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.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Capel Vale Wine Dinner at D’Empire Restaurant - surprisingly okay...

November 10th 2019

Been a while since I posted - last one was in April  wow...   looking back, figure was a combination of factors revolving around getting depressed over massively intermittent Broadband access causing feelings of non productive uselessness. Could not get the head together to put finger to keyboard. Sometimes I think we men are much like dogs - only happy when we feel useful. Should me more like cats - wtf so long as there is food, milk and tickles...

Anyhow....   I must say I didn't really want to go to this one, but our friend said she had booked a table of ten and could we please help fill the gaps. How to say no?

Reason for the recalcitrance was two fold: first was that we had just landed the day before from a seven day tour around Croatia with a group of foodie friends and we expected to be a bit knackered from the flight; and second was that my memory of a previous Wine Dinner with Capel Vale wines from about fifteen years ago was that the wines were not particularly memorable. Though memorable enough for me to remember the evening...  And Margaret River is on the Bucket List for a visit and a roam around the vineyards sipping the Cabernets. Oh, and three and four fold was that previous food at the D’Empire had proven pleasant but not stunning and it was going to cost about RM300 for the experience. I seem to be getting to be a miserable grumpy old scrooge in my early dotage. Bah.

And Five fold was the screamingly slow traffic that needed forty minutes of negotiation to get to the Pavilion. It is really not pleasant trying to get into KL town of an evening. Most of the time the traffic moves very slowly and sometimes it is dead stop; digression to share a recent experience trying to get to the Hakka Restaurant - the Kia Peng Road was impenetrable and I had to drive up the wrong side and barge my way in. Not the normal way I like to drive but increasingly needs must in the city. You have to be very aggressive in KL these days. 

The Foie Gras and untouched salad
So... we got into D’Empire pretty much on the Eight O'Clock dot to find our table already seated and with glasses of something fizzy being poured. After the usual hellos and how were your holidays, we got stuck in. Seating was what I call Taliban style, with all the ladies at one end of the table and all the men at the other. Think the thinking is that all the men can talk among themselves. As can all the ladies. Seems to work, of a fashion. 

The fizz was a quite pleasant Prosecco, all flighty bubbles and lightly sweet apples and lemon both on the nose and on the tongue. Nice bead which held for quite long and a clean refreshing finish. Nice way to get things going.

The brilliantly seared Salmon
First thoughts - food was good, though steak was absolutely memorable, medium rare and all oozing juice and very good meat. Would happily go back for this. The Foie gras was full taste and excellent with the home baked bread, though I left the salad - never quite trust salad from anywhere; who has washed it and in what kind of water are my usual OCD issues. Is also my first usual suspect of bad belly, so I rarely take it (I also don't really like it, but there you go...). Soup was meaty and full and lush with a dab of cream but ultimately a bit ordinary (what can you do with pureed mushroom?). Salmon was a perfect pan fry and sear, all juicy flakes and perfect cook and the crunchy ratatouille made a useful plate partner. As said, the ribeye was excellent though I can't remember the added risotto and asparagus. Dessert looked pretty though I avoided, preferring to chug on the very drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon that our friend with the bottle seemed happy to pour for the table. 

The excellent Black Angus Ribeye
Winewise, the prosecco was eminently drinkable, the Riesling a bit industrial though with sufficient mouth grip and fruit to compensate, the Chardonnay a bit overoaked and woody, the Shiraz was perky and chewy and the Cabernet the star of the night - good silk in the mouth, full fruit and nicely balanced. Drinking nicely now but should have an extra couple of years in it. The Verdelho was tasty enough if you like dessert wines - they don't drive me though I will still drink them.

The staff seemed a fun bunch, with Chef de Cuisine Dallan Tan leading them all out to dance to the keyboard and singer that had been hired to entertain the assembled (about 25 in total). I was called upon to sing a couple of songs to close the evening and we all made our ways home. Despite my misgivings, I ended up enjoying the evening, with both wine and food surprising on the upside. And making new friends around the table is always fun. And finding old friends is also fun - discovered an IWFS Member Peter operates the wine distribution for the Capel Vale wines in KL. Sounds like I might be bending his ear to get some of the Cabs...  hopefully at a generous discount - we are IWFS after all  ;D

Chef Dallan Tan with new friends
The Pavilion is a bugger after 10pm because they shut down most of the escalators which makes it a double bugger to try and retrace to where you parked the car. As it was, the Lenglui displayed an unusual level of sensory awareness and figured out which lift to take to the parking level and where the car was parked. She never ceases to amaze...

Welcome Drink
Masottina Prosecco Extra Dry DOCG
First Course
Foie Gras De Canard, baby greens, caramelised grapes
Masottina Prosecco Extra Dry DOCG
Second Course
Wild Button Mushroom Soup
Capel Vale Mt Barker Riesling
Third Course
Norwegian Salmon, ratatouille, lemon cream sauce
Capel Vale Margaret River Chardonnay
Fourth Course
Australian Angus Black Ribeye Dry Aged 21 days
Red wine rosotto, sauteed button mushroom, aspaaragus
Capel Vale Mt Barker Shiraz
Capel Vale Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon
Fift Course
French Garnache with Truffle Chocolate, Vanilla Ice Cream
Roustabout Late Harvest Verdelho

Monday, April 22, 2019

IWFS Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019 - Day Four

International Wine and Food Society Asia Pacific
Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019

A recollection and remembrance of eats, drinks, sights, sounds, and people from across the event. Organised by IWFS Auckland in New Zealand, it brought members from all across the world to enjoy the food and wines of the country. 

Monday 11th March 2019 - Day Four and Epilogue

Not much on IWFS in this post - mostly my recollections of a last lazy day in Auckland and the trip back to Kuala Lumpur. Also some reflections on what makes for a good pint of Guinness. And a cute story on Malaysian customs at the KLIA.

I had plans to walk around Auckland domain gardens. Didn't happen. I woke up in nowhere near a fit state for it. All fuzzy and aching. Bleugghh. Again. Room mate Richard had stirred around 8am and took breakfast before heading off for a 9.30 bus to catch a plane with some of the pilgrims to visit Queenstown. I eventually surfaced and packed some final bits and eventually managed to shut the suitcase (is a very sensitive case, you have to get the locks lined up precisely and no bits of things like shirt poking out) and stumbled down for 9.45 toast (no coffee, the machine had seemingly run out; maybe no bad thing). I sat with Jag and Sue and traded info about airport transfers and flights and airlines. Then I went back up to clear the room and check out and somehow got a charge for a bottle of water which I know I did not drink. Not sure if Mossie did but now no way to check so just pay and move on. I did fiddle with the fridge to store some wines and I wonder if the fridge might have been one of those automatic ones where if you remove something you get a charge even though you put it back in later. Lesson - make a mental note to check with room service at all future hotels. My luggage got tagged and stored and I spent some time sat at reception clearing email and doing Facebook and WhatsApp whilst the wifi was still free and connecting me with the world. 

