Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Citrus time

Excellent. It's the time of year where a citrus mix is a great way for me to start the day.

And this year I have grapefruit, tangelo, blood orange and lemon to make it work. And for this one I did a "ring in" with a navel orange.


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Mid winter - time to refill the potable tank

I have four rainwater tanks, coming off of four different roof sections. Could use a couple more. Only one of them we use for drinking water. The rest are great for the garden.

So I refill the potable tank in mid winter. The roof is clean, so are the pipes. I can pour out what's already in there and allow a huge downpour to put fresh water in there. Only needs to happen once a year. I think what I'll do for a little while is to let it pour out from the bottom into the garden, even while it's raining. So there will be no stale water in there.

I know it seems obsessive but these things - water, food safety etc are important. Imho.

A salad at this time of the year?

Yes. I have some tomatoes.

And I also have this. A variety specific vinegar from the village of St Emilion, "Le Moulin des Cepages".

This is a Merlot, but when I look at it there is still a fair amount of concentrated grape juice, so sweet too. Lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, that vinegar and a touch of good oil. Will be nice.

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Tomatoes - still?

Well that's good. This late in te season I'm still getting about four ripening a week.

If I'm lucky the ones under plastic will dovetail into them.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rare cheeseburger, my first meal in Paris

Saturday night, I'm cooking "daddy burgers" - no big deal but everyone seems to like them. Tomato, still from my garden lettuce beetroot some cheese and mayonnaise w ketchup. Fine.

But when I got to Paris the first thing I was offered was a cheeseburger. I laughed then realized how silly it was to laugh. The guy I was with loves his food. When the cheeseburger came it was incredible. They had asked how I wanted the meat cooked and then it was brilliant. The meat was fluffy - and rare as I'd asked for it - and everything about it was very, very nice.

I trusted the chef enough to eat a rare cheeseburger, and I was rewarded.

Still, mine tonight will be cooked through.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Bearded Iris for next season

I'm digging them out this weekend.They're normally $3 each at the ABC carpark caper but anyone who does gardening knows they multiply well.

I got a barrowload about this time last year from a neighbour who was reducing the volume in his garden. One gets more flowers if one divides regularly. Now's my turn. Only one colour - and I haven't decided whether I like them or not yet. One thing I know is I have too many.

So I'll give them away to my friends at work - or anybody else - early next week. Contact me by tweet mention @cullenofadelaid.
They'll be in sets of a dozen at a time. Just put them in the ground with the green bit at the top. Hard to kill.

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What do I love about winter?

Mostly I get SAD - seasonal affective disorder - but there are some good things. When the sun is out one can be pleased.

The spring flowering bulbs are moving

with the broccoli seedlings ready to go in

Citrus are ripening


when the season needs more vitamin C.

The woodpile is reducing

making room for the prunings that will come from the trees that are now ready for it.

The autumns leaves have almost stopped falling meaning that raking the garden actually tidies it and the rakings and green prunings go beautifully into the compost ready for spring.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time to turn the heap again

Lots of prunings sitting there waiting to go to the bottom of the pile. Well composted material waiting to go on the top and lots of rain coming down.

So the trick now:
Green on the bottom
Fallen autumn leaves on top of that
Chook or cow manure on top of that
Pile the mature stuff on top of that

It'll cook beautifully, by spring it'll be perfect growing media for when I transplant that tangelo and probably the blood orange.

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My $20 glasshouse timed out

How sad. The plastic I have used for three years to grow out of season tomatoes has just deteriorated with the sunlight UV.

Just as well I had already laid out another $20 for some more..

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Peches Plan

Or so my French friend refers to them. In Australia we simply call them "donut peaches" and I put a tree in last year (a tree that is doing VERY well). Jean-Eric says they are his favourite fruit.
I was feeling all quite happy with the fact that I was growing $9kg fruit in my backyard. It came up later that my friend is from the Loire valley and suggested my next trip we might spend some time there. Yes, my French friend - you win at every turn. A great pleasure to know you.

Lunch at L'Atelier

Well it was good last Wednesday. I raced around Paris, collected images and memories (what'll you do with only a day and a half?) and that was great, but lunch was an amazing experience. A once in a lifetime, to be honest. I enjoyed a magic time with a good friend and simply could not believe it could be done so well. Small portions of perfectly prepared food and wine that was really nice. This was called a "terrine" but it was 2mm thick and beautifully oiled and spiced fish.
The lamb was tiny, but perfect, and each broad bean was lovely too. And the mashed potatoes are impossible to describe.
Then some pork and more mashed potatoes while my buddy had some shellfish:

After a while we decided to have some prosciutto - I couldn't take my eyes off that ham, Jean-Eric tells me it's call Iberico, and the staff told me it gets fed on acorns. It did tastr like Nutella.

And so we had dessert too: J-E had something with rum and I had something with strawberries.

So I know I'm not being all gushy about it. Because that gets a bit old. But it truly was the best restaurant I'd ever been in.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Many thanks mon frere

Jean-Eric suggested I buy some macaroons from the premiere house of these things - La Duree. I went with it and as dessert, back here, after a Habel al la panna, we broke them out.

