Archive | February, 2011

Cellar Door Wine Festival 2011- Adelaide

28 Feb

The people came in droves. Tongues salivating. Cases of wine piled on top of one another, anxiously peering at the crowds . Eagerly awaiting their hour of glory. This, was the 2011 Cellar Door Wine Festival Adelaide officially in full swing.

South Australia saw its first state wine festival at the Adelaide Convention Centre this past weekend. Throughout the two and a half days, over 100 wine representatives from all corners of SA congregated under one roof and drank to its local pride. Sectioned according to wine region, it was essentially a massive gathering of “cellar doors” hailing from wineries throughout the state.

The sheer variety of wine on offer was dizzying and each one was faced with a grave dilemma; of wanting to taste absolutely everything, yet realising the impossibility of appreciating them all. Ah, the perpetual tension between desire and practicality.

Upon arrival, each entrant was presented with a “passport” (our exhibition bible), a $5 token for a full glass of wine and a Smart Car competition entry – all curled up into a Riedel glass purposed for the days’ tastings. And with that, we were off – touring the wine  regions of SA, free to taste to our hearts’ content. We started off with whites, which slowly evolved into rich reds. Sampling the Reislings of Clare Valley, then ambling through the Langhorne Creek. Learning of the Riverland’s yield, and through to the Southern Fleurieu. Relishing Coonawarra, and the Limestone Coast. Then finally, picked our way through the Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale and Barossa.

Big labels rubbed shoulders with obscure wineries and it made for an extremely educational outing (think Wolf Blass, Penfolds and d’Arenberg standing alongside the likes of Battle of Bosworth and Tomfoolery). How gratifying it was to experiment the offerings of smaller producers as well as converse to the characters behind the counters.

The only real issue of the day: that spittoons (where you empty out your wine or spit after tasting) were not getting emptied out. Halfway through the afternoon, we were experiencing some serious splash-back action. How refreshing.

The “Regional Farmers Market” (food court) was a saving grace as the appetites of many were stirred after tastings. We gave our tastebuds a much needed rest and settled our bums on milk crates amongst the fleet of communal tables, all adorned in full country fashion with sackcloths and potted plants.

Many spent much of their day attending Masterclasses held by industry/wine gurus. These were small classes of about 30, and were unfortunately sold out very early. But some of the interesting ones that caught my eye were the chocolate & wine pairings, microbrewery glass tastings and SA’s Regional Classics with Tony Love.

But no matter! There’s always next year, and the year after, and after, and after… So if you missed out on this year’s event, keep an eye out for the next Cellar Door Wine Fest Adelaide!

We wait, with bated breath and expectant goblets.

A Soft Spot for: Melt CBD

25 Feb

On rare occasions – when the stars align – one can immediately tell that they’re  in for a good meal just by stepping into a restaurant. This, is one of those instances.

The scattering of lawn-green chalkboard surfaces, psychedelic graffiti mural and gleaming tiled bar was enough to show that the Melt team knows how to piece together a cool urban eatery. And indeed they do, judging by the reception of the original Melt in Hyde Park.

Housed on Waymouth St, this sequel to the Melt empire is already bustling despite opening only late last year. City slickers flock to this retro-chic joint for tapas, wine and creative pizzas. Our table made the fortuitous decision of ordering the prawn pizza/$23 (prawns, green harissa, fior di latte, tomato, preserved lemon & parsley) – a festival of flavours on a steaming, thin-crust base. Downright tasty. Some others that caught my eye were the Patatas pizza/$19 (crushed potato, porcini & truffle, mozzarella, taleggio, walnuts, thyme) and The Turk/$18 (lamb, pine-nuts, pomegranate, provolone, yoghurt, mint, sumac). Note: Gluten-free bases available with a $3 surcharge.