To my surprise I managed to check in to my MAS flight over the mobile phone and also to download the boarding pass. I was quite impressed at the speed. Whilst parked in my chair, I was able to say goodbyes to Michael and Grace and Richard and Reina before deciding to wander out to look for some Manuka honey to take back to Lenglui as she had requested at about 11am. There was one store just up from the hotel which had earlier looked promising, the NZ Export. A quick look showed they were charging NZD48. A pharmacy further along was charging NZD75. This felt expensive, and pretty much on par with what would be paid back in KL. I ended up in the Countdown Supermarket where I got local Auckland Manuka for NZD30 which felt fair. I also checked the route to take to catch the airport bus which avoided stairs and uphill lugs of the case before wandering back to the Stamford, where I rested for about three hours snacking on potato chips, making notes and people watching. I was magically still connected to the hotel wifi so I was able to respond to Whatsapp messages. Partly for this reason I decided to stay put at the Stamford and wait out the day. Still having a fuzzy head and feeling a bit stiff and having a convenient toilet to take advantage of helped to tip the balance in favour of this decision. And it kind of felt good to just rest up ahead of the flight. I later heard that Dr Jag and wife had risen at 6am to get a bus to visit Rotorua and only got back to the hotel at about 7pm to get bags and get to the airport. That sounds like a hard day - I get it that one has to seek to maximise time and load in as much of what can be seen and done when travelling. But I think there is also a need to make time for downtime to let internal batteries charge and ready for the journey. If not, then fatigue sets in and in my experience this is when the bad things happen - accidents, theft, which seem to result from being distracted and not fully alert to the surroundings. So - a day in the chair with a nearby bathroom it would be. And potato chips. 

And so I parked up on a chair opposite the Stamford reception and slowly recollected thoughts and memories from across the trip and typed them up into the iPad. The Hotel sound system was playing some jazz standards by Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, not too loud and very pleasant to help the writing. There was what looked like a Rotary event taking place, presumably a lunch. Also lots of female hotel executive looking people wandering about with seeming purpose. Seem to be a lot of ladies in senior positions in Auckland. 

View from the bar stool
I eventually stirred enough to rise on to the haunches and lug the backpack and Celebrity tote with its Manuka booty out of the hotel and toward a place opposite the hotel with the name Food Alley, a place of apparent award and note. Someone along the Festival had suggested it as worth a look. Okay, why not. On walking through the sliding doors, I got hit with that stale oil stink of too much deep frying and promptly turned around and went back out. Not a very welcome smell and reminiscent of deep fried everything from back in Kuala Lumpur. I toyed with the idea of going to the seafood bar that others had highly recommended for the freshness and taste of the produce, but decided against - again, the fear of the one bad oyster or prawn with a ten hour flight in prospect militated against this.  So I ended up back at the Shakespeare Hotel, partly from not wanting to drift too far from the stored bag at the hotel, and also to remake my acquaintance with the delightful tasting and elegantly crispy beer battered fish and the somewhat ordinary chips. And some salad which went untouched (I rarely trust salad at restaurants - just takes one rogue sneeze in a kitchen on the wrong piece of lettuce). And along with a couple of pints of the excellent Guinness. There is something beyond words, something totally sublime about parking in a bar and slowly sucking down a pint or two of the black stuff. The first one sleeks the sides and draws down the dry off the throat while the second one slips across the palate and the roasted malt and toasted oat taste of the beer leaches into the throat and slides and slides and slides...  O my lord how it slides and sleeks and slakes and makes one say thank you God and Jesus for the black beer. Absolutely sublime. Brings out the lyrical bard as well - F***ing wonderful. Legend goes that Willie himself created the F word. And the Shakespeare was playing Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Of course.

View of the Bar and Brewery
But you have to let it settle, let the bubbles all rise to the top and help to form the perfect head. The you drink the nectar through the creamy foam and....   Phwoooargh... Slinky and smooth and sucky on the throat... Perfecto. I had to have a third.

The Shakespeare
Albert Street
Auckland New Zealand
tel +64 9 373 5396
email - info @shakespeare.nz


After the three, they were keen to serve a fourth but I declined. An itch had formed. Even though it was five hours to flight time, I wanted to move. I wanted to get home. The trip was probably over earlier that morning, and the day was just marking time until it was time to gear up and kick the tyres to get underway. I remember reading somewhere that the trip always ends way before the landing on the home runway (I think it might have been Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon from the 1970s - he went around the world on a motorcycle). The itch, the desire for familiar faces and places kicks in way before the appointed hour. So I retrieved my suitcase from the Stamford (which was still playing Frank) and trundled around to where the SkyBus Airport shuttle would stop. Within five minutes it had arrived. I humped the bag, paid the NZD19 and we were off. Well, for a short distance around the corner to the Sheraton Points Hotel - seemed driver decided he would have to stop there for five minutes. Of course. But homeward bound I was and very happy to be so. 

An uneventful but sunset pretty drive got me to the airport about 7.30pm and check in would only start at 8.15pm. So a gentle wander to find the bathroom and an up and down the gate hall still left 15 minutes. I saw some people doing self check in and getting luggage tags and figured - why not? I eventually got it, though the on screen steps were not absolutely clear and I nearly left the thing without the luggage tags - it was only when I saw someone getting theirs from a neighbouring machine that I figured I had to get them as well. There was a little button bottom left saying "next" that led to the printout page. Darn confusing for us ageing farts. 

The gate opened, the queue began and ten minutes later I was ambling toward the departure gate and customs and immigration. It was still massively early so I parked and polished off the remains of the bread ham and cheese and potato chips and water ahead of the processing through immigration and security. I parted ways with the undrunk and unopened half bottle of Chardonnay gifted to all the pilgrims on their arrival. I could not pack it due to space and weight constraints and figured to maybe drink it with the food. Nope - still tasting the Guinness. Into the waste bin it went, along with a plastic tube of sunblock I had forgotten to pack in the main case. Dang…  darn good sunblock this was too, not greasy like most of the gunk that gets sold. First time I had ever wilfully thrown booze into a bin. Felt oddly lightened…

Pretty fast through Immigration and Security and into the Duty Free to be spoilt for choice for Gin. I wanted something local, and eventually stumbled across a tasting bar where little plastic sips of various booze was being offered. I asked for NZ Gin and got a thimble of something that felt a bit fiery until it got mixed with some lemon. Not bad. Then tasted a second - also not bad. So i opted to buy a bottle of each, figuring it would be quite a while to get the chance to share it with the home gang. 

And that was pretty much it. Ambled toward the departure gate and ran into Dr Jag and Malkit, boarded the plane, watched a few movies and drank a couple of beers and the plane was soon landing. Eased through Immigration, though the bag took a bit of time to come through. I was keeping a sly eye on the Customs to see if they were stopping everyone as I had somewhere read they were recently threatening to do. They indeed were. A pretty long queue was forming and the luggage scanners were rumbling away. I would clearly get caught with the bottles of wine in the case. A friend had previously told me that if you come clean, the customs people appreciate it. So I did. I asked the lady at the desk where to pay for bringing in wine and she directed me to a very affable chap who took down the details and worked out the cost (his math was a bit off though - four bottles should have been 3 litres and he called it for two; I said nothing). I paid the RM50 (which he said included a discount which made me laugh), got a receipt and he escorted me past the scanner and into legitimate freedom. Did not check the bag, and I got a pleasant thank you for my being up front. This alone was worth the RM50 paid. Honesty occasionally has greater benefits than expected. 

I decided to take the KLIA Express and get a taxi from KL Sentral. My previous attempts to Grab have failed because for some reason my phone takes quite a while to get back on Malaysian time. Smooth KLIA Express trip to find that all taxis out of KL Sentral are now by coupon - no meter taxis seem to be permitted anywhere near the place. The Standard rate to get home to Kenny Hill was RM15. I got home at about 7.45am to a welcome hug from the Lenglui, a cup of Cafe 21 and a lazy day to get over the jet lag. Good to be home.


