Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Moon - Part One

We start the adventure on our Honeymoon, a.k.a “The Moon”.  The Moon took place in two parts across two states, commencing in the Barossa Valley and finishing with a drive along the Great Ocean Road. The Moon was a chance to escape airports which we frequent fair too often for business purposes and voluminous trips back to our home state. The Barossa Valley was therefore the perfect escape. Baggage check-in and token cheese and crackers in the Qantas lounge need not apply!
The Barossa is a region we both love, and did not frequent nearly as often as we should have whilst we lived in Adelaide. Here are our most memorable experiences during the Moon.
90 Murray Street, Tanunda –
This is a dining experience not to be missed whilst in the Barossa. In a region traditionally dominated by Germanic influenced cuisine (think wiener schnitzel and smoked meats in many different forms!), fermentAsian is spicing up valley produce with south-east Asian flavours.  
Chef/owner Tuoi Do together with her partner Grant Dickson have created a formidable menu and wine list, and believe in supporting local producers whom share in their ethical beliefs (think organic, biodynamic producers). Every dish is characterised by such an intense freshness and perfectly formed flavours. The key to these dishes is the quality of produce grown by Tuoi’s parents, whom have created a kitchen garden producing the exotic herbs and vegetables intrinsic to the dishes.
Grant also works for Rockford Wines, and has assembled an incredibly comprehensive wine list. The wine list showcases Barossa favourites, exciting newcomers as well an array of imported wines and wines from other Australian regions.
The restaurants flair far surpasses the South Australian Gouger Street crowd. A dining experience at fermentAsian is an absolute must.
We shared
·         Thit lon cuon la lot- Fresh betal leaves with sticky caramelised pork and incendiary components
Perfectly fresh crisp betal leave with a sizeable whack of chilli. Explosive start!

·         Gio mia Sai Gon – Saigon sugar cane prawns with lime-chilli-salt
Loved the sweetness of the prawn meat and sugar cane combined with the DIY sauce flavours
·         Lon voi gung va cam – Barossa Berkshire pork belly with ginger and orange sauce
Beautifully cooked succulent pork belly with crispy glazed top, fantastic marriage of marinate and the meat.
·         Goi Nam – Warm mixed mushroom salad with galangal dressing
 A unexpected highlight of the meal. The depth of flavours created by different mushrooms and sourness of galangal is remarkable.

·         Ca ri bo – Penang peanut curry of Barossa black Angus beef ribs
Decadent and creamy, meat falling from the bone. Good dish and again perfectly cooked, but not as strong or original as the other dishes.
·         Banh Chocola va xa – Chocolate and Lemongrass mousse
Freshness is created by the use of lemon grass, great texture to the mousse. A good play on a more traditional dessert.

We drank
To begin: 2011 Rockford White Frontignac, Barossa Valley SA.
In the middle: 2010 Radford ‘Quartz Garden’ Riesling, Eden Valley, SA.
To end: NZ Radford Fortified Riesling and 2009 Navazos ‘Casa Del Inca’ Pedro Ximenez black grape cherry sherry
What I loved:  It all – but especially the incredibly freshness and attention to detail in every dish, flavours are perfectly explosive in every dish.
What I’d like to see:  A chef’s tasting menu or the option of smaller serves so that we could have tried more of the amazing menu!
Comparable to: Longrain (Melbourne & Sydney), Coda (Flinders Lane, Melbourne)

Appellation at the Louise
Corner Seppeltsfield and Stonewall Roads, Marananga, Barossa Valley SA
 We stayed at the Louise during the Barossa Valley portion of the Moon. The Louise is a luxury boutique hotel beautifully perched above vineyards and rolling countryside. The views are spectacular, but the standout feature of the hotel is the privacy offered by the opulent suites. The Louise offers a large range of services and tours of the local area, as one would expect from a luxury boutique hotel of its character.
Having read many favourable reviews I was greatly anticipating dining at Appellation.  The menu is based around local ingredients sourced from an extensive network of local suppliers and Appellation’s own kitchen garden. More than 85% of the menu travels less than 30 km’s to the table, and the focus is on flavour, texture, diversity and sustainability. The daily chef’s tasting menu is billed as a premier degustation showcasing the particular season, outstanding and unique produce accompanied by the world class Barossa wines.  An  a la carte menu of small plates is also on offer, with recommendation of three plates per person.

