We have been working on this relentlessly for the last couple of months and we are thrilled to announce that we are now LIVE on the Airbnb Experiences website and App. We currently have four dinners scheduled: 2nd and 16th of December and next year on the 3rd and 17th of February. We will add more dates later. We will surprise you with a staple of the French cuisine repertoire, with a twist, and we will be matching the wines - mostly French - in a cheeky sort of way. We can accomodate up to 6 guests, but we accept individual bookings obviously, which makes it for a much more interesting mix of people and conversations. To give you an example, on our rehearsal dinner, we had two Belgian, one being vegetarian, an Aussie who knows his wine, his American wife who is gluten intolerant, and my Persian neighbour, a political refugee and a happy builder in Australia. It was a great evening! So, come and join me for a great time!
I was recently invited by Inside Cuisine to the media launch of the upstairs fine dining of this popular, still newly opened, bar in Surry Hills, Sydney. I was suitably impressed...
PRINCE WINE STORE - SYDNEY
Almost 30 Pinot Noir were on offer to taste at my first event of the day. Knowing that I had a second one to go to, I was very selective in what I was going to taste... So here is my list:
Kooyong Pinot Noir 2012 - Having visited nearby Montalto on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, I was curious to find out about this reputable wine, and I was not disappointed!
Moorooduc Estate Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 - Also from the Mornington, this was the first wine I tasted, and certainly one of the most interesting of the lot. I liked its pepperiness!
Savaterre Pinot Noir 2012 - Beechworth Victoria - Cold climate Aussie Pinot noir at its best. Dark, meaty, ashen, smoky as Campbell Mattinson puts in. I couldn't say it better myself...
Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 - Tasmania - apparently we were in luck, as only 18 bottles of this vintage were left, and the best restaurants here were fighting for them. Very good indeed!
Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011- This winery had their first planting in 1980 and were the pioneers of Pinot Noir in Martinborough, and that's why they could claim the name for themselves!
This was one of my top three favourites this morning, almost as good as the French!
Copain Wendling Pinot Noir 2014 - The Russian River Valley, just north of San Francisco, produces some of my favourite West Coast wines in the US. I am more familiar with the Chardonnays,, but this was a good enough example of Pinot Noir produced near the coast in the Anderson Valley. Still young, it was a tad on the flat side, but I think it will develop over time.
From Burgundy, France
Joseph Voillot Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2012 - Neil Martin (from Robert Parker team) sums it up for me: "there is a sense of nonchalance and harmony towards the finish"... Exactly, like a long lunch!
Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Vosne Romanée 2012 - just the name would give you a winegasm, but the liquid itself was quite on another level. Citing Antonoio Galloni here: "A model of pure sensuality and finesse, the 2012 is drop dead gorgeous from the very first taste". I told you so...love at first sight, to be shared with somebody very special indeed...Not cheap though!
Jane Eyre Gevrey Chambertin 2013 - only 900 bottles produced, so lucky us to taste it for free! Not the most expensive in the line-up though and very much worth the asking price!
A big thank you to Alex Wilcox and Jon Osbeiston and their suppliers for this great tasting!
BELLEVUE HILL BOTTLE SHOP
Almost 90 Pinot Noir from around the World were on offer to taste here, a very expensive exercise for the shop owner and his partners, but also very taxing on your humble blogger...So again I had to make drastic choices and concentrated on French and US west Coast, and was eventually coerced (gently...) into tasting the Oakridge 864 from Victoria. More on this latter...
From Burgundy, France
Clos de la Marjolaine - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Blagny 1er Cru 2010
Volnay 1er Cru 2010
Domaine Roy - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Pierre Janny Volnay 1er Cru - 2010
Maybe I was suffering Pinot Noir fatigue, but I found it very hard to find clear differences between these French Pinot Noir. Classic Bourgogne Pinots, all very good, but maybe too much by the book
Faiveley Mercurey Le Clos du Roy 2012 - In the words of The Drink Shop in the UK: On the nose, scents of small red fruits mix pleasantly with spicy and woody aromas, which come from the wine being raised traditionally in oak. This wine is very nicely balanced on the palate.
Its rich aromas blend marvelously with its tannins, giving a wine which is greedy and full of body.
Henri de Villamont - Bourgogne 2012 - probably the best value of the line-up, outstanding for only A$32.00
Lucien Muzard & Fils - Bourgogne 2012 - in the same vein at an amazing A$36.00
Parent Bourgogne 2011 - Excellent at A$48.00, amazing value as well
Can I risk to say that maybe 2011 and 2012 were better vintages than 2010?
