Last week, I finally managed to check out Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. I’ve been super keen to try it out since the Farmhouse first opened up about a month or so ago but a whole bunch of things just got in the way. Lame excuse, I know. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the very awesome Liz from Good Things, I’d probably still be twiddling my thumbs at home! Outside of her awesome blog, Liz also manages the Canberra food blogger’s Facebook group, which includes recipes and restaurant bloggers from across Canberra. Since joining the group almost a year ago, we’ve been involved in some great events and conversations, we’ve also learnt a lot about our fellow bloggers in Canberra and Liz, being as lovely as she is, decided to set up a dinner for us to all meet each other.
The event was hosted at the Piallgio Estate Farmhouse where the crew treated us to an awesome and delicious night of food and wines. I didn’t know a great deal about Pialligo Estate prior to visiting, except that they make the best artisan bacon in Australia (don’t take my word for it, they have an award for that!) as well as other amazing smoked goodies like salmon, sausages, and cured meats which we’ve sampled many times at markets like The Forage.
Outside of that, I only really knew that Pialligo Estate would’ve been somewhere down the road from the Spit Shack. I mean, Pialligo only really has one road right? Well for once my guessing was right and after some aimless driving in the dark, we came upon the Farmhouse, a lovely little (it was actually quite large) kind of old school house where I imagine people would be sipping on French wine or hard liquors in front of a fireplace, chatting about refined things like politics, and worldly events. It was an awesome looking venue and I imagine it would be great for weddings and events but me being the fatty I am, just dashed inside and readied myself for the food. Hence, no pictures of the exterior, but I’ve got plenty of food pictures in store!
To start our food adventure (with twelve different treats and dishes, five matched wines and five solid hours of chatting, dining and swerving wine flutes, I don’t know if I can just call this a dinner or food, so that’s why I settled on the term ‘adventure’) we were treated to some canapes. The first of which were the Potato with eggplant puree. These were pretty simple, with really only two elements, the crispy potato and the flavoursome eggplant puree on top, yet they were surprisingly delicious.
The potato was cut into a fine strand which was sprung together and then deep fried, turning it into a super crispy chip but in the shape of a ball. I had concerns about how heavy this would be since it was entirely deep fried, but the fact that it was just a sprung together fine strand of potato, it was actually surprisingly light and airy. To bring some flavour to the crispy potato goodness, the crew at Pialligo topped the crispy potato balls with a really strongly flavoured and smokey eggplant puree. As someone who loves all things potato, this was the perfect start.
Our second canape for the night was the Quail croquette with chive aioli. So I really enjoyed the potato with eggplant puree but for me, these were the winners of the night in the canape championships at Pialligo. It was really close, and I stumbled a few times on this decision, but I stand by it. These were amazing, it was like biting into a ball of flavour, with the added bonus of a crispy shell.
These croquettes had a really fantastic super crispy bread crumb shell, followed by a thick layer (about 1cm or so) of shredded quail meat, finally there was a hollow centre which was filled with warm quail juice. As you bit in to the croquette, you got the crispiness of the bread crumb, followed by some super soft and flavoursome quail meat, finally you get a burst of deep and meat quail juice. The croquettes were a little bit messy. When I first bit into it, I didn’t realise there was a juice centre, it kind of end up all over my shirt but it was completely worth it. Every bite was just filled with liquid gold. This is one of the few times in my life where I can say I was doing something a bit refined, but still ended up eating a bird with bread crumbs all over it. Parmo lovers rejoice!
Two dishes in and we’re still only at the amuse, here Pialligo Estate was serving up a Salmon bisque. This was surprisingly amazing. I mean, I’m a pescetarian so fish is kind of my thing and all but even I steer clear of soups made out of fish. It just goes so wrong so often and when it done poorly, it’s just outright bad. Hence, I was pretty sceptical when the crew at Pialligo explained what this was and getting a whiff of it didn’t help either; it was pretty fishy. But as I took a sip of it, those thoughts all flew out the window and I began to appreciate how good this thing really was.
