Monday, 12 October 2009

Cherchez la chevre or Something to goat about indeed

Ok ... degustation = "a careful appreciative tasting of various foods" (vielen dank, mein wiki!)
Goat = "sure footed agile bovid mammal of the genus Capra" not too mention tasty!! (merci mon dictionnaire libre)
Combining the 2 makes for one hell of a Saturday night. There's nothing more scintillating to a gourmand than a skilfully crafted degustation menu ... particularly one that has some thematic construct that speaks more to the senses than to the intellect .... and there is nothing more romantic than sitting down to a fine meal with your loved one, faces awash with gastronomic glow as the house lights dim and the candlelight sparkles, the world and all its troubles kept at bay by your friendly waitress and the crafty machinations of an enthusiastic sommelier ... not to mention the culinary acrobatics of the kitchen fashioning their alchemy for your delectation ... and in most cases ... your pocket.
Provenance, an unassuming (almost plastic fantastic) cafe in the heart of smacky smith street. We scrounge a lift from the lovely D & CC who kindly paid us a visit after an afternoon spent shopping at Vic Market, CC en route to a steaming bowl of bouillabaise, and D en route to an evening of food and drink at South Paw. We have been asked to be seated by 6.30pm (come early, they say, and we'll start you off with a beer). And indeed they do, with a bottle of Mountain Goat (of course) Organic Steam Ale.
Our waitress Kelly introduces herself and turns out to be pleasantly efficient, and quietly irreverent, just the sort of service we like. Our senses already assaulted by the smells that are wafting from the kitchen, the buzz of the place is palpable and it doesn't feel like we are mere patrons, but active participants ourselves in this special event:
busy kitchen ... bearded honey turned away as I took the pic ... damn!

Having settled us with the beer and our seats, it was time for the first course:
Goat Charcuterie - comprising hand made sausage, parfait, riblet, biltong, chevre with Der Partisan Bread:
Spiced almonds and olives were also served on the wooden board, and did a good job as palate cleansers. I must admit we approached our first bites with a little trepidation. We both love goat, but it is a strong and rich flavour, and we were looking at a whole meal of the damn thing, and didn't want to tire of the flavour right at the start. Thankfully, the flavours presented on the plate were sufficiently varied to prevent this happening. Both the sausages, one chorizo style, the other made out of offal, provided gentle flavours even whilst being heavily spiced. The riblet was similar to the spanish recipe I attempted, sweet with citrus and orange flavours. The biltong, thin slivers of dried goat, was the stand out for me, along with the chevre mixed with sun-dried tomatoes (yes we will both need Hep A shots now!). It reminded me of indonesian beef jerky that mum used to put in our sangers .. I hated it at the time, and would have much preferred the roast beef and ham that my best friend nicholas had ... I would kill for some now!
close up of biltong - i seriously need a better camera ... the iphone does not cut it in low light
The only iffy bit was the liver pate .... just a tad on the strong side ... M poured some of the oil from the olives which cut through a little bit of its gaminess ...  it also worked better when mixed with the chevre on the partisan bread ... it was just too much on its own .. Kelly agreed ... thats what they found when they first tasted it as well.
Allowing a reasonable amount of time to pass, we were served our next course, Confit Goat, Onion tarte tartin served with a bernaise sauce:
They served this with our first wine - 2008 Knots Rose from Bendigo

