The Wine International Group Sydney (TWIGS) Annual Dinner 2012

Crab ravioli in lobster bisque

Crab ravioli in lobster bisque

“The best way to enjoy a great wine is to pair it with three important things – great food, great music and great company.” ~ Chopinand

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

What do you get when you put a group of wine lovers together who enjoy the finer things in life? Read on to find out …

A room for quiet contemplation

A room for quiet contemplation

I am a firm believer that nothing in this world is free, not even the air that you breath.

So when Secretary of The Wine International Group Sydney otherwise fondly known as TWIGS invited Mysaucepan and I to their annual dinner, I am in quiet contemplation as to what the catch is.

“Thank you so much for the invitation, P, Mysaucepan and I will be delighted and honoured to join your exclusive group of wine connoisseurs for dinner”, I said to him over the phone.

“That’s great!” Secretary P says.

“Tell me something though, can you spot the difference between a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon?” he asks me in jest.

There is a long pause on my end as I try to do some quick thinking.

“Errr, apart from the fact that one is a white varietal and the other one is red, I think they are spelled differently?” I replied.

“Okay, that’s not what I meant but nevermind.  How about making a short speech as our invited guest. Can you talk about something that may interest our members?” he enquires further.

After some deliberation, we agree that I shall deliver a short note about “Wine, Women and Song” to the members during the evening.

“Oh by the way, it would be great if you can tinkle the ivories of the grand piano with some Mozart and Chopin, I think the grandmaster would like that too”, Secretary P added.

“No problem, I’ll come up with something for the evening”, I said.

So there you have it dear readers, an invitation to TWIGS annual dinner 2012 is not without its conditions as nothing in this world is free. It is a group of discerning and high-intellect individuals that love their wine, so my work is cut out for the evening.

Mysaucepan puts in a stern reminder to me, ”The invitation says ‘formal’, so you just can’t turn up in your t-shirt and shorts, okay?”