The bisque had a lovely salmon flavour to it but it wasn’t overly overwhelming. It was thick, creamy and quite hearty. It kind of reminded me of a really delicious chowder but just made out of salmon instead of a mix of different seafoods. The best part about this bisque was the surprise at the bottom. As you begin to realise that you’re about to come to an end of your fantastic soup, the crew at Piallgio Estate throws in a curve ball, with diced up bits of fresh salmon at the bottom. It was a lovely contrast in flavour and texture, it took the soup to the next level and turn it from something you would find at any nice restaurant to something you’d expect from a really good fine dining restaurant.
Finally, after all the lovely starters, we got into the real stuff. First up, the Seaweed cured bonito with green tomato, crispy chicken, radish and dashi. So a bit of a funny thing with our meal at Pialligo Estate. They seem to really like soups and sauces here. Quite a few of the dishes came out all lovely and clean, and then two of three seconds later, a member from Pialligo would come around and pour something else on it. Completely killing the picturesqueness of it but whatever, its the taste that counts the most right, not the photos, right? RIGHT?!
Taste wise, this dish was pretty awesome. It was probably one of my favourites but I’m biased, I love sashimi more than I should. The bonito was extremely fresh and mild in flavour, this was perfectly complemented with a lovely fresh and earthy seaweed flavour. There was also some chicken which came in the form of a wafer. It was, of course, extremely crispy and added all the required crunch and texture to the soft bonito.
Outside of the bonito and chicken, there were plenty of other flavours and textures that worked really well with the overall dish. There were a couple of sweet, firm and juicy green tomatoes, which played off the richer flavour of the dashi sauce really well. The dashi sauce was thickish and savoury with a slight hint of sweetness to it, a perfect little sauce to bring everything together.
Oh, so this is pretty cool. Thanks to the lovely people at Pialligo, I got to experience my first degustation with matched wines. I’ve done a couple of degustations in the past but I’ve never been able to come to terms with forking out an extra $100 or so for matched wines, especially since my palate for wine is as uncultured as it gets. Like, I would only really enjoy the first wine, then the dessert wine. But here, since it was all a part of the event, I just figured why not, maybe I’ll even discover a new go to wine!
Our first dish, the seaweed cured bonito was matched with a Ravensworth ‘7 month’ White Blend 2014. The sommelier at Piallgio did come around and explain this but my memory is pretty bad so I can’t remember what he said but that’s okay. Thanks to Google, I think this is a mix of pinot gris, gewurztraminer and riesling but don’t quote me on that. Quote Google. The wine matched the cured bonito really well. It was fruity, light and really refreshing. It complemented the light and delicate flavour of the fish and even lifted it. Wow, I feel like the back of a wine label.
So here is where it gets interesting. I’m a massive fan of variety, so normally when we go out to fine dining restaurants, we tend to opt for ala carte instead of the degustation. This way I up with six different plates that we share amongst ourselves and I end up sampling six different things instead of five or however many courses the degustation menu has, that’s my Asian bargain hunting side coming into play. In the rare situation where I do go for the degustation, I tend to just eat the standard menu and pick out the meat bits. Weird I know but I just don’t enjoy being one of those ‘dietary requirements’ people, and you know, there might be a bit of laziness too it as well.
Anyways, since this was an event, I decided to mention my non-meat eatingness. Hence, Ouk and I ended up with some pretty different dishes at times. This was one of those cases. My non meat version came with spanner crab instead of chorizo. Here is the non-meat version, Spanner crab with cipollini, nashi pear and young mustard. Although spanner crab and chorizo are weirdly different in flavour and texture. They both worked surprisingly well with the other elements of the dish.
Here, the spanner crab was shredded and mixed with a creamy sauce, which was then moulded together into a ball. The moist and creamy crab was coupled with some onion which were extremely sweet, juicy and had a lot of crispness to it, a bit like biting into an apple. Yes, I’m talking about the onion pieces. Even I was pretty sceptical, how can cut up chunks of onion have such depth of flavour and texture? I don’t know how the crew at Pialligo Estate did it but the onions were amazing and tasted nothing like raw onion, yet they weren’t sour either as if they were pickled. To add to the juicy and crispy texture of the onion, there were also slices of nashi pear which added a hint of fruity sweetness as well. Finally, there was some mustard in the form of a crumb which was sprinkled all over the plate. This added some kick, spice and rounded out the sweetness of everything else.
