Waiting for a Table

Martin Field 2011-11-13T03:26:13+00:000000001330201111 Food and Wine

They also serve who only stand and wait.” John Milton said that.

Well, I was serving and waiting but as I quickly discovered I was in a definite no standing zone.

Of the many jobs I’ve had, waiting in a restaurant wasn’t one of them. How hard could it be? I asked myself.

So I’d asked Ipazzi restaurateurs Ruby and Fabio if I could observe and help on the restaurant floor for an evening. Foolishly, I thought, they agreed.

First off, I helped set tables and learned the table numbering layout.

Then I thought I’d be a kitchen hand for a bit and hung around backstage as Fabio prepped and created sauces for the evening rush.

The industrial-sized stove radiated what seemed like megawatts of heat, and what with chef Fabio flaming away with juggled frying pans and all, and despite the extractor fans sucking like a reverse steam locomotive, I found it too hot. So, you guessed it, I got out.

Too hot for some

Friday night, about half the tables were booked, and it looked to me disappointingly quiet. Then, over a short space of time, booked guests and walk-ins arrived in a rush and all the tables were full.

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Come eravamo… nel 1865

Luca Risso 2011-11-10T13:54:11+00:000000001130201111 Vino @it

Il vino in Italia non è sempre stato come lo conosciamo oggi. Possiamo dire che la nostra storia in questo campo incomincia con l’unità politica del Regno d’Italia (1861), quando anche con l’enologia si cercò di creare un principio di coscienza unitaria. Il vino di Barolo e il vino del Chianti prendono forma nella prima metà dell’800 ma solo con l’unità d’Italia incominciano a essere presentati nei concorsi e nelle esposizioni internazionali e ad affermarsi come prodotti di qualità superiore. Naturalmente non esistevano denominazioni, disciplinari, albi di vitigni e in generale chiunque poteva produrre vino assolutamente come gli pareva. D’altro canto la prima riorganizzazione della viticoltura su basi razionali avvenne solo in seguito e a causa della devastazione causata dalla Filossera, dopo il 1868. (more…)

Star Drinking

Martin Field 2011-11-01T05:35:23+00:000000002330201111 Wine Tasting

Taltarni Taché 2010 – RRP $26 – ˜˜˜***. Taché – i.e. stained with red wine. A blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Pale blush, busy small bead, foamy head. Nose reminds me of strawberries and brioche. Palate is full and fruity; the apparent fruit sweetness ably supported by an undercurrent of firm yet integrated acidity. Pleasing aperitif style yet with a structure to suit entrée accompaniment.

Lock & Key Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $15 – ˜˜**. Orange, New South Wales. Light in the glass, edge of green. Sauvignon style at the tropical rather than herbal end of the spectrum. Generous fruit salad nose. Soft and full in the mouth, with hints of pineapple and lychee. Medium dry to finish.

Alta Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio 2011 – $20 – ˜˜˜***. Almost water pale. Limes and white blossoms permeate the bouquet. Clean, dry style with lovely citrus-oriented flavours and an edge of sherbert like tang to close.

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Marseille

Martin Field 2011-11-01T01:38:16+00:000000001630201111 Wine Travel

Then it’s another relatively short bus ride to Marseille, the second largest city in France.

Our apartment, only a stroll from the Vieux Port, is on the sixth floor. The decor is modern with smart furnishings and looks out over the city roofline. Each morning we watch as a large seagull regurgitates fish for her obese chick nesting just outside the window.

Marseille chick waiting for fishy petit dejeuner

(The apartment is in fact the best accommodation we had on the trip. See details here.)

Nearby is the main commercial thoroughfare, Rue Canebiere, popularly known by English speakers as ‘Can o’ Beer’. The name is derived from long-disappeared hemp farms that provided cordage for sailing ships in the olden days. (more…)

Onwards to Aix en Provence

Martin Field 2011-11-01T01:13:08+00:000000000830201111 Wine Travel

Waiting for the bus to Aix en Provence on a gloomy platform. In the middle of the day, it is a vast dark space like a set in search of a horror movie. The waiting room looks slummy, is graffitied and smells like a pissoir. Spooky.

Waiting for a bus

 

First stop in Aix is for a refreshing drink at a sidewalk bar. Among the thronging crowds in the Cours Mirabeau, we sip a milky, pungent pastis.

Cocktails with Cézanne

That evening, as we take a stroll past the Musee Granet, a departing guest hands us his invitation to cocktails for the opening of the Cézanne exhibition two days later (Collection Planque).

As if we own the place, we walk in among the dignitaries and culturati, me in my cocktail outfit of Dunlop Volleys and frayed Nepalese cut off shorts. Luckily, we have missed the speeches and immediately join the guests tucking in to huge plates of food and generous glasses of red.

Lucy asks what we should say if one of the many security people ask who we are. “I’ll tell them, ‘I’m the cultural attaché from the Orstrylian Ministry of the Yartz!’” I reply. (more…)

Riedel Vinum Tasting

Martin Field 2011-11-01T00:38:35+00:000000003530201111 Wine Tasting

Mark Baulderstone, Riedel’s local head honcho, was at Gibson’s in Noosa recently, taking a bunch of tasters through the Riedel Vinum range.

The glasses were the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc and Montrachet models. For comparison, wines were also tasted in stock standard ISO glasses.

Mark made a strong case that the nose of a wine is the main factor in dictating its taste. He then demonstrated quite convincingly how different Riedel shapes enhanced their particular varietal counterparts. With a bit of deft glass-swapping he also showed how an unattuned shape could in fact diminish enjoyment.