“Damn, I was having some grand visions of sipping wine in my usual summer attire among a group of wine buffs dressed in tuxedos”, I said.

~~~~~~o~~~~~~

The arrival of guests

The arrival of guests

TWIGS Annual Dinner 2012, March 2012, Sydney

It is a beautiful Sydney evening at grandmaster I’s stunning home. The expansive water view overlooks Lavendar Bay towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Sydney CBD beyond. So it is befitting that invited guests and TWIGS members are soaking up the breath-taking and panoramic view of Sydney harbour with some Bollinger Champagne.

“There will be fireworks too tonight”, grandmaster I tells us.

“Did you organise the fireworks for us tonight?”, someone asks enthusiastically.

“No, not me this time. I believe it’s the start of La Traviata by the harbour”, he explains.

Bollinger Champagne

Bollinger Champagne

“Is it me or champagne tastes a lot better in a beautiful setting with good friends and some classical music in the background?” I ask my friend KC.

“It’s you”, he replies. “This happens to be an expensive bottle so if you took a sip of it in the bathroom by yourself, it will still taste pretty good”, he adds.

Suddenly, this glass of bubbly that I’m holding emanates even more of its toasty and nutty aromas.

Our host, Grandmaster I decanters each bottle of red to give the wines sufficient time to ‘breath’ before dinner.

2007 Coleraine Te Mata Estate

2007 Coleraine Te Mata Estate

The Coleraine Te Mata Estate is reputed to be one of the greater wines from New Zealand.

2006 Chateau Les Grands Marechaux Premier Cotes de Blaye

2006 Chateau Les Grands Marechaux Premier Cotes de Blaye

2010 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir

2010 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir

A selection of wines for the evening

A selection of wines for the evening

The wines and their contributors for the evening are:

  • Bollinger Champagne, from incumbent Grandmaster I
  • Gosset Grand Reserve Brut NV Champagne, from Sugar
  • 2007 Tim Adams Riesling, from in-coming Grandmaster A
  • Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fume, from Sugar
  • Chablis Premier Cru Simonnet Favre, from Secretary P
  • 2010 Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir, from P
  • 2007 Coleraine Te Mata Estate, from KC
  • 2006 Chateau Les Grands Marheaux Premier Cotes de Blaye, from Chopinand
Dinner setting - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Dinner setting - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Our hosts for the evening, grandmaster I and his charming wife H, have planned an elaborate French-inspired menu to commemorate the 2012 annual dinner.

A beautiful jarrah wood dining table is complemented with candlelight, distinguish crockery, cutlery, matching wine glasses and designated seating arrangement.

Dinner setting - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Dinner setting - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

In particular, H’s creativity means she is supervising the chef, Andrew in the kitchen to come up with a selection of delightful hors d’oeuvres, designed to complement some of the wines that we are drinking that evening.

Raw scallops being prepared for the oven in the kitchen

Raw scallops being prepared for the oven in the kitchen

Deft skills: Chef Andrew preparing entree

Deft skills: Chef Andrew preparing entree

Tomato soup

Tomato soup

As the evening descends upon us, we are greeted with shots of tomato soup. Sweet and slightly tangy, this soup is perfect to whet the appetite.

Lamb on puff pastry

Lamb on puff pastry

Small canapes of lamb on puff pastry are delightfully succulent with the flaky pastry.

Scallop potato frittes

Scallop potato frittes

It is not easy to cook scallops to just the right texture and Andrew’s scallop potato frittes is outstanding with a beautiful contrast of textures.

Fireworks at Sydney harbour for the opening of Verdi's La Traviata

Fireworks at Sydney harbour for the opening of Verdi's La Traviata

Just as we are about to commence dinner, fireworks erupt over Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Farm Cove to signal the start of Verdi’s opera La Traviata.

Menu for the evening - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Menu for the evening - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Menu for the evening - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Menu for the evening - TWIGS annual dinner 2012

Crab ravioli in lobster bisque

Crab ravioli in lobster bisque

A crab ravioli in lobster bisque looks stunning in a sheen of dark golden brown. The velvety bisque has fresh seafood aromas while the lobster meat is firm yet yeilding. The classic combination of crab ravioli adds substance to this wonderful dish from the sea.

Our hostess, H, tells us that she buys her seafood fresh from the boats that come in at Coffs Harbour. They are markedly fresher from those at the Sydney Fish Markets as she has a contact that picks the seafood off the boats each day.

Prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad

Prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad

When a prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad arrives, this clever dish is screaming out a Sydney summer.

Prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad

Prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad

The orange and subtle vinaigrette add a citrusy dimension to the crunch of the fresh watercress while the avocado provides a creamy texture against the succulent prawns.

A view of the kitchen theatrics from the keyboard

A view of the kitchen theatrics from the keyboard

And so it came time for me to provide the TWIGS members with some entertainment during dinner. Not only do I have a beautiful view of the harbour as I play a few pieces by Gershwin, Massinet and Beethoven, I get to peak at what chef Andrew is doing in the kitchen as well.

I am made to work for my dinner tonight

I am made to work for my dinner tonight

How nice is it when I get to witness chef Andrew preparing dinner for us as I run my fingers over the piano keyboard. I seem to be getting hungry as I watch him transform beautiful ingredients into a truly memorable meal.

Lemon spatchcock with French mustard, potato and asparagus

Lemon spatchcock with French mustard, potato and asparagus

