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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deus Cafe and Jed Wines Degustation Dinner

They say that if you find a job that you love doing, you will never have to work again.

It sounds magical doesn't it, a perfect existence that allows you to play and be paid for it. What, then, stops so many of us living our dreams? Most of us cite money or mortgages, underlined by a fear of taking the plunge and switching careers.

Occasionally you do meet or read about people who are living our their passions. The common theme? Self-belief and hard work. The perfect job is rarely handed out on a silver platter. Those who are determined to work in their desired field, pursue it relentlessly, obsessively and without hesitation. They remain resolutely unclouded by worries about money, health or peer pressure to "be practical".

Baked parmesan custard
paired with Jed NV Blanc de Blanc Sparkling

I'm not really thinking about these things when I first enter Deus Cafe for a degustation dinner. I'm here as a guest of Jed Wines, who have organised the evening to demonstrate how their wines can be used to complement a meal.

Jed Wines is an interesting venture - three young Australian winemakers who decided to start their own winemaking business in Argentina. They met at the same postgraduate vinology course - all three had coincidentally completed commerce degrees beforehand - and between them undertook winemaking experience in Australia, France and both north and south America.

Why did they decide to start up a vineyard in Argentina? After visiting vineyards all over the world, they felt that the Uco Valley, in the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza, was ideal because of its high altitude (1250m above sea level), optimal soil and 450-year history in winemaking.

Arriving guest mingle over glasses of Jed NV Blanc de Blanc sparkling, a light wine with the scent of apples, that's paired with roving spoonfuls of soft and eggy squares of parmesan custard. The venue, Deus Cafe, is an airy warehouse that continues the boys club theme of the Deus ex Machina motorcycle showroom next door. A couple of restored motorbikes, large and powerful, gleam and sparkle silently in the corner.

We're seated for dinner at huge communal tables, long expanses of teak with textured rippled edges that I can't resist caressing in awe. The two glossy tables in the middle of the room, I'm told, have been recycled from bowling lanes, and are resolutely solid and heavy.

Pear, fennel and roquette salad with roasted hazelnuts
paired with 2008 Jed Sauvignon Blanc

The second wine is a 2008 Jed Sauvignon Blanc. We're hosted by two of the winemakers tonight: Rob Bates-Smith and Tom Egan, who take to the floor to guide us through our meal. They both look extraordinarily young and could still pass themselves off as uni students. As they speak to the assembled crowd, it's clear that wine is a deep-felt passion.

When pairing food and wine, we're told, the wine should either contrast, complement or cut through the flavours of the food. The sauvignon blanc, most commonly associated with New Zealand wines, varies by being halfway between grassy and tropical. It highlights the pepperiness of the rocket in our pear, fennel and roquette salad, a light and refreshing dish that's drizzled with olive oil and garnished with a sprinkle of crushed roasted hazelnuts.

Seared scallop sweet corn tarte
paired with 2009 Jed Pinot Grigio

Seared scallop sweet corn tarte is a mouthwatering vision, the fat discs of scallop seared to caramelised perfection. The scallops melt in the mouth although I find the lavosh cracker a little too crispy and dry by comparison. The corn kernels are super sweet although I wish there was more of the corn puree that's drizzled on each plate.

The scallops are paired with the 2009 Jed Pinot Grigio. The difference between a pinot gris and a pinot grigio? A pinot gris, we're told, has a heavier, oilier finish, whereas a pinot grigio has a lighter acidic finish that works better with food.

Grassfed sirloin beef dry-aged in house
roasted and served with porcini butter, veal glace and fondant potato
paired with 2007 Jed Malbec

There's a ripple of excitement when our mains arrive, three fat slices of seared beef that are deep pink in colour. We sink our knives into the flesh, this grassfed sirloin that is dry-aged in house at Deus Cafe.

"I never eat beef this rare but oh-my-god this is good," says one diner at our tables whose eyes have already started to glaze over. A pat of porcini butter adds richness and we mop up the veal glace with fondant potato and beans. Communal bowls of roasted kipler potatoes are carbohydrate heaven: nutty, sweet, buttery and fluffy with edges that are slightly crisp.

The accompanying 2007 Malbec is a deep purple hue with a strong perfume that's ripe with tannins. Although Malbec is not particularly common in Australia, combining Malbec with beef is a religion in Argentina.

Soft centred and slightly spiced
baked chocolate and sour cherry fondant
paired with 2006 Jed Limited Release Cabernet Franc

Dessert is a baked chocolate and sour cherry fondant, under-cooked so the centre is still soft. It works surprisingly well with the accompanying 2006 Jed Limited Release Cabernet Franc, playing off against the tartness of the cherries and the chocolate fondant that is more bitter and spiced than sickly sweet.

Seeing the winemakers talk about their young burgeoning vineyard, it's hard not to feel buoyed by their enthusiasm and exhuberance. By coincidence I'm seated next to Tom Egan's mother, and at one point during the evening I lean over and say "All this finally happening... you must be proud."

She nods hesitantly, and says "Oh yes, but I wouldn't mind if he had an office job."

I glance over at Tom who's about to take to the floor stage again, eyes shining, wine glass in hand.

Somehow I doubt he'd want to change a thing.

Jed Wines will be hosting a free Meet the Winemaker session that will include tastings of:
Jed Blanc de Blancs Sparkling 2008
Jed Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Jed Malbec 2008

When: Tuesday 4 May, 2010
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm (optional fixed price dinner available afterwards)
Where: North Sydney Cellars, 189 Miller Street North Sydney
Cost: FREE but RSVP is essential.

