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, July 30, 2017

IWFS KL Marco Polo Duck and Pinot - Quacking!!

photo by Doc Stephen Hall
July 27 2017

Good night. Excellent tasting and well prepared/presented variations on Duck bits matched with some lovely Pinots from across the world. Naturally everyone played "which wine is best" and everyone came out with different preferences. They all had their own characters - Marko was bolder and darker, Gloria was glorious in balance and restrained power, Craggy Range was a beaut, all integrated and balanced yet with a lovely dark cherry note that kept exploding the longer you left it in the glass. But the Burg did it all for me - layers on layers of chewy fruit and silky tannins - lovely lovely wine. Food ranged from very good to brilliant tasting and all matched exceedingly well with the wines. Fantastic service in both food and wine from the Marco staff, way better than I think most might have expected. Indeed, this was the first time I recall staff ever getting a collective tip from the IWFS. And great versatility from the chef in his ability to present duck in the many ways that he did. Slight whinges from the odd member here and there, but the vast majority of the attending rakyat came forward to say how much they thoroughly enjoyed the evening. As did I. Not many photos, too busy having a good time!!

Regular readers will know that I am a large fan of the Marco Polo. Lenglui and I get great service and the food is always top notch. But we had yet to introduce this great restaurant to the IWFS and see if we could stage an event there. It is basically the pork factor - the IWFS KL tends to steer away from including pork dishes in events. Not that the non-pork eating members raise any issues - this is just the way it has come to be.

The story behind this dinner was that Lenglui and I invited IWFSKL President David to a House of Pork session at the Marco during one of their Pig Nick promotions (i.e. all dishes contain an element of pork). It was a joyful reunion for David with the Marco, confessing he had not been there for decades and heaping praises on the chef and the food. Seems he had been nursing an idea to develop a dinner where all the dishes were duck based. He had not seen this for years and was hugely keen to re-experience it. So he had a chat with the chef and Marco GM Dean and the thing quickly came together. At a lunch to discuss the dinner, the idea of Pinot Around The World was thought to be fun and the perfect wine to pair so the Duck and Pinot Dinner concept was complete. 

IWFS KL Committee was originally a bit apprehensive at hitting the target of 50, but hit it we did. Sidenote - Chinese cuisine restaurants normally charge by the table of 10 diners, which means that this price remains payable if the table has less than ten. This can mess up the individual pricing that the members get charged so it is always a bit hairy trying to fill all the seats. A last minute group of four plus one gave us the full card of 50 for five tables and so all was on. 

We arrived just as the corks on the Drappier champagne got popped. My first glass felt a shade under-chilled for taste, though later pourings would prove less flabby and give more of a bite in the lovely biscuit and honey apple. It is fun doing the pre-dinner round, catching up with the ones you haven't seen for a while and trying desperately to remember the name of their spouse. Lenglui is brilliant at names; I do not have this gift and get reduced to surreptitiously asking while the spouse is being engaged by another member. 

President David got everyone sat before giving a speech thanking everyone involved (me and Lenglui, May and the Kiwi for the wines, Marco Manager Dean for getting it all in motion) and we were off.

The first of the pre-poured reds in glass came to the table. Staff had been instructed to seek to pour the exact same amounts into the glasses so that no one could whinge that a neighbour got more than them. Which worked. One slight problem was that all the glasses were the same shape so when the later wines came those who were more disciplined in their boozing forgot which one was which. No such problem for me - most of mine got sucked down before the next course had made it to the table. 

The Tofu Nugget. And friend. Quack.
The Money's 2011 Markovitz was being paired with two courses and was a stellar choice to open proceedings. Full rich plummy nose with cardamom hints gave way to crisp dark berries and pepper in the mouth. The food tamed the tannins to even out the balance which gave rise to a good meaty mouthful to wash down the food. For me, the first course stole the show - the tofu nugget in particular was generally acclaimed by the table as wonderful. The duck paste was rich and juicy and the deep fried sear on the tofu made the whole thing totally delicious. The Smoked Duck Breast was a bit French in its blandness, though the duck feet were…  interesting. Braised in some rich herb soup, the web fell off the bones. It is all collagen, apparently, and very good for the skin. I think like most of the Western attendees, we were figuring that we'd only ever try this once in a lifetime so here we would go. I don't think I will repeat the experience. Though the braised soup was magnificent, all Chinese Chemist shop but infused with the grease of the duck. Darn Ho seck, this - I was fighting with my table neighbour to suck it down. I decided to let him win. He is a nice man. 

