Saturday, 27 December 2014

Gorgeous Table - Invited - McLaren Vale - November 2014

Image by Willunga Wino

Springtime in McLaren Vale is gorgeous.

Cutest little caravan around. Photo: Willunga Wino

That includes it's wineries, restaurants, and natural surrounds.

Little wonder it inspired Alistair and Sally Cranney to develop the much loved Gorgeous Festival. 

In this, it's second year, there was an extra evening of Gorgeousness, in the form of the Gorgeous Table shared dinner. The hallmark of Gorgeous, is that no detail is forgotten.

Golf carts collect patrons in the car park and ferry them to the entrance gates, where everyone walks the red carpet.

Red carpet rolled out for guests. Photo: Willunga Wino

Tonight I walked the red carpet as a grateful, invited, media guest.

Love my Leona Edmiston dress! Photo: Willunga Wino

Inside the gates and a beeline is made for the yellow letterboxes, Veuve Cliquot mail is irresistible, especially when it is free-flowing all night.

Veuve mailbox, that postman can knock twice! Photo: Willunga Wino

The Veuve bar itself is a thing of beauty, the ceiling adorned with a branch sculpture, mason jar candles dangling from it. 

Stylish pop up bar. Photo: Willunga Wino

Baskets of nibbles, like these spiced lentil parcels, were offered by a staff decked out in yellow Veuve suspenders.

Beautifully golden and crisp, these parcels had a rich spiciness from cumin, coriander and more.

Crunchy parcels of yum. Photo: Willunga Wino

Proceedings were overseen by the Serafino "farmer" nearby.

Keeping a watchful eye. Photo: Willunga Wino

Suddenly, a keyboard springs to life, music and then a spontaneous "flash-mob" performance by the SA State Opera company, who started singing one by one from within the delighted crowd, before making their way slowly to centre stage. 

Opera under the stars. Photo: Willunga Wino

As the finale, a toast to attendees and organisers alike!

A toast to the host! Photo: Willunga Wino

With just a few minutes before being allowed into the dining pavilion, there was just enough time for another snack and a top up of Verve. These were spicy mince pies.

Spicy bites. Photo: Willunga Wino

Veuve Cliquot has fresh aromas of citrus blossom, a bright vigorous bead, and on the palate a bread-like earthiness and juicy lemon finish, that leaves you wanting more. Lucky it was an open bar!

More Veuve? Don't mind if I do! Photo: Willunga Wino

David Cockley welcomed us to the land of the Kaurna with a smoking ceremony. 

Each guest entered the dining pavillion through the cleansing, and sweet, smoke. 

Dave beginning the ceremony. Photo: Willunga Wino

It was worth the wait.

The pavillion was stunningly decorated.

300 friends in gorgeous surrounds. Photo: Willunga Wino

Shared tables were laid out with wine ready-poured (no waiting!) and loaves of chef Stewart Wesson's bread. We tore it in our hands, and shared, truly a breaking of bread.

Recycled, natural, stunning place settings. Photo: Willunga Wino

Serafino's Goose Island Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 is fragrant with gooseberry and rose petal. Nice soft mouthfeel finishes with just a little acid at the end.

Serafino's Sem-Sauv Blanc. Photo: Willunga Wino

Places set, we got stuck into the crusty sourdough loaves, dipped in cultured butter and balsamic.

Ready and at the waiting. Photo: Willunga Wino

Curated by Sally Cranney, the Gorgeous Table dinner featured a who's who of the McLaren Vale and Adelaide restaurant scenes, each contributing to the multi-course extravaganza.

From the Vale there was:

Karena Armstrong of the Salopian Inn,
Peter Reschke from d’Arry’s Verandah and
Tom Boden of Ellen Street Restaurant at Maxwell Wines.

Representing Adelaide city was;

Paul Baker from the Botanic Gardens restaurant,
Phil Whitmarsh 
of The Daniel O’Connell and
Stewart Wesson from The Flinders Street Project.

