Pleasure, Place, & Past: A Gathering to Feast
Part I of our gourmet foodie weekend
Friday evening, we attended one of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival dinners, Pleasure, Place, & Past: A Gathering to Feast. The event was held at Swinburne TAFE in Lilydale, in the Yarra Valley, Victoria’s wine and farm region. Its focus was on the bounties of the area (all local produce, meats, wines), and the connectedness with the people and the earth.
The event description from the event website:
A dinner inspired both by the elements that help mould our food use – earth, wind, water and fire – plus the history of a commanding food region. Taste, touch, watch and smell your way through the original food of our valley and rivers.
Be grounded with a welcome to our site by our traditional indigenous elders then continue through the experience with artists, musicians and performers turning your voyage through our succulent food history into another thrilling night in the Yarra Valley.
Wander through our grounds and meander through the years over five different courses whilst listening to an indigenous children’s choir, watching butterflies on stilts be blown by the wind around you and smelling the smokehouse prepare local meats. End up under the gum trees by lantern light at a bountiful long table to drink some of the finest examples of Yarra Valley wine, eat our succulent produce and share your own stories. Includes five courses and matched wines.
Dinner began at 6:30pm on the grounds of the Swinburne TAFE campus, with a champagne (Lovegrove Winery Petillant Methode Champenoise 2004) reception, and the first of three appetizers — our favorite of the night — smoked eel on parsnip puree with horseradish on toasted bread. Here we met Ann Creber, a food consultant and just the most fascinating woman. She’s traveled the world as a food stylist (she worked on a number of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, and has dined with Chuck Williams), and now hosts a local radio program, The Good Life. Wonderful conversation ensued.
From there, we migrated to the next space for appetizer #2: fried yabby (a freshwater sort of crayfish) tails with lemon myrtle and mustard glaze, accompanied by the very lovely Mac Forbes Riesling 2008. Here, Aunty Joy Murphy gave the Welcome to Country, a traditional Aboriginal ceremony. Following was a fantastic performance by the One Fire dance troupe and an impressively agile 60-year-old Aboriginal man whose name I can’t remember who also performed and accompanied on the digiridoo (not native to this region — no termites to hollow out tree branches here — but widely adopted by local tribes).
The final appetizer was a sugar and spice cured kangaroo rolled with Yarra Valley Dairy goats cheese with rocket (arugula), with Mike’s favorite wine of the evening, William Downie Pinot Noir 2007, and a short performance by the Healesville Aboriginal Children’s Choir.
From there, we moved on to the long table for dinner. We were a bit late to be seated, as M had a minor contact lens crisis and had to change into glasses. Before dinner was served, Deborah Cheetham, an Indigenous Soprano, performed two arias (an Aboriginal piece written for the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony, and a piece from Madame Butterfly) to welcome us to our meal. Unfortunately, the choice of serving family style backfired, as by the time the servers had brought the food out to the ends of the table (where we were seated), they were running quite low on the slow-cooked Little Creek Cattle Co. beef. What we had was either quite moist and tasty (the little bits) or on the drier side (the thicker middle cuts). The beef was accompanied by beautiful fresh green beans, rosemary local potato chips (thick cut fries), and a nice caponata. Dinner was served with a Roundstone Shiraz Viognier. Sadly, the Roundstone Winery was entirely devastated by the Black Saturday fires.
We don’t have a picture of the main meal, as it was a bit stressful just trying to get enough of the meal on our plates as the food arrived and was passed. Dessert, however, was plated for each person, and was wonderful: Maroondah Orchards poach pear on a Kennedy & Wilson chocolate galette with wattle-seed anglaise, served with Hirsch Hill Late Harvest Chardonnay.
It was nearly 11pm by the time the dessert plates were cleared, and we left before tea and coffee was served, as we had to get to our campground a half-hour’s drive away. Overall, the evening was delightful, and we were quite pleased with our choice for our one experience of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Doubly so, as it brought us out to the Yarra Valley…