The Anglo French 100 Year War Dinner

Top of the morning to ya govna and bonjoir! Today we get to visit the world of the foodies between France and England. But first, a little house keeping. Been super busy lately and haven’t had a chance to upload anything. So, better late than never, a big thanks to the peeps who have been hitting the like button on facebook and to my new followers “Spitting Optional“, “charlierobinson” and the email followers. Almost on to double digits! We are doing it people, we are doing it….so thanks thanks thanks and keep hitting that like button, better yet, type in your email on the right and hit follow. OK, onto the food!

The Hundred Year’s War was a series of wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by ze House of Valois (le French house of Anjou) and the House of Plantagenet (the English). The conflict not only changed Europe but forever changed the way we eat and drink blah blah blah. Welcome to My Kitchen Rules, the Master Class edition, where Gary and Manu explore the similarities that have adapted over time and have influenced Australian culture.

I catch the tram to Gary’s restaurant “Fenix” after work and get there way too early. I can see the table decorations through the window and the wait staff getting the pep talk so I sheepishly grab a few happy snaps with the Ipad and head downstairs to sit somewhere and perhaps steal wifi. I get to the entrance and who greets me at the door? Gary! Woah, little start stuck but keep my cool and explain I’m here for the dinner but I’m a little early. I get given a seat and a drinks list but as I turn the corner, who do I see? Manu! Hor Hor Hor! Man, it’s a bit surreal seeing these guys in the flesh!

I take a seat, text everyone about what just happened and keep myself composed enough to not take pictures, sip my water and try to eves drop. The view within Fenix is quite nice and the waiters are very polite and attentive to the few people there having dinner, setting my expectations quite high for the night. I get a call from Alex (who is technically my uncle) telling me he is only 10 mins away. Natalie (this missus) and myself are enjoying this evening with him and his partner Melina. I check out more of the decor and the wine racks and wait for a few more minutes before I get another text saying that he has made it and is sipping some Champagne. I scoot on up the stairs (obviously using the stairs closest to Gary and Manu :P) and find him with drink in hand talking to the MC of the night. The MC is quite the character, getting into costumes to entertain the arriving guests.

Champagne and canapés later…(and by the way, if there is a large version of the chicken and leak pie on the menu, I would destroy it so fast…) the ladies were still missing so we decided to bag the better seats on out table. Unfortunately, the other people on our table had the same idea so we were stuck with the “crappy ones”. I say crappy, but we were the ones closest to the front so they were still great seats. The tables were neatly decorated with the menu and a French/England coaster like flag (which earned a few autographs later in the night). There were 6 dishes, two entree’s, mains and deserts alternating in English and French. Nat and Melina finally make it and we finish off what’s left of the Champagne.
7.30, the door bell rings, your time starts…!

The mc comes out and uses quite a bit of Masterchef / MKR puns. Gary and Manu make a hilarious appearance in old school costumes and take the piss out of each other whist battling for their respective countries food dominance. It was a very engaging night. We got to ask questions to the chefs and win prizes if you were game/drunk enough. Everyone got a 25% off voucher and a bit of tongue in cheek from the celebrities along with happy snaps. So how was the food? Who’s cuisine reigns supreme? (It’s always Rokusaburo Michiba by the way…)

confit trout with horseradish cream, pickled cucumber, crisp bacon, radish & watercress
2010 Domaine Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc
Alsace, France

The first dish of the night looked great and enticing though the cuts of salmon were mixed between plates. It was a very simple dish, great flavours and a fully sick trout. The trout was very soft but firm enough to not be mushy. It wasn’t fatty and felt like a warm sushi. Well done (though we did find a bone! O noes!) The horse raddish cream added a bit of texture rather than flavours whist the watercress gave the dish a night peppery aspect. Could have done with some bacon hey!? Yup, dish one, missing an element! The bacon would have some great combination of salty flavours and a textural crunch to offset the soft fish.
The wine was a very good paring with the meal (best of the night paring hands down). Nose is very fruity, loads of fresh apple and some peaches. Palate is a great mix lemon zest offset by some tannin with hints of sweetness in the back. A sea salt seasoned granny smith apple. Finish med to short and slightly dry. With the dish, the wine became sweeter and a touch more balanced, looses the tannins and rounds out creamy and smoother. Awesome dish even with the missing bacon, spoiler: my favourite meal of the night.

escargot ‘snails’ pastisse cassolete
2009 Maitre Renard Chardonnay
Burgundy, France

The dish came out and it was nothing like what I was expecting. Looked more like a pie than snails. As people started to dig in, beautiful puff pastry goes everywhere! Extremely light whist tasting almost like brioche. The snails were hiding inside along with a confit of veggies, lighty seasoned, soft and moist and cooked very well. They gave off subtle hints of earthy and rustic flavours but were overpowered by aniseed/fennel flavours of the veggies and sauce. Interesting wine matching this dish.
The nose was alot like trail mix, some apricots, some almonds, cashews, seeds and gum nuts. The attack is sharp and accented by how chilled the wine is. Other than that, it comes off tasteless and very closed. I only get a bit of straw and fresh grass. Finishes quickly leaving shoe pastry and slight hints of coffee. Disappointing to start with but was excited with what it could be at room temp. Later on, the nose was similar but maybe some added mix of herb butter? Palate shows the wine to be a bit too alcoholic and a bit unbalanced actually. The wine brings up an almond flavour along with vanilla cream to the dish and accent that abalone kind of taste in the snails. Unfortunately I don’t think this was a good food and wine pairing and found the course lacking 😦

