Saturday, March 2, 2013

on meeting the rock stars!

Who are these two asian chicks talking to Peter Kuruvita?
That guy with David Chang is hilarious!
May I take a picture with you, Matt (Moran)?

... were some of the things I said that Saturday a few months ago when I went to the inaugural Margaret River Gourmet Escape.

I ate, drank, watched so many things that the only way for me to do it justice is to give you my account of that Saturday in a photo-galore journal format.

10.15am Arrived in Margaret River, WA. Gate is only opening at 11am, spent the time getting our wrist tagged and collecting the freebie Gourmet Traveller magazine and Spiegelau wine glasses. The mood is relaxing and it has that local feeling, not at all manic.

11am We are let into the venue at 11am on the dot. First priority is to fill our bellies. Haven't had breakfast, and having alcohol straight up might not be a good idea.

Spent our first GEM (a ticket worth $7) on a small serving of Vasse Felix's wagyu bresaola, prawns, beetroot and melon. It's fresh and get the tastebuds going. Off to a good start

The wagyu was followed closely by parmesan & panko crumbed whiting with guacamole, aioli and greens from Newton House. I've got to say this has got to be one of my favourite dishes of the day. The creamy guacamole just works with the crispy panko.

Visited the bookshop and heard from a conversation nearby that Heston Blumenthal is not going to come. He was the big draw card, so obviously a lot of people were disappointed. But not me! No siree! There's plenty of rock stars to go around. (I only found out few days later that Blumenthal had to stay in HK as his Fat Duck chefs were in a fatal car accident, sad, very sad)

Any excuse to have the spit roasted "big red" pork on a toasted bun with quick pickled slaw and BBQ sauces. This dish was a great stomach filler and tongue-pleaser.

Now that our bellies are semi-filled, alcohol is next. Our choice was a glass of Eagle Bay Brewing Co's beer. Eagle Bay is a family owned and run microbrewery, opened not too long ago in 2010. Their beers contain of only rainwater, malted barley, hops and yeast, no preservatives or anything else added. I picked their Kolsch to quench my thirst. A German style lager, it was light and went down real easy.

11.30am On the "Chef's Theatre" are David Chang and the hilarious AA Gill being interviewed by a mustachioed dude (the editor?) from Gourmet Traveller. When asked, Chang's biggest wish is for foodies to enjoy the food rather than take pictures. Awkward....

Took the time to enjoy the venue, Leeuwin Estate Winery, and people-watch.

Another GEM spent, this time on a serving of St Margaret Vineyard & Grass Fed Beef's palm sugar & soy seared beef fillet on wild rocket salad. It was sweet with an asian-style marinade. The beef is from grass-fed cows from the Scott family farm in Margaret River. The meat was cured overnight and sous vide. Tender and my kind of food.

Leeuwin Estate's 12 hr braised pork dish with home made tortila & condiment had a weird grainy, floury taste. Maybe from the tortilla? Not a fan.

The Premium tickets we purchased came with 4 GEMs each. They were running out, fast, had to get some more. Fortunately the GEM sellers were not that hard to find.

12.28pm Cowaramup Food presented a lamb cutlet dish with green beans & nectarine salad with dukkah & feta crumble. The lamb cutlets were sourced from Amelia Park in the Southwest. The sweet-tartness of peach goes really well with the gaminess of lamb. Husband is not a fan, but I am.

Time for a bit of Omega-3 with Saracen Estate & Duckstein Brewery's salmon gravlax served on parsnip & potato rosti with beetroot compote and blue cheese drizzel. I wasn't a fan of Duckstein's eisbein when I had it few years ago, but this salmon gravlax didn't disappoint, the salmon was fresh, goes well with the blue cheese. But what's a drizzel?? They must mean drizzle.

12.53pm I almost lost all hope of seeing any actual cooking when Chang wanted to chill out on the couch with AA Gill, but fortunately am proven wrong when Tetsuya Wakuda, Neil Perry and Peter Gilmore showed off their skill.

Saw an epic paella pan I just had to take a picture of, though the stomach would not cope with more food crammed into it.

1.24pm The day is scorching hot, sweat is running down our backs. Time to cool down and make space for Simmo's ice cream. Hubby had the Hazelnut Nougat, with crunchy nougat topping. I had the Burnt Caramel, which had somewhat thicker consistency than the hazelnut nougat. Both ice creams were sickly sweet, especially the salty caramel sauce. They did not provide any cooling down effect whatsoever.

2.19pm Two bald chefs on the Theatre, George Calombaris and Sat Bains, are doing a cooking demo. Love Georgie's "Wash your mouth out" dessert, shaped like a bar of Imperial Leather soap complete with foam.

Had a small toothpick of Huon farmed salmon, had a great spiced seasoning, loved it.

2.45pm Caught the last 15 minutes of the talk with Alex Atala at The Chef's Table. The mustachioed man is everywhere!!! Alex gave a very interesting talk on how to present food. He gave an example of presenting razor clams that have the appearance of worms. Alex was a very approachable, friendly chap. In his chef's whites, somehow reminds me of House MD.

3pm Toilet break. Surprisingly clean and fresh.

3.11pm Saw Peter Kuruvita walking purposefully down the road and had to take a pic quickly before saying, "Peter.... Hi...." while semi-giggling. He noticed me papparazi-ing him and came over to shake my hand and to say, "Hi, nice to meet you!" Blushing.....

3.20pm René Redzepi in red hot swimming shorts. His accent is more american to my ears than european. He shared his amazement with the australian bush tucker variety and suggested that australians should make full use of it.

4.14pm Spotted Peter Kuruvita again outside of the The Chef's Table venue, walking with two asian girls, being shot with a serious-looking camera. My first thought were, "Promo for the festival?". Second thought were, "Who are these asian girls??"

I have been watching My Kitchen Rules the past couple of months, one of the many cooking shows I watch every year. A couple of weeks ago, enter two asian contestants with heavy mascara and red lipstick, who looked darn familiar but I couldn't quite pinned in my mind who they are. Took me a while before it clicked. They're the girls I saw in Margaret River with Peter Kuruvita!! Sophia Pou & Ashlee Pham are their names, in the show they are shown as somewhat tactless and ungracious.

I suspect that scene with Peter Kuruvita may have something to do with the show.

4.30pm Saved the best for last. The third bald chef of the day, Matt Moran, shared with us his journey of becoming a chef. He told us that he won't be back on Masterchef in 2013. Say what??? I'm not sure if he's talking about Masterchef The Professionals, or if it's the standard version (amateur cooks) Masterchef. He said that the venue has been moved to Melbourne and that there's a format change of some sort.

All in all, we spent a conservative $94.50 on the day: ate 6 small snack-size meal & numerous produce tastings, drank a glass of beer & numerous wine tastings, came home with two bottles of wine (my fave: Evans & Tate) and Dellendale Creamery's triple cream brie & a shadforth.

Cannot wait for next year, hope that it would retain that intimate and local feel.

My tips for next year:
  • Bring a hat and apply sunscreen
  • Bring an anti-histamine tablet (for those with hay / pollen allergies)
  • Hang around The Chef's Table more

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