Tasting Australia 2016 – Single Sites Dinner

As part of Adelaide’s premier food and wine festival, Tasting Australia (1st – 8th May), the Adelaide Convention Centre hosted a special event, the Single Sites Dinner, showcasing seven of South Australia’s esteemed chefs alongside seven of the state’s award-winning winemakers. The Single Sites Dinner, held in the Panorama Ballroom with views of the River Torrens precinct, sees a unique seven course degustation menu paired with premium single vineyard wines. Each one-off dish being especially designed to not only complement the flavour profile of the matching wine but to showcase South Australian regional fare in all its glory. Adelaide Food Central was delighted to be given the opportunity to attend such an exclusive culinary experience.

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The dinner was hosted by Tasting Australia’s creative director Paul Henry and each course began with the winemaker introducing their single vineyard wine and telling stories of the wine’s origins and terroir. First up for the evening was Kate Laurie from Deviation Road (Adelaide Hills) introducing the 2009 Beltana Blanc de Blancs, which is produced using 100% Chardonnay grapes. Kate was paired with Lachlan Colwill from Hentley Farm Restaurant who created three appetisers to complement the sparkling. The first of these was the Smoky Bay oyster with passion fruit and rosemary. Given that I am not a fan of oysters (yes it’s the texture that gets me) I sold (well not really) my oyster to the highest bidder on the table and trust me there were quite a few! Guests loved how fresh and perfectly icy-chilled the oysters were and surprisingly the passion fruit, albeit a bit out there, was a huge hit. The second Colwill creation was the Quail egg with curry spice and quinoa. The quail egg, served on a papadum-like crispbread, was delightfully creamy with a subtle curry flavour. It was like a contemporary Indian appetiser and one that I wanted more of. The last appetiser from Colwill was the Hentley Farm Estate raised lamb with rye, blue cheese and onion; another tasty morsel that paired seamlessly with the fresh citrus and honey aromas of the Blanc de Blancs.

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The next pairing was Jeffrey Grosset from Grosset Wines (Clare Valley) with his 2015 Polish Hill Riesling and Paul Baker from Botanic Gardens Restaurant. Paul created what he referred to as his “favourite dish”; Tommy ruff escabeche with Kinkawooka mussel custard, fennel remoulade and squid ink cracker. Paul told us how he aimed to connect the Botanic Gardens with two of his favourite South Australian ingredients, the humble herring and mussel. I would have to say that this course was one of my favourite pairings of the night! The Tommy ruff escabeche was light, fresh and had a lovely sweetness that complemented the creamy mussel custard and fennel remoulade. The squid ink cracker added a visual and textural contrast.

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Kym Schroeter from Penfolds (Adelaide Hills), who I was lucky enough to be seated next to, along with David Swain from FINO Seppeltsfield were a match made in heaven. This duo consisted of the 2014 Cellar Reserve Chardonnay with Barossa Birds quail, eggplant, peppers and yellow split peas. David explained to us that his creation was “all about autumn”. I absolutely loved the smokiness afforded by the roasted eggplant (a vegetable that I don’t always enjoy), which complemented with the wonderful citrus and white stone fruit flavours of the Chardonnay; whilst the al dente cooked split peas added a variation in texture to the dish and a bed on which the quail to sit. The quail itself was perfectly cooked, had a lovely glaze to the skin and to my surprise was far meatier than I have come to expect from such delicate birds. David informed us that these quails were a Japanese species with a higher meat to bone ratio. Winning!

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Duncan Welgemoed from Africola created what he described as a “rustic and tasty” dish comprised of Charcoal Savannah Farm chicken hearts with mielies and marjoram to match the 2014 Old MacDonald Grenache hosted by Stephen Pannell from S.C. Pannell Wines (McLaren Vale). Now after reading chicken hearts on the menu I was rather sceptical about trying what the lady next to me described as “just another muscle”. As a scientist I just couldn’t bring myself to try the chicken hearts, which reminded me all too much of my day job. I did, however, overhear some guests saying the chicken hearts were a tad spicy to pair with the Grenache, but delicious by others; definitely a combination that split the table. What I did love about this dish was the creamy mielie-meal purée that tasted just like creamed corn at the base, but I found the marjoram too overpowering.

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Another favourite course of the night was the Hutton Vale lamb various ways with corn salad and buttered Jerusalem artichoke purée created by Mark McNamara from Food Luddite. Now what goes better with lamb than a full-bodied red, in fact a 2013 Mount Edelstone Shiraz from Henschke (Eden Valley), introduced by Stephen Henschke. This beautifully presented dish consisted of a croquette that utilised all parts of the two lambs that were used to create the entire dish for the hundred odd dinner guests, combined with a piece of leg or loin meat. The croquette had a delicious golden-brown crispy exterior and a rich, smooth meaty interior; whilst the leg/loin meat was perfectly cooked with a pink hue still visible. The artichoke purée afforded a pleasant creamy element to the dish.

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The last savoury course of the evening was the Boston Bay breaded pig belly with carrots and chestnuts created by Andy Davies from Press* Food & Wine and Osteria Oggi matched with Sue Hodder from Wynns Coonawarra Estate (Coonawarra) and a 2010 Messenger Cabernet. I loved the crispiness of the pork belly skin and the sweetness of the carrot purée.

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The degustation finished on a sweet note, literally, with a 2013 Black and Blue Fortified Zinfandel presented by Dudley Brown from Inkwell Wines (McLaren Vale) paired with Karena Armstrong from The Salopian Inn who created a Cheese Wrights Woodside goat’s milk and dirt(y) honey panna cotta with burnt caramel toffee and quince sorbet. Karen explained to us that the dish was “a bit quirky” and really was “all about quinces” with roasted and diced quince fruit plus a quince sorbet. Whilst the panna cotta had a slight wobble, it was deliciously smooth and creamy with a subtle honey flavour. The quince fruit added a mild, yet natural sweetness, whilst the sorbet added a contrasting temperature. I loved the addition of the burnt caramel toffee which added a scrumptious ‘crunch factor’ to the dessert. Whilst both the dish and fortified wine were absolutely delightful in their own right, together I found the Zinfandel overpowered the delicate nature of the panna cotta.

Adelaide Food Central would like to thank Tasting Australia, the South Australian Tourism Commission, the superbly efficient and friendly Adelaide Convention Centre staff and all the South Australian winemakers and chefs for a night of memorable wining and dining!

Words and Photos by Kelly Betterman

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