Our wildcard tapas order was of jellied pork with crispy daikon remoulade/$12 – a contemporary leap from the bistro-staple pate. The curious gelatinous terrine was radically different; and while I personally enjoyed it, I suspect some might be unaccustomed to its unique texture. Subsequently, we partook of the chocolate and pistachio pizza with Frangelico cream/$16 – one out of the two dessert pizzas on offer. The flavours were pleasing, with the only issue being a slightly underbaked base (understandably to prevent the chocolate burning, but then again there are ways around it). But none of that really mattered. We ate like kings.

I particularly fancied the mint-flavoured water that the friendly waiters kept pouring into my glass (details do make the meal). And if that’s not enough, select from their wide-flung list of wines and beverages (they have a neat  “wee” selection of Scottish single malts). Other interesting features are a small private dining room in the back section of the restaurant and a function space upstairs.

So like I said, once in a while, when the stars come in order – one knows that they’re  in for a good feed just by stepping into a restaurant. And if you haven’t had that feeling yet, try stepping into Melt CBD.

Rating: 16/20 Very, very likeable.

38 Waymouth St,

Adelaide 5000.

(08) 82116723
Melt CBD on Urbanspoon

Tasting Notes: Clarendon Hills Brookman Merlot 1999

22 Feb

 

This brick-red coloured drop (showing gentle tinges of brown) travelled a short one hour from Blewitt Springs, SA, into a particular writer’s thirsty glass – a fortunate cause.

 

This McLaren Vale neighbour did not disappoint. Dusty, savoury, briny on the nose with whiffs of sundried tomato and dried muscatels – an inquisitive start. The palate held up excellently and what impressed the most was its balance. Having the desired smokiness of an aged merlot, whilst a surprising element of freshness still present. Dried red berries lingered amongst savoury notes; a medium-bodied wine.

 

Best enjoyed stag (the wine, not in company). Partly serious, exceptionally easy.

*Retailed at around A$70. Buy online or scour specialty bottle shops.

The Importance of Learning: Custard

17 Feb

If eggs yolks and full cream milk could make babies, I’d imagine they’d taste a lot like custard.

The promiscuous mingling of these two key ingredients (and some other naughty bits thrown in) have resulted in an iconic sauce embraced the world over. Custard (creme anglaise)  forms the foundation of many dessert favourites such as ice-cream, trifle, bavarois (custard based-mousse) and fools. It also fulfills the letter of being one of the most accommodative dessert accompaniments known to man.

The utilitarian cousin of creme anglaise: – Pastry cream (creme patissiere) , is a denser, thicker version of the sauce and is used extensively by pastry chefs to fill cakes, pastries, tarts and choux buns (think croquembouche). Pastry cream consists of the exact same elements used to make custard, with the slight difference of a thickening agent (usually cornflour) cooked into the mix.

Grasping the concept of custard-making is imperative for any aspiring-cook, as it aids one in understanding the building blocks of many well-known desserts. Take creme brulee and creme caramel for instance; these two classics possess a similar ingredient composition as custard (egg, milk/cream,sugar, vanilla) with slight variances in the mixing process, proportions and heat application.

BASIC CUSTARD RECIPE

90g caster sugar

6 egg yolks

300ml milk

300ml cream

1/2 vanilla pod (scored lengthways with seeds scraped out) *you can use a vanilla substitute if pods are hard to obtain

Place milk, cream, vanilla seeds and pod in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and remove from heat the moment it begins to bubble (leaving it to boil too long will cause moisture to evaporate). Set aside, and get on to the next job which is whisking the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl (metal, glass or ceramic – stay away from plastic) till combined and slightly pale (don’t have to get too crazy!).

STRAIN half of your hot milk mix into the whisked yolks – whisk immediately till well combined. Decant in the remaining hot milk mix and whisk well till smooth.

Pour boiling water into the saucepan and sit the bowl of mixture on top ensuring that the base of the bowl isn’t touching the water (bain marie). Now to exercise some patience. Use a silicon scraper, rubber spatula or wooden spoon and stir CONSTANTLY for the next few minutes (remember to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl). The mix will thicken gradually.

