About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Umia - Cooking with Chocolate

Recently the Rhone Wine Co-operative - ‘La Cave de Tain’ opened a visitor centre, in a vineyard on the hill of Hermitage, only a short distance out of town. Next too and part of the centre in a classic styled building is one of the world’s most innovative fine restaurants, called Umia, run by an enterprising couple, Rika and Frédéric Bau.
The night that I was invited to dine - the restaurant (well Frédéric to be precise) was hosting 20 of the world’s finest patisserie chefs - who had won the chance to dine here and be part of a few days of special classes with Frédéric on the art of chocolate confectionary (Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona). They enjoyed the main dining room, banquet table and the three of us were shown to a table right outside the sliding glass door to the kitchen - which was to be a perfect spot to enjoy the coming evening events. We were perfectly taken care of by a very knowledgeable waiter who enjoyed telling us how every dish was crafted here on the premises from local and abroad ingredients.


We were tempted by all that was on the menu - but we decided to take direction from our waiter and Frédéric chimed in with a few creative suggestions. Frédéric invited me to go back stage - well into the kitchen and watch how he and Rika crafted and plated their creations. It simply doesn’t get any better or closer than this - to watch one of the world’s best chefs in action, in his kitchen - which as you would expect was spotless and well appointed - and both were proud to show off their wood oven, manufactured locally.
We enjoyed a mixed selection of entrees, and then our mains were both visually fulfilling as were the layers of flavours - from our wood-roasted whole fish through to duck and other seasonal fare. Then it was a shame to say after such wonderful dishes that had just been served - I must admit I was looking forward to dessert more than I ever had. Neither of us were disappointed, the hard part was where to start - we matched them with a special ‘slighted fortified’ bottle of 1959 Grenache.

Umia is wholeheartedly endorsed by all the local wineries, as you will find the best wines from the region, that match Frédéric’s ever changing menu - and is very much part of the local vinous community, with a wall encouraging the local vignerons to add their comments. It is a stunning setting to pause for a fine meal, be it the full menu or the speedy express menu that is no less special, but more manageable on the waistline - plus if you are wanting a speedy lunch, or a lighter evening experience. An effort is required to get to Tain-Hermitage - but the scenery, unique ‘terroir’ wines (the home of Paul Jaboulet wines) and the cuisine in the region is very much worth the effort.

Frédéric Bau, is also the illustrious executive pastry chef and director of l’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona. He is also the author of the illustrious publication, ‘Au Coeur des Saveurs’ - already a classic, devoted to patisserie and dessert making. Frédéric Bau probably knows more about cooking with chocolate better than most - if you asked his guests, they would say he has taken the art of chocolate to another level. If in the Rhone Valley, I recommend you book a table at Umia.