October was a busy month for food lovers, as Crave, Sydney International Food Festival, unfolded with hundreds of events all over town.
However the festival was not just about Sydney, and rural areas were not forgotten: on Sunday, October 30, five NSW regions competed against each other to showcase their produce in the 100 Mile Challenge Lunch. This was a free event but only Fairfax subscribers and ABC listeners could get in the draw to win tickets.
I was lucky enough that my friend won tickets and took me along! A free lunch at Eveleigh Markets on a beautiful Sunday, what more could you ask for?
The five teams were comprised of apprentices, professional chefs, TAFE students, and headed by renowned team captains from Sydney restaurants:
– Riverina: Nino Zocali (Pendolino)
– Mid North Coast: Serge Dansereau (The Bathers’ Pavilion)
– Central West and Ranges (our table!): Jared Ingersoll (Danks Street Depot)
– Southern Highlands: Alex Herbert (Bird Cow Fish)
– South Coast: Lucio Galletto (Lucio’s)
They had to create a menu with ingredients only sourced with 160km radius, matched by regional wines, as well as decorate and dress their assigned communal table in the spirit of their region.
The judging panel was composed of renowned food media personalities and critics:
– Joanna Savill
– Huon Hooke
– Lindey Milan
– Barbara Sweeney
– Tim Browne
– Ignatius Jones
Simon Marnie from ABC was MC-ing and brought a lot of humour and “ambiance” to the event by stirring up the teams against each other!
Each table was hosted by a ABC personality as well: ours was James Valentine, and at the other tables were Adam Spencer, Robbie Buck, Rhianna Patrick and Mark Colvin.
Daily Telegraph’s food critic Simon Thomsen was there too, as well as the much-loved SBS presenter/gardener Costa Georgiadis.
Our table was the Central Ranges, decorated with metal sculptures from TAFE Orange Hospitality teacher Michel Laroche. There were really cute pots of various herbs all along the table with little scissors, so that guests could chop their own, which was a lovely touch.
We were brought some fresh bread with different types of olive oils to nibble on, and a lovely glass of 2011 Robert Stein Riesling Mudgee.
We were then served a simple but beautiful Sorrel Salad with grilled hazelnuts, with a lovely dressing.
– 2010 Philip Shaw The Architect Chardonnay Orange
– 2011 Word of Mouth Very cool Red Orange
The main dish was a Regional Meat Platter, comprising 3 types of cold meats:
– Sanchoe spiced seared Mandagery Creek Venison, served on Cowra Asparagus and finished with a blood plum vinaigrette: I was initially a bit put off by its raw, dark aspect, but it turned out to be my favourite of the day! I HAD to have another serve :-)
– Crépinette of Central Tablelands Lamb. Braised forequarter scented with truffle & topped with deep-fried baby garlic shoots: couldn’t quite taste the truffle, but the lamb was delicious, loved those crispy garlic bits!
– Assiette of Trunkey Creek Pork products: Rillette of hock & seared loin roulade in speck with cream, Braised Waru baby leeks and apple jam
– 2009 Swinging Bridge Shiraz Canowindra
– 2009 Ross Hill Isabelle & Jack Cabernet Franc Merlot Orange
– 2010 Rosnay Vintage Chardonnay Canowindra
Caramelised pear and apple in stone pine distillery schnapps on apple jelly with Small Acres Cyder zabaglione & Fourjay hazelnut & poached date profiterolles: I wasn’t too convinced by the profiterole, but enjoyed the apple and pear with cider zabaglione, it was refreshing.
Wine: Small Acres Cyder Appscato Orange
– Grilled Watershed Haloumi Robert Stein Verjuice vinaigrette & dried salted baby vine leaves
– A duo of Leaning Oak goats curd & High Valley fetta B’stilla rolls with a hazelnut and pistachio praline
– Watershed blue with Mudgee Brewing Co. mash oatcakes & Di Lusso figpaste
Wine: 2010 Louee Nullo Mountain Late picked Riesling Mudgee
The cheeses were lovely and didn’t last long at all on the table!
Meanwhile the other tables seem to thoroughly enjoy their lunch as well! I have to admit I was a bit envious when we could overhear magic words such as “pork crackling”, “oysters”, “lobster”… I mean: “LOBSTERRR!!!”, as someone from the South Coast table (I suspect Adam Spencer) kept exclaiming, to rub it in!
I personally could easily have had another savoury dish following the cold meats (I initially thought this was the entrée!), but that’s just me, I’m greedy! One of the chefs came to our table later and explained they really wanted to show what they would have for a Sunday lunch or picnic and keep it simple. There was plenty of wine though… plenty!!
The chefs and apprentices later came to say Hi and talked about the story behind all the ingredients.
After long deliberations, the jury awarded the winning place to… South Coast!
However it was a great effort from all the teams, who had worked like crazy for days to prepare all that beautiful food, cramped into little containers/kitchens in the heat!
It was also good fun to sit at a communal table and share a meal with new people. We were spoiled with great food, great wine and contagious enthusiasm: crossed fingers I can go again next year!
Winner: South Coast, named the top NSW region.
Best Apprentice/Student – Luke Piccolo, Riverina
Best Entrée – Mid North Coast
Best Main – South Coast
Best Dessert – South Coast
Best Food and Beverage Combination – Riverina
Extra Mile Winner – Steve Rosa, Southern Highlands