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Review of the Food & Wine Week in July 2011


Our first Food and Wine Week was a great success, and we'll now hold similar events at least twice a year. It turns out that people like food and wine!

Our format was simple. Each afternoon, our four chefs taught cooking master classes for 2 hours, and then demonstrated their skill through the preparation of a dish from a 'secret box' of ingredients. If you've ever seen 'Ready Steady Cook' then you'll know about the style of cooking.

The master classes were informative - even for me and I get to watch the chefs in action every day! The chefs adopted the format from 'The Cook and the Chef' and worked two at a time, and switched from one to another to keep guests interested.

Warren Farrugia, our Executive Chef, started with the basics - stock. It's the secret to great home cooking. He showed how to make beef, fish and chicken stock, and explained how to skim it, clarify it, store it and reduce it to demi-glace for use in sauces.

Louis Forbes, our sushi chef (at least on Mondays), demonstrated the preparation of six different types of sushi. In his 'secret box' were all the trimmings for tempura, so he made kingfish tempura and avocado tempura (this was surprisingly good) with a salad of fresh greens and Japanese dressing. We served some Japanese brown rice tea to support the culinary theme.

Taste testing at Pinetrees - Lord Howe IslandSatisfied students - Lord Howe Island

Mike Moody took us to Morocco with his marinated lamb rumps, spiced eggplant and cous cous. He showed how to make cous cous delicious with fruit juice, spices and fresh herbs. It was a simple ten minute meal by itself. Ever the pragmatic chef, Mike decided that instead of demonstrating a dish for one person, he'd prepare 25 portions for our evening meal. Watching a commercial chef prepare commercial quantities was just as fascinating as the intricate spice blends and marinades. Mike's 'secret box' produced char grilled baby octopus in a salad of fennel, cherry tomatoes, chick peas and baby spinach. Fifteen guests with forks were waiting.

Mike Moody showing off - Lord Howe IslandMike making cous cous - Lord Howe Island

Adam Smith, the show-off, made chocolate ravioli with ricotta and strawberry. It was a taste sensation and perfect for people who like dessert without a sugar hit. In his 'secret box' were strawberries, oranges, limes, passionfruit and eggs, so of course he made four soufflés - in 10 minutes! Meanwhile, Warren explained the basics of bread making and showed how to transform a simple bread dough into dinner rolls, a Vienna loaf and focaccia.

On Thursday, Jason Henderson, our butcher and fish monger, demonstrated how to fillet a 13kg Lord Howe Island kingfish (caught by one of guests) and "break-down" a whole sirloin. Warren explained the different cuts and how they are best prepared and cooked. He also explained the fundamentals of marination and pulled our kitchen apart to demonstrate various combinations of aromatics, acids and oils.

5th course for the afternoon - Lord Howe IslandJason filleting a kingfish - Lord Howe Island

The final day was the highlight. Mike fired up three BBQs for an extended demonstration and 5 course lunch. He cooked kingfish belly-flap skewers (yes it's the best part), marinated chicken and Hokkien noodles, crispy skin salmon fillet, the perfect char grilled steak, and an entire BBQ roasted sirloin. Our guests were watching, learning and eating for over two hours.

In the afternoon, Warren dazzled us with his sauce making skills and turned simple beef, chicken and fish stocks into the kind of 'fine-dining' sauces that good restaurants are famous for. And of course, he cooked pieces of fillet steak and kingfish to accompany his sauces on the tasting plate.

The finale was Warren's 'secret box'. Our chefs (and guests) had been talking all week about how they could "stitch him up" with weird ingredients. In the end, the best they could do were whole quails, which Warren boned in about 30 seconds. He marinated the quails in cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, raisins, lemon juice and almond oil, and then prepared simple cous cous with a large handful of fresh garden mint and parsley. In another bowl he made a salad of garden parsley, blood orange, pomegranate and almond oil. While he pan-fried the quails, skin side down, he also cooked the remaining marinade and added a dob of butter at the end to produce a fragrant sauce with plump raisins. The final dish was stunning - guests didn't know whether to eat it or take photos of it. Suffice to say, they did both.

Warren explaining muscles - Lord Howe IslandTasting the quail at Pinetrees - Lord Howe Island

In the evenings throughout the week, we tasted wine - 35 wines to be precise. You'd spend a fortune tasting this number of wines at home. Each day we concentrated on one variety and, where possible, explored the difference in style and character from different wine regions. Most of the wines we tasted were James Halliday's most highly rated, and all were good. Some were stand-outs. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our guests to think about each wine and compare them, we now have a new wine list that is Halliday rated and tested!

All up, it was a great week. One of our guests had been to five different cooking schools and loved what we did. Others had no idea that the cooking classes were on at the beginning of their stay, but still came every day. Thanks and see you again....

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