Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Burgundy anyone?

I went to a Bourgogne (Burgundy) region wine tasting in November held by Bijoux Wines, and subsequently misplaced the notes I made. Tiddly? Me? Never. I’ve found them again subsequently, however, so can let you in on (as the French would say) “l’éducation” I got.

The event was held at the rear of Matteo’s, a lovely restaurant in North Fitzroy. There were only three ladies there; Linda Baron, Melbourne foodie extraordinaire, who’d invited us and Jane and Simone from Blue Vapours … who ended up doing a runner and going to the pub next door. The rest of the attendees were male wine aficionados; i.e. over fifty, high blood pressure, purple faces, comb-overs and small moustaches. It was like looking into my future!

The wines were mostly reds. They had white burgundies, and some bubbles, but it wasn’t until I was three quarters of the way around the tables that I got the low down on (as the French would say) la traditionale “burgundys”.

There’s been a special mystique about burgundy for me, ever since my parents had a ten litre cask of it on the kitchen bench back in the 70's. Bourgogne Rouge is basically pinot noir. That’s what a “burgundy” is. Talk about popping the mystique! I started tasting the qualities of pinot straight away. Pinots? Notes for the novice: It’s hard to make a good one, they always stuff them up here in the cheaper bracket, and they’re hardly ever consistent. But that’s apparently the appeal of these wines to high end slurpers: the difficulty and the variation.

There are different grades of Bourgogne rouge, and the price and quality went up around the room. The cognoscenti were all standing at the last table downing the good stuff and I’d been dabbling around the lower grades for ages! Don’t make the same mistake! Here are the gradings:

Village: grapes sourced from the village area.
Premier Cru: grapes sourced from the one vineyard.
Grand Cru: grapes sourced from the one nice hill in the one vineyard.

Definitions vary from region to region, and you might like to check my conversational definition with what they say in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cru_%28wine%29).

So (drum roll please), my picks in the different classifications:

Kit’s Cucina Inaugural Bourgogne Wine Awards

Bubbles- i.e. Champagne Medot

NV Medot Rose
50% pinot noir and 50% chardonnay. “Medium rose, moderate bubbles. Easy drinking style.” My notes get shorter and less coherent as we go around.

White Burgundy
2004 Chateau de Citeaux Chassange Montrachet
“A quick surprise” it says in my notes, not sure why. Mid-straws yellow, grapefruit and lemon zest.

Village Rouge
2008 Domaine Tortochot Gevrey Chambertin Champerrier Vieilles Vignes
Delish. Mid cherry crimson colour, berry fruit tastes - I thought “raspberry”.

Premier Cru Rouge

2007 Domaine Marchand Freres Chambolle Mesigny 1er Cru “Les Sentiers”
Who knows what their tasting notes mean? Pebbly? WTF? Also, I’m beginning to suspect the reason these wines cost so much is to pay for the type setting. How long and fancy sounding is that name? My notes? “Perfumed. Excellent.”

Grand Cru
(the absolutely broadest range in tastes in this category– I see in my notes from Chinnoto to Amyl… crikey!)
My pick? Super big drum roll please!!!
2007 Domaine Marchand Freres Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin
Mid ruby colour, fresh berry fruit. My notes: “Yum! Yum!”

At the end, they threw in a Rhone Rouge which was a mix of grape types, and had rave reviews printed with it by the Wine Advocate and International Wine Cellar. It was a 2007 Domaine Le Milliere Chateauneuf du Pape (ninth castle of the Pope) Vieille Vignes en magnum. My notes: “Balance, rounded. What a relief after all those pinots, like falling into a comfy chair.”

If you’d like to talk to someone about buying these, or one of the many other bottles they had on offer, you could try emailing Norman. He’s at:

Hopefully they invite me to their next one!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Newmarket Hotel

34 Inkerman St
St Kilda

I like beer. Do you like beer? Yeah, I like beer too. Food? I like food. Do you like food? Me too! We should hang out more. Here, try this...

If you like food, beer, and hanging out, the Newmarket Hotel could very well be the place for you. The old pub famous for its "Schnitz and Tits" nights - featuring schnitzels, topless waitresses and strippers - no longer. The minds behind the Albert Park and Middle Park Hotel bought it and renovated it. They've kept the facade, ripped down the pub and put up a monument to South America. Shall we go in and take a look?

First stop, the where. St Kilda. I've got to admit I'm a North of the River boy. Abbotsford and Fitzroy are my main stomping grounds, with a quick diversion to la cita. But occassionally, the siren song of the south calls and I find myself in Sydney... I mean St Kilda. Same place, n'est pas? Not on your life. This is the cool part of St Kilda, the back bit, out the side, the gritty Melbourne-esque part of St Kilda which almost makes you want to move there. Let's call it St Kilda East.

Before I go on, I have to show my hand. This is a CJ McKenzie inspired review. It was his night off and he suggested we get down there and check it out, and I've got to admit it was worth the trip. But I might be biased because of the company.

The renovation is tasteful; you can tell it's the same architects that did the Public House in Richmond. But they've started doing things that little bit better with practice. Like functional bars, and heaters that recess into the walls.

The menu? "Californian inspired Hispanic menu". What does that mean? Tapas? Apparently not. Portions are too big for one. Share plates still, and featuring things like soft tacos with prawns, or slow roasted pork.

Oh! And they've got a really big table opposite the kitchen that you can book for functions. Handy if you want to go out with more than eight people to something. Like your family...

The crowd is a bit older at this pub. I guess the prices may have pushed the back packers down to the intersection with Alma Rd (or whatev's - it's St Kilda, I don't know my way around), so definitely a pick up place for recent divorcees. But it's a nice combination. Relaxed dining, good architecture, tasty yet simple food with a twist of spice and BOOZE. Lovely booze. Thank heavens I was there on St Patrick's day and was allowed to have a tipple.

Meanwhile - with the reno - the builders have apparently built a space underneath that has exactly the same (massive) open area floor space. It's mooted to be opened in about six months, with a catwalk down the middle and available for fashion shows, weddings, laid back love ins and what have you. You'll be catching a lift down the side to a subterranean cool-oire.

Score? It's not fine dining, and you'll need to book a table as they stop letting people in without reservations, but it's honest, tasty, and friendly... and one of my relatives is high profile there and buys me drinks. I give it a seven tentacles out of eight.

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No 35.

Inside Sofitel Hotel
35th Floor, 25 Collins St Melbourne
Over Collins Place

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! So we'll all go out and indulge in gluttony.

Momo? Tuesday after the long weekend, closed! Rockpool? You want too big a table! And then my thoughts turned to the first "fancy" restaurant I ever went to.

Formerly the Wentworth Hotel (I'm sticking to this name, Ange, even if it's not true) I was dazzled as an eight year old... more of that later. Internet surfing revealed their new restaurant is called No. 35, to match the floor number, and has a hat from the Age Good Food Guide. A couple of "bonjours" and deposit of $20 a head later (!!!) I was able to secure our seats.

What is it about eating, drinking and going to the toilet so many metres over everybody's heads that makes it instantly a special occassion?

So first, my childhood recollections. An open kitchen, flames of brandy burning, visions of the Towering Inferno, me looking for the most expensive thing on the menu, ordering lobster thermador and then being told I was having the chicken. Going for a wee (the absolute highlight) with floor to ceiling glass over people's heads! And the coup de grace? My Dad (bless him), complaining about the bill. "A hundred dollars for dinner for six? I've never paid a hundred dollars for a meal in my life!"

Well, how things have changed... and curiously stayed the same.

I mean the view is spectacular. Just look at it! Though somehow, the toilets weren't the same. Through the lobby of a huge atrium... which smelt like a hotel (you know that chloriney smell? How do they do that - I felt like I was in Asia). The tüt had shrunk, and I could see the MCG. Had it swapped sides, or was I bigger and the landmarks now recognisable?

The food was excellent. My gosh it was good. Five types of oysters to choose from. Roast peppers, heirloom tomatoes, dehydrated olive and frozen goat's curd (Jane didn't trust it all as the lighting was a bit low). Other guests were in raptures about the roast pork belly with scallop. Mains? I had the barramundi, keeping to a pescatorian theme, Jane had the lamb (same problem! Couldn't see it well enough so refused to eat it like a frightened horse at a jump - she'd be hopeless at the blind restaurant scenario). Dessert? Yes please! A triumph, high art! I had the brunt orange with pistachio ice cream washed down with black coffee and a Grand Marnier. Lovely.

But? I can feel a but coming on Christopher, and you're not even sitting on me. Well, the service was a bit weird. Strange northern Europeans, gaunt and humourless, like going to a performance of Waiting for Godot. We had a dose of the cheerful Canadian maitre d, a somnalier, bearded and entertaining. But the rest? Meh. Plus, I had the $160 deposit constantly ticking in the back of my mind.

So, in conclusion? View? Eight tentacles - full marks! Food? Seven and a half tentacles out of eight. Service; six tentacles. The deposit? Zero tentacles. My recommendation? Go without a booking for lunch or early supper and watch the sun sink in the west and the lights come out to play. Six tentacles.

ADDENDUM: Text altered after reassurances the deposit was accounted for in the bill.

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