On a recent Sunday morning we had breakfast and in a fit of spontaneity decided to take a drive to the Hunter Valley. In anticipation of our annual delivery of wine from Lake’s Folly we decided to drop in and taste what we would be receiving this year. Luckily our favourite Lake’s Folly staffer, Roger, was on hand during our visit.
Our annual delivery consists of 4 bottles of Chardonnay and 8 bottles of Cabernets. Having a visit before the delivery date allows us to get a taste of what is coming and to have a chat about the vintages and the wines currently in the cellar for future release.
After tasting what we would be getting this year, 2011 Chardonnay and 2010 Cabernets, both of which we are looking forward to trying again when they are delivered, Roger took us out the back to taste this years vintage of chardonnay and cabernets.
This was to be an interesting taste. We were able to sample the 2012 vintage being matured in barrels of three different ages(ie new oak, 1 year old oak and 2 year old oak), this was a first for us. We started with the wine in the 2 year old oak, this was light and had a pleasant floral aspect on the nose with no evidence of oak characteristics and the butteriness often associated with chardonnay, was not particulary present. Loved it! Then we tried the chardonnay from the 1 year old oak, this was still quite light, the floral aromas weren’t as prominent and the oak characteristics were just evident on the nose with a slight butteriness on the tongue. Finally we tried the chardonnay from the new oak, WOW, the oak characteristics are stronger and the butteriness quite prominent but not in an unpleasant way. This was my favourite. It was a real treat to experience how oak age affects the wine. If I could have a couple of bottles from each barrel age I would be happy. I am really looking forward to see how the 2012 vintage is after it has been blended and left to age. Only have to wait a year!
Then we tried the 2011 cabernets. This has been in cask for just over a year and will be next years release. This looks like it is going to be another great wine when it has fully developed and we are anticipating its arrival next year.
So we couldn’t leave without making a purchase and took the opportunity to grab a magnum of 2009 Cabernets. This was a great drop and the chance to get a magnum of it couldn’t be missed.
We highly recommend a visit to Lake’s Folly when you visit the Hunter, but be warned they sell out quickly and close when the current releases have sold out.
Recently our friend Helena asked if I would like to accompany her to a cocktail party accessories styling session at the new Louis Vuitton Maison here in Sydney. As I have been waiting for a special occaisson to visit the new store this seemed the perfect opportunity.
The new Louis Vuitton store has only been open a couple of months and provides a stunning claasy backdrop to showcase the brands luxury accessories. Rene and I visited the Singapore Maison at Marina Bay Sands in January and I have to say that I prefer the Sydney Maison. The Singapore Maison is fairly open plan and your eye tends to get distracted, while the Sydney Maison is more intimate, with individual departments more seperated and you can focus on the department you are in.
Canapes were delicious with my favourite being paper thin slices of cured beef wrapped a round morsels of buffalo mozzarella. Presentation was immaculate, trays were squares of polished black stone with the interlinked LV monogram in one corner. Champagne was Veuve Clicquot in magnums. I pity the poor waiters who had to lug those around the room to top glasses up. We did our best to help reduce the weight in those bottles. Of course the glasses were Reidel etched with Veuve Clicquot. I love a nicely etched glass. Just wish we had thought to take some photos of the canapes.
Romy Frydman of Style Me Romy, styled and presented a selection of accessories and clothes from the Louis Vuitton S/S collection. Several pieces caught our eyes including a pair of shoes(now residing in my closet) and a pair of retro styled sunglasses(which I needed for our trip to New York next month). Still contemplating the suitability of a tiara for day wear but it was a nice bit of whimsy.
It was great to see a larger selection of watches and jewellery from LV on display. Not only do they have the standard collection in store, but several times a year they have a ‘trunk’ show come to our shores with high jewellery and watches. Scarves were artfully displayed tied over a frame which made it easy to view them up close and get a feel of their drapability. I swear there are more shoes now than were previously displayed in the old store and the clothes department is spectacular( ask for Frank or Amy). Rene was particulary taken with the bespoke shoe service for men and the Louis Vuitton push bike. Knowing Rene’s love of shoes and watches it will only be a matter of time before he picks something up for himself. I also got to try on some gorgeous items from the collection.
