Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nosh @ Newport: wine degustation dinner

A tiny kitchen is no limit to the imagination of great chefs. This was proved at the inaugural Nosh @ Newport wine dinner where chef David Azzopardi sent out seven tasting plates matched to wines from Red Hill Estate on the Mornington Peninsula.

Nosh is primarily a daytime cafe, serving excellent coffee and food to cafe-starved locals, who have flocked there since it opened in 2007. It's particularly popular with local mums and bubs because of its relaxed ambiance and healthy children's menu that offers no fried food.

Nosh now opens on Friday nights, where Azzopardi, who has cooked upstairs at the Stokehouse and at Ezard's, is given more of a chance to strut his dining stuff. The inaugural wine dinner was also a chance for him to display his talent. Forty people gathered at Nosh to eat Azzopardi's food and hear Red Hill Estate winemaker Michael Kyberd discuss the wines.

Dinner started with a glass of blanc de blancs, a dry aperitif wine, matched with a chestnut soup drizzled with truffle oil. Despite the soup's rich flavouring, it was quite a light broth and this married well with the dry wine, as there was no strong contrast between the two to produce disharmony on the palate.

Next were half-shelled scallops on baba ghanoush with parsley, pine nut and preserved lemon salad, matched with a pinot grigio. The wine was sweet at first sip but then dry, with no aftertaste. It was balanced perfectly by the smoky ghanoush and juicy scallops.

A glass of buttery, full-bodied chardonnay was paired with ocean trout on sauteed kipflers, cherry tomatoes, broad beans and lemon butter sauce. This was a strong dish but the flavours of both food and wine were of equal intensity. The lemon butter sauce highlighted citrus notes in the chardonnay.

Then it was time to move onto reds. In a classic pairing, confit duck leg with marinated beetroot and watercress was matched with pinot noir. The pinot's ripe cherry taste subtly counterbalanced the saltiness of the duck. If the trout and chardonnay were examples of flavours that bridge each other, this match was an example of flavours that complement each other.

A pink grapefruit granita was served as a palate cleanser before the next dish, which was voted by the audience as the dish of the night. Beef braised in black vinegar with coconut rice, broccolini, hot and sour salad and crispy garlic was an amazing dish in its own right but even more so when paired with a full-bodied shiraz. The tender melt fell apart at the touch of a fork and the coconut rice was sublime. The shiraz stood up well to these strong flavours and its slight sweetness was balanced by the savoury dish.

A very runny, salty soft brie, from Locheilan Kaarimba, was matched with botrytis semillon. On paper, it might sound like a strange combination, but the saltiness of the cheese was well balanced by the sweet, sultana-like wine.

The final pairing of the night was liqueur muscat, made with grapes from Rutherglen, matched with a rich chocolate fondant with orange semifreddo and honeycomb. Winemaker Michael Kyberd explained that, when matching desserts, the wine needs to be sweeter than the dessert or the wine's flavours will disappear. This dish was a good example of that.

Judging by the happy patrons spilling out onto the street, Nosh @ Newport's inaugural wine dinner was a success and many are eagerly looking forward to the next one.

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