Last weekend we were privileged to catch the first Urban Wine Walk in Perth for 2019. While many events are starting to celebrate local and small-batch wineries, we think the Urban Wine Walk stands out for celebrating not only forward thinking wineries and winemakers, but pairing them with some of Perth’s best venues.
When covering another Neighbourhood Event Co. event, owner Josh Starick mentioned that the focus on popups in recent events can start to detract from the brick and mortar businesses which contribute to make a city great throughout the year. The same values are clearly evident in the Urban Wine Walk, which combines a great tasting experience with an opportunity to try out a wide range of Perth’s small bars and restaurants.
A popup cellar door
The ability to meet the people behind the wine you drink is rare even during a trip to Margaret River or the Barossa Valley, yet the Urban Wine Walk offers the chance to meet owners and operators. Our own journey began at the newly opened Hadiqa, where Rick Burch poured lovely and refreshing wines from his own Mon Tout label.
On such a hot day, our tastes skewed towards the cold and bright such as the beautiful Pet Nat poured by Blind Corner's Ben Gould in the Long Chim courtyard, or our summer favourite South by South West rosé poured by owners Liv and Mij at the Petition Wine Merchant. However with three different wines from each of the winemakers (and sometimes a sneaky fourth) we found the Event would cater to a wide range of palettes.
Other independent winemaker included Arimia Estate’s Dan Stocker representing both the Arimia range and his own passion project Heretic Wines at the State Buildings’ underground den Halford. Also amongst him were Skigh of Skigh Wines, Amato Vino’s Brad Wehr, and Walsh & Sons’ Ryan Walsh.
Fans of Margaret River staples were still given an opportunity to try their favourite wine amongst smaller producers, with Leeuwin Estate taking residence in Public House, Vasse Felix in the beautiful Stables Bar, and Fraser Gallop Estate in Helvetica bringing their cellar doors up into the city.
Meeting your new favourite venue
This year’s wine walk gave us an opportunity to enjoy new wines in some of our favourite venues including Tiny’s, Varnish on King and Petition, but also introduced us to venues such as Alfred’s Pizza, Fromage Artisans and Heritage Wine Bar. In Alfred’s Pizza, The Pawn Wine Co. poured excellent pizza-pairing wines right under a well placed air conditioner, and the lovely staff at Fromage Artisans were able to give us a tour of their cheese vault between tastings with Amato Vino.
The event gave visibility to blink-and-you-miss-them venues such as Helvetica, Varnish on King and Holmes & Co. each of which are positioned off the sides of alleyways or the corners of buildings which many people would walk by unaware. Each of the venues showed what they did best throughout the walk with special menus and event-only menu items, and in Halford the lovely staff were very quick to offer us cold drinks to beat the heat.
Focus on Local
With the exception of three South Australian wineries, every producer in the Wine Walk operated less than a day’s drive from Perth. The Wine Walk has branched out into almost every state, even as far as New Zealand, but having started in Perth, it gives a sense of pride in the city and the state which has produced each of the brilliant wineries and venues which make up the event.
As we become increasingly fascinated with provenance, a fascination with our own city and state usually follows. Perth is spoilt with brilliant food and hospitality just waiting to be explored: Aspects the Urban Wine Walk does a fascinating job of highlighting.
The Beerfarm is a well-loved and boundary-breaking brewery made all the more special with a visit to their brewpub headquarters. The converted dairy farm in Metricup finds families, off-duty tradies and locals toe-to-toe with snobby beer enthusiasts and tourists, each on the even footing of great beer in a beautiful atmosphere.
We spoke to Beerfarm Co-founder George and brewer Miles about the unique mix of fun, dedication and inclusiveness which make the Beerfarm seem quintessentially Margaret River while at the same time completely unique to the region.
Starting the Beerfarm
“We were working for a different company and the initial brewery site was going to be the second brewery site for that company, but half way through the building stage, we branched off with a separate vision, and understanding what we wanted to put into the place, the initial venture decomposed and allowed us as a group to take it on our own.” Said George, "We wanted to create an iconic australian beer brand that could be enjoyed by everyone."
With a site in place, the Beerfarm crew went about methodically establishing a core range of beers based on their own customer feedback, “We didn’t want to decide what the market wants to drink, we wanted to find out what styles they wanted to drink. We now have a balanced core range between sweet, sour, salty, and bitter drinks.”
