Friday, May 14, 2010

10 year old Australian nebbiolo - 2001 Parish Hill (Adelaide Hills)

So, what might a ten year old Australian nebbiolo taste like? I opened a 2001 Parish Hill nebbiolo last night to find out.

The usual pale red to brick light colour and edges. Somewhat muted nose, on-again off-again dull florals to smell. The same on-off pattern stretches through the palate, sometimes evident aged fruit, other times tar, dried herbs and a hint of the medicinal. Screwcap has not let this wine down - it is evidently nebbiolo, just lacking some stuffing and drive. The tannins have resolved themselves and the wine went well with organic chicken schnitzel, pan fried mushrooms with thyme, new potatoes and steamed green veg (brussel sprouts and zucchini).

Nothing to write home about, but evidence that some of the early Australian nebbiolo (my grand sample of one) is able to make a credible showing ten years from vintage. I'll look at some older Coriole nebbiolo in a coming post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Building a wood fired oven

I currently do a bit of cooking in a stone-framed fire pit surrounded by gravel out in the garden. Kind of a permaculture meets Japanese gravel meets Tuscan grill kind of thing. Mounds of dried prunings from a bay tree make for excellent grilled meats, eggplant and capsicum.

It's pretty primal cooking.

For a while now, I've been looking at an area under the bay tree as somewhere to build a wood fired oven to cook pizza, breads and other things. Not being especially handy, I have been keeping an eye on the workshops offered by Alan Watt ( Alan used to teach ceramics in Fine Arts at the Australian National University, and running these two day oven workshops has been a bit of a retirement project.

The workshop we did last weekend (a group of 20 or so people) built two ovens over the two days. One a high-tech oven (permanent placement, dome covered with high temperature concrete and a thermal blanket), the other a low-tech earth oven on a sort of portable metal frame. A 400kg weight counts as sort of portable to me.

The photo is of the high tech oven as it looked at the end of day two.

I had been thinking of building a basic brick oven, but have learned a lot from the course and am now thinking of doing something more like the two ovens we built. A good weekend to be learning something new in stunning autumn weather, with good pizza at the end of it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dinner at Italian and Sons

Last night was dinner at Italian and Sons, in Braddon. This is a recent (2009) new venture from the owners of Mezzalira restaurant in the city. Sporting a food and wine badge, as well as a woodfired oven and a good review from Terry Durack, I had hopes this would be good, interesting, Italian food in Canberra.

I had a Menabrea beer from Piedmont while making sense of the menu. We decided to start with a braise of vegetables (jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and peas, mainly) and two choices from the smallgoods: a salami and some prosciutto. The smallgoods were well-salted and flavoured, the prosciutto cut for soft texture with the salami pleasantly chewy. The vegetable braise offered layers of sweetness and a dominant flavour of jerusalem artichoke. The grissini provided lacked the handmade touch of the smallgoods.

We then had a dish of ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta, sauced with burnt butter and sage. Simple but well-executed, if a little unbalanced in the salting. A highlight of the dish being a clean and clear flavour to the pasta itself - not something you can often find in Canberra. The other main was a mushroom pizza from the wood oven. Brought out colder than it should have been, the taleggio was of excellent quality and the crust thin, crisped and pliable.

With both courses, we had a bottle of the 2006 vintage of Masi's Campofiorin ripasso wine. Not a vintage I'd had before, but a very good advert for how corvina, rondinella, molinara and rossignola grapes put through the partial referment ripasso process do not have to produce rich, dense, sweet wines. This was a lighter end of ripasso, and very easy drinking with the salty and savoury food.

To finish, a slice of chocolate torta, a little bitter praline and a somewhat under-flavoured mandarin sorbet, with an OK short macchiato.

I ended up 70% satisfied. The food is good, including the handmade smallgoods (sourced from Sydney), but it isn't quite good enough to compare with similar places in Melbourne. That aside, I'll be back to try more of the menu. The winelist could benefit from a few more Australian wines made from Italian varieties, but offers plenty of interesting drinking in a town short on Italian wines.

Cost, including wine and tip, $180 for two.