Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

IWFSKL President's Dinner 2014 at Sage - magnificent!

December 13th 2014, Kuala Lumpur

Stephanie and Edna
The President’s Charity Dinner is the IWFS Kuala Lumpur Society’s annual black tie gala dinner and was once again being held at the Sage Restaurant on Saturday, 13th December 2014. This made for the third time in succession. It's a great fit - the Japanese/French fusion creations are consistently magnificent, they do our wines free of corkage and supply excellent glassware, and the service is superb. And people like the open kitchen which lets them watch Chef Daniel and his team in action, Why fix something which clearly isn't broke? Equally, long term relationships make for flexibility which is never a bad thing. Especially in Malaysia. A very big "attaboy" to Jeremy for once again liaising with the Sage and ensuring everything on that side was shipshape and Bristol fashion.

We also use the occasion to look to raise funds for local charities. In this, members donate good bottles from their fridges which then go under the auction hammer at the dinner where members and guests bid up the bottles. All proceeds go to the designated charities. Donations in cash and kind from suppliers and friends are also invited and this year we had quickly amassed a total of 32 lots (which got added to as members brought additional bottles with them to the dinner for the hammer. This gave a happy headache as to where to slot them in to the existing sequence, but was effected quickly and without argument - well done Wong Yin-How!)

IWFS KL Secretary Yin-How, Committee Members Brian and Dr Stephen and IWFS KL President Dr Rajan
The KL Branch has been around for growing and expanding for sixty one years and has now expanded to boast a membership is now 112 (including Joint Members). This makes it the biggest branch in the whole of the Asia Pacific Zone of the IWFS. The society had a bit extra bunce from the Beano that was the APZ Festival the previous year so it was felt the boat could be pushed out a bit with regard to the wines without raising the price too much. So it was we started with the lavish and lush Moet Rose NV in our flutes to pair with the delightful Tuna Otoro and Kampachi Kingfish sashimi canapes. Great sweet and salty blitzes of zippy loveliness and a raspy freshness on the sashimi which made the bubbles tingle and tantalise. Good start. 

IWFS KL President Dr Rajan Karunakaran
President Rajan called dinner to order and did the usual welcome to members and guests and noted with… possibly relief, actually, that all had adhered to the black tie dress code. One suspects that the relief lay in the fact that no one (ie him) had to eject someone for not having a black tie. Well, we had been reminded about three times in the run up to the dinner to remind our guests about black tie. I brought a couple of spares in my tux pocket just in case. Not nice to send someone home for a tie. A loud jacket maybe, but not a tie. I had been designated to say a few words about the wines and the pairings, which went quite fast. I always get a bit fast when I talk about wines. Other things not so, but wine talk gets me talking faster than the Roadrunner can run. Odd. Anyhow, duty got duly done and we all got down to the fun. 

Spoiler alert - the evening was magnificent. All the dishes and wines were standouts, both individually and in pairing terms. It was good to hear lots of positive comments about this from all around the room and from a broad range in terms of palate sophistication. Sometimes you only get the odd one saying something, but tonight there was quite a bit from a goodly number of people. And when it comes from those who really know their food, you know you've been royally wined and dined. Yes.

Gotcha! Chef Daniel being rudely interrupted by me
The Seared Smoked Norwegian Salmon was magnificent - a meaty chunk of beautifully fresh meat seared to light perfection. Full of taste and flavour, the Avocado Mousseline with Avruga Caviar were a bit secondary but added a small hint of season to support the main element. Wonderful texture on the meat, that slight give on the bite but that delightful melt as the spit hits the fin. Perfecto. 

Seared Smoked Norwegian Salmon, Avocado Mousselline and Avruga Caviar
Pairing with the Pinot Gris might originally be viewed as a bit off - surely a salmon needed something with a bit more heft? Normally, maybe so - but this was no normal Pinot Gris. The Akarua had a firm enough body that cut the health giving Omega 3 oils in the Salmon superbly, and able to do so without undermining the lovely fruit in the wine. The notes talked about orange and ginger, I got peachy pineapple and dragonfruit. A smart choice, anything heavier or oakier would have masked and smothered the meat - the Akarua complemented so wonderfully well. One of those where you half forget the way they pair and only later realize that you have just tasted something for the ages. Lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" and praise for the Salmon on the table. I just shut up and ate.

