West Aus­tralian good­ies grace the world’s best ta­bles

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - Ju­dith Elen

LAN­GUISH­ING on an­nual hol­i­days, Food De­tec­tive has not ne­glected the news trail: from West­ern Aus­tralia’s truf­fle farms to ex­trav­a­gant cham­pagne events in Syd­ney (there were mo­ments when she may have been de­scribed as the Singing De­tec­tive, but it was hols, re­mem­ber).

In all of this, WA emerges as the star of the mo­ment. Po­tent black fungi from The Wine & Truf­fle Co in Man­jimup were on hand to help cel­e­brate the re­cent chris­ten­ing of half-Aus­tralian Princess Isabella of Den­mark. De­tec­tive can find no press cov­er­age here of this coup, but the truf­fles were a high­light amid re­cep­tion del­i­ca­cies savoured by crown princes and princesses, barons, baronesses, and oth­ers only used to the best.

De­tec­tive’s palace snout re­ports that in­di­vid­ual menu cards listed the ori­gin of the truf­fles, which were much talked about. At least a dozen Copen­hagen restau­rants are in­ter­ested.

MAN­JIMUP truf­fles have also been fly­ing high in New York. They were the cen­tre­piece of a Black Truf­fle Din­ner or­gan­ised by David Doe­pel, re­gional di­rec­tor for the WA Trade and In­vest­ment of­fice in the Amer­i­cas, and co-hosted by Aus­tralia’s con­sul-gen­eral in New York, John Olsen. At Lever House Restau­rant on Park Av­enue, head chef Dan Sil­ver­man whipped up such treats as poached guinea hen with black truf­fles and foie gras, and mar­ron and black truf­flestuffed savoy cab­bage with truf­fled shell­fish broth. All fea­tured WA’s world-class prod­ucts, in­clud­ing Blue Ridge Mar­ron, Dan­dara­gan Olive Oil, Lake Crys­tal Salt and wines from Pem­ber­ton, Man­jimup, Great South­ern and the Swan Dis­trict.

The Wine & Truf­fle Co’s prod­uct ‘‘ passed the sniff test’’ at the din­ner and there were some very fussy eaters there, Doe­pel tells De­tec­tive. Guests were buy­ers for fine din­ing restau­rants and gourmet stores, and se­nior food writ­ers, in­clud­ing Florence Fabri­cant of TheNewYorkTimes.

STILL on the lux­ury trail, a dili­gent Melbourne snout has drawn De­tec­tive’s at­ten­tion to Do­maine de la Ro­ma­nee Conti La Tache, a grand cru bur­gundy on the wine lists at Melbourne’s Vue de Monde and Taxi Din­ing Room; a hefty $6400 in the first case, but a snip at $1175 at Taxi.

This do­maine in bur­gundy pro­duces some of the world’s great­est pinot noir. One of its hall­mark vin­tages is 1978, but 2003 was Europe’s third-hottest year on record, so the bur­gundy is won­der­ful, even unique, but will not last.

As a price com­par­i­son, Wine­Searcher.com lists the wine be­tween $US1400 ($1623) and $US2800 (UK and Swiss prices are high­est). So big-spend­ing con­nois­seurs would be ad­vised to hail Taxi.

Taxi som­me­lier Lin­coln Ri­ley rightly tells De­tec­tive: ‘‘ I can still make some money and I pre­fer to have such wines con­sumed in the restau­rant rather than sit as tro­phies on the wine list’’.

THE in­au­gu­ral Coon­awarra Chefs Din­ner, held on Tues­day last week at Pipers of Penola, in SA’s famed wine re­gion, aimed to show­case the wines as well as the culi­nary heights be­ing at­tained in the re­gion. It was such a suc­cess it’s set to be­come an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion. Chefs at the din­ner were lo­cals with im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials: Si­mon Bowen of Pipers, Ian Perry from Up­stairs at Hol­lick (Hol­lick Wines), and Richard Moretti from wine re­sort Chardon­nay Lodge.

To­gether they’ve worked for chefs such as Stephanie Alexan­der and Alla Wolf-Tasker in Vic­to­ria, and the Roux brothers in Lon­don. Pre­lim­i­nary plans for the 2008 din­ner are again fo­cus­ing on July. Mean­while savour the re­gion at th­ese three restau­rants: www.penola.org; www.hol­lick.com/up­stairs; www.chardon­nay­lodge.com.au.

THE flashiest event of short-term me­mory was cer­tainly Moet & Chan­don’s launch of its 2000 vin­tage, staged in the up­stairs re­cep­tion rooms at Syd­ney’s Over­seas Pas­sen­ger Ter­mi­nal. All bub­bles un­der the bridge now, but of great food in­ter­est, with two Miche­lin-starred chef Thierry Marx— flown in from Bordeaux for the event — per­form­ing some­thing of a smoke-and­mir­rors (the smoke se­creted with fish be­neath glass domes) mir­a­cle for a vast crowd of moguls, movie stars and me­dia per­son­al­i­ties from around the South Pa­cific.