To test whether your custard has reached the desired consistency, coat the back of a wooden spoon with the mix, then quickly swipe a line across the surface with your finger (*refer to picture). Tilt the spoon slightly and if the mix shows some resistance before flowing back over the swipe, it’s ready. Immediately remove from heat and serve (hot/cold).

KEY TIPS:

~ If too much heat is applied, the custard might begin to scramble. You can avert disaster by transferring the mix right away into a cool bowl. Subsequently, strain the custard through a fine sift.

~ Remember that the custard will always be thicker when chilled

~ Try not to make custard in overly large batches. It is always harder to control the cooking

~ When your custard-making skills develop, you can scrap the bain marie altogether and try cooking the custard in a thick-based saucepan over a low heat. The custard will come together much quicker. Just remember to scrape the sides and bottom of the saucepan well, and keep stirring!

~ Have a go at flavouring your custard (e.g. wattle seeds, cinnamon, mandarin zest, star anise, chai herbs etc.). Infuse these aromats as you would the vanilla.

Whipping up a batch of fresh custard does take a little more time out of our day, but it is definitely worth the effort. Take my word for it – once you’ve tasted home-made custard, you won’t go back to using the powdered or cartoned stuff. Don’t worry if you muck up initially; making mistakes is the best way to learn what not to do. Just have another go till you get it right. It is a fundamental skill that once acquired, will open up a gateway of dessert possibilities!

Get your custard on!

Adelaide Fringe – City Eats

13 Feb

Adelaide Dining: (clockwise from top-left) ETC, Nano Ready 2 Go, Yiannis, Leight Street, ETC, Bistro Dom

The Fringe is upon us, the ‘Festival State’ beckons. Indeed, it is finally that time of the year again, when the peaceful (albeit too much sometimes) town of Adelaide rouses from its slumber and blooms into a fanfair of arts, music and mayhem.

If you’re a hungry out-of-towner (tsk*), or a local who “just can’t remember the name of that restaurant..” – then read on, as this writer shares a few personal food favourites within the borders of Adelaide’s CBD.

Brunch. East Terrace Continental (ETC) – a local hotspot for all-day brunch (think big breakfast, fresh pasta, smoothies..). I must stress the IMPORTANCE of ordering their banana pancakes soaked in butterscotch sauce and cream – some knee quivering action here. Nearby, hidden in the crevices of Ebenezer Place, is Nano Ready 2 Go, which features a menu that leans towards the simpler side of life. This writer tends to always order the spaghetti vongole in tomato sauce – an uncomplicated “slurp me up” number. A trek towards Hutt Street reaps its rewards as one settles into artisan pastries and cakes at the petite haven that is Au Matin Calme. The Moet (Champage Mousse Cake) and lemon tart are personal dears. And just a few blocks away is Chianti Classico, arguably Adelaide’s finest dining establishment – breakfast there is a stately affair.

Mid-Range. If you’re looking for a ‘nice-ish’ meal that won’t break the bank, potter over to Wasai for homey, cosy, no-frills Jap. Alternatively, fuel up on mussels, chips and noteworthy Europeans brews at the Belgium Beer Cafe. Amalfi rustles up some decent Italian, but if the belly’s calling for pizza, give Est a go. Thin, crusty with off-beat topping medleys – grab a bottle of vino and settle into this ant-sized eatery late into the night (a heads-up that food takes a while when they’re busy).

Cheap n’ Cheery. Yiannis on Hindley – the saving grace of UniSA West students, where charcoal spit-roasted meat finds its way into what many believe is Adelaide’s most delicious yiros (translation: kebab, souvlaki for those interstate; the name debate rages on but we’ll save this discussion for another fair weathered day). For an oriental fix amble along Gouger Street or Moonta Street, where you’ll find a sprinkling of Asian restaurants of various descriptions. Truth be told, the Asian food scene in town is fairly average, but one can be guaranteed a decent filling at the least. Alternatively, scoot over to Central Market and create a picnic basket of fresh fruit, bread (Dough), olives and cheese (The Smelly Cheese Shop, Say Cheese) and collapse in one of Adelaide’s many inner-city parklands.