Plating up the Salmon
Second out was entitled the Royale of Tarabagani with Mirugai, Hotate and Daikon Cress. I had to look it up and found it was Japanese Red King Crab Soup which got served with an added scallop and something that had that texture of bean curd and egg custard tart - a kind of Scallop Tau Foo Fah but with a miso soup feel about the thing. Tastewise it was brilliant - the broth and the tau foo with the amazingly sweet crab and equally amazingly fresh scallop blending and melding into something incredible. Felt like the tau foo gave it soft undertone texture to let the crab meat swim around a lake of light umami goo in the mouth. I could try and claw for superlatives (claw? crab? geddit?) but this will do. Words have never been the best means to describe sensations, especially in food and wine. I do what I can.

Royale of Tarabagani with Mirugai, Hotate and Daikon Cress
Pairing with the Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2009. I had shared with the assembed that the Nosey Parker had described this wine as "astonishing" and "Possibly the best dry white the estate has produced since the proprietors, the Cathiards, acquired the property in 1990", and for me it totally lived up to all the praise heaped on it by the wine writers. A blend of 90% sauvignon blanc, 5% sauvignon gris and 5% sémillon, it was delightful and delicious and a range of other de-lovely words you might think of.  Standout wine of the night, and possibly of the year for me.

All decked out in best bib and tucker...
In my introduction to the wines, I shared that some of us IWFS KL members had been on a jolly to Bordeaux the previous year and had visited the Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard and drunk this wine in the cellar. For me, it combines the Sauvignon Blanc zest with a Chablis richness and lots of layers. It was a stunning vineyard and property, and a stunning wine to sear the memory. I also suggested that for those having the fish as the main, it might be worth to try and save some as it should be a cracker match as well. Don't know if anyone did. I didn't. But then I was having the beef. 

Me and the Wine Doctor had been volunteered as auctioneers for the night. We decided it would be best to split the sessions and each conduct half the lots in each session. We were ably assisted by spotters and recorders to get the contacts of the winning bidders. The first part of the auctions went quite smoothly and rapidly, and it was back on the table for the main courses. Both the Surveyor and Pontet-Canet had been poured during the auction and were waiting for demolition. 

Wong Kin Mun, Vanya, and David Teh
Named after New Zealand's first Surveyor General, the 2010 Surveyor Thompson Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir was intended to pair primarily with the fish but at the same time should also be able to extend to the lamb. Matching wine and food is primarily looking to connect similar textures and weight in both - light food with light wine, medium weight food with medium texture wines, and so on. At the same time, we need to have some versatility whereby one wine can flit across one or two dishes. Hence, the lightish textured Surveyor for both Fish and Lamb main courses. The vineyard practises biodynamic viticulture and is a working on full biodynamic certification. The relatively frost free, warm mesoclimate and free draining soils provide ideal grape growing conditions, producing an excellent concentration and intensity of flavours. The notes talked about “Dark Ruby red in the glass with a rich and vibrant bouquet of blackberry, red currant and spicy dried herb aromatics. A warm rich palate with multidimensional brooding dark flavours, underpinned by layers of texture and with a long graceful finish…”(RP 90/100). We found it pleasant in a chugging kind of way - quite full in the mouth and on the nose and with big fruit and a long finish. It did indeed stand up well to the bit of lamb I stole from dinner neighbour Wong Chee Leong. 