I did enjoy this IWFS Festival. The food, the wines, the people, the restaurants, pretty much the entire vibe of Auckland. Enough to engage yet not as standoffish as some of the big towns come across to be. Food highlights were the fish and chips at the Shakespeare, the lamb at the Sails, the lamb and Pavlova at the Giraffe, the Salmon at the Tantalus Estate. Wine highlights were the Quartz Reef at Sails, the Nautilus Albarinho at Giraffe, the fizz and the Cochette at Tantalus. People and places highlights - the view from the Sails, the Auckland Domain, Simon at the Giraffe and the lawn at Tantalus. But ultimately it is the IWFS pilgrims and the coming together in search of new experiences and tastes and the camaraderie that comes with it. Reconnecting with old faces and friends, making new connections with others - can't fault it. Well, maybe I could - the inner Scotsman did find the costs leaning toward the stiff with regard to the pre and post tours. Which was partly why I did my own to Marlborough and taking in visiting a cousin en route from there to Auckland - though the Bed and Breakfasts in Blenheim are all around the NZD140 mark unless you go real budget - the 15 on Dillon was NZD145 a night and the NZD75 Hop On Hop Off Bus and the NZD195 for the Dog Point picnic started to add up. Not the cheapest of places to holiday, but for the probable once in a lifetime you just shut your mind and pay. And as a result I have some priceless memories from across the bits of New Zealand that I did. 


I found the amount of water that comes out of the public taps and toilets across the nation to be utterly astounding. At least a pint is delivered from a tap for you to just wash the hands after a pee. Unbelievable. Given the water shortages that are impacting the globe, one wonders whether and how such a natural resource can be preserved or packaged for sale and export - ice it up and float it to Australia? 

Scenery wise, New Zealand lives up to its reputation, though I didn't do the South of the South Island which is apparently the prettier part in Natural Wonder terms. This should happen next year via a cruise that does all the major Sounds and ends up back in Auckland. But there certainly seemed acres of open space along the route that the bus took from Hawera to Auckland. And some stunning vistas and landscapes - Mount Fuji like cones caked with snow suddenly popping up from behind a hill, all impressive and impassive and dominating in their presence. 

The people I encountered were mostly from across the services sector, though I was also able to interact with "real" people in "real" places. There seem to be a preponderance of females in senior positions in the business sectors that I encountered - wineries, hotels, restaurants, stores, driving the bus. My cousin runs a Sports Chiropractor Surgery with hubby, and a brilliant fish and chip shop in Wellington equally operated by an enterprising 20 something girl with fire in her eyes and originating from somewhere in the sub continent. For some reason it just seemed noticeable. Perhaps it is just that New Zealand doesn't seem to pay that much attention to differences to the genders; if you can do it and you have a fire under your butt to achieve it then all power to your ambitions and dreams. Amen to that.

I found there is both a warmth and a distance in the people, seemingly dependent upon how remote you are from large urban centres. People in cities are pretty much the same the world over - always on the move, save for the crusties living rough and panhandling their ways through life. Though now most city folk have a nose in a phone through which all the important stuff comes to advise, inform or distract. The more remote are keen to strike up a conversation and suddenly you have their whole life history and they have yours. Confidence of a stranger kind of thing - you are sharing bits about yourself you haven't raked over for decades. My driver from Blenheim to Picton, and a lady on the bus from Wellington to Hawera - they seemed able to draw out old, old memories to share as a story to keep the flow going. I remember reading years ago that the greater the distance between homesteads then the more critical it becomes to maximise human contact when it happens. Yet there is little in what we might term as social mixing in the boonies. Families will come together for sports and daytime events, but once the sun puts up the shutters for the night then so apparently do people close their front doors. And so do the pubs - well, pub singular; I was in the mood for a nightcap beer at my "hotel" in Hawera and got there at 9.30pm to find the bar closed. This is apparently just the way it is. The people close early. 

I also observed a small element of "redneck" in Hawera where I was at a breakfast shared with some of the male "rustics" of the town. They seemed to be having a whingefest sharing feelings of being ignored by the Government but still getting their wallets squeezed via increasingly inadequate pensions. Well, at least one of them was holding this particular court with presumably his regular breakfast mates. I was earwigging all this; they must get variations of the same tirade every morning, all wallowing in the same misery. Reminded me of my pub days in Wales; there would always be someone bemoaning their lot. Also been there. Managed to escape. 

So....  overall, I would gladly go back to Marlborough, Wellington, Taranaki and Auckland. The food, wines, people and places are definitely worth a return should the occasion arise. Not always cheap, but there is value in terms of freshness and expertise in the food and wine and growing senses of adventure in the cuisine. You can maybe cut corners in accommodation (or get amazingly lucky with bus fares), but overall you get what you pay for and the differences are not that large. March was an excellent time to visit weather wise, and apparently high summer can get brutal. 

And that is it. Great memories for me, some unforgettable experiences, some fabulous eats and drinks, and a record of it chalked uphere to eternity (assuming the servers keep running!). Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the ride, and maybe see you somewhere in the world!!

IWFS Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019 - Day Three

International Wine and Food Society Asia Pacific
Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019

A recollection and remembrance of eats, drinks, sights, sounds, and people from across the event. Organised by IWFS Auckland in New Zealand, it brought members from all across the world to enjoy the food and wines of the country. 

Sunday 10th March 2019 - Day Three


I woke up quite fuzzy and lolled around in the bed ahead of a sluice in the shower and shave ahead of scrambled eggs, beans and buttered baguette with jam and some gruesome coffee in the Stamford Breakfast area. The first order of the day would be the APZ Annual General Meeting to which all the Asia Pacific members were encouraged to attend. There were a fair few in attendance despite the unearthly hour of 10.15am for a Sunday. 

My view of breakfast. Yes.
The APZ AGM Meeting got processed pretty quickly and smoothly, with Chairman James and Secretary Erik each giving a report. We got told of new IWFS Branches getting set up across the region along with some long term dates for the diaries for overseas beanos. And it seems the IWFS is pretty strong in financial terms. Not much comment from the floor. Perhaps everyone was suffering from the night before. Move over...


We then got herded into the main ballroom to hear the 2019 André Simon lecture presented by Bob Campbell MW on ‘The development of the NZ wine industry from 1954 up until today’. Bob Campbell MW is one of New Zealand’s most respected wine commentators and judges, and proved a very entertaining speaker who knows the New Zealand wine industry inside out. He gave a very informative and entertaining talk which got followed by a lively Q&A after. I went on stage to thank him and remember our Doc Hall Kiwiboy to him; seems they had been wine buddies in Singapore some years back. We swapped cards. One never knows... 

Bob Campbell MW
Principal Wine Writer
The Real Review

(l/r) Bob Campbell MW, IWFS IMC Hon President Dave Felton and IWFS International Secretariat Andrea Warren 

Lunch was to follow the lecture, which proved a buffet style affair, but I felt that the queue was too long and looked hugely slow. So I slunk back to the room, figuring I could better use the time by packing and filing away papers rather than queue for what looked like standard mediocre hotel buffet food. Room mate Richard clearly had the same idea; when I got there he was already packing up his bits. 

My case was looking pretty full by the time I had finished. Some space had been leveraged due to books and bits passed to Cousin Debbie earlier in the trip, but my six collected bottles of wine were filling a good third of the case. And not much had been ditched on this trip. I had continually been washing and drying two sports shirts for daytime and reusing the grey sweater over long sleeve shirts for the evening. A third of the clothes had not been worn. Also the disposable Watson's underpants proved to be easy wash and quick dry so some of them got recycled across a day or two. Some things might have to get sacrificed. And there were still some bits that needed to get bought to go home. In this sense, the absence of charity stores impeding my indulgence and predilection for scouring them for bargains was looking more like a blessing than anything else.  