“pork, peas & onions” pork belly with slow roasted onions, smashed peas
2010 George Duboeuf Beaujolais-Village
Beaujolais, France

Back to England, we have some pork peas and onions. The dish smelt wonderful with the taste to boot. Pork is cooked very nice and melts in your mouth. As with the first dish, I found consistency lacking between plates. My pork has that soft mushy crackling (which still tasted nice) whist the guy next to me had a nice puffed up crunchy piece. Just my luck! In any case, the pork really stood out here in this dish whist the peas and onions were great accompaniments both visually and in rich flavours. The apple sauce and the wine worked to add some sweetness to the dish and bring things together. Speaking about wine…

Nose is…a bit on the cheap side? It comes at you with a strong sense of alcohol. There is a burnt caramel aspect, little bit of capsicum, touch of lychee and some black sesame. Exotic mix here but a bit all over the shop. Attack is light, surprisingly nice balance here; with the acid jockeying for position over everything else back with dull tannins. Mid palate is mild and a bit jumbled with, some black pepper, some cloves, dark slightly under ripe berries, dark chocolate and some roasted root veggies, think carrots with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Finishes well with a bit of length, some green capsicum, confectionary sugared liquorice, Kailua and a hint of worcestershire and soy sauce. It is a very interesting wine, loads of flavours and different aspects but wasn’t tied together very well and needed a heavier body to match the flavours. It did match the food so well done. Didn’t finish my glass though…

beef cheek bourguignon with carrot puree
3009 Les Courtilles Cote du Rhone
Rhone, France

le Bouf. The dish smelt great with that lovely red wine sauce. The meat was soft and had a great texture, nice BBQ kind of flavour with a pleasant sweetness. Carrot purée matches great with the beef, adding richness and building on the rustic and warming nature of the dish. The nose of the wine is also very rich with a hit of oak, bits of mint, some blackcurrants and cherry and hints of white pepper. There is a general sense of eucalyptus nuances. The palate is initially quite spicy, some chilli flakes and vietnamese mint, maybe coriander. These herbaceous flavours continue into the mid palate, cracked pepper, again chilly. It is a little rough on the palate, not from dry tannins. There is some rawness to the wine. Finish is the same spice, at med length. Reminds me of a chilly Japanese squid octopus flavour, and maybe some spicy dried seaweed? It’s very sea water here and reminds me of miso soup. With the food, the wine develops more of a cab franc character, brings out the root vegetable flavours, mainly carrot, along with some jam and custard. It also develops a mineral aspect at the finish. Not my favourite wine but a good wine pairing with the food. My second favourite meal after the trout.

fifth & sixth
sussex pond pudding
perfect chocolate tart poire belle helene
NV Delemere Sparkling Rose,
Tamar Valley Tasmania

And now for desert. At this point of the night, everyone was mingling around taking pictures, chatting up Manu (or Manu was chatting up) along with book signings so the meal almost played second fiddle. Since the same sparkling was served for both, I’ll start there. The nose is peachy with some grapefruit and a touch of toast. The grapefruit comes in on the palate and brings along some passionfruit. That’s about it. Semi dry wine with a dry sweet finish. Um…kinda bad sparkling, would have easily gone with the Champagne used for the canapés. Pazzzzz I guess it made the deserts taste better by comparison right?

Sussex pond pudding came first. Interesting pudding, wasn’t much to look at actually! It was very sticky and dense as you cut into it. Because of the viscosity of the pudding, I was expecting this to be very sweet but it was actually really nice and balanced, very bready, almost like a poached pear. In the centre was a jammy sauce which tasted like candied oranges and apricots. The vanilla ice cream was a nice complement to this dish.
I was surprised by this desert and almost forgot about the chocolate tart (luckily I didn’t’!). The chocolate tart must have been made with very dark chocolate and extremely well done! If you’re a fan of dark chocolate, this is for you. I definitely preferred this desert to the pudding. The almonds and pear add a great texture and flavour to the cake. Fan fucking tactic. I actually ate someone elses!

Both don’t go quite well with the champagne but who cares! After the tart, I propose a hi five moment! Best desert of the night (and probably the best dish hehehe).
We say our goodbyes, I hi 5 Manu for his tart, waddle to the car and head to the airport (another story…). All in all, it was a fun night. Verdict? England wins entree, France wins mains and desserts. Oui Oui! The event was a little overpriced for what we were served (especially disappointed about the wine quality, more so than missing bacon…bacon!). I guess if you asked me the question, “would you come again next year?” I would say no. Gary and Manu set themselves very high standards and should be judged thusly. I give them a 7 out of 10 (9 for the entertainment, they are a couple of funny buggers). However, I would definatly come to this event if you haven’t been before because of the fun and the experience the chefs put on for the guests.

Have a good day!