From Languedoc, France
Le Fou (The Madman) 2013 - In my youth (!) the wines from Languedoc were primarily "Vins de table", but then over the last 25 years, there has been a conscious effort from the regional authorities to push the quality up, invite New World winemakers to try their luck there - including a few Aussies - and this wine is certainly a good example of the high quality Languedoc wines can command. Certainly more fruity and full than the Bourgogne wines, this was very drinkable indeed and at A$22.00 was one of the most affordable of the line-up. You would be mad not to try it!
From the US West Coast
Bliss 2010 - Mendocino - California - The name sums it perfectly...
Mouton Noir - Lieu Dit 2011 - Oregon - At A$68.00, this was an amazing choice. I have said way back that Oregon was the perfect place to grow wines that could compete with the best of France, and although general more expensive, this is a fine example of a well priced Pinot Noir
Underwood 2013 - Oregon - Very good example of entry level Pinot at A$28.00. will buy some!
A big thank you to Dan, Mickey an Calvin for organising such a great event!
Finally made it to this recently opened Maille outfit in Mosman, a posh suburb of Sydney on the North Shore of the Harbour. It is promoted as a shop, but it is barely a "computer" at the cash register exit of an IGA supermarket. The good news are that you will find all the various mustards, some available "on tap" and guaranteed to be less than two weeks old. It is believed to be even better than the mustards sold in the traditional clay pots (top shelf) and a fortiori much better than the regular product that we - mere mortals - can buy from all good supermarkets. Available as well are some lesser known varieties that you can actually taste there and packed in smaller jars as you might use them as often or as generously as the traditional Dijon mustard.
And the good news are that we finally get access to the famous Maille cornichons, best in the World and closely ranking to the ones grown and pickled by my own late paternal grandmother!
Crunchy, tasty with a hint of estragon, perfect acidity thanks to the amazing homemade vinegar!
You will also find all the other products from the range, as in vinegars and gift packs, a lovely range of presents for your foodies friends. Don't expect to be harassed into buying anything, and I think the customer experience could be improved by the presence of a more dynamic and dedicated person at the counter, rather than relying on the goodwill of a knowledgeable but rather shy automatic cashiers attendant. IGA are trying to market themselves as a "boutique" supermarket and have another Delicatessen "shop in a shop" at the same location. They need to lift their game!
To quote Dan Stock from the Telegraph: Colin Fassnidge, "the rakishly dishevelled Irishman - whose tongue is as sharp as his knives - loves nose-to-tail eating, hard work and home truths"
Well, this morning performance at the Pyrmont Growers Market had all the ingredients above plus the presence of the real man doing what he does best: cooking, talking and telling stories.
In the process of watching cook his own version of "moules marinières", I picked up a few tricks that would certainly enhance my own cooking and discovered the other end of the parsley, as the leafs are only the tip of this particular iceberg. I think the most interesting bit was the addition of grated apple on top of the mussels to bring the flavour of the cider back from being lost in the stock making process.
I usually put white wine in my mussels - call me old fashioned if you like - so I will have to learn how to grate grapes...just kidding. I will have to be adventurous and try to use cider instead!
Colin was just back from Paris and I had followed his travails there via our Facebook connection. It was interesting to get a hint of his slight discomfort with the idiosyncrasies of the French and the Capital...
For those of you who might not be familiar with Colin, he was born in Dublin four decades ago, trained with Raymond Blanc, worked at the long defunct but memorable Banc in Sydney, had a stint at La Grande Bouffe in Rozelle where he met my friend Karl Geissler of Maitre Karl fame and started Four in Hand in Paddington in 2005 and more recently took over the space of Le Pain Quotidien in Surry Hills to open 4 Fourteen - I was one of their very early customers - which has been a resounding success also.
Pierre Labancz in Rozelle is the 4th owner of what was Moana Bakery before. It was started over 15 years ago by Laurent and his wife and has been my "local" for all these years.
Since Pierre and his wife Diane took over a little over a year ago, it has steadily improved, and so have their patronage.
It is common view in France that you cannot be a Boulanger Patissier and be good at both trades...but Pierre makes a lie of that saying, having fixed the steam oven left poorly maintained by the previous owners. Now the baguettes are "croustillantes" and the croissants certainly out there within my top three in Sydney. They are certainly healthier than those of Michel at C'est Bon, as they are not dripping with butter, but are rich enough to satisfy all but the most fastidious croissant lover.
One thing in common between Jean-Claude at Choco Cannelle, Michel at C'est Bon and Pierrre is that they are all artisans, passionate about their trade and modest in their achievements, Keep up the good job, mes amis...
Happy New year and Happy Chinese New Year to all of you.
We spent New Year's Eve and New Year in Carmel, California, far away from our traditional Sydney summer picnic and fireworks.
Instead, we had a quiet dinner at La Bicyclette, (http://www.labicycletterestaurant.com) quite a good French restaurant there. Returning to Carmel after 25 years of absence was kind of familiar and at the same time new, as boutiques and restaurants are now everywhere and the city has finally surrendered to worldwide concern for OH&S by lining the streets with sidewalks!
But it is still a charming little place, with antique shopa, wine bars, delicatessen, fashion and cosmetics boutiques aplenty and gorgeously set among the tormented pine trees. And obviously, once you get to the beach, you could think you are somewhere in Australia, if not for January wintery chill in the air!
It seems also fashionable to have a "meute" of dogs to walk the beach and people seemed almost more attentive to their pets than their fellow human colleagues...
As a gift to all of you for this New Year, we will give you free access to our newsletters until the end of February, including our latest one on "Olives and Olive Oil". Enjoy!
July is a busy month for me, as my wife, my sister, my late grandmother and one of my sons have their birthday in July!
So today is my "special girl's" birthday, and we start the day early by going to the Pyrmont Growers Market for breakfast. A quick visit to Zav's stand for zucchini flowers, and to Willowbrae Cheese to have a chat with David and buy some of his goat cheese. Being a gentleman, he offers one to my wife as a birthday present and I buy a tomato fresh curd, my daughter's favorite. Then Tricia hunts for a table in the sun (David mentioned it was -5 degrees Celsius at the farm when they left this morning...so it might be 7 or 8 degrees now here...) and I queue for the goodies, snail and egg and smoked salmon roll, and later for coffee. Then, off for a stroll around and a visit to a new supplier: Lowes Mount Truffles showing the first harvest of the season, amazing! Everybody was haggling for a - small - piece of these marvels...At 2000$/kg, you can probably afford a sample, and it would be enough for a few omelets...
During all that time, we were regaled by Armando Percuoco of Buon Ricordo fame, teaching us how to make the perfect risotto...a bit of an overdose after George's masterclass on MasterChef last night, but an interesting twist on a classic altogether...
Then, off to the Fish Market to buy scallops, and on to Ultimo Wine Centre for a lovely couple of bottles:
Chablis, Domaine Laroche Saint Martin 2007, one of our favourite French Chardonnay. Tricia did the "vendanges" there a little while ago...(http://www.larochewines.com) and Chartreuse de Bonpas Reserve 2007, a lovely Cotes-du-Rhone, blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (www.louis-bernard.com)
Maitre Karl and wife Paivi have just returned from a freezing tour of Europe including Helsinki, Nuremberg, Strasbourg and Paris..
It's great to have them back in Willoughby, on the Lower North Shore of Sydney Harbour, to entertain us with their stories 0ver a well brewed cup of coffee or, even better, one of their French inspired lunches.
As they correctly promise on their website, they deliver "a petite piece of Europe" in a nice and confortable decor.
The food is classical French Bistro with an Alsacian twist. The "Tarte Flambee" is the Alsacian version of an Italian pizza on a thin crust, and my favourite main course is the "Steak Frites", traditionally served with French fries and a side salad. It reminds me of a little place I used to stop for lunch in Paris near La Bastille, down to the red wine, Cotes du Rhone served by the glass. (Maybe, Maitre Karl should introduce the Australian diner to the concept of the Carafe, a 50cl measure ideal for two....).
There is plenty choice from Australia, France, Germany and New Zealand.
Prices are very reasonable and Maitre Karl is graced with a number of ladies who lunch any day of the week and it is always a good place to come with your clients for a quick business or thank you lunch.
In the evening, families and couples are the main clients who enjoy the casual chic atmosphere. There ia always a buzz, and yet you can still have an intimate conversation.
And by the way, Maitre Karl is having a very good deal for Valentine Day! Check it out and enjoy with no moderation!
Let me finish with this quote from Jeff Collerson in the Daily Telegraph in November 2005:
"There is no hurry to go though. I reckon Maitre Karl will be around for a long time. Even in fickle Sydney!
Could not be more right, Jeff!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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