Paxton's 2013 Tempranillo. Photo: Willunga Wino

The first starter, prepared by Paul Baker at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant was barberry braised beef, with carrot & pumpkin purée, pickled veg, and edible flowers. 

It was a truly pretty looking dish and by all reports very tender with a great balance from sweet veg puree and crunchy tart pickles.

Barberry braised beef from Botanic Gardens. Photo: Willunga Wino

Next to hit our tables was cured salmon with potato salad, tomato and dill, from Tom Bowden of the McLaren Vale's own Ellen Street Restaurant at Maxwells Wines.

Ingeniously served in a no-waste coconut that provided additional eating after the filling was devoured. 

Tom Bowden's starter. Photo: Willunga Wino

Rounding out the starters was a vegetarian option of Vietnamese cold rolls. 

Bright with herbs, they were also hiding chewy, nutty grains.

Delish cold rolls. Photo: Willunga Wino

Working Dog Union entertained the crowd and had toes tapping with their Aussie take on Irish folk music.

A perfect soundtrack while taking in nature's show outside - a brilliant pink sunset behind the colourful water tower.

Even the sunset was Gorgeous. Photo: Willunga Wino

Rich blue and apricot filled the sky.

Sculptures, sunset and tents. Photo: Willunga Wino

A great time to grab a drink from the friendly folk in the Bickfords airstream van. 

Adelaide's finest softies. Photo: Willunga Wino

Likewise, to admire the show with new friends.

My fabulous tablemates. Photo: Willunga Wino

Time to return to the pavillion to thank Working Dog Union and see what delights are on offer for mains.

Beautiful decorations. Photo: Willunga Wino

There wasnt long to wait before the vegetarian main of an asian rice pancake with sauteed vegetables and black bean sauce were presented. 

This has been one of my all time favourites from Karena Armstrong at The Salopian Inn.

Karena's tangy pancake. Photo: Willunga Wino

 The Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2014 was a perfect match, with its' apricot and stone fruit nose, soft mouthfeel, and juicy acid finish.

Spoilt with fine wines. Photo: Willunga Wino

The main included some unexpected treats from the king of offal, Phil Whitmarsh at The Daniel O'Connell. 

Perfectly cooked local Dorper lamb chops were paired with blood rissoles.

Lamb chops with rissoles. Photo: Willunga Wino

Beautiful looking side dishes with the main were these pickled vegetables with chicken heart skewers, served inside coconut shells.

Pickled veg and chicken hearts. Photo: Willunga Wino

During mains, we were treated to the musical stylings of Darren Middleton . There were a few Powderfinger classics but also many original songs which sounded fantastic with the accompanying violinist.

Darren Middleton and violinist. Photo: Willunga Wino


I made friends with this salad, polishing it off single handedly. Adorned with crisp fry-bread and a tangy-creamy avocado dressing it was undeniably morish.

Side salad for the table. Photo: Willunga Wino

Alistair Cranney introduced the chefs, allowing us to give a standing ovation.

Hail to the chefs! Photo: Willunga Wino

Oh but they weren't finished with us just yet!

Individual pots of poached fruit in jelly with pashmak - adult fairy floss - had just the right amount of sweetness.

Grown up jelly. Photo: Willunga Wino

In a final twist, profiteroles, but not as you know them.

These were filled with blue cheese and glazed with a sweet Vegemite caramel. A very modern take on vegemite and cheese sandwiches and a great alternative to a cheese plate.

Vegemite caramel and blue cheese profiteroles. Photo: Willunga Wino

The night was rounded out with the raucous musical stylings of The Timbers who brought nearly all of the guests to their feet and to the dance floor.

Topping off a truly gorgeous night, was a personal farewell from the Gorgeous team as I walked back out along the red carpet, and into the cool, clear night.

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What was your favourite aspect of Gorgeous Festival 2014?


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Foodie Secret Santa - Easy Festive Dark Chocolate Shortbread Recipe - December 2014

Image: Willunga Wino

The festive season is all about time with friends and family, relaxing and sharing a meal. 

Such is the philosophy behind the Foodie Secret Santa.

