Category Archives: Wines

Hotel Realm – Canberra

I’ve managed to squeeze a weekend away to Canberra. It’s autumn, the grapes in the vineyards are ripe for the picking and it’s Harvest Festival time.
Good opportunity to try out some new digs that have hotted up the Canberra accommodation scene recently.

Hotel Realm is a new 5 star sprawling accommodation, spa and entertainment hub in the Canberra suburb of Barton just behind Parliament House.

Its cavernous entrance atrium certainly announces its cool, global vibe. And we receive a smooth, friendly and unobtrusive check-in. Full marks.

The atrium installation is several stories high…

We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking a park and Parliament house in the distance. There are 186 rooms in total.

Really comfortable beds and linen –  although we did find the room temperature difficult to stablise – either a little too hot or too cold!

These apartments are going to be a hit with Canberra’s itinerant public servants and long-stay guests – full size kitchen with all the gadgetry including sharp knives. There was also a washing machine and dryer.

A fruit plate on arrival….
Stylish and well laid-out bathroom..

…designed with woman in mind. A good make up mirror and plenty of space for toiletries..

a good-sized bath that sadly we didn’t have time to sample..
The view from the balcony
and the fiery sky at sunset.
The Hotel Realm has three restaurants and a bar with a very uber-chic courtyard. It was hard to believe we were still in suburban Canberra.

For dinner we went for the wood-fired marguerita pizza..

… with a caprese salad. Excellently prepared with fresh ingredients. Highly recommend it.

The next morning –  less than 20 mins away –  the Lerida Estate and Lark Hill wineries beckoned…

chooks scratching amongst the vines for bugs
And a quartet playing some chilled jazz..
The Hotel Realm is going to really shake-up the Canberra scene not only for travellers but for locals who now have a very cool quarter that will put Canberra on the international map.
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Hotel Realm.

The River Moruya restaurant, Moruya, NSW

I’d be lost without my food bibles. They can be found in the car, in my handbag, on the bookshelf and on my lap top…
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, The Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine, the Good Living liftout in Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue Entertaining and Travel.
They tell me where to eat and what to eat. Sometimes I’ll disagree with their assessments.Sometimes they can be too affected by food fashion and the ‘what’s hot right now’. I don’t particularly care if I’m sitting on a Thonet chair as long as it is comfortable. I won’t frown upon a restaurant that still serves truffle oil even though my bibles tell me it is so yesterday. If it is used deftly bring it on I say! Even so I’d be lost without my bibles… without the wise and witty words from Joanna, Simon, Terry and Kendall. Without your dedication I wouldn’t have had many of my most memorable food experiences. Thank you.
The River Moruya is one of those magical places you wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon unless you’ve read one of your food bibles. You have to know it’s there… tucked in a carpark behind Moruya’s main street but with a deck opening onto the glorious Moruya river. This Chalkers Crossing wine was the standout wine of our south coast road trip. I just love the wines from the cold climate Tumbarumba region. Crisp and citrusy with a big full mouth feel. This was the meal – the food was the accompaniment.
The food philosophy at the River Moruya is to housemake what they can and source everything else locally.
These gloriously fresh salads leaves made every other salad leaf we’d had before taste like grass clippings.
oh to be a rabbit!!!!!
This was an entree of three delicately tempured oysters served on discs of house-made black pudding with a piquant tomato relish. The black pudding was rich and smokey.
House-made bread with nigella seeds
Pan-fried blue eye cod with blue swimmer crab-filled tortellini
Mustard vegetable pickle (Mark’s favourite)with Maffra cheddar cheese and biscuits
The River Moruya doesn’t follow trends. It sets them. Fresh, local. Quietly letting the ingredients shine not the chef’s ego.

Lake’s Folly Spring Lunch 2009 – Hunter Valley

I had a real treat this weekend. I was invited to the Lake’s Folly 2009 Spring lunch at Muse Restaurant in the Hunter Valley.Winemaker Rodney Kempe and his wife Sandra hosted a nine-course degustation perfectly complementing their wines.
As a late convert to the Lake’s Folly wines I have a lot of catching up to do.
It was Australia’s first boutique winery and only makes two wines – a Cabernet blend and a Chardonnay. Both varietals are award-winning and more remarkably are grown, vintaged and bottled entirely on the Lake’s Folly Estate. We now have a dozen of their 2008 Chardonnay sitting in our cellar!