The restaurant itself is a luxurious series of rooms creating different dining spaces maintaining the Louise’s privacy attributes. When dining, guests should arrive at least a half an hour early to enjoy an aperif on the outdoor lounge area overlooking the spectacular countryside and kitchen garden.
After much deliberation, the Husband and I chose the chef’s tasting menu and accompanying wine flight.
We ate and drank
·         Pastry wafer with caramelized onion, olive and anchovy (2008 Bethany Brut)
·         Salad of mushroom with goats curd, roasted almond and raspberry dressing (2011 Spinifex Rose)
·         Twice cooked belly of Berkshire pork with braised cabbage and dill pickles (2011 Pewsey Vale ‘Prima’ Riesling)
·         Rare fillet of beef with braised beetroot  and buttered potato puree (2008 Maverick ‘Twins’ GSM)
·         Peach and almond flan with Jersey cream

The quality of produce was exceptional, and every dish was cooked perfectly. The menu is perfectly pitched at an international or interstate guest who would no doubt be highly impressed. Whilst I enjoyed every course, I was a little disappointed that the dishes lacked a creative element present in the best degustation menus. The creative element is present in the a la carte offerings with dishes such as ‘mildly spiced Spencer Gulf Prawns with spinach and almond milk infused with citrus’.
The wine matching and service are both exemplary, and overall Appellation offers a fine dining experience comparable to the best in Australia.
I loved: The quality of the produce, exceptional service.
What I’d like to see: More adventure in the chef’s tasting menu.

20 Bank Street Port Fairy, Victoria –
Port Fairy is a quaint fishing village 300 km’s from Melbourne. Historically, the town was settled for the purposes of sealing and whaling. Now it is quiet town with wide streets and a large number of impressive heritage listed buildings. The town population swells during the annual Port Fairy Roots Festival by around 40,000 people, as well as during Easter and summer breaks.  It appears the normal crowds may not support a extensive number of quality restaurants during non-peak times as the dining options were some what limited.
L’Edera is a gem hidden amongst the few take away fish and chip shops in the town. Nestled in the original Council chambers for the Belfast Municipal District, the bluestone structure was also the local post office. Now it houses a front bar/ lounge, a medium indoor dining area leading to a outdoor dining area.
Chef Giovanni De Cicco uses fresh local ingredients to create authentic Italian dishes. He appeared to both the chef and kitchen hand, working diligently in his kitchen alone.  There were two other staff, a front of house and a waitress – although the service was exceptionally friendly and warming, the restaurant was not adequately staffed.  A number of dishes and wine options were unavailable due to a busy proceeding weekend. One couple rather rudely left the restaurant when their chosen chardonnay and fish dishes were unavailable.
However, all complaints are abated when the food arrives. Flavoursome, fresh and balanced are thoughts that come to mind when remembering the dishes. Care and thoughtfulness is evident in the four dishes we ordered. The food produced is truly delicious and satisfying.
The wine list is well constructed with carefully selected wines that match the food and are reasonably priced. Surprising omissions are a champagne option and more than one chardonnay option. Both would be popular with the city tourists who venture from Melbourne to  frequent the million dollar beach houses of Port Fairy.
We ate
·         Carciofi di Ripetta from Rome, crispy fried baby Artichoke Hearts served with a Tallegio sauce (shared)
Cooked to bring out the very best of a difficult, distinctive vegetable. Tellegio sauce is a great accompaniment, flavoursome without overpowering the delicate artichoke flavour.
·         The Husband: Saltinbocca all Romana from Rome, thinly sliced Milk Veal layered with Proscuitto and Sage pan cooked in white wine sauce
Devoured with great acclaim by the Husband!
·         Risotto Nero con Zuichini from the Amalfi Coast, organic black wild rice folded with sliced Zuichinni, fresh tomato, basil, buffalo mozzarella and a touch of white wine
Delicious bursts of fresh summary vegetables, buffalo is pleasantly evident without over powering the other flavours. Wild rice is cooked to maintain a slight crunch, bringing a delightful texture to the dish.
·         Pere al Prosecco, pear poached in Prosecco wine with Cinnamon and a touch of chilli, rosemary, bay leaf and served with marinated strawberries (shared)
Good dessert, but would be greatly improved by a more prominent kick of chilli and a more ‘al dente’ pear which was slightly too soft.
We drank
 La Riva dei Frati Prosecco, Santa Christina Sangiovese.
What I loved: The entrée and mains clearly demonstrated such skill and care, and were a very delicious thoughtful interpretation of authentic Italian cuisine
What I’d like to see: Attention to detail in the service provided and general restaurant set up. Bar / Lounge area was cold and the dining area was split into two distinct sections, creating an artificial feeling of bistro and fine dining elements which doesn’t really work. Attention to the last 5% would turn this great dining experience to an exceptional one.
Comparable to: Ambrosini’s (Norwood, SA)

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