Shaw + Smith Wine Dinner at the National Wine Centre

Wednesday night Vic and I were invited along to the Shaw + Smith Wine Dinner at the National Wine Centre. It was a pretty fitting time for wine, we’d just spent the public holiday down at Sea and Vines but with Shaw + Smith we jumped to a new region: The Adelaide Hills. I’ve been to a few events at the Wine Centre before, for product nights and for charity lunches, but this was my first time going along to one of the wine dinners.

The Shaw + Smith menu. Sashimi of kingfish canapé. Olives, dukkah, and olive oil & balsamic. 

We started with a glass of the 2012 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc and canapés. The sashimi of kingfish, with lime & fennel and horseradish gel, was really light and fresh.  We got to have a quick chat before sitting down for the meal and the rest of the wine.

But before we get to that: the bread. It just kept coming, terrible for your hips but amazing for your stomach, taste buds, etc. We were given bread before every course, and while the bread itself was nice, the real reason we enjoyed it so much was because of the dukkah and the balsamic. The dukkah had a rich and salty flavour, and was made in house, and the balsamic was sticky and sweet. We were hoping that they sold them somewhere at the Wine Centre, but unfortunately they don’t.

Michael Hill-SmithFlowers. 

 There were 9 people on our table, and I got chatting to the lady next to me, turns out she bakes gourmet pies and sells them at the Murray Bridge Farmers Market every Saturday. *Scribble, scribble*. It’s definitely added to my diary, and how could it not be. As soon as she started talking about rabbit, venison, and beef & Guinness pies I was already drooling.

There was plenty of time to chat at the dinner, and I can’t reiterate how much I love dining with strangers. It’s always interesting to get to know someone for a night, but it’s even better when you’re sharing food and wine. Of course in-between courses we also did a lot of listening, as Michael Hill-Smith took to the microphone to talk to us not only about the wines we we drinking, but Shaw + Smith, their history, and wine in general.

He was funny, and incredibly knowledgeable, it was one of those times where I just had to sit there and soak it up. One of my favourite things with wine (apart from drinking it) is getting to hear from someone directly involved with the wine or the wine making process, because this is usually where you get really see their passion. It’s the same with food, and getting to meet the chefs who create it.

Textures of rabbit. Roasted duck breast & confit leg. House made chocolates. Aged English cheese. 

Of course, of course… then there was the food. The first dish (excluding canapés) would have to be my favourite. It was called Textures of  Rabbit: with sage buttered gnocchi, jamon iberico, & mustards. The rabbit was delicious, not an inch of it was dry, and the potato gnocchi tasted like it had been soaking in butter for days (in a good way of course). I wanted every mouthful to last so much longer than it did. With the rabbit we had a 2010 Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay, and a 2006 Shaw + Smith Aged Release Riesling.

Our main was duck, cooked two ways. It was really interesting having the two pieces of duck on the one plate, each tasting completely different. The confit duck leg sat perfectly on the plate, but the moment my knife touched the meat it just slipped through, and the meat fell off the bone. With the duck we had a 2010 Incognito Pinot Noir and a 2010 Shaw + Smith Pino Noir.

There was no grand dessert, instead we had a selection of house made chocolates, and cheese. Both good accompaniments to wine. With this we had a 2009 Shaw + Smith Shiraz and a 2010 Pre-Release Shaw + Smith Shiraz. After the meal Phillip Pope, the  chef at the National Wine Centre, came round to every table, happy to chat about the meals and how he created them.

Overall we had a great night, it was a good chance to try some wines, learn more about the Shaw + Smith winery, and meet some new people.

This was the first dinner of the 2012 Wine Dinner season. The next dinner with Henschke is already sold out, but there are four others. The wine makers involved are D’Arenberg, Charles Melton, Penny’s Hill, and Teusner.

In Sydney with Sony: Day 2

My second day in Sydney was rounding up at 4, when I’d hop in the car to the airport to catch the plane back to Adelaide. Before leaving I’d already decided that I’d be having breakfast at fouratefive, but then I spotted bills at the bottom of my hotel and I knew I might have to stretch myself.

So I hopped up early, and made my way down to bills. Laptop in hand so I could take advantage of the hotel internet. I knew exactly what I’d be having: the ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. They were definitely tasty, but they didn’t blow me away. I don’t know if I was expecting a bit more sweetness from the honeycomb butter. All in all I was happy with them, but I’d branch out to try something else next time.

My favourite thing about breakfast at bills was their range of drinks. I like cold drinks.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, and I like tea but I rarely order it out, so I love a good list of cold drinks that doesn’t revolve around milk, soft drinks, or bottled juices. bills have a great range of freshly squeezed juices as well as bills homemade lemonade, ice tea, rosehip and mint punch, and elderflower cordial. I picked the rosehip and mint punch, it was fun, fresh, and spritzy.

