Eating Every Day

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three first-rate meals

 

Hill Court, Warranwoo, Victoria, September 29, 2014

NORMALLY ONLY DINNER is recorded here, but today's exceptional, partly for the quality and variety of the meals, partly to reassure you that I do get three square meals a day. 

For breakfast I made three omelets, each with four eggs from John's friendly, prolific hens — just see how beautiful they are! The black iron skillet Mel had cooked last night,s duck breasts in had fortunately not been cleaned, and gave the omelets great flavor.

LUNCH ON THE PATIO was colorful and copious: a fine quiche, sliced ham, sausage, cheeses, green salad, curried egg sandwiches, blinis, sliced cucumbers and red peppers, dill pickles, beer and cider — a wonderful feast for three generations, hens clucking contentedly nearby, the cherry tree burning into bloom, the dogs lazing in the sun.

IN THE EVENING, to a neighboring town for a light supper — we're flying home tomorrow; I don't like doing that after too full a meal. It,s funny: I'd noticed some fine-looking packaged fettucine in a market in the morning, and that's what Elizabeth had chosen to serve. She made a sauce I'd never had or thought of, browning chopped onion and bacon, then throwing in chopped kale, binding the mixture with a little cream. Delicious.

Cabernet sauvignon, YerIng Station Reserve, 2008: deep, thoughtful, alive, mature, fine balance, good finish. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lamb and duck

Hill Court, Warranwood, Victoria, September 28, 2014—

WE ARE EATING WELL. That is how I prefer to eat. Today, for example, after a final cleanup of the debris from the tree we felled the other day, Mel set out a lunch on the patio table, now in full sunshine since the twiggy tree is gone. She had scrapped out the remains lf Thursday's leg of lamb, and made a delicious sauce for it: mint, a little parsley, a little vinegar -- gee, it was good. Some cheese, some pickles, tiny spinach leaves from the garden, a little tuna-cannellini salad from the other day. With this, a glass of beer.


THEN TONIGHT Mel cooked four fine meaty duck breasts. I scored the fat side and she browned them quickly in a dry black iron skillet, then braised them, using pan juices to make the prune gravy you see in the white bowl to the left. The buttery spinach complemented the duck perfectly, as did the

MGV (Mourvedre, Grenache, Viogier), Preston of Dry Creek, 2009

Australo-French

Hill Court, Warranwood, Victoria, September 27, 2014—

HERE'S AN EARLY SHOT of tonight's first course, appetizers taken with, not a Martini this Saturday night, but a pastis, first of the spriing. A very nice paté de compagne; a delicious salmon mousse, some first-rate olives, stuffed little pimentos, and artichokes à la grecque. With them, after the photo was taken, bread and crackers and spicy potato chips, and then a little simple white wine.

Were dining downstairs, guests of my Australian niece and her Paris-born husband. Fred's French, John had explained, and misses the French-style dinners, and likes to put one on now and then; he'll))  have us down to a proper meal.

And he did, though Ana was clearly party to the affair. She'd been to the delicatessen, for example, and found these appetizers, and she's the one who chose the next item:

coquilles St..-Jaccques, local ((Melbourne Bay) sea scallops, beautifully cooked in butter with (I think) delicate leek leaves, accompanied by grilled asparagus with a perfect Hollandaise — Fred knows his sauces.


UNext, the plat principal: Barramundi, the locally popular cod-like fish, firm-textured and flaky and delicately flavored. Ana had grilled this over wood, taking advantage of branches from the dead tree we'd felled earlier, flavoiring it with herbs from the garden.  And with it, a delicous salad of lettuce and radicchio


and roasted vegetables: caramelized carrots and beetroot; puffy little potatoes

Dessert was pots de creme Fred had made, as expertly as his sauces, and I'm sorry that by then the iiPhone was enjoying company, conversation, and the dinner far too much to take a photo.

