Sunday, August 28, 2011

epiQure Launch at Rockpool Bar and Grill

epiQure is the new Qantas food and wine club. You can use your Qantas frequent flyer points to buy wine as well as attend food events, further earning more frequent flyer points. The Melbourne launch party for epiQure was held at Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne, as Neil Perry is the Qantas ambassador and designs their in-flight meals. I went along with my friend Jordan, dressed up in our nice suits looking rather sharp. The function started off with canapes and champagne in the bar area. We mingled with society's high flyers, and Jordan even helped show another gentlemen how to use his mobile phone camera to take a photo with flash.

Anchovy, smoked tomato and toast
Goats cheese tortellini with pine nuts and raisins
2000 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne

Neil Perry kicked off the meal by talking about epiQure and also his involvement. Neil was very well spoken, having done speeches a lot I'm sure. I got the opportunity to quickly get a photo with him as he was walking around. I asked him what he was up to, and he mentioned how busy he was flying around between his various restaurants. He definitely has an amazing work ethic.

When we were seated, I found I was sitting next to fellow food blogger Claire and opposite THE David Blackmore of David Blackmore wagyu. I was so thrilled to be sitting opposite David and his wife Julie, half owner of the business (I didn't forget Julie). Both were so generous with their time and fielded all my questions all night. I learned so much about meat and wagyu. Obviously Jordan and I asked the obvious questions. Yes, Wagyu cows do sometimes drink beer and get massages when they have joint and muscle problems. Beer and massages are not usually part of their normal regime. Although, David has allowed his farmers to have a beer every time a cow needs beer, so possibly beer consumption in David Blackmore wagyu may increase. On a serious note, David did tell me that what makes his wagyu tastier than others is that his cows are full blood (with blood lines that can be tracked back 70 years), while some other brands of wagyu are only half bloods. As there are no official certification standards in Australia yet, you have to do your research to find out about the meat you're buying. Remember the old adage that you get what you pay for.

Baby beetroot salad roasted, jelly, raw with barrel aged feta dressing
2010 Penfolds Autumn Riesling
2005 Penfolds Bin Aged Release Riesling

Onto the first course. It was a simple beetroot salad with jelly and feta. Unfortunately, of all the dishes on the table, mine was the only one missing the feta and jelly. So basically I got a beetroot salad. It was well cooked beetroot I can say at least. All the meals that night were matched by wines from Penfolds. For this first course, I really enjoyed the Autumn Riesling. It had a light and fruity note. The aged riesling was sharper and serviceable for me.

Blue fin tuna tartare, Moroccan eggplant, cumin mayonnaise and harrisa
2010 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay
2007 Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay

The next course of blue fin tuna tartare was really nice. Blue fin tuna is always good but I liked it with the punchy eggplant. To go with this course, there were two Chardonnays. I really don't like Chardonnays as I find them rather bland and dull. However, the Bin 311 was quite good and the Reserve Bin A Chardonnay was sensational. I must have rich taste as I only realised the cost when Steve Lienert (Penfolds senior red wine maker) started speaking and said that the Bin A retailed for about $70 a bottle. It was really a great wine, and Steve said Penfolds had only started to really concentrate on making Chardonnays. Imagine what they might produce in a few years time.

Rich and noble prawn congee, star anise scented peanuts, Chinese fried bread and chilli oil
2010 Penfolds Bin 23 Pinot Noir
2008 Penfolds Cellar Release Tempranillo

The rich and noble prawn congee (with tongue in cheek prosperous Asian name) was more like a risotto than a traditional congee. The congee had some good flavour from the sweet plump prawns. A Pinot and Tempranillo were served with this course. The wines were well matched with the food and each complimented the other.

