Barossa's Table: The Wine Flight Dinner at Appellation

7/19/2011 09:13:00 PM

Seppeltsfield Road
Barossa Valley SA 5352
(08) 8562 4144

Out of all the foodie activities on the amazing itinerary that Tourism Barossa put together for me, my most anticipated was, without a doubt, dinner at Appellation.  Appellation was named South Australia's Best Restaurant in the 2011 Australian Good Food and Travel Guide, and any time I mentioned the restaurant to locals, I would be greeted with hushed, reverent tones.

Jaci and Paige from Tourism Barossa, Sandra, and I arrived on a Friday evening, just as the sun was setting.  Appellation is part of The Louise, a small luxury hotel on Seppeltsfield Road.  It's so gorgeous!  Apparently the rooms have outdoor showers - I'd love to stay there next time I visit the Barossa!

We headed out the back before dinner, enjoying the lovely views and sunset.

You can see on the right the little garden, where they grow herbs and other vegetables that they use in the restaurant.

Joining us for dinner that night was Executive Chef Mark McNamara.  I must say, it was such a treat having him dine with us.  It was great talking with him, getting insights into the menu, the restaurant's philosophy, food, and the restaurant industry in general!  (Of course, I grilled him for cooking tips too!)

You can order drinks on the back patio, but it was getting a little chilly, so we retreated inside for our pre-dinner cocktails.  After a big winey week, it suddenly struck me that cocktails weren't widely available in the Barossa.  (And y'all know how I love a cocktail!)  But funnily enough, I went for a wine-based cocktail anyway! 
This cocktail was made of Sp├Ątlese wine, put through a nitrous oxide cream whipper.  It comes out as foam, and you wait a minute or two for the foam to settle: when the ratio is three-quarters liquid to foam, it's ready to drink. Delicious!

Sandra ordered a Baileys, and Chef Mark had a cocktail whose name I, ashamedly, cannot remember.  (Only one thing to do - book another flight back, hehe!)

We were treated to the Wine Flight dinner, Appellation's signature offering.  It features 10 courses based around 7 different wines.  Unusually, when creating the menu, the wines are selected first, and the food is crafted around the wines.  It takes about three hours to enjoy the meal in its entirety, and no substitutions are possible!  (Luckily for us, there was only one seafood course, which Sandra skipped).

Ok, let's go.

Before each course, the sommelier would come to the table and serve the wine, before giving a little spiel about each one.  I thought it was wonderful that they eschewed the big-ticket glamour wines, and went for some really unique wines, with interesting stories behind them.  (The 2010 Lobo Royale Cider which accompanied our dessert was actually very new, and hadn't even been labelled yet - exclusive to Appellation!)

Our first two courses came with the same wine, a rich, fortified wine made from Verdelho grapes, similar to Madeira.

Jellied master stock with crispy pork skin
NV Bleasdale 'The Wise One' Wood Matured Verdelho- Bremer River - Langhorne Creek

The jellied masterstock was a savoury little mouthful, with contrasting soft and crunchy textures.  The crispy pork skin was similar to a prawn cracker, and was made by: boiling pork rind, cutting it into small pieces, dehydrating them and then deep-frying them. Wow!  This, of course, led into a discussion about crackling, and (yes, I'm a dork), I was absolutely thrilled when Chef Mark agreed with my crackly pork belly method.

Smoked duck breast and pickled carrot cold roll

This cold roll was similar to a Vietnamese rice paper roll, but with a strongly smoky flavour from the duck.  It was really interesting how the two dishes brought out different flavours from the wine.

King prawn, red pepper pasta, climbing spinach and corn
2008 Yalumba 'The Virgilius' Viognier - Angaston / Eden Valley 
The prawn dish was absolutely beautiful: an enormous, perfectly cooked prawn with a ever-so-slightly creamy sauce.  As I previously mentioned, our non-seafood-eating Sandra skipped this course.  The waitstaff were very nice about it, and even asked if she wanted them to bring the dish out for her, just so she wouldn't feel left out while the rest of us were eating! She said no, but now that I think about it, I could have probably taken her one if she'd asked for it, hehehe.  Oh well!!

Zucchini, ripe fresh tomato, oregano, garlic and sheep milk curds
2009 Wild Fox Shiraz/Merlot Organic Rose - Lewiston, Adelaide Plains

Similar flavours to ratatouille in this dish; a lovely light combination of vegetables and mild sheep milk curd.

