Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chatter 53 Rosh Hashannah 5775 (Everywhere!) 24/09/2014

On the 24th of September, with the appearance of the third star, the Jewish New Year, 5775, began.
It's a time of celebration and, to some extent a time of reflection symbolized by the blowing of the Shofar, a hollowed out rams horn. This is to remind us to wake up and mend our ways. 
The table looked magnificent.
This festive meal, with family and friends, starts with apple dipped in honey as a symbol of the sweet times ahead for the New Year 

and usually featuring pomegranite as some part of the meal. The pomegranite is a symbol of ririghteousness supposedly having 631 seeds - the number of commandments in the Torah.
We celebrated with a semi traditional banquet, a quite memorable meal. After a glass of champagne

candles were lit, and the usual prayers blessing the wine and the bread, a round chulla to symbolize the endlessness of time each year ending and the new year beginning,

the meal began.
We started with a smorgasbord to die for.
Air dried beef and smoked tongue with a creamed horseradish sauce.

Gravalax with a mustard dill sauce.

Smoked duck.

Stuffed eggs.

Fish cakes (Gefilte fish)

served with horseradish

A humus dip
Tehina (Chic pea) dip

A cabbage salad

Carrot and diacon salad

And a carrot salad
And a cheese plate
This was followed by the more traditional chicken soup and kneidle (Matza balls)

Before we got to the main courses

Fillet steak, cooked sous vide at 57 degrees for an hour,

 with mushroom sauce,  

Frica salad, the recipe is from George Calombarous's Hellenic Republic, which included pine nuts and pomegranite.

 served with Greek yoghurt
Roasted eggplant
A saffron rice and nuts

Chicken fesenjan, a Persian chicken and walnut stew. It did not look photogenic but the taste was wonderful.

and a pea and beef stew
Dessert, caramel oranges and cream filled brandy snaps

Two wonderful cakes
An American traditional red velvet cake

and a chocolate hazelnut cake

rounded of the meal with tea and coffee.

No we didn't make all these fabulous dishes ourselves. Guests contributed handsomely. I can say that every dish was near perfect. Nothing could have been better.
We also enjoyed two excellent wines, as well as the traditional sweet King David kosher wine at the start of the meal.
Richard Hamiltons Centurion shiraz a deep dense red with ruby highllghts described on the web as a
 "Full ripe and superbly varietal Shiraz highlighted with integrated French oak to show cedar, vanilla and mocha characters" and a "Full bodied palate of great length, but tempered with fine, long tannins to give finesse, elegance and style".
and a smooth aromatic Oscar Semmler Lynedoch 2009 Barossa Shiraz, an aromatic dense ruby red, wonderfully well structured and flavoursome with hints of red fruits, currants and bold mocha/chocolate.
I know there was more to eat than that but, except for the ice cream, I can not recall what, after all it was two days ago! 
As a reminder here is a sample of the entrees.
Some meals are to die for, this one was a double whammy - to die for and from. We don't score dinners at home BUT if we did - several hats please.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Toro Bravo (Brisbane) 09/2014

This cafe/bar/restaurant has a Spanish theme menu built around half a dozen mostly spicy tapas, half a dozen or so raciones, dishes suitable for sharing and half a dozen or so steak dishes. There  is also a fish dish a Morrocan chicken or a pork belly main course as well as desserts. Tapas, the menu tells me, was a slice of bread bartenders used as a 'tapa' or lid, to keep flies out of drinks. From this the hundred of variations of small dishes we enjoy at Spanish restaurants evolved! 
The place is sparcely furnished and minimally decorated with a large central bar 

and an outdoor terrace. There is an ATM machine near the entrance, a large TV screen showing an endless variety of fish swimming across the screen and one, strangely appealing painting at the end of the room. 

I was not expecting much but, having just been offered an insulting ?meal by Virgin airlines I was more than ready to eat. The two for one Tueday was irresistable.

I started with a montadito, shredded smoked slow pork shoulder cooked in esterella lager with plenty of aioli and with pickled zucchini. ($4.6) 

followed by a 250gm (more like 350gm) wild harvest kangaroo loin. It is extremely unusual to get a steak cooked so rare that it is literally just over warm in the middle, which happens to be how I like it.
Chris, the chef here succeeded beyond my expectations. It was an excellent piece of meat excellently prepared. What impressed even more was that the jus was not over reduced and could not have been better.I chose potato, jammon serrano and rosemary grattan  which was a decent accompaniment. ($29.0) The second main meal I had, normally $29.0 was free because it was Tuesday, was the slow roasted pork belly with red cabbage and potato bravas.

Another really good dish with the pork cooked to perfection.  

