The Signature Room” . Here, Pete is going to feature our Cabernet Shiraz world with various vintages of The Signature and The Reserve – as well as other great dry reds from most Australian winemaking areas. To complement the cellar that Pete and Mark have assembled, they have an all day tapas menu, as well as a seasonal a la carte. We caught up at the bar just on dusk and tried a couple of things from the tapas menu as a very glitzy glam hens night kicked off in the private room – complete with hot pink ‘bridesmaid ‘ sashes! There should have been a flashing light on those sashes as well – ‘danger, danger’ – as you could see they were in for a fun night. The young waiter assigned to the party looked nervous from the start!
Here’s what we tried:
The “deep fried bocconcini with black olives and artichokes with toasted floppy Lebanese bread brushed with olive oil” and the “house made goat & sage sausages with caramelised onion” – Just what we needed and very tasty. There is also a selection of six cheeses from Australia and abroad that define their styles – with extended descriptions of origin and production method – which makes for more interesting experimentation with the long long wine list. So there’s every reason to drop in often, and Chuggy at front of house (ex Watermark) is just going to make it all very easy for you. If I’m in town, I’ll be there!
Now – just before we get set up for today’s Rare & Fine lunch over at Watermark, I want to catch up another of those last jobs in Melbourne. I had four, did the Shanghai Dynasty yesterday, so here’s the next one:
(2) CHESTER WHITE BISTRO – RARE & FINE LUNCH – May 18th 2011
Chester White is brand new – only open two months, and I suspect is yet to be ‘discovered’. They’re on Burwood Road in Hawthorn, surrounded by old heritage buildings (opposite The Undertaker) and have a continuous floor-to-ceiling glass front wall facing their deck, which is above road level. For the long cold Melbourne winters – this place is going to fly! Now I normally don’t write up canapes folks, but right from the word go, Chester White is 110% food memorable – flavour, aroma and texture! They hit the food and wine matching bullseye with the first dart, and that does not happen often – so here it is.
We made a small number of bottles of 2006 Jansz Vintage Rose and this was what met people as they walked into lunch. The canape was a single fresh date cut lengthways, filled with gorgonzola, and wrapped with proscuito and warmed. Sounds harmless? Wow! Sweet soft warm date then a hit of twangy blue cheese then the salty ham, chased by more sweet to finish. Apparently the X factor spice I couldn’t put my finger on in the mix was a lacing of pickled chilli. Now with the Jansz Vintage Rose, there’s just a touch of quince or sweet berry about the front palate, so these two items wrapped each other in a very nice way. And as I said – this was just the start. Trust me – Chester White will be a happening food & wine word in no time at all. The other canape that was served contrasted with the sparkling – “porcini & taleggio arancini” that had roasted garlic in there somewhere as well.
And so it went on through the main events with dishes perfectly weighted to the wines served. Here’s the highlights:
Simple things like ‘Oysters with lime ginger and coriander butter ‘ with the 2008 FDW[7c] Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.
Fall apart things like the ‘braised lamb shoulder in brick pastry’ that was just part of the main course ‘slow cooked lamb loin with smoked tomato and caper & garlic relish’ dish. This is a new best friend for the 2008 FDR 1A – magic stuff.
And the dessert. ‘Quince, ginger and golden raisin terrine & spiced pannacotta’ – Now I’m half Italian, and the number one rule with pannnacotta is that it has to shiver – not jiggle – but quiver. And that it did – all over the 2009 FSW8B Botrytis Viognier. It was very very good folks. The terrine had biscuit crumble on it just like nanna’s old baked fruit numbers – memorable!
Now I’m about to run out of time – gotta go – see ya after lunch.