Food bloggers Australia wide register to participate in the ultimate treat swap via good old Australia Post.

In giving a gift of a foodie treat to your three assigned bloggers, via Foodie Secret Santa, you also receive. Three other bloggers will send you a treat in the post.

On one of my last packing days before moving home, after a sweltering day of lugging dusty boxes, the postie rang the doorbell. 

With a smile he handed me a parcel - my first Foodie Secret Santa! 

Sweet gift in the mail. Photo: Willunga Wino

What perfect timing, I popped them in the car and took my carload of boxes over to the new house, where the willing hands of my friends and family helped to unload. 

So pretty inside. Photo: Willunga Wino

Soon we were reclining on our new deck, a glass of bubbles in hand, and beautiful homemade caramel blondies - white chocolate brownies - to enjoy. Thank you Roxanne @ The Baking Dentist!)

A quick snap of the last bit left! Photo: Willunga Wino

Then once I'd given up hope of any of my other goodies finding their way to my new address, arrived a mystery parcel (no blogger name on it!) with the cutest little card saying just Merry Christmas and a motherload of delicious mini-gingerbread men, each carefully decorated! 

Some of them made it intact, but the limbs and heads made tucking in straight away an easy choice. Thank you!

An army of tasty gingerbread men. Photo: Willunga Wino

Due to the move, the last one of my Foodie Secret Santa gifts went missing ( I suspect into the new tenants' tummies), but nonetheless I enjoyed and shared the ones I did receive!

For my gift to three lucky recipients, I decided upon super fine dark chocolate and cinnamon shortbreads.

 Easy Festive Dark Chocolate Shortbreads

Inspired by the recipe from Mandy @ Lady & Pups, available on Food 52

Yield: Around 22 biscuits

Ingredients: (approx $15)
180gm unsalted butter, left out of fridge to soften 15mins (I use B.D Farm Paris Creek)
90gms brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract (I use Queens)
3/4 teaspoon salt (I use Murray River Pink Salt)
1 2/4 cups (250gms) organic plain flour
1/4 cup (20gms) cacao powder
1/2 cup (85gms) fair trade organic 85% dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon

1. First finely grate the 85gms of chocolate. 
2. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a mixer until creamy, this takes around 2 minutes.
3. Add in the flour, cacao, grated chocolate and cinnamon until the dough comes together into a ball.
4. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees.
5.Turn out the dough onto baking paper, form into a ball, then wrap in the paper and rest the dough in the fridge for an hour before rolling.
6. Roll the dough until it is approx 4 mm thick. Cut out shapes from the dough (one larger and one smaller inside) to create rings. Place rings on a baking tray lined with baking paper in a single layer.
7. Gather offcuts into a ball, roll again, and cut shapes from the dough with biscuit cutters again.
8. Continue till all dough is used up.
9. Bake shortbread in the oven for 20-22 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.

Packaging: (approx $27)

Ready for packaging. Photo: Willunga Wino

I gathered four biscuits, and then tied them with festive bakers twine. I nestled them amongst lots of tissue paper, in a Christmassy box, adding a note from rocking horse notepaper and my business card.

Postage: (approx $27)

Ready for their new owners! Photo: Willunga Wino

I sent the boxes inside Aus Post postage boxes, to make sure the cookies didn't get crushed. They were sent regular (not express) mail. 

I hope that my three recipients enjoyed their shortbread and that they arrived intact!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe via email to stay up to date on other sustainable foodie wino things that make you feel nice, and also to make me feel good about myself!

What would you make for Foodie Secret Santa? 

See more Foodie Secret Santa 2014 treats here.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#tasteoftravel Best 3 Courses of My Life - Celebrity Cruises - December 2014

Image: Willunga Wino

Through my life of travels, I've had some extraordinary meals.

That's why the Celebrity Cruises #tasteoftravel blog challenge caught my eye. 

Remember your most memorable entree, main and dessert of all time and record it in a blog post, referring four other bloggers to the challenge while you are at it. 

After being nominated to participate in the challenge, I started to reflect on exactly what it is that has made my travel meals so memorable.