After a fabulous night all that was left was to go home and relax. Congratulations to Louis Vuitton Maison Sydney on the fabulous new store and thankyou for a wonderful night!
We stumbled across Bench WInebar while out for a Sunday afternoon walk in January. Since then we have been several times.Located on the southern end of King Street, Bench is owned by Robyn Thomas who also happens to be the owner of Pizza Picasso. Bench is located in what used to be the dining area of Pizza Picasso, and has an industrial chic look.
Cool tunes play quietly over the sound system and an illuminated colour changing wine rack in the shape of a bunch of grapes is the feature on the back wall. Bench Winebar has a great little wine list with some different and interesting wines, and price points that won’t break the budget. So far one of our favourites on the list has to be the Tar and Roses Miro Tempranillo from Spain.
As we are on their newsletter list, we recently recived an invitation to a tasting of Cullen wines, so we just had to go. Vanya Cullen is the wine making genius currently in charge at Cullen and was on hand to tell us more about the wines and the biodynamic practices that they use. The Cullen winery is located in the Margaret River district in Western Australia. We used to steer clear of Margaret River wines, but over the past few years we have noticed that the limestone minerality that used to be quite predominant has become more subtle and the wines seem a lot fresher.
Cullen has two vineyards that they source grapes from, The Cullen Estate Vineyard and The Cullen Mangan Vineyard, which is across the road from Cullen Estate, but has its own unique terroir. The wines from the Mangan Vineyard used to be blended with the Cullen estate wines but now have their own identity within the Cullen range.
On the night we tried Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010, Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011, Mangan Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot 2010 and Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010. All were very nice and definitely on our list of wines to drink.
On a recent Sunday we decided to try the Cullen Diana Madeline 2007. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon(60%), Merlot(30%) and Cabernet Franc(10%). This was a great drop, easy to drink and left us wishing we had another bottle. Still waiting to try the 2008 and the 2009 vintages, but there are so many great wines we are discovering lately that we just keep forgetting to buy either vintage.
We have also recently tried a bottle of their 2010 Cullen Cabernet Merlot. This is predominately cabernet with merlot and just a touch of petit verdot. This was a great drop and has room to develop with a few more years of aging. This is like a little Diana Madeline, much the same way that Penfolds 389 is considered the baby Grange.
Rene and I haven’t been to ARIA together for around a year, so it was about time to get back there. Part of the attraction of dining at Matt Moran’s Aria is the incredible views overlooking both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, especially as the sunsets.
We booked for the pre theatre seating, which meant we had to be out by 8pm, but it allowed us plenty of time to enjoy a three course meal without feeling rushed. Drinks first: A glass of champagne to start and a bottle of Chateau des Graviers Cru Artisan, Margaux 2005 to enjoy with our meal.
For entrees, I decided on the Kurobuta pork belly with pork croquette and caramelised apple, while Rene chose Peking duck consommé with duck dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms. We both enjoyed our entrees, we have had these on a previous visit but it was great to be able to sample them again. It is good to be able to go back to a restaurant and have something you enjoyed still be on the menu.
For mains Rene decided to have the Bass Grouper steamed fillet with jamon, samphire, currant grapes and rosemary, while I went for the roasted ballotine of chicken with crushed peas, wilted cos lettuce and sorrel sauce. Of course we couldn’t pass up the fabulous truffled potato mash. Both were delicious and the mash sublime. Still trying to work out which I would prefer to take with me to a desert island, Aria’s truffle mash or Glass’s parmesan and truffle chips. Hard choice that would be!
Desserts can not be missed when dining at Aria. I selected Milk chocolate and passionfruit dumplings with yuzu curd and passionfruit sorbet as a last nod to summer, and as Rene had a little wine left he decided to opt for the cheese selection that comprised Australian and international cheeses.
Not long after we watched the sun set, the rain came down, adding another dimension to the view out the window. The light sparkled off the wet cobblestones in the Opera House forecourt. Conveniently for us, the taxi stand is right outside the front door of Aria. After another wonderful meal at Aria we headed home to relax and watch a good movie
During our recent sojourn at the Pan Pacific in Singapore, Rene took me to Keyaki Restaurant, one of the Pan Pacific’s in house dining options. Being rather fond of Japan and Japanese food we decided to head there for lunch on our first day in Singapore and also on our last day.