But for me it was the pairing of the Pontet-Canet and the beef which was the star for the night. Both were stunning, and the pairing was a magnificent Christmas present - succulent, tender meat cut beautifully by the firm and full tannins of this darling wine. As with the Surveyor, the Pontet-Canet had been chosen with multiple pairing in mind- this classic Pauillac Cabernet based Bordeaux would be a traditional natural with Lamb but should also go cracker with the Beef. I admit I am biased; I love this wine and the stories behind it - the biodynamics, the horses that eat the grapes, and the people behind the wine - but it was just lovely to drink this on the night. Good bodied without being over punchy in the mouth, silky tannins, even finish, good full fruit in the mouth with enough in complexity terms to satisfy those who want such things in the wine. And as said the beef was totally out of this world - lovely lovely, lovely combo. 

Medallion of Beef with Foie Gras and Red Wine Sauce - phwooargh...
The second half of the auction got staged at this time and the bids were higher than usual. Got a bit semi serious to the end of the night as the bids got higher and higher for some wonderful wines. Total raised topped out at RM190,000 which was absolutely brilliant. The big spenders looking to stock their wine fridges for the year had clearly come out with a very generous vengeance. The charities should be wonderfully pleased - I heard whispers that other charities are quite envious of the fact that so much is raised by IWFS in one event - to get this kind of money they would need three or four events (which naturally comes in at a lot of time and phone calls to armtwist for sponsors and to organise).

Sanjeev, Serena, Chris, Dr Rajan and James the Banker
The 2010 Chateau Rieussec Sauternes being paired with dessert was clearly way before its time - the notes talked about leaving it for twenty years and then maybe it could be drunk. Someone reasoned that many of us at the dinner would not be around in twenty years so best to drink now and bear the infanticide being committed on the wine. True to the notes, it will be magnificent in twenty years. But it was tasty enough on the night. Nicely sweet and crisp and even in terms of syrup and cloying. Figgy, sweet, apples and pears with honey. 

Guests Paul and Molly Lim
And then it was over. Well, almost. It is tradition that no prisoners be taken and the few fizz and desserts that were left got swallowed by the diehards. I know because I was there. As the faithful reporter on the comings and goings of the Society, one must do one's duty. Or so I am told. Didn't get so many shots of the food as usual - bit up and down with the auction I guess. Or it might have been the wonderful booze. Not unknown for the reporting responsibilities to get swallowed up in the enjoyment of the evening. I do what I can, but my  weakness for a good chug of wine with a tasty chunk of beef gets in the way. The universe just comes into perfect karmic focus and much else becomes secondary to the moment. O so wonderful and blessed to be human and to have the sentience to recognise the perfect bliss that is food and wine!

Bummer alert - some of us remembered the good Doctor Gan who had sadly passed thirteen days previously whilst undergoing chemotherapy for a resurgence in his leukemia. He refused to become a member of the IWFS but always enjoyed an invite to this annual bunfight. He always got one. Also continually refused to own or wear a monkey suit, maintaining his dark suit was sufficient for the occasion. He was missed. 

President’s Charity Dinner at Sage Restaurant
The Menu

Tuna Otoro with Aioli and Nori
Kampachi King Fish with Salted Kelp
NV Moet and Chandon Rose Imperial 

First Course
Seared Smoked Norwegian Salmon with Avocado Mousseline with Avruga Caviar
2011 Akarua Pinot Gris

Second Course
Royale of Tarabagani with Mirugai, Hotate and Daikon Cress
2009 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc Grand Cru Classe De Graves

Palate Cleanser
Soursop Granite

Main Course
Pan Fried Amadai with Sea Scallop, Baby Spinach and Caviar Beurre Blanc
Slow Cooked Hillside Lamb Rack with Shiromiso and Blue Cheese Sauce
Medallion of Beef with Foie Gras and Red Wine Sauce
2010 Surveyor Thompson Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
2008 Chateau Pontet Canet Grand Cru Classe Pauillac

Guanaja Dark Chocolate Marquis with Anglaise Sauce and Yoghurt Ice Cream
2010 Ch Rieussec Sauternes

Coffee or Tea


WINE 1 - NV Moet and Chandon Rose Imperial 
Rosé Impérial is a spontaneous, radiant, romantic expression of the Moët & Chandon style, a style distinguished by its bright fruitiness, its seductive palate and its elegant maturity. 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay.  Dosage 9%. Glowing pink with amber highlights in the glass, a bewitching lively bouquet of red fruits (wild strawberry, raspberry, cherry) with floral nuances of rose and a slight hint of pepper. Palate combines the juicy, persistent intensity of the berries with the fleshiness and firmness of peach and the freshness of a subtle note of menthol. 

