Monthly Archives: February 2013

Central London today – Fleet Street

6.55pm, Wednesday 27th February, The Strand, Central London, England, United Kingdom

Evening, folks, just having another soup and sandwich dinner at the Pret A Manger one door up from the Adelphi Theatre on The Strand. Yep, that would be just a couple of blocks back from Trafalgar Square – I’m right in the middle of the Monopoly Board tonight. We did a very extensive tasting of our Rare & Fine wines today – several vintages of Virgilius, Signature, Octavius and Menzies – all with the little brothers and sisters of Eden Valley Viognier, The Scribbler, Patchwork and The Cigar alongside. We had a pretty stellar brigade of London sommeliers along and won some hearts and palates, so a very good day’s work right there. It continues tomorrow morning as we do staff training at the new Gordon Ramsay spot Bread Street Kitchen, which is in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Oh, lost track of time, I have the night off, there are tickets left for “The Bodyguard” tonight – Lloyd Owen (played Archie’s English brother in “Monarch of the Glen)” is playing the Kevin Costner role from the movie. Missed him last trip to London when he got top reviews in “Blood and Gifts” so I’m going to grab this opportunity. Curtain up next door at the Adelphi in 25 minutes. Gotta Go!

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On the south and west edges of London

00.18am, Wednesday 27th February, London Bridge Hotel, SE1, London, England

Very late night folks or very early morning. The bells of Southwark Cathedral at the end of the road were just chiming midnight as I walked back up to the hotel after being dropped off after our dinner at Ransome’s Dock back up the Thames at Battersea finished much later than expected. The tube only runs until midnight, so I had the luxury of a cab home after running the gauntlet of the Jubilee line (tube for those of you not from London) and the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) linking with Southwest trains out to Putney this morning and out to Battersea this evening. I feel like a genuine public transit local already, after only a few days back in town.

So here’s a quick look at our teriffic day to the south and south west of Central London in pics – I’ll add the words later on today.

First up, on the ‘staff picks’ list at Trina’s wine shop in Putney, have a look at the bottle second from the right, it’s the 2010 Yalumba The Cigar – “Dark berry, plum and cassis fruit. Smooth and deep” they’re in Puney, two doors up from the bakery with home made sausage rolls for only 1 pound! Who says dining out in London is expensive.

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On the streets of Central London…..

7.10pm, Monday 25th February, Cork & Bottle Wine Bar, Leicester Square, London, England

Evening folks, and yes, the ice is still dropping out of the air outside. We’ve been out and about all day catching up with folks who have us on their lists – and some folks who are doing stunning things that we’d very much like to get involved with. In about 20 minutes I’m going to be off and running with the stories behind tonight’s featured wines – Jansz NV, Eden Valley Viognier, Virgilius, The Cigar Cabernet, The Menzies Cabernet, The Scribbler Cab Shiraz, The Signature Cab Shiraz, and the Antique Tawny fortified.

So here’s a quick look at where we went:

Started by making it in one piece to Notting Hill Gate on the morning rush tube……Hugh Grant where are you??

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Around the corner in Notting Hill to Bill Granger’s little piece of laid back Australian comfort food ‘Granger & Co’. I chose the St John sourdough toast, proper butter and home made peanut paste for breakfast.

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Onto the bus and across town to Queens Park, into the Salisbury wine shop, alongside the Salisbury pub. Very nice boys!

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Into a dodgy mini cab, and further across town to Medlar, on the Kings Road on the edge of Chelsea. Congratulations on the recent first Michelin star, and thanks for having our Pewsey Vale Contours and Y Series Viognier on the list. We had a two course fixed lunch – I chose the soup – curry oil chanterelle mushrooms and crisp parsnip – and the grapefruit sorbet with candied peel and freshly baked Madelaines. Very very smart.

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Just a bit further along the Kings Road, have a look at this little piece of Louisiana parked in Chelsea. American style Bar B Q ribs and crabshack cuisine…….and Y series Pinot Grigio……by the glass thanks very much.

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And now, we’re in the Cork and Bottle wine bar, in a vaulted storage tunnel underneath Leicester Square, about to get underway with our ‘Everything you always wanted to know about Yalumba’ dinner. See you when it’s much much later on……..

Chilly chilly London

1.48pm, Sunday 24th February, New Oxford Street, London, England

Lunchtime folks, and I’m hiding out in a Pret a Manger store digging into a cup of Moroccan Chicken soup. I think the shop folks found it quite amusing as I took all my ‘more clothing layers than an onion’ off – seeing as its warmed up to 0 degrees C after a -1 start this morning. That white flaky stuff falling out of the sky at 9am was a snow flurry folks! I feel for all of you at home sweltering in the heat …….I’m loving the cold thanks……just have to go through the layers on, layers off ritual.