Here is the meat version of the above, Pialligo Farm chorizo with cipollini onions, nashi pear and young mustard. Everything on this dish was the same as the non-meat spanner crab version except for the Pialligo Farm chorizo. Here, the chorizo was turned into a foam, and to be fair, no meal is complete in 2015 if you haven’t eaten something that has been turned into a foam. The foam was quite creamy and if I had to guess, it seemed like it was made from a mixture of cream and chorizo. With this, the traditionally strong flavours of chorizo were a bit muted, you didn’t quite get the spiciness or the really strong flavour you normally get, but the crew at Pialligo did manage to keep the smokiness.
Turning the chorizo from its usual tougher meaty form into a foam gave the dish the moisture much like the spanner crab did for the non-meat version. However, this version was a lot more earthy thanks to the heavier and smoky flavour of the chorizo compared to the more lighter spanner crab. The nashi pear, onions and mustard of course aded the same sweet, fruity and crispy flavours like they did in the spanner crab version. It was really interesting to see how much you could change the overall feel and flavour of a dish by changing a single ingredient. Although it seemed like the crew at Pialligo attempted to give us both a similar experience, these two plates were surprisingly different. My spanner crab version was a lot lighter and fresh. While this meat version was a lot heavily, hearty and more earthy. Very interesting.
The spanner crab and chorizo with cipollini onions and nashi pear was matched with a Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009. There isn’t much I can say about this, based on my super limited wine knowledge. I guess it was a riesling, so it was light, fruitier and on the sweeter side (not that I agree with that, rieslings are not ‘sweet’, give me a muscat, or a port, or something like that!). I think for my spanner crab version, it complemented the lighter flavours of the crab really well. Whereas in the chorizo version it really helped to overcome and cut thought the richer, heavier and smokey flavours of the chorizo. Oh a side note, you can actually buy these! I managed to snag a whole bottle of the Pialligo Estate Riesling 2009 to take home as a part of my parting gift but more about that right at the bottom.
Onwards to our next dish for the night, the Majura Valley egg with veal sweetbread, celeriac, brioche and pine mushroom. My non-meat version came without the veal sweetbread but everything else was the same. Okay, I think this whole veal sweetbread thing deserves a bit of a mention. Prior to dining here at Pialligo Estate, I had no idea what veal sweetbread was, I kind of just assumed it was veal and bread which was sweet. Which honestly sounds pretty awesome! Well, as the night progressed, we were told that sweet bread is in fact, not, sweet bread.
Sweetbread, is brains! (or possibly glands or pancreas, I’m not quite sure). Talk about a deceptive name. ‘Sweetbread’, so sweet and pleasant sounding then bam you find out you’re eating a baby cows head. Taste wise, the dish itself was actually pretty nice, as long as you don’t mind eating brains or can forget about it while you’re munching away on it.
Like with a couple of the other dishes, this dish comes out and then another waiter will come around and pour a soup over it. This dish was a mixture of creaminess coupled with crispiness. The creaminess came from a mixture of the lovely egg yolk as well as a mushroom and celeriac soup, while you get the crispness from the brioche. There was also some mushroom slices, which added some contrasting texture and softness to the dish.
On the meat version, where you get the sweetbread, this added some extra interesting textures and flavours. The sweetbread was soft and a bit sponge like, a bit like an lobster ball that you get at Chinese hot pot places. It was definitely different. I did find the soup a slight tad salty but I found it pretty easy to manage the saltiness, I just avoided scooping up too much of the soup.
This flavoursome and creamy dish was matched with a Henriques and Henriques 10 Year Old Sercial Madeira. I actually really enjoyed this, enough to make me research and seek out this wine type. This wine is produced in Portugal, apparently in a place called Madeira Island. I always found it strange that overseas they name wines based on where they were produced. Whereas in Australia, we just name it after a grape type. I must say, I do prefer the Australian style. I have enough trouble figuring out what I’m drinking without trying to figure out and remember which regions produce which types of wines.