After about thirty minutes of wrestling with the luggage, Richard and I we went back down to be faced with the remnants of lunch. All that was left were some ham slices, cheese, crackers and nuts and fruit. Which would do the trick - breakfast had been recent and dinner would probably be large, so some lighter style eating was eminently welcome. As was some delightful Pinot Gris and Chardonnay which helped the light fare perfectly. At conversation over the lunch, it seemed the thinking was indeed that a light lunch was preferable to heavy since the upcoming Tantalus would be big. Though I was told that some of the pilgrims whinged about the parsimony of the food offerings at lunch. Maybe the same ones that whinged about there being too much lamb. What to do? Can't please everyone, eh? And my experience is that some people just like to whinge because it is a safety and comfort zone - is often all they know what to do. There you go - takes all sorts of characters to make for a world. Who am I to judge?

As soon as I entered with my lunch I got pounced on by Yvonne to discuss the APZ newsletter which ultimately sounded quite doable. The thinking was to get something out twice a year and create pages with articles for website storage and access. I know from experience that the hard part of all this is getting people to write and send photos for inclusion. But now with Facebook and Whatsapp and different branches having their own sites and sharing events, this seemed less painful than it might otherwise have been. Hopefully once the thing gets up and running the other branches will look to develop their own stores of information and events and I can just email out links for the members to follow. Or not. The other trick is to make it all relevant and reasonably engaging to warrant people spending time poring over your photos and videos. There might also be layout issues and maintaining the look and feel across all publications. And STILL getting people to contribute. Though certainly more doable than initially envisaged. I got copies of what had gone before and started to develop an idea of a single bright and breezy single page email that will link to kind of "read more here>>" style pop up pages. And also do occasional "extras" when a good story comes about. Maybe also attach the whole thing as a PDF, though I did get told that less than 10% members download and read. Fair enough. Perhaps need to make it big size font so people can read the thing. And look to make the website a bit more relevant than the general "this is what we do at IWFS" kind of approach that necessarily prevails across most websites. 

After the discussion, some of us diehards parked ourselves around a table for a somewhat extended lunch which involved swigging the remaining booze and gossiping about the occasional politicking that some perceive to happen across the lines. Nothing like a good bottle of wine or four to kickstart the tongue. Nothing nasty, just the occasional observation on perceived motivations that drive some to seek the glory or just do the necessary. Observations on the human condition and what we perceive to drive us. Good clean fun. 

View from the Stamford Plaza room
All of this ended round about 2.45pm at which point I went back to the room for a very good power snooze to refresh ahead of the walk from the hotel to the pier to get the Waiheke ferry. Seems a 4.30pm crossing had been arranged for the pilgrims and a 3.30pm appointment (was initially 3.45) to assemble had been set. Took us all of five to ten minutes to walk from the lobby to the pier, so quite why such an early off was felt necessary was not fully clear. Though perhaps building in such a large margin was felt beneficial to account for the perennially late. There are often one or two in every group. 

On the way back to the room I ran into May and Eddie and Karen who had decided that a better lunch awaited them at the local Oyster and Seafood Bar five minutes walk to the Viaduct. Did I want to join? Not really - I am not driven by the lust and passion that some of the pilgrims have for shellfish. I also have the fear of the one Raw Prawn that can Delhi the belly with an Attack of the Whooshes and keep me parked on the toilet on the MAS flight back to Kuala Lumpur. No joke at 20,000 feet and not worth the risk, thanks all the same. And I really needed a quick power nap. They clearly had a brilliant and jolly time, judging by the Facebook post.  And no Raw Prawns. Bugger.


Our blurb told us that after our free afternoon (?) we would meet to take the 35 minute ferry ride across the harbour to the beautiful Waiheke Island for a tasting and dinner. Waiheke Island was rated by Lonely Planet Guide as the fifth best destination in the world and a must visit once in the lifetime. And although our visit would be brief, it would "give members the chance to experience exactly what it is that has put Waiheke on the map – the production of exceptional wines, of which Tantalus is the new kid on the block, but don’t let that fool you – their wines are extremely good for a young producer. You should not miss this. We will return to Auckland by ferry after the dinner, arriving Auckland about 10.30pm."

Sage and Rosemary - awesome scent when crushed
As said, we had got to the appointed assembly, er, point way ahead of time and watched enviously as the four o'clock ferry opened its gates for the boarders. I wandered up and down the queue a few times, more to stretch legs and observe. It was a glorious sunny Sunday in Auckland, in stark contrast to the bluster and drizzle of the previous day. Weather does make a vast difference in how one approaches a day. 

Everyone lurked or sat waiting for the signal to move. I got talking to a chap name of Geoff Ryder who lived on the island. Said he came to NZ forty years ago, had been living on Waiheke for 18 of them, was a Lodge member, born in Detroit, engineer with four kids spread across NZ and one in Brisbane. He was a dead ringer for Ernest Hemingway with a salt and pepper beard though I did not mention anything. We talked about Tantalus and he spoke of a gin distillery next door to it name of Dellows. He said we could see it from the Tantalus but I eventually didn't. I had thoughts of a quick taste and try to buy and take back. Didn't happen. Have to see if it would be on sale at the airport. It wasn't. Not meant to be. Om.

The boat came to dock and we all swiftly boarded. I decided to take a seat downstairs, more to avoid the blazing sun than anything, and got joined by the water and boat fearing Gloria from IWFS Western Australia in Oz. We passed the boat time most pleasantly talking away about KL and places she had lived and a cute story about a mutual friend parading on a beach somewhere in a slinky and skimpy white swimsuit many moons ago and me part wondering what the friend would look like now...

The lawn at Tantalus Estate
The boat docked after 40 minutes of extremely smooth sailing, and as we disembarked we got directed to gate 3 where two buses were waiting to transport us to the winery and our dinner. We swiftly scrambled aboard and found ourselves quickly making our way along a winding road heading inland. The towns along the road were all cutely pretty in a kind of California way, with lots of small funky shops in a blazing blue sky setting. Reminded a little of Carmel and Half Moon Bay on the Pacific Coast in the USA. I got a wonderful Bayside vibe and feel about the whole island and I could easily see how my new Hemingway friend had spent eighteen years here. Hugely easy place to just "be", man...

Lance, Kalsom, Hansruedi, May Peng and Amber in a... theyfie?
The bus arrived and we all dismounted to get faced with a stairway to the heaven that was seemingly set on the top floor of the complex. I did not notice a lift and no one asked if there was one. Might be an issue for those less mobile than us pilgrims. The place was hugely pretty in the blazing sun, and the scents from the herb gardens lining the route were brilliant - sage and sweet smelling Rosemary that just erupted with pungency when you crushed it between your palms. 

Dr Jag with Susan Gill, both from IWFS KL
Walking through the darkish entrance, the restaurant opened out onto a delightful lawn garden and rows of vines that stretched all around the complex. There was a wooden sculpture which dominated the lawn that lay between the restaurant and the vines and the light made for some brilliant photos. 

Tantalus Restaurant ambience
The pilgrims seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the sun and the outdoors and went at the photoshooting like first day of grouse season, snapping anything and anyone that stayed still long enough to get caught within selfie or weefie range. Everyone got welcomed with a glass of the crisp and throat warbling white fizz in the now de rigeur half white wine size stemmed glasses and started quaffing and posing and enjoying the brilliant early evening light and cooling evening air of Waiheke Island. Really nice place to chill and enjoy a setting sun and and either take photos or hope to get taken.