Located on the 4th floor, Keyaki is situated within a traditional Japanese styled garden. Think raked pebbles, bonsai, snow lanterns and ponds of koi . Of course there is also the obligatory Tanuki statue, placed here and there in the garden. We were fortunate enough to spot a little tortoise in the pond on our second visit. Our room had a great view down to the gardens.
The interior is simple and elegant with lots of dark wood and clean lines. Large glass doors and windows allow views and access to the gardens. A traditional tea room is situated in the gardens and there are several private rooms. A sushi and sashimi bar allows for a more casual dining. Having the views to the gardens induces a sense of calm and peace, which leads you to want to linger over your meal.
Keyaki offers a la carte menu, set brunches/lunches and seasonal kaiseki dinners. The set brunches are around SGD$60 (plus taxes and surcharges) and we opted for this on our two visits. Starting with 3 appetisers, the courses include, sushi, sashimi, Chawan mushi, teppanyaki, tempura, Japanese style fried rice and dessert of green tea ice cream.
It felt like we were having a lunch in Tokyo or Kyoto rather than Singapore. Keyaki was a very pleasing experience and no doubt we will be heading there again next time we stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel.
Perched on the 57th floor of Singapore’s shining temple of shopping, ION Orchard, sits Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill and Sky Bar.
Looking like a mini Crystal Palace, the restaurant provides 360 degree views of Singapore. They have even included telescopes up the ramp between the restaurant and bar to give you a close up view of the city. The glass roof gives the feeling of eating al fresco without the inconvenience of insects, seagulls, wind and annoying yobbos.
Decorated in neutrals of all hues, the interior is comforting and relaxed. The restrained and elegant decor does not fight with the stunning views of Singapore, or the marvelous play of light and clouds through the windows.
Being very familiar with Glass here in Sydney and having missed the chance to try the original Salt in Darlinghurst, we jumped at the chance to have lunch here when the opportunity arose ie we needed to refuel ourselves for more shopping.
To access the restaurant you need to go to the reception desk on level 4 of ION Orchard where they will take your booking and then show you the way to the restaurant. In the waiting area for the elevators, a video of the sky is playing giving a hint to what to expect when you arrive on the 57th floor.
Once we were seated and had our menus the fun of choosing what to eat began. The easiest option is the 2 course Executive Lunch for SGD$40, which consists of four entree and four main choices. Sides are also listed and dessert can be added for an extra SGD$15.
Rene decided to go for the ‘Glass’ crab omelette, miso mustard broth followed by Barramundi fillet with Sydney spice, coconut and lime while I had Sashimi, ginger, eschallot and goats feta followed by slow cook free range pork belly, broth of smoked hock, white beans, oven dried tomato, chili and green olives.
We also decided to have dessert. I had Passionfruit cheesecake with banana and passionfruit sorbet while Rene had the Chef’s choice of soufflé, which on the day we went was a caramel soufflé.
In all it was a fabulous lunch and we would definitely head back for lunch next time we visit Singapore. Perhaps we might head in for a beverage to see Singapore lit up at night time too. We will also have to head to Salt next time we are in Tokyo.
A word of warning for the gentlemen: DON”T wear shorts. To get a table in the main area it is advisable to wear pants. This seems to be a common thing in Singapore restaurants. But we Aussie tourists are more accustomed to wanting to be relaxed on our holidays, so shorts are de rigeur, which meant we didn’t get a table on the main floor.
I figured it has been a while since actually posting a recipe here on my blog. I have decided to share one of our more popular desserts from work, that is easy and tasty, I mean who doesn’t love chocolate (or cream).
I make this chocolate mousse every week, usually in a quantity of 16 portions. Here I have given quantities for 4. At work we use Callebaut dark chocolate, I am itching to try this with the Lindt 70% dark chocolate, maybe for Easter.
Dark chocolate 200g
Pouring cream 120g
Thickened cream 100g
Eggs 2 seperated
Caster sugar 45g
Prepare your glasses. I like to make sure the glasses are spotless with no marks on them, this means I need to polish them before I even start the mixing. As I use steam for polishing I set up the saucepan I will use to melt the chocolate with some water and once there is some steam coming off the water, I hold a glass over it to fog up and then I polish it with a clean, lint free cloth. Place on a tray
Wipe a mixing bowl to ensure it is absolutely dry and put the chopped chocolate in it and then place over a saucepan of simmering water. Chocolate really hates moisture, you may have noticed if you get some water in melted chocolate it goes lumpy. Not a good look for a chocolate mousse.
