Tag Archives: French cuisine

and we have in the red corner, beer – in the blue corner, wine

It seems only fitting that at a pub called The Courthouse one should deliberate upon the merits of both good beer and good wine and so one evening a large contingent of the Australian Beer Writers’ Guild found themselves at The Courthouse in North Melbourne to do just that at the invitation of Scott, the manager and the newly appointed (at the time) head chef Julian Hill.

Now what on earth was a gastropub manager doing, inviting a bunch of self-confessed stinky amber ale lovers to a dinner where there would be wine?! Conversion, of course! Did it work? We’ll see…

I have nothing but deep admiration for wine nerds: there is so much to learn and as much as I would love dearly to be as wine nerdy as I attempt to be beer nerdy (for I also have bucketloads to learn in that area too), the truth is, I’ve no idea where to start. Yes, it is that simple. It also feels more intimidating. It might sound stupid, but this is not a thought process exclusive to foodie-drinkie aspects of my life. I’ve been a classical flute player for half of my life and absolutely terrified of learning jazz because I never felt I mastered classical.

However, as if to ease us in, we were given a canapé that had only a beer match: an ocean trout cornet matched with the Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. It looked beautiful and tasted delightful and got the table talking excitedly in promise of what was to come.

The first proper course, the entrée, was crumbed pork head with sauce gribiche and remoulade.

It seems any meat on the pig’s head is prized for its porkier-than-usual element and the course was matched with a whopping three beverages: two beers – the Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (formerly known as their Draught Ale) and the Weihenstephaner Kristall Weissbier, a beer from the oldest brewery in the world. The wine chosen was the Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer riesling from 2008.

To my palate, the best match was the Kristall Weissbier though even that was not entirely perfect: I felt the course needed something along these lines style-wise but more ‘beefed up’. The Stone and Wood beer oddly enough got too hoppy: not usually an issue I would raise with this particular beer as I find it quite fruity and enjoy its passionfruit notes.

For the next course of venison shanks en crepinette with sweet potato and horseradish, it was the same deal – two beers and one wine and left up to us to nominate the one that best matched the course.

The meal had a distinctly French slant to it and this largely reflects what The Courthouse do, both in their dining room menus and the pub fare available in the less formal area.

From left to right we have the Bridge Road Bière de Garde, Three Ravens Dark Alt Noir (a Melbourne microbrewery out in Thornbury!) and the Alpha Box and Dice ‘Enigma’ Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from 2009.

The liquid match here was no contest: it was the Bière de Garde (god, am I forever jealous I missed out on imbibing this confessed favourite on hand pump at the Tanswell pub in Beechworth. The Three Ravens I had sampled prior to dining and the Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon I found too rough on my palate. Yes, I emphasise ‘my’ palate and fully disclose that it is not one developed for adequately judging wines.

Usually, French-influenced dining gives you the choice of a cheese or dessert course. Scott and Julian exceeded our expectations by spoiling us with both: to finish, we were treated to ‘textures of chocolate’ and raspberry sorbet. It sounds like a standard dessert but the treatment of chocolate in its various iterations ensured it stayed interesting.

The two beverages served with this were the Hargreaves Hill Abbey Dubbel and the NV Sanchez Romate Cardinal Cisneros Pedro Ximenez, the latter of which won most of the hearts around the table as best suiting dessert.

But Hargreaves Hill was yet to come back to a triumph for the last course of Isle of Mull cheddar, beating the De Bortoli Melba Reserve cabernet sauvignon 1999 vintage with their humble English Special Bitter. I confess I am very partial to a good ESB though I seem to recall that this was one of the pairings that divided the table the most.

The excellent news is that you do not have to be an Australian Beer Writers’ Guild member to come along to such a dinner as the folks at The Courthouse have decided to host one for the general public! Simply head on to The Crafty Pint for booking details – several ABWG members will be there and we’d love to say hello and hear your thoughts on whose alcoholic beverage reigns supreme!

Crafty on the right, Champion of Beer. Chris McNamara on the left, Reformed Wine Nerd ponders his defection to the dark, beery side. Could it be that he is thankful for his defection when beer was named the winner on this very night…?

BYO boxing gloves, shorts and boots in your chosen colour, of course.*

The Courthouse on Urbanspoon

*we encourage responsible drinking. Please don’t brawl. Bruises and the like will hurt when you’ve sobered up.

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some art, an interstate visitor and a fantastic lunch

Heidelberg in Melbourne in the late nineteenth century had quite the burgeoning art scene. The Museum of Modern Art at Heide in Bulleen is one such place you can still visit that exists as testament to the area’s past and also to showcase contemporary art. I am ashamed to admit that one gorgeous Sunday, it took a visit from a dear interstate guest Kathleen for me to revisit. I’d been about a decade ago to see some Picasso etchings. We were joined by Rob and C, both of whom are originally from Perth and more frequent visitors to Heide despite not living quite as near as I do.

Bad, bad me.

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So five of us decided to lunch at the adjacent Cafe Vue before entering the gallery. Mel, who is practically a sister to Tris was on duty and rushed out for a quick hug and greet before we were seated.

All of us chose items from the menu du jour, except C who went with the scrumptious lunchbox of the day.

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For just $15, a serve of cassoulet, beetroot panzanella salad, chicken sausage roll with bois boudran, and pistachio and white chocolate eclair could be yours on the day. Doesn’t it all look appetising and wonderfully presented? It’s like a grown-up box of (culinary) surprises!

