Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Aireys Inlet Community Market


Every year on the 27th of December after the madness of Christmas and then a movie on Boxing Day we head to our home in Fairhaven. It is a time for the beach, garden, pizzas in the wood fired oven, lots of sleep and family. Part of this tradition is a visit to the Airey’s Inlet community market. The market is run by local artist Susan Romyn and her husband, sculptor John Wilcox. Our visit usually starts with a coffee from the hard working Truffles cafĂ© team and then the wander begins. Held in the Aireys Inlet Community Centre the market is a hub for the community and features local food producers, artists, potters, candle makers, booksellers, plants and much more.

We usually purchase some La Madre sourdough, local relishes and organic garlic and Chris always picks up her lotus scented candles from the girls at Rohz. This year the mussel man from Portarlington filled us a generous 10 dollar bag of his mussels and we steamed them with a very good Pinot Gris from D’SAS in the King Valley (another market regular). I brushed thick slices of the La Madre Onion Bread with olive oil and fresh herbs from our garden and grilled it on the BBQ – seriously good with the mussels and the rest of the Pinot Gris. I also purchased two Lamb shoulders on the bone from Otway Prime who are well known locally for their dry aged beef and lamb. I rubbed the shoulders with garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, salt and olive oil and then slow roasted them overnight in our pizza oven after finishing our New Years pizzas. They were sweet, succulent and fell off the bone – very good New Years Day eating!



Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tuscan Dreaming

It was cold. As we made our way through the drizzling rain, we saw cracks of light shining through from the inside of the shed in the back garden. There had been no one in the house, but we were definitely at the address - this must be the place. Hearing laughter and the clinking of glasses from the inside we opened the door and entered. Immediately, we found ourselves in the midst of a Tuscan winter fantasy. A long table for fourteen was set, and the inside of the shed had been transformed with timeworn furniture, candles, magnolia branches and wildflowers. Sarah, one of the organisers, greeted us warmly and pointed us towards an old sideboard where the steam from two pots of warm spiced apple drink whispered up through the candlelight. Our glasses were ladled full. On a freezing Melbourne winter night, could there be a better way to begin our Tuscan feast?

An email
arrived four weeks ago from Simone Biancalani of ’Your Tuscan Chef’. Simone and his wife Sarah were collaborating with some friends to create an underground dining experienceand, we were invited to the inaugural dinner. Wine suggestions arrived by email a few days before, and then the day before, we were told to rug up for winter and arrive at the address giventhis was going to be fun! The team at Doorstep Dining chose 14 people they thought would have a lot in common, and they did a great job. There was a shared interest in food and wine, and people from many different backgrounds. The conversation was lively, intelligent and fun. Our hosts made us feel incredibly welcome; explaining the program for the evening and also telling us about the events they have planned for the future. It was just like going to a dinner party in someone’s home with a whole lot of new and interesting guests.

Simone, our
chef, has spent many years working in restaurants and teaching cookery in Florence and Tuscany. He is now teaching and catering in Melbourne. If we were to have an evening of Tuscan food, we could not be in better hands. As each course arrived, Simone would roll down the menu on a giant scroll to reveal the course, explaining its history and origins. We started with an antipasto selection. Rustic boards arrived with warm mushrooms on polenta, crostini with chicken liver pate, very good prosciutto and salami, and warm Italian sausage with stracchino cheese. This was also the perfect evening to open a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino we purchased in Tuscany last year. It was spicy, full flavoured and worked beautifully with the antipasto. Next, plates of homemade ravioli arrived filled with soft ricotta and sausage, lightly glazed with sage brown butter. Our main course was a roulade of pheasant with a Berkshire pork and pistachio stuffing; this was served with a sensational Tuscan black kale pudding. Whole loaves of crusty Italian bread arrived with the main course, served with a fine peppery olive oil Simone sources from Kyneton.

As our dessert arrived – a feather light fig, walnut and chocolate tart – Simone’s battered stovetop coffee pot began doing its rounds, casting its mesmerising aroma over us. Simone then arrived with a platter of ‘Il Castagnaccio’, a slightly savoury cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts and a little rosemary. I could feel the history of Tuscan cooking and hospitality – the innate understanding of how to eat well. Timeless dishes are passed down through families, along with the responsibility of always preparing and presenting them with the care and integrity they deserve.

Leaving, we stepped out into the cold evening feeling significantly warmer on the inside than when we arrived. Was it the warm spiced apple ? Maybe, but being wrapped in an evening of generous Tuscan hospitality probably had a lot more to do with it.

doorstepdiningmelbourne@gmail.com   (email address to enquire about future dinners)