Among the dishes was a bowl with tiny sweet oys­ters, roe-like gran­ules made from bean sprouts, a slice of truf­fle and a wash of foam redo­lent of a sea­side rock pool.

This brand of molec­u­lar food is lit­tle seen in Syd­ney and some present thought this a good thing. How­ever, De­tec­tive was in­trigued. It spot­lighted the di­verse aims in food prepa­ra­tion: food as art event, ma­nip­u­lat­ing colours, tex­tures and aro­mas, rather than ac­tu­ally of­fer­ing sus­te­nance ( De­tec­tive felt like an ex­tra in an art in­stal­la­tion).

Mean­while the Moet 2000 chef de cave (wine­maker), Benoit Gouez, had the vin­tage served in a wider than nor­mal tulip-shaped flute and ad­vised guests to let it breathe in the glass. It was de­li­cious, but the star that out­shone all the glit­ter was the 1962 vin­tage, which was flowery and fresh, yet com­plex with flavours.

De­tec­tive won­ders whether the 2000, if left in the bot­tle for 40-odd years, will de­velop to this level of per­fec­tion.

TALK­ING of molec­u­lar food, ex­ec­u­tive chef Rahul Ak­erkar of Mumbai’s Indigo, also at the Moet func­tion, told De­tec­tive he’d re­cently eaten at The Fat Duck, He­ston Blu­men­thal’s restau­rant out­side Lon­don, where snail por­ridge is a sig­na­ture dish, and it was won­der­ful. Cruis­ing Fat Duck’s menu, De­tec­tive no­tices some­thing enig­mat­i­cally listed as ‘‘ sound of the sea’’, and a dish of mac­er­ated straw­ber­ries fea­tur­ing black olive and leather puree and pis­ta­chio scram­bled egg.

LATEST cool restau­rant and bar, The Lin­coln in Syd­ney’s Kings Cross, also held an ul­tra tast­ing last week, show­cas­ing its Cham­pagne Salon and its tal­ented chef Richard Duff, whose dishes per­fectly part­nered the leg­endary bub­bles of Krug. Krug Clos du Mes­nil 1995 was the evening’s high­point.

Cut­ting-edge hair em­peror Os­car Cullinan and qui­etly charm­ing Martin O’Sul­li­van are of­fer­ing great food, drinks and down­stairs danc­ing in a nest of rooms in this so­phis­ti­cated for­mer pole-danc­ing joint at 36 Bayswa­ter Rd.

The chef sources his truf­fles from Oberon High Coun­try Truf­fles in NSW, by the way, one of the tiny, ob­scure op­er­a­tions that are pop­ping up around the coun­try, he told De­tec­tive.

STILL on the scent, Vic­to­rian truf­fle dog breeder Ge­orgie Pat­ter­son will be giv­ing demon­stra­tions with her pur­pose-bred spaniels dur­ing Lake House’s Win­ter Mas­ter­class at Dayles­ford.

Melbourne chefs Ge­orge Calom­baris ( The Press Club), Philippa Si­b­ley ( Circa), An­thony Musarra ( Stoke­house), Syd­ney’s Justin North ( Be­casse) and Lake House’s own Alla Wolf-Tasker, will lead classes. Sun­day, Au­gust 5, from 10.30am; $195 a per­son, full day. www.aussi­etruf­fle­dogs.com.au; www.lake­house.com.au.

IN a case of en­durian love, The­Guardian Weekly re­ports that a Thai gov­ern­ment sci­en­tist, Song­pol Som­sri, af­ter 20 years of cross-breed­ing the in­fa­mously stinky — but to many de­li­cious — trop­i­cal durian, has come up with a strain that smells of ba­nana. A cop-out for true durian lovers, surely.

THE much-awaited Kells Kitchen Restau­rant & Bar at the Kir­ke­ton in Dar­linghurst Road, Syd­ney, for­mer home of Salt and the sadly de­funct Kir­ke­ton restau­rant, qui­etly staged a ‘‘ soft open­ing’’ this week. Re­ports later.

Find of the week: Quiet per­fec­tion­ist Serge Dansereau’s chef’s ta­ble (min­i­mum eight per­sons, with book­ing), at The Bathers’ Pavil­ion at Syd­ney’s Bal­moral Beach is a re­dis­cov­ery. Six or seven dishes for each course al­ter­nate around the ta­ble, en­cour­ag­ing swaps and shares. Each dish is a reve­la­tion: artis­tic, per­fect and sus­tain­ing. www.batherspavil­ion.com.au.

De­tec­tive loves: Nudie’s new drink, lots of green fruit, wheat­grass & more. With a name like that, you can’t miss it. About $3 for 250ml from large su­per­mar­kets.

De­tec­tive loathes: Bris­bane reader Clive Hodges re­ports, on be­half of his friend, Bar­rie Noble of Sal­is­bury in Queens­land, a private loathing shared by De­tec­tive: hot meals com­ing from the kitchen on cold plates. Hear, hear. Dis­re­spect for the food and dis­com­fort for the pa­trons.

Coon­awarra chefs: Perry, Bowen and Moretti

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