As for the flavour and taste of this Madeira, to me it tasted like a fortified wine (I think it actually is a fortified wine, it had a much much higher alcohol content than the rest of the wines we had) but unlike fortified wines, this one didn’t really have the candy like sweetness to it. It was amazing, you get all that lovely Christmas and fruit pudding like flavour but without all that sweetness. To be fair, I really love it with all that sweetness as well, but I can definitely appreciate it without it. This worked surprisingly well with the above dish, cutting through the richness of the egg and savouriness of the soup, thanks to its strong caramelised fruit flavours and the strong alcohol flavour as well.
Onward to I guess, our mains for the night. For the non-meat version, I got an Ocean trout with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and hazelnut dressing. This was one of the dishes where the seafood version was drastically different to the meat version that Ouk received. Here, mine was creamy, full of nutty and earthy flavours. These flavours were coupled with a really soft and well cooked fish (which you be unable to see but its there hiding at the back to the left)
I see ocean trout on a lot of menu’s these days, and to be honest, it’s really hit and miss for me. I’ve had a lot of situations where the ocean trout comes out with bones in it, and there’s nothing I hate more than trying to eat around fish bones or choking on one and then spending the next two days trying to shallow balls of rice. In a pleasant surprise, this fish was absolutely perfect, no bones to speak off, and perfectly flakey that you could break it apart with just a fork. I really loved this fish, and I’ve noticed that whenever I get the fish option at a fine dining establishment, I’m never disappointed. In hindsight, I probably do need to eat fish more, and I can’t keep going to fine dining restaurants, so, I guess I’m going to have to find normal places to have fish at.
The fish was coupled with some soft and flavoursome carrots, finally there was some crispy and flavoured kale which was sprinkled over the whole plate. The addition of the kale really help to bring a completely different texture and little bit of lightness as well to the dish. This was a great addition, as the rest of the dish particularly the fish was much heavier and really quite nutty in flavour so the kale brought some balance there. This dish was really nice.
For the meat version of the mains, we were served a Muscovy duck with Musquee de Provence pumpkin, red onion chestnut and liquorice. On an interesting note, there were a couple of people at our table who don’t eat seafood and instead of getting this duck, there was something entirely different written on their menu (I’ve forgotten what though). However, in the end, the waiters came and noticed that duck fit their no seafood desires and everyone ended up with duck, so joy for all!
This duck dish was my (Ouk’s) favourite dish of the night, I tend not to like duck very much, too many bones in my opinion for the amount of meat you get. However, the one place where I reckon duck makes sense is on a fine dining menu with its smallish portions. This is where the lovely flavours of duck can shine through without the annoyance of dealing with bones constantly. This dish was really delicious, the duck itself was amazing, soft and pink with a layer of fat over the edge, really decadent. I actually had no idea there was pumpkin on this dish until I read the menu to write this up. It was a bit of a surprise to me because I actually thought it was carrot! Seeing as I mistook it for carrot, you might be able to tell it was quite sweet and extremely tender. Everything about this dish was all about how smooth, moist and tender everything was, which is something both the meat and seafood options had in common. Really delicious.
This course was matched with a Rippon Gamay Noir 2013. This was the only red for the night. So as you may know by now, my knowledge of wine is pretty bad. So, when it comes to reds, I have no idea what I’m talking about at all. All I can say is that I actually enjoyed this a bit. Normally, I steer clear of reds because they’re a bit too strong and overwhelming for me. But here, this Gamay Noir was actually really enjoyable and light. It had a pretty strong and flavoursome start. However, it ended really light and crisp. As per usual, the wine worked really well to cut through the heavy and strong creamy nuttiness of the fish. Our duck dish was also matched with this wine as well. However, at this point Ouk had had quite a bit to drink already and we still had to drive home. So, he requested a mocktail which I forgot to take a picture of. I think it had grapefruit in it.
Finally, our dessert for the night, a Valrhona Jivara chocolate with buckwheat, caramelised banana and malted milk. This was surprisingly nice. I’m normally not a massive fan of chocolate when it comes to dessert. Its normally too sweet, rich and just plain overwhelming. So when I originally saw the menu at the beginning of the night, I wasn’t really keen on the dessert, it just looked like a potential ball of sugar on a plate. Well, when I finally had a taste of the dessert, it was actually really good. The chocolate was mainly in the form of a “soil” that tasted and felt like crumbed up chocolate biscuits. It wasn’t as rich as it could’ve been, so that was a massive plus. The little chocolate circle at the top there was extremely rich, but I found the buckwheat ice cream and frozen malted milk really seemed to help balance it out and in the end it worked relatively well.
There were lots of different elements on the plate, not to mention the many different ways that they used Valrhona Juvara chocolate. There was some crispy, light and airy honeycomb, then there was the caramelised banana, which made me feel like I wasn’t just doing something plain bad for myself, at least I was getting a serving of fruit (as long as 1/5th of a banana counts). On top of that, there was a creamy and strong chocolate mousse. Next to that, you have the buckwheat milk cream which was really nice and creamy. It was really different in flavour and texture to everything else on the plate. Then you had a ring of chocolate which was filled with a really rich chocolate fudge type goo. Finally, to finish it all off there was this super interesting frozen malted milk. It wasn’t quite like ice cream but at the same time, it wasn’t icy like a sorbet. Lots of different flavours and textures all on one plate but surprising the elements worked really well together.
To end the night, there were some House made sweets including strawberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle and salted caramel. These were pretty awesome. All three sweets were vastly different, yet each one was made extremely well.
The strawberry marshmallow was really soft but without any gelatine aftertaste to it. I’ve experimented cooking with gelatine a couple of times and every time I make marshmallow, I find that its either really wet and soggy or theres just that horrible and gross gelatine aftertaste. These ones at Pialligo Estate had a lovely and strong strawberry flavour to it, they weren’t overly sweet like the marshmallow you get from the stores either, which was a plus.
The chocolate truffle was really flavoursome, rich and had a really strong cocao flavour to it, there was also a heavy dusting of cocoa powder on each of the chocolate truffles which enhanced the flavour of the chocolate even further. I guess it was more of a dark chocolate truffle. Texture wise, as you bite into it, it was quite soft and creamy, it practically melted in your mouth.
Finally, there was the salted caramel toffee. This was probably my favourite. Normally with most homemade caramels, I tend to leave it till the end because I always have a hell of a time trying to pick it out of my teeth at the end. This wasn’t like that at all! It wasn’t quite like your traditional salted caramel where the salt is mixed in and throughout the caramel. Here, instead there were specks of sea salt here and there throughout the caramel. I found that this worked really well. You’ll get the strong, creamy and caramelised flavour of the toffee. Then here and there, you’ll get a hit of saltiness, which really helped to balance out the sweetness and stop the caramel from becoming overwhelming.
To end the night, we were all presented with a basket of goodies full of Pialligo Estate goodies to take home. I really loved it, it gave us a fantastic little peek into the fantastic goodies that Piallgio Estate offers, from their smoked goods like the bacon, salmon and salt to their wines, cold pressed oil and finally the goodies from the Farmhouse kitchen, with the box of macarons, chocolates and salted caramel toffee.
I’ve sampled quite a few of the goodies in this basket and every one of them blew me away, especially the smoked salmon. Being a non-meat but seafood eater, I’ve had a lot of smoked salmon, I also happen to like it quite a bit. The smoked salmon from Piallgio Estate was probably one of the best smoked salmons I’ve ever had, thought I normally just get smoked salmon from Woolies and what not, so don’t 100% take my word on that. The salmon was smokey, soft and pretty much melted in your mouth yet it didn’t have that fishy aftertaste that smoked salmon tends to have. It was amazing.
So there you have it, our very awesome dinner at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse. Everything was just so absolutely tasty and the staff were just lovely, knowledgeable and pleasant all round. Since this was a catered event, I imagine it may be a little different to a standard dinner or lunch here. I absolutely cannot wait to come back to try Pialligo Estate Farmhouse’s ala carte and degustation menu. I’ve had a browse of it and I’ve already got a couple of things in mind.
This food adventure was made possible thanks to Liz from Good Things. As it was an event, the prices that we paid do not reflect the standard prices at Piallgio Estate Farmhouse. This is an independent post. Hence, all views and opinions are our own.
Pialligo Estate Farmhouse
18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo
Thursday to Sunday: 12:00pm to 2:30pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00pm to 9:00pm