This one has been a long time coming. Ms Red and I attended the Brown Brothers Wine and Food Festival in Perth the last weekend in March, and it’s taken me a while to get the blog post together, but more on that later…
After driving laps around Cottesloe’s Town Hall and Civic Centre, Ms Red and I glimpsed a large marquee, which, coupled with the cars parked every which-way on the verge, were the only indicators of an event taking place. After parking, and a bit of a look around, we spotted a set of steps adorned with banners and flags, and a group of friendly staff (and a number of Brown family members) in vivid green shirts waiting to welcome guests with a glass of Prosecco NV and a programme.
Ascending the stairs and we were greeted by a huge open-sided marquee, filled with long tables, all set with crisp white cloths, and a splash of green (I’m sensing a theme here). A quick glance to the right and we’re looking out over the Indian Ocean.
Ms Red and I arrived about half an hour after the specified start time, and struggled to find a spot to sit where we weren’t squeezed between two already rowdy groups. Eventually we spotted a couple of seats at the end of a table, and made ourselves comfortable.
Being blessed with three tickets for the two of us, Ms Red and I were able to sample nine dishes of a possible ten. So, our first task was to eliminate one meal based on the description in the programme. We quickly agreed to cull the Tandoori baked chicken breast (with tamarind aloo chat, onion and tomato salad, mint yoghurt dressing), served with Chenin Blanc 2010, as neither of us are big chicken or Chenin Blanc fans. That decided, we were just about to wander over to pick up our first two dishes, when we realised that food service didn’t start for another half hour. We were surprised, especially given how many people were already there, but it did explain why most people were chilling at their tables with BYO nibbles – similar to a country race day.
Ms Red and I used that gap to formulate a plan of attack. We started with the dishes we thought would be the most popular, to make sure we didn’t miss any of our nine preferred choices.
Ms Red started with the slow cooked beef cheek (with horseradish potato, baby glazed carrots, pistachio and orange crumble served), served with the 2006 Patricia Shiraz, and there was already quite a queue forming when she arrived. I on the other hand had only one person in front of me in the line for the braised lamb, olive and truffle bastille (with greek yoghurt, sumac and vine ripened tomatoes), served with the 2008 Shiraz.
|Slow cooked beef cheek and 2006 Patricia Shiraz|
Ms Reds first response to the slow cooked beef cheek was ‘ooh, soft…’ and ‘uuh, something’s missing…’. She was right, the beef was incredibly soft. The beef itself was not particularly flavoursome, but the sauce/jus was deliciously rich, and the potato smooth and creamy. Unfortunately I have no idea what the carrot was like as Ms Red ate it all before we swapped plates. Also worth mentioning is the absence of the promised pistachio and orange crumble.
The lamb bastille was filled with deliciously soft, slow cooked, lamb. However, it was a bit too dry for the pastry, and despite the claims in the program, there was no noticeable truffle or olive flavours to the bastille. I still enjoyed this dish, but felt it had the potential to be outstanding, and slightly missed the mark.
Also, I learnt an important lesson in my first queue; I was slightly taken aback by the lack of line and didn’t notice as she was pouring, but you have to ask for a ‘small’ glass of wine. Most poured a very full glass (see lamb photo below), if not told otherwise – given that Ms Red had to make the drive back to Bunbury, we were keen for smaller tasting-sized glasses, and had to clearly ask every time.
|Braised lamb bastille and 2008 Shiraz|
The second round gave more challenges. By this stage some of the lines were getting to be quite long, and Ms Red and I had to make a few executive decisions about what would be worth the wait. I heased off to the (very short) queue for the star anise spiced roast duck (with sang choi bau), served with the 2009 Merlot, while Ms Red joined the (also short) line for the smoked Tasmanian salmon (with avocado tian, ciabatta crisp, salsa verda and saffron aioli), served with 2009 Chardonnay.
The duck was fast becoming my favourite selection. Miles ahead of the beef and lamb options, the duck was served with a prawn sang choi bow style salad, which when combined with the duck, was full of flavour as well as light and refreshing. My only concern with this dish was the Merlot – I’ll admit, I’m not a big red wine drinker, but I felt that this might not have been the best choice for the dish.
|Roast duck and 2009 Merlot|
Ms Red loved the salmon, and I would have to agree, however as I can’t eat avocado without regretting it later, I didn’t really get to fully appreciate the dish. The salmon was soft, and not even slightly dry (oh so common with salmon), and served with some sort of avocado side (please excuse my ignorance, I didn’t have any…).
|Smoked Tasmanian salmon and 2009 Chardonnay|
I picked up the leek and sour cream pastry tart (with confit baby vegetables, capsicum beurre blanc and olive oil dust), served with 2010 Crouchen Sauvignon Blanc, after waiting in the ‘coq au vin’ line for 10 minutes, and deciding I couldn’t be bothered waiting any more. The leek tart line was next to it, with very few (read: two) people ahead of me.
