Monday, January 28, 2013

Bia Hoi pop-up Vietnamese @ Small Block, Brunswick

After reading the tongue-in-cheek blog post tweeted by @JohnandNecia on Twitter this morning, and seeing timing is of the essence, I thought I would wax lyrical about the Cohen's of Brunswickistan impromptu dinner last night at the über schick pop-up eatery at Small Block Café on Lygon - Bia Hoi.

You see, 18 months ago, the Cohen's ventured off to Vietnam for a month long trip south to north, eating everything from crickets to rats to little un-born ducks still in their  egg - thank God I ticked that off my bucket list!! Yes, Vietnam, seems so long ago.

So, to last night. I only really found out about the joint yesterday afternoon, and seeing it is located at Small Block, owned by the always busy Mr Brunswick himself, Michael Hole, I thought the only thing to do was drag the family down for some flavour. And seeing the restaurant is called Bia Hoi, what else would a world famous blogger wear to said eatery then their very own 'Bia Hoi' t-shirt all the way from downtown Hanoi. Classy hey?

We walk through the door and the place is full. And walking out of the kitchen resplendent in her Vietnamese flag t-shirt is the all round good chick Chantelle, formerly of Vue de monde (along with me), Cutler & Co. and numerous other fine eateries. After a big old bear hug in the middle of the place and ruffling of hair by said Chantelle to the little Cohen's, we were seated out back with three lemonades and a glass of Brunswick's finest Thunder Road Brewery Kolsch;  so Vietnamese and so Brunswick.

So, the food. It's a short menu. It's actually a shortish piece of brown paper with menu items scribbled on. Remember, it's a pop-up restaurant. With a confident 'yes' from Erin, we ordered everything on the menu; Roast Pork Rolls, Prawn rice paper rolls, steamed eggplant, Green papaya salad and chicken ribs (chicken wings?) with sponge laffa. And only one photo of the dishes all splayed around the table. I cannot stand the incessant shutter bugs constantly trying to get the best angle of a lamb shank - its food people.

The pork buns were more like pork sliders, but even so they were awesome. oursum. 'Tastes yum' quote unquote from my almost 8 year old daughter Imogen. So yum in fact that I had to go and pay a visit to the always smiling Tommy in the kitchen; Tommy of St. Judes, Albert Street Food & Wine (with me again) and recently The Middle Park Hotel where he was charring meat fame. After a few minutes of blah blahs it was back to the table to take Henry to the toilet for the 3rd time and continue on with dinner.

The green papaya salad was as authentic as I remember from the numerous times ordered on our trip to Vietnam. Crunch and heat and crunch; that's what you want. That's what we got. The rice paper rolls, well I'm not sure. These were hoovered up - two plates worth (three per serve) by Imogen and her brother Henry. They looked great so you'll have to take my word for it, or ask the kids; just don't freak them out is all.

The steamed eggplant for me was the most surprising. On the plate it looked just like eggplant; poor eggplant. But when you stuff it in your gob and get the texture of the fried bits of prawn and a touch of heat it turns in to this flavour mash and explosion that quite rightly sexes up the appearance of it on the plate. You get that?

Bia Hoi is the brainchild of Peter - your amiable host -  and I assume others who are working there too. I don't have the chutzpah like other bloggers to corner the proprietor and ask them 20 questions ranging from where'd you get your inspiration to where'd you get your fabulous pants??!! So get on down I say. Bia Hoi is only open on Thursday and Sunday nights from about 6ish running till March 24th - perfect timing for all the food sycophants coming for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. And they only accept the folding stuff - no cards people. (All food and bevvies were duly paid for by and on behalf of the Cohen's of Brunswickistan.)

So seeing I'm blogging about Bia Hoi, I think I have to give it a gold birk.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Byrne Ballarat Chardonnay 2011

How could you not love the label? More importantly, how could you not love the wine. The Byrne Ballarat Chardonnay 2011 is a work of art both outside and inside the bottle. Having just this week arrived at Seddon Wine Store after a quick taste with Alex and Jeremy earlier in the week, this chardonnay is a great weapon to take to the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd. But seriously, this is a great example of old and new; old being toasty oak and bold fruit, and new being steely citrus and gun powder flintiness.

So, the wine. Pale yellow in the glass, the nose is a mix of vibrant grapefruit pith, licorice powder, toasty oak and subtle leesy goodness. The palate also follows the grapefruit line up front thanks to mouth watering acid in the way of its 12.5% alcohol, but then tails away with mealy almonds and soft fig notes with lingering briney minerality at the end. A cracking wine from a tough vintage. And another great label Alex.

