“The best way to enjoy a great wine is to pair it with three important things – great food, great music and great company.” ~ Chopinand
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 …
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.
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.
“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.
The Coleraine Te Mata Estate is reputed to be one of the greater wines from New Zealand.
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
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.
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.
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.
Small canapes of lamb on puff pastry are delightfully succulent with the flaky pastry.
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.
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.
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.
When a prawn, watercress, orange and avocado salad arrives, this clever dish is screaming out a Sydney summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
We finish our dinner with some beautiful stickies to accompany some equally delightful desserts.
Chef Andrew gives us a brief about his cooking philosophy and we are truly delighted with his food this evening.
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.
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?