Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Christmas Comes Early at the Temasek Household ... and Paul Smith Concurs!!

Ok ... in a world of shrinking resources, you can sometimes find yourself inadvertently owning a piece of high fashion without the associated branding, nor the fiscal implications that accompany findings of exclusivity. Alright yes I'm trying to impress with my ten dollar words and my desolate turn of phrase, so lets just cut to the chase.

Over the last couple of years or so, me and M have gravitated towards the convenience and expediency of the group present. Birthdays are still sacrosanct, but Christmas and Anniversaries are exempt, and its always fun trying to think of things to shop for together, or discovering a "need" that could turn into a congratulatory present to ourselves.

This was definitely a "need" in inverted commas! I mentioned Quazi Designs in a previous post. Well we went back there on a recent weekend and cooed over the very same Dining Table set that they still hadn't been able to shift. To sweeten the deal, Shane knocked a reasonable amount off the going price and then left us alone to stew and simmer. I thought M was going to have a coronary so torn was he between excitement and trepidation.

But, it wasn't too long before shaky hands were pulling out the old plastic fantsastic, and one swipe and a few button pushes later, we were the proud owners of this (photo taken in final situ):

And so to lessen the impact, I suggested that we treat this as our Christmas present, so that's the festive season sorted for the year.

So what has this all got to do with the first paragraph of this post, well at lunch time I did the ho-stroll through DJs, and walked past this Paul Smith bag ... see anything familiar?

Yes they both use that high falluting Swedish fabric that is supposed to be tough and fade proof!! It certainly looks like it would last the distance, and its a pretty, and I think a rather timeless pattern.

Merry early Christmas!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Feast Day at St Crispin's

Ok ... after having had such an amazing time at Estelle's, we were genuinely excited at the prospect of dining at St Crispin's - and we managed to score 2 spots at the bar on a Saturday night at the reasonable seating time of 7pm. After recently being awarded Best New Restaurant by The Age Good Food Guide, we didn't think this was going to be that easy a task.

But on a lovely spring night we wore our loosest clothing to accomodate the eventual culinary bloat and propped ourselves up at the bar ready for our tastebuds to be impressed.

We had already decided on having the Chefs Tasting Menu at a cool $120 a pop, so after reassuring the waitress behind the bar that we had no food allergies either real or imagined, we started off our celebratory evening with bubbles of course - a glass each of NV Guerrieri Rizzardi Prosecco from Veneto, Italy. Not as "extra dry" as it was made out to be, but the fruitiness suited the Amouse Bouche that emerged from the open kitchen in what seemed like no time at all - Black Olive Macarron with Hibiscus Marshmallow (you will have to excuse me with these descriptions - there was too much to take in and I was typing into the phone without the aid of my glasses).

There would have been a time, not so very long ago, when I would have turned my nose up at this post-modern melding of sweet and savoury, but I am chipping away at such prejudice and now actually enjoy having my tastebuds challenged. Besides which, that initial sugar hit developed more complexity with each successive bite. Both M and I did not want the flavour to end. It was a very promising start.

Barely having time to utter more than a few excited sentences to each other about our starter, they were pouring our first proper glass of wine - a 2010 Portuguese White from Alantejo, Esperado Pe Branco Antao Vaz blend, and serving our first proper dish - Wagyu bresaola, shallot rings, purple cauliflower and hay ash.

I'm not entirely a fan of the air-cured beef and the way wagyu has inveighled its way into practically every vaguely beef related dish I find a little tiresome. Partly because I'd be hard pressed to pick between a richly veined piece of wagyu beef and a nice juicy plastic wrapped steak from the local supermarket if they've both been treated with respect and temperance.

Anyhoo, I have to admit that the combination of Wagyu and the Bresaola method, if you may, was apt and provided a salty counterpoint to the richness of the mound of steak tartare underneath. Oh and that Tartare sauce gel - a combination of all the usual tartare sauce flavours, worcestershire, tabasco and olive oil - yum!

Before I go on, make sure that when they ask whether you want bread your answer is a resounding Yes! Otherwise you miss out on the Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread - thats a definite must try in the home kitchen one lazy afternoon.

