Monday, May 22, 2017

Champagne Masterclass

Calamity Sue and I went to see Weatherwise and Mild Oats by Noel Coward, performed at Teatro Vivaldi. Sadly it is the closing performance at this theatre restaurant. The one act plays were entertaining and the company, as always, was wonderful. It is such a shame this venerable institution will no longer be providing such diversions, as it is knocked down to make way for 'progress'.  

Calamity Sue at Teatro Vivaldi
When we have our house inspections (one of the horrid things about renting is that people come and judge you on your standards of cleanliness every few months) we received a black mark for our gardening skills. Apparently we had let the grass die (although in scorching Canberra temperatures it's hard to see how that can be avoided), so in the cooler months we planted some seed. And then it rained and this happened.

Him Outdoors and I went along with some friends to a champagne masterclass with the Champagne Dame (Kyla Kirkpatrick) at Marble and Grain. She's charming charismatic, informative and funny, which all makes for a great afternoon. 

Kyla Kirkpatrick, the Champagne Dame
Each course (there are five of them) is matched with a champagne, sparkling wine or rose. An added bonus was the opening glass of Blanc de Blanc Non Vintage (made from grapes from more than one year; a blend of different year's harvests) from Gallagher, right here in Canberra. It is dominated by fruit and has a creamy rich texture and a clean crisp finish.  It's really good.

Calamity Sue and General Philosopher with Gallagher Blanc de Blanc
The menu

The first course was bilini pikelets with caviar and lemon mascarpone. Him Outdoors has never had caviar before - he's not a big fish fan at the best of times, and so was highly suspicious of the unfertilised fish eggs. The accompanying wine was a Claude Cazals Vintage 2008 Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay)

The goat's cheese soufflé was matched with a Arbeaumont Non Vintage Brut: the wine has an even ratio of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes, which are the three varieties accepted in champagne.

Smoked duck breast and red cabbage goes beautifully with an Aubry Brut Jouy-Les-Reims consisting of 45% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir. As the Champagne Dame explained, champagne goes with anything (or nothing) at anytime and any where. Quite right.

Smoked duck breast and red cabbage

General Philosophy and Gindelle
Next up was a Jean Vesselle Saignée Rosé, which is made from 100% Pinot Noir. The term Saignée means to bleed and, when it comes to wine, it means that the red wine juice has been in contact with the skins and seeds. This Pinot Noir is grown in Bouzy, which is both a great name and location - it is within the champagne region and where the red wines used in the production of champagne come from.

It offers red fruit aromas (strawberries and raspberries) and a subtle meaty, yeasty character resulting from extended lees contact and exposure to the grape skins. Although more usually consumed as a celebratory drink - not accompanied by food - it is extremely versatile and goes well with strong food flavours and textures. The bold acidity and forward fruit aromas make it a good match for simple grilled seafood, roast pork or even ore exotically spiced dishes. We had it with salmon confit, green apple, fennel and sorrel. Utterly delicious.

Gindelle and The Minister

The Champagne Dame does enjoy her theatrics and she was not going to let this opportunity for sabrage pass her by. Sabrage is the technique of opening a bottle of champagne with a sword, or sabre. It became popular just after the French Revolution when the sabre was the weapon of choice of Napoleon's light cavalry - the Hussars. Napoleon fought all over Europe and the survivors partied hard. He allegedly said, "Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it."

One story goes that Madame Cliquot used to entertain Napoleon's soldiers in her vineyard (after she inherited her husband's champagne house aged 27), and as they rode off in the early morning with their complimentary bottle of champagne, they would open it with their sabre to impress the rich young widow. Kyla Kirkpatrick did not ride a horse, but she did make quite an impression opening that bottle. She admits it could also be done with a spatula or even the base of a wine glass, but that wouldn't look quite as cool.

The final drink was a sec champagne from Besserat de Bellefon, which is based in Epernay. Sec means dry, but it is sweeter than brut. A sec champagne will contain between 17 and 35 grams of sugar, while a brut champagne will have less than 15 grams. It's relatively a dessert champagne, which was handy as we had it with lemon cheesecake, citrus salad and mandarin sorbet.

Cheers from the group!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jogging the (Photographic) Memory

One misty morning I took these pictures while out running, and then played with the mood and atmosphere of the trees with my phone photography app. I quite like the results. 


Other jogging days lend themselves to unfiltered, unadjusted autumnal shots.

Stepping stones across Ginninderra Creek in Umbagong District Park

Monday, May 8, 2017

Studio Cat

He's ready for his close-up.


Monday, May 1, 2017

For all Occasions

Beer is not just for breakfast - it is for all occasions. Here it seen paired with my latest reading material in what I refer to as the books and booze series.

And wine in the form of a red biddy is apparently the perfect accompaniment to celebrate Burnley staying up. Claret is so hot right now.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Four Winds and a Prayer

This was the first free weekend we all had as a gang to pop out to Four Winds Vineyard for our annual 'New Year's' do. The colours and crisp autumn weather were delightful; the pizzas were plentiful; the wine was superb; the company was excellent: what a way to spend a day.

Four Winds Winery Lunch
Mr & Mrs Lovely Bonkers

I played about with the above picture on my phone photo app to make the following images.


And when we got home we were met by this fellow at the front door.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reasons to be cheerful: 1, 2, 3

Happy Anniversary to Him Outdoors and Me. It is our 15th year of marriage, and that is traditionally celebrated with crystal. Hence I got a cut crystal sugar bowl from the Salvation Army shop, filled it with crystallised ginger and made a card featuring a picture of Crystal Tipps and Alistair. 

Happy Crystal Anniversary
The yeast was plopping away merrily in the beer on Easter Sunday, which seems appropriate. 

He is Risen
And the sky was blue and the weather pleasant for my morning jog.

Drake Brockman Drive

Monday, April 10, 2017

Endolphin Rush

I may have mentioned before that I don't particularly like Disney. But the Lovely Bonkers' First Born does and it was her 18th birthday, so she had a cake made for her in the style of that from Sleeping Beauty, apparently. The creator of this masterpiece (Emma Cake) is incredibly talented, so it tasted sensational as well as looking so outstanding. 

Cake with a cartoon filter 

The next day when I went for a jog, I found this little fellow on the pathway like a fish out of water. (Yes, I know a dolphin isn't technically a fish, but I thought it was funny.)

Stray dolphin