Wines worthy of a bar, or a bar worthy of the wines
Mon 31st Aug, 2009 - by
There are a few inherent problem with wine dinners (as in dinners
run by wineries or wine makers to showcase their wares).
Number one is that the food has to be of a standard
that it compliments the wine in a way the winemaker intends, but not
so complex or avant garde that the wine is overshadowed. The same
goes for the setting, it must be chosen carefully to provide a setting
worthy of the wine, with an atmosphere most conducive to the drinking
of quality wine. Many wineries assume this to mean a four or five course
dinner with a hundred odd people, white linen, good silverware, wait
staff, elegant setting, that sort of thing. Norm Latta of Eastern Peake
had other ideas.
Norm had obviously thought about not only how good his wine is, but how
people drink it. Drinking wine amongst a hundred other people is all
well and good, but more often than not you're drinking that special bottle
in a small group at an intimate dinner. This is how the Eastern Peake dinner
was going to be.
There was only a dozen of us, all on a single table in
the back room of Gerald's Bar in Carlton North, recently
named Bar of the Year by Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine.
This is a very interesting bar, and I don't think it would survive
in the city, but due to its location it has been able to thrive and
build up a reputation as somewhere that caters very well to its
regulars who come from far and wide. It also has the uncanny ability
to make you feel like a regular, even on your first visit. It is also known,
and rightly so, for its kitchen and extensive wine list.
The wine list is what brought us here tonight. Norm (somewhat of a regular
himself, despite his winery being 15 minutes out of Ballarat) was enjoying
a glass at Gerald's one night when the owner mentioned he was a fan
of Eastern Peake wines and asked Norm what else he might might have available.
You can now order any one of a number of Eastern Peake's wines at Gerald's Bar.
So what of the wine evening? Well this is one of the other problems
with dinners of this type. Much wine is consumed, and it gradually
becomes more difficult
to differentiate between which glasses were the highlights. As you can
see, I did take notes which became harder and harder to decipher as the night
wore on. It would, however, be somewhat of a cop out for me to just say that
all the food was delicious and all the wines outstanding. So I'll do my best
to summarise some points of interest.
On our way in we were met with a glass of the Eastern Peake rose (technically
not a rose, and it's called a Pinot Tache), it's light,
refreshing and dry, the way a good rose should be. Followed by the Chardonnay,
a bottle of which I bought for my dad to make good on a bet after he picked
the MasterChef winner.
The first real surprise of the evening came after the charcuterie plate.
The 05 shriaz. Shiraz. With entree. And it got stranger from there, with
the arrival of the first course - a cured Kingfish salad. Then came the 06
shiraz, with pan fried mullet. Then the 07 shiraz. What is going on? First
of all starting with shiraz before moving onto pinot, and shiraz with fish
courses? Clearly Norm is not one for conventions, and he had indeed
thought about the wine pairings carefully and felt the white flesh and oiliness
of the fish would cut through the fruit and tannins of the shiraz. Incidentally
the 07 is the pick, a good balance between the lightness of the 05 and the
fruitiness of the 06.
Next came the twice salt baked ocean trout, brought out and carved by the table
by Gerald himself. First paired with the 06 OB* Pinot Noir, then the 06 Intrinsic
Pinot (which is drinking excellently by the way). Once again subverting expectations by pairing red with fish (granted
it's Pinot, but still). Then came a rabbit fricassee with the 07 OB.
And then the real fun began.
By fun I mean the old vintages. Eastern Peake's Pinots have a reputation for
ageing extremely well, much longer than I would be brave enough to keep them for.
First the 2000 Pinot, then the 01 and finally the 97. The 97 was a revelation.
We'd actually had this before during our visit to
the Lake House.
It was delicious then, but this time it had been allowed to breathe and was
The night wrapped up with a few more wines, including a Burgundy and a first vintage
from Equus wines, whose owners we happened to be sitting next to and who are lucky
enough to have snaired Norm as winemaker.
And after an evening sampling his wines in a setting of his own
design, they could certainly do a lot worse.
The Weight of Expectations
Tue 25th Aug, 2009 - by
As mentioned in the most recent podcast, I've been let down recently. I've been to several restaurants
with stellar reputations and left at the end of the night feeling
like I've paid a substantial amount of money to be underwhelmed.
And the most disheartening thing about these experiences is that
it wasn't the kitchen's fault.
Now I'm not part of the service industry, and I know good wait
staff must be hard to find (and probably harder to keep). So I write
this post not to complain (well, maybe to complain a little), but mostly
because I feel that when I'm let down by service, I'm doing the restaurant a disservice
by being in a bad mood when the food arrives in front of me. The dish can be
a wonderful combination of flavours and textures, using exotic ingredients and
state of the art cooking techniques, but if my wine glass is empty
and I'm waiting for someone to bring me a bottle while my food is sitting
there - let's just say it makes for a grumpy Lachie.
I'm sorry to all the wait staff out there, but you have to face the facts coming
from a customer. Service can not make the night, but it can sure break it. People
are at the restaurant for the food, the wine, the ambiance, not for the service.
It can be perfectly capable, even outstanding (ask about my Jacques Reymond cutlery
story sometime), but even then it will form little more than a footnote to my praise
of the quality of the food, or the breadth of the wine list.
When service goes badly....it ruins a night out. Now I can easily forgive
one or two slip-ups, an empty glass or perhaps even a forgotten dish from time to time; but
what I've observed is that when these things happen, they rarely happen exclusively.
