Take two for this post. The first go-round was better but this will have to do.
I know, I know. I’ve been stalling. I’m not usually one to procrastinate but somehow it’s been tough to get back to writing since our vacay. But it’s time. I have to tell you about the meal of a lifetime. Seriously. It blew my mind.
To get to the Royal Mail Hotel from our little pad in Melbourne, we had to take a commuter flight out of a tiny airport called Essendon. Our cabbie admitted that he’d never been but that we’d find it ok. Seemed like a shaky start to me. But he was right. We helped him read the signs (and make a u-turn) and our cabbie dropped us off at what looked to be a closed (and very old) tiny airport.
This airport was a time warp.
Then the real adventure started. The steward who checked us in also turned out to be the co-pilot of the plane. The prop plane. With single file seating for a maximum of maybe 12 passengers.
Once aboard, the steward/co-pilot duck-walked down the aisle to collect our boarding cards and ensure we were all properly buckled in. Luckily, I held in my giggles while he did this. I had other things on my mind anyway. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle being in the little tin can for a 45 minute flight. I had forgotten my ear plugs as well so my anxiety was nearing maximum velocity.
But we made it and landed at an even tinier airport that looked to be a cross between a church and an old schoolhouse. The steward/co-pilot at this airport told hubs and I that our shuttle van would be ready in a moment then he promptly loaded us and our luggage in the van and drove us to what seemed to be the end of the world. Dunkeld: a town of 400 people and many more sheep.
We checked in then decided to take a walk-about and scope out the town. An hour later, we had checked out everything to be seen and were back in the room. Who were we kidding anyway? We weren’t there for the scenery. Hubs and I were both counting down the hours until our 7pm dinner reservation. AKA: the reason we made this trip.
Finally, 7pm rolled around and we entered the restaurant precisely on the dot. They were ready for us with 2 glasses of champagne. A Philipponnat reserve rosee brut to be exact, accompanied by warm housemade bread and this:
I’ve never had a butter that tasted kind of like bacon before. Being the oink fan that he is, hubs was in heaven. A good beginning for sure.
Wine pairing: Shikisakura ‘fuyu’ namazake sake
This dish really tasted like the ocean. And to be honest, we weren’t quite sure if there was fish in it or not (or if we liked it). Turns out not (we got the full menu upon departure). The bottom layer of this dish was a translucent rectangle that was the consistency of a calamari filet. This was a palate challenger kind of dish. We both thought if this was how Chef was going to start out the menu, then we were in for one wild culinary ride.
Wine pairing: 2010 Farr rising ‘saignee’ pinot noir rose
Wow. Like a caprese on crack. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The ricotta was more like a burrata and the tomato melted in my mouth. Somehow the wine brought out the freshness of the ricotta in a way I’ve never experienced.
Wine pairing: 2007 Dalwhinnie ‘moonambel’ chardonnay AND 2001 Bannockburn ‘srh’ chardonnay
I’ve never seen an egg yolk so orange in my life. Talk about luscious. How in the world could anyone think that a slightly warm yolk on top of rye crumbles with yeast would be any good? In the words of a trusted food critic (and the reason why we were there at all), Tony Bourdain, sounds like crap but tastes delicious. The double wine pairing was a surprise. They were both so different tasting yet both clearly chards. I was starting to realize why the wine cellar for the hotel needed to be across the street. What a collection.
Wine pairing: 2009 Meyer-fonne ‘reserve’ riesling
The fish was like a soft pillow and reminded us of a poached egg. The potato was about the size of my thumb to give you some size perspective. The Riesling brought out the mustard in the dish and made the potato seem un-burnt, which was kinda brilliant.
Wine pairing: 2005 Best’s pinot meunier
If you aren’t super familiar with kohlrabi, it grows like a bulb and tastes like a broccoli bottom (in a good way). Chef somehow managed to turn this kohlrabi into a smooth, velvety, panna cotta textured disc. The duck ham was like a prosciutto and added that essential salt component to balance out the sweetness of the kohlrabi.