View from the table
I decided to wander back in to recce the bathroom and ended up chatting to some of the Auckland members about their experiences of organising and executing the AGM Festival. I told them I thought they had done a sterling job in all respects. One shared a few briquebats that had been received and seemed a shade depressed by them. I tried to console by saying some people can never be satisfied and there is no reason for this so best to just give a Gallic shrug and grab another glass of fizz. Which we did. 

Wandering back toward the outside, I noticed that some seats had already been "earmarked" and claims staked either through handbag or some other accoutrement to mark ownership and thus possession. I know in some parts of the world (eg Singapore) gazumping or squatting against someone's earmark can turn nasty and (on one reported occasion) violent. I wondered what kind of woe would visit a pilgrim who would dare transgress such occupation and claim against the world. I was half tempted to shift someone's claim to another seat to see what would happen, but resisted - no point to ruffle feathers, eh? I similarly marked my seat with a notebook and a half drunken glass...

Welcome speech from IWFS Auckland President Rowan Moss
A final wander into the fresh air and then eventually drifting back in with everyone to take their seats ahead of the dinner. I seem to recall a short speech and then it was straight into the white wine. 

The most excellent Tantalus Cachette Chardonnay
The 2017 Cachette Chardonnay was lovely. Smooth, clean, good dose of oak but not so that it overpowered and made you think you were chewing wood. Got ripe peach and apples in the mouth, large hint of the tropical with a brilliant finish. Very more-ish, and the staff were quite generous in the refills. Felt like an airy meadow breeze, made the more so given the green garden surroundings outside. Not sure if we see it outside of NZ but would certainly snap up a couple of these for the fridge. A lovely drop. 

The crusty, crisp and crunchy bread was being paired with some excellent olive oil that had an equal dose of wood and which gave it great character and taste. Lovely start to the evening.

Someone observed the music volume was a bit loud and a request to turn it down was quickly complied with. Kudos for the staff being receptive to the pilgrims' need for less background ambient noise!

The food was hugely slow in coming out. Felt like it took the age of Methuselah to get to the table but was probably about thirty minutes. Which is still pretty long. We had previously given our mains choices to the young people flitting around the tables. But they seemed a bit thin on bringing out food. We kept chugging the remains of our fizz and scarfing down the bread and desperately trying to keep the conversations going. But it does get difficult when there is little to fire the imagination and pretty much all topics have been exhausted. Had to ask for second and third rounds of bread to soak up the booze - be full before 8pm at this rate…  At least the sunset through the open window was magnificent, with the light slowly changing from perfect blue to darkling dusk to the sound of roosting birds and the sudden silence as they all shut down their cawing and the Sandman entered their world...

The Big Glory Bay Salmon. Total darling...
When the starter did come, it was darling. I had opted for the salmon and it was absolutely one of the freshest I have ever had. Lightly pan seared for a crisp skin, the sour cream and ponzu gave great umami taste and texture whilst the shallots brought spice and bite and the elderflower lent a hint of floral grace. It was a fantastic combo of creamy mouthfeel and melting salmon texture that brought home the fact that this is why we join the IWFS - to get tastes like this. Imagine excellent multiplied by three with a hint of wicked and it gets close. Really, really good. Can't remember if the wine was a match. Didn't matter if the food was this good…  

The Tenderloin. Jus disappointed, but lovely meat
Those opting for the pork belly looked a bit disappointed. If I heard correctly, the aim was to reproduce a Spicy Chinese style cuisine - Sze Chuan taste but without the firepower. Normally a pork default, I opted against - no one does Chinese cuisine styles better than the Chinese, and given this level of expectation the dish might prove disappointing. Judging by the look on some on the table who selected the pork, I might not have been far off. 

Mossie's Fish dish. Looks good, yes?
The beef followed on quite quickly. Sad to report it was not stunning and a bit on the bland side. Lovely tender meat, with some good char and season and chew and bite, it was the jus that let the thing down. Rich, thick, and a bit starchy. Reminded of the Bisto we would get at school. Lacked a bit of finesse that I would have liked to match beef of this quality. However, once it all got a bit mixed up with the other bits on the plate it started to make a bit of sense. The notes are a bit confusing and spiderish at this point. 

Goat's Cheese Ice Cream - nice.
The reds…  none really distinguished themselves. I have no notes, but I recall excellent textures, full meaty mouthfeels…  but nothing that really stood out as Wow. Sorry. Perhaps they were all a bit young. Didn't stop the pilgrims guzzling them down like cherry-cola and clamouring for more whenever a bottle came within sight. Probably the reason for the spidery notes - it must have been good stuff. The memories go downhill from here...

I seem to recall enjoying the Goat's Cheese Ice Cream with the sweet honey and pop of orange blossom - very nice. 

More wine for you? Absolutely...
I also seem to recall there were a couple of people who got up and said something. I have observed that these usually seem to follow a similar pattern - everyone goes quiet for a bit and when the speaker starts failing to engage then people start to natter with their neighbour and the noise level eventually ascends sufficiently to drown out the speech. The best speeches are always short, make the points, thank the people and get out of the way to let the party move on. The smart ones know how to gauge the audience, and know when to stop. Been there, done that…

And then it was out and back on the bus. I have a drunken memory of singing Blue Suede Shoes whilst hanging onto the bannister on the top deck of the double decker. Brought back great memories of the school buses when I used to hang on the rails and roll with the barrelling bus that would transport us to the school. It is all in the movement of the legs and keeping the head on a fixed point. Great, great fun. 

I think I slept on the ferry back to Auckland. No more memory. No photos neither. I clearly made it into bed because I was there the next morning. Phooo....

Tantalus Estate - Vineyards and Winery
70 - 72 Onetangi road
Waiheke Island
Auckland  New Zealand
tel +64 21 051 9111


The Three Course Set Menu

Handcrafted Bread with Matiatia Estate Olive Oil

Entree - choice of
Big Glory Bay Salmon - Cultured Sour cream, Elderflower, Ponzu, Shallots (gf, nf)
Twice Cooked Pork Belly - Popcorn, Orange, Grapefruit, Shoyu, Spring Onion (gf, nf)
Sorrel Ice Cream - Avocado, Kaffir Lime, Peas, Marigolds, Black Olive (vg, gf, nf)

Main - choice of
Angus Beef Tenderloin - Wild Rice, Apricots, Tamarind, Cos, Szechuan (gf, nf)
Longline Market Fish - NZ Mussel, Green Tomato, Cucumber, Succulents (gf, nf)
Charred Sweetcorn - Red Capsicum, Tofu, Nutritional Yeast, Rima, Kale (vg, gf, nf)

Dessert - choice of
Goats Cheese Ice Cream - Apricots, Orange Blossom, Honey (gf, nf)
Hogarth 66% Chocolate Tart - Spent Grain, Malt, Red Plum, Cherry (nf)

The Wines

Tantalus Cachette, Chardonnay, Waiheke Island 2017
Tantalus Evoque, Merlot/Malbec/Cabernets, Waiheke Island, 2014
Tantalus Voile, Syrah, Waiheke Island, 2015
Ecluse Cabernets/Merlot/Malbec, Waiheke Island

This way to Day Four>>>>

Back to Day Two<<<<

Friday, April 19, 2019

IWFS Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019 - Day Two

International Wine and Food Society Asia Pacific
Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019

A recollection and remembrance of eats, drinks, sights, sounds, and people from across the event. Organised by IWFS New Zealand, it brought members from all across the world to enjoy the food and wines of the country. 

