Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wine, Dine and Escape to Bimbadgen

There is something captivating and enchanting about the Hunter Valley region. Some would say it’s the sight of beautiful green vineyards and others will say it’s the numerous wine estates that produce wide range of wines. I say it’s all of the above and more! There are restaurants that use high quality local produce, accommodations for the perfect getaway, striking views, chocolates and beautiful smelly cheese!
Bimbadgen's visitor centre
 Having said all of that, I could not turn down an invitation for an overnight escape to Bimbadgen, which is right in the heart of Hunter Valley. Bimbadgen is an Aboriginal term meaning “place of good view” and “good view” is an understatement to describe the scenery at this wine estate. The views were mesmerizing and it brought about a certain calm and soothing feeling inside me. But Bimbadgen is not just a pretty face, it is also home to Hunter Valley’s finest wines and award winning restaurant.

Bimbadgen's private wine tasting room
 Bimbagden Estate includes 39-year-old vineyards. The Estate’s very own senior winemaker, Sarah Crowe took us to their private wine tasting room to get us to try some wines from their range. Thanks to Sarah's passion and knowledge, my limited understanding of wines has been broadened.
Bimbadgen Sparkling Semillon
 The Sparkling Semillon is Bimbadgen’s unique version of a Semillon. It is citrus with a taste that’s almost close to an apple.
The iconic Semillion
The Chardonnay from their Estate range has a nutty oak flavour. This particular chardonnay has made me appreciate this type of wine more than I used.
Region Sauvignon Blanc
Their Region Sauvignon Blanc is not too grassy and has more of a tropical fruit taste. It has the aromas of guava and snow pea.
Gewurztraminer Orange
The Gewurztraminer Orange reminds me of rose petals, ginger and Turkish delight. It is like the chai tea of wines. It is a perfect match for Asian spicy dishes.
The Rose from the Ridge range is not overly complex and is fun to drink. It is strawberry in the nose and the palate.
Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir has an aroma that reminds me of wasabi. The intensity is subtle and has a palate of ripe berry flavours.
Cabarnet Sauvignon Merlot

Signature Shiraz
 The Signature Shiraz has a spicy herbal and savoury taste.
Myall Road Botrytis Semillion
The Myall Road Botrytis Semillion is my favourite of them all. It is a wonderful dessert wine that is aromatic and has a sweet citrus fruit taste. It also has some sort of marmalade presence in its taste. It is perfect with cheesecake and other creamy desserts.
Fortified Verdelho 
The Fortified Verdelho has a toffee butterscotch scent. It leaves a fruity and creamy sugar taste. It eventually becomes light in the palate.

Also, as Bimbadgen focuses on being environmentally friendly, their bottles are 28% lighter than most wine bottles in the market.

Inside Esca Bimbadgen

Esca Bimbadgen's balcony 

After the wine tasting session, we were taken to Bimbadgen's award winning restaurant, Esca. All dishes are perfectly matched with the best-suited wine. Chef Ebonnie Newby and Sarah's brilliant minds met up one day to create a menu that showcases the perfect marriage of wine and food.
Cured salmon

Risotto of celeriac, chive mascarpone, toasted walnuts; with Bimbadgen Pinot syrup. Suggested Wine Match - Bimbadgen MCA Series 2011 Gewurztraminer 
The risotto of celeriac, chive mascarpone, toasted walnuts; with Bimbadgen Pinot syrup ($21) was so awesome that I wish it were the size of a main dish! I like how the toasted nutty flavour from the crushed walnuts compliments the creaminess of the well-seasoned risotto and smoothness of the mascarpone. The sweetness from the drops of pinot syrup heightens all the flavours in the dish.
Byron Bay pork belly, cassoulet of butterbeans, kassler and sage, caramelised pear. Suggested Wine Match - Bimbadgen Family Collection
2009 Bald Crusader Shiraz

My heart got so excited as soon as I saw the Byron Bay pork belly, cassoulet of butterbeans, kassler and sage, caramelised pear ($24) in the menu. The pork belly was perfectly cooked and crispy crackling was well seasoned. The caramlised pear was divine and it also went very well with the rich pork belly.
Confit of duck Maryland, roasted quince, golden baby beetroots, red wine jus.  With a tasting of Bimbadgen Regions 2010 Pinot Noir
I have so much love for classic French dishes and a confit of duck is one of them. The confit of duck Maryland, roasted quince, golden baby beetroots, red wine jus ($36) is a classic dish with a contemporary twist. The skin was delicately crispy and the meat is very tender. As it was cooked in its own fat, the amazing natural flavour of the duck was well intact. The jus was very flavoursome.
braised Cowra lamb shank, de-boned and rolled in prosciutto, with soft polenta, broad beans, raisin compote. With a tasting of Bimbadgen Estate 2010 Shiraz

The braised Cowra lamb shank, de-boned and rolled in prosciutto, with soft polenta, broad beans, raisin compote ($35) is the highlight for me! I mean it was a super tender lamb shank, pulled and wrapped in glorious prosciutto! What is there not to love? But wait, Chef Ebonnie took it to another level with some creamy polenta. Just after my taste buds were taken to heaven by all of that, a taste of the tangy-spiced raisin compote takes you to space and beyond!