Rosehip & mint punch. Ricotta hotcakes with banana & honeycomb butter. Homemade creamed corn w/ poached eggs, crispy bacon, & sourdough bread. Gooey egg.

Of course I’d already committed myself to fouratefive. I was dining on limited time, so I figured there was no halm in popping in for second breakfast. I was embracing my inner hobbit for the day. Everyone thought I was crazy when I chose an outside table, but by this stage the sun was still streaming down through the clouds and I was making the most of it.

After my sweeter breakfast of pancakes I went for the creamed corn instead, with poached eggs and bacon. It was such a warming filling breakfast, and it managed to stay warm  from the moment it landed on my table till I took my last mouthful. Too often breakfast ends up cold before you’re even halfway through. I was impressed. fouratefive is a really lovely spot, made better by the friendly people working there. I was eyeing off their pastries but I thought that third breakfast was taking it a bit too far. I still had to leave room for multiple lunches.

Lemon fruit shake. Short rib sandwich. Salmon salad. Mango cupcake. 

Wandering through Sydney I also came across Ghermez, a pretty looking cupcake spot. After much deliberation I decided I’d bring a box of six mini cupcakes back to Adelaide, and grab myself a mango cupcake to enjoy there. The cake was soft, light, and moist. I’m still a cream cheese fan, but the butter cream was pretty tasty.

Then it was back to Surry Hills where I first stopped off at Hey Brew Cafe. It’s a small place on Foveaux Street in Surry Hills. I’d passed it the day before and decided I’d have to pop in to have a look. I ummed and ahhed at their sandwiches, but knew I couldn’t go past their short rib sandwich.  Japanese beef ribs, purple cabbage kim chi, and honey-dew melon. It was served on a ciabatta, and mmmmmmm. That’s about all I can say. It was juicy, sweet, meaty. Just a really tasty sandwich. Nothing was dry, nothing was bland. I was impressed.

Rounding up my day I was making one last stop, back to bills to finish off a bit more work while I waited for my car to arrive. I had a quick look at their menu and decided on their Salmon Salad with Caramel Coconut Dressing. I was expecting a tasty salad, with some smoked salmon. I thought I would like it, but I really wasn’t prepared. I have to say this my favourite salad out of any I’ve ever eaten. I’m not saying it’s the best, but if you were to put together the perfect salad for me, this would be it.

There was not a hint of smoked salmon in sight, instead a few sizeable chunks of crispy skinned salmon. It had that melt-in-your-mouth texture and a beautiful salmon flavour. Lettuce was also not in the picture, instead leaves of coriander and mint and some healthy sized chunks of cucumber. The grapefruit was a great addition, and the dressing was a delicious Asian style offering.

Breakfast wasn’t quite enough to make me want to rush back to Bill’s, I mainly stopped in to use some WIFI again, but that salad made my trip to Sydney. It’s a firm favourite I’ll be coming back for again, and again, and again, and again.

SAFM Winter Mystery Break in Clare

I got a phone call on Thursday from Sam: did I want to get up really early Friday morning to possibly win a night away to one of the 7 Country Club Hotels and Resorts in South Australia. Of course I said yes, packed a bag, and got ready to leave at 6 the next morning. We were having dinner at the Adelaide Meridien Hotel & Apartment; Hayley, Craig, & Rabbit were broadcasting live, and there were around 20 other couples all hoping to win the night away.

Thankfully, we won! But so did all of the other couples there. After the winner was drawn it was announced that we’d all be going away. We were lucky enough to get a night at the Clare Country Club, and with the weather we had over the weekend it was great to get away somewhere full of plenty of cellar doors and warm fires.

We had a two bedroom spa suite. Right by the pool which I’m sure would be lovely in summer, and sat on a lake that would have been great to picnic by. We weren’t getting the chance to enjoy any of these because it rained, and rained, and rained. Instead we hopped from cellar door to cellar door. We drove up to Burra to Thorogoods Apple Wines & Cider cellar door. Their apple wines were interesting, but I’m not sure if they’re something I’d choose to drink too often. They were quite syrupy, with an oaky, earthy, flavour. We didn’t get to try the cider, they don’t open the bottles because otherwise the bubbles will run out. I still picked up two bottles to take home.

The other cellar doors we popped into were Jim Barry Wines, Knappstein Winery & Brewery, and then Annie’s Lane and Crabtree Watervale Wines on our way home. We also popped into the Sevenhill Produce Market on Saturday morning. There were so many jams and pastries, and everything looked delicious. There wasn’t much fresh produce there, but we reckon it was a combination of the rain and the fact that the Clare Gourmet Weekend was the week before.