Image: Willunga Wino

The location - Crisp snow fields, glorious sunsets, azure seas, vine clad hills. Location adds the non edible, essential setting for the meal. Memories of flavours can fade, but where you were, who you were with, and how it felt, will never leave you.

Image: Willunga Wino

The people - connecting with other humans is one of the gems of travel. Language is no barrier when it comes to cuisine. I've found that when you attempt to use the language, nine times out of ten, it is received with warmth, and returned to you tenfold. Speaking to locals, eating where the locals eat, making connections. This is key to the travel dining experience. How you felt is often what you remember most clearly. Your travel companions are also a key part of the experience, be it your partner, your family, or friends, this creates unique atmosphere and background to the meal.

Image: Willunga Wino

The food - the third piece of the puzzle is of course, the food. Is it all about the texture with delicate flavours? Does the look of it leap off the plate with its' prettiness? Dazzle with colour? Make your mouth water with aroma? Sizzle, crackle or steam? The proof is in the tasting, and food is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Discovery of new fruits, vgetables, legumes, grains and nuts. Textures, techniques, and tastes. The important third plank to a memorable travel meal.

Now, to the entree, main and dessert that combined would be my ultimate taste of travel.

1. Entree of my #tasteoftravel

Image: Willunga Wino

Chef Ito is over 80 years old, and is one of the most personable and gracious hosts I've ever experienced. You feel you are being welcomed into his home, in your own private tatami mat dining room, complete with flower arrangement to ponder. Itosho's signature dish is his rice bubble tempura. Tempura is not usually one of my favourite dishes - I have an aversion to fried things - but this is unlike any other I've tried. Instead of a batter, tiny puffed rice bubbles are used to coat hand selected, perfectly sweet and crisp baby vegetables. There are two rectangles of tofu, a shitake mushroom, sweet potato, white potato, baby eggplant, and a tiny chilli pepper. It is served simply with salt to sprinkle. An outstanding example of innovation, simplicity, texture, and taste. No wonder Itosho's has a Michelin Star. May we meet again, Chef Ito!

Tempura, Itosho, Azubu-Juban Tokyo, Japan

2. Main of my #tasteoftravel

My food discovery of 2014 was the newly re-launched Leonards Mill, on the historic old flour mill site near the slate-strewn Second Valley Beach, halfway between McLaren Vale and Kangaroo Island. 

Having lured a husband and wife chef / patissier from the Lake House in Daylesford, Leonards Mill are now producing high end cuisine in a typically Fleurieu relaxed outdoor setting. A perfect complementary contrast. 

Local, sustainable produce, including that from the kitchen garden, is used in this dish of earthy-sweet baby heirloom beets. They stand up in a forest floor of earthy, mushroomy pearl barley risotto, beetroot puree, cool tart clouds of goat cherve and crunch from walnuts and toasted crisped grains and seeds. It is beautiful to look at, full of interesting textures, and taste.

Leonards Mill, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

3. Dessert of my #tasteoftravel

This shiny, sexy little number is my most memorable dessert. A perfect cylinder of no less than 2 inches of glossy, dark, smooth ganache. Hidden in its' centre is a secret core. Molten salted caramel oozes out as you reach the dessert's heart. Perfectly balancing the ganache is a base of hazelnut toffee, taken to the point of adult bitterness, then smashed into tiny chards and formed into a contrasting, crunchy base.

Choc-Hazelnut Delice, Altar Bistro, Willunga (McLaren Vale), South Australia

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe via email to stay up to date on other sustainable foodie wino things that make you feel nice, and also to make me feel good about myself!

What have been your favourite eats of 2014?

I was referred by Lucy @ On The Luce travel blog

UK bloggers can enter to win a seven-night European cruise and a £150 voucher to one of the Great British Chef’s restaurants.  

The closing date for entries is 12 January 2015 and entries will be judged by two of the Great British Chefs and the Deputy Editor of Food and Travel Magazine. Their favourite menu will win.  Good luck!

Click here to read more about the contest.