George mentions that balance is key to the design of any beer, from their ambitious one-off and seasonal releases through to their perennial core range. He also notes that they at they at Beerfarm “like to drink more than one beer,” a habit reflected in their core range erring on the lower end of the scale for ABV.
"We try to be ambitious, not arrogant. We didn’t want to put up any barriers to the people consuming our beers, and wanted to give people a gateway into that journey.”
Established for the Future
The logistics of their unique venue have required a better approach to waste management and environmental impact: While many urban breweries can pay fees and dump their production waste, at Beerfarm their used hops are composted in their own vegetable gardens, and spent grain is fed to a herd of onsite Black Angus cattle.
"We want to set a precedent and show that it is not hard to reduce the environmental footprint breweries naturally have. We are hoping to change the train of thought and find more value in our waste." said Miles.
Beyond their environmental commitment, a lot of the magic of the Beerfarm comes from the way their staff interact, "There is a ladder, but everyone here is colleagues with one and other.” said Miles, "We have a group called the green team who invite anyone who wants to join and put forward ideas. There’s no sense of ‘we’re doing it this way’,"
"It’s all passionate people. You want to work in a place that you want to be a part of.”
Beer for All Palates
As they have solidified their core range, the brewers at Beerfarm have established a reputation for the brand with collaborative, experimental and ambitious seasonal and one-off releases. Among these are the Shirazaweiss, a collaboration with local winemakers LS Merchants, and the ongoing Native Series, which uses native botanicals to create unique brews.
“The whole idea behind the native series is to work with traditional custodians of the land, those guys are developing these ingredients sustainably, so we work with those growers in a sustainable way, and we only do one run of each. The brewer’s love it, they get to do a new style each time."
The native series has involved collaborations with Fervor and beers brewed with strawberry gum, saltbush and finger lime. The beers are challenging, unique and delicious. But rather than expect everyone who visits to put their usual tastes on hold, they are more than happy to leave the experimental beers to those who want them, and provide a range of flavours throughout their beers to suit everyone. Even a cider which is fermented in house for those who do not drink beer.
"We get a whole range of people here in Margaret River, it’s not just snobs, there’s families, younger people, we don’t want everyone to like all of our beers, but we want to make a beer which is suitable to each person.” said George.
While Subiaco’s New Normal may be the first kitchen to commit to minimal waste, all West Australian produce, or a constantly changing menu featuring wild-foraged ingredients, the combination sets them apart as one of the most delicious and progressive restaurants we’ve seen.
We spent an afternoon in New Normal’s kitchen speaking to head chef Charlie about how the small team go about making simple dishes taste so great.
A New WA
“Probably over 50% of our ingredients come from our main supplier, and the rest come from small farms and farmers markets. Many farmers such as Torbay Asparagus prefer to go through a market than come up to us each week, but some will come in and deal with us directly. We’ve currently got a lady coming up every thursday droppping pork and macadamia nuts from her farm. We deal directly with Cooladerra for our olive oil out of Frankland river, and Wagin duck comes tuesdays and thursdays.” Charlie said.
"We find a lot of herbs wild. Our sous chef Vince is really good at finding things. You can be walking or driving by somewhere and think you can see something, then come back and check it out a bit later. Then sometimes we're directed or we call out for it. A few weeks back on instagram we were looking for quandongs and kumquats. A lot of people have abundant fruit and just throw it out because birds and pests come for it."
Charlie admits that for many great chefs, attention to local and seasonal produce is just good cooking. For New Normal, however, attention to WA produce is taken a step further and the entire menu is comprised of Western Australian produce. The singular exception being some of the spices they use. "When we opened up we said we were going to let our spices come from where they come from. WA doesn't really have a lot of spices growing. You can't get fennel seed, you can't get coriander seed. That's the only thing I would say that we source from outside of WA."
New Normal’s menu reads as small groupings of ingredients scribbled onto the large blackboards which feature in each corner of the restaurant, but this effort toward transparency does not imply that the dishes aren’t well considered and contemporary.
During our visit we tried dishes including heirloom carrots, a dish of spring peas, Shark Bay cuttlefish, Torbay asparagus, and Pressed lamb. Each dish simultaneously storied, understated, and crafted.
“We've just been through winter where everything is quite dull, and now it's springtime, peas are coming in for a couple of months, the suns out, and everything is getting more colourful.”