The desserts looked attractive but I had had my fill. This place is a bargain for both prices and food.
It's not flash and the food could have been presented a bit more attractively but it was very very good.
A glass of Rioja Tempranillo Cepas Antiguas 2013 ($9.5) was quite acceptable too
Score: 14/20

Chatter 52 Mile High Food 09/2014

For better or for worse I've eaten an awful lot of meals, and a lot of awful meals, on airoplanes. Perhaps the best ever was chef's service on Lufthansa many years ago. Business class on International flights is, with rare exceptions, about as good as a very modest Melbourne restaurant. Recently I have flown with Qantas and Virgin in Australia. Qantas has served up a variety of take away offerings which cost about $7.5, or sometimes much less, off the shelf at at Coles.
Their most recent offering was butter chicken which had no resemblance to what one gets in an Indian restaurant. There was chicken and there was rice but where were the Indian spices? Nothing detectable.

They have also managed to find the most unattractive imaginable plastic cutlery. Still it was a banquet compared to what Virgin offered on the same route at the same time. (6.00 pm flight between Brisbane and Melbourne) Their few slices of cheese and dry biscuits, which might have cost $2.00 at Cosco, probably less, were an insult as a meal and pretty puny as a snack. They did not have to concern themselves with cutlery.

If Neil Perry had anything to do with Qantas's food he should give them their money back and as for Virgin - words fail me.
Both companies served quite reasonable wine.
Score: Qantas 9/20 Virgin ? 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Brooks (Melbourne CBD) 09/2014

We used to come to this subterranean venue when it was the home of Mo Mo's. It is physically little changed but it seems to be lighter and brighter. There is a large shield near the entrance which looks like a tribute to produce and industry, but apparently is the symbol of Melbourne. 

Next to that is a glass fronted cabinet displaying drying Waghu

hanging above pots of edible greens. 

Beyond that there is an open kitchen 

opposite a large and very well stocked bar. 

The drinks menu takes about 30 pages and is distinguished by a wide variety of very reasonably priced Australian and International wines. Decor is generally attractive and low key. 

Tables are set simply with white cloths and linen napkins.

Service was efficient and unobtrusive and information about wines was accurate. 
Weekdays there is an a la carte menu and a degustation menu but on Saturday's only a seven course degustation menu is available ($140 with wines $60, but there are plenty by the glass around $12 to $16)
It was Saturday so we happily had the seasonal tasting menu starting with several little appetizers - Smoked quail eggs had a nice smoky aroma, the whites were firm and the yolks soft and runny.

Next came a crispy rice biscuit with a dob of quite mild Vegemite 

and then one of Chef Nicholas Poelart's specials, nettle and goat curd pillows with a rhubarb jam. Served on a square of turf it was a striking presentation and achieved a appealing combination, of course the turf is just for appearances.

The first course was hand caught squid, finger lime, verbena and ink, roe, leeks. As with virtually every dish this was an artistic presentation, this time in black and white. The outstanding feature was it's delicacy and the textural variations with little pops taste when the roe fractured in the mouth. A great start.

Meli Melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers was classical Poelart. Pretty as a picture, 

full of varied tastes and textures, the plate still looked like abstract art after the food was gone. 

Just gorgeous.
Cured trumpeter, a New Zealand fish, yoghurt, foie gras, oysters, dill came next, I found this a little bland.

Braised Waghu beef, spring honey cabbage,fermented garlic, green salt. was another  tender and tasty dish. The Waghu was intercostal muscle (from between the ribs) which, we were told, had been cooked sous vide at 70 degrees for about 60 hours. I can not imagine that 30 hours would have done just as well. Regardless it was superb although it did not have the amount of fat one gets in a Waghu porterhouse, which we both find exceptionally appealing.

The last main course was Flinders Island milk fed lamb, peas and mint had only been cooked, our waiter told us, sous vide over night at 60 degrees. Another very pleasing dish, despite looking similar to the Waghu the taste and texture were totally different.

Fromage frais, parsley, sorrel was a total surprise that worked really well.

The final dessert course was brown rice, miso ice cream, macadamia rice pudding, milk skin. These are very unusual desserts. Some might like their desserts sweeter than these but I found them a welcome change.

Two wines stood out a1999 Jim Barry Riesling which has just been released. This had a complex flavour that was extremely well matched with the the Meli Melo. The other wine that we both particularly liked came with the lamb. This was Telmo Rodriguez 'M2 de Matallana' Tempranillo, 2008- Ribera del Duera, Spain. It did disappoint me that this wine costs about $62 a bottle retail but is sold here for $26/ glass. This amounts to a 150% mark up!
We found this to be an adventurous meal, full of surprises. Beautifully and artistically  presented it was exciting to the senses, you could say a sensational meal. The menu changes gradually with new dishes every few weeks so, in a few months we'll try and get back for something which we anticipate will be new and exciting.
Score 16/20