When we received a 60th birthday bash invitation from our friend Chris, Chopinand and I were pleasantly surprised. “Old ruin at old ruin” was the caption on the card, written with the signature wicked humour of his wife Peta.
Among Chris’ invited guests were friends of 40, 30, 20 and 10 years; school pals, old chums and soul mates who had seen him through both thick and thin. Amidst such cherished company, we feel privileged as we were really blow-ins, having known them for only 6 years and quite possibly the youngest couple among such distinguished people.
When we arrived, the usual table setting had transformed into an open cocktail style space and the restaurant was closed exclusively for the event.
In Peta’s efficiency, she had organized everything to a tee, from customised balloons to printed menus, fabulous food, vertical tastings of the best wines, right down to the perfect cake in the shape of a ‘grand cru’ for our wine connoisseur Chris.
As guests arrived, NV Grand Grosset flowed freely, followed by an endless parade of stunning canapés, every morsel packed with flavour and finesse.
Jamon twirled around grissini was a great start, followed by an elegant scallop and carmelised onion tartlet and delicate goats curd cannoli.
But my favourites were the tofu, smoked then pan fried into crispy cubes, annointed with kim chi mayonnaise, the moist and melt-in-your-mouth crispy duck confit and the Thai-inspired consommé, heady with its herbaceous perfume.
In fact, most of us agreed that these canapes are truly some of the finest that we have ever tasted.
It was fitting that the birthday celebration was held at Chris and Peta’s favourite dining venue, Restaurant Atelier in Glebe, owned by Chef Darren Templeman and his wife Bernie.
Their relationship with Chris anf Peta had evolved from one of restaurateur-customer to great foodie friends – a true testament to the power of food in bringing people together.
Peta and I met through work but our common obsession with good food and wine soon brought us together, along with our equally food loving husbands. A great friendship was quickly forged through thousands of calories and too many wines!
Throughout this time, we have shared many wonderful dinners at each others’ homes, exchanged restaurant discoveries and recipe secrets and attended food and wine events together.
And we soon learn that many of their friends were incurable gourmands as well, wining and dining through bellies full of food and laughter.
Just when we were filling up with these delicious canapés, Chris and Peta announced that there were mains, desserts and cheese plates to follow!
And we couldn’t resist as my favourite main is pork belly while Chopinand‘s is beef.
Chef Templeman is a master of pork and his technique is best displayed in the Coral Park pork belly, well rendered in a slow oven, with its crackling paper crisp and its richness countered by a refreshing Chinese cabbage and citrus salad.
It was perfect, washed it down with the 2009 Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny-Montrachet, selected by their wine distributor friend Gavin.
The daube of Cape Grim beef short rib was equally divine, so tender and unctuous, you can cut it with a fork and when paired with truffle mash, just pure luxury!
We had the beef with a vertical tasting of the 2001, 2002 and 2003 cabernet merlot from Kulkunbulla, a very well-regarded boutique winery in its day. We find this wine to be punctuated with subtle tannins. Each mouthful has plummy undertones with a smooth and lingering finish.
Following such rich mains, it was great that desserts had a lightness of touch.
I had the vanilla pannacotta with poached peaches and cherry sorbet but hidden in this was a surprise sprinkling of pop rocks, which sizzled in the mouth!
Chopinand, who’s not a dessert fan, finished the delicious chocolate delice with berries and sheepskin milk yoghurt ice cream.
But a meal isn’t complete in Chris and Peta’s dinner without cheese and there were some creamy Morbiere, Pont l’aveque and Strazlecki Blue, along with a smorgasbord of lavosh, crackers, walnut log and quince paste, paired with smooth Sauternes.
As the wine flowed, so did the conversations and speeches. Peta paid tribute to Chris, for sharing a life with an equally food loving partner, especially given his recent health scare.
Chris made a funny but touching speech, grateful he still has a good crop of hair, thanking his friends for keeping his wit in check and his wife for organizing his birthday party and his life in general.
And you know you have bosom pals when you can’t finish a speech without regular interruptions and jibes from your friends.
Ex flatmates spoke of funny anecdotes during the young and restless days while old school mates exposed cheeky tricks and conspiracies.
It was truly touching to be part of this special occasion, celebrating 60 years of a life filled with good food, great wines and glorious friends and here’s to many more to come!
For the record, the menu for Chris’ 60th birthday bash on Saturday, 21 January 2012:
- NV Gosset Grande Reserve
- 2007 Dr. Burklin-Wolf Gaisbohl
- 2009 Chateau Mont-Redon Blanc
- 2009 Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny-Montrachet
- 2009 Louis Latour Macon-Village Chameroy
- 2007 Domaine des Baumard Trie Speciale Savennieres
- 2009 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis ler Cru Vaillon
- 2001 Kulkunbulla Cabernet Merlot
- 2002 Kulkunbulla Cabernet Merlot
- 2003 Kulkunbulla Cabernet Merlot
- 2005 Chateau Broustet Sauternes
- Gruyere gougre
- Caramelised onion and scallop tartlette
- Woodside goat curd canoli
- Brandale croquettes aioli
- Crisp smoked tofu and kimchi mayonnaise
- Jamon Iberico, fleur de Sel Grissini
- Crisp zucchini blossom with fresh ricotta
- Grilled eggplant, piquillo and goats cheese roulade
- Thai-influenced consomme with shiitake mushrooms
- Alaskan snow crab mayonnaise tartlettes
- Crisp duck confit
- Rabbit ballotine baguette
- Prawn and scallop Boudin Blanc, risotto Jardiniere, bisque sauce
- Crisp Coral Park Pork Belly, Chinese cabbage salad with citrus sesame dressing
- Daube of Cape Grim short-rib of beef with truffle mashed potato
- Vanilla pannacotta, poached peach and cherry sorbet
- Chocolate and olive oil delice, berries, sheeps’ milk yoghurt ice cream
- Cheese: Morbiere, Pont l’Eveque, Strezlecki Blue
So dear readers and friends, what did you think of Chris’ 60th birthday bash?
Now’s your chance to post your comments, nullify that age-old rumour about Chris or simply have a go at him!
22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 2037
New South Wales, Australia
Tel: + 61 2 9566 2122
Business hours: Dinner – Tuesdays to Saturdays from 6pm