Behind their pea dish is a water made from the juice of pea pods and emulsified with butter, alongside a powder from the spent pea pods. The peas are cooked in leek, garlic, chilli and oil, and finished with garlic flowers, sol, goats curd from Geraldton, and wagyu fat smoked by Adrien’s continental. The heirloom carrot dish is similarly detailed, and features a chickpea puree similar to a hommus but without tahini (which Charlie notes is difficult to find or grow in WA) a North African sauce of coriander stems, chilli and cumin gives it kick alongside whole chickpeas and coriander.
Minimal Waste Cooking
While showcasing the diversity of West Australian produce, each dish at a New Normal also represents their commitment to minimising waste. In their carrot dish, this is as simple as washing and soaking the carrot tops in order to incorporate them back into the dish. For the pea dish, incorporating the pea pods back into the dish was a more labour intensive process of juicing and powdering the pods.
"Often things are reused into the same dish, but a few cross into different dishes. For example our asparagus dish uses a ricotta made of the buttermilk left over from our homemade butter."
"There's a bit of trial and error, especially with the stuff which you usually throw away. There are a few attempts which don't work out, but once it does work, you know you have another use of it."
While they commit to their ideals harder than most kitchens, what makes New Normal work is a backbone of great cooking from their talented staff. Charlie has been in Perth for ten years, having spent his time here as head chef at Gordon St Garage, Fraser's and Balthazar.
Many great kitchens will incorporate local providence and talented chefs are always looking at new ways to work with ingredients. New Normal may not have pioneered their particular approach, but they have singled out the ideas and put them to work in creating great food in a beautiful restaurant.
New Normal are open Tues–Thursday 5pm–late, Friday 12:00pm-late and Saturday 4pm–late. Keep up to date on their instagram.
While it’s not uncommon for artisans to claim their products are unlike anything else, occasionally we come across delicious flavours we’ve never quite experienced before. Bee Lane are a new small business dedicated entirely to the unique flavours of introducing a long cold smoking process to Australian tomatoes.
We spoke to Bee Lane’s owner and operator Bronwyn Lane about bringing a new product to market and her fascination with smoking and tomatoes.
Learning the art of smoking
Bronwyn does not come from a culinary background and first learned how to cold smoke entirely as a hobby. "I was taught how to smoke food by a man who is now close to eighty. One of the things he taught me was how to smoke tomatoes. I stayed concentrated on tomatoes because I found the product exceptional and the process very interesting.” she said.
"Cold smoking is very different to hot smoking as the product is smoked and dried without cooking."
"I played around with it for around four years and tweaked the recipe in a number of ways to produce a contemporary product, including the use ofextra virgin olive oil. I eventually began working on prototype smokers specifically for the tomatoes.
As she developed and honed her skills in smoking, positive feedback from peers along with the realisation that nobody else was making what she was making pushed Bronwyn to bring the product to market.
"I’ve got friends who are chefs, and one in particular kept introducing people within the industry, saying ‘you’ve got to try this’. I was pushed slowly but surely to do something with it. I was thinking, it’s such a different and unique product that if I don’t do something , it’s going to disappear’,”
Unique produce in Perth
"It’s always good to be the first with a new product, but sometimes it’s easier to be the second, because the rules have already been established.”
From prototype smokers through to introducing people to a product they’ve never tried before, Bronwyn finds herself very much inventing the rules as she goes along.
The products have spoken for themselves, and each of her three products have won Gold awards at the Perth Royal Show and Champion two years running. Bronwyn mentions that once people try the tomatoes, they are usually hooked very quickly.
"The best R&D you can do is at farmers markets. That’s where you get to hear exactly what people think of your product. The people who come to my stand are the ones who are already adventurous. There are of course those who sit on the fence, but once they taste the tomatoes, they are usually sold. In two years I’ve encountered maybe four or five people who have tried them and not enjoyed them, probably less than 0.1%.”
In helping with the growth of the product, Bronwyn credits the modern craze for anything smoked and an increasing return to traditional cooking methods. Saying, "it’s getting back to basics. Smoke has been used for millennia to preserve food. People are really getting back to good, basic products.”
Making cold smoked tomatoes
The process of cold smoking tomatoes takes over twenty hours, and a range of variables make each batch slightly different from the last. Bronwyn doesn’t look to use any one specific varietal of tomato, and although she acknowledges subtle variations in the flavour profile from batch to batch, she says that the smoke is the key ingredient.