When ¾ melted, remove from heat and stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
Put the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk for approximately 7 minutes over the simmering water until it is thick. Stir in to the chocolate, along with 20g of the pouring cream. (This is a little trick I learnt to keep the mixture smooth).
Allow mixture to cool. While cooling whisk both the creams together to medium stiff peaks.
Fold the cream in to the chocolate and fold until combined.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites and then fold the remainder in.
Spoon or ladle in to the polished glasses cover loosely with cling film and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve with a dollop of whipped or THICK cream, some strawberries and a mint leaf.
You don’t have to use glasses to serve it in if you don’t want to. You could always just serve it in a big bowl and then decorate as you wish.
My only lament is that it tastes much better with a splash of Kahluah, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Baileys and this is just a plain chocolate mousse. Maybe on the next menu I will add a bit of alcohol in to the mix for a flavour change.
Hope you enjoy the mousse and don’t eat it all yourself!!
Public holidays that fall on a weekend and then have an extra day on the Monday can sometimes be a blessing. New Years day Monday (as I will call it) found us heading in to the city to browse the shops for any bargains in the sales. After a few fruitless looks we decided we really needed to recharge the batteries and have something to eat. Surprisingly all the restaurants and the food court in Westfield Sydney (for the old timers – Centrepoint) were open. An unsuccessful attempt to go to Becasse found us heading to Simon Goh’s latest offering Chinta Ria-Mood For Love.
Chinta Ria Mood for Love has now been open for a couple of months and follows the opening of Simon’s other Westfield offering of Sassy’s Red (see earlier post) down on level 4. While Sassy’s red might be like your favourite aunt, Mood For Love is where she may have been taken by her current flame for a long, lingering lunch or dinner.
Chinta Ria Mood for Love is a hidden jewel in the massive Westfield complex. With a facade that is reminiscent of time worn buildings in a Malaysian kampong (village) and an exotic, sensual and seductive, yet comforting interior with lots of old world charm. Simon’s inspiration for Chinta Ria-Mood For Love is the Wong Kar Wai film, “In The Mood For Love” (2000), rated by Margaret Pomeranz as one of the top ten movies from the past 25 years.
Playing continuously on one wall is a short film commissioned by Simon to help young (or not so young) romantics get in the mood. Amongst the decadent decor are items from Simon’s own personal collection, such as the “Nipple”hung above the bar.
Apart from the main room, Simon has also included a private curtained area for small groups or for those couples after a little more privacy for their dining experience. Silken cushions line the banquettes, rich wooden tables dot the room and dim lighting accented with candles help to set the mood. Red and green candles are on each table, a sort of traffic light to indicate the level of intimacy required by the diners. Choosing red is the equivalent of ‘Do Not Disturb’ allowing for more discreet attention from the wait staff.
The menu is delightfully presented in a brown manila envelope and after taking it out it is in the form a film script. ‘Scenes’, represent each of the courses. There is cute whimsical turn with dishes being given names and characters. We decided to make it easier on ourselves (so much to choose from and not being too familiar with Malaysian food) and and opted for the set lunch menu with a bottle of Margan Semillon. Below is a copy of the tasting menu which we had.
We only managed to get a few shots of what we ate as it was so delicious we forgot to take photos.
Simon has another hit on his hands with Chinta Ria – Mood For Love. Such a shame I will be working on Valentines Day as this would have been a great place to spend the evening with Rene.
Keep an eye out for live music nights as Simon is passionate about jazz and blues.
So, if you are feeling a bit peckish while shopping in Westfield Sydney, this is a great place to rest your shopping bags and enjoy a great meal, or take your special person for a romantic dinner and opt for the red candle.
After what seems like ages Rene and I got together with our friends Helena and John for lunch at Pilu at Freshwater. Helena had suggested Pilu so she got the reservations all set up. We decided to take the ferry to Manly to meet Helena and John at their house, and then walk over from there. Must remember when walking is involved to wear flat shoes. Taking the ferry was a good idea as I was able to relax and enjoy some wine, had I driven I would only have gotten one or two glasses.