For lunch we popped into the Wild Saffron Cafe. It was a gourgeous little cafe on the main street, that doubled as a store selling gourmet foods and cute homewares. I ordered salmon and lime fishcakes with a glass noodle salad. It was really light and refreshing. I was a little worried that the fish cakes would be dry, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this cafe, but they were soft and still quite moist, and broke apart easily. There was probably a bit more lime than you’d expect from a Thai salad, but I think it worked, I always like a bit of tang.

We had a main meal included in our prize so we had dinner at Conners, the restaurant at the Clare Country Club. We’d met another couple at breakfast that morning, and had made plans to join each other at dinner that night. Thankfully we bumped into them during the day so we could touch base and get out dinner reservations scheduled for the same time.

While mains were free, I couldn’t help but get an entree as well. King prawns on a guacamole type salsa. The meal was nice, but the prawns were a little overcooked, so I felt it could have been a bit better. The lamb on the other hand was cooked perfectly, still a bit pink, and it was topped with grilled vegetables and greek yoghurt. We of course ordered dessert, so I got the creme brulee, nice and creamy and with a good crack. We probably wouldn’t have eaten there if our mains weren’t free, the restaurant was pretty expensive, and while we all enjoyed our meals I probably wouldn’t have been happy if I was paying for it all.

We really had a great weekend away, and I’d definitely recommend the Clare Country Club to others. This was the first time I’ve been to Clare since I was little, and now I can’t wait to get back there.

Eat: Press Food & Wine

One of the things I’ve really gained from food blogging is the confidence to eat alone. When I’ve travelled in the past I’ve settled for cheap fast food across the road, or I’ve grabbed something from the supermarket, rather than finding a nice restaurant. Quite frankly it sucked. These days I couldn’t care less whether I’m with friends, or alone, as long as there’s good food involved.

Which gets me to my declaration: Press, I love you.

The other day I walked into Press, all alone, and asked them to feed me. In other words I asked them if their tasting menu could be eaten for one person. The answer: not really, but they put something together for me and I sat down to enjoy.

The oysters were the freshest oysters I’ve eaten. They were like taking a breath of sea air, seasoned so lightly so that the neutral flavour could come through. The sweetcorn salad was littered with pink peppercorns that popped in your mouth, and had a sweetness to them.

The crab pasta was moreish. There was a peppery bite to it that gave it some extra warmth, this helped as by the time I got to this course it was really starting to cool down outside. I got a PIMMS cocktail which was light and refreshing.

CRACK. This was the perfect end to a really enjoyable meal. The inside was smooth and creamy, but the top had a that signature crack.

It was nice sitting by myself, staring out the window and people watching, but next time I think I might bring a pen or a book along. I didn’t get any of the offal this time, although I enjoyed the brains my first time at Press, so next time I think I might try the offal mixed grill.

You can check out a sample menu on the Press Food & Wine website.

Eat: Thanh Thanh, T-Chow, & Sweety

Last Thursday I ate. I think that is a good enough description of how my entire day was planned.

It all started with a Twitter call-out.

Where is the best pho in the CBD?

I’d been editing an article on pho the night before and staring at the writers photo just had me craving a bowl. See, I’m CBD specific because I was already in town and I don’t drive, so there was no way I could make it into the Western or Northern suburbs just to get a bowl. The resounding choice for CBD pho was Thanh Thanh, from people who loved it and people who had just heard rumours.

I’m getting a lot better at eating by myself, and this was a solo lunch. I picked the green paw paw salad & combination pho, plus a custard apple smoothie on Celeste’s recommendation.

combination pho, lemon soda, custard apple smoothie, green papaya salad. 

I’ll agree with others who have said the pho isn’t as beefy as some others, but believe me it was still delicious and completely hit my craving, it was just a bit subtle. The green papaya salad on the other hand was just delicious, fresh herbs with crisp grated vegetables, pork, and dripping in sauce. The perfect mix of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy that Vietnamese salad dressings are so well known for. I also grabbed a lemon soda- very reminiscent of the nouc chanh that was part of our staple diet in Vietnam, but with soda water.

I’m also so glad I read Celeste’s review before heading along, because the custard apple smoothie was just delicious. Smoothies are one of the things I miss from Vietnam. When we’d go down to the Tourist area of HCMC for breakfast we’d always grab a fresh fruit smoothie to go with our banh & egg. The flavours at Thanh Thanh were interesting: custard apple, avocado, and durian are the ones I can remember, and they were good value by Adelaide standards. I’ll admit though, it still hurts a little paying $10 for a bowl of pho.

