Back in the game #Round2

I’m back.

Back in Singapore, my second trip in 2016. Unfortunately work dogs me amd is making a monkey of my Chinese New Year holiday.

Back on this blog, since Oct 2015. I got really annoyed by several requests to remove less than flattering honest opinions of my dining experiences.

Back in wine. Not that it’s ever left me, but we needed a break from each other. It was time to reacquaint myself with the dusty bottles lying right at the back of my collection. Time to go back to the roots of my wine discovery. Back to when I first drove about the Barossa Valley in a rental car.

In 2002, Torbreck had broken through to the flag hoisting honour for Australian wines in North America. Lots has changed in the past decade. Trends come then crash. Heads change hands. Even the best stubborn wines will evolve however slowly.


The 2002 Factor has loosened its grip ever so slightly. Impressive nose, still intense on the dark berry fruit, hints of clove and fruitcake spice.  Smooth silky texture… then POW!!! A punch of acid smashes the tastebuds. It is a refreshing eye-widening reminder that time can’t destroy our origins. This is a Barossan wine through and through. This is a Dave Powell crafted wine no doubt. Rich flavours of blackberries, anise, black plums. The shackles of new French oak have long gone but the robust structure and framework of this amazingly crafted wine remain in its long lingering finish. Drinking awesomely now. Why not a 100?

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Turn vego? No thanks

Easting meat causes cancer.

That’s the fearful message that all news outlets are spreading this morning. Never before have I been more afraid of getting into a conversation with a vegetarian and be slobbered with ‘I told you so’s. This time, they are more smug on the backing of the WHO.

The headlines read ‘Processed meats do cause cancer’ – BBC; ‘Meat probably carcinogenic’ – CNN; ‘Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes’ – Guardian.

Everyone should make up their own minds on your lifestyle and diet. So I’m just going to express my personal view, not preach.

Am I going to change my diet? No.
I purchase fresh cuts of meat from the butcher, and only bought bacon and salami twice in the last 6 months. My meals have proportionately more leafy greens, beans and grains. If anything, I should really consume more fish (and truffle brie, always room for more truffled soft cheeses).

Am I going to change my eating habits? No.
I have more meat in my meals on the weekends after my weekly shop. Then portion accordingly across the working, making up with vegetables and fruit. I probably order bacon for Sunday brunch once a month on average. I loved the occasional sausage stew in winter, and two large pork and fennel sausages with soft steaming chunks of potato each sitting kept me satisfied.

What I’m getting at is that it’s all about your own personal lifestyle choices to make a responsible decision of how much meat you put on the end of your fork. Certainly don’t just pig out on 6 sausages every day, or attempt to get your daily meat intake from McDonald’s. One, that’s fast food, and a whole other arguement. Two, meat… well that’s debatable but that describes ‘processed meat’ perfectly.

But the WHO says so, so it must be true!

Well hang on, the headlines haven’t included any numbers. So let’s read the actual content of the report before jumping to conclusions. Let’s first define what processed meat is. It’s modifying meat to alter it’s taste, texture or shelf life. So generally any meat which goes through smoking, salting, fermentation, or the addition of chemical preservatives. Of those, I think I’d take my chances with salted and smoked over chemical additives. Also, we’ve long known that smoking is strongly associated with carcinogens from the wood fires. So why don’t we throw in smoked trout (yum!) and other fishes into this same discussion? What about smoked chicken breast (white meat)? Heck, char-grilled vegetables, we should stop eating those too!

As indicated clearly in the press release by the International Agency for Research on Cancer Research (IARC), red meat is a probable carcinogen based on limited evidence. In other words, there are signs, but it is by no means conclusive. Proceed with caution for now. Let’s continue to compile the evidence from large cohort studies before we drive the meat stock industry to the ground. Processed meat has been classified as a carcinogen associated with colorectal cancer and linked to pancreatic and prostate cancers. Being the informed audience that you all are, I hope that despite that you will take measured decision in managing your own consumption keeping in mind that we are surrounded and exposed to multiple carcinogens in our daily lives.