I had heard many good reports about Pilu and was excited to finally get there. Giovanni Pilu and Marilyn Annecchini set up Pilu at Freshwater in 2004 over looking Freshwater beach, which is just along from Manly Beach. The menu has a heavy Sardinian influence reflecting the birthplace Of Giovanni Pilu, and has a wine list heavy in Italian wines with a good emphasis on wines from Sardinia. The wine list also offers a fabulous regional selection from NSW.
On arrival we ordered some sparkling mineral water (which I was thrilled to see was the Bulgari label San Pellegrino) to refresh ourselves after our walk. We settled on a bottle of Berlucchi ‘Cuvée Storica 61’ – a sparkling rose from Franciacorta, as our aperitif. Franciacorta is a region in Lombardy in the north of Italy bordering Switzerland in the north, Emilia-Romagna in the south, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto in the east and Piedmont in the west. Rene and I really must learn more about Italian wines. Often a rose can tend to a bit of sweetness, but this one was dry and perfect to get lunch started.
After a bit of catch up talk we decided to go for the tasting menu with matching wines.
First course was scampi with sea urchin butter, this is the second time I have had sea urchin now. Really good!! The scampi was lightly grilled and the sea urchin butter made a great sauce. This was served with Pala ‘I Fiori’ – Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2010.
Second course was a ravioli of potato mint and pecorino with burnt butter, sage and black truffle. Served with Santadi ‘Pedraia’ – Nuragus di Cagliari DOC 2009.
The next two courses we didn’t get photos of as we were all too busy eating and talking
Third course: Fregola with tomato and cured meat ragout. On Sunday I thought this was risotto but a bit of research has led me to find that fregola is a Sardinian pasta very similar to Israeli cous cous. It is made from semolina dough and rolled in to balls about 2 -3mm in diameter. The ragout served with this was rich and delicious. Now that I know what fregola is I will be looking out for it when shopping and eating out. Our wine changed to a red for this course Pala ‘I Fiori’ – Monica di Sardegna DOC. There are times when you really want a lighter red and this wine is it. Great flavour and it didn’t overwhelm the food.
This was followed by an orange and olive sorbet. This was served in a fancy spoon, with the sorbet sitting on top of the finely minced olives. Very nice, although personally, I would have liked the olives on top so you get the salty first followed by the sweet.
Fourth course: Snapper fillet with Vernaccia di Oristano and green olives. I love olives and these were the greenest I have ever seen, very low on saltiness (I could eat quite a lot of these if I had a bowl in front of me). For the wine we were back to a white here, Contini ’Karmis’ – Bianco Tharros IGT 2010. A bit more research was required as Vernaccia is new to me. Vernaccia is a sherry style wine from Sardinia and apparently not often found outside of Italy.
Fifth course: Oven roasted suckling pig served on the bone with condiments. Sounds better in Italian: Porcetto arrosto. Succulent pieces of suckling pig with a nice crisp crackling, served on a wooden board. Our condiments came out on our plates, orange jam(bitter orange which went so well with the fattiness of the pork), poached apple and salsa Verdi. A bowl of roasted chats was also served. With this course we were back to a red, Tani ‘Serranu’ – Isola dei Nuraghi IGT 2009.
Sixth course: Sardinian fried pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm corbezzolo honey. Another new ingredient (even though it is honey), Corbezzolo (also called strawberry bush) is a Sardinian native bush that flowers from October till the end of December. This honey has a hint of bitterness. This pastry was like a little ravioli and was a flavoursome little dessert. The wine was also amazing, sweet but not overbearingly so, Mesa ‘Orodoro’ – LA Vino Bianco Passito VDT 2009.
We had the option of a further cheese course but we were full. Anything more would have been overkill. To finish our tasting we had a digestive of ‘Mezzo’ Mirto – Lucrezio. Mirto is a liqueur made from the berries of the Myrtle tree which grows freely in Sardinia. A very interesting and very different liqueur.
A great lunch and a great day out with friends. There is nothing like a lunch that takes 4 ½ hours. If you plan to make a reservation, get in early and book a seat by the window overlooking the beach.
Wishing all my Readers a Very Merry Christmas and Lots of happiness in 2012!