I was really hoping for the Pullet egg, but next up we got the Spring Vegetable Salad with Cos Lettuce Puree ... so so fresh it was literally raw ... no I mean that, nothing was cooked on the plate. (And right about now there should be that soft sibilant voice of doubt quietly whispering "and you paid $120 for that!") But I say kick those doubting thomas's to the kerb! Because yes yes it wasn't cooked, and i.e. was just prettily plonked on a plate, but those raw peas and shaved zucchinni and asparagus in combination with whatever yoghurty thing that was and the subtleness of the pureed cos lettuce ... it just all worked! (Especially with the little bits of crunchy toast!)

Besides which it needed to be the quiet foil to the show stopper that was our final of the entrees - Atlantic Salmon confit, shaved calamari, oyster,squid ink and saffron. I can even taste it now as I write this description. The confit Salmon was super soft and velvety with a surprisingly fresh taste, but that bed of slippery shaved calarami absolutely made the dish - these were lightly poached so we were informed. The less said about my oyster the better, but it certainly changed the timbre of our Portuguese white. The Squid ink just added to the briny seaside feel of the dish. Order it when you're there.

Thankfully, they gave us a bit of breathing space after this, before Scott himself served the first of our mains - Flinders Island lamb, wild garlic, gnocchi and broad beans. This had a number of different cuts of lamb, shoulder, cutlet and leg - they didn't really do much with it, in fact I'm surprised our cutlet didn't jump off the plate and walk away in indignation, but there you have it. If you're not a fan of lamb, then perhaps this would have been a struggle for you. We love lamb, so it was torture sublime! The wild garlic puree was a revelation ... I've got to get into these unguents! And the gnocchi - perfection.

Our second main was the Swordfish with mashed "some kind or other" potato, crispy whitebait and pickled onion. I'm still trying to figure out what went into the mashed potato, besides potato! It was delicious, and had an extra sort of cheesey nitrogeny earthy hit. The fish was of course cooked just right.

To accompany this phase of the meal, we switched to a red - 2011 Francois Labet Vieilles Vignes Burgundy - a rich complex red, that perhaps our terroir does a little better here than over in its European counterpart. You can be the judge - because as always at this stage in proceedings, one grape blends pretty much well into another.

With another brief pause to gird our loins, it was onto the first of our desserts - Vanilla and White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with mango chunks, coconut foam and ginger puree jelly. You really just have to say Panna Cotta and my pants are halfway down my knees ... but you add Vanilla and White chocolate into the mix, and honey I'm spent even before you've had a chance to unzip yours! This is the rhythm of a great meal - begin with amazing starters to excite the palate, and end with the blingiest final act on steroids so that they leave you wanting more! Is that hyperbolic enough for you? Need I say more about this amazing dish? The proof is really in the pudding here.

The second sweet offering was a bit of a let down after that in some respects, but the chocolate was rich and unctuous and it made your mouth do that aristo pout purse of the lips ... chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger. M really enjoyed that ginger and milk smear, and the crunch of the chocolate crumble under the earl grey ice cream.

M rounded his meal off with a glass of Laphroag with a tap water chaser! On recommendation of the resident somellier, I opted for a sweet German Rhiesling - Shloss Lieser Rhiesling Kabinett 2011.

According to Mr Somelier, the key word is Kabinett, if ever you are after a sweetish Rhiesling. It wouldn't matter which winery, where the grape is from, and what the price point is, as long as it states Kabinett, you can be assured of a decent drop. And apparently, the maker of Coca Cola was inspired by a Kabinett Rhiesling when he developed the Coca Cola recipe. Fun Fact (?) Perhaps. But lets not try this out at Trivia night anytime soon.

In summation, although St Crispin's offering is slightly more muted than the quirky experimentationat Estelle's, its still an amazing menu nonetheless and well worth checking out. Yes its expensive, but not quite as expensive as some other restaurants dealing in the genre Degustation. Forego that extra daily coffee for about a month and you're nearly there!!

