Food Q&A: Grant Dickson and Tuoi Do, fermentAsian
Grant Dickson write: “It took more air miles and changes of direction than even the big supermarket chains would accept to get this not-so-fresh ingredient (me) to the Barossa. An oboe- and cor anglais-playing former teacher accepted the National Wholesale gig with Rockford back in 1998, and through the arduous responsibility of selling fine Barossa wine to great restaurants around Australia developed a passion for fine food, but always with a ‘this goes with that’ wine matching slant. I now find myself entrenched within a temple to my wife’s simple if extraordinary cooking, honing wine ideas that have been fermenting within for many years.
1. Favourite autumn ingredient: Mushrooms – Tuoi has included within the fermentAsian menu a simple, slightly rustic, galangal-dressed warm mushroom salad for some time. But the woody and earthy mushroom flavours always seem that bit deeper through the autumn months.
2. Wine to pair with that: My first thought is the 2011 Spinifex Papillon. I defy any MW (master of wine) to pick this blind as a Barossa Grenache blend. It is so savoury and herbaceous with notes of oolong and green pepper; it absolutely sings when matched with the sweet sour succulence of that warm salad. Equally adept at partnering this dish is a wine like the 2007 Rockford Local Growers Semillon. Here is a wine that absolutely expresses autumn with suggestions of a late-harvest orchard. Scents of last quinces remaining after most leaves have fallen, their golden waxy skins pockmarked with possum bites. And that underlying varietal savouriness that speaks of damp wood lots; pre-winter lichens and mosses re-inhabiting old stumps. There is a kind of symbiosis in the way the mushroom dish brings out the sweetness of the Semillon fruit, and the wine enhances the earth-sweetness of the dish. The wine’s full, deep, oxidative softness in the mouth is a perfect foil for the fine acidity of the galangal dressing.
3. Best autumn meal you have ever eaten: I still remember taking Tuoi to a White Truffle Degustation at a beautiful restaurant in Singapore’s Botanic Gardens called Au Jardin. The food was extraordinary, particularly as I was able to see each dish through Tuoi’s novice-diner eyes. It was back in November 2001 and represented her first western meal in a restaurant. I love that: first western restaurant meal – white truffle deg! The wines that evening were selected by Ignatius Chan, owner at the time of that establishment, and he included old Barolos and white and red Burgundies.
4. Favourite places to find ingredients: I love all things ethnic: sniffing around dingy Asian grocery stores, especially in Footscray or on Victoria Street in Melbourne. There are always some really exotic and often challenging-smelling ingredients that you need to ask about. If I’m not with my wife, the door of knowledge usually slams in my face, but if she is the one doing the asking, some wonderful herbs, spices or is-it-an-animal-or-a-vegetable-seafood discoveries can be made.
5. Grower you keep dialled into your phone: John and Jan Angas: We haven’t found the perfect fermentAsian lamb dish yet (they’re not big on lamb in Vietnam), but when the inspired Agnus Do (sorry) moment arrives, they’ll be getting the call!
6. Go-to cookbook: David Thompson’s “Thai Food”, as much for the stories and historical background as for the recipes.
7. Dusty cookbook on the shelf you want to revisit: My all-time favourite cookbook is Richard Olney’s “LuLu’s Provencial Table”. This book has been influencing my own cooking and thoughts about food for decades now. Notions of simplicity and profound flavour inform every dish, and the matriarch of the Domaine Tempier Vineyard in Bandol has some fantastic advice on how to use food to enhance particular wines. The cover and pages of this tome are spattered with the evidence of numerous great dishes past; it never really gets a chance to gather much dust!
9. Rotegreutze: revelation or revulsion? Revelation, but I think that it is a little unfortunate that so much Barossa food culture chatter is devoted to this and to dill cucumbers, etc. I love them both, but there is so much great produce being lovingly grown in our region that no one ever hears about.
10. New autumn idea: Tuoi’s new pork belly dish: Schu-Am Black Berkshire pork belly, masterstock poached, oven roasted and then served with this amazing orange and ginger sauce ladled over. Great zest and acidity balancing the translucence of the meat and the slightly crunchy, slightly gooey-chewy skin.
11. Wine to pair with that: Hard to narrow it to just one, but Fraser McKinley’s Sami-Odi 2010/11 Little Wine; 2007 Rockford Moppa Springs; Ruggabellus’s 2010 Fluus; Eperosa 2009 Totality; or any one of Marco Cirillo’s 1850 Grenaches all work brilliantly!
fermentAsian has taken the Barossa by storm, and won acclaim nationally, with its blend of modern Southeast Asian dishes and lovingly matched wines. Open Wednesday dinner through Sunday lunch. Bookings: (08) 8563 0765