December is a fantastic month for two reasons. 1. Its contains christmas and who doesnt love Christmas? presents and phenomenal amounts of food. AND 2. Its my birthday!! Woo hoo! Any excuse to party and get presents right? For a while now I've had my eye on the cocktail night at Cafe Vue, so I decided we were all in desperate need of a refreshing cocktail. And at $75 for 5 cocktails and matching small dishes, the value is incredible. The beauty of the cocktail night in December is that the cocktail de jour (or month in this case) was Christmas themed and so the power of my birthday and Christmas were combined to create an uber celebration!
There is one thing you can count on from the Vue empire and that is attention to detail. Every dish and cocktail was presented and explained to precision. Only problem is I have a bad memory at the best of times, when you throw in alcohol retention of detail is lost let alone remembering who I came with!! I'll try my best to include as much detail as possible, but towards the end the only details I might have is the colour of the cocktail, and I only know that because I have photos to remind me!
First up we have the Snowball Cocktail. This was a tequila and gin based drink, with nougat flavours, orange blossom, almond liquor and peach. It was designed as an aperitif to kick start you into the meal and get the mood flowing. They aimed to have the flavours recreate the feeling of a white Christmas. Later in the evening we were lucky enough to have a very interesting chat with the fellow who designed all the cocktails for the night and he let us in on some of the secrets. Originally the cocktail had an almond foam floating on top and was aimed to be paired with a dessert. But when Shannon Bennett designed his dishes for the night he moved the cocktail to the start and it transformed into an aperitif. I must say it was very refreshing and extremely delightful. It really hit on every single note, like an orchestra. It was a real pleasure drinking this. Everyone at the table wanted a second one, no strike that - we all wanted individual jugs of the stuff!
The first dish was Mandarin marinated tuna tartare with a little soya sauce, with dashi gel, and a ribbon of apple finished the dish off. The tuna was subtlety flavored and slightly oily which was a treat. I think this dish disappeared in record time, I remember thinking, wow this took longer to photograph then eat! Enough said right?
Second cocktail was The Gingerbread Man. This cocktail was designed to taste like ginger bread crumbs, it was a whisky based drink containing ginger bread syrup and smarties, it also had a foam of some sort (alcohol works quickly on me). After speaking to our inside source, he told us that he worked with the pastry guys from the kitchen to develop his syrups that he uses in his drinks. You can really tell that the drink is not just one dimensional, where it contains just alcohol to get you hammered. Instead it works a little like food and tries to interact with more than one portion of your palate. For me, I enjoyed this drink, I'm a fan of ginger bread so this was a winner for me.
We had a ball with this one, everyone had different coloured smarties and once you mixed your drink a beautiful hue would develop. One of my friends, Miss Coco LV (named after her two favourite designers) ended up with a very festive green number.
The dish to accompany the ginger bread man was a Pigeon ballotine with chicken pate wrapped in brioche topped with curly lettuce which had been simply dressed with olive oil. Oh how I wish all bar food was this tasty. The perfect size to pick up with your hands and shove into your gob, two bites and its down. "Quick! where's the waiter, maybe we could steal someone else's serve!"
The third cocktail was Mrs Clause, very descriptive right? Daz joked that it was Mrs Clause blended up with Vodka, a punishment for not helping around the north pole. When the drink arrived I thought for a second she really was in the drink! It was a brilliant blood red colour. Christmas will never be the same now! Our very helpful waiter explained what really was in the drink. This was a Bourbon based drink with cherry liquor, tarragon flavours, cherry syrup and aniseed flavours, which was to compliment the dish it was matched with, pork. When talking to our insider friend, he reveled that the level of herb was upped in this drink when he realised what it was going to be paired with. The aniseed flavour goes well with the pork, but this was my least favourite drink of the night. I found it too powerful and difficult to drink without any food. Although I'm not a big fan of aniseed, I can see how this could be a very refreshing drink to have on a sunny afternoon.
Mrs Clause goes really well with some pork, so we had Confit pork neck, which was slow cooked for 36 hours with kipfler potato and herb, I suspect tarragon, mash & red wine sauce, served with potato crisps. This was a very hearty dish and was really enjoyable. Not the best slow cooked pork I've ever had, but the lumpy mash was quite tasty.
Its funny when you've had a couple of drinks, potato crisps somehow look a little different. Anyone else see Pacman???
Our fourth cocktail was Sleigh Bells, which was a glass of Pirie Vintage Champagne from Tasmania. I'm sure the waiter explained why it was called Sleigh Bells, but I don't remember why. The champagne was used as a palate cleanser to prepare us for our dessert course.
Our fourth dish was Comté cheese from France with beetroot & smoked bone marrow salad, and a watermelon circle. The bone marrow had been extracted and smoked to impart a real meaty flavour to the beetroot salad which were thinly shaved pieces of beetroot sitting on top of a dollop of Buffalo yogurt. I love cheese so saying anything about this dish is slightly bias, I loved it, every single drop of it. I was going to lick my plate, but then I remembered I was in the presence of company.
Our last cocktail was Under the Mistletoe, which was a Cognac based drink with orange, star anise, caramelised fig syrup, orange liquor and another spice I cant remember. This drink was a great way to end the night, the intense star anise would have been difficult to follow. And in my opinion, cognac is such a grown up drink, so finally I was begging to feel my age.
My heart almost stopped dead when I read what we were having for dessert. Some of you my already know that I love basil. If basil were a rock star I would so be its stalker. Some my say my love for basil is slightly unhealthy, I once asked Daz if we could name our first born Basil, irrespective of gender. He said no.....sigh. I should get back to the dessert. Tartare of fig, white chocolate and mascarpone mousse, topped with a disc of white chocolate and a smear of fig jam then drizzled with warm basil oil. The white chocolate is melted into the glass by pouring the warm basil oil over the top. I'm going to go there, best dessert EVER!!
I wanted to hijack the waiter and steal the jug of basil oil and drink it right there...too much?? I was pretty lucky, I pulled out my camera to take snapps of the pouring and ended up getting an extremely generous serving of the basil oil...score! To me, everything was perfect, the softness of the figs, the lusciousness of the mousse, the warmth from the basil. FYI, I am going to try to recreate this dessert, I'm hoping many many many failed attempts, so I can justify constantly making more and more basil oil.
The night was a roaring success, and I strongly recommend getting down to Cafe Vue for a cocktail night in December, for two reasons, value for money, and the dessert!!
Ok, now I really have had too much to drink, there's pacman again!!