Drink with green papaya salad
Drink till 2016
Screwcap 12.5% v/v $32 Seddon Wine Store

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Clonakilla Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2008

Its Australia Day. Happy Australia Day everyone, and to celebrate its going to be this real Aussie classic, not the formulaic Ben Folds wines; play on words if you know what I mean. The Clonakilla Canberra District Shiraz Viognier 2008 will be opened when I get home tonight, but lets re-visit from about three months ago.

Deep red in the glass. The nose is full of soft tart red fruit, red licorice and subtle dried herbs. The palate is a kaleidoscope of ink, violets, faint spice, milk chocolate, game; just keeps going - the sip that never quits! Almost Burgundian in finish. Remarkable wine!

Drink with Haute Aussie BBQ while listening to Cold Chisel
Drink till 2020+
Screwcap 14%v/v $$$$

Abbazia Di Novacella Alto Adige Sylvaner DOC 2010

Thinking about this last night reading Christopher Hitchins 'Arguably', I went to school with three Sylvaner's. There, that's today's segue for the wine; short and succinct. Kinda how Christopher would have liked it.

The Abbazia Di Novacella Alto Adige Sylvaner 2010 for more than 4 weeks now has been staring at me while working at Seddon Wine Store, all the while sending telepathic messages to for me to grab my wine knife, remove the foil and pry the cork out - think 'The Shining'. I did this on Thursday night, minus the Jack Nicholson "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", and was like, "Wow. This Good". Again, think Korg in '20,000 Years BC'. So many quotes today.

Anyway, the wine. Golden yellow in the glass with a slight greenish hue. The nose was full of ripe rock melon with the slightest lick of dried green herbs. The palate was just super, with a fine mix of more full rock melon, gentle grapefruit acid and then all of the sudden there was this sudden STOP of flavour. What was next was a great wave of dried green herbs and an almost phenolic impact that pretty much cleaned up all the residual flavour from the primary palate. Just great. End Quote.

Drink with crab mornay
Drink till 2015
Quality cork 13%v/v $34 Seddon Wine Store

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kanta Adelaide Hills Egon Müller Riesling 2010

The Egon Müller name is alive and well and has a home in the Adelaide Hills. To borrow from 'Iron Chef', if memory serves me correct, this Egon is number 4, or IV as is custom; pretty good lineage don't you think?

The wine. The Kanta Adelaide Hills Egon Müller Riesling 2010 has a pale straw hue in the glass, with the nose throwing up an interesting mix of faint lime cordial and also faint honey; very restrained. The palate also has a great mix of limey acid and subtle honey, but also a real great line of minerality that keeps the honey nice and checked. A good summer Riesling indeed.

Drink with cold smoked chicken
Drink till 2016
Screwcap 13.5%v/v $29 Seddon Wine Store

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Tortilla

So easy to make and so much better than the store bought crap, and now a Sunday night special in downtown Brunswick.

Mitchell Harris Pyrenees Sangiovese 2010

As Sunday morning contemplations go, this is a ripper; do you think Huey Lewis and The News will ever get credit from the generation that are 'hip to be square'? Don't think so. Poor Huey.

Now that I have got that off my chest its on to the wine from last night. The wonderful Mitchell Harris Pyrenees Sangiovese 2010. Is there anything that Jonno Harris cannot make? As rhetorical questions go, that is a definitive no. Wonder what he is like at macrame? Anywhoo, the wine.

Quite a dense and heavy red in the glass, the nose takes a while to get free but when it does it is full of savoury tart cherries with a waft of chocolate after a little longer in the glass. The palate is a great blend of soft tannins, mouth watering acid and perfect fruit. Once again, after a while the wine delivered perfect and delicate bitter chocolate tannins. You're a good man Jonno Harris!!

Drink with chilli nacho's
Drink till 2018
Screwcap 13%v/v $32 Seddon Wine Store

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cassanne Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2010

I feel quite lost in contemplative thought today; must be because the kids are both inside and I am hiding out the back. To dream, to dream....

Now on to the wine. This was quite close to my top 10 for 2012, an honorary I suppose. The  Cassanne Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2010. Quite dirty in the glass with a faint reddish hue, the wine comes alive on the nose with a gorgeous mix of tart cranberry and green leafy beetroot. The palate has a very earthy and dirty primary hit with brown spice and tart raspberry in the middle. It has a very long tail with more earth in the way of fried clay, think terracotta if you must, right at the back. A great finish to a great wine so one to look out for.