Thankfully my large lunch meant that I wasn’t hungry for the rest of the day, because my dinner date with Sam at T-Chow wasn’t until 9:30pm. He had work to keep him occupied beforehand, I had my nieces. I got there half an hour early and did a bit of people watching, with a bit of extra focus on the two cute Frenchmen dining across the road.

I ordered the Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab, San Choy Bau, and Eggplant & Pork Hot Pot. Sam had lemon chicken and some Asian greens.

Does anyone have a preferred spelling of San Choy Bau? I’m lost with which combo to choose. Anyway, the food. It was all tasty and filling. I would have liked a bit more of a crabby flavour with the soft shell crab, but the San Choy Bau was fresh and crunchy. I think it’s the perfect start to a meal. I of course over ordered, because I can never settle on one thing, so there was quite  a bit left over by the end of it.

Suprisingly we still at room for dessert at Sweety. I’d passed it earlier in the day on my way to Thanh Thanh, and figured I’d never tried it before so we may as well give it a go.

The room was a little too big to be quite as empty as it was, yet despite there only being a handfull of people inside our food took forever to come. We were starting to regret the choice because we were just so tired, and were hoping to just grab a quick bite to eat.

I had the Egg White & Almond Tea (hot). It was deliciously warm, and had just the right amount of sweetness balancing out the slight marzipan flavour of the almond. I really wished we didn’t have a 40 minute drive ahead of us, because this would have been the perfect dish to have right before hopping into a nice warm bed. I wasn’t a fan of my red bean on ice (drink), but I think that’s just a personal taste thing. Usually I’m jumping all over the place trying to get my hands on some red bean, but this just didn’t work for me, I did like it when I got a spoonfull of red bean and ice cream.

Overall Sweety left a lot to be desired, I’m sure we’ll be back to check it out again, but it’s not leaving any lasting memories with me.

Thanh Thanh on UrbanspoonT-Chow on UrbanspoonSweety on Urbanspoon

Eat: Eggless March Menu

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Eggless twice in one month, but March was a great month to do so. Eggless got into the Mad March spirit with their ‘Unearthly Delights’ Menu.

The first trip was with K & Miss C. I’d taken Miss C to a pretty fab Fringe show, but had to get baking the next morning, so K was giving me a lift al the way back home. As I treat to them both I shouted Eggless for the night. Miss C had the strawberry & hazelnut cheesecake and I chose the onde onde. I can tell you it was hard to resist the Unearthly Delight, but I already knew I’d be visiting again with Sam next week and I was saving it for then.

It was Miss C’s first Eggless visit, I can safely say I have another convert. I loved the onde onde, it reminded me a bit of mochi which I’m also a big fan of. The flavours change throughout the month, and they were calling for fans of their Facebook page to add in any suggestions.

The second time I was out with Sam. We knew we were after the Unearthly Delight and the Flourless Banana Slice with Lime, Elderflower & Black Pepper Sorbet weeks before we actually got the chance to visit. Now usually I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but how could I refuse this?

A wicked & delicious chocolate tard layered with raspberry jam, black cherries, chocolate ganache, pistachio cream, & pistachio fairy floss.

Oh my it was lovely. The black cherries popped in your mouth, adding a sweet & sour element, and I can never refuse a dish topped with fairy floss. I was also a little bit in love with the sorbet. Thankfully Sam let me tuck into most of that.

While the food was fantastic, and the ambience was great, as always the selling point for me comes down to the owners & the staff. Another win for Eggless.

Eat: Bliss Organic Garden Cafe

It was time for a brunch catch up with R, an old work friend. The location? Bliss Organic Garden Cafe. This was my first time at Bliss, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. R had raved about their brownies for a while, but the night before another friend had told me a few bad stories about her experiences. I was still going in with an open mind.

We sat outside, in a beautiful garden area. There was a wooden gazebo, and plenty of plants surrounding the table. There was definitely a very hippy vibe to the place, it felt like it was all about relaxing and unwinding. It actually reminded me of a few backpacker hostel type places in SE Asia, in places like Chiang Mai & Sapa.

I ordered banana pancakes with native syrup, a breakfast I used to get all the time when we were living in Vietnam, and a hot spiced apple drink that reminded me of something we had our last time in Sapa. Okay, yes I was trying to push the Asia nostalgia a little far. R ordered a BLT, but being vegan of course it was fake bacon.

My pancakes were light and the combo of banana and the syrup was very yummy, and the spiced apple drink was warming and delicious. R’s BLT was huge, and she couldn’t finish the whole thing. I made sure I tried a bit of her ‘bacon’, it had a strong smokey flavour, but definitely wasn’t much like bacon. R also raved about the vegan iced chocolate on the menu.

I loved the atmosphere here, even if it’s not my usual scene.

Bliss Organic Cafe on Urbanspoon