Even before the arrival of our mains, I am whispering to Mysaucepan this dinner is already giving many good restaurants in Sydney a hard run for their money.

lemon spatchcock with French mustard, potato and asparagus is beautifully executed where the aromas from lemon rind, fresh sprigs of thyme and mustard seeds combine to give this dish complex flavours. I have always loved roasting spatchcock but this interpretation takes the prize for gentle flavours and finesse.

2010 Henry of Pelham Estate Cabernet Franc

2010 Henry of Pelham Estate Cabernet Franc

We finish our dinner with some beautiful stickies to accompany some equally delightful desserts.

Pastry cheesecake with fresh berries

Pastry cheesecake with fresh berries

Rock melon, watermelon and dragon fruit

Rock melon, watermelon and dragon fruit

Cheese platter

Cheese platter

Andrew, our chef for the evening

Andrew, our chef for the evening

Chef Andrew gives us a brief about his cooking philosophy and we are truly delighted with his food this evening.

The name of an elegant and beautiful woman

The name of an elegant and beautiful woman among so many beautiful women tonight

With the minutes of previous meeting passed, incoming grandmaster A is duly appointed and P returned as Secretary of TWIGS. Thew new grandmaster, A, entertains us all by doning a red fez and spices things up with a naughty joke about the friar who lost his red cock. He informs us he is also willing to perform a stand up comedy of this story for a fee.

Sydney harbour by night

Sydney harbour by night

It is a wonderful evening and the beautiful wines we drink tonight can only be surpassed by the company and the generosity of our hosts. Mysaucepan and I wish to thank our gracious and heart-warming hosts, grandmaster I and his wife H, for their hospitality and for organizing such a beautiful meal.

And to Secretary P, thank you for the invitation to join the proceedings of the TWIGS annual dinner 2012 and to invite me to play the piano for the TWIGS members.  Before drinking, men like to scrutinise their wine just like how they scrutinise their women before committing themselves to a relationship – we check for colour, hold them under the light, sniff them out, twirl them around on a dance floor, check their legs, sniff some more and sometime conclude they smell like leather even before we taste them. So, after giving a short speech about “Wine, Women and Song”, this experience of good food, wine, music and great company has taken my perspective of enjoying the finer things in life to yet another a different level.

On this note, we wish all the TWIGS members well and hope you are blessed with more delightful wines throughout the year.

So dear readers, do you think these TWIGS members know how to live it up when it comes to enjoying the finer things in life? 

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18 Responses to The Wine International Group Sydney (TWIGS) Annual Dinner 2012

  1. Seems like you had a fabulous evening despite having to play for your meal :P I agree, wine tastes better when you’ve got good food, music and company :) Is this an exclusive club?

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Vivian,

      Wine with good food, music and company is a lethal and delicious combination. This club seems pretty exclusive.

  2. Dang, what a fine meal.

    They may have made you play for it but I don’t think it was all that much work, considering the “winspiration”.

  3. msihua says:

    Man! That looks amazing!! I wish I could dine like that weekly but then I’d be a fatty :P

  4. What an elegant meal and of course there was that phrase singing for your supper! ;)

  5. Sissi says:

    I totally agree nothing in life is free! And especially good wines…
    It’s funny but I often decide to separate food and wine if it’s a very special bottle. I do enjoy however observing your wine and food feasts!

  6. Celia says:

    What a night! The food and wine sounds amazing, and what a magnificent view!

  7. sophia says:

    I’ve drunk wine by myself before as a “relaxing” agent to writing an essay. Ha, ha, ha. So I totally agree: great food, great music and great company. That’s what makes a glass of wine complete. I wish I could hear you play! I would pay you happily with food and my awesome company. ;)

  8. What a wonderful wine dinner, food and wine all look amazing. Nothing like playing for your supper :)

  9. Superb! I think that everything (food, wine, coffee, air… everything) tastes better when enjoyed in the company of good friends. Even the most average bottle of wine can spark conversation and laughter. And, for me at least, a good chat and a good laugh are the most delicious parts of dining with friends.

  10. Hotly Spiced says:

    What a wonderful evening. I barely know where to start! The home is amazing and the view breathtaking and the dining table and how it’s been set is stunning and then there was great company and amazing wines and beautiful music AND fireworks! Could it have been any better. Thanks for sharing what must have been an awesome night out in Sydney xx

  11. Carolyn Jung says:

    I could be happy just with that crab ravioli. What an amazing spread of food.

  12. What an amazing experience and how wonderful to not only enjoy hobnobbing with the wine elite in Sydney you got to entertain as well. I suspect you probably love entertaining as much as you do eating and drinking. :) Lovely post.

  13. Beautiful shots of the wine and food. Looks like an elegant affair. That’s a great shot of you playing the piano :)

  14. Charles says:

    I’m very jealous – how was the Blaye? I love the look of that “quiet contemplation room” – everyone should have a room like that I think… perhaps a copy of you to play in the background too! :)

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Charles,

      After it was left to breath for about an hour, the Blaye was pretty good, smooth soft tannins and lots of berries. In fact, all the wines were pretty spectacular that evening.

  15. Fashimi says:

    Wow, you’re so lucky to be able to attend a dinner like this. Looks amazing!
    Sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  16. Let me say I want to eat all these food but I want to listen to your piano!!! :-)

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