Saturday 9th March 2019 - Day Two



I half remember a fuzzy and late breakfast before joining everyone gathering at the hotel entrance to board the bus for a tour around the city. The weather looked as if it had finally turned against us, with grey skies and rain in the air. I recall a couple of random "Good Mornings" with the pilgrims, though I hung around in the background more than anything - me and mornings after are not normally happy playfellows. 

There would be two buses taking us around the city. The first already had a queue lined up to board so I headed for the second. We were soon all present and apparently axcounted for and ready for the off. 

The bus driver was an intense grey haired and wiry lady of at least sixty and probably near seventy, with a wry and dryish sense of humour. She was also the commentator for the tour, though much of the commentary seemed to be her observations on the traffic or the weather or random thoughts on New Zealand life and the people who lived in her part of town. Which was quite entertaining, though perhaps a shade less informative than some might prefer. Seems we were originally going to do the famous view from Mount Eden, but got told by the driver that the rain and clouds had put the mockers on that idea. We were instead taken on a quick round of the town centre area before heading out to Newhaven (recognising the Sails where we had our dinner the night before) and going across some large bridge type structure before coming back in to again cross the city and into the Mission Bay area for stop on a hilltop overlooking a stretch of sea. The map suggests this to have been the M J Savage Memorial Park because there was a, er, Memorial there. There was also a toilet which got some immediate use. Getting off the bus, the pilgrims splintered off into their various couples or foursomes or singles and wandered about the pathways. It had already started to spit rain as we got off the bus and it increased in spittage as the grey clouds rolled in and the rain started coming in with a serious windy vengeance. Those with umbrellas continued on a short walkabout whilst those not so well equipped grimly hung out in a canteen on the hill to shelter and wait for the bus doors to open. 

The rain kept in for the rest of the morning and put the total kibosh on any decent photos of the City Tour. Om. Our driver told us that the main destination in Mission Bay is a place called Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life. This is a favoured destination of families keen to look at the fish and (according to the brochure) actually swim with sharks. It was clearly popular given the scarcity of parking space there for the many cars looking to muscle their ways in. There you go. 

We passed a number of seaside style bars and restaurants all looking a bit forlorn in the rain before the bus took us around the "rich" area of expensive properties and homes to ogle at the opulence and manicured front areas. In my experience, quite a few of the city tours do this, and I am never quite sure why. I guess it must be some projection style fantasy of living such a gifted lifestyle that is beyond most of us in this lifetime. Wealth beyond imagination. Or maybe it is my lack of imagination is the problem...  I thought I noted a tinge of envy in our driver's commentary. Lucky rich b******

The bus then headed back to the city via one of the highlights of the morning for me - passing through the Auckland Domain area around the Hospital and Auckland War Memorial Museum. This was a delightful area of greenery and walks and would clearly make for a splendid couple of hours wandering through this parkland. One of the guidebooks talked about a walk that could be followed which takes in the Auckland Art Gallery. I made a mental plan to do this on my spare day before my flight out of Auckland (though it would not eventually come to pass - see later scribbles). We then drove through a very pretty section of town called Parnell, chock full of roadside stores, before coming back into familiar territory of Auckland Centre. We then drove along one of the Jetties to turn back around and get us nearish to our lunch destination. Apparently. After we got off the bus we ended up walking back up along the jetty we had driven down. Someone had a Google Map and most of us followed. Naturally we overshot. I veered off and found a friendly restaurant that turned a blind eye to my stealing a pee in the toilet. On coming back out, the clouds had again burst and unleashed a drenching torrent of rain on the wharves and anyone stranded thereon. I was saved by my portabrolly and packaway raincoat and wandered back along the wet and slippery wharf. I spotted a familiar face sheltering in a restaurant entrance who told me the lunch venue was a bit further along and could I give him a brolly lift. Which I did. And got a pretty good soaking in the process - lesson here is never share a portable brolly with a six foot Italian Australian man. 

The Giraffe at the, er, Giraffe

Our IWFS blurb said that "After our tour, we’ll be lunching at Giraffe, Simon Gault’s restaurant where he presents an eclectic variety of dishes using both traditional and molecular techniques. Following lunch, for those not involved in the Presidents’ Round Table, there will be an opportunity to either take a cruise under sail on the harbour on board the sailing scow Ted Ashby for one hour or visit the Sky Summit Tower." I had originally opted to go sailing but got pressganged into attending the Round Table - see later. 

The Giraffe is a relative newcomer to the Viaduct Harbour section of Auckland. Helmed by NZ Food Celebrity Simon Gault, Giraffe is "a celebration of everything that makes New Zealand great. Home grown, showcasing the finest local producers and growers our country has to offer (yet) mature enough to recognise that occasionally the very best ingredients are from further afield."

Giraffe IWFS Menu and the starters
Giraffe looks to capture a "spirit of innovation" in its preparation and presentation of delicious dishes, and is "uncompromising in our promise to surprise and delight every time." It also looks to engender a spirit of sharing - dishes and knowledge - with an aim to "capture the essence of friendship and conviviality" and "share in the same narrative of quality, pride and passion for the end-result. At Giraffe, we’re all about personal connections."

So, as said I was a bit bedraggled and dripping as we entered the restaurant where my hitchhiker grabbed a couple of large gamps to retrieve the remaining refugees. We were greeted by this huge fluffy giraffe in the bar area, clearly the mascot of the place and presumably waiting for selfies - some of us were not quite in the mood. Well, one of us wasn't…    To add to this damp picture of misery, most of the plum seating had been taken by the earlier arrivees and the tardy and bedraggled had to wetly plonk ourselves down wherever we could. Not the best form of introduction to the assembled. I found myself again next to Dr Jag and Malkit and opposite Richard and Pam Hinds from Washington in the USA. I divested my anorak and wiped myself down with the pocket bandanna whilst some kind soul took the wet brolly and parked it with other wet brollies. 

Jaya from IWFS Kuala Lumpur and Richard from IWFS Washington USA
The Giraffe is bright and light and airy, with large glass window doors at one end and the open kitchen at the other. Seating is long stretches of tables along with a bar stool area in front of the service doors. Nice breezy feel about the place and the young keen staff. Who quickly poured an introductory glass and started piling food on the tables. 

The Whitebait Rolls
I have no note on the Smoked Kawahai ((NZ term for Australian Salmon) Pate, though I do remember wolfing it down on the excellent though darkly black bread. Though I don't remember much in the way of fish flakes like the photos on Google suggest it should be. My photo of the Giraffe version shows it to be green and avocado like. And the Giraffe breakfast menu shows Avocado on sourdough toast. So perhaps there was a late replacement. So it goes. No one seemed to notice and happily wolfed away. Chunky gunky and salting the tongue and mouth with good healthy infused ooze. Yum.

My note on the Pork Belly wafer is "wicked". It was a bacon pork roll with some creamy goat cheese and wrapped in a leaf. Brilliant combo that ticked all the boxes of this closet Chinaman and total sucker for anything pig. It was excellent. Though I somehow missed getting a photo - clearly too busy hoovering these bad boys down…

Ambience at the Giraffe
I have a note on some Ceviche which is not on the menu - perhaps a late addition. It was very good. I particularly liked the mashed pepper which gave piquant fire and bite to the fish (which tasted of Snapper but could have been pretty much anything). There was also a tongue stabbing Ginger bite in the sauce and a dollop of parsley made for a peppery pop. 