Sauvignon blanc, Queen Adelaide, 2013 (simple, clean, refreshing); Pinot grigio, Windy Peak, 2013 (nicely expressive, clean and crisp)

Roast lamb

Hill Court, Warranwood, September 26, 2014—

YES: AS NOTED HERE many times before, Virgil was right to sing

Of all the meat that we can eat
Chicken, beef, or ham
The one that tickles my palate the most
is lamb, lamb, lamb…
And that is what the blessed Mel, wonderful cook that she is, gave us tonight on what had been a special family day. 
First, since there seem to be no Martinis here in Australia, we had a Kir royale as an apéritif. It doesn't hurt to have a Frenchman — a Parisian, even— in the downstairs apartment: he arrived with a bottle of Cassis and did the mixing.
Then came the lamb, Spring lamb, roasted to just the right degree with rosemary and garlic, with steamed new potatoes and asparagus. There's nothing more to say. This is one of the Hundred Plates.
Shiraz, TarraWarra Estate, 2012: Complex and rich (thanks, Jim)

Friday, September 26, 2014

All'italiana

Hill Court, Warranwood, Victoria, September 25, 2014—

WE DROVE A COUPLE of hours today to the curious old mining town Bendigo, now a regional center with a thriving local-tourism economy — mainly for the purpose of visiting museums: but also for lunch.

Lunch we took at practically the first place we stumbled upon after parking on a fairly steep street in front of the art museum, a street given to cafés and restaurants, antique shops and gift shops, hair salons and the like. The sidewalk is roofed over in places, with tables and chairs outside the restaurant, a pleasant setting suggesting perhaps a decent enough lunch. And the place had an Italian theme.

I ordered a couple of baskets of garlic bread for the table -- there were five of us -- and then the fettucine carbonara for myself. A couple of months ago, I think, I posted comments here under the title "Carbonarish," and to tell the truth this dish was a little inauthentic, with its bright green parsley leaves. But the cream sauce was nicely made, the bacon was tasty, and the dish succeded perfectly. 

Frascati, Cantina Soc. di Monte Porzio Cateno, 2012, old-fashioned, mediocre, and very pleasant

• Borchelli Ristorante, 105 View Street, Bendigo, Victoria; +61.3.5441.4455


ON THE WAY HOME we shopped for dinner, which was left up to me: two cans of cannellini, a can of good tuna, a basket of arugula. Other things were in Mel's capacious pantry. I chopped an onion to combine with the tuna and beans, and a couple of my charming nieces dressed the arugula with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. A bottle of cheap Sauvignon blanc, and Bob's your uncle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tasting wines

Tarrra Warra Winery, in the Yarra Valley


The Yarra Valley, Victoria, September 24, 2014—

WE TOOK A DRIVE under overcast skies up the broad Yarra Valley today, intent on lunch and an introduction to Victoria's best wines. The valley is reminiscent of Sonoma county, I'd say, though much more varied as to agriculture. Much of the land is too low and wet, in season, for grapevines, and is left to grazing and I suppose hay production. The architecture ranges from the simple utilitarian, not greatly in evidence, to the modern and ambitious — just as in California, the wealthier the house, the more ambitious the architectureWe started with lunch, at Yering Station, whose fine old 19th-century barn sat lonely, I thought, in an immaculate and pleasant landscape looking at a magnificent glassed-in restaurant whose white-tablecloth tables were generously and formally distributed in a large room whose ceiling must have been twenty feet high, above windows looking out over the valley.

Of the wines on offer the Marsanne=Viognier-Roussane jumped out at me and we ordered a bottle: smooth, a bit complex, subtly made. I ordered a duck egg salad, accompanied by polenta toasts and shavings of Parmesan cheese; and since there were four of us at table (not counting one-year-old Lola, who did a good job with the bread) we ordered side dishes: Brussels sprouts with pork cracklings, French-fried potatos, a barley-and-cauliflower terrine. I liked my egg and the sprouts and the "chips," but didn't try the terrine, whose cauliflower would have suited the wine even less, I thought, than did the Brussels sprouts and the egg — though in the event the wine had enough going for it to overcome the dubious pairing.