As they say, when it rains, it pours. And it makes me feel bad, especially if
the food has been good, because when I leave I'm pissed off. In a marriage you
should never go to sleep angry, and I believe the same is true for dining.
I'm going to finish with a few random points on service, most of these
have actually happened to me:
- I don't care if you can't remember all the specials, if you have them written down on
a pad by all means use it. Don't make a big deal of rattling them off from memory and
then when you get stuck: pause, look up, look frustrated, and then consult your pad.
Just read it, I won't think less of you.
- Don't patronise me because I'm young (and wearing jeans).
- Pour the wine without a flourish of the wrist, I like the wine in the glass, not on
the tablecloth. Or my lap.
- Glance in my direction periodically. I know you have a lot of tables to take care of,
and I'm more than happy to wait my turn, but don't flirt with the other staff in front
of me when I'm trying to get your attention.
- Some acknowledgement on my way out is always welcome, it may even make up for some of
the points made above.
- There are things that I shouldn't have to wait for. The bill should be reasonably quick,
you know when I'm at the end of the meal. The wine list too, if you pour the last of a bottle
ask if I want more.
I guess the real problem is that the better the restaurant, the more I expect from
the service, and the worse I feel if it's not up to scratch. Service shoulders a huge
responsibility - not to the customer, but to the chef. So to wait staff: remember I may have
paid for your service but at the end of the night I leave, the chef will still be there - and
he has an array of very sharp knives.
A podcast with a stressed Dave.
Sat 22nd Aug, 2009 - by
Last weekend Dave and I recorded out 18th podcast. It was quite a night, with much wine and food enjoyed by all. Dave was particularly stressed out ot be doing the cooking this time around as not only did we have a couple of guests, but an extra special bottle of
French wine. We don't actually get around to tasting it during the podcast, but it was pretty special.
I'm not known for my ability to describe wines adequately, so I'll just say it tasted very French (in
a good way).
Along with our general verbal meanderings we touch on a few topics including our recent tour of Daylesford,
a few restaraunts up that way, and a few closer to home. The Court House gets a look in, as does Teague Ezard's new(ish) venture Gingerboy.
Dave assures me there's also more reveiws and recipes on the way, for my part I intend to continue my
on and off blogging aspirations, my next topic is flagged during my rant on the podcast.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoy making these things.
Find the latest podcast here
Presenting GourmetHusbands.com's First Guest Reviewer
Mon 3rd Aug, 2009 - by
A little while ago I got a sms from a friend of mine which simply said:
"Green Mustard Icecream!!!"
As it turns out he was at Nuevo37 at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf, and
was quite enamoured. So I present here our first Guest Review.
I also asked if he would like some sort of short bio, so readers would get
an idea of where his food and restaurant preferences lie. Below is what
he sent me:
Bio for Michael
It is said that King Artavasdes II of Armenia, while out on a hunting excursion with his family in 42 BC, was heard to remark "Michael makes one hell of a tandoori pizza". With such royal approval, he became an instant success, and is known the world over for his exquisite cuisine and three-point turns. He has owned and run two successful Michelin star restaurants: "The Flaccid Armadillo" in lower Tuscany (named after one of his signature dishes), and "Yummi" in Waskatenau, Canada. He pioneered the revolutionary method of cuisine par la rentree: where strips of various foods (usually beef, root vegetables or ocelot) are flung out from aircraft in low-earth orbit onto a 3m by 4m polished pumice stone at sea level. The heat from re-entry gives a luscious tenderness, with just a hint of ozone.
His most famous dishes are the Schrodinger Parfait which continues to baffle customers by being both delicious and dreadful until eaten, and Chocolat de facon ridicule enorme et gaufrette d'Anchois which is 6 metres long.
Praise for his work includes:
* "Michael is to the culinary arts as Louis de Broglie is to wave-particle duality" - Paris Hilton.
* "The are two types of people in this world: those that think Michael is a genius, and those who have joined the Ocelot Conservation League" - Kofi Annan
* "Never heard of him. Oh wait...is he the guy who cleans the gunk out of my gutters?" - Harrison Ford.
Now retired from the hectic world of cooking, Michael can most often be found following one of his many hobbies: creating lists of hobbies he would like to have, prosecuting Ocelots scamming disability benefits with fake leg injuries, and writing the occasional restaurant review.
Michael is also a chronic liar. But his review of Nuevo37, he assures me, is honest.
Highlights from a weekend away.
Sun 2nd Aug, 2009 - by
In recent weeks and months, both the Gourmet Wives have had to take fairly
stressful courses and examinations, and as such it was decided a weekend away
was in order. As a result we headed up to Daylesford, about 100km North-West"
of Melbourne, an area known for its natural spring water, cool climate, and
excellent food and wine. This winning combination made it the ideal place for
a GourmetHusbands.com getaway. I present here a list of some the of highlights.
- Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend, good food, great beer.
- The Farmer's Arms, an award winning gastro pub, lived up to the hype.
- The Lake House, the famous lake house, not perfect this time around.
- The Chocolate Mill, chocolate. Lots and lots of it.
- Lavandula Lavender Farm, not a lot of lavender this time of year
- Eastern Peake Winery, a bit out of the way, but was worth the 40km drive
I thoroughly recommend Daylesford for all your relaxation needs. If your
needs including eating fine food and drinking fine wine somewhere around
an hour and a half from Melbourne. And maybe a spa treatment.