Finally, back to numbers, what is the relative risk burden imposed by eating processed meat? Estimates indicate that each year, smoking kills 1,000,000 people and alcohol kills 600,000. In comparison, 34,000 lives are lost due to cancer associated with consumption of processed meats. So the mortality cost is 30x less than smoking and 17x less than alcohol-related cancer deaths. These figures are by no means absolute because it is very difficult and close to impossible to control for other diet, environmental, work and lifestyle factors which could skew the risk for developing cancer.

At the end of the day, this WHO declaration should not drive you to stop eating processed meat, or red meat. Eliminating red meat does not prevent cancer. It just makes sense to have a balanced diet, high in green leafy vegetables and fruit, with moderate amounts of red and white meats. Exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy disposition, and key to preventing obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Moderate consumption of alcohol if desired, and absolutely no smoking.


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Pinot Grigio / Gris, the Victorian way

The start to the week has us heading for a typical Melbourne Spring. Warm Monday then a baking Tuesday (well, it felt that way on the basketball courts). Then as I’m typing this, the nightly silence of my quiet street is occasionally punctuated by the heavy drops of rain hitting my balcony. Bet that won’t last long. I’ve been quite hasty pulling out the wines this evening, the warm air and my bowl of noodles with minced pork, string beans and chilli oil was just too inviting a combination.

Jack Rabbit Tars Roses D'Sas Pinot Grigio Gris 2012 2015 Simple Palates Seriously

With the magic of the screwcap, I’ve pulled out the last of two 2010 Pinot Grigios, a Tars & Roses and a Jack Rabbit. Almost 4+ years since their release, the freshness of these wine clearly demonstrate the value of the screwcap for extending the life of white wines that would otherwise be typically consumed within the first 2 years.

The Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio 2012 is from the Bellarine Peninsula, the across-the-bay brother of the Mornington Peninsula. Similarly classified as a cool climate area, it’s a lot flatter and the bay breeze does penetrate inland somewhat effectively. This pale yellow Pinot Grigio weighs in at 13.4% alc and won Best of Show at the International Cool Climate Awards in 2013. Light aromas of green pear, kumquat spritz, creamy custard, hint of curing brine. A tasty medium-bodied wine, rich white peach and pear flavours with a firm acidic backbone. The broad flavour palate is very enjoyable, and a long lingering finish. This would be great with some oysters to start, followed by grilled strips of peppers, green olives and fat buttered up scallops! Drink now. 90. $25, 2015 vintage sold out.

Moving way inland towards Nagambie, the Tar & Roses Pinot Grigio 2012 is slightly cheaper and more easily found at your usual wine stores ~$18/btl. It’s got a much deeper yellow colour than the Jack Rabbit, with a slight pink tinge even. A much more revealing and open nose, stewed green pear, musk, ripening nectarines. 13.8% alc, sheer palate cleansing acidity, this medium-bodied wine leaves a bone-dry residue of pear, quince, stonefruit flavours. The finish fades out nicely. Drink now. 88.

Much younger, and from even further North in the King Valley, the D’Sas Pinot Gris 2015 makes for easy drinking at $22, purchased from Black Hearts & Sparrows. Pale coloured, young fresh notes of nashi pear and white grapefruit, touch of Indian cooking spice too. This single vineyard wine has a fleshy mouthfeel, delicious, the acidity isn’t too striking but it’s definitely there. 13.5% alc. The filling texture makes it ideal for roast chicken with potatoes and gravy, or a rich creamy tortellini with rare veal medallions. Drink now. 89.


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Unico Zelo Berry Blosom Rosato Nebbiolo 2015, Clare Valley

Unico Zelo was established by Brendan and Laura Carter in 2012 but despite being a fledgling in this ultra competitive industry, it has an impressive portfolio of wines and even a perfume business wafting through the cool Adelaide Hills. They are a nominee in the 2015 Young Guns of Wine competition. Their fianos are interesting and worth locating, especially if you’re thinking of making dinner out of sushi or grilled fish.

