It’s been a terrifying couple of weeks for lots of people on Australia’s east coast recently, with so much rain and wind hitting areas. I saw a stat that said the Brisbane River received three Sydney Harbours worth of water in just a few days!
But hopefully the worst of it is behind us and people can rebuild their lives.
But other than the bad weather, we’ve had quite a lot to celebrate and be thankful for: our anniversary, a pretty cool concert and an awesome lunch to celebrate not only International Women’s Day but specifically the women working in Australian distilleries.
We also have some new wine to tell you about and a restaurant recommendation you shouldn’t miss!
Hope you enjoy this Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx
We start this Edition off the way any good day should: with a delicious brunch!
Just up the road from us, Euforia Cafe turns out some amazing food. Christina’s chilli kimchi scram is delicious (and her add-on of halloumi as well) but my BLAT sandwich is much more like what I’m in the mood for.
If you’re after great food and coffee, friendly service and views of the Harbour Bridge while you dine, check this place out.
Yes, it is raining again, but that’s ok. We’re celebrating!
Today is mine and Christina’s 13th wedding anniversary, and in a way, the rain is appropriate. It rained so heavily on our wedding day that the awning of our venue broke and leaked water all over the celebrant’s microphone. Luckily she had a very loud voice.
To mark the day, we’re enjoying a beautiful glass of Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon. We’re huge fans of this excellent Hunter Valley winery and always pop in whenever we’re in the region.
In spite of the torrential rain, we’ve managed to make it to dinner for our anniversary. We’re at Anason—a Turkish restaurant in Barangaroo.
We kick things off with a couple of cocktails: Christina’s Kosem Sultan—a tequila and Aperol drink is very pretty, but my Raki Southside really hits the spot.
It’s so good to see Anason and the restaurants along the waterfront here busy in spite of the rain and worries around the continuing pandemic.
It would be very easy to just cancel dinner reservations, especially since many roads and a lot of the public transport options have been badly affected by the storms.
We pore over the menu for a while and decide that decisions are someone else’s problem tonight. We go for the degustation feast option—with matching wines of course!
Soon, the goodies start coming.
The oyster and tarama on a squid ink cracker balanced on oyster shells has so many flavour layers, and the sea urchin roe, bonito parfait and pickle on brioche is such a clever dish.
The dish in the bottom left is called Balik & Ekmek. It’s a kind of sandwich of cured bonito and tarama between two shell-like crackers and has a kind of tartare texture. The avruga caviar on top adds a level of luxury.
Finally, the grilled ox tongue on toast with muhammara and caperberries is rich and indulgent.
These are served with a Turkish Chardonnay.
The next dishes are a trio of tender eggplant, mint and coriander, roasted carrots, spiced goats curd and hazelnuts, and—my favourite of the whole evening—manti.
They call these little triangular shaped things dumplings, but I think they’re more like dense chewy pasta shapes. They’re served with slow-cooked lamb, garlic yoghurt and paprika butter, and I’d come back here just for this dish.
This course comes with a glass of Sevilen Plato Kalecik Karasi—a lighter bodied Turkish red wine.
The last savoury dishes to come out are the roasted cauliflower, green harissa and almond slivers, and a perfectly cooked and sliced lamb loin with a beautiful smoked eggplant puree.
The Turkish Syrah they’ve paired with this food is deep and full-bodied. Perfect for these dishes.
Finally, we’re presented with dessert and a dish that Christina’s been wanting to try for ages. This is kunefe—a ‘cake’ of spun pastry soaked in sugar syrup encasing stringy melted cheese and covered with crushed pistachio and rose petals.
Think baklava and then times it by 1000. This is incredible.
The slightly sweet, slightly sour balance of an eight-year-old Turkish Muscat deals with the sweetness of the dish and lets the saltiness of the cheese come through. What a dish!
The lovely staff at Anason also give us Turkish coffee and a little baklava on the house too for our anniversary. A lovely touch.
This evening, I’m home alone while Christina goes out with our friend Deb to a concert at the Hordern Pavilion.
To quote Christina when she came home:
“The Jungle Giants were awesome and I felt what it’s like being young again, going to a gig at the Hordern.”
