West Australian goodies grace the world’s best tables
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