"There are only four ingredients in the original product: tomato, extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and sugar. People don’t know what to expect, so watching their reaction to that first taste is always great."
"I’ve tried smoking capsicum, mushroom, zucchini and eggplant. They are all okay, but none are a patch on the tomatoes. There’s something that happens with the tomatoes that is completely unique, creating a flavour profile that is very intense."
While the smoking process can become increasingly technological and scientific, her preparations are decidedly bespoke. Bronwyn cores, removes blemishes, and cuts each tomato into wedges by hand. She is currently on her third smoker, with a newer, larger prototype in the works with the assistance of an engineer who is helping with the design. While she expresses a fascination in the scientific and analytic side of food, with the possibility of creating her own tomato lab down the track, at this moment, much of her efforts are spent introducing the product to as many people as she can.
"I’d never been directily involved in small business before so it’s been a massive and steep learning curve.” she said.
With a product as simple, unique and delicious as the Bee Lane cold smoked tomatoes, we know it’s just a matter of getting it into as many mouths as possible and we look forward to watching Bronwyn and her business develop.
After a long week of new events, shoots and articles, we try to keep our sundays pretty quiet. This Sunday we tried to make learn a few tricks on the new aeropress we won at the WA Aeropress championships (From a raffle, not from being good at making coffee), passed through our local farmers market and our favourite local vintage store before stopping in to Little Cheese Shop to make a cheese board.
Geoff is a wizard for pairing wine with cheese. We had been looking for a chance to break out a beautiful bottle of Brave New Wine Klusterphunk, and Geoff's recommendations all paired beautifully, the highlight being a goat's chevre made by Kris Lloyd of Woodside Cheese Wrights and seasoned with lemon myrtle and green ants.
If you haven't had green ants before-- and we hadn't-- they are a little flavour explosion of citrus and spiciness. We can't recommend it enough!
Our Cheese Board
Brave New Wine 'Klusterphunk' Chardonnay
La Tur Soft Ripened mixed milk cheese.
Yallingup Cheese Co. x Little Cheese Shop Nut Brown Washed Rind Brie
Kris Lloyd Artisans Anthill
Rolf Beeler 28 Month Extra Affinage Gruyere
Knutsford Gourmet Pink Peppercorn Lavosh & Poppyseed Crisp Breads
Aeropress: Our Favourite Recipes So far
Seb from Laika Coffee Roasters, incidentally the co-host for the Aeropress championship, was happy to hook us up with some locally roasted coffee and a simple recipe:
Pour 50g of water and swirl the Aeropress
at 0:30 pour to 150g, continue swirling
at 1:00 pour to 250g, swirl and cap the plunger on the aeropress
Plunge at 3:30
We've also been experimenting with a lower yield inverted method recipe based on how we like to make French press coffee.
Pour 50g of water, stir for 30 seconds.
Pour in remaining 150g
Rotate and plunge at 3:00
We recently got the chance to visit East Perth's Whipper Snapper Distillery to try the new cask strength release of their Upshot Whiskey. We spoke to co-founder and head distiller Jimmy McKeown about the path from their humble Moonshine through to their newest seasonal release.
Turbo charged Upshot
"We designed Upshot to be really approachable, even to be a gateway into drinking whiskey for a lot of people. I think we’ve achieved that, it’s sweet, nicely balanced. It’s not too much of a shock.” said Jimmy, “But there are a lot of whiskey drinkers, myself included, who want something with a bit more heat and a little more depth, that’s where the cask strength comes in.”
While just as sweet and balanced as the standard Upshot, the cask release turns everything up. To us it felt more complex, powerful, and benefited from a strong but very slow burn. We love drinking Upshot on long summer afternoons, but it’s bolder cousin feels better suited to keeping cold, dark nights in check.
"It’s much more volatile, in a way it matures faster, and the oak breaks down more quickly. At two years it wasn’t exactly where we wanted it, even though it was the exact same spirit as the Upshot. Being higher ABV, it needed extra time to develop and mellow out a bit of harshness.” said Jimmy.
Crafting a seasonal release
"I tried the Upshot recipe back when I was in the US. We tested it and liked it. A lot of the stuff coming out these days involves a bit more educated guessing."