After lunch we walked through a pleasant grove of geometrically planted topiary elms, something I've never seen before, to the tasting room, where we went through eighteen or twenty wines: the Marsanne blend, Chardonnays, Pinot noirs, and Syrahs of various ages, drawn from various adjacent vineyard lots. I was struck with the quality of these wines, assembled with great care from plantings thoughtfully respectful of terroir and exposure. The wines were very good indeed and not extraordinarily expensive, I suppose, though well beyond my daily budget.

• Yering Station, 38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen; +61.3.9730.0100

Next we drove to TarraWarra Estate, whose imposing art gallery you see in the photograph above. Alas we had by now no time for art: we proceeded directly to the tasting, going through a similar range of Marsanne blends, Chardonnays, Pinot noirs, and Shiraz. If Yering Station's wines made me think of the best of the Napa valley, the wines here took me to the best of Dry Creek: fully authentic, deep, complex, full-bodied but not overwhelming.

The Chardonnays and Pinot noirs were as close to Burgundy as the Australian terroir would permit, I thought, and the Marsannes and Shiraz approached the best of the Rhone. There wasn't a wine I wouldn't buy by the case if I had the money, and by California standards (not to mention Burgundy!) they weren't prohibitively expensive. Alas, there seems to be no American importer. The very engaging young man pouring the wines suggested there wasn't enough wine to capture an importer, and that the image of Australian wine we form in the States, based on Yellowtail and such, had hurt the Australian reputation, much as Gallo had slowed the acceptance of California wines fifty years ago.

•TarraWarra Estate, 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Victoria; +61.3.5957.3510

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Waiters Restaurant

Warranwood, Victoria, Australia, September 23, 2014—

Photo: Jim Shere

INTO THE CITY today, a beautiful first day of Spring, for an urban stroll involving cafés and bookshops, and lunch at a place I very much like, one of my Hundred Restaurants.

Not so much for the kitchen, though its execution is quite acceptable and the menu -- written up each day on chalkboards -- is attractive and nourishing. Rather, I like this place for its old-fashioned ambiance. It re inds me how similar Melbourne and San Francisco are: this is old-fashioned and reassuring, full of bonhomie. You walk up a flight of steps to get in, and meet a big rectangular room seating perhaps forty, windows at the street end, the open kitchen at the other. Two cooks work in that kitchen; two saucy waitresses handle the floor.

The clientele at lunch is mostly regulars, mostly businessmen. I counted about two dozen men at tables, not counting me and my brothers; there were three women among them. Many of the tables seated five or six; there were no couples.

I began with grilled sardines on a bed of mixed salad drizzled with just a bit of balsamic vinaigrette. The sardines were butterflied, the bones removed, and they lacked salt, but that was easily remedied. The blackboard had promised lamb Roman style, but it turned out not to be Testaccio-style scraps but sliced roast leg of lamb that was served up in a tasty, meaty tomato sauce, with plenty of vegetables on the side -- carrots, green beans, a good-sized roast potato.

House Pinot grigio and Sangiovese

• The Waiters Restaurant, 20 Meyers Place, Melbourne; 0419 553 869

Afterward, a fine coffee at Pellegrini, an oldfashioned cafe on a city boulevard nearby, whose proprietor had a Roman air about him himself, and served up my macchiato in a glass too big but curiously appropriate and elegant.

• Pellegrini's, 66 Bourke Street, Melbourne; 9662 1885


THAT SUBSTANTIAL LUNCH did not prevent tucking into a fine dinner. Mel poached a small chicken with star anise, lemon grass, a little tarragon I think, and served it over rice noodles with a mixed salad to accompany it. Delicious.

Pinot grigio, Lindeman's "Bin 85", 2013