The Essential Ingredient opens a cheese counter in Rozelle in style
will not be surprised if I tell you I am a regular client of the Essential Ingredient in Rozelle being almost a local, but also I regularly attend their fabulous events. And tonight, I had to squeeze in a quick visit to the opening of their cheese counter, replacing a not so successful café, mainly because there are like three of four other ones, including my friend Pierre Labancz who offers good coffee and his famous croissants and other French pastries, as well as a good range of breads. So cheese is a welcome addition to The Essential Ingredient portfolio of foods, cookware and cooking books.
This event was as usual very well organised and packed. Plenty cheeses were on offer including two French cheeses that I never had a chance to try before! Piper Heidseck Champagne was flowing freely and the knowledgeable staff were there to make sure we had a good time and we did! Thanks for having me and fellow food enthusiasts. We will be back as they say in the movie!
Burgundy dinner chez Bitton Gourmet
Although I have known of David Bitton for 15 years through mutual friends and had been to his original coffee shop years ago, We had never met until a recent Le Creuset event at The Essential ingredient in Rozelle. I was suitably impressed with his cooking skills that night and we started chating - in franglais, bien sûr - and ended up with an invitation for this Burgundy dinner then.
So, I thought it was quite amusing that I had another event at The Essential Ingredient on the same night as this dinner was happening! Hence why I had to pace myself with the cheese and Champagne there and escaped early missing out on patés and charcuterie to be served later...
Well, it was worth it, let me tell you! The original coffee shop is now a private dining room and the new restaurant is located next door in about twice the original space, catering for more than 50 people at any given time. These themed dinners are a regular treat which bring regulars and newcomers alike in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. But the food is not your average Sydney coffee shop fare! It is five star French gastronomy y at its best for a very reasonable money outlet.
It is all about precision, flavours, classic French recipes executed with the best French technique.
We were served a glass of Canard-Duchesne Champagne, a less known, but nevertheless great one.
I even learned a new work: cromesquis, in this case a potato croquette with an escargot and beurre maitre d'hotel filling. The star there was the sauce gribiche, a sauce that can be very bland in most places, but blasting with flavours chez Bitton.
The vol-au-vent which followed was textbook with the lightest pastry (hence the name...) and a perfect filling where the pros, the white wine and the béchamel blended perfectly, with no element overwhelming the others. Quite an achievement! A new Instagram hashtag was created "sur le champ" #bringbackthevolauvent. Check-it out! It was accompanied by a great Chablis from Domaine Pinson, again not a very famous name, but up there with the best and in the same hands since 1880, year of their first release. So they a thing or two about Chardonnay...
Then, we were served a beautiful Blanquette de Veau, with a Dijon mustard sauce, where the mustard was subtlety supporting the sauce without being "in your face" as we say in Oz. The meat was tasty and tender, the vegetable cooked properly and plated nicely - a treat for all senses!
We were served a great Pinot Noir, again not mainstream, and carrying the name of my middle son, Grégoire, a Hautes-Côtes de Nuit by Emanuel Giboulot (no, it is not Bigoulot, which would mean bottle with two necks...) an organic winemaker since 1985. Again textbook Pinot Noir à la française, a perfect match with the blanquette.
We were finally treated to a gorgeous dessert, an ice cream with gingerbread flavour and sprayed with lovely crumbs of pain d'épices. I had to have another glass of Pinot Noir with this. It was subtle and refreshing after a copious dinner, but again punching with flavours. Great dessert!
I normally don't drink coffee that late, but, use firs nest pas coutume, I ordered a macchiato and I was rewarded with a side of the loveliest chocolate truffle, perfect point d'rogue to a very well orchestrated dinner...Merci beaucoup David and Camilla for inviting me and thanks to Sofia for joining us at the Chef's table. Great food, great company and great conversations, this is the life!
Martin Boetz and Sam Christie started Mongrain in Surry Hills, Sydney 15 years ago and branched out in Melbourne a few years later. Two years ago, Martin left Mongrain to concentrate his fledgling Cooks' Co-op produce business centred around a rural property he lives on near Sackville, on the Hawkesbury River - not far from our friends at Willowbrae Cheese - and supplying a raft of other successful restaurants in and around Sydney. It is a great space and I was lucky to be invited to this trade only event, thanks to my good friends at Prince Wine Store, Philip Rich and Jon Osbeiston. It was fitting as a good 70% of the wines were French. And I had a chance to finally meet Andrew Guard who specialises in organic and biodynamic wines and Jean-Paul Prunetti of France Soir restaurant fame in Melbourne where I have dined a few times.
Champagne, Riesling and Alsace, Sancerre, Chablis, Bourgogne, Cotes-du-Rhone were all very well represented, but Bordeaux was more or less absent. The Italians were there in force and I even tried some Argentinian Malbec, a wine I really like. And then there was a 2010 Corton Grand Cru from Lucien Le Moine, an appropriate name for a sacred wine! I think this was the best white wine I have ever tasted...I was really tempted to drink a full glass, but reason prevailed...(see last photo)
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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