Any rate, I’m letting you know that I have had the best omen for our events program here in England already. I walked through my favourite TV show filming this morning – Downton Abbey filming a car and crowd scene down in Waterloo Place, just in and below Trafalgar Square. I didn’t take any I pad photos (duh!) but check out my twit pics at @barossasaint Unfortunately my favourite character – Matthew Crawley (which would be the delightful Dan Stevens in real life) was nowhere to be seen. So having a bit of luck like that on day one definitely means the fairy dust should be with us!!

We’ll be meeting up with the architect of the Yalumba Month in the UK this evening – Miss Val Lewis – and it will be ribs and pulled pork at Bodeans, Soho. Then we’re into it all with a vengeance from 9.30am tomorrow morning, starting at Wholefoods Kensington. See you when we’re out and about on the frosty London City streets.

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PS that white flaky stuff has just started again!

Ely Bar & Brasserie – Under Dublin Dining!

7.50am, Saturday 23rd February, Terminal 2, Dublin Airport, heading for London, Ireland

Morning folks, and a brisk 2degrees C out there it is! I’m ploughing through a cup of extremely healthy yoghurt, granola and blueberries to make up for the BBQ ribs we’ll be having for dinner tonight – once we’re set up in London and parked at Bodeans in Soho. Our time here in the Emerald Isle has been nothing short of brilliant. We’ve had a top turnout at all our events, the wines have really performed well, and we’ve managed to stay right out of trouble – no visiting the late night pubs in Temple Bar after work for us!

Last night we finished with a wine dinner organised by the boys at The Corkscrew Wine Merchants, and we had a whole vaulted tunnel to ourselves, part of the Ely Bar and Brasserie, underneath and alongside the CHQ (Customs House Quay) building – a heritage listed old warehouse at the George’s Dock, on the River Liffey. The building itself used to be a tobacco store and the vaults underneath were for storing barrels of wine coming into Ireland, so it’s quite fitting that this is where Ely have their own cellars and dining ‘tunnels’. We had 40 of the Corkscrew’s die hard Australian wine fans along to a dinner that really featured some of our smaller lots of ‘curio item’ wines.

Jansen NV sparkling – Chardonnay dominated Pinot noir, no Pinot meunière ‘Methode Tasmanoise’ from the Pipers River (top right hand corner of Tasmania) mountain maritimes – opened the show and was proof positive that we have really been paying attention to what the folks have been doing so well in Champagne for ever…..and we’re not that far off the pace at all! A lot of pleasantly surprised diners on the night….with wine number one.

Then into the world of aged Eden Valley bone dry lime sorbet lemon Riesling from our champion single vineyard Pewsey Vale. The 2006 Pewsey Vale ‘Contours’ block – that wedge shaped set of terraces on shallow rubbishy soils over solid rock, facing south west that catch the afternoon sun and gives us riesling that ages very gracefully with butter, toast, marmalade, fuelly lifted aromatics and more lime lemon granuley mineral stuff. Here’s what the Ely boys came up with as a tremendous partner to the Contours – ‘Irish John Dory, Tea smoked Duck, and marinated cucumber’. Simple and spot on!

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‘Frugal Feast’ at the Hole In The Wall pub

4.24pm, Friday 22nd February, Drury Street, Dublin, Ireland

Afternoon folks, and I’ve almost finished jam packing all the Butlers Irish fudge/chocolate caramels into the suitcase, ready for the flight through to London tomorrow morning. In another couple of hours we’ll be underway with our last event in Dublin on this trip – a dinner for The Corkscrew Wine Merchants in the fabulous vaults underneath the Ely Bar and Brasserie. But before we tackle that, I must tell you about last nights ‘Frugal Feast’ organised by Martin and Caroline over at the Hole In The Wall pub.

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The Martin I’m talking about is Martin McCaffrey, of the family that has owned the pub for the last 40 years – you’ll find it right next to the hole in the wall (you can see where the name came from!) surrounding Phoenix Park, on the north side of Dublin. Now this is not your average wall around your average park. We’re talking about a serious 3 metre high stone wall 11 km long, that encloses 1700 acres, established in 1662 as Phoenix Park on behalf of King Charles II. Why? Because a Royal Deer Park was required in that part of the world. The actual hole in the wall is a turnstile, and legend has it that the original inn supplied sly grog to the troops billeted at times in the Park. The front section of the pub – in the photo – is a lovely small bar with a wood fired heater. As the row houses next to this original pub section came up for sale, they were bought by various pub owners and ‘added on’. So now, the Hole In The Wall pub bends along the wall line like a giant caterpillar for a couple hundred yards, making it the longest pub in Ireland.