Unico Zelo Berry Blossom Nebbiolo Rosato 2015 Clare Valley Simple Palates Seriously

$25 from Black Hearts & Sparrows (or order direct). This 2015 Rosato is a delicious wine with an orange-red blush colour. It is made from 25 year old Nebbiolo vines at Polish Hill River, an area more renown for Rieslings. The colour is rather eye-catching because you don’t see many Australian rosés of this colour, let alone ones made from Nebbiolo (SC Pannell Arido Rosé is the other that springs to mind). It has a fragrance of strawberries, cherries and sweet rose essence. On the palate, there is plenty of fleshy berry flavours, summer ripe cherries, and touch of savouriness from the smooth velvet tannins. Good structure, nothing too out of step. Slight blackcurrant/ribena on the lingering finish. Certainly a warmer styled rosé, for one of those cooler summer evenings over the bbq. Drink now. 91+


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Pastuso, the little Peruvian restaurant that could + Alta Alella Tallarol

Pastuso ACDC Flinder Lane Simple Palates Seriously

Pastuso is a Peruvian cevicheria, pisco-bar and grill sitting at the end of ACDC Lane. It shares the bustling Flinders Lane block with Yu-U, Eau de Vie, Chin Chin and Lee Ho Fook. It is not the most noticeable establishment, with its rather miss-able plain frontage and I think the graffiti on the laneway’s brick walls could probably garner more patronage during a day. Operating for just over a year now, this establishment chef’d by Peruvian Alejandro Saravia has earned modest ratings and reviews online (Zomato, Tripadvisor, GoodFood).

I recently tried their express lunch menu which offered a 2-course meal at two different prices – $25/$35. I thought this was unusually structured and I was slightly disappointed with the absence of a dessert option, suggesting the intention to steering the customer towards ordering additional desserts to add to the final bill. Also, just eye-balling the $35 menu, it is difficult to convince me that a beef stir-fry could be worth paying $10 more for. That $35 option should really have a seafood dish as well.

Pastuso express lunch menu Simple Palates Seriously

Having ceviche is an absolute must-have when partaking in Peruvian cuisine. Fresh fish naturally cooked by the sheer acidity of citrus, flavoured with some hot chillis for that extra zing. Pastuso has a ceviche bar which offers a fun view of the kitchen on-goings. While the NZ snapper used was firm and sweet, I did feel that the citrus marinade was disproportionately on the sweet side. Lots of sweet tang which overwhelmed the natural flavours of the fish. It also lacked a contrasting flavour like chilli, so I thought this was rather one-dimensional dish. The beef stir-fry wasn’t what I was expecting as it was a medium-cooked fillet propped with cassava spears and cherry tomatoes. I would have appreciated it if I had been asked how my meat was to be cooked, but I do not doubt the quality of the beef here. The side serves of salads to share were of well generous proportions and nicely prepared. My table ordered Picarones all-round, yummy sweet potato and pumpkin doughnuts glazed with cinnamon-infused sugar syrup and white chocolate mousse ($12 for 3). I’m tempted to return for the Suspiro a la Limena – a cream caramel PX meringue.

Pastuso NZ Snapper Ceviche Simple Palates Seriously

Lomo Saltado Grass-fed Gippsland Beef with cassava chips Pastuso Simple Palates Seriously

Picarones Sweet potato pumpkin doughnuts Pastuso Simple Palates Seriously

One plus point for Pastuso is its wine list which does offer some interesting wines at reasonable prices. I ordered the Alta Alella Tallarol 2014 ($63) which comes from Alella in Spain and is made through natural fermentation of Pansa Blanco, the local variant of the Xarel.lo grape. It is also fermented in clay amphoraes and bottled without additions of sulfur. This return to ‘old-school’ methods predictably yields an earthy, spiced, almost dry-cider style of wine with a cloudy yellow colour. (Note the colour difference between the 2014 bottling and the previous 2013) Yet, on the palate it is moderately weighted with savoury saltish flavours which pair nicely with fish (ceviche or swordfish skewers). An easy-drinking wine with a clean finish. Small production of only 1000 bottles. Drink now. 92.

Alta Allela Tallarol Pansa Blanca Xarello 2014 Pastuso Simple Palates Seriously

Alta Allela Tallarol Pansa Blanca 2013 Pastuso Simple Palates Seriously

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