Gracious hosts, glorious food & Grange:

Surprises are such fun and doubly so when an outstanding event
is planned and orchestrated by your children to show their love and to say
“thankyou’’ for being good parents.

Such was our joy when we dined on a superb five-course
dinner with our children in their home and drank together the best Australian
wine – a Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1990.

Our extra-ordinary evening was shrouded in mystery when in  June the children asked us to book
Saturday, August 13 at 4.30pm for a “special event’’.   A formal invitation followed and we reckoned such a fuss was surely to announce their first pregnancy.

But when son Tyson stood at the door and welcomed us to l‘hotel de Williams dressed in a suit and tie wearing a small black brimmed hat, we thought it would be a murder mystery party. And this thought festered when he ushered us blindfolded through the open plan dining area (draped in black curtains) to get changed in a bedroom.  Then blindfolded,  like children playing pin-the-donkey, we were led  into the games room to greet Vanessa’s parents John and Sandra Herbig.

Our suspense was short-lived when the children stood in the arched  doorway and told us we were about to celebrate John and Sandra’s retirement and the completion our new retirement home.

“But we also want to celebrate how lucky we are to have you as our parents and to thank you for all that you have done for us both,’’ said Tyson. (Olivier is Tyson’s much-loved step-father.)

And with those heartfelt words we were shown to our seats. Before us  was a stunning l’art de la table – a beautifully dressed table, reflecting the fact that Vanessa was dux of the Cordon Bleu Hotel and Resort Management Bachelor degree course.

An extraordinary five-course published menu lay on our placements listing an amazing accompanying wine list.  Two decanters were behind us on the sideboard alongside an impressive array of wine bottles and glasses.

This was to be quite a night because there were three Penfolds wines on the menu and with no time to ponder on the magnitude of this, Tyson was pouring us a Belle Epoque Perrier Jouet 2002.

A generous antipasto platter was followed by a French culinary masterpiece – Veloute de Volaille or Velvety Cream of Chicken Soup. It delivered handsomely on smooth texture and taste and we savoured each creamy mouthful with the wine Tyson had poured – the first Penfolds – a Reserve Bin 05A Chardonnay 2005.

Basil and Lime Sorbet arrived in spectacular style. Vanessa had made bowls of ice blocks in which she placed three scoops of cool ice – after which we were invited to rest in the living area. This was time for Tyson to cook the main course of Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb while Vanessa handled the accompanying potato and horseradish cake and garlic beans.

Meanwhile, we “oldies’’ dozed off in sublime contentment before the smell of the cooked lamb aroused us .

“Ha, ha, it’s only 7.30pm,’’ laughed Vanessa. “Who can’t hold their Penfolds? The evening is just beginning!’’

Now was the moment.    With our plates before us filled with crusty lamb with a sauce spooned over the pink cutlets– Tyson brought over the piece de resistance – a carafe of the precious Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1990 which had been airing since 10am.  He told us how  he had bought it on-line at a wine auction specialy for tonight’s celebration.

It was an absolutely gorgeous wine and I salivate simply writing about it now.

“We really wanted to open a bottle of Penfolds Grange with our parents; It’s something my parents would never do and we knew Olivier, being French, would love it,’’  said  Vanessa as we all posed for photographs of ourselves with Australia’s premium wine variety.

“His work colleagues gave him a 1980 Grange for his 30th birthday and we decided we would buy another to share  with you and Olivier when the new house was built and when our parents retired.’’

This was a supreme wine and we chinked our glasses, swirling the rich red wine around the glass and smelling the aroma.

Quirky husband took his white napkin placed it over his head and around the wine glass to roars of laughter. “May this moment never end,’’ he murmured of its fulsome nose. Then, I took that first never-to-be-forgotten taste. No more than a sip to begin with, before a wonderful mouthful.

Against such a sublime moment, I created  a stir when I announced the lamb was too raw and placed my three chops back in the oven. Roars of disapproval could be heard from Tyson and husband Olivier. “It is perfect,’’ they retorted in  unison.
But I am not yet French, so my meat needs to be medium!

A decanter filled with one last Penfolds, a superb St Henri Shiraz 1998 awaited us with salad and French cheese – a special selection the children bought at  Smelly Cheese at the Adelaide Central Market.  Fromage de Meaux – Brie de la Brei (Ile de France);  Delice du Poitou Bleu de Basque and an English cloth bound 18 month old hard cheese from Devon were served with crackers and a crusty baguette.

“I think what makes me happiest is that we were able to share with our parents some fantastic wine and food and to experience  one on one with  them our close family bonds,’’ said Vanessa. “It was a wonderful evening together,’’ said Vanessa, whose day job is boardroom and catering manager for PWC Accountancy firm.

“I am lucky with my work that I am not in a restaurant all the time, but I still work with food and function planning, and I haven’t lost my passion to use my tools of trade at home; Of course Tyson loves doing the mystery stuff.’’

Sheer joy and camaraderie filled the space. We could only surmise how many weeks of planning this wonderful act of love had required to prepare and present such a fabulous feast.

“The planning was fantastic fun,’’ she said. “We sat around for hours looking at recipes.’’

“The best moment, of course, was when Tyson opened the top Penfolds Grange the crème de la crème of Australian wine and one of the best years as well and poured a glass for each of us.’’

However, there was one last moment of sweetness – a delicious, simple dessert centred around the Black Noble by De Bortoli and to finish our supreme evening, we devoured Black Forest Affogato.

Christmas lunch at our new house when they all return to chez nous will be quite a challenge.

PS: For Penfolds wine lovers, the tasting notes inThe Rewards of Patience by Andrew Caillard, Master of Wine notes: Penfolds Grange 1990 is “deep crimson. Powerful, ethereal, beautifully balanced wine with blackberry/plum/chocolate/sous bois/spicy aromas. A rich, ripe, immensely concentrated wine with generous sweet blackberry/plum/dark cherry fruit, mocha oak, some earthyflavours and velvety smooth tannins. Finishes long and chocolaty.  A superb Grange with tremendous energy, finesse and volume. 95 per cent shiraz, 5 per cent cabernet sauvignon.


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