The unexpected Ceviche
My notes say the Whitebait was a bit soggy, though the excellent bread and the yuzu mayo made it all a delightful chew with a zesty bite.

Nautilus Albarinho - yum
For the first part of the lunch we were drinking the Nautilus Albarinho which was lovely. Lightly crisp and floral and the smoothest of finishes, it slipped through the system like a harbour yacht in a summer breeze to be first across the Americas Cup line. Most excellent, and very versatile in matching nicely with all of the starting dishes. Will definitely look to buy this one in Malaysia if we see it. 

The second part saw a Rose getting poured which on first blush felt a bit okay only but proved a deceptive beast when I found myself feeling quite smashed half way through the lamb. With which, it needs to be said, the Rose was not a brilliant match. The cutting acidity and nice fruity balance made it more of a chugging party wine rather than a reflective sip to help the meat go down. So it goes. Or went. 

The excellent lamb - double yum
Myself and some of the others on the table observed that the wine was feeling a bit thin in the pourings. The IWFS Pilgrims are a thirsty bunch at the best of times and today the refills felt a shade tardy and parsimonious. The staff were clearly in awe of the Bottle Meister ladies and could only relay our requests to these Guardians of the Booze who seemed to be holding on to the precious bottles against the barbarian hordes. Or at least the barbarian horde singular that was me. There you go - I guess they were under instruction somewhere up the line to ration so that the guzzlers did not suck it all down before others got a first taste. Fair enough. Though I seem to recall someone on our table buying a bottle to stave off the drought. Very necessary. During the lunch, new friend Richard starting talking about wines made in Virginia which was quite instructive - I never realised grapes grew in that part of the USA. He praised them highly - I will have to look for them when next in the United States. 

The lamb was excellent. Coming out in two-rib cutlets, you could slice it down the middle with a genteel knife and fork or grab it by the bone and bite through viking style. Totally wicked either way. Perhaps a shade rare, but hugely tender and full of succulent taste and firm bite and chew. Memorable. 

The brilliant Pavlova
The Pavlova was equally excellent. The freshest, lightest creamiest cream, sweet crunchy biscuit, superb fruits. It was wicked good creamy delicious and totally more-ish. Both this and the Lamb are definitely worth a return for. 

Chef/Owner Simon Gault showing off his cheese...
I managed to squeeze in a quick chat with the hugely affable owner and Executive Chef Simon Gault before he came out to introduce the cheese. The Giraffe website says Simon "continues to be at the forefront of New Zealand's innovative restaurant and dining scene. His ability to capture the culinary zeitgeist and personalise it with his own unique twist, captivates tastebuds and the imagination." I couldn't seem to find too much detail on Simon's background, save that he did a stint on MasterChef NZ, has written a number of cookbooks and seemingly endorsed a range of products in supermarkets across the land (NB shoutout to the nationwide Countdown supermarket chain, my source of bread, ham and cheese for the various bus and boat rides across the nation). 

In our chat, Simon confirmed that all the food was farm to plate and made to traditional New Zealand style preparations. His passion for the result was evident and infectious. Quick to smile and generous with his time, Simon is a massively easy chap to like. 

Say cheese? No, EAT cheese!!
The cheese had apparently been flown in from Nelson in the South Island that morning. It was an 11 month mature Sheep cheese with a white vein and figured it for a perfect ending to the lunch. And so it would prove - a good easy bite with a slight smoky mouthfeel. All in all, an easy breezy but filling lunch with excellent dishes throughout. Very happy to go back to the Giraffe any time. 

Giraffe Restaurant
85–87 Customs Street West
Viaduct Harbour
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 9 358 1093
email info@girafferestaurant.co.nz

Monday–Friday 7am till 11:30am
Saturday–Sunday 8am till 11:30am
(Kitchen closed 11:30am-12pm)
Monday–Sunday 12pm till 4pm
Monday–Sunday 6pm till 10:30pm


For The Table
Smoked Kawahai Pate - Ciabatta and Crudites
For The Palate
Crispy Pork Belly Wafer - Devilled Date
West Coast Whitebait - Bread Roll, Yuzu Mayo
Trevally Crudo - Sour Plum, Ginger, Marinated Shiitake
The Giraffe Way
Lamb Rack - Kumara, Mint Sauce, Sheep's Milk Yoghurt
A Light And Fruitful Finish
Pavlova - Whipped Coconut Cream, Kiwi Frut, Passionfruit, Berry Compote
New Zealand Cheese Selection
Table friends Philip and Christine Clark IWFS Devonshire

The ever smiling Lydia from IWFS Western Australia

Our Lady of the Wines. And Food.


By the time lunch had finished, the sun had put its hat back on and was beaming brilliantly on the now sated pilgrims. It had been somewhere decided that, rather than make the bus wait and pick us up for a fifeen minute drive, a gentle ten minute stroll from the Giraffe across the road and up along Albert Street might be a better option. And so it proved - nothing like a short wander to walk off some of the lunch. A range of tour options had been scheduled for the pilgrims, whilst an informal meeting was in store for the various IWFS Branch Presidents to discuss upcoming events and basically keep each other on the same pages as to general APZ matters. I had shoehorned myself into this meeting on the possibility I would be handling APZ Newsletters in the future and thus needed to be in the know. This possibility quickly became an assertion as the meeting got underway. Most of the discussion concerned new Website, upcoming Festivals and getting new branches up and running. It was a good insight into how the IWFS meetings run - little different from most other meetings across the globe...


Getting back to the room after the roundtable at about 4.45pm, I opted for a quick nap whilst Mossie fiddled with things Internet. Around about 6pm I figured to start to get ready for dinner so as to get out ahead of Mossie's way. Shower, shave and on with the Tuxedo, Black Tie and Medallion and down to the Ballroom where the fizz had already started popping and the handphones were gaily snapping anyone who was happy to be snapped. I always seem to get variable results on the Samsung phone so usually opt for the old and battered Sony DSC-P72, which celebrates its 15th year of photographic service this year. For some reason, the photo quality is good, the colours are vibrant, and with the food dishes I normally get a result. Excellent lens - don't make them like this any more.

IWFS KL Dr Jagjit Singh with IWFS WA Gloria Kunzmann
I think I have said elsewhere that I am not massively comfortable with the early evening schmoozing; I need a couple of sherbets to loosen up and get in the flow. The brain somehow does not fire on all six without some joyjuice in the system. Just can't seem to keep the conversation flowing in this early schmooze…  

Happy IWFS people at Lucky Table 8
The fizz should have been good - Deutz as I recall - but for some reason it was not as I'd had elsewhere. This one felt…  a bit metallic and thin. A lot of cream in the mouth and not really pleasant. I thought it might be the glass, but a refill in a fresh glass felt the same. Perhaps I was still hung over from lunch and not really in the mood to get fizzed up. But certainly not a patch on the Quartz Reef we had the previous night at the Sails. I parked my glass somewhere and snuck into the Ballroom to get some pre dinner snaps and scout out the tables and park the notebook. I then snuck back out and hid in the bathroom for ten minutes, more to avoid having to schmooze and drink the fizz than anything. Antisocial? Maybe…  possibly just painfully shy without a belt of the booze. Think my dad was the same…

Light entertainment
I emerged just in time to be one of the last through the door and plonked myself in my appointed seat. I would be sitting with Sunny and Boots from the Philippines, Michael and Grace from Perth and Rajan and Stephanie from KL. Good company all round. Couple of early speeches and then it was heads down into the food.

