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Food, Food and drink, lifestyle, review, travel, wine

Hidden Gem


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International Gourmet Food Guide is dedicated to scouring the globe and finding the best places to eat, drink, stay and play. Recently, we have been checking out hidden gems in our quest to share the exquisite experiences and places nominated by readers and our Instagram followers for inclusion in the International Gourmet Food Guide. One such gem that recently knocked our socks off, and left our jaws on the floor, is located in a tiny town of 670 people at the base of a mountain range in a national park some 300km from Melbourne in Australia.

Admittedly, it was a trek to get to, but definitely worth the 4 hour detour South en route to the middle of Australia. The Grampian mountain range and surrounding plains are absolutely stunning and popular with campers, ramblers and all manner of iconic Australian wildlife. Near the base of Mount Sturgeon is the little town of Dunkeld. Like many small towns we had passed through on our journey across Australia, at its heart is the local pub. However, in this instance “pub” or even “hotel” is a massive misnomer because in The Royal Mail Hotel is a sensory experience unlike any other within a 300km radius.

Its humble origins as a local pub with accomodation have been transformed by the loving attention of owner and philanthropist Allen Myers AC, QC. Allen grew up in the town as the son of the local butcher and owns much of the 10,000 hectares of farmland surrounding Dunkeld. International Gourmet Food Guide were given the privilege of touring The Royal Mail’s 1.2 hectare kitchen garden which is Australia’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden. Fresh local produce is the key to their outstanding food and most of the produce showcased on the Royal Mail menus is grown onsite and harvested daily by the kitchen team including the interesting and obscure.

Hatted Restaurant

From garden to table brings us to outstanding gourmet food…….”Wickens” is Royal Mail’s hatted restaurant run by English executive chef Robin Wickens. Local architect Nick Byrne designed the restaurant area as a multi-sensory experience, and the dining space is simply breathtaking. To enter Wickens is to enter a luxurious womb with a view.

Robin’s five or eight course degustation and chef’s table menus are equally breathtaking and balanced with spectacular wines from an award winning cellar. Menus are dictated daily by what’s available from The Royal Mails amazing kitchen garden and from Allen Myer’s livestock in the surrounding fields. Think lamb with nasturtium and carrots/duck with leeks and sour plums/ zucchini with white chocolate and daisy ice cream as an exquisite example. On our visit we found an industrious Robin busy in the kitchen preparing a beetroot mousse to be served with chocolate milk…

 

Award Winning Wine Cellar

Here’s where we come to the Royal Mail’s “pièce de resistance” that really makes it a strong contender as an International Gourmet Food Guide ” Hidden Gem”

Boasting a 28,000 bottle collection, the Royal Mail’s cellar has a range of local and international wines and the largest private collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the Southern Hemisphere. Sommelier Matthew Lance proudly showed us around the cellar that features a supply of 1934 Chateau Margaux and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux among other spectacular wines. The good news is that although The Royal Mail Hotel is somewhat off the beaten track, for those unable to actually visit this spectacular cellar, The Royal Mail Hotel has recently launched its unique wine club  where they are offering inaugural members the chance to win a $2,500 bottle of 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild.

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The Royal Mail’s Supply of Chateau Margeux 1934

Finally, the Royal Mail team were, without exception, incredibly welcoming and informative. We wished we could have lingered longer. Unfortunately due to time constraints we didn’t get to sample the Royal Mail’s accommodation, but we will definitely revisit and report back on the entire experience in the near future. In our opinion, this is truly a hidden gem that should not be missed.

This establishment was nominated for inclusion by The Gourmet Guru (@thegourmetguru888) and actual video footage the visit  has been posted on our own Instagram site @gourmetfoodguide

Further information on IGFG award nominations is available here. Voting for The Royal Mail Hotel’s inclusion in the International Gourmet Food Guide Awards 2019 is open to everyone via email 

 

 

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Food, lifestyle, travel

Happy 2019 – Best Gourmet Providore Nominations


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Happy New Year 2019. We are excited to report that nominations for our International Gourmet Food Guide Awards 2019 have been pouring in over the last few months and our reviews have begun.

Providore – A Quick History

Providore/Provedore – is the rather grand-sounding name which increasingly refers to the store which provides the staples or specialist eating house. International Gourmet Food Guide is looking for the best Gourmet Providore for our 2019 Awards.

In the Middle Ages, the city of Venice was a strategic City-State and desirable to many who desired to capture its status and position. Thus, throughout its history, it had to defend itself. The term ‘providore‘ described the military guard responsible for securing and protecting food and provisions for the City. The root of the word the Latin provideo – “I foresee”

Nomination Best Independent Gourmet Providore: Gourmet Life

Gourmet Life was recently nominated by one of our Instagram followers. This delightful, independent, well stocked providore is based in Sydney, Australia and owned by Josh Rea who has broad experience in the fine food market, having worked closely with leading Australian importers and wholesalers, and with numerous delicatessens, butchers, fishermen and fishmongers, farmers, renowned chefs and five star restaurants, and with people who are simply fine food fanatics. As a result of the nomination, we recently reviewed their extensive supply of Oscietra Black River Caviar, Spanish cockles, Italian white truffles, St James Scottish smoked salmon, Julian Martin Jamon Iberico de Bellota and Radicchio Rosso di Treviso IGP

Details of the individual product reviews will be posted via our Instagram page @gourmetfoodguide over the coming weeks.