The Roasted Peking Duck came sandwiched in some doughy soft baked tortilla bread wrap which got wolfed down before a photo could be taken (actually, very few photos seem to have got taken by anyone in the room - total focus on the food. Which is as it should be, n'est-ce pas?) This was quickly followed by the duck soup with the highly expensive and medicinally versatile cordyceps flower. The Chinese apparently swear by this  little herb which is praised to cure everything from arthritis to failing eyesight. And it is hugely expensive (and totally indigestible - it was pretty intact on its morning exit from the system - my Doctor tells me one must check these things). I find Alka Seltzer does it all for me. With the occasional panadol. 

Marco staff doling out the Duck
The pre-poured Craggy Range came to the table and my table buddy went ecstatic. Full, perfumed, rich mouth of spring fresh cherry and a low growling balanced finish. Fresh and windy slopes kissed by Southern Hemisphere sunshine must be somewhere behind this lovely drop of wine. The Kiwi had extolled it to the hills and rightly so - could suck on this one all evening. Shame it didn't go with the soup, but then in my experience few wines do. 

The Stir Fried Duck Meat looked like minced fried garlic but the combo with the lettuce leaf made for a good vegetal crunch on the meat. The Gloria Ferrer Pinot being paired proved a bit more fruit driven than the Craggy Range, but the integration and balance were full and delightful. We got this on special from supplier AsiaEuro and it is a belting wine. I almost visited this winery about ten years ago on a Sonoma Valley road tour but for some reason opted against. Lenglui later found a few bottles here in KL and enjoyed them thoroughly. The 2012 is showing deligthfully at this time - great character, full of mountains and air. In contrast, the JJ Confuron was serious burgundy - complex, layers, sun kissed fruit from the vines and showing great finesse and body. Somewhat leaner than the Gloria, it was one to sip and savour rather than slurp and chug. Lovely drop. 

I gave my table buddy the telephone number of the Gloria supplier and he went double ecstatic. He even let me have another spoonful of the dark duck juice. Nice man. 

The Braised Duck was full of juiciness and lovely tender treasures but it would be the Sauteed Duck Intestine with Liver and Tongues that would draw the "oohs" and "wahs" from the table. The liver and gizzard were particular favourites. It all looked a bit fierce with all the evil looking seared and black charred onions and peppers so I poked around it a bit and eventually chewed on some of the duck. I think. I also tried the liver. It was liverish. One more to scratch off the "been there ate that" list. Not a dish I would rush back for. Everyone else loved it. There you go. Apparently it gave the Craggy Range a softer mouthfeel. Wouldn't know, mine had disappeared. 

The fierce Sauteed Duck internals
The Duck Rice was a bit over-salted, probably due to the wax duck, and would have benefited greatly from some Chinese Liver Sausage ("lap cheong") to give some greasy bite and fire to the thing. Didn't do much for the wine. But by this time, few were in the mood to care, feeling mellow and happy and going round the tables toasting and cheering health. Somewhere around this time, the Money slipped me two large notes to pass to GM Dean as a thank you for the excellent service by him and his team. Never known this before - I was so shocked that I actually gave it to him. He poured me a snifter of the last remaining bottle in return. Nice man.

And that was it. Everyone seemed clearly in good spirits and to have thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Lots of "thank yous" and "well done and well organised" from the members. So that is good - we do try to organise good hearted parties for the good members. Some constructive and not unfair comments about the dishes (Roast Duck where got?) and the wines (No white ah?). And we all finished off the remains of the Marko with Mossie and the diehards. Great night, most enjoyable.  

Postscript - it seems that one of the members got a bit verbal and unnecessary during President David's end of the dinner speech. Being over at the other side of the room doing a Mossie scour for bottle remains (successful on this occasion), I missed the proceeding and only have the anecdotal, so better to maybe reserve comment. Though I must confess to feeling pity for people who seem to feel that life is hugely unfair and always feel they get dealt a raw hand and do nothing but whinge to the world and its dog. You want a raw hand, go live in Afghanistan or Syria. When you can wake up and jangle change in your pocket and brew your morning coffee, you in the top 5% of the world's population. Be grateful and thankful.

I think also perhaps some folk should learn to either hold the booze or give it up. The vino is still the best truth serum in existence - it will always draw out the veritas. And the character. Which is not always a good thing to allow to happen. It is difficult to shift a perception of an insight into someone's character as a result of an outburst seemingly caused by over-indulgence - angry outbursts can suggest an inability to maintain self control and one can get mentally bookmarked as variable. Once in a while, okay can let it go (let it go...  I am one with the wind and sky-ee-yyy...). It happens. But beware should it be observed that a pattern seems to be developing either in self or others - this can strongly suggest the booze is in control of the self (or the other) and that it is maybe time to seek some serious counselling or sign the pledge. I think I have quoted Christopher Hitchens elsewhere when he said the booze can be a wonderful friend but a terrible master. So darn true.

So much for reserving comment, eh? Don't think the foregoing is much of a problem for me - I seem to be boozed most of the time. People keep giving me the good stuff to drink, it's a bugger so it is...

