Monday, October 12, 2009

Something to Goat About @ Provenance, Smith Street

I don’t really like to make rules for myself. This is generally because I know I will just break them, but it’s also partly because I like to be flexible and go with the flow. Rules such as ‘I will get up at 7am everyday so I have time to make and eat breakfast’ or ‘I’m never again going to go out with someone who plays a musical instrument’ sound all good in theory, but there’s always a what if. I could never be a vegetarian because I hate the idea of saying no to anything. If someone says, ‘Do you want to come over to my house to try my family’s traditional roast buffalo dish?’ the last thing I would want to say is ‘I don’t eat meat, sorry’. The first thing I want to say is, ‘Thank you so much for inviting me! What time and where?’ I admire vegetarians, but I just cannot cut out that many food experiences. I. Want. To. Try. Everything! But I digress. The point is I’m no good at setting myself and following rules.

The ‘Seasonal Pleasures’ degustation series at Provenance, however, is all about rules. Setting themselves the challenge of creating a full extended meal revolving on one ingredient, the degustation at Provenance on Saturday and Sunday night was focused on goat. Six courses of goat related goodness. It seems that they did not allow themselves one transgression of the rule – every course did indeed contain goat (never fear, the dessert was based on goat milk, not goat meat).

After attending the last ‘Seasonal Pleasures’ degustation a couple of months ago – (How Mushroom is Too Mushroom?) I could not miss this one. The food was lovely last time and my only qualms were with the service which was a bit flippant. As soon as I sat down for Goat night however, it became clear to me that this night would be an improvement on the last (which was pretty darn good).

The first course was a tasting plate of goat meat charcuterie – oh, how I love charcuterie! The plate consisted of handmade goat sausage (one regular meat, one offal), goat parfait (a little like terrine or pate), marinated goat riblet, ‘biltong’ (kind of like a goat jerky) and a goat cheese combined with sun dried tomato, accompanied by olives and toasted almonds and bread toasts. It was served with a Mountain Goat beer – which I’m sure was chosen more for its name than its suitability as an accompaniment, but beer in general suited this dish fine. I enjoyed everything on the plate thoroughly but the regular sausage was my favourite. Boldly flavoured and incredibly tasty.

Before I could finish my beer the next course was being served up – onion tart tatin topped with confit goat with a béarnaise sauce. This was served with a very light Rose wine. The onion was deliciously caramelised, the goat rich and the béarnaise a good addition, if not making the whole dish a little too buttery.

The next dish was announced as a ‘palate cleanser’ though – presumably to make up for the rich butteryness of the previous one. Three goat raviolis in a white wine broth garnished with goat floss and red cabbage and served with a NZ Pinot Gris. One major improvement on the last degustation is the variety of wines this time around. For the mushroom degustation all the wines were from the same winery, which was a bit limiting and made you wonder whether the night had been sponsored by that winery. At an event of ambition such as this, you would assume that the wines had been chosen due to their close affinity to the dishes being served, not because they had been donated. Much of the chatter by the waiters to diners at the goat degustation seemed to be about how such and such a winery had heard about the goat night and ‘wanted to get involved’. I wondered whether this meant the wine had been donated. I have no real problem with this but it does make a difference to me whether the wine has been chosen for taste reasons or for convenience, and I think this should be declared somewhere.

The final savoury dish was a goat loin roulade with liver, wrapped in prosciutto and served on asparagus. I loved the crispness of the prosciutto and the tenderness of the goat meat. This was well matched with a Victorian Shiraz.

The dessert was a goat milk pannacotta with a berry compote. Here is where the rules seemed to fail a little. Although using goat milk for the dessert satisfies the idea of having a meal entirely devoted to goat, it probably would have been a better dish if dairy milk was used. The pannacotta was nicely flavoured but a bit too solid and not particularly delicate. The compote, however, was very tasty.

Finally (and with little room for me to fit it in) was a platter of Milawa goat cheeses – camembert, blue and cheddar, served with toasts and quince paste. Whilst very lovely cheeses, I again wondered if they’d all come from the same cheese maker for in-kind sponsorship reasons, rather than the merits of each of those cheeses. Perhaps I am too cynical. Doubts about the origins of the cheese did not do anything to deter me from appreciating it, however, and I managed to get it all in despite already being quite full. The camembert in particular was wonderful - creamy and oozy.

At $75 per head, the ‘Seasonal Pleasures’ at Collingwood’s Provenance represent very good value. The only improvement I can suggest is for a more pragmatic approach in the menu that preferences taste over self-imposed ingredient rules and matches wines more carefully to the dishes. The commitment to quality at Provenance is very clear and they are obviously quite excited by these degustation nights. I left very satisfied and slightly bulging.


Fitzroyalty said...

You're fast! I'm still writing my review. I thought it was excellent too - review coming in about a week maybe. The service was definitely better this time.

I spoke with owner Dave and at least some of the drinks are sponsored (ie donated) by the providers. Given the incredible quality and value of the meal, this is understandable. The shiraz is a $30 bottle (cellar door price) for example.

We need some secret food blogger signal we can give each other when at events like this :-) See you at the next one?

Also, could you add a Collingwood label for the local news site please?

Anna said...

You can guarantee if I write a blog post really fast it's because I'm trying to procrastinate doing something else (ie an essay)!

I agree that the value is so good that some donations/sponsorships are acceptable, however I prefer to know that it's the case rather than thinking the wines have been chosen just on their own merits. Nevertheless, it was such a fantastic meal! I would go back just for that charcuterie...

It's funny because when I went up to pay I saw on their booking list 'Brian (blog)'. I had a look around and thought, 'I could take a punt, and go up and introduce myself, but if I get it wrong it might be awkward!'... Maybe you need to hang your camera around your neck or wear a hat that says 'Social Media' instead of 'Press'. ;-)

Tim Cohen said...

ohh I do love goat!!!!
are they opened for lunch?
what was the pinot grigio?
what was the vic Shiraz?
ohh I do love goat!!!!
did you have wine with the cheese?


Anna said...

Hello Tim!

The goat was indeed fantastic!

Yes they are open for lunch (7 days) - although they degustations only happen once per season. The regular brunch/lunch/dinner menu however is great and very very well priced. They have their menu online:

I made a mistake. It was not a Pinot Grigio, but a 2008 Lamont Pinot Gris from Central Otago NZ.

The red was a 2005 Amietta Shiraz from Geelong (near the goat farm).

There wasn't a wine with the cheeses, however I was already quite drunk by then. :)

Maybe you should check out Provenance soon, they might still have some goat charcuterie left over!

James said...

From what i was told, the cheese wasn't done on any kind of deal, Milawa is just a quality austrlaian cheese company with a history of award winning goat cheeses (all of those cheeses had won awards in the last few years)... most other high end goats cheese are from europe or america... seriously try finding goats cheeses around that aren't the regular kind, and aren't milawa!

they had some of the sausages on the breakfast specials today i saw though

Anna said...

Hi James, thanks for the info about Milawa. It certainly was high quality delicious cheese. I was indeed impressed that they could find camembert, blue and cheddar goats cheese! You'll have to excuse me for my speculation, I can't help it :-)

I was hoping they'd put some of the goat sausages on the menu. I wonder how long they'll be there? I won't have a chance to go back for a while!

Hope you enjoyed the goat night too.