From the menu du jour you can have your choice of two courses for $35 or three courses for $45. The day that we lunched there were two each for entrées, mains and dessert. There was also a selection of sides if you wished to bulk up your meal.

Kathleen and I had the same entrée – the bresaola with parmesan mousse and horseradish grissini. Oh wow. Flavoursome cured meat with mouthfuls of sometimes fiery mousse, cheese, rocket and grissini – simple yet so satisfying. It was presented on a wooden board. I reckon this should be a permanent item.

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Rob and Tris had the very unusual snail spring rolls with green curry sauce. I thought the spring rolls would be wimpy but they were the size of cigars. Yup, the green curry sauce comes in a cute jar. If you’re a bit wary of trying snails in true French style, then this is definitely a fine introduction – they’re not too ‘snaily’ (killing it in the wordsmith department today, eh?).

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Menu du jour continues! The lads selected the same main – the confit pork cheek, bubble and squeak with calvados jus. I got a taste and it was heavenly though the pork crackling was a little chewy as R noted.

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Us gals got the shellfish cassoulet with fillet of roasted sea bream. The cassoulet was okay, but the bream and pesto was extraordinary. The cassoulet had nothing whatsoever wrong with it, I think I just prefer mine with duck and sausages and partially blame wonder-woman extraordinaire Tammi’s at her place not so long ago!

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While C nibbled on her pistachio and white chocolate eclair with the grass green icing, Kathleen splashed out and got dessert, again from the special menu. She chose the deconstructed blood orange tart.

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Also, don’t forget the freshly squeezed orange juice! With a paper straw in the cutest bottle. We may have had a bit of a laugh over the coffee cups…yeah, yeah, call us snobs. Their non-coffee crockery is actually really stylish.

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Excellent company, wonderful food and an afternoon to check out the Carol Jerrems photography exhibition – just the perfect Sunday. I’ll be back more often.

Café Vue at Heide on Urbanspoon

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je ne suis pas un traiteur*

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I am an idiot.

But you probably already knew that, so let me be more specific. Before work, I decided to pop into Earl Canteen for the duck baguette I’d yet to salivate over. Despite living in Melbourne for twenty years and spending at least ten in the city, I managed to hop on the wrong tram and thus be whisked away far from Earl.

Serendiptously, I was near the brand new Le Traiteur. Rather mussed up (due to rain) and amused (due to having to walk past a strip joint), I went in and squinted myopically at the menu, pondering what baguette to take away.

They had just started making them when I’d arrived, and not being able to wait long, I told them what appealed and they could give me what was ready. Thus, I met the salted beef, organic Emmenthal, gherkin and mustard mayonnaise baguette.

salted beef, organic Emmenthal, gherkins & mustard mayonnaise

I’m a massive gherkin and mustard fan, so this was guaranteed to satisfy. But the beef! So tender. The baguettes are very soft, which is great for me as sometimes I struggle to chomp the crustier versions. It didn’t quite fill me up and left me wishing I’d chosen a pastry as an afternoon tea snack.

Under much less idiotic circumstances, I found myself invited by Penny, Billy and Tristan to have breakfast at quite the anti-night owl hour and got my transport shit sorted – Le Traiteur is a two-minute walk from Flagstaff station. Coffees and tea were ordered as we strategically selected our breakfast choices. I liked that there was an unwritten agreement that everyone could take photos of each others’ dishes and that the staff were so cheerful and accommodating about photos of the premises and them at work. Suck on that, Stuart White!

I chose one of the simpler, heartier dishes on the menu – the semolina porridge with poached fruits quatre épices. You should have seen the look on my face when I bit into that glorious confit cumquat. This is as close to Ready-Brek as I’ll ever get in my adopted country – nourishing, not too sweet and fortifying. I felt ready to be bundled off into the cold after this. There are lots of ‘sexier’ breakfast options on the menu, but don’t neglect this because it sounds plain – it isn’t.

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Partner in crime Tristan got the pikelet stack with Calvados apples and crème fraiche. Having anything with Calvados so early in the morning has got to be labelled decadent!

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Billy had the croque madame. This would make a great takeaway breakfast. Feel free to pick it up with your hands and eat it like a sandwich!

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Penny chose a dish I would normally choose (I seem to prefer savoury breakfast or brunch dishes to sweet) – the confit eggs, cured trout and fromage frais on seeded loaf. The confit egg piqued up everyone’s curiosity as it is poached in warm oil. That’s right. And yet, its edges look so crispy, as if fried…Penny vowed she would experiment in her kitchen. As for myself, I can barely poach an egg…can’t quite slide them out properly so they look pretty. It’s most likely that if I ever went to a Masterchef audition, they’d just see me and laugh. They’d know.

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Not much to add, really. The staff are very friendly, the food’s great and I want to go back. I’m very likely to duck in again for a meal before work even though it’s not at all on my way – would you not agree that that’s a firm endorsement?

If you’d like to read my fellow breakfasters’ reports on this lovely place, head on over to Half-Eaten and Addictive and consuming. Aside from being ace food blog wanksters, they are consummate company for pre-work city breakfasts. Hope we can do it again, guys!

Le Traiteur on Urbanspoon

*Fr. I’m not a caterer

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