WINE 2 - 2011 Akarua Pinot Gris from Central Otago in New Zealand
Akarua is an iconic Central Otago winery, crafting premium wines since 1999.  The wine is 100% Pinot Gris from Bannockburn. Bright and clear in appearance with a pale golden hue in a style that is well structured and with a richness and poise that typifies Akarua Pinot Gris. On the nose, lifted aromas of orange blossom and pear juice lead to a lush layered palate with white peach and citrus flavours. The wine finishes with a zesty punch of fresh ginger and orange peel tang.

WINE 3 - 2009 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc Grand Cru Classe De Graves
A blend of 90% sauvignon blanc, 5% sauvignon gris and 5% sémillon. 
Brilliant yellow in the glass, a quite delicate nose with floral overtones. Its full aromatic potential is released with aeration, revealing hints of yellow fruit (vineyard peaches, apricot), flowers (honeysuckle, broom flowers), and a touch of flint. The wine starts out straightforward on the palate, filling out to become rich and powerful (this is undoubtedly a food wine). The aftertaste is delightfully flavoursome, with yellow fruit (mango, apricot, and candied pineapple), sweet spice, and gunflint. The finish is quite long and delicious, and the wine is altogether rich and savoury.
Robert Parker had this to say: "… Possibly the best dry white the estate has produced since the proprietors, the Cathiards, acquired the property in 1990, this wine exhibits a sensational fragrance of buttered citrus, honeyed melons and a touch of grapefruit, lemon zest and orange rind. It also displays grapefruit on the attack and mid-palate as well as real opulence, terrific acidity and length. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. Astonishing!" (RP 98/100).

WINE 4 - 2010 Surveyor Thompson Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
Surveyor Thomson Wines reflects the intimate connection between the Hall-Jones family and New Zealand's first Surveyor General, John Turnbull Thomson (known as Mr Surveyor Thomson, hence the wine name). 
The vineyard practises biodynamic viticulture and is a working on full biodynamic certification. The relatively frost free, warm mesoclimate and free draining soils provide ideal grape growing conditions, producing an excellent concentration and intensity of flavours. 
“Dark Ruby red in the glass with a rich and vibrant bouquet of blackberry, red currant and spicy dried herb aromatics. A warm rich palate with multidimensional brooding dark flavours, underpinned by layers of texture and with a long graceful finish…”(RP 90/100).

WINE 5 - 2008 Chateau Pontet Canet Grand Cru Classe Pauillac
Following biodynamic principles in its vineyards and cellars since 2005, in 2008 the sound of horse's hooves replaced that of tractors as an experiment designed to avoid compacting the soils. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 4% and Petit-Verdot 1%, it is a wine that has attracted a host of accolades. 
The Wine Advocate praises the 2008 as "A candidate for the “wine of the vintage (boasting) an opaque purple color as well as copious aromas of sweet blueberries, blackberries and black currant fruit intertwined with lead pencil shavings, subtle barbecue smoke and a hint of forest floor. Full-bodied, with fabulous richness, texture and tremendous freshness, this first-growth-like effort is more developed than the uber-powerful 2010. Give it 5-8 years of cellaring and drink it over the following three decades. Bravo!"  (WA 96/100). 

WINE 6 - 2010 Ch Rieussec Sauternes
Chateau Rieussec is planted to 90% Semillon 7% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle. Harvests are done in passes and could last for as long as 6 to 8 weeks.
“…. in bottle it has become a contender for the finest Sauternes of the vintage. It is blessed with a pure and lifted bouquet with ripe peach, nectarine and honey, hints of shaved ginger poke their head above the surface with aeration. It is very subtle. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, perfectly judged acidity and convincing harmony. This is a sophisticated Sauternes with superb mineralite and outstanding persistency. I will confess that I pinned this as “Yquem” and was both shocked and pleased when its identity was revealed.” (WA 96/100).

