Another highlight of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival for me was the Appropriately Long (Girl Power) Sommeliers Lunch, run by Sommeliers Australia. I was lucky enough to be invited along, and I brought best-friend-K along too. The event was held at Ormond Hall (behind the Belgian Beer Cafe), which turned out to be a fabulous venue that comfortably held about 200 people. This year each dish was prepared by a female chef and matched with two wines by a female sommelier.
The first course was prepared by Ocha chef Paula Lawdorn and included a juicy, crunchy prawn ball, a ponzu oyster and salmon tartare. Sonia Bandera, sommelier at Donovan’s, matched it with a 2010 De Bortoli Reserve Riesling and a kickass Uehara Soma No Tengu Sake.
The second course was by Rebecca Hoswell, chef at Ilona Staller (a restaurant I still haven't been to yet - I must rectify that soon): octopus carpaccio with shallots, celery leaves, chilli, lemon oil and exquisitely small baby shiso leaves. Gertrude Street Enoteca sommelier Jacqueline Turner matched it with a 2009 Hochkirch Riesling and a 2009 Dona Paterna Alvarinho 2009 from Portugal.
The main course was prepared by (former Melbourne Wine Room head chef) Nicky Riemer from Union Dining, the Swan Street provincial European restaurant she is about to open with Adam Cash (bespectacled former front of house manager at Cutler & Co). Given that Union Dining will be only a short walk from my house, I'm pretty damn excited about it.
The dish Nicky prepared was capretto (baby goat) that had been slow cooked until very tender, served with braised peppers and olives. This was my favourite course - the bitter radicchio leaves cut through the rich meat beautifully, and I loved the sweet/salt from the peppers and olives. Adam later hinted to me that this dish may appear on their menu - I hope so. Circa sommelier Sarah Ward paired the goat with a 2005 Chalmers Aglianico from the Murray Darling and a 2008 Tuscan Brancaia ‘Tre’ (Sangiovese, Merlot & Cabernet).
Throughout the afternoon, Somms Australia president and consummate showman Ben Edwards interviewed the sommeliers and asked each one to talk through her wine pairings. He also very naughtily sprang a blind tasting on them - a 2009 Pepper Tree Shiraz from the Hunter Valley, which Sarah Ward very impressively picked.
Next up was a cheese course supplied by the Calendar Cheese Company: Locheitan Wunghna and Calendar Farmhouse Cheddar. Matched by Leanne Altmann from Cutler & Co with a 2008 All Saints ‘Family Cellar’ Durif and a cider (Napoleone & Co, Punt Road Wines). Excuse the photo - I'd been called up to the stage to act as barrel girl for the raffle, and by the time I got back to my table this was all that remained!
The final course was the other real highlight for me: Rebecca Creighton, who works at Rookpool Bar & Grill, prepared a stunning coconut and pandan tapioca pudding with tropical fruits and ginger granita. As b-f-K remarked, I'm generally dubious when it comes to tapioca in desserts, but this one was creamy and silky and sublime. Simone Spicer, sommelier at The European matched it with a Punch ‘Berry’s Creek Vineyard’ Noble Riesling 2008 and a Schloss Lieser Riesling Auslese 2008 from Mosel, Germany.
The event was a hell of a lot of fun, striking a good balance between discussing the wines and just enjoying some great nosh and great company. A drink afterwards in the sunny courtyard was followed by a gin and tonic down in St Kilda. Any rumour suggesting that a small group of us started belting out showtunes in the middle of a crowded Melbourne Wine Room will be STAUNCHLY DENIED.