Muse Restaurant at the Hungerford Hill Wine Estate on Broke Rd, Pokolbin
a forest of glassware
Amuse Bouche: tuna sashmi on pickled seaweed
Petuna Ocean Trout and citrus three ways
Lake’s Folly 1998 Chardonnay
Wild Atlantic Sea Scallopps, marchetti proscuitto, sweetcorn and saffron cream, basil oil
These scallops were plump and meaty – one of the many highlights
Lake’s Folly 1992 Cabernets
Confit duck, roast garlic and spinach tortellini, parsnip espuma, brown butter and balsamic reduction
Slow-cooked Hunter Valley venison, celeriac and onion puree, Jerusalem Artichoke, chervil, sweet blackberry sauce
The venison sliced like butter
the celeriac and onion puree was delicately balanced
this was a refreshing palate cleanser
2001 Chateau Doisy Daene dessert wine
Hazelnut Panna Cotta, Sauterne and blueberry granita with star anise spun toffee
textures, textures, textures!
turkish delight petit four

Muse Restaurant and cafe is run by two food talents –  Troy Rhoades-Brown in the kitchen and Megan Rhoades-Brown running the floor. These are two youngsters to watch!

Fort Denison Cheese and Wine Class

Fort Densison: looking back towards Sydney CBD
canape: seared scallop, corn puree in crisp wonton cup

Yes I know…. I am going to get my cholesterol tested after all this cheese I’ve been having lately.
This was a special occasion though. A cheese and wine lecture from Claudia McIntosh from McIntosh and Bowman Cheesemongers on Fort Dension in the middle of Sydney Harbour. 12 farmhouse cheeses, 5 wines – and a beer thrown in to challenge the palate.

Claudia McIntosh conducting the cheese class
Our farmhouse cheese tasting plate
Willowbrae Goat Curd (Goat milk), Wilberforce, NSW.
tasting notes: mild and citric  8/10
Vanella Cheese Company Mozzarella (buffalo milk), Cairns, Qld
tasting notes: chewy anad tangy  7/10
Meredith Feta (goat’s milk) Meredith Valley, Vic
tasting notes: sharp and salty  7/10
Jannei Buche Noir (goat’s milk) Lidsdale, NSW
tasting notes: creamy and earthy  8/10
Woodside McLaren Camembert (cow’s milk) Woodside, SA
tasting notes: whiffy and ammonic  4/10
Yarra Valley Black Savourine (goat’s milk)
tasting notes: urine nose and rind   5/10
Barossa Valley Cheese Co. Le Petit Prince (goat’s milk) Angaston, SA
tasting notes: pastures and damp fur   4/10
Barossa Valley Cheese Co Washington (cow’s milk) Angaston SA
tasting notes: wet paddock  6/10
Pyengana Cheddar (cows milk) Pyengana, Tas
tasting notes:crumbly and sharp  6/10
Pastilla Nash Walnut and Prune log
back: shiraz,moscato, middle: chardonnay, front: pinot gris and water
Tarwin Blue (cows milk)
tasting notes: creamy, intense and balanced  8/10
Meredith Dairy Goat Milk Blue (goats milk) Angaston SA
tasting notes: mellow, tangy and round mouth feel   7/10
Dessert: chocolate tart with fruit salad
champers by the cannon
ships ahoy
shipping lane
Sails unfurled

Wine and Cheese Arvo – The Aftermath

Well… the intention was to provide tasting notes for the wonderful array of cheeses and wines our friends brought around yesterday for our ‘Cheese and Wine Arvo’. That was the intention. Shall we say as the skies cleared and our heads became cloudy, taking photos just didn’t seem important. So this morning before the clearing up began I captured THE AFTERMATH.

Lark Hill wines

Lark Hill winery in the Canberra cool-climate wine district is creating some of Australia’s best wines.

The Carpenter family is building a steady reputation for its riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir and last year the winery was certified biodynamic by NASAA.
I recommend the 2008 riesling which possesses slate and mineral notes underscored by a steely thread of clean acidity (sounds like I know my wines but I just read that on their website)
Lark Hill has recently started serving weekend lunch in their new winery restaurant. Chef Jamie comes well-credentialled but still needs a bit of confidence to carry off his menu.
The confit of duck was a hit with our group but the ravioli was served cold and half the mussels in the pumpkin and mussel broth were unopened.

But the views across the vineyards and valleys with a stove fire warming the near-complete dining room is worth the price of admission!
Tasting cups of spinach and potato soup


Lark Hill Reserve Chardonnay

Handmade ravioli stuffed with confit pork cheek with pinenut and sage butter foam

18 hour confit duck leg with creamy mash potato, sauteed Lark Hill biodynamic spinach and beetroot relishTassie mussels cooked in Lark Hill 2008 riesling and pumpkin broth

Dessert Trio: Apple Tarte Tatin, strawberry pannacotta and mandarin coulis and mascerated fruits with mascarpone.
Cheese Plate: Goats chevre, fresh goats curd, King Island Blue and Hunter Valley cloth bound cheddar and muscatel grape raisins