Smart-casual/fancy. Apart from the aforementioned Chianti, one should hunt out Leigh StreetCOS Restaurant and Rigoni’s are worth a try. Other notable lunch eateries include Georges on Waymouth, Bisto Dom and Pranzo (uber quick service here, if word-of-mouth is anything to go by). Newcomer Celsius also presents a reputably slick offering. The Greek is next on my must-try list, judging from its welcoming exteriors and the whistling of favourable reviews.

Adelaide, what are some of YOUR favourite inner-city dining secrets?

Amalfi 29 Frome Street. Au Matin Calme 210 Hutt St. Belgium Beer Cafe 27-29 Ebenezer Place. Bistro Dom 24 Waymouth Street . Celsius 95 Gouger Street. Central Market 45 Gouger Street. Chianti Classico 160 Hutt St. COS Restaurant 18 Leigh Street. East Terrace Continental 6 East Terrace. Est 30 East Terrace. Georges on Waymouth 20 Waymouth Street. Nano Ready 2 Go 23 Ebenezer Plc.  Pranzo 46 Exchange Place. Rigoni’s 27 Leigh Street. The Greek 75/79 Halifax St. Wasai 9/15 Field St. Yiannis on Hindley 270 Hindley St.

New Cake on the Block – Patisserie Jin

10 Feb

Jin Patisserie cake display

Sugar deprived Adelaideans rejoice! There is a new patisserie in town. Jin rolled out the welcome mat in Malvern late last year and has since created a small buzz amongst local diners.

This is music to the ears of Adelaide eaters who have frequently bemoaned the lack of all-day dessert eateries in the city and surrounding suburbs. What’s great about this place is that they keep their doors opened at night (mon – wed till 9pm, thurs – sat till late, closed sun)

Strategically situated beside an open car park, one enters the small-ish shop and is immediately greeted by a gleaming display counter shielding an array of gem-like cakes. Very pretty. Individual cakes go for $7.50 a pop with slightly larger gateaux ranging around the $20 to $40 mark. On the higher side of the dollar given the cake sizes.

Our table sampled the Red Wine Mousse Cake, Peach Mousse Cake, Sweet Potato Cake and the Strawberry Mousse Cake (lotsa mousse action here guys). Across the board, everything palated quite well and the flavours of each item was rather pleasing. Unfortunately, the mousse cakes were quite firm and almost “jelly-like” (heavy-handed on the gelatine perhaps). If that can be rectified, then you can bet your dolly’s uncle we’ve got a good one here. Surprisingly, the sweet potato cake was the favorite for the night – soft, creamy, easy. They’ve also got a mighty beverage list (think affogato and pineappleade) – liquid desserts. Additionally, I spied chocolate fondants, crepes, churros and tarte tatins dotting surrounding tables.

All in all, a “desserterie” with potential. I get the feeling that they’re still working out the kinks, but if that goes well, then we’ve found ourselves a a very likeable sweet spot.

Rating: 13/20 (Fair)

Patisserie Jin, 241 Unley Rd, Malvern 5061 SA

Patisserie JIN on Urbanspoon

The First Bite

8 Feb

Anticipation – the excitement as one crunches into  oil-seduced pork crackling, the expectation built from an initial whiff of grape-bled wine, the anticipation of new.

This, is the emotional tingling of small beginnings.

Here in this humble corner of cyberspace, an intrepid food-loving individual will join in the global conversation of gastronomy. Having been tossed into the mad/wonderful world of food, she attempts to create a space whereby sound opinions and knowledge alike can be shared. Here, she will lay down what she experiences and learns – believing in the importance of honesty yet understanding the existence of subjectivity.

Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.

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