Category Archives: Food and Wine, articles on pairing wine with food. A good match means that (1+1)>2

Cheatin’ in the kitchen

Winey Tawny Cheese

Over the years, I’ve tasted a number of boozy cheeses: port-soaked Stilton, Red Windsor, Italian wine-washed cheese and the like. They are not commonly available and when they are, they tend to be very expensive, so I thought, how hard would it be to make my own?

For the first experiment, I cut a one-kilogram block of cheddar into 2.5mm slices. These I pierced with a stainless steel skewer, put into a glass container and just covered with a decent shiraz. On went the lid and the container went into the fridge. After 10 days, I drained the cheese, patted it dry and tried a slice. Not bad, not great. The cheese taste came through with an edge of shiraz fruit but the dry wine made the aftertaste somewhat hard.

I tried the same technique with a tawny port and also with an oloroso sherry. The oloroso was good – a distinct smooth, nutty sherry component complementing the cheddar flavour, but with alcohol too dominant.

The tawny cheese was a great success. Porty aromatics interwove with and offset sharpish cheddar flavours. Somehow, the result was both sweet and savoury at the same time, with just a hint of alcohol hovering in the background. A friend who tried it asked where he could buy some.

Eking in

I love Blue Stilton. It’s so expensive though that I rarely buy it – like $70-ish a kilo at the local supermarket. Then I found some at Aldi for approximately $26 the kilo so I bought a few wedges.

But how to make it last? Ever thrifty, I hit on the technique of cutting it with butter. Here’s how.

Take a piece of room temperature Stilton (rind and all) and mash it gently with half its weight in room temperature unsalted butter. Gently now, try to preserve a few blue crumbs of identifiable cheese in the mix, you don’t want a paste. (Keeps well in fridge.) Continue reading

BYO Wedding Wine?

Wine Etiquette.

Frangi from Melbourne writes, “My circle of friends are of an age where we are often asked to attend weddings and engagements. We don’t expect these functions to provide top class restaurant food and wine but the wine we’re served is usually awful. We call it “reception wine” and it is often of a quality that would strip the enamel off a hippo’s tusks. As a result, a friend has taken to sneaking in his own wine and surreptitiously drinks it instead of the provided stuff. Do you think this is proper behaviour for invited guests?”

Hi Frangi, yes of course! I know that weddings etc. are not fine wine tasting events but the food and wine should be of a certain standard whatever the budget. And as the Bible tells us, did not Jesus, in his first miracle as a guest at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, turn the contents of six pots, each holding two or three firkins of water, into wine?

In my younger days the wines were also dodgy and the food was probably worse. Believe it or not, for years (still?) there was a hideous convention where men were served beef and the women fish or chicken – while the bridal party sneered from a dais helping themselves to top shelf tucker and booze.

Your friend has the right idea, though he might draw the line at taking a picnic hamper to some of the more infamous reception houses. And I can recommend a hip flask of Cognac and an emergency stash of Tabasco when you are entering unknown territory (including some restaurants, which shall remain nameless). It has worked for me.

I have only one thing to say to wedding planners: even if the bride has to wear a second-hand frock and the groom a pair of old Levis, make sure you look after the guests.

Review – Bold Palates

Bold Palates – Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage

By Barbara Santich. Illustrated hardback. Wakefield Press 2012. $50.

This excellent book traces the post European settlement history of Australian food and cuisine. Bush tucker, pumpkin scones, picnic races, the Aussie BBQ, mutton chops, pies ‘n’sauce – it’s all there, and more. The test is peppered with excerpts from old books and newspapers and larded with photographs and retro illustrations.

Most fascinating to me is the chapter on our national cuisine. Way back then and to this day it seems no-one can agree on whether we have one or not. Judging by local Queensland menus “Modern Australian” is a cross between Surf ‘n’Turf or possibly Mooloolaba prawns followed by slow-cooked pork belly.

If you’re looking for a gift for a foodie you can’t go past this. In fact it is just the book that I would unwrap with delight.

Christmas Indulgence

Recently I bought a delightful little book by Oscar Wilde’s son, Vyvyan HollandDrink And Be Merry is the title and Holland was vice president of the Circle of Wine Writers at the time. Accordingly, his book is a very readable guide to wines of the world, peppered with anecdotes and other useful and entertaining wine lore.

Very Merry

What caught my eye was his suggestion for wines to be used at Christmas. For a Christmas dinner for eight people he suggests:

  • 2 bottles of champagne
  • 1 bottle of Fino sherry
  • 1 bottle of Sercial Madeira
  • 3 bottles of claret
  • 2 bottles of port
  • 1 bottle of brandy, which will be needed anyway, for the mince pies, the plum pudding and the brandy butter

This equates to one and a quarter bottles of beverage for each guest, noting that five of the bottles are table wine, four are fortified and one a spirit.

If we assume that the guests also enjoy a glass or two at other times of the day and that all or most of the dinner list is consumed, we can imagine they would sleep very soundly and need a drop of the hair of the dog on Boxing Day.

Published by Victor Gollancz Ltd. London, 1967.



After Midnight…

…We’re gonna let it all hang out,” so goes the old J.J Cale song. I was reminded of it by recent news that licensed premises in Kings Cross will be forced by the New South Wales government to serve alcoholic drinks in plastic after midnight. The ban on glass – a response to the increasing frequency of glassing assaults – will also apply to glass bottles and jugs.

In addition, it’s not only beer, presumably bar and restaurant owners will now have to decant wine from bottles into plastic decanters before serving in plastic goblets. Hardly a gourmet’s delight. That is if any gourmets frequent the Cross after midnight.

