Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Weekend in Canberra

My girlfriend J1 flew down for a weekend in our Nation's Capital, Canberra. After much delay, like 4 LONG hours delay, Virgin Blue DJ 633 finally arrived at Canberra "International" Airport.

Our national capital's "international" airport is equivalent to a regional airport with 10 bays for planes. The runway has been upgraded to carry the A380. I don't know, however, if Canberra has the passenger numbers to support A380 flying to and from it.

July being a truffle festival in Canberra, many restaurants run special truffle-theme menus. One such restaurant we tried was Anise. This restaurant was recommended to us by work colleagues. J did further research before flying down and decided that the truffle degustation at Anise sounds enticing. Sadly, our experience was far less than positive, certainly way below the 13.5/20 scored by SMH Good Food Guide.

The olive was nice enough but the $75 2006 Bourgogne (Burgundy) from Cote d'Or was not up to scratch. J2 (the author) was particularly disappointed as he has developed an affinity to Bourgogne. Maybe he should've ordered a good solid Australian or New Zealand pinot noir? Or should we have gone the matching wine option?

The first dish was potato and truffle salad, poached truffle interweave freerange egg. What disappointment. The balsamic vinegar used over-powered the truffle. We saw specs of truffle but couldn't taste it.

The second dish was Potage of scallops, mussels, leek and truffle. While the scallops were very fresh, I thought my mussel was less than fresh, the potage being very salty and again, we saw truffle but couldn't taste it.

By this time, J1 and J2 were very unimpressed and did not continue to take photos. The third dish was Fillet of Beef Rossini - beef fillet, duck liver pate, potato galette, madeira and truffle sauce). This was probably the best dish of the night but sadly, the truffle was over-powered and the afore-mentioned bourgogne was less than suitable to this dish.
We felt rather disappointed with our experience at Anise and certainly felt ripped-off. I do not think we would be visiting Anise any time soon.
The next day, J1 and J2 set out to visit Murrumbateman. This is a little known region of NSW producing some great cold climate wines. It is a short 40km drive from Canberra.
The first winery we visited was Clonakilla. This boutique winery has developed quite a cult following with its Shiraz Viognier (SV) which is their flagship wine. While very little 2007 vintage SV was made due to crop loss to frost, J1 and J2 await patiently for the 2008 vintage to be released. However, the O'Riada is equally impressive being also shiraz viognier blend BUT with shiraz sourced from Murrumbateman and Canberra region instead of being single vineyard shiraz. The viognier, however, is still Clonakilla's own grape.

While Clonakilla is less known for its white wine, we really enjoy the 2007 Viognier. This is a beautiful white wine that is lightly oaked in 30% new oak barrel.

Clonakilla vineyard.

Lunch was at Crisps Lane Cafe at Yass Valley Winery. This was recommended to us by Tim Kirk of Clonakilla. Again, in keeping with the truffle theme, the cafe offered a few truffle dishes. J1 and J2 were cautious due to their previous night's experience.
J1 ordered the chicken vou-le-vent with truffle which was a pleasant surprise.

J2 ordered the pumpkin risotto with truffle and again this was a pleasant surprise. J2's only complaint was that there wasn't enough in the serving!

The next winery we stopped at was at Helm in Murrumbateman. Helm wine was established in 1973 by Ken Helm on the site of the old Toual Public School (from 1888!). The cellar door is situated in the old school building. J1 and J2 had a great time at Helm, enjoying the 2009 Helm Riesling while we were given a private tour of Helm cellar by Ken himself.

Old grape press at Helm.

Apart from the 2009 Riesling, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was fantastic as was the 2007 Cabernet Merlot blend. Ken was very happy to inform us that he was recently achieved 5 stars in the new James Halliday wine book.
The last place we visited was Gallagher Wines. Again, another surprise. We were impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc. This 2008 Sauv Blanc has a rather punchy taste, good structure and nose full of passionfruit. A very crisp flavour that lingers long after the wine disappears down the oesophagus. Certainly a very different style of Sauv blanc compare to Margaret River or NZ Sauv Blanc. Other notable wines include the 2008 riesling and the merlot. J2 has never been a merlot fan but the 2007 merlot has nose of black cherry with light hint of oak. The berry flavour being persistent and quite a velvety finish. at $22, the 2007 Gallagher Shiraz was again a surprise. The Shiraz has a deep garnet red in colour and taste of plum and cherry, soft tannin and again, nicely oaked. Along with the beautiful wine, Gallagher also produced camembert and labneh, both of which went really well with the whites and reds! More on these later!

Random cherry blossom at Nara Park in Canberra.

After a "hectic" day 2 of wine and cheese tasting, J1 and J2 had a slow Sunday. Breakfast was at Deli Planet at Fyshwick Market. The ricotta tart and the breakfast pizza was recommended to us by locals.

While we waited for our breakfast to arrive, watch shots were in order. J1 was wearing her Omega Speedmaster with white MOP dial while J2 was wearing his Omega MK IV Speedmaster on mesh. Both watches were lying on top of J1's Fendi leather gloves.

J1's Speedmaster Reduced MOP is powered by Omega's Cal 3220. This is based on ETA 2892 with DD Chronograph module piggy-backed on top of the ETA movement. J2's MKIV (176.009) is powered by cal 1040. Cal 1040 was based on Lemania cal 1341 was first used in the 1970 in the MK III. In 1973, Omega introduced the Speedmaster 125 based on the cal 1041, which was the COSC version of the cal 1040. In the last fortnight that J2 has been wearing his MKIV, it has gained no more than 10 seconds per week, not bad for a non-COSC chronograph movement from the 70s!

Arghhh, yes, the mocha with ricotta tart. The mocha was well made, good coffee bean but froth was not perfect. The ricotta tart was very nice and certainly highly recommended.

Finally, after 10 minutes, our breakfast pizza arrived. The ingredients of both breakfast pizzas are thus:

Pizza number 2

Pizza number 1

After a fulfilling breakfast at Deli Planet, we went for a walk along Lake Burley Griffin to work off the calories.

Blundell's Farm House along the Lake Burley Griffin.

The Telstra Tower (I know it as the Telecom Tower) on top of Black Mountain. Btw, for any serious cyclist, this is a fantastic climb to the top :)

J1 and J2 then spent the rest of afternoon at Nara Park. We had chicken liver pate, 2009 Helm Riesling, the Gallagher Camembert and the Gallagher labneh.

The Gallagher Camembert is a fantastic cheese. Very creamy and very tasty. We're not big cheese connoisseurs but we still love it.

Gallagher's labneh, again a fantastic labneh that goes well with our Riesling.

The blackening sky, cold wind and temperature down to 5 degrees did not damper our enthusiasm for a picnic.

A view from top of Red Hill.

Overall, a fantastic weekend. Although it didn't start well, it ended well.


Sam said...

You make Canberra sound interesting! Looks like we'll have to pay you a visit while you're still there so you can show us the sights...

Stay tuned for my post on wine/cheese/dining from the same weekend, albeit at a different location...

aptronym said...

Love the post and thank you for plugging Canberra :)

aptronym said...

Love the post and thank you for plugging Canberra :)