Drink with sticky beef short ribs
Drink till 2016
Screwcap 13.2%v/v $32 Gertrude Street Enoteca

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wittmann Rheinhessen Trocken Riesling 2010

Its 35.6°C in Melbourne right now. Its midnight. Its 35.6°C!! Fairdinkum, this is just wrong. In these wrong times I'm drinking the Wittmann Rheinhessen Trocken Riesling 2010 because its wet and its cold and its just plain yum; honey, candied lime, persistant acid and repeat. I love it.

Now chill-out Melbourne!!!!!!

Drink with left over pork and fennel sausages
Drink till 2020+
Screwcap 12%v/v $37 Seddon Wine Store

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top of the tree in 2012

No, the world did not end. The Mayans sort of got it wrong with December 21st 2012 being cupitski for all of us mortals. Word is the Mayan's also predicted Beta VCR's would be the greatest invention since poncho's, the Spice Girls to collectively cure cancer and Corey Worthington to win a Noble Peace prize. Stick to human sacrifice next time Mayan's!!

What 2012 did bring to me was some pretty schmick wine positioned neatly in my glass. Last year saw just 6 wines for my top list. This year there are 10; 1 sparkling, 3 whites and 6 reds. Last year saw 5 whites and 1 red.  More awesomeness in 2012 than 2011 I guess.

So without delay and in no particular order, here is the pick of the the 2012 tasting crop.

Viñero Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2010 - a new label from super-sommeliers Matt Brook and Liam O'Brien, the 2010 hit all the right notes from a cracking vintage; very cool climate and not too far off soft and sexy Chambolle-Musigny.

Between 5 Bells Geelong Red Wine 2010 - a whacky blend that just so beautifully worked; who'd have thunk that we could find a use for Zinfandel? No offense California (sic).

Albert Mann Alsace Pinot Blanc Auxerrois 2011 - continuing on my love affair with Pinot Blanc, the recent winery of the year according to Wine Spectator (I think) delivers a magestic little quaffer that delivers so much more that the price suggests. Just beautiful.

Bindi Macedon Ranges Cuvée V Chardonnay/Pinot Noir -  I told you that this was going to be here. Bias or no bias, this wine just rocks.

Reichsrat Von Bulh Pfalz Riesling 2011 - I love Riesling, but what I loved about this beauty is its very unlike Rieslingness that just grabs you by the scruff of the neck and screams,' JUST DRINK ME!!!!!!!'

Fletcher Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo 2010 - my wine notes for this one were quite simple, 'Awesome. Breathtaking. Oursum. Captivating. Orsum. Sexxy.' You get that?

Best's Great Western Dolcetto 2010 - definitely bringing sexy back to Western Victoria, and definitely giving new world Dolcetto a voice.

By Farr Geelong Sangreal 2009 - Erin and I enjoyed this on Bastille Day last year in Perth. Enjoyed quite the understatement. Such brute power with such gentle force. Gary Farr knows his shit.

Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Arpent Sec 2010 - like my love for Pinot Blanc, my love affair with Vouvray also knew no bounds. I will make it a task this month to get this down at Seddon Wine Store, perhaps by the glass.

BK Wines Adelaide Hills Cult Syrah 2011 - just goes to prove that when you have a crap vintage, doesnt mean you have to make crap wine.

There you go, the top ten for 2012. And for the record, the By Farr Sangreal and BK Wines Syrah were the definate standouts. Cannot wait to see what 2013 has install.

The remains of 2012 - Bindi Macedon Ranges Cuvée V Chardonnay/Pinot Noir

I reckon later on today I will post my top picks for last year, even though it is this year today, the year after last that finished yesterday. You get that?

The Bindi Macedon Ranges Cuvée V Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, disgorged 2011, is just pure sexual liquid goodness. I know I bang on about Bindi wines pretty much all the time, but in all honesty, there is not really a wine where you would tie up like a piñata and go to it with a stick is there? So, the wine.

Still holding a straw/yellow colour in the glass with a supwer fine bead, the nose has an instant whack of gingerbread - very festive don't you think? The palate pleases as much as the nose with generous brioche and more gingerbread in there all neatly held together by subtle grapefruit acid.

I have still got about 3 bottles of this in my cellar and am convinced that this wine will still be singing when my boy Henry will be graduating from uni, give or take 20-25 years I reckon. I reckon well.

Drink with tuna sashimi
Drink till 2030
Diam cork 12%v/v $$$