What We Ate This Week: January 27th- February 4th- the best potatoes ever


So after all the excitement of tennis and tasty food in Melbourne, this week has been a bit, well boring.   Boring can be good.  We’ve been back to our normal routine this week (except for The Runner working ridiculously late nights and having a birthday on the horizon), but we’ve mostly been eating at home and cooking at home too. Continue reading

A Night With Tintilla…

It’s no secret that The Runner and I love wine and LOVE the Hunter Valley.  So when one of our favorite Hunter wineries comes to Sydney to do a wine dinner at one hat Sydney restaurant, Ume, in Surry Hills, it’s no surprise that we jumped at the chance to go.

Tintilla Estate Winery has been a favorite of ours for at least 6 years- if not longer.  Tintilla is an award winning, family run winery on Hermitage Rd in the heart of the Hunter with olives and grapes grown on the 25 hectare Estate.   The Lusby family owns and runs the winery with the father and son as the winemakers.  Keeping with the family feel, many of their wines are named after family members and some of the sparkling wines were created for family weddings and other occasions.  Visiting the cellar door is like visiting a home- Cellar Door/Wine Club Manager, Winn, always makes us feel welcome, and the family dogs, Stella and Tilly, normally around to greet visitors.

The Runner and I love their Saphira Sangiovese (they were the first winery in the Hunter to plant it), their Four Marys Pinot Noir and their Tarantella blend.  We also like their Angus Semillon and their amazing Sticky Dessert Wines.  In fact, in the winter, they do a lovely Sticky and Port tasting by the fire at the winery—it’s fantastic!  They also do a Spring Long Italian Lunch which is well worth a trip to the Hunter for!

Luckily, we didn’t have to leave the city this time around to have their wines.  They came to us in the form of a wine dinner at Ume in Surry Hills.   It was a combination of a date night and a goodbye dinner with The Runner flying to Europe the next morning at 6am….and when ,I say he was flying at 6am, that is the time his flight actually took off!  He had to be at the airport for 4am, which means he was up at some un-godly hour…. Which meant that a wine dinner the night before may not have been the best idea….

But I’m glad we went!

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It had been a tough day so The Runner started with a Japanese beer, part of his ongoing mission to try LOTS of different beers this year.

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Once everyone arrived we had a few works from Winemaker James Lusby, and started with the Amuse Bouche- a hearty, yummy, truffly mushroom dumpling which was wintry and hearty.  It was paired with a blush sparkling wine named after one of the family’s daughters in law, Rosalind, created for her wedding.  The Runner was sceptical at first at how the mushroomy dumpling would go with the wine, but it was delicious!

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The second course was a kingfish sashimi paired with a 2014 Hunter Angus Semillon.  Hunter Semillon and seafood are like best friends- they go together really well and this was no exception!  It was absolutely gorgeous—and one of The Runner’s favorite dishes of the night!

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The third course was a salad- a Shiki no Salad paired with the 2014 Pebbles Brief Chardonnay.  This was the course I was least excited about– I am the first person to say it, “I hate Chardonnay- yuck.”  I was thinking boring vegetables and chardonnay…….

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However, this wine and this salad made me eat my words!  It was a  really beautiful wine paired with an even more gorgeous and interesting salad.   The salad has so many different textures- orange and purple carrots, fried Brussel sprouts, lovely buttery cauliflower, and delicious buckwheat custard.  It was a party in my mouth!  The wine was a great match and a fantastic wine.  Chardonnay is the most planted and produce grape variety in the world—it’s one of the varietals used in Champagne!  Chardonnay is interesting because it is so heavily influenced by the region and the winemaker themselves.  Different chardonnay regions around the world give different characteristics to the wine and the winemaker can further influence this by the amount of oak they use.  The secret to Tintilla’s lovely chardonnay is that they use bigger barrels to balance out the fruit and oak.

The next course was miso braise pork belly with the Saphira Sangiovese.  YUM!    Pork belly is one of my favorites and it went really well with the Sangiovese.  The last savoury course was Lamb Shoulder, it was delish- the wasabi and pea puree was a great combination- and the nori was fantastic!  It was paired with the 2013 Reserve Shiraz, which was really lovely.  It wasn’t one of the ones that we normally order—at $40 a bottle it’s not our normal drop!

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For dessert it was a Japanese Pumpkin and Rice Pudding- it was an interesting dessert with a hot bottom and cold top… it was paired with the Spritzanti Lizzie- a sparkling Semillon.  If I’m honest, I would have probably preferred one of their lovely sticky ports to finish.  The sparkling Semillon was nice and the dessert was interesting.  We weren’t quite sure what to make of it when it arrived…but it was pretty good in the end!

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All in all, we loved the wines and loved the food.  I’d definitely go back to Ume- and it goes without saying that we’re going to keep buying Tintilla wine!  We were home relatively early which was good—and luckily The Runner made his flight just fine the next morning!

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A weekend to the Hunter…. But first a bottle of wine.

I have to make a confession.  I love bottle shops, well I love shops in general but I especially love Australian Bottle Shops and really, only the wine section. 

Yes, I love the actual wine.  But more than that, I love that it’s like walking down memory lane.   Wine labels bring back memories.  Meals eaten, trips taken, holidays and adventures with friends.  It all comes flooding back when I wander the aisles of Vintage Cellars and look at the bottles.

I went to go pick up a bottle of wine to drink once we get to the Hunter Valley this evening (I know, it’s like bringing sand to the beach) but it’s a long drive in Friday afternoon traffic, and we’ll be thirsty when we get there.

As I looked at the bottles on the shelves, I felt like I was looking at a window to the past.  There was the bottle of Wirra Wirra Church Block which reminded me of a trip to South Australia with a group of friends.  It was a fantastic trip and a load of fun, but also when my friend’s (now) husband spilled the beans and told me that he was planning to propose.  I saw a bottle from Martinborough Vineyard in New Zealand, which reminded me of a trip nearly 10 years ago when my mom and I hired a car and drove from Wellington to Auckland.  It was before I drove all the time on the “wrong” side of the road, and I remember the car had a big sticker on the dashboard reminding me to “keep left”.  There was a bottle of Voyager Estate “Girt By Sea” that reminded me of Margaret River- and The Runner’s first Ironman race and a bottle of Vasse Felix that reminded me of the lunch we had after.  I could go on and on.

 The best thing about wine, is that it’s usually shared with friends…..usually!  And sharing with friends creates memories.  This weekend, we’re off to the Hunter (again) with 3 other friends and we can’t wait!