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Sunday, January 27, 2013
Australia Day Dinner, Jan 24/13
The Date and Time: Thursday, January 24, 2013
The Event: Australia Day Dinner; media preview
The Venue: St. James Cathedral Centre, Toronto
The Target Audience: media
The Availability/Catalogue: all wines were available at the LCBO.
The Quote/Background: This is the second annual Australia Day Dinner, but this time the effort was amortized over three days (one for the press and two for the public, about 150 covers total). It was $150 a head for a ten course meal, with copious wines (six different types) and including tax and tips. This was a unique Australian culinary experience, with chefs Luke Hayes-Alexander (Luke's Gastronomy, Kingston, ON) and John Placko (Humber College) preparing a special tasting menu using molecular gastronomy.
The Wines: Overall, the red wines went better with the food than did the white wines.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV, $14.45 MC
-Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River 2011, $19.95
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
The Food: The dishes were named after regions in Australia, and emphasize the food of that area.
Pre-prandial food included "Dukkah & Damper" with a liquid roasted garlic interior and on roasted sesame seed, both on a spoon. To be eaten in one bite, with the garlic liquid surging into your mouth.
and "Salmon" cured with lemon myrtle and wrapped around a pepperberry sponge, topped with olive oil and dehydrated olives. Both of these amazing amuses were passarounds, and went very well with the Jacob's Creek sparkler.
First plated course "Beet It", with textured beet powder for a beet meringue, goat cheese, hazelnut powder (hazelnut oil and maltodextrin, tapioca starch) and beet pearls made through spherification.
Second plated course "Coffee & Biscuits", warm coffee with biscuit broth and garnishes (coconut, roasted garlic, arugula, pepperberry).
Third plated course "Queensland Revisited", with barramundi, cauliflower purée with dill and white chocolate, Granny Smith horseradish jelly, and frozen pickled cucumber cubes (liquid nitrogen).
The Riesling was best with the fish.
Fourth plated course "Blinman", shredded lamb breaded balls, two kinds of beets, lemon myrtle, brown butter, wattle seed. Fabulous with the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fifth plated course "Red Centre", kangaroo sous-vide and then blowtorched, pepperberry, vegemite, akudjura, Buderim ginger, potato with macadamia, wild hibiscus gel, onion fluid gel. Shiraz was heavy enough for it, at 14.5% ABV.
Sixth plated course "Sydney", two beef cheek meat pies, a traditional with pastry shell, and a modern deconstruction with the same elements but plated differently (and with butterballs and onions).
Seventh plated course "Deconstructed Pavlova", Mudgee honey meringue and wafers, passion fruit liquid gel, mango curd and ice cream pearls, freeze-dried banana, carbonated strawberries, and berry powder. Great textures and mouth-feel. Both Australia and New Zealand claim the Pavlova.
Eighth plated course "The Blue Mountains", orange, Granny Smith apple, eucalyptus olida (aka strawberry gum), chocolate, jasmine, musk (musk stick candy in Australia).
Ninth plated course "The Tim Tam Slam" (sucking coffee or tea through a Tim Tam biscuit before it disintegrates).
Unfortunately, there were no sweet wines with the desserts, although the excellent Jacob's Creek could go well with the last three courses.
The Downside: nobody was here from Wine Australia to explain the wines. In fact, nobody at all explained the wines.
The Upside: judging by the roar of the press crowd, it was a great success. It was also a lot of fun on a cold winter's night.