Candy coated Maltara Kalamata Olives stuffed with white anchovy
2010 Massena Primitivo - Greenock, Barossa Valley

The olives were an absolutely fascinating course: two juicy olives in a crisp candy coating.  The candy was made of maltose, and was crunchy without being tooth-shatteringly hard.  I thought the presentation was super-cute too!

Salad of fresh pears and soft lettuces with toasted sunflower seeds

Aah... and then a palate cleanser.  Chef Mark explained that he prefers to use salads as palate cleansers, rather than, say, sorbets, because degustations tend to be protein-heavy, and it can be a struggle to get any greens into the meal.  I absolutely adored this salad - the sunflower seeds were toasted, intensifying their nutty flavour, and the zingy, mustardy dressing was so addictive.  Chef Mark generously emailed me the recipe for the dressing the week after, and we've made it a zillion times!  (Although we never present it quite as prettily as they did at the restaurant!)

Seared Coorong Angus Beef, watercress and hard shell almonds
2010 Lucy Margeaux Vineyards Jim's Vineyard Pinot Noir - Uraidla Valley, Adelaide Hills

This, my friends, is what we would call: "a very Sarah dish": super-rare beef sprinkled with ground almonds, watercress and a little olive oil and salt. Heaven!  Paige and Sandra are certainly not rare meat-eaters, and only tried a small piece each.  I then, courageously, finished up Sandra's plate.  Aah, the sacrifices we make... 

Roasted pigeon and mushroom layered with pastry wafers
2005 Murray Street Vineyards Gomersal Shiraz 'museum release' - Gomersal, Barossa Valley

Look how perfectly pink the pigeon pieces are! Such a gorgeous little stack.

And then it was time for dessert!

Caramelized peacharine tart, apple and berry cream ice
2010 Lobo 'Royale' Cider - Lobethal, Adelaide Hills

Dessert was an incredible peacharine tarte tartin served with a scoop of creamy apple and berry ice-cream.  So delicious!  The ice-cream was actually without any sugar, but was sweetened with reduced apple juice.  The accompanying 'wine' was a fabulous, refreshing apple cider - such a wonderful combination!  I was rather full by this stage, but just had to finish the whole thing.

Then, we had coffees (espresso for me) and a couple of petits fours to round off the meal.

Little tartlets of fresh lime curd and meringue 

Wattleseed Macarons

And then, Chef Mark took us out back to have a look at the kitchen!  Squeeee!!  Despite the fact that it was getting late, and that we'd eaten and drunk quite a lot, Mark was super enthusiastic and energetic, answering all my fan-girl questions and showing us all these cool things in the kitchen! 

Chef Mark: This is the system I use to manage my kitchen operations, ensuring the evening runs smoothly and that all staff have visibility of the progress of each table's meal.  This also means I can trust the kitchen to run like clockwork in my absence.
Sarah: You... are... awesome.

He also showed us his awesome Pacojet ice-cream machine, which makes sorbets and ice-creams in record time!  

The Pacojet has a really fast rotating blade, that purees frozen ingredients to an extremely fine consistency, making an ice-dessert that can be served immediately.  Apparently you can chuck fruit or vegetable in the machine, and ice-cream or sorbet will come out just a few minutes later.  The one below is a basil sorbet!   

This one is cherry sorbet.  It had such an intense cherry flavour! I can imagine pairing it with chocolate sauce for a frozen Black Forest dessert, yum yum!

And then we went into one of the fridges...
You can see the raw tartes tatin on the orange mat, and cured meat hanging on the back wall.

I love the below photo: Chef Mark is looking at the pancetta (?) with such admiration and pride in his handiwork.  And I'm all like "Mmm... more food!"

They've got a mini-smoker out the back too!

And finally, here we see some duck breasts being sprinkled with salt and juniper berries for curing.

We then rolled back home, full, sleepy and very contented.  Massive thanks to Chef Mark McNamara for an absolutely stunning evening!

Sarah and Sandra enjoyed Appellation's Wine Flight Dinner as guests of Tourism Barossa, as part of the prize for winning the Barossa's Table competition.

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  1. The food was amazing, yet quite adventurous for me. But even just Mark's hospitality and kindness would make me want to come back straight away!



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