The standard Upshot is diluted to 43% ABV before ageing in new oak barrels, and receives no further dilution at the bottling stage. The process gives more oak character to the whiskey, and ultimately requires much more barrel space and a lower yield than the industry standard of barrelling at a higher percentage and diluting later. This also meant that the barrel strength release could not simply be taken from existing Upshot barrels. A new set of barrels had to be reserved exclusively to age the new release at its 64% ABV.
"We went with a traditional ABV, we went to Scotland and asked what was traditional there, where, as a rule of thumb, it’s casked at 63.5% which for us became 64% by the time it had finished ageing.”
As the distillery steadily grows and becomes more familiar with their core range, so arises more opportunity to create special releases which exemplify West Australian agriculture and providence.
"We’re here to make good whiskey as number one. Now that Upshot is out and doing well, we want to make sure our special releases all have enough time and no financial restraints to get the product out. There's wheat whiskey, the Quinoa project, the single malt on their way too. It’s all about getting the flavour right."
Upshot Cask Strength comes out this Saturday at the Whipper Snapper Distillery, 139 Kensington St, East Perth.
As Antipodean Encounters: Western Australian Artists and Taiwanese Culture and Tea Ware Exhibitions hit the Midland Junction Arts Centre, we got in touch with Lee Woodcock, one of the contributing artists to the Tea Ware exhibition and a regular teacher of pottery at MJAC. We spoke to Lee about the exhibition and his arts practice, and got a little hands on trying to make our own ceramic bowls.
Midland Junction Arts Centre
Midland Junction Arts Centre is a beautiful heritage listed building managed by the Mundaring Arts Centre for the City of Swan. During their relatively short operation, MJAC have been a welcoming platform to a range of artists new and developed. They have a wide range of exhibitions and ongoing workshops and development programs.
The Antipodean Encounters and Teaware exhibition opened August 11th, with an accompanying workshop run by Lee where participants were invited to learn to make their own teacups. Next in this program of events is the Tea Dao workshop with Henri Lebedev, an exploration into the culture history of growing, brewing and tasting tea, with a guided tea meditation to follow. The workshop takes place on Saturday the 25th of August.
The Tea Ware Exhibition
"Tea and the sharing of tea is celebrated by many cultures in very diverse and often ritualistic ways. Tea drinking habits can be found worldwide. After water, it is the most widely consumed drink in the world. In conjunction with Antipodean Encounters: Western Australian Artists and Taiwanese Culture, MJAC is celebrating the teaware and the art of ceramics."
Jenny Kerr, Claire Ng, Melissa Statham Ellero, Bernard Kerr, Lee Woodcock, Emma Vinkovic, Dee Parker, Alison Brown, Rie Yamauchi, Megan Evans, Amanda Harris and Denise Brown.
The Tea Ware and Antipodean Encounters exhibitions look to find a link across cultures through the enjoyment of everyday rituals.
Lee bases his artistic practice around the unpredictability and sense of terroir associated with a wood fired kiln.
"I make all of my clay myself, and try to source as much as I can from nature." he said, "The type of wood, time of year, placement, everything is a variable in a wood fired kiln. I expect about 50% of what comes out of my kiln to come out as I expected it to. It’s nowhere near as predictable as an electric kiln. You can’t be too connected to what’s in the kiln, you can think everything’s going perfectly, and still you’ll never find out for sure until you open the kiln."
Lee’s kiln spans around two hundred cubic foot and fits three hundred pots. When it fires, it runs for between seventy five and one hundred hours, all of which must be carefully monitored. He called his style of pottery "a never ending cycle of chopping wood, glazing pots, getting the kiln ready.”
Lee's teacup workshop on August 11th opened the Antipodean Encounters project, introducing a number of participants to the craftsmanship of clay as they made their own teacups and tumblers.
"I think people have a very strong connection with their morning tea or coffee. I make cups which fit into your hand, I find that connects you to what you’re drinking. when I make a teacup I grip it so it sits in your hand, it’s so nice to drink out of a style which warms your hands and fits nicely. "
As a self-taught artist, Lee started throwing pottery with a wheel he made himself. "I twist and bend my mugs, intentionally distorting them. It’s more traditional to try and be symmetrical, and beginners usually focus on roundness. I’m more interested in making triangular and square forms in the rim of my bowls."
Lee has been teaching for four of his five and a half years of pottery. "I’m lucky, I ride bmx and do gardening.” he said, “Most of the skills came fairly quickly."