At this point I was getting pretty loose. Sure the wine pours were very petite—just a couple of sips each, really. But I don’t have much of a tolerance and my inhibitions were leaving me quickly. That’s the only reason I had the balls to ask the waiter how in the heck did Chef manage to do that to the kohlrabi? The waiter smiled and said something like he cooked it all day. I’m sure there was more to it than that.
Wine pairing: 2000 Dominique Laurent pommard vielles vignes
Earlier in the day I was wondering if I should change my tasting menu from omnivore to herbivore. I mean, I’m not a big meat eater and when asked to choose, I tend to pick veggies about 99.9% of the time. The cool thing was, however, meat was a rare occurrence in the dishes and were used more for a garnish than anything else. The mushrooms in this dish were so meaty that you didn’t need to add a real protein to it. It was earthy and rich and the carotene added a brightness—both visually and taste-wise—to the overall course. The burgundy wine they paired this course with served to add to the notion that this was really a meat dish (without the meat). What a seamless way to bridge over to a meat-based course. Then they brought out knives and I knew it was time for a straight up meat dish.
Wine pairing: 1993 Moss wood cabernet sauvignon
This was hubs’ favorite dish of the night. I must say, the lamb was cooked perfectly and the eggplant was a wonderful bed-fellow. I enjoyed my bite then passed the rest of my lamb for hubs to enjoy. He did.
The wine was like a flavor explosion: robust, full and completely rounded. I guess you wouldn’t find many wines that are almost 20 years old to have any jagged edges. Plus it blows my mind that 1993 was nearly 20 years ago. Good grief! I was in high school in 1993. When did I get so old anyway?
Wine pairing: nothing. A reprieve!
I can understand why no wine for this course. This was our first of 3 deserts and was our bridge between savory and sweet. It was tangy and bright with a hint of sweetness but wasn’t cloying. And the anise flavor of the licorice lingered on my tongue. It was refreshing and light.
Wine pairing: 2006 Crawford river ‘nektar’ Semillon/sauvignon
Oh holy molecular gastronomy! Have you ever tried astronaut ice cream? You know, that freeze dried stuff? It’s a crude analogy but I can’t come up with anything else. This looked like dirt but when you put it in your mouth, it melted into a delicious chocolate ice cream.
Wine pairing: Sanchez romate cream sherry AND Seppelt ‘para’ liqueur port no. 115
How can you go wrong with these ingredients? Of course, and especially with this Chef, you can’t. This was my favorite desert. It also may have had a little to do with the fact that I am a whore for all things port. Mmm. Liquid candy.
You’d think that after all of that food and drink one would feel overly full and gross. But we didn’t. In a rare move, I did not feel the need to use the restroom during the 4 hour meal once. This is ridiculous for me given the pea-sized nature of my bladder. Even hubs got up to go once—and he is made of steel. I figured out why I didn’t get up during the meal once we closed the door to the restaurant. My auto-pilot must have sensed the danger it would have caused to get up and try to navigate using the restroom while at the restaurant. I was pretty drunk. The cold night air hit my face and I began laughing hysterically. Poor hubs practically had to carry me the 150 yards to our hotel room. That’s when the real hijinks began.
When I drink, I sometimes like to dance. (So when I say “we can dance” I guess I’m using the Royal we.)Usually this is done by myself with hubs laughing at me. (He bought the cow a long time ago so he’s used to it!) This was one such occasion. There is photo evidence of this particular incident.
After the dancing, I decided it was creepy self-portrait time. Again, there is evidence.
Somehow I made it through the night chugging copious amounts of water and wasn’t too bad come morning.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thrilled about being in a tiny prop plane for 45 minutes but I felt I could do it. Unfortunately, our plane was diverted to Avalon due to some heavy air-traffic in Melbourne. We got to deplane and stretch our legs for about 20 minutes then we piled back in and off we went.
All in all a really great trip.
Some things I learned:
Taking a prop plane in a different country to a place where 400 people live just to have dinner is both scary and awesome.
4 hours for a meal isn’t ridiculous when you have 10 courses and wine.
Water and motrin are a match made in heaven.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.
And, sometimes, you just gotta dance.