What do you get when you combine four amazing chefs, from four very different restaurants, fresh local produce from the sea and the paddock, plus a generous splash, of some top quality local vineyards? I would say it must be the Mid North Coast’s entry to the “Crave” Sydney Food Festival’s “100 Mile Challenge”
The aim is of this challenge is to prepare a menu using fresh local produce and wines from within a 100 mile radius. The chefs, when designing the menu needed to ensure that the character of our region was evident in all the components of the meal.
Image Courtesy of Sonia Fingleton Mid North Coast Tourism
So who are the chefs leading the charge for our regional cuisine? The 2010 Mid North Coast Signature Dish Competition winner, Dustin Bowie Ford from