This evening, we’re giving this new beauty a run out. It’s a brand new rosé from Lisa McGuigan Wines in the Hunter Valley.
You can see our review and video of Lisa’s excellent cellar door Vamp here, but this wine is right in line with the fascinating brand that Lisa has created.
Part of Lisa’s new Renaissance Range, the Athena Rosé is brilliantly bright and light, a beautiful illuminating Provençal style rosé. And although it’s so light, there’s still the structure and body to it that gives so much to the drinker.
This afternoon, we’re at a very special event: the International Women’s Day lunch at Bloodwood Newtown. Not only is today about celebrating women all over the world, it’s also an acknowledgement of women in the Australian distilling industry—something that’s very important to both of us.
It’s the third time we’ve attended this event and it’s gone from strength to strength.
The completely booked-out restaurant—which not only supports local business but is also run and owned by businesswoman and chef Claire Van Vuuren enjoyed a host of delicious food and matching Aussie spirit-based cocktails.
To begin with, a range of entrees like fresh focaccia, marinated mushrooms, pecan paté, and snow peas and sugarsnaps with puffed grains. This was served with a delicious French 75 made with Banks & Solander Limoncello made here in NSW.
The spirits involved in today’s recipes are also represented by members of each distillery, which is pretty cool.
From left to right, the Banks & Solander Limoncello used in a French 75; Never Never Distilling’s Triple Juniper Gin used in a Gin Tea; Grainshaker Distillery’s Rye Vodka that’s in our espresso martini; Cape Byron Distillery (aka Brookies) Mac macadamia and wattleseed liqueur; and Seppeltsfield Road Distillery’s Barossa Dry Gin.
The excellent women in the top photo here are the various distillers and representatives of the Aussie distilleries, but also Kathleen Davies, founding owner of Nip of Courage distribution company, which only deals with Australian craft spirits (she has also just launched Women of Australian Distilling—a cohort representing women in all elements of the industry) and Abby, Nip of Courage’s national brand ambassador.
The bottom photo here is of Claire Van Vuuren (R) and her team. This year, Claire has handed over kitchen reins to three of her chefs to create a menu in their own personal style but that also represents the various spirits of today’s event.
First up is Chef Sarina Fang’s exquisite seared scallops on a bed of delicate congee with a Thai basil pesto. Delicious. And perfectly paired with a Seppeltsfield Road Tom Collins cocktail.
Next is Chef Jessica’s san choy bow that comes with fried shallots and a dangerously addictive Indonesian ‘gulia’ sauce. The espresso martini with Grainshaker’s Rye Vodka works so well with this dish.
Chef Deanne Parmaxidis’ slow-cooked juniper lamb filo with crumbled fetta is a family recipe that’s been handed down from her grandmother and is absolutely supreme. The gin tea using Never Never Distillery’s Triple Juniper Gin is refreshing and bright, cutting through the heft of this classic Greek dish.
The last course today is a crunchy Spanish churros with warm chocolate and macadamia sauce. The macadamia and wattleseed liqueur from Brookies paces out the sweet and savoury elements of this dish the same way a well-aged dessert wine does.
It’s been an inspiring afternoon hearing from these impressive women working in Australian distilleries.
Forging a unique and defined position in this male-dominated space, female distillers are showing just how valuable their skills and knowledge are to Australian craft spirits.
The final punctuation on today’s lunch are these beautiful biscuits made by The Sweet Chick!
All too soon, this excellent lunch is over, but most of us head across the road to Earl’s Juke Joint, a seriously good cocktail bar serving all manner of classic and house-crafted drinks.
Their bar is seriously well-stocked with so many Aussie spirits, but they also have things like an impressive range of Japanese whisky here too. Even a bottle of Hibiki!
Before we all say goodbye, a hardened few march up the road to Baby Dragon—a bar that’s somewhere between tiki and mystic Asia. There are water features all through the bar and cherry blossom trees growing right out of the bar.
Cocktails here are beautifully made and an atmosphere that makes you want to stick around.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Weekly Edition.
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx