12 Sep Saint Crispin, Collingwood
Invited for a cocktail crafting workshop hosted by Grey Goose, I found myself at Saint Crispin with great anticipation of what was about to unfold. These Taste By Appointment workshops have been held all over the world, but this is the first time Grey Goose has run them in Australia. Staff at the Thomas Olive bar made up some Le Fizz, which also happened to be the cocktail paired with the amuse bouche. Containing original-flavour vodka, St. Germain liqueur, lime juice and soda water, it’s designed as an apertif and thus could be used in place of champagne. It gave a real sensation of light freshness on the tongue.
Our affable and knowledgeable host, Joe McCanta, gave us a brief walk through the five basic tastes and the development of this sense. Formerly a jazz pianist, Joe has since delved into the world of drinks, becoming a sommelier and mixologist and is now a Grey Goose Global Ambassador. Grey Goose vodka is produced in France from the finest wheat grown in the Picardy region. The wheat used is the superior, soft winter wheat used in bread and patisseries, and the water used in production is natural spring water sourced from underneath the factory in Cognac. Their fine manufacturing process results in a premium vodka that is rounded and smooth.
Our first foray into our adventure was the bread. The unsalted bread had been specially made in-house so that we could see the difference provided by the butter and different varieties of salt.
The amuse bouche consisted of three components representing sweet, sour and bitter. Chicken with sweet raisin jam, sour hapuka ceviche with lime and coriander, and ocean trout with endives, cucumber and blood orange for bitter. I surprised myself by discovering my favourite of the three was the chicken because I don’t usually enjoy things that are overly sweet. My second preference was bitter. The three components were indeed strong and distinct in flavour profile, making it easier to decide on our taste preferences.
Insights gleaned from our starter course informed our decisions as we constructed individualised cocktails. Starting off with a glass full of ice and as much vodka as we wished, equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice were added, then further amounts of either to suit our taste buds. Also at our disposal for our experiment were bitters, mint (which when clapped, releases more flavour, and interestingly can’t be tasted when the sense of smell has been lost), coarsely ground black pepper and lemon rind.
On to umami, my definite favourite of all the basic tastes! Umami ingredients were cleverly combined to create a dish that I found incredibly enjoyable. Two different cuts of wagyu – rump and cheek – were accompanied by tasty parmesan gel and soil, miso eggplant and mushroom fricassee. Explaining that there is an increasing popularity in pairing cocktails to food courses instead of wine, each cocktail was matched with the courses we were receiving…or rather, the dish created to match the cocktail – the event is centred around the vodka after all. The cocktail paired with the main was certainly interesting, and Joe did mention it was a bit of a polarising drink. The Martini a la Truffe Maison comprised of Noilly Prat dry vermouth, black truffle butter and plum vinegar. The addition of truffle butter added something quite different to it and really made the flavours of the cocktail linger on the palate.
Our final dish in our taste exploration was dessert. It was a parfait of hazelnuts, caramelised pear, crispy phyllo pastry and almond gel that was delicate and a not complete overload of sweetness. This was matched with Grey Goose’s La Poire (Anjou pear) vodka, which was quite crisp, strong and sweet. Alongside our dessert were three chocolate orbs made by Sisko. The construction of the chocolates, in a way, makes the consumer savour the chocolates and truly appreciate the flavours and textures contained within. To go with our chocolates was coffee, to which L’Orange Grey Goose was added.
After dessert it was back to Thomas Olive, where the bartenders whizzed up some fantastic cocktails according to the flavours we specified. The whole event was a wonderful experience that was both entertaining and informative. Joe’s extensive knowledge and cocktail-conjuring expertise combined with wonderful food from Saint Crispin made for an enjoyable lunch.
300 Smith St
Collingwood, VIC, 3066
(03) 9419 2202