"At the moment I’m doing a wheel throwing course across four wednesdays. We do three weeks of throwing then a final week on glazing. We’re looking into workshops on more sculptural works as well."
"We work on throwing with confidence, the hardest thing for beginners is the fear of the pot collapsing. We start without too much pressure to go as tall and thin as you can. They can refine their skills with practice, but getting the confidence on the wheel is the biggest part. “
Lee finished our interview by teaching us how to throw some rudimentary bowls on an electric wheel. We were surprised by the level of coordination and precision required, and came away with a new appreciation for the levels of craftsmanship behind many of the objects we encounter on a day-to-day basis.
We recently collaborated with High Spirits Distillery to create a cocktail program around their Gin and Vodka with an emphasis on simple, accessible cocktails. Head over to High Spirits social channels to see the cocktail rollout. Today we want to talk about how you can start making quality cocktails with barely a trip to the shops. Here are our favourite cocktail tips, tricks and ideas:
Use items already in your kitchen
A trip to your local hospitality supply store will give you well priced bar essentials like bar spoons, jiggers and cocktail shakers, but what if it’s 6pm and you want that Tom Collins pronto?
We’ve all seen the DIY approach to cocktails exemplified through expensive converted mason jars, but the jam jar in the back of your fridge is just as perfect a cocktail shaker after a quick rinse, and the lid, cocked slightly ajar, becomes the perfect strainer.
If stirred cocktails are more your style, we honestly can’t tell the difference between cocktails stirred with a fancy bar spoon and those stirred with a takeaway chopstick. And what about all that cocktail ice? Even if you’re missing ice mould, any tupperware container half filled with water will give you a great chunk of cocktail ice the next day: Wrap it in a tea towel and drop it a few times outside for great shaker ice, carve it into long strips with a serrated knife for impressive highballs, or crush it with a rolling pin for drinks needing pebbled or crushed ice.
Master the garnish
Don’t be put off by melon ballers and channel knives, all you need to make beautiful garnishes is any small, sharp knife and a bit of practice. Start with citrus twists, cutting small lengths of peel and trimming off the jagged edges. A coin or semicircle of citrus standing on the rim of the glass is perhaps the simplest of all garnishes, and still looks great. Just cut a wedge, coin or semicircle, and cut in a small slot for the glass.
It’s worth looking at glassware the same way you would garnishes. It’s true that the right glass will elevate the taste and feel of a drink, but there’s no reason you should abandon the cocktail you want to make just because you don’t have the “correct” glass. We love hunting through op-shops and antique stores for interesting and unique glasses, but as you start out, you’ll be surprised at how adaptable the wine and water glasses at your home will be for the majority of cocktails.
How do I shake? How do I stir?
Shaking a cocktail dilutes, mixes, aerates and cools your drink. Some pretty in depth testing by Dave Arnold suggests that you hit a point of diminishing returns after shaking for more than twelve seconds. What matters is that those twelve seconds are of hard shaking. Technique doesn’t matter, just make sure you don’t let go of your shaker.
Stirring is usually applied to cocktails without a fruit juice element. As alcohol bonds immediately, stirring a cocktail simply dilutes and cools it. When stirring, try to stir in a quick circular motion, agitating the ice as little as possible. Around 50 rotations or 30-40 seconds of stirring should suffice. If you’re making your cocktail for yourself, taste your bar spoon to determine if your cocktail needs more stirring.
For both shaking and stirring, be sure to use plenty of ice- around 2/3 of your vessel should be filled with ice. It’s also good practice to keep your glassware in the freezer while you stir or shake.
Where do I start?
To start making cocktails tonight, a good amount of citrus and simple syrup will play with almost anything in your liquor cabinet. Never buy simple syrup, just heat equal parts sugar and water over a stove, stirring until clear and fully combined. For some of the cocktails in our High Spirits program, we found ourselves running out at the last minute, and would mix a cup of water and a cup of castor sugar in a blender on high for a couple of minutes. The result is cloudy, but similarly delicious in cocktails.
By now it’s time you started learning some cocktail recipes. Like all recipes, cocktails are just a combination of balancing flavours, and the best way to get a handle for balancing flavours is with those is with three classic ratios:
Great to start out with and to introduce friends to new cocktails. Highballs let fizz and citrus take centre stage, with just enough alcohol backbone to keep the drink from feeling flabby. Many highball cocktails can even have the shaking stage omitted, and for the High Spirits cocktail program, we exchanged the shaking step for a gentle stir once the drink is built, in order to make the drink as easy to make as possible, without any specialty equipment required.