The starter chicken seemed to have a lot of salt to my tongue and I think I left it as a result. The rest of the dish was fine - tomato was crisp and crunchy whilst the orange and avocado combo worked strangely well together with its citrus tang and creamy gunk. The watercress lent a good vegetal bite and the ensemble fit together nicely. 

It was being paired with a 2018 Pinot Gris which was frisky, with large gooseberry and fresh grass on the nose. I got peach and apricot with some spice and a pepper note in the mouth, and a cool clean finish with fair length. 

IWFS Hong Kong President Karen Leung receiving the
Hong Kong Charter from APZ President Yvonne Wallis
Matchwise, it didn't quite work for me. The chicken texture pretty much neutralised the fruit and lightness of the PG whilst the salt just made you want to drink more. Which we did. It was a lovely wine to drink, and drink it our table did - many refills were requested and answered. 

At this point there were more speeches and a presentation of medallions of various calibre. Pretty much the whole delegation from Kuala Lumpur got the White Medal of Commendation (including your scribe - ahem) whilst Kuala Lumpur's Dr Rajan and Victoria's Amber Dowling got an Andre Simon Bronze each. We all had two medallions around our necks and they were constantly clinking each other for the rest of the night - no one told us we could take the old one off…   We also got some detail of a superbranch being formed in Hong Kong along with an AGM Festival to be held there around October 2020. Hong Kong's President Karen Leung received the Charter from IWFS APZ President and Global Ambassador Yvonne Wallis. 

The Chicken entree
Then it was back to the food. The Artichoke was okay, but more texture than anything else. It certainly needed the nuts and herbs to bring some oomph to the dish. Some of what appeared to be olive oil and the lemon helped give the thing some sass, though I could not find much in the way of manuka honey. The Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc with which it was being paired again did not work for me. I felt the dish fired up the wine's already firm acidity whilst the lemon pretty much cooked what little there was of the wine's fruit. Compared with the Nautilus Albarinho we had had at our lunch earler, this was a poor relation - somehow ordinary and lacking finesse when compared. We were still asking for and getting the Pinot Gris which seemed to get better through the night and down the glass and without the need for food. Would make for a very good aperitif. 

The Grilled Artichoke
The Merlot came out ahead of the food. Surprisingly full bodied, young, black pepper and smoke on the nose, tree bark, forest fruit and chewy boysenberry. Fair finish, quite a silky mouthfeel. But with a slight leaning toward firm in the balance.

The Beef Short Rib
I am starting think that Chef has a heavy hand with the salt shaker because it was all over the beef ribs dish like a rash. In the vegetables, in the jus, in the beef itself - massive salt attack. I managed to scrape some of the outside jus off the ribs to reveal a rib of great tenderness, texture and taste. In this regard, it was excellent, perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth meat. I just could not eat the outside - total gaaaaaack…  I recognise my tolerance for salt is low and no-one on the table made much mention of it. But a few post dinner conversations suggested I was not alone in my concern at the levels of salt. And you can't really send it back - well, not in a hotel anyway - you just have to leave it and hope that chef and maitre 'd get the message when the staff bring all the full plates back to the bin. 

IWFS KL Brian McIntyre receiving the White Medal of Commendation
with IWFS KL President May Peng and APZ Chairman James Lin
I have no note on the match with the wine. Looking back, I don't recall the Merlot being particularly spectacular; whatever, the salt would have killed it. I recall we called for more, though I also seem to recall leaving it in the glass and sticking with the Pinot Gris. I am not a great Merlot fan at the best of times, so I will defer any judgement to others. 

IWFS KL Dr Rajan receiving the Andre Simon Bronze
with IWFS President Yvonne Wallis and
IWFS APZ Chairman James Lin
The Cheese and Petits Fours came out together on a kind of High Tea plate. It all got eaten so I guess it was good. Though I do recall scarfing much of it. Perhaps I needed carbo after the salt assault of the previous dishes. The two dessert wines accompanying were hugely different in tastes and textures. The Brancott is a Late Harvest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc where (according to the website) "apricot, orange peel and honey aromas abound. Tropical fruit and fresh herbal notes are underpinned by a rich and complex palate with good length and finish." It drank very nicely, and indeed went strangely well with the cheese given its Sauvignon Blanc content. Quite a light dessert wine, if there is such a thing. Not entirely sure it works, but kudos to Brancott for giving it a go. 

The Marzemino I found to be a bit…   weird. Hailing from Italy's Trentino/Alto Adige region, Marzemino is a varietal rarely found elsewhere in the world. But it grows in Hawke’s Bay, where (according to the Church Road website) the varietal "produces deeply coloured, plummy red wines with supple tannins and fragrant floral notes accompanied by a rustic, savoury element lending the wine a distinctly Italian feel that works so well with food. Deep colour, with sweet plum and berry fruit, floral aromas and cardamom notes. Rustic and earthy, the palate is medium bodied with a gentle textured, approachable and slightly savoury tannin structure. The wine matches well with braised meat dishes (Osso Bucco, beef cheeks or lamb shanks) and also works with cheese based pasta dishes, cured meats, olives and some cheeses." 

IWFS Victoria's Amber Dowling receiving the
Andre Simon Bronze
As said, I didn't get it. Perhaps it was because it came out with the Brancott Late Harvest and looking to follow one with the other was never going to work. At least not with the dessert. Cheese is traditionally supposed to help wines that are a bit fierce in the bottle. Didn't help me too much here, sad to say. Will have to try this one in different circumstances - maybe a full bodied pasta ragout with lashings of parmesan cheese. 

There were a couple more speeches during which Auckland's Rowan received the Blue Medal of Recognition and Amber was given a case of wine by Rowan (which I decided to take from her and park it at the table - no way could anyone manage holding a heavy case of booze to get it off the stage without some help). I was asked to give a song or two and then pretty much en masse all the pilgrims made for the exits. It was quite bizarre - one minute they were all sitting enjoying the night and the next 50% of them were gone. I guess I have a gift for clearing a room...   The diehards stayed on to help tuck away any remaining booze for a while, and there was a threat to move on elsewhere to continue the party. I opted against and quietly slunk off to the room after a few good nights on the way. There was to be a 10am AGM on the morrow and I did not feel like drifting through it with too much of a muzzy head. Divested the Tux, climbed into bed, chatted with Mossie about the night and drifted off to sleep. It had been a good day. Hopeful tomorrow would be too.

Yvonne, Rowan and James
IWFS APZ Gala Dinner

House Smoked Waitoa Free Range Chicken, Avocado Puree, Heirloom Tomatoes, Navel Orange and Watercress Salad
2018 Triplebank Pinot Gris, Marlborough NZ

Light Dish
Grilled Artichokes, Preserved Lemon, Roasted Almonds, Manuka Honey Dressing
2017 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ

Six Hours Braised Awhi Farm Aged Beef Short Rib, Warm Lengil Ragout, Zucchini Ribbons and Horseradish Cream
2016 Church Road McDonald Merlot, Hawkes Bay, NZ

New Zealand Cheese and Petits Fours
Brancott Estate Letter Series Dessert Wine

Church Road Marzemino, Hawkes Bay NZ

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Tze Wan and Hansruedi Frutiger

IWFS Perth - Michael and Grace Tamburri

Newly gonged Amber receiving a Thank You from newly gonged Rowan Moss
This way to Day Three>>>

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