You can just imagine a wine lover poring over a plastic mug of, say, Penfolds Bin 389. “Mmm, do I detect a delightful nuance of Bisphenol-A among the savoury berry fruit? No, wait, Antimony? No, most definitely Pthalate.”

One wonders if Riedel are already designing a neutral tasting Plasdonnay stem in anticipation.

But why stop there? Logically, the authorities should also follow the airlines’ example and use only paper plates and plastic cutlery after the witching hour.

The intent of the change is clearly an attempt to reduce the occurrence of glassing and if that is the consequence who could argue? However, legislators are apparently unaware that not all assaults occur at the Cross, or after midnight. Nor is glassware the usual and preferred weapon of choice.

A dinner with 22 whiskies

Everybody has wine and food matching favourites but I have not come across a whisky and food matching dinner before. Until that is, Hobart-based writer, Greg Stanton reported on one he hosted.

We’re all doing well down here in Hobart although the cooler weather has hit with a vengeance. One of the things we decided to do to keep us warm was have a whisky-inspired dinner at home.

A few months back I bought a recipe book from the Laphroaig distillery online shop – The Whisky Kitchen: 100 Ways with Whisky and Food by Sheila McConachie and Graham Harvey.

I was hard-pressed to whittle down the diverse choice of recipes to a manageable three-course dinner.

The original idea was to match the dishes with the whiskies that were used in the cooking, but then there were some other fantastic choices in the cabinet that were difficult to leave out. It’s like choosing a favourite child, but then again an Edradour 10 year old doesn’t cry out in the middle of the night like a four month old.

There were eight of us and I pulled out 22 bottles of single malt, hoping that people would help me deplete stocks but also to taste ones they’ve never tried. Continue reading

An Australian fondue dinner party – 1963

I came across this charming picture in a book I bought for two dollars at an opshop. The book, Australia, was published in 1964, so I assume that the pics date from the previous year.

A feast in 1963

Note the guests swanky clothes. And awaiting them on the table is a fondue pot, bread and cheese and a crayfish. To accompany, two bottles of Penfolds sherry, and one each of Penfolds Dalwood Claret, Dalwood “Burgundy” and Dalwood Riesling. Needless to say the glasses are crystal.

The fondue evening and the dinner party are both on the endangered species list nowadays but they were great fun in their heyday.

Australia, published 1964, by Oswald Ziegler Publications, Pty. Ltd. Sydney Australia.

USA Holiday Food Report – another view

Joe Fogarty, writing from Chicago. takes exception to Peter Howard’s USA Holiday Report.

I’m sorry – but only a little – to read of Chef Peter Howard‘s disappointment with the food in the U.S. Bad flavour combinations in Italian dishes? Dumping on Rachael Ray? Either he’s not telling us about the very wonderful meals he had during FIVE weeks of travel here, or he wasn’t trying very hard to find them.

No doubt, I could spend five weeks in Australia and find disappointment with the food. Are there no popular food show personalities on TV in Australia offering their twist on the vegemite sandwich?

And you know, a peanut butter, bacon and tomato sandwich sounds like something that might be pretty good, at least to an American palate. You know, the palate non-American foodies like to dismiss as unrefined?

And speaking of critics and criticism, I thought you’d find interesting the food blogosphere kerfuffle that happened here last week, since it involves Italian food of the kind that Howard’s description might fit.

Eighty-five year old Marilyn Hagerty writes the “Eat Beat” column for the Grand Forks Herald. Grand Forks is in North Dakota, a windswept town of about 70,000 souls on the prairie of the Upper Midwest. No one would consider it a culinary Mecca.

Recently, an Olive Garden restaurant opened there and Ms. Hagerty offered her impressions in this review: Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome.

(Background: The Olive Garden is a chain restaurant ubiquitous in the U.S.. For some Americans, especially in small and medium sized cities – and in lots of suburbs – it is the only Italian restaurant choice.)

Hagerty’s very earnest review of the restaurant went viral and lots of snarkologists were quick to make fun of it.

But then some people put Hagerty’s review in context. A fabulous sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, had this beautifully-written take on her review – The Olive Garden – and the discussion it engendered.

Hagerty made the national news. She did TV interviews. She is as delightful and forthright and sweet as you would expect an 85 year old five columns-a-week writer to be. And she’s no rube, either.

The funny thing is, it’s simply a report about the restaurant itself and the experience of eating there – except for the food.

A former editor of hers related that when Hagerty writes about the paint on the wall and the flower arrangements, you know the food isn’t very good.

It’s a subtle approach. Maybe food critics could take a lesson!

I invite Chef Howard to Chicago for a culinary exploration filled with interesting flavours, small portions, no Rachael Ray – and a trip to the Olive Garden, just for fun.


Bubbles with ‘Pies

Mid-1970s, Geoff Parker and I were in the outer at Victoria Park, watching Collingwood (The ‘Pies) play an inferior team. (That is, most of them.) Footballing legend, Fabulous Phil Carman was, as usual, starring.

In those days, you could bring booze to the games and we did, lots.

This particular Saturday arvo, instead of 6-packs of Coopers Sparkling Ale and sick of the usual footy fare of cold meat pies, we took along an Esky full of goodies.

My memory is that among other delicacies we ate sandwiches of smoked salmon on wholemeal bread whilst sipping Lindemans Imperator Brut 1965, from flutes.

The hardened, beer-swilling denizens of the terraces looked on with amazement, but no blood was shed.