Wood fire roasted Burrawang chicken with baby carrots and pea sauce
2008 Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz Cabernet
2007 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz
2008 Penfolds RWT Shiraz

This dish, which David and Julie informed me, was delicious from when they ate it at the Sydney launch the night earlier. And so it was. I don't know what was done to the roast chicken, but it was so tender and flavoursome and one of the best roast chickens I've ever eaten. But dear readers, from this point on is where my mind was blown, not by the food as usual, but by the super amazing Penfolds wine. Truly a meal to remember for the wines. With this course, we were served the Bin 389 Shiraz Cabernet, the St Henri Shiraz and the RWT Shiraz. Before I ate the chicken, I sampled all three wines. I found I liked the Bin 389 the best at the beginning, with a super smooth feel and more vibrant flavour. However, once I ate some chicken and went back to the wine, everything was different. I found the Bin 389 to be more bland. Instead the St Henri came to life and was very good, and the RWT was just amazing. It now possessed all the aromas and flavour of a perfect red. I loved it so much and kept alternating between the RWT and the chicken. I could eat a whole chicken like that. I really want to buy a whole bottle of 2008 Penfolds RWT Shiraz and drink it with a roast chicken, well, not share the drink with a roast chicken, but actually eat the roast chicken while I drink the wine. You know what I mean. The English language can be rather strange in its wording sometimes.

While I was still savouring those amazing wines in my mouth, there was a short break in the meal. I took the chance to get a photo with David, who generously spoke with me all night about beef, the food industry, science and his business. David then got up to the microphone and explained about his beef and why it was so good.

Slow cooked David Blackmore Wagyu short rib, charred, with red braised shiitake mushrooms, yam and ginger puree
2001 Penfolds Grange
2004 Penfolds Grange

Next up, we got to try David's wagyu. As David explained to me, the short rib is a cut that sometimes people ignore, but is very tasty and extremely rich. Hence you cannot eat a lot of it at once. The serving we got was just perfect I found. Indeed the meat was rich but full of flavour, working well with the Asian ingredients. And for the moment of utter swooning, out came the Grange, 2001 and 2004. Yes, the Grange are hyped up like no tomorrow, and yes, they are expensive, but they are the best wines I have ever tasted and from which I will compare everything. I know that 99% of wines will never live up to the Grange and I just have to carry the memory of these two wines as I won't be tasting them again too soon. I'm not sure how to even describe them. While I loved the 2001 originally, again after eating food, I loved the 2004 far more. The best description I can give of the wines is to imagine the smoothest, silkiest, aromatic, fragrant and complex wine you've ever tasted, and then multiply it by 10. It went down the throat so easily and the flavours kept swirling around in my mouth. I'm not trying to sound like a wine wanker but it really was that good.

Sharpe family strawberry mascarpone cake
NV Penfolds Grandfather Tawny

With the memory of the two Granges still in my mind, it was onto the last course of the night. The strawberry cake was delicious and went perfectly with the super sweet grandfather tawny and finished the night on a great high.

That concluded the most mind blowing meal of my life, due mainly to the red wines which were matched with good food. The Penfolds top end red wines are brilliant and I hope to buy the Bin 389, St Henri and RWT again to drink. One day, I'll even fork out the money to buy a Grange. For now, I live on my wonderful memories.

My guest and I dined courtesy of epiQure.


  1. Wow! What an amazing meal to have attended, it all looks so luscious! I absolutely love meals where I get to sit next to like minded food loving people, you get to learn and get to share so much at the same time!

  2. Big smiles for a big event. Looks good :-)

  3. ooh, the strawberry mascarpone cake looks really unique!

  4. omg that blue fin tuna tartare is making me drool. and u rubbed shoulders with neil!

  5. What a great event to have attended! You're one lucky man. Absolutely love RBG and visit everytime I'm in Melbourne. And having joined the epiQure program recently I'm looking forward to similar events popping up on the calendar soon. Great concept!

  6. Look at how happy you look!! And all that food looks too gorgeous... :)

  7. You get all the good invites!! :) Looks like a good night. Was that the first time you tried Penfolds Grange?

  8. Oh wow, you lucky man! Neil's very charismatic hey! He's fast becoming Australia's answer to Gordon Ramsay I think, with toned down profanity haha

  9. Ashley, indeed it was great to sit with David and just learn more about what he does.

    Simon, always gotta smile :-)

    Sugarpuffi, yeah Neil and I are both equally short so could rub shoulders.

    Martyna, you'll be able to go to similar events then.

    April, I've actually tried a friends '68 Grange but that was spoilt and sour. These Granges were amazing.