I was amazed at how well those simple little macaroons communicated everything I'd learnt about the French approach to food. Simple, small, clean and beautiful.
So many thanks, mon frere, you helped me share my experience.

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Longish wait in KLIA

Dateline Fri Jun 17, 2032hrs: Just like the Tom Hanks' "The Terminal" or the Kath & Kim ep where they never left the airport. I've been here at Kuala Lumpur international airport for 12 hours now. I hadn't packed my laptop power supply so work was truncated, and the wifi is patchy so still off the grid even using my mobile devices. So for the record it's 8.32pm in KL.

Still, after getting in at 6am from Paris, trouble getting a burger;

a foot massage, some wandering, an hour sleeping on benches and five in a transit hotel, then a bowl of beef noodles and some more wandering, I'm here at the Satay club with only about two hours to wait.

And the satay at B9 looks good.

I suppose I did manage to buy some cigarettes for a bud, ties for myself and pashminas for my lovely wife.

Home soon I suppose. And relatively refreshed.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chilling in St Jean

Well, one can never guess it can one? Le bureau de tourisme told me I only needed to be at the station fifteen minutes before the train left.

So two hours should be plenty. But I wouldn't have missed that beautiful relaxed lunch in Bordeaux for anything.

But I hadn't counted on "le pont", the public holiday. Everyone wants to go back to Paris tonight. So it appears I won't be. I'll be spending the night in a hotel across the road and leaving at 7am.

Some time to chill. Still it's a little $70 room and the "no show" charge for the Paris room is $85. And part of the experience. A nice chance to have another fantastic French meal.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Maccas didn't quite work out

Man I was up for it. But the promise just didn't look like it was going to be delivered. I know McDonalds like to be called "quick service restaurants" but the promise was once "fast food". And this doesn't look like "fast".

So a walk down the road to a tapas bar and I got some food.

But it probably doesnt spell the end of maccas. The lines were long.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fungicide named after a wine region

"Entre de mer" "between two seas"  was originally " between two tides, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers in Bordeaux. Mostly Merlot and some Cabernet Franc.

"Bordeaux mix" I get it now. Copper sulphate and lime, mixed with water and sprayed to inhibit fungus on vines. Being here in Bordeaux right now I can see how it's necessary - this summer is humid at times.

Note the rose to the left of the vine row. The canary in the coalmine. When the rose starts getting black spot it's time to start thinking about breaking out the fungicide.

Nature will out

Everywhere I look I see it. I agree with the philosophy of Gaia, if not always the conclusions and recommendations flowing from some of the arguments.

But I come to a landscaped garden here, nice as you like. Someone obviously put a lot of energy into this. Nature takes the free kick when she can. But I look a little closer and see the pool teeming with tadpoles or little fish.

Nature doesn't care. She'll find a way. With or without us. I wonder how we'll go?

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The Terroir

The little village of St Emilion has interesting soil. And the way the vignerons feel about making wine, it suits.
They say "the vine must struggle for life" and everything I saw today seems consistent with that. I saw no irrigation, so the vines survive on natural rainfall. Then there's the soil structure. They said it's a gravelly loam, then at about 1.5m there's a very thick (metres) layer of limestone which let's the water seep through it, then heavy clay. Much of the limestone was extracted for construction, which meant there were stones on the top (buildings) and holes underneath. Holes that got used as underground monuments and cellars.

So the vines put their roots down easily through the loam and as they get older, they force their roots into the porous limestone. So I would guess the little vines have great resilience. When we were down in the cellars I saw the evidence - a great deal of very fine roots making their way into the cave through the limestone walls.

This is certainly a place that is perfectly designed for making wine. A combination of soil, weather, culture that makes it just right. The word for it is "Terroir". So I finish with the lament of my new French friend Jean-Eric Pelet who saw a modern trendy cafe in St Emilion:

Where is the terroir?
 Oh, there it is...

Making wine in France and in Australia is very different!

I can't help myself. I can see why the French and Australian wines are so different. A visit to a winery here in the village of St Emilion in Bordeaux helped me understand.
Lovely Merlot, a lot bigger bunches than I have at home:
Pre ferment carbonic maceration and fermentation with wild yeast. Using a water jacket to heat the must to about 30 degC for fermentation
 Re-mix the pressings back in to add strength. They simply send off 20% of their ferment to industrial users - distiller medical alcohol etc - because it doesn't make the grade for them.
They only re-use 20% of their aging barrels and send the rest out too. He talks about "tannin support" and "acid support" which is a very nice way to think  of it.
In St Emilion the limestone was heavily extracted in mediaeval times which left a big hole that could serve as a cellar. And this winery uses it beautifully.
When we tasted their 2009 it was every bit as nice as you'd expect. It's rare that I taste a wine and consider it's worth the price they're asking, but this $180 per bottle wine was worth it. Strangely enough they only prced their 2008 at about $80. They really consider the quality of their wine.