Video footage supplied by @thegourmetguru888

Other nominations for Best Gourmet Providore received so far by International Gourmet Food Guide include Simon Johnson, the iconic food hall at Harrods of London and historic providores to the Royal Family, Fortnum and Mason! We will be diligently working through further nominations for all award categories as they continue to arrive and will be busy filming reviews in Italy, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and USA over the first eight months of 2019. Details of our award categories and process for nominations can be found via our Awards Info page. Follow us on Instagram @gourmetfoodguide

 

Food and drink, lifestyle, review, travel, wine

Christmas Sparkle


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When it comes to any type of celebration, we adore the indulgence of champagne. This sparkling wine from the chalk slopes east of Paris is France’s best answer to a global brand. It is the drink of celebration, of success,  and, unlike the still French wines, which have been successfully copied around the world, Champagne remains inimitable, despite thousands of attempts.

The combination of cool climate, chalk soil and — there’s no other word for it — terroir are just so special. Like virtually every part of France, the Champagne wine region is subdivided into smaller parts, but unlike in other parts of France, those subregions rarely appear on the bottle. Although there are exceptions, like Blanc de Blancs and vintage Champagnes, most Champagnes are blends from different areas and even different vintages, using the three Champagne grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.

Lets talk bubbles

There’s no denying it, Champagne sparkles with life as it is poured. The bubbles may be described as fine or medium-sized; steady, streaming or moving in groups; light and tiny; fast and furious, or slow and shy. Some whizz through the liquid like shooting stars, whirling and spiralling upwards. Others are more enduring and generous, settling in a delicate cordon round the edge of the glass. Others still are more discreet and dispersed or on the contrary very evenly distributed.

Wine critics often talk about tiny, silvery bubbles or bubbles that shatter into fragments of gold. What better way to celebrate Christmas?

Adjectives used to describe the mousse might be creamy, white, fine, enduring, lively, elegant, graceful, pale or frothy. The cordon formed by the mousse may be compared to a delicate string of pearls. How beautifully decadent!

What should you look for on the palate?

We agree with Louis Bohre, an early 20th century Champagne ‘explorer’ who advised “The palate should be surprisingly but pleasantly sparkling, instantly seductive and velvety. The taste should have an underlying fruitiness, with a lingering fragrance that causes you to meditate silently and at length on the wine’s aromatic qualities – long after you put down your glass”. . So whatever your tastes and your budget, Louis’s advice on Champagne holds true.

The drink of kings

Champagne first gained international attention for its association with the crowning of French kings in Reims (in the Champagne region of France), and champagne wine was served as part of coronation festivities.

At a time when France was one of the dominant world powers and a major cultural force throughout Europe, news about the bubbly wine from the Champagne region of France quickly spread and the drink became wildly popular. And because French nobility represented the epitome of power, luxury and class, champagne automatically was associated with luxury and power. Seizing on this opportunity, the leading manufacturers of champagne devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine–associating it, and themselves, with nobility, royalty, luxury and power.

The strategy paid off. Today, champagne has become synonymous with celebrations, luxury, opulence and thanks to Cubby Broccoli the drink of international secret agents. Visit our page @gourmetfoodguide on Instagram to see more of our video champagne reviews where we compare Krug with Dom Perignon and will definitely be filming and celebrating Christmas and New Year with a glass or two of this delicious and indulgent wine. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Food, Food and drink, lifestyle, review, travel, wine

Best Wines of the World


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“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” Benjamin Franklin

As you may have seen from our Explore page, we’re scouring the globe to check out the best places to eat, drink, stay and play for our Gourmet Food Guide 2019. Lately our focus has turned to wine, and we are inviting you to give your input. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur wine buff, a sommelier, a producer, brand ambassador or a wine connoisseur. We want you to let us know who and what we should check out.

Italian Reds

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Montalcino, Tuscany  the home of Brunello

For example, we adore Italian wines but when looking for nominations of a great Italian red,  it’s so hard to choose between those well known delights like Barolo, Amarone and Brunello di Montalcino; and lets not forget Chianti. Are there other unsung heroes and artisan producers out there that we should know about? And, what exactly is it that makes these particular wines so deliciously special?

Bordeaux vs Burgundy?

For countless generations the world’s most bitter wine war has raged between France’s two most illustrious wine regions, Burgundy and Bordeaux. It’s a battle which divides wine critics, pits wine lovers against each other and leaves most consumers bemused.
So which is the best French wine? At International Gourmet Food Guide we’d really appreciate your thoughts on these legendary rivals and your nominations for who and where we should go check out, film and interview for our 2019 Awards. To get the conversation started, here are some previously published thoughts on this hot topic:

 “Burgundy is for those who want to be intrigued by wine, not offered certainty in a glass” (Jasper Morris in his 2010 book Inside Burgundy).

