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Of wine and cheese … the merry month of May

WHAT an experience. Recently we visited the Richmond Hill Café and Larder in Melbourne … and how buzzy is this place? Just before midday we invaded the cheese room and chose a 98gm slice of the $85/kg Will Studd selected 18-month aged Comte and a quarter-round of Truffled Coulommiers, then sat down at the bar for a flat white and an ice coffee … to watch the place fill up and overflow before our eyes for lunch.

Richmond Hill

Our barman David was super-efficient and friendly to boot and as far as we could tell all the other staff were of the same ilk … people were smiling and being helped to tables and seats all over the large room, and if the owner were to walk through he’d probably think ‘business is good today’. I would.

LATER we visited Simon Johnson’s deli at Chadstone, where Elvin sold us one of the other ingredients for our dusk feast, a packet of charcoal squares from the Fine English Cheese Company of Bath, England … $9.25. I’m sure the product was of the highest quality but I have to say (as this was my first charcoal biscuit in a lifetime) they’re pretty weird things to put in your mouth, even with Will Studd cheese.

Imagine the taste of 1% of the biscuit’s weight in charcoal powder rolling around in one’s mouth, mixed with wheat flour, butter (23%), whey powder, malted barley flour, sugar (yep!) salt, sodium bicarb and malted barley extract … and the odd tipple of wine which Studd recommends you take with cheeses.

The product box says charcoal crackers were first made in England in the mid-19th century as an aid to digestion but the ancient Egyptians first used the stuff for medical purposes way back.

THIS MONTH’S Wine Rack (top, our rolling display of labels purchased locally) displays one of the most interesting aspects of the contemporary trade … the complex product descriptions on each bottle which combine esoteric wine vocabulary with marketing jargon. A good example of what the scholars call recondite language, used to impress, allure and sometimes difficult for mere mortals to understand. Next time you buy a bottle, study the label and see whether you can penetrate the prose.

Several of our bottles this month were bought from Naked Wines Australia, one of the new online wine sites.

Naked

SOME of the Wine Rack bottles were purchased during a lovely Sunday picnic to the Bellarine Peninsular south of Geelong and south-west of Melbourne. We stocked up on hamper goodies and headed to the little hamlet of Portarlington, home of a cute little model railway.

Scotchmans Hill

On the way, we called in at Pip’s favourite winery (in this region, that is) Scotchman’s Hill, and made off with an armful of bottles, including a couple of chardonnay and a pinot noir. Barely a label’s length down the road we hit Jack Rabbit wines, where the locals had told us the views were spectacular. As indeed they are, but the comparison between the wines themselves and the approach to service at the two cellar doors was striking. Scotchman’s Hill was quiet, unprepossessing and the sales staff quietly confident … and they had a right to be, for the sheer glowing mouthfeel and memorable flavour of their offerings. Jack Rabbit, on the other hand, was bustling and full of action — yes, the views were magic — but I’m afraid, on the day both the service and the product left us a little cold. Interesting comparison and I wonder whether anyone else felt that way passing through both businesses? Please leave us a comment …

JackRabbitOur jaunt around the peninsular took us to the Royal Hotel at Queenscliff and believe me, these little towns will be getting some more visits. Autumn in this part of the world is enticing and embracing.

RoyalQueenscliff

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