The Caroline I’m tang about is the engine room of the place, and runs the dining room and the bars. So you walk into the pub – first section small bar, second section snug bar and dining and old antique pharmacy wall dividing it from….third section snug bar and dining. Fourth section is Martins wine shop – thanks very much for having us prominently displayed on the shelves all year round, fifth section is a double with more dining, sixth section much the same, seventh section is more dining and the kitchen. This is where you’ll find Brendan the chef and his crew. Eighth and last section is the bathrooms! So you get the caterpillar pub picture!

So Martin, Caroline, Brendan and our wine gal from Cassidys ( our Irish distributor) came up with the “lets bust out of the recession with a top but inexpensive night out” Frugal Feast idea, and made it happen. End result? Three course meal plus six wines to taste – 20 euros!! Bargain!! Here’s the menu:

Taste of 2011 Yalumba Y Series Vermentino on arrival

Spicy Potato and Cumin soup – definitely thickened with full cream! with big chunks of carrot, courgettes, turnip and potato at the bottom of the bowl – served with brown bread and salted butter and our 2012 Yalumba Y Series Viognier and 2012 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier. Just the solid start we were all looking for on a school night where ice was dropping out of the sky!

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Pork, chorizo and chickpea stew with our Organic double – 2011 Chardonnay and 2010 Shiraz. More good solid ‘we’re still doing serious winter here in Dublin’ food, and the middleweight soft velvety juicy fruit Shiraz really took the cake.

And here you go, for folks who are in a,cold spot at the moment – Brendon gave us his recipe:

Hole In The Wall PORK CHORIZO AND CHICKPEA STEW

Ingredients : diced pork, ginger, chilli, garlic, cumin, smoked bacon rashers, chorizo, red wine vinegar, sugar, tomato purée and chicken stock, chopped onions celery and carrots

Marinate the diced pork in garlic, chilli, ginger and cumin (at least for 3 hours)
Sautéed smoked bacon rashers and chorizo
Add onions, celery and carrots
Add a splash of red wine vinegar
Add sugar, tomato purée and chicken stock
Add pork to pot
Cook for 45 minutes

Then we chilled down some of our 2011 Yalumba FSW7B Botrytis Viognier, and poured a taste with Dessert – Rice Pudding and Honey Poached Pears. The honey, apricot and slippery sweetness of the Viognier was just the thing with that pot of rice pudding, and i just had mine with the pear pieces off the top of the pudding! Yes…I do have a sweet tooth, just like the other 60 people squeezed into the dining sections last night.

What a great idea! Martin put all the wines from the dinner on at 12.99 euros – for one night only – so even if you just bought one bottle – which most folks did – you had an excellent night out for 33 euros – you cannot go wrong.

So thanks yet again to the Hole In The Wall for having us to dinner…….and for the staunch support. See you all same time next year! Especially ‘The Hard Core’ crew……you know who you are!!

‘Chakra’ – wine and food pairing jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces!

00.12am, Thursday 21st February, M50 freeway between Greystones and Dublin, Ireland

Probably not the best time to be writing up the most extraordinary wine food crossover dinner, seeing as Bridget (our gal from the Cassidy family operation in Ireland that looks after us in Dublin) is driving us back to the city a bit like James Bond would! Good thing I only type on the I pad with one finger anyway – leaves the other hand free to hang on!

We’ve just left Chakra, which is the ‘modern Indian’ restaurant in Greystones – its own village neighbourhood separated from Dublin downtown by the hills. Chakra is one of the Jaipur family of restaurants, and the ringmaster in this whole affair is Asheesh, who I’m pleased to say, adopted us when we first met 8 years ago in the original Jaipur – still on St George’s Street. We were hosting a “lets introduce Yalumba to the local Dublin retail and restaurant trade” event for 50 RSVPd guests – which ended up an Indian version of the ‘loaves and fishes’ moment! Not sure how the boys in the kitchen did it that night, but we fed 100 people split between the mezzanine and downstairs…..all with a minimum of flurry! I’ll never forget it, and each time we come to town, we always do something at one of the Jaipur group stoves. Hence our wine and food matching dinner last night.