Register and more details here

Grab Your Fork attended the Deus Cafe and Jed Wines degustation dinner as a guest of Jed Wines.

Deus Cafe
98-104 Parramatta Rd Camperdown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9519 3669

Kitchen open Monday to Saturday 7.30am-3pm, Sunday 9am-3pm
Coffee available Monday to Saturday 7am-5pm, Sunday 9am-3pm

Dinner available Wednesday to Saturday 6pm until late

Deus Cafe on Urbanspoon
13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/23/2010 12:40:00 am


  • At 3/23/2010 7:08 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love the exterior of the cafe with the huge motorbike painted on. Sounds like a lovely tasting.

  • At 3/23/2010 10:06 am, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    I'm too lazy to pull out a muesli bar from my drawer for breakfast, and I should really concentrate more on my work... but my goodness you are making me hungry! =p

  • At 3/23/2010 10:53 am, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    porcini butter! i could do with a plate of that for lunch, with a fondant potato or seven. ;)

  • At 3/23/2010 11:02 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    interesting place for a degustation. i've only ever thought about Deus Cafe as a brunch and coffee spot so it's good to know their menu is more extensive. i remember having a lovely big breakfast there a while ago and loved the cool rustic abstract art on the wall :-)

  • At 3/23/2010 11:12 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I've heard Deus Cafe do some mean breakfast dishes and I keep meaning to go there. An interesting choice for a degustation venue but loving the boys and bikes theme.

  • At 3/23/2010 1:49 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    That is one rare piece of beef. I dont think I have ever eaten a piece of meet that is still mooing. ehehehe. I would love to have a job that I am extremely passionate about. Some people are extremely lucky. Nice post Helen..

  • At 3/23/2010 3:29 pm, Anonymous Tresna @ Duty Free Living said…

    A great post Helen. Not only for the fantastic food shots and delicious descriptions (I'd really like to get stuck in to that pudding!) but also because of the story behind the people who made your night possible.

    I love hearing about people who have the courage to break some lifestyle rules and head in the direction of their passions. It's hard to be unconventional and do the opposite of what we're brought up to believe is the RIGHT way to live our lives in relation to work and earning a crust. Well done to these guys for doing it.

  • At 3/23/2010 6:48 pm, Anonymous Mark @ Cafe Campana said…

    The scallops and sweet corn looks really good. Simple flavours done right make for the best eating.

  • At 3/23/2010 10:48 pm, Blogger Hannah said…

    Right outside my hostel in Paris, there's a shop called Velo et Chocolat, which is full of bikes to rent but also sells hot chocolate and, I think, chocolate cake. Maybe I should discover a passion and open a souffle + scuba gear shop?

    More seriously, the opening of this post really struck me - I'm so unsure about where I'm heading in life... I wish I had the courage to try to make travel + writing my career!

  • At 3/24/2010 9:20 am, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Awesome post, Helen!
    Food looks amazing, and i'm sure you enjoyed those paired wines :)
    I'm intrigued by the fondant & cabernet - I don't think I have ever eaten dessert along with any alcohol. (but again, I'm a caffeine addict.)

  • At 3/26/2010 1:36 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gourmet Chick - The mural outside is awesome isn't it? And the food was great. Will have to return sometime to try the menu proper.

    Hi Anglie Lives to Eat (and Cook) - lol. Oh I love having stashes of food in the office too. I know what you mean though - browsing food blogs is always dangerous!

    Hi bowb - The fondant potato was good but the kipfler potato chips were even better. Porcini butter is very tasty too.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - Deus are open for dinner and the menu looks pretty tasty. Much of what we ate is available on the standard menu. It's a lovely spot and I'm totally in love with their tables!

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - You can never beat a good breakfast out. Have yet to sample them myself too - we'll both have to recify this soon :)

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - It looks rare but it had been very well rested so no blood oozed out. I think so many of us are resigned about what we do "to pay the bills" but perhaps we should be more emboldened about taking control and doing what we enjoy :)

    Hi Tresna - Aww thanks. I did find their story very inspiring and a great reminder of how "career entrapment" is only self-driven. Kudos to the Jed boys for purusing their dreams and I hope it all reminds us that only self-doubt stops us doing the same :)

    Hi Mark - The scallops were divine. I agree, simplicity with the freshest ingredients is always a winner!

    Hi Hannah - Oh sounds like a great store to me! lol. I definitely think you should puruse travel and writing if that's where your passion lies - even if only in small steps. Who knows? Otherwise you'll spend forever wondering 'what if'?

    Hi Yas - Surely you've had dessert wines with sweets but I agree, the red wine was a first for me but worked really well. And you are a caffeine addict! Crazy!

  • At 3/27/2010 10:31 am, Anonymous mike@scallopsandpancetta said…

    Great photos as always! :)

    The menu sounds divine, and I love having appropriate wines for each course.

    I'm in a similar situation to those "boys" with the vineyard - I'm a chef and I love every minute of it, but my family and alot of my old friends wonder why I'm not using my business degree!

    The steak looks seriously good, and paired with the Malbec my mouth is watering! I was in Mendoza on a wine tasting just under a year ago, it is a fantastic area; very high competition though. Good luck to Jed wines!

  • At 3/29/2010 12:56 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mike - Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post. As they say, you spend 1/3 of your life at work so doing something you love is definitely worth it. So inspiring to hear you are doing what you love best, despite the peer pressure :)


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