Sours are really popular on cocktail bar drink menus, and might be closer to what you have in mind when you think of making cocktails. A shaker or at least a shaking vessel is a must for sours, which need a lot of motion to coax together alcohol, sugar and cirtrus. Some sour recipes will use egg white to give the drink a fluffy head and a syrupy thickness. Others will also use a fine-strainer (a tea strainer often does the trick) to get rid of pesky ice shards (Sometimes you want ice shards, we're not going to tell you how to drink your drink, so if you're on the fence, try doing a side by side with one fine strained cocktail and one regular one)
While not technically a category, a lot of classic cocktails are derived from one original recipe for a stirred drink we now call the Old Fashioned. Here's a ratio which can make many a delicious and sophisticated drink. Stirred drinks are almost always a blend of alcohol and alcohol, only softened by their interactions and the gentle dilution and chilling from the stirring. High quality spirits are key.
Follow High Spirits to see more of their cocktail program.
Emma and Dan of No Mafia fame have been running Balthazar for just two years of its twenty years in the Perth restaurant scene. Tucked away in a beautiful heritage building just across the road from Elizabeth Quay, the restaurant is one of the few venues in Perth where superb food, wine and service are amplified by an atmosphere which is completely welcoming and inclusive. We spoke to Emma about creating an experience where everything clicks beautifully into place.
“Our focus is on accessibility. We really want it to be a place which you might come to for a special occasion to spoil yourself, but also might come down to just for a glass of wine and a little snack on a tuesday afternoon after work.” said Emma.
While they aren’t looking to cast aside the legacy of the venue, the new Balthazar looks to put its best foot forward to champion great food, wine and service for everyone who appreciates it.
"We welcome everyone. You can come in wearing jeans and a t shirt, you can come in a suit and tie. We have all kinds of people in all walks of life enjoying this place. We're open minded, and so long as you're here to have a good time, we're happy to have you.”
Whether your visit is under the bright window light of the lunch rush, or a dinner under soft and subtle down lights, the brilliant food, wine and service at Balthazar are all presented without pretension or judgment. We were given the impression that it would be impossible to make a ‘wrong order' at Balthazar, because everything on the menu is given the same dedication, love, and thoughtfulness.
Perth’s Best Kept Secret
"It's a lot of people's favourite spot, our focus in the last two years has been in keeping with that. We have people who met here twenty years ago, or people who came on their first wedding anniversary and continue to come every year. We want to keep the special element of this beautiful building. It's more than just a chef or a waiter or supplier, it's about everything coming together.”
Emma called Balthazar “The true definition of a restaurant,” to her, transporting customers from the moment they walk into the door. “You're not in Perth anymore, you're somewhere else, and where that is doesn't really matter.” she said.
"Our cuisine is european focussed but with a huge Australian backbone. We use lots of local producers. You can start your journey in France with some beautiful champagne and local oysters, and you can finish in Scotland with whisky. "
After our first visit to Balthazar, we wanted to tell everybody we knew about them, and their $50 weekday lunch special, on an indefinite layover from Eat Drink Perth, is an excellent way to get acquainted.
"A young couple can come down on a date night and won't have to break the budget, however if you want to, we'll let you. The option's yours. We always have a really delicious pasta or gnocci, or parpadelle which you can just have on its own, but if you want to splash out and get the eye fillet, you certainly can.”
No Food Without Wine
"we've always got great well priced wines by the glass, and if you want to buy a bottle we have a huge range between fifty and eighty dollars, and if you want to go all out and drink some premier cru, grand cru or chablis, you can go all out.”
Emma and Dan’s love of wine shines through in Balthazar, where the entire staff are given extensive wine training and introduced to some of West Australia’s best winemakers.
"We're doing wine training, every week we're trying wines. All the staff here are able to recommend something amazing. The guys get to try amazing wine every week. All the staff get to meet producers, not just hear or read about them."
"When taking over we were all about changing the software, changing the music, the wine list, the menu. Our main change was to focus on local producers, and if it wasn't going to be local we wanted to know it was a family producer. We wanted to know where things came from, and that there was integrity in the product we were serving."