Once you’re in Greystones, Chakra is above the high street, opposite the Hungry Monk. However, once you go up that single flight of stairs, it’s like you’ve taken a quick magic carpet flit through to the ‘exotic zone’! At the entrance is a beaten metal vat holding floating floral buds a la lotus style, then it’s into the warm copper, bronze, sand and stone ochre colours that roll from the carpets up the walls and onto the high ceiling. The colours are like these out in the coat hall

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Now lets get to the food. Asheesh and the the chefs Satish and Lalit put together several dishes that combined seasonal produce and mostly Northern Indian spice and cooking method, then sent them through to us to match as best we could our most appropriate wine…..what helped was that having worked with the Jaipur boys before, we knew that they’d be aromatic and high spice across the board, and that the sauces and glazes would be magic, and that pretty much what the words on the paper for each dish said – would be what we got! And with wine and food pairing, the idea is just not to clash. If you get that ‘hand in the glove’ combo, all the better, but we were looking to slide in under the aromatics and complement the textures, so here’s how we went. Sorry we didn’t get photos of all the dishes – no excuse other than getting around all the tables and answering 20 wine questions, and trying at least to taste each combo!

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Opening food of the evening was a ‘Lentil Cake – Northern street side semolina puffs with long soaked mixed beans, yoghurt, mint and cumin essence’ that we paired with the 2012 Yalumba Y Series Riesling. I wish I had a photo of the lentil cake – it was actually a nearly complete ‘eggshell’ shape semolina brittle skin puff sitting on a ‘footstool’ of the lentil paste kneaded with a dash of oil into a soft dough, laced with ginger. Inside the puff were the soft spiced beans, pomegranate seeds, and the yoghurt. Our lemon lime Riesling with a zesty length of flavour was exactly the right thing the lentil cake was looking for! One out of one so far.

Next was the ‘Squid Salad – baby squid, mango, corn, roasted and puffed rice with chilli tamarind balsamic’. Now folks, I’m allergic to squid, so didn’t go near this course, but the clouds of aroma that floated around the room as it was served were so good I was seriously tempted to risk the reaction! We put our 2010 Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier to work here, because the slippery stone fruit flavours would work with especially the chilli tamarind, and the easiest gauge of whether it all worked was the unanimous call from all the diners present to have this combination added to the Chakra menu as a permanent fixture.

To give the palates a break, out came a ‘Carrot, Sweet Mustard and fennel seed salt sorbet topped with scorched Demerara sugar’ This was like a health juice turned into a slushie! Fresh, cleansing, and just that bit savoury and sweet at the same time. This time I did get a photo.

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On to the meat. This is an unusual one for a northern Indian approach…..rabbit. ‘Wild Rabbit leg with brown onion and a dry spice rub, served with butternut squash and aged basmati risotto’. Notice it’s just ‘a dry spice rub’ – which gives nothing away! There was something very special going on here spicewise and it was the darker end of the spectrum. Also, the rabbit leg was stuffed with rice, and the outer skin baked crispy. We put both the 2005 Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet and the new release 2008 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Shiraz on with the rabbit – purely to see how the leaner cassis driven European palate friendly 100% Cabernet might travel, compared with the classic Australian Blend of the Cabernet filled out with some rich, velvety, juicy dark Shiraz. The Menzies Cabernet did a good job, but the Signature Cabernet Shiraz won the night! The black pepper and Christmas pudding spices of clove and cinnamon just had the extra X factor stuff that wrapped up the rabbit dish beautifully. Excellent exercise though, which is what these evenings are all about. The photo doesn’t do it justice but here goes

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And then…dessert! Just listed as ‘Chocolate – Dark chocolate mousse, caramel ream and passion fruit sorbet with fennel’ I did get a magic picture of this on the new I phone I was issued with last week – it’s at the twitter moment I’m doing @barossasaint if you’re interested.

This dessert was ‘outta the park’! Seriously, the best sweet thing I’ve seen on a plate for absolutely ages! Picture this. In the middle of the plate, you have what looks like a maccaron sitting on its edge – glued with chocolate paste – in the middle of a moulded ‘swimming pool’ of chilled caramel cream, that has a choc shatterbiscuit base. That’s my own word there folks, trying to describe the brittle shards of brittle baked choc biscuity bits held together who knows how, that just crumble apart when you bite in! And if that wasn’t enough, the garnishes were a couple of sugar toffee coated blanched whole almonds, a half candied cumquat, and a spoonful of mouthbendingly tart passion fruit mousse laced with whole caraway seeds. Oh…..did I mention there was raspberry jam inside the maccaron?

And which wine did we put with this fabulous mountain of sweets? Our Museum Muscat – a fortified (that means spirit added to the ferment early in the piece to ‘flash capture’ the fruit aromas and flavours) wine with raisin, honey, maple syrup and toffee going on…..and on…..and on! It’s called a ‘stickie’ for a reason, and it was a very nice kiss goodnight finish to our dinner with Chakra.

And just think. Only 12 months until we’re back to do it all again. Thanks Chakra, thanks to the rest of the Jaipur family, and thanks Greystones!!