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Yarra Yerring and the Medhurst Burger

Ok ... I'm not sure how it happened but I think I may have possibly led someone to believe that me and M have our own bespoke Coffee roast. Small talk can be dangerous in the mouths of the inexperienced and/or socially inept.

Still it was nice to have a week day off to frolick about like the ladies who lunch ... and they don't do it much better than in those "cotswolds" style country areas like the Yarra Valley.

There are dollar signs in them there hills of undulating green. "Pour it Up" like Riri says. And we certainly did at first stop Yarra Yerring on Briarty Road. I first saw a bottle of Yarra Yerring at Seddon Wine store and was intrigued by the label looking like an old bookstyle plate and sounding like a diarist's byline .... Yarra Yerring or the Story of a Dry Red No. 2 ... something like that.

But with the sort of heartstopping prices (how does $80+ a pop sound?) that only the very select can stomach, the bottles remained securely on the shelf and out of reach. However the young guy with the floppy hair was so enthused about the winery itself that we had to experience it for ourselves.

Thankfully Melbourne threw us a lovely sunny and calm spring day and we toodled off down the Chandler onto Maroondah Hwy into wine country!

I don't really have to wax lyrical about the beauty of Yarra Valley ... its lush greeness and penchant for flooding, oh and not to mention the very real threat of bush fire in those hot dry spells of summer. But there are pay-offs - amazing panoramic views, delish produce and delectable wines.

Yarra Yerring sits on 70 acres with about 26 varieties (I believe) and all that earnest and careful viticulture produces some amazing wines but in limited supply, hence the almost shameful price points. Even the cellar door tastings aren't free, unless you actually seal the deal with a purchase. Its a $10 deposit as it were. But its worth it. They are different. The perfume hits you well before you lift the glass to your lips, and you need to take your time with these as they do change with each successive sip. Of course if you think its all a big wank, and you're happy enough with plonk in cardboard, then avoid like the plague.

I won't list all of the wines we tasted although I should mention that we were lucky enough to partake of their haute couture line - the Carrodus wines - Shiraz and Cab Merlot 2010 - both around the $250 mark. Yes ouch indeed! The Shiraz was heaven, the Cab Merlot ... well the jury's still out on that one.

Of the "standard" (remember that price point I mentioned before) wines we tasted, both me and M liked the Underhill Shiraz, I preferred the Dry Red No. 2 to M's No. 1, and M really loved the Portuguese blend which is Dry Red No. 3. Confusion much? Get into the spririt of things and you'll be fine.

So, we did end up spending a bit too much, but hey ho - dare I say it - yolo!!!

On Janice's recommendation we drove back out to Medhurst Winery for some lunch. They have the cutest little cafe/restaurant, situated just so up on the hill to afford spectacular views to go with your vittles. You can choose to sit inside, or if the weather is nice, there is outdoor seating, and you can even byo rug and set up your own little picnic. Its a wonderful spot and the staff are friendly and welcoming.

We had a chance to sample one of their wines, prices of which are less hazardous to your health. We had the Medhurst 2011 Pinot Noir - a perfectly acceptable quaffing wine - along with the special of the day - the Medhurst Burger.

The burger was thick and juicy and not overly salted which is how I like it. There are some lovely mild pickled red onions and a cornichon or 2 with a bit of plonked green salad (I forgive them this because of the pickles). Mustard out of a squeeze bottled (less said the better) and some homestyle relish were the condiments offered. In combination, it turned out to be a more than satisfactory lunch.

We made room for the recommended coffee - Coffee Supreme beans - lovingly barristed by the winemaker himself, and also for a slice of lemon semolina cake - nicely warmed up and served with cream.

After lunch, we took in a little bit of the grounds including the sharply modern winery itself, and several of the sculptures dotted around the hillside - I guess someone here likes the Heide!

And since we were in the area, we had to visit the gift shop at Yarra Valley Dairy. Sadly the old restaurant is no longer, but it still operates as a cafe and you can have tasting plates and a range of confectionaries with your glass of wine or coffee. We guiltily snuck away 2 salted caramel tarts garnished with black ash salt and inhaled them in the car.

Beautiful day, beautiful food, wonderful company - if I could bottle this I think I would be a very rich man indeed.
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