Skye Faithfull designed the creative and extraordinary dishes which make up Balthazar’s menu, and has just this month passed on the role of head chef to Luke Wakefeld in what Emma called “A beautiful handover,”
"Luke is really focussed on local produce and has some amazing contacts. He's a country boy so has some amazing contacts with producers.” Emma said.
As Perth continues to push through a stormy winter, it’s lovely to have venues which are cosy in any weather. We couldn’t recommend Balthazar enough for how great food, service and beautiful wine come together to create a restaurant experience which leaves you feeling warm, welcomed and wanting to return again and again.
Australian Whisky is quickly developing a reputation amongst the best in the world, in no small part because the lack of any traditional whisky making practices has freed up new distilleries to employ their own intuition in creating boundary-breaking whiskies. We went to Melbourne and spoke to brand ambassador Paul Slater of Starward distillery. We believe Starward are amongst the pioneering distilleries in establishing Australia’s reputation for brilliant whisky, having created groundbreaking whiskies, at the heart of which are local ingredients and our Australian climate, itself about as far from the conditions relied upon to age Scotch, as can be.
Starward began production in 2009, and their first product Solera hit the market in 2013. "In hindsight it’s great to look back, but it was hard in the early days,” says Paul, "we buckled down making a lot of whisky, and tried not to get distracted in white spirits and things like that.”
Following Solera, Starward released their Wine Cask release in 2015, and in 2016 they outgrew their original site in Essendon Fields and moved to their current site in Port Melbourne.
Starward distillery produce spirits under two brands. Amongst the two staples which make up the Starward label: Solera and Wine Cask. Single releases are produced under the New World Spirits label, including single barrel releases, a white whisky, and a gin.
“Ninety percent of our output is under the Starward banner,” said Paul, "last time I checked, we’re near five thousand barrels."
Starward’s initial Solera release is aged in charred Australian apera (previously called sherry) barrels. It takes it’s name from Starward’s solera system, a system modelled after sherry and port systems which are blended amongst ages and vintages to ensure consistency. For Starward, this is implemented by way of a five thousand litre tank between the barrelling and bottling of their whisky. The modern solera system ensures consistency in all bottles of Starward, and also means that every apera barrel used in the production of Solera is present in some form, in every bottle produced.
“We take a small amount out of each barrel, do a mini blend to get the right combination of barrels, and we get it pretty consistent. Consistency is a big thing for us.” Said Paul.
"From the early days, we’ve learned how to get the same result using different barrels. Filling to different capacities and for different amount of times can give a similar flavour profile. There’s no formula or spreadsheet, it’s just using your nose."
Starward’s second expression, Wine Cask, takes advantage of the distillery’s proximity to great Australian wine in Victoria and South Australia. Paul said that the Wine Cask expression was originally based on “Barossa shiraz, as the archetypal Australian wine,” but over time they have been able to branch out and grow their inventory.
“If it smells good, the whisky should take on that character. As we add more different barrels, the more colours we have for the whisky.” Paul said.
Whiskey in Melbourne
The conditions under which Starward Whisky ages could not be more different from the Scottish whiskies it competes against. Harsher, hotter and less predictable Australian climates contribute to more batch variation and a higher rate of evaporation called ‘angel’s share’. They do not consider this a disadvantage, however, as the more complex conditions enable their whisky to be aged quickly and to a great deal of complexity.
In order to further take advantage of their shorter ageing time, Starward’s whiskies are watered down to 55% ABV before going into barrels, considerably lower than the Scottish standard of 63.5%. Since the vast majority of spirits are further watered down to between 40% and 50% ABV before bottling, the resultant Starward spirit has had much more barrel contact than its Scottish counterpart.
“There are a lot of water soluble sugars in oak, and the lower ABV across a short maturation time means more sweet stuff out.” Said Paul, “A higher barrel entry would be a whole lot cheaper to mature, but this yields a better result for us.”
Starward are able to further distinguish their product by taking advantage of a great deal of Australian provenance. Locally sourced Barley is malted off-site and local rainwater runs as mains throughout the distillery.
While each of Starward’s expressions have had their share of international acclaim, Paul says it’s also important to them that their product can remain a product for the Australian population. This includes striving for consistency amongst their products so that, “someone can try a bottle now and then in two years pick it up from a bottle shop and get the same product they remember enjoying.” and this ethos also continues into their pricing, which has remained stable and accessible throughout their production. "We want to make whisky people won’t be shy about drinking.” said Paul.