The pastry crust was very soft, but a bit thick for the small size of the tart. The quiche-like leek filling was tasty, and piled with summer vegetables (remember, we’re in Perth here, in the middle of the longest, hottest summer/autumn on record…). The overall feeling for the tart was that it was tasty, but unexciting. This was also the first time I had tried the Crouchen Sauvignon Blanc, and I was pleasantly surprised. I usually find the Crouchen Riesling to be too sweet, but combining it with a Sauvignon Blanc reduced the sweetness a bit, giving a sweet, but not overwhelming, easy to drink wine.
Leek and sour cream pastry tart and 2010 Crouchen Sauvignon Blanc
While I was in the line for the ‘coq au vin’, and giving up, Ms Red had collected the pan seared barramundi (with cauliflower cream, enoki mushroom, snow pea vines and chive oil), served with 2010 Pinot Grigio. We were both looking forward to this dish, as we are fish and mushroom fans, and both were included in this dish! Unfortunately, this one didn’t live up to our expectations. The barramundi was perfectly cooked in the top half, but the bottom half was soft and mushy – I’m not even sure how that can happen, but it was disappointing, given the quality of the rest of the dish. The enoki mushrooms and cauliflower cream were highlights, and had the barramundi been firm all the way through, this could have been our favourite for the day.
|Pan seared barramundi|
There was one clear stand out dish of the day for both of us, and it was a surprising one. I have already mentioned that neither Ms Red or I are great chicken fans, but the ‘coq au vin’ (with twice baked goats cheese polenta, field mushroom and candied bacon, red wine jus), with 2009 Tarrango, was by far the best main of the day. I braved the queue twice, the first time bailing on the long line when I heard the chef mention to someone at the start of the queue that there was definitely more coming, but there would be a 5 minute wait for the next serve. On the second try, I went in prepared. I joined the growing line with a half-full glass, prepared to wait it out.
The line was moving pretty quickly, and I made friends with the guy in front of me, so the time passed quite quickly. I returned to our table, and Ms Reds eyes lit up. Despite being our last main of the day, we ate a lot of this. The chicken was perfectly cooked, and not at all dry, served with crispy bacon and a delicious, large, mushroom. The red wine jus with cocktail onions just took it to another level completely. I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again – this was the best dish of the day!
|‘Coq au vin’ and 2009 Tarrango|
With mains done, Ms Red and I just had to wait for 1.30, and the desserts. There were only two options, so we went for one each. I lined up for the full cream milk tart (with chocolate macaron, mocha ice cream, salted caramel sauce and fresh summer berries), served with 2010 Cienna Rosso – being the macaron freak that I am. While Ms Red joined the significantly shorter line for the cheese plate - Milawa cheeses; Milawa Tomme (semi-firm goat’s milk cheese) and Milawa Camembert (velvety white mould cow’s milk cheese); served with 2009 Tempranillo.
Unfortunately I was so excited to try the macaron that I forgot to take a photo, so the one below is of the ‘display’ plate; hence there is no ice cream. And, my camera battery was well and truly flat by this point, so I didn’t manage to get a photo of the cheese plate at all.
|Full cream milk tart|
Unfortunately the macaron did not have that distinctive crunchy shell when you first bite in, and as it's been a while since the event, I can't really remember much about the milk tart, and my notes seem to be lacking (oops!).
All I can remember about the cheese plate, was that amongst the cheese, biscuits and nuts were some dates stuffed with dried apricots. Ms Red was quite perplexed by these, as was the woman next to us who also had the cheese plate – she and Ms Red exchanged concerned glances before one of them said ‘is that an apricot inside a date?’, followed by ‘I think so…’, and a discussion on how you would actually make that happen.
All in all, a great day out, and I've been told Ms Red and I missed out on the real fun by leaving before the dancing began!
Alphie and Ms Red attended as guests of Brown Brothers.
Brown Brothers Wine and Food Festival – Cottesloe
Cottesloe Civic Centre
Food supplied by Mustard Catering.