Now I'm not a fan of Rose, but this was a meaty almost pinot noir-ish Rose, light on the tongue, but rich round the sides of the mouth. Will definitely be tracking a case of this down soon. The Onion Tarte Tartin was tdf!! There's nothing like caramalized onion ... its sweet and punchy at the same time, the perfect foil to the strong flavour of the goat confit ... the bernaise was perfection and I swear there was coconut in there because the combination of all the elements reminded me of a rich malaysian curry ... M reckoned that they used goat fat ... not sure how ... but this was a stand out dish.
Then came the dud! Braised goat ravioli in white wine broth topped with red cabbage and biltong floss:
This accompanied by a 2008 Pinot Gris from Lamont wineries, Otago NZ. Apparently, so our fizty maitre'd (80s fringe, shrunken blazer and tight jeans) informs us, Lamont winery heard about this degustation event and offered a case of their award winning wine as a way of cross promoting. This was a reasonable Pinot Gris, not world changing, but Pinot Gris is so chameleonic that its hard to judge it in one sitting, and as we only had a glass each, and the dish it was served with was a little underwhelming, I'd prefer to reserve judgement until I've had a full bottle.
So why was this a dud. It needed a punch somehow. Because the broth was subtle to the point of being tantamount to lukewarm water with a couple of droplets of white wine, the dish needed an acidity somewhere, our suggestion would have been to have lightly pickled the shredded cabbage, or provided more of the biltong floss. And the goat should have been minced rather than shredded as the filling for the ravioli ... pasta and meat did not quite marry well ... divorce was already on the cards even before the church was booked! Having said all of this, it wasn't entirely objectionable!! The problem was that by this stage we were too hyped to accept anything less than incredible. We polished our plates off nonetheless ... (the staff had already noticed and remarked upon our plate cleaning prowess)
Thank god we had some breathing space, because unlike other degustations, the serving sizes were absolute motherfuckers!! I'm glad we put our foot down on the pastries D & CC kindly brought. We would have been stuffed otherwise, literally and figuratively.
Next came the "main" - Prosciutto wrapped goat loin served with asparagus and goat jus:
Apart from some bits of the asparagus being a little too woody (ever heard of snapping for freshness? maybe they needed the length for presentation purposes) this was a success. Although sometimes these jus thingeys have a slighly bitter aftertaste, that works at the start, but not when you're nearing the end of the dish. Yummy, but pedestrian. They served this with a 2005 Amietta Shiraz from Geelong ... M really loved the complex flavours and the way each mouthful changed with the food, this was no Turra murra for me and I guess I was starting to tip into the "too full to enjoy" stage of the evening.
The penultimate dish was dessert which was Goat's milk pannacotta with a berry compote:
I do love a pannacotta .. and this one was surprisingly light ... on Kelly's recommendation, we tipped the berry compote out of its shot glass into the pannacotta ... that first bite after this ... words cannot describe ... we were so full, uncomfortably so ... but still we couldn't help but hone into it ... that was how delicious this was.
We couldn't quite fit in anymore wine and we were seriously considering asking them to hold the cheese platter, but we decided to tough it out and ordered two coffees to help digest.

The cheese platter came with a Camembert, a Mt Buffalo blue and a Capricornica Cheddar:
This was served with Quince and some sliced fresh and poached pears. I could really only manage the pears, but had a nibble on the camembert (so so), the blue (heaven) and the cheddar (interesting). Even though M was devising ways of unbuttoning his trousers without competely spilling out, he pretty much polished the rest off (Surprise! Suprise!).
After all that we were ready for a walk and some fresh air. All in all it was a terrific night!! Just the sort of evening we enjoy.
Provenance is planning an afternoon of berries next ... not quite my scene, but will definitely get a group together for the next degustation ... here's hoping its seafood!!!

Temasek wrote:
So let me get this straight .. you're missing Melbourne. The words, bed, lie and it spring to mind!! Kidding!! We miss u right back mofo!!! Everytime we have a great meal, and the goat degustation was no exception, we always end up talking about you ... and I'm not just saying this ... it really does happen!!
15 Oct
dan cope wrote:
oh dear, D.. i am drooling, laughing and crying all at the same time. Green with envy. I miss you I miss our dinners, i miss M and our talks all about food. I miss P and our cook offs. I miss melb and vic markets, and sat arvo lunches that turn into dinner and then sunday brunch that turn into an eating feast. Oh and now you are eating goat degustation and writing all about it. Joy! Oh and if you are up for a movie exp go see Julie and Julia. I loved it. I have her cook book, Julia Charles's french extravaganza all for the 1970's house wife. :) Love you d xx
14 Oct


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