The ISO glasses fared quite badly in all cases.

On the evening the standout matching was a Stoniers Reserve 2008 Pinot Noir in the Burgundy stem.

Thinks, I’d like to see a blind tasting exercise to really put the varietal glasses through their paces.

Thinks again, glassware enhancement of nose and taste must always be based on the assumption that the varietal tasted is true to type.

A real fisherman’s Bouillabaisse with Loire wines

Mike Tommasi 2011-10-09T22:06:08+00:000000000831201110 Food and Wine

The best Bouillabaisse is served at the house of a fisherman here in coastal Provence, Jean Canale, who lives near the old salt marshes of Hyères. I met Jean through Elisabeth Tempier, a friend who writes on artisan fishing issues.

bouillabaisse

bouillabaisse

We got together with 20 friends and had a great bouillabaisse in Jean’s garden, while enjoying the heat of this late Indian summer (the real summer seemed to miss us altogether…). Jean Canale prepares his bouillabaisse in a huge iron pot over a wood fire.

The fish that go into Bouillabaisse vary in species and size, and usually include all kinds of rock fish, plus some larger firm fish like conger eel, angler fish, gurnard, weever, john dory, scorpion fish, etc.. Some of the fish are decidedly weird, like the Uranoscope or white rascasse, with eyes on the top of its head looking upward, and horns.

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Le Pied de Nez, Le Castellet (Var)

Mike Tommasi 2011-10-09T20:30:27+00:000000002731201110 Restaurants

Le Pied de Nez est tout simplement le seul restaurant autour de Toulon qui mérite le détour. Benjamin Lagorce est unique par ici parce qu’il fait une recherche approfondie du produit, il achète chez les producteurs pour de vrai. Pas de cuisine d’auteur, mais tout simplement des plats sincères avec des matières premières d’exception qui laissent transparaitre le goût de terroir.

Ainsi on trouvera régulièrement sur la liste du bœuf de l’Aubrac ou de Salers, du cochon noir de Bigorre, des fromages de chèvre de Signes. Et une liste intéressante de vins, tendance «naturel », qui doit dérouter le client d’ici, habitué à voir toujours les mêmes vins ennuyeux sur les cartes locales.

En été, la belle terrasse située dans l’enceinte murée du village médiéval du Castellet donne une vue spectaculaire des vignes de Bandol et de la mer. En hiver, la salle assez minuscule et cosy protège du mistral.

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How we drank in the ’70s

Martin Field 2011-09-25T03:13:33+00:000000003330201109 Food and Wine

Back in the 1970s, my good friends Geoff and Dot Parker were great diners and entertainers and I dined frequently with them, at home and in many Melbourne restaurants.

Geoff was (and is) an enthusiastic wine collector and, unusually for the times, didn’t only drink fine wine but also kept extensive notes on those he tasted and the various meals they accompanied.

Earlier this year he compiled a selection of these notes (14 November 1974 to 19 July 1977) and was kind enough to send me a copy. I have since told him that he could have had another career as a wine writer.

This excerpt, one of many, is from a meal we shared at Restaurant Chez Bebert on Tuesday 13 January 1976.

With garlic scallops, the McWilliams Mount Pleasant Anne Riesling, 1966. Rich honey-gold colour. The aroma was heavy and musty…good regional character with considerable acidity providing a pleasant balanced feel. Past its peak, but will continue to build great character.

And, Leo Buring Reserve Bin DWC II Barossa Valley Rhine Riesling, 1973. Exceptional quality dry white…delicate varietal expression, balanced, fresh and soft.

With steak, the Leo Buring Claret DR 163, 1964. Soft, broad, slightly earthy nose redolent of Hunter reds. Medium bodied satisfying palate sitting between the lush and the austere. Well balanced with a sharp tannic lift to the finish. Very good wine.

And, the Seppelt Cabernet Sauvignon TTI 47, 1971, Barossa Valley. This won the 1972 Jimmy Watson Trophy for best 1971 dry red. Big cabernet with a great deal of fruit flavor and rather prominent oak on the finish. A low tannin very good, lush wine, but maybe a little soft and fat.

Notes Copyright © 2011 Geoff Parker. 

 

Travels in France Part II – Avignon

Martin Field 2011-09-21T06:29:10+00:000000001030201109 Wine Travel

Sous le pont d’Avignon

The train from Dijon to Avignon takes us through vineyard country. Signs for M.Chapoutieradorn the hillsides. As you enjoy the scenic vignettes, you pass an ominous brooding nuclear reactor, no doubt waiting for the Rhone to flood and irradiate the already powerful reds.

Rhone reactor

A first impression of Avignon is that it is noticeably more touristy than Dijon and more English language friendly. For example, unlike Dijon, many of the restaurant menus here feature English translations.

Half a bridge too far

A must-see here is the Pont d’Avignon, originating from the 12thcentury and the basis of the famous song. It’s actually less than half a bridge as only four of the original 22 arches remain, so it stops disappointingly half way across the river. They have had many centuries to fix this but so far no action.

Incomplete bridge

And I have it on good authority that the song we learned in execrable French at school is wrong – they didn’t dance “sur la pont”, they actually danced under it, that is, “sous le pont”, in a long gone café. Should I be called upon to sing this song in future it is the correct “sous” version I shall offer.

We have a good look round at the Palais des Papes in the heart of the city. A bunch of popes who battled with Rome for control of the Catholic empire lived here and ruled in the 14th century. (more…)