“For me, the superiority of Bordeaux comes from its naturalness: it is born of my earth, of my sun, and of the attentive love that my people devote to it. The primary virtue of Bordeaux is honesty” (French novelist François Mauriac).

New World Wines

Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon v’s Penfold’s Grange Hermitage? When it comes to new world wines and traditional verses modern methods, the battle also rages.

Wines and the winemakers in the New World embody the entrepreneurial spirit you’d expect from descendants of immigrants that struck out searching for a new and better life in another place. In these regions the winemaking practices vary dramatically, and there is much experimentation. The New World generally places less emphasis on making wine the same way it has been made for centuries, and more emphasis on making wine that takes advantage of modern advances.

Among our own personal new world favourites are Penfold’s Grange which we featured recently on our Instagram page @gourmetfoodguide but then again we’re looking for nominations great South African, New Zealand and South Americans too.

Champagne Anyone?

Krug v’s Dom Perignon, Ruinart v’s Moet and more.

Actually we’re really interested in checking out the claim that a good grower-cooperative (producers who are owned and run jointly by its members, who are growers), can produce outstanding quality Champagne. Although Champagnes made by cooperatives are often believed to be of lesser quality,  such producers can apparently achieve outstanding results, and even make superior cuvées than the famous Grandes Marques.

For those who know the Champagne region well, however, such an outcome may not surprise, with cooperatives being major suppliers of grapes and wine to many well-known names in the region, who own few vineyards themselves.

Not only that, but, unlike grower-Champagnes, who make delicious fizz from just their own holdings, the cooperatives can source from a large area, and tend to select the best grapes and wines for producing their own branded Champagnes. This gives them the chance to blend wines from across vast swathes of Champagne, vital in the strive to create something consistent in style, and complex in character.

Get on Board

The call is out. Nominations for 2019 are open to everyone, so nominate your personal favourites and recommendations for our international wine selection and join us as we film and share the exquisite experiences and places nominated by you for inclusion in the International Gourmet Food Guide Awards 2019.

Food, Food and drink, lifestyle, travel

Sexy truffle selection


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Let’s admit it, we’re all going gaga again for truffles as November arrives. Gourmet Food Guide has been out talking to specialists and cosying up to cute and wonderful truffle hunting dogs in our quest to uncover some inside tips on truffle selection. Truffles are the diamonds of gastronomy. But, how do you ensure that you’re buying the best quality gastronomic diamond? After all, the successful selection of these sexy little nuggets of exquisite sensory overload require a little more than a discerning nose and deep pockets when truffle season comes around.

Gourmet Food Guide have taken tips from veteran growers in France and Italy to bring you a run down of the basics.

Firstly, you should look for a truffle with an undamaged surface. It should sound solid when you knock it and feel heavy for its size. This means that it hasn’t frozen or lost its moisture.

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Inside, it should display a fine lacework of white-on-black veins, as pictured. The less tasty tuber brumale truffle is also white-veined, but the veins are thicker and further apart.

A winter truffle which is matte white inside is unripe. And truffles will not mature further once they’ve been dug out of the ground, so it’s basically useless.

It’s common practice to ask a seller to slice off (canifer) a corner of a truffle with a penknife so that you can inspect the inside – but you won’t be popular at all if you try to do this yourself!

Don’t worry about the waste: the seller won’t throw away the precious off-cut slice, but will save it for a bye-product such as truffle-infused pâté or cheese. A grower might also use scraps or inferior truffles for fertiliser or to prime truffle oak saplings.

In November, you’re likely to find a high proportion (around 30 per cent) of these unripe white truffles. The percentage will decrease as the season goes on.

Truffles, obviously, vary in size: large ones can weigh well over 300 grams / 10.5 ounces. It’s widely considered that most of the flavour is concentrated inside the truffle so, from this point of view, the bigger the better.

On the other hand, truffles are sold whole and never cut in half. Since most private buyers don’t want a huge one, the most popular truffles weigh between 30 and 80 grams / one and three ounces.

Storing truffles Some people grumble that truffles are sold with an extra coating of mud just to increase their weight. But in fact they should not be cleaned until just before use. Rinse them and brush the mud off gently. Truffles should be eaten within a few days of purchase. Keep them in the fridge. It’s possible to freeze truffles but they will lose a lot of their taste.

Like so much about trufficulture, everyone seems to have a passionately held opinion and we heard conflicting, even directly contradictory advice about the best way to store them.

Some recommend wrapping them in a dishcloth and urge against using a sealed jar. Some are also opposed to the common practice of placing the truffles among eggs: “The eggshells soak up all the flavour, and then you throw them away.”

Others disagree completely. “Eggshells are porous and the eggs absorb the aroma,” says one of our favourite French chefs as he fishes a big truffle out of his eggbox to prepare poached eggs with truffle cream for our supper.

Give us your tips and feedback via the comments section and don’t forget to check out our nominations form to nominate a supplier, grower, chef or recipe for these delectable, sexy fungi.