Over recent years, the amounts raised has been substantial due to the amazing generosity of our members and guests by way of cash donations and the proceeds of the wine auction. IWFS KL members and supporters donate wines or dinner vouchers to help raise funds for channeling toward deserving causes. Last year a sum of RM130,090.00 was achieved of which we all should be very proud. We always hope to exceed our previous records!! We have therefore a challenge before us to try to reach a substantial target as we did last year but I am sure that with your continued generous support we will again be proud of what we can achieve. Please show your compassion and caring for the poor, unfortunate people that we will be supporting; they really need all the help and assistance that we can offer.

You can rest assured that the charities we help have been properly vetted are most appreciative of our assistance. In fact they always express their delight and request us to extend their thanks to you all.

This year we will be supporting two new charities - the Special Children Society of Ampang (SCSOA) and the Society for the Severely Mentally Handicapped Selangor & Federal Territory (SSMH).

The Special Children Society of Ampang is a non-profit organization, providing a centre for children and adolescents with various disabilities. The aim is to help them maximise their full potential and achieve an independent, fulfilling life. Established in June 1999 with three students it has now grown to seventy students, their ages ranging from three to thirty eight years. Some of their disabilities range from Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Global Delay, Epilepsy and Slow Learning. There is always a waiting list as space is limited and there is a shortage of teaching staff.

The Centre allows the special children access to a meaningful education and vocational training. It provides a holistic programme and training for the children. They aim to teach the special children living skills; to stimulate their faculties; to nurture their ability to progress further; to advance their educational needs; to provide them with vocational training and to expose them to sports, the arts and to society. It also provides guidance for the parents, families and caregivers.

It is run and managed by a parent-steering committee with the assistance of volunteers, teachers and a team of operational staff. It is currently funded by contributions from parents, public donations and fund raising activities. They stress that they are in dire need of help to cover their mounting running expenses and they now wish to extend the Centre in order to help more who are on the waiting list.

The Society for The Severely Mentally Handicapped, Selangor & Federal Territory was founded in 1984 because of the determination of a group of parents with mentally disabled children. It is a tax-exempt non profit organisation that provides day care and training to severely mentally disabled children aged 2-19 years old. These children have great difficulty in using their limbs and jaws. The systematic habit training routines taught here enable these children to cope. Every child has an Individualised Educational Programme. 

They are guided through simple communication and manual skills, basic health and safety habits and they eventually progress to basic reading and arithmetic skills.

The Centre is staffed by five full time teachers, a housekeeper and an administrator. There is a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. They are all supported by a Panel of Educational and Training Advisors. Parents, volunteers and some medical professionals help out. It also promotes and stimulates research concerning severe mental disability in order to develop locally appropriate methods of care and treatment.

All of the charities we have supported are always most appreciative of our assistance. They continually request for us to extend their thanks to everyone; they do really need all the help and assistance that we can offer.

More details and photos of the centres and their activities can be found at the respective websites: 

There are also videos on Youtube 
SCSOA - http://youtu.be/zvoqClGfTCU
SSMH -  http://youtu.be/ACy62T8bius

I do recommend you take some time to look at the videos. Some of the disabilities are heartbreakingly severe.  We able-bodied tend to take so much for granted. Silly things like walking, or putting on a shirt by ourselves. These are things that these kids dream about. And when you see the look on their faces when they achieve something like…… walking, or putting on a shirt by themselves - unbelievable. As if the sky had just opened and the sun had smiled on them. Real, total, pure achievement. The staff of these Centres have a strength way beyond most of us and are some of the true unsung angels in our society. 

So, please do dig deep to buy up these vinous treasures. Because when you open them in the company of friends and share the story of where they came from, the wine will surely taste that little bit sweeter. Good bidding!!

“Fragrance remains in the hand that gives the rose”

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