Fried Lotus with Salted Egg
Crispy Shimeji Mushroom
Sliced Broccoli "Sze Chuan Style"
Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne N.V.

First Course
Tofu Nugget (tofu stuffed with duck paste and deep fried)
Marinated Duck Web and Wine with Five Spices Teow Chew Style
Smoked Duck Breast with Mixed Fruit Salad
Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 

Second Course
Roasted Peking Duck
Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 

Third Course
Double Boiled Wild Duck Soup with Cordyceps Flower
Craggy Range, Te Muna,  Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012

Fourth Course
Stir Fried Duck Meat with Black and Pepper Sauce in Lettuce
Craggy Range, Te Muna,  Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012

Fifth Course
Braised Duck stuffed with Eight Treasures
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Sixth Course
Sauteed Duck Intestine, Liver and Tongues with Black Bean Sauce
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Seventh Course
Steamed Rice with Preserved Wax Duck
Gloria Ferrer, Carneros,  Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres,. Nuit St George  2012

Eighth Course
Seasonal Fresh Fruit Platter

Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne N.V.
The 75 percent Pinot Noir is evident in this champagne, which although non-vintage unfolds with some cellar aging to add layers of complexity. The wine is grown and crafted in the southern-most part of the appellation and is perhaps a rather unsung champagne, given the weight and breadth which it delivers. Drappier’s sense of substance is real, and comes in part from the high proportion of Pinot Noir and in part from the fact that the grapes get riper in the warmer climate. A sense of white stone fruits (think peaches and apricots) dominate the flavour, along with spicy, aromatic notes.

Markovitch Pinot Noir, Carnuntum, Austria   2011 
Ripe cherries and mild spices are awash with fruit in this masculine style. Savoury notes are evident in the aromas and an underlying structure which is most appealing for the long dark fruit notes, creamy undertones and an elegant yet broad finish. Grown in limestone soils with moderating lake influences, this is a Pinot to remind us of a how skilled Austrians have become in crafting the elegant grape. If the district’s name looks like something from ancient Roman times, that’s because it is an ancient trading crossroads. An earlier vintage was a high scorer in a Singapore blind tasting for Burghound in Asia in the company of big name Burgundies, judged by MWs and Pinot winemakers.
Craggy Range, Te Muna, Martinborough Pinot Noir  2012
Martinborough only produces 2.8 per cent of New Zealand’s wine but its reputation of Burgundian style Pinot Noir goes back three decades, and longer for Kiwis such as Craggy Range guiding light, Steve Smith MW. Although a single vineyard site, the Te Muna Road vineyard is planted with eight different Pinot Noir clones, across 40 individual parcels of vines. Combined with over a year's ageing in small oak barrels, this produces a wine with enhanced complexity. Deep red, with an almost blackish tint; it is not a small wine. Silky on the palate, flowing to a long, spicy finish. Craggy Range is now globally famous, and was voted 2014 New World Winery of the Year by US magazine Wine Enthusiast. Wine Spectator 93 points. Bob Campbell M.W. Five Star. Michael Cooper, Five Star. Potential Classic

Gloria Ferrer, Carneros, Estate Pinot Noir  2012 
This vintage (the 20th from eleven parcels of land) benefits from both the fog and coolness of the Carneros Bay and some astute winemaking, in which the relatively high alcohol is not evident. This 2012 is a bold style which has had time to integrate the concentrated blackberry opulence, creamy oak and just enough acidity to bring the whole together into a long savoury finish. The wine is aged nine months in French oak (35% new) and while punched down and pumped over, there is much greater elegance and finesse than one sometimes finds in other warmer Californian efforts. The  wineries website suggests pairing with seared duck, so here we are. San Francisco Chronicle Wine Show 2016, Gold.

Domaine JJ Confuron, Les Fleurieres, Nuit St George  2012
Carefully tended 35 year old vines from an excellent site in Nuit St George and judicious use of new oak by Alain Meunier produce subtle, lingering aromas and palate sensations. The wine is bio-dynamic and from an excellent vintage. While it may be a trifle young, this 2012 classic will provide an interesting comparison for Pinot lovers. It is worth the struggle to leave it to open in the glass. The Fine Wine Review tasting in 2015 states  “This wine is smooth and airy with very dark fruit. It is a pleasure to drink now, even though some tannin is in the background, and it shows more finesse than one would expect of Nuits. 90/A.”  Huon Hooke praised the wine in 2015 as “smoky, savoury” while being “clean, accessible and excellent.”

Many thanks to Dr Stephen Hall, Chair of the Wine Sub Committee, for these wine notes, and for not objecting to my stealing his excellent photo at the top of this post. Well, not yet anyway...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the words of praise and great write up. Sharing is never a problem oh gourmand wordsmith.