11.40am, Sunday 26th June, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa, South Australia
Morning folks – and it’s a ‘get your washing out on the line’ day again up here in The Barossa. Everyone is out pruning at a rate of knots, making the best of the clear days. I’ll try to post a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo of some spur-pruned old vines so you can see what goes on – they’re down on the Valley floor behind Tanunda on Magnolia Road.
I’ll be madly ironing stuff and throwing it into the suitcase this afternoon, as it looks like the volcanic ash cloud is going to cooperate, and we’ll still be flying to Perth tomorrow. Just before I get into all that domestic stuff though, I wanted to do a bit of a rewind, and show you our Yalumba Rare & Fine night in Adelaide last week at Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar. It’s been open for nearly 12 months and hasn’t really been ‘discovered’ yet, so get in now whilst it’s easy to get a seat!
The ‘Andre’ is Andre Ursini, finalist on the first Mastercgef program, and he’s followed his heart here and concentrated on producing Northern Italian share plates with homemade gnocchi and polenta as the stars of the show. It’s a nice sized hole in the wall eatery with a whole wall of banquette dining, on Frome Street in Adelaide – just next door to The Mantra Hotel. It’s got red umbrellas out the front on an otherwise colourless street – so you can’t miss it. Every piece of space is used – the shelves are all groaning with bags of rice and polenta, and overhead racks hold pots, pans, whole cheeses, salamis – all the ingredients for what’s on the plates are right there all around you!
So from the top, this was our Yalumba Rare & Fine Dinner last Wednesday night June 22nd – everything sent out as share platters to long tables – and this is Andre – chef and owner – on the left, and his second chef Kane, on the right. They’re smiling because it was after the dinner, and all was good!
With the slippery and exotic 2008 Yalumba Virgilius (single vineyard barrel select) Viognier, we enjoyed the ‘Scallop Carpaccio – Esperance scallops dressed with cauliflower, corn, pancetta and extra virgin olive oil’. In the photo, the arm and hand holding the platter belongs to the lovely Rohan, one of Andre’s waiters, and he’s from the old school. Nothing is too much trouble, and he’s there with things almost before you need them!
With the Cabernet Shiraz double of the new vintage 2009 Scribbler – bouncing red, black and blue berries over slightly smoky oak and more velvety fruit on the palate – and the 2006 The Signature – big dark brick of fruit aromas sitting on a solid base of more of the same – Andre sent out two dishes loaded with spot-on flavours and lighter textures to match!
First the ‘Tagliolini Con All’ Anatra’, which is homemade thin egg noodle / fettucine pasta tossed with slow-cooked duck and pecorino cheese. But the flavours folks! I wish I could do ‘scratch and sniff’ panels on this blog – the pasta, duck, and sauce combination tasted better than it looked! And it actually looks pretty good in my photo – I reckon I’m getting not too bad at this food photography thing!
The second plate to come out was the ‘Gnocchi di Assisi’ – Andre’s own housemade gnocchi with tomato sauce, chilli, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Now I need to explain something before we go any further. Everyone who likes Italian style food has had gnocchi at one stage or another. And mostly, they’re pretty disappointing, because they’re gluggy and/or chewy. Sometimes you don’t mind so much, as the sauce is rich and compensates. But you’re always in search of that magic gnocchi moment – and it’s usually been in a home kitchen where they’ve been made that day and they’re fluffy. Well folks, Andre makes a certain number of srves of gnocchi every other day or so, and you need to ring ahead and reserve them. Why? Because he’s the Fluffy Gnocchi King as far as I’m concerned. They were memorable. Almost dissolving in your mouth, no chewing required. They had that ‘bloop’ thing going on as they went into your mouth – and you just know they’re going to be good!
After that, I thought it couldn’t get much better, but with the 2007 Yalumba Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet – all mint eucalypt over cassis and a lean fruit and French oak palate – and the 2006 Yalumba Octavius Old Vine Shiraz – with its Christmas pudding cloves and cinnamon over sweet sticky fruit and mostly American ‘big oomph’ oak – Andre sent out another two winners. Look at this!
On individual wooden boards was the ‘Bistecca’, 600g MSA Ribeye ‘Tagliata’ on the bone with salsa verde, and ‘La Polenta’ ,soft creamy polenta with Taleggio and truffled mixed mushrooms. And yes – they were great with the reds, and the aromatics of the four-way combination wine and food filled the place.
As you can imagine, by now, this room was a pretty happy place. I know there’s a lot of drama going on in the world, but just for this one evening it was easy to forget all that and remember those great family dining times from yesterday, because this is what our dinner at Andre’s had started to feel like!
Then there was only one thing left to be done.
Let’s get you into the frame. Our wine was the Yalumba FSW (‘Fine Sweet White’) 8B Botrytis Viognier. Think honey, apricot and nougat on the nose, chased by more apricot, a lot of luscious, and a bit of grapefruit marmalade on the palate.
What did Andre do?
He did ‘Bombaloni’, banana and chocolate beignets with vanilla custard. What really happene,d though, was lighter-than-lamingtons banana doughnut sponge with a dollop of Nutella-like choc paste in the centre that was flowing by the time you bit into it! Not forgetting the sugar dust coating! What a lovely full stop to a magic night out.
And someone must have had a word in Andre’s ear, because as soon as all the courses and wine chat were finished, they put on an Elvis greatest hits CD! Heaven on earth, folks, and like I said – get along before it gets too hard to get a seat! And don’t forget to ring ahead and reserve the gnocchi – they do NOT freeze them!
PS I liked Andre’s so much that I was back there Friday with a couple of mates. We tried something from the specials board that we didn’t have the other night – see what you think . It’s called ‘Diavoletti’, smoked scamorza cheese baked with proscuitto and chilli-stuffed olives. And they change the specials board all the time, and have a stack of Italian and Australian wines by the glass – try the Heggies Botrytis Riesling with those Bombaloni – let me know if banana and citrus crosses over!
OK – gotta go and get this bag packed for Perth. See ya when we’re in the West.