As I was so full from all those amazing dishes, I had to decline dessert. But I guess that's even more reason for me to return to Esca right?

Hello there kangaroos! Whassup?

After a wonderful lunch, I was given the keys to the cottage. It is located on the other side of the Estate right next to the vineyards. I could not help but be in awe of the scenery surrounding the cottage.

Bimbadgen cottage

Inside Bimbadgen's cottage

The cottage is absolutely beautiful and had a sense of comfort country living. It had two bedrooms. The cottage can accommodate up to four people. It features a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, a living room area (including an LCD TV, DVD and a CD player), and a luxurious bathroom. There is also a swimming pool nearby. Barbecue equipment is also available for those who want to enjoy this country getaway to its fullest. Contact the Bimbadgen Administration on 02 4998 4600 for further information.

We were also pampered with a dinner hamper by Chef Ebonnie, which was personally delivered by Carlie to our cottage.
Bimbadgen's vineyard

Waking up to the sight of magnificent vineyards in the morning brings warmth and delight to one’s heart.

Bimbadgen is a shinning gem amongst Hunter Valley’s most treasured winery estates. Not only does it truly represent all of the region’s best features, but it also is the perfect getaway for families and couples who want to experience Hunter Valley’s splendid beauty.  Bimbadgen is not just a “place of good view”, but a place of excellent wine, food and friendly people.

I would like to thank all the staff at Bimbadgen for being such wonderful hosts during our stay. A special mention to Karen Evans (marketing manager), Sarah Crowe, Carlie Gargan, Chef Ebonnie Newby and Milly Davey (of Agent99 Public Relations) for making the whole experience a getaway to remember.

Ramen Raff was invited by Agent99 Public Relations as a guest at Bimbadgen.

790 McDonalds Road,
Pokolbin  NSW
Bimbadgen's Facebook page - click here
Trading hours
Bimbadgen Cellar Door

Sunday to Thursday - 10am to 5pm

Friday and Saturday - 10am to 7pm

Esca Bimbadgen Winery Restaurant:

Lunch - 7 days - 12pm to 4pm

Dinner - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday –
Bookings from 6pm.

Bookings Essential

Bimbadgen Administration  -  02 4998 4600

Bimbadgen Cellar Door  -  02 4998 4650

Esca Bimbadgen Restaurant - 02 4998 4666
Esca Bimbadgen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ladurée, Sydney

 A dream of mine is to someday travel to Paris and sample all the gastronomic treasures it has to offer. I am a huge macaron lover and Paris is like the Mecca of macarons. One place that I am really keen to visit is the patisserie giant known to the world as Ladurée.

 Part of that dream has come true! A piece of Paris has landed in Sydney in the form of none other than Ladurée. It is located in Westfield Sydney (near the Glasshouse and Castlereagh Street entrance). The store looks so elegant and refined. The displayed macaron towers are so enticing that it is almost impossible not to pop by to check out the store.  Pierre Desfontaines was the brilliant mind and pastry chef of Ladurée responsible for the creation of these glorious morsels during the 1930s.

My first attempt to purchase macarons was a complete failure as the line was too massive! On my second attempt, I was lucky! A super early lunch was the key. This is what I came across:

Cafe latte
I decided to dine in and have a latte with my macarons just to beat the long takeaway queue.
Liquorice, pistachio, and salted caramel macarons
I opted to have the salted caramel, pistachio and liquorice macarons ($3.20 each). The salted caramel filling had a tiny hint of salt and was not overly sweet. The pistachio tasted exactly just like a pistachio nut. I'm not a big fan of liquorice lollies but the only form of liquorice I'll ever have is in the form of Ladurée's macaron version of it.
Another thing I loved about the macarons is that the shells are perfect! A slight crisp as you bite into it and the rest of the shell has a very delicate chewy texture that melts in your mouth.

My takeaway macarons (day 1) - Liquorice, ghana chocolate, salted caramel and pistachio
My takeaway macarons (day 2) - top to bottom: strawberry marshmallow, vanilla, coffee, and violet marshmallow
All the macarons are imported from Switzerland. I guess it's to make sure that they keep a consistent quality across all stores worldwide. One thing is for sure, Ladurée has won my heart! Their macarons are nothing short of excellent. Can't wait until they start selling cakes and other pastries.

Ladurée, Sydney
Level 3
Westfield Sydney
Corner Pitt and Market Streets

Ladurée on Urbanspoon