Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The best coffee in Namibia!

Every time I go back to Fresh N Wild, that little oasis of calm and relaxed sophistication in Windhoek, Namibia, I discover a new delight.

This time around, it's the quality of the coffee.

I popped in for a quick breakfast and ordered an espresso with my breakfast, and had a very pleasant surprise when it was delivered to my table.

Yes, it was overly topped up to the rim (there seems to be a thinking in Africa that more is better, but in the case of espresso, less is really more ... next time try pouring only half an espresso cup for a more intense flavour), but it did sport a thick and rich crema, with an aromatic cocoa-like fragrance.

And when I sipped at it cautiously, worrying that this coffee might well be the proverbial mutton dressed up as lamb (I've had way too many over-diluted, weak coffees), I was again pleasantly surprised with the thickness of brew.

The clincher was the flavour - a pleasantly complex flavour of coffee-cocoa ending in a hint of lemony citrus notes.  Wow!

Well done Fresh N Wild: officially the best coffee in Namibia!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bistro des Artistes - special Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dinner

Veal blanquette, truffles and rice pilaf
On a cold winter’s night on 24 July 2012, nearly 70 members and guests in the Western Australian Bailliage of international culinary organisation Chaîne des Rôtisseurs celebrated (albeit belatedly) Bastille Day by enjoying a superb French dining experience at the recently opened Bistro des Artistes at 424 Hay Street, Subiaco.

This restaurant may be new to the Perth foodie scene, but its two French co-owners are certainly not: Chef Alain Fabrègues (recipient of the Mérite National, one of France’s highest awards) of the acclaimed and award-winning Loose Box fine dining restaurant in the Perth Hills, and pastry-specialist Chef Emmanuel Mollois of Choux Café, a little patisserie in Swanbourne which was recently crowned “Best in the West” by the Sunday Times.

Bistro des Artistes seeks to elevate French bistro dining to a new level – beyond merely a simple, hearty and casual meal, but moving above that into a higher stratum – with an artisanal and innovative take on well known and long-established French bistro cuisine.

Chefs Alain and Emmanuel spent many hours creating the special menu for the dinner, featuring dishes unavailable to normal customers at the restaurant; and also met several times with WA Bailli Wayne Teo and Vice-Conseiller Gastronomie Amanda Spencer-Teo to ensure that the event was well planned and executed.  Truffles featured heavily in this menu, personally handpicked from the stocks of Alain’s own Manjimup Truffle Company.
Diners were greeted with a glass of Laurent Perrier Brut NV, a crisp and citrus-fresh champagne designed to cleanse the palate in preparation for this 5 course degustatory experience of some French winter favourites; each dish being paired with a delicious and complementary glass of wine.

All of the dishes were superb, but there were three highlights.
The first was the “marble” of foie gras and truffle, where generously thick slices of truffle were layered terrine style with unprocessed foie gras and cross-sectional chunks sliced off for each diner, accompanied by slices of Jean Pierre Sancho country-style bread (did you know that Jean Pierre Sancho supplies bread to some of Perth’s top restaurants, including Rockpool?)  As if that wasn't decadent enough, the dish was topped with generously thick shavings of truffle.  The flavours and textures transcended description – you had to be there to understand.

I never say no to a good sticky, but the sauternes appeared to be an interesting choice of accompanying wine, but all became clear on tasting it – sweet kumquat and citrus-peel flavours were complemented by some mineraliness, which paired well with the foie gras and truffle.

The next highlight was the veal blanquette (although I couldn't really detect the egg in it), again generously topped with thick shavings of truffle with rice, served in a small enamel pot, sporting a subtle flavour so as to serve as a canvas for the flavour of the truffle.  One of my guests, Richard exclaimed that he had never enjoyed veal so tender with the meat falling apart in the thick gravy.

The third highlight was the dessert, specially designed by Chef Emmanuel so as to complement the flavours of the truffle dishes beforehand.  The perfect chocolate crème bavarois dome covering the caramel tart was so glossy you expected it to be a hard shell, and diners expressed surprised when it turned out to be a soft, creamy layer.  As if the dessert wasn’t French enough, Chef Emmanuel incorporated half a stick of Caramba, a French caramel lolly, into the mix!
There was also a bonus “entrée” dessert which was not listed on the menu – a mini rice pudding in a little ramekin to tide everyone over while the “main” dessert was being plated up en masse.

The front of house was also superb, efficiently and quickly bringing the dishes to each diner in good order, and despite the pressure and constant bustle, it was never difficult to get the attention of someone to replace a lost napkin or refill a glass of wine for those who wanted to revisit their favourite drop that evening.

The Menu

Laurent Perrier Brut NV (on arrival)

Marbré de foie gras et truffes de Manjimup, pain de campagne par Jean Pierre Sancho
(Marble of foie gras and Manjimup truffles, with country bread from Jean Pierre Sancho).
2008 Carmes de Rieussec (Sauterne)

Lièvre a la Royal et quelques Châtaignes dans un bol
(Hare a la Royal with some chestnuts in a bowl)
2009 Cèdre Heritage Cahors Malbec
Blanquette de Veau truffées a la ancienne riz pilaf
(Veal blanquette, truffles and rice pilaf)
2009 Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin

Fromage du jour: la Buche d’Affinois, pate de coins
(Cheese of the Day with home made quince pate)
2009 Howard Park Chardonnay (Great Southern)

Crème Bavaroise au Caramba et tarte au caramel
(you can work this out yourself!)
Moet et Chandon Nectar NV