Friday, March 30, 2012

March Events: Free-flowing cider, Tomato gazpacho jelly, and a Vodka brunch

As you'll see in my upcoming "Unblogged Files" post, March was an incredibly busy month for me!  This was partly due to Melbourne Food and Wine Festival craziness (I went to three MFWF events this year, one of which I'm including in this post, the other two I'll be blogging about soon), but also because it seemed to be a big month for PR and bloggery events in general.  I think people have recovered from Christmas and New Year's and are getting straight back into it!


The Garden of Eden

I was lucky to win two tickets to The Garden of Eden MFWF event, via a Twitter competition run by Napoleone & Co Cider.  (Thanks guys!)  Held in the Geebung Polo Club in Hawthorn East, it was a fun and relaxed afternoon with free-flowing Napoleone & Co cider (wooo!), roast pork on a spit, and loads of delicious hearty finger food.  They had fun activities too, like apple bobbing and a kids' entertainer, but y'all will already know that I was most interested in the food!

Pretty display of cider, apples and pears

Ciders on tap

Hearty Canapes
There was so much food!  Above we have goats cheese and chorizo tartlets with caramelized onions; arancini; pork belly with apple relish; croque monsieurs; sausages; and cheese fondue with garlic toasties. Really yum!

The star of the day, however, was the pork on the spit.  This was three pork shoulders, placed end-to-end on a spit and slowly roasted.
Pork shoulders on a spit

Mmm... pork!  When I went up to take this photo, the chef asked me: "Have you ever seen crackling like this before?"  Hahaha... biatch please!  I am the queen of crackling!  And may I present for your consideration evidence of this claim: roast pork shoulder, roast pork loinpulled pork, Christmas pork belly, slow-roasted pork shoulder, PORKTOBERFEST II, and my Australia Day pork belly.  (Oh dear, I think I have a problem.)

The Table
There were desserts as well - my favourites were individual apple and pear crumbles in mini pastry cases (surprisingly really delicious!), and apple fritters with caramelized cider sauce.
Desserts: Mini apple crumbles and apple fritters with caramelized cider sauce

It was lovely to meet the boys from Napoleone & Co, Simon and Charles, in person, and of course to indulge in my love of cider and pork!  Thanks so much for the tickets!


"Season's Best, Region's Best" Cooking Class

Last week, Sandra and I were invited to attend a cooking class at the Vic Market's Electrolux Cooking School, hosted by Chef Mathew Macartney from the Yarra Valley's Chateau Yering.  (Ever since my Yarra Valley trip, I've been noticing Yarra Valley popping up everywhere!  It's funny how that happens.)

Chef Mathew deep in concentration

The mirror above the counter reminds me of home ec class!

With a theme of "Season's Best, Region's Best", Mathew demonstrated three dishes and shared lots of tips and techniques.  The first course was a fancy reinterpretation of the classic insalata caprese, and before making his version, he also whipped up a classic version for the participants to share so we could see the difference.

Classic Insalata Caprese with heirloom tomatoes and olive jam
I haven't had a lot of heirloom tomatoes before, and I found it really interesting to taste a few different varieties - the yellow one above had almost a pear-like texture.

And below we have Chef Mathew's interpretation: basil foam in a brik pastry cylinder, jellied gazpacho, burrata, olive jam and heirloom tomatoes.  I really liked it!  Despite the muted colours on the plate, all the elements had very fresh, intense, summery flavours.
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Burrata, Basil Foam, Olive Jam

The next dish was roasted kingfish, which I learned is farmed sustainably in Australia - YAY!  I've found that when I ask fishmongers, even at the bigger markets, they often have no idea which varieties are sustainable or not, so I'm always on the lookout for tips on identifying sustainable species.

How pretty is the arrangement?
Olive Roasted Kingfish with Organic Garden Vegetables, Yoghurt  Purée & Nasturtium Coulis
You can't really see it in the above picture, but one of the accompaniments (under the fish) was pickled kohlrabi, apple and cucumber.  It was just beautiful, and I've already made it at home myself, to accompany a roast rack of pork.

The final course was a Sher Wagyu fillet, cooked sous-vide and then grilled, with heirloom carrots, white onion purée, eggplant "ash", and a smoky molé sauce.  The meat was so tender and delicious!  It made me want to invest in a sous vide machine!  The beef was my favourite course, especially when matched with a lovely Tamar Ridge 2009 Pinot Noir.
Charcoal Grilled Sher Wagyu Fillet, White Onion Purée, Heirloom Carrots & Sauce Molé

Although we attended the Victoria Market Electrolux cooking school as guests, this particular class was priced at $90, which I think represented excellent value - in addition to the demonstration itself and the recipes to take home, we each got the three courses of food, San Benedetto water and a glass of wine with each course.  Great stuff!


Belvedere Bloody Mary Vodka Brunch

This week also saw us attend the launch of Belvedere's new Bloody Mary vodka, with a Vodka Brunch (!) at The Botanical.  The vodka is infused with the ingredients that go into a Bloody Mary: tomatoes, black pepper, horseradish, capsicum, chillies, vinegar and lemon.

Belvedere Bloody Mary Vodka

Beautiful table setting
We enjoyed a tasty brunch, as well as four cocktails featuring the new vodka.
Clockwise from top left:
Scrambled Eggs in confit tomato nest with goat cheese, basil & pesto
Breakfast pastries
Potato rosti, poached egg, bacon, avocado guacamole & sour cream
Fruit salad with vanilla bean Greek style yoghurt

Claire Smith, Head of Spirit Creation and Mixology speaking about the brand

Cocktails
I actually drove to this event, which could either be a smart move or a wasted opportunity, depending on how you look at it!  I only had tiny sips of each drink - it was before midday and I didn't want the rest of the day to be a write off!  All of them were very well made, although I must say that I preferred the sweeter, fruity champagne cocktail to the more savoury ones.  Let's take a look at them individually:

Belvedere Bloody French 74 - Belvedere Bloody Mary, Peach Liqueur, Sparkling Wine, Dash Lemon

Belvedere Pineapple Mary - Belvedere Bloody Mary, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Dash Orange Bitters, Pinch of Paprika

Belvedere Cucumber Fix - Belvedere Bloody Mary, Cucumber Juice, St Germain Elderflower Cordial, Dash Lemon

Belvedere Classic Bloody Mary - Belvedere Bloody Mary, Tomato Juice, Lemon Squeeze, Dash Tabasco

Sarah attended The Garden of Eden event as a competition winner, and the Season's Best, Region's Best class and Belvedere Bloody Mary Vodka Brunch as a guest.

3 comments:

April said...

Haha, love your comment about how you are the Queen of Crackling! I am excited I shall get to try for myself soon (no pressure :D).

March was full of events, great fun and food, but not so great for the waistline!

Alaina said...

I can recommend the Sustainable Seafood Guide from the Australian Marine Conservation Society - when you buy the full guide, they send some business card-sized pocket guides along with it. They're great to keep in your wallet for reference! I use them more than the full guide.

http://www.amcs.org.au/WhatWeDo.asp?active_page_id=167

Sarah said...

April - Hehe, thanks! I've got the menu planned already! :) I'm so glad April's been a bit quieter - I've had extra time to go to the gym!

Alaina - Awesome!!! Thanks so much for that! :)