Most of us would agree that having a meal prepared by people you know makes it just that bit more special. I can still remember the look on my friend Colin’s face when some good friends of his conspired to make him the perfect birthday cake:
So when I heard that two of my favourite cookie-foodies Penny and Billy were going to be part of a Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Miss Jackson in St Kilda, I was giddy with excitement!
Many a cookie-foodie and eatie-foodie from the Melbourne foodie community was in attendance, and no, not strictly food bloggers! We all had the pleasure of hobnobbing outdoors and being handed starters and drinks upon arrival. I saw a couple of Vale Ales go out but for the most part, introductory drinks were NV Yarraburn Premium Cuvee Brut from the Yarra Valley and the fairly new White Rabbit White Ale. Though White Rabbit Brewery is based in Healesville, Victoria, it’s actually owned by Matilda Bay. (edit: my mistake, White Rabbit is owned by Little Creatures, not Matilda Bay. Thanks to @sawks for the correction)
Anyway, our starters! The first two were pretty representative of what you’d find as nibblies in swanky Melbourne parts – sage and white anchovy fritters in beer batter with aioli, and bresaola with goat’s cheese and cornichons on sourdough.
Initially, I was going to say that my only criticism of these starters was that the sage and anchovy fritters were a dead ringer for the exact same dish that I had at The European, then I thought: wait…if I am likening this to a dish I’ve had made by pros, then Mat and Jess were doing something right! Very, very right.
As for the bresaola…well, you know me: I am very unlikely to ever say a word against cured meats. It’s pretty much the only thing that is keeping me from forswearing meat for good. They were delicious morsels, though in scant supply.
The true angel of the canapés however, was the slow cooked quail egg with a pea veloute and pork crackling crumbs. Thanks to the lovely and quick-fingered Em of one of my favourite food blogs “…it pleases us” (meeting her was pretty bloody exciting!), I was able to scarf one down while poor Tristan snapped photos of all and sundry. He got one eventually, of course.
The pea soup had a velvety texture and tasted magnificent. Coupled with the quail egg which was indeed cooked to perfection, you had a seriously decadent starter. And the pork crackling crumbs! Not just ornamental, they imbued the savoury shot with the taste and smell of roast pork straight out of the oven. This little shot of heaven stayed with me a long time!
The rabid masses were momentarily sated and so it was time for us to be seated. Tristan and I were fortunate enough to be seated next to the lovely Maryann and her friend Alex, the latter of whom being a non-Twittering foodie! We all discussed the menu and debated fondly what our food blogger chums had in store for us.
Next up on the chopping block was Penny with the entrée – double braised ox tongue served on polenta.
It was at this point that I met another food blogger sitting opposite us in a neighbouring alcove called Bryan. He was a bit nervous about eating ox tongue. I personally found the ox tongue to be…well, just like red meat, but more tender. Though I do confess it would be harder to eat if it arrived on one’s plate resembling a whole tongue! This dish was wonderfully rich though the polenta was just a tad too stodgy. Having said that, I’d be perfectly happy to be served this as a main.
The team at Miss Jackson were responsible for wine matching the courses and with Penny’s dish they served a glass of the 2009 Hermanos Cataluna Tempranill/Mataro/Garnacha, Dromana.
Billy’s up next to bat, with the main: miso pork loin with panko crust & cider pork belly with baby beetroot & carrots. As if that wasn’t enough there were sides too – tart radish and cucumber slaw, luxurious rosemary and duck fat potatoes and lastly, asparagus with anchovy butter which was the first of the sides to disappear! Coincidentally, it’s the only side Tristan didn’t seem to get a photo of…
The pork belly, as promised, was tantalisingly infused with a slightly sweet cider taste. The pork loin was beautifully tender and its panko crust was a fabulous juxtaposition in texture. Even with the sides we were all ridiculously spoilt.
Our restaurateur hosts accompanied this part of the meal with a 2009 Holly’s Garden Pinot Gris. I might add very kindly that for all wines served on the night, we were all more than welcome to have more than one glass. That’s hospitality, yo!
At this stage, a fair few of us were probably fairly full and so Ed’s palate cleanser of green tea and mint granita cheekily soused with gin was indeed welcome. Also, it looks well classy, eh? I like that if you indeed wanted to, you could jolly well make this at home. I might try my hand at it this summer.
It’s time for the last course…dessert! Miss Jackson’s chef Sarah was responsible for three hip-widening treats – a trifle with strawberry liqueur and white chocolate mousse, the cutest little crème brulée tart with strawberry and aniseed jam and lastly a strawberries and cream semi-freddo sandwich. Can you guess that the theme for dessert was strawberries? Mmm!
Despite being full to the gills, upon the first mouthful of trifle, I regained my second stomach reserved for desserts, just like when you were a kid. Apparently, I’m a bit silly when it comes to eating trifles and didn’t do Sarah’s trifle creation justice because I didn’t mix up the layers. However, the other two were polished off with me oohing and ahhing. Despite being quite wine-hazy at this stage, I do remember that the 2009 Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato served was like drinking liquid strawberry sherbet! It was zesty, sour and sweet all at the same time and set off the sweetness of dessert excellently.
It was still quite late when I left but the party was still kicking! I wonder how many sore heads there were the morning after…?
I’m still in awe of my food blogging friends and their culinary prowess: remember, these are folks who by and large are not in the food industry. They have full-time jobs that are relatively unrelated. However, food is a passion for all of them and this night was definitely designed to showcase that. It was an absolute honour to be wined and dined by you all. It was most gracious of Miss Jackson to open up their place to house such an event – it was a bit of a foodie-love-in!