Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The Estelle (Northcote) 08/2011
Some seeds lie for years before they germinate whilst others fall on fertile ground at propitious times and take off like Jack's fairytale beanstalk. It seems that we are about to see an example, a variation transplanted from other areas of the arts, a Fringe Food Festival, which is just beginning to sprout. They have a winning formula - low cost niche food events. For more information see www.fringefoodfestival.com.au or go to email@example.com
Last night there was a preliminary event, a truffle dinner prepared by Scott Pickett and Ryan Flaherty, who has a c.v. to make any chef jealous (including time with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, with Feran Adria at El Bulli and working in the lab at Arzac in San Sebastian, not to mention a period at The Point!).
The Estelle was packed with food bloggers and assorted other food lovers. It's quirky decor, patterned tiled walls
and table tops and bar made from floor of the now defunct Northcote Bowling Club. The bar has dents in it from spots where the bowling balls hit it.
The meal began with one of Flaherty's creations, sardine fossil.
The sardines have been incorporated into tapioca chips and they are presented in a lightly yoghurt like cream in a glass. They were accompanied by deep fried chips which I could not recognize, but it was not potato.
The dish had a great aroma, a great way to eat sardines.
The first truffle course was a Jerusalem artichoke veloute
with a wagyu bresaola topped by a quail egg.
Plenty of Tasmanian black truffle on the veloute
Copious wines were supplied by Foster e Rocco from Heathcote and Lincoln and Adam spoke briefly about them. They were very easy drinking, though I felt they were to light for the dishes. Unlike other set price dinners these bottles seemed to be bottomless. We began with a 2011 Rose.
Perhaps we should have been looking for a motel in walking distance.
Next course was 'Old School Egg' with Western Australian black truffle.
You don't need sous vide cooking at 49.25 degrees for 12 minutes and 39 seconds or whatever to make a great egg made even better with the added truffles and the 2011 Sangiovese.
Hand made farfalle, king brown mushrooms and cauliflower in a creamy sauce came with some very earthy, musty New South Wales black truffles.
This dish had a nice variation in textures.
Dessert was a rice pudding with puffed rice and beetroot and Western Australian black truffle.
A bit of an odd combination which was not enhanced by the truffles, or was it the wine that depreciated the food. The French grenache with the unlikely name Monsieur Foster L'Imposteur was, I thought, the best match for the food.
The last course was stunning,
a French cows milk soft ripened cheese, Jean Perrin fromage des clarines, with Otway Ranges black truffles with thick, light toast was to die for. For a small additional fee I had both a 3 point Rutherglen Tokay and, for a little more, a 5 point Hungarian Tokay. Both of these were as good as a Sauterne.
The take home finale was, of course,
a truffle chocolate.
This was a meal of outstanding dishes but it was a one dimensional meal, not so much because each dish had truffles but because of the lack of colour in the dishes and the concentration on cream sauces.The variation in the strength of the truffle aroma from different areas was very subtle. There is a lot of variation in truffles at any time, depending on a variety of circumstances.
I will write a short essay on the subject soon.
Meantime the score: For the Fringe Food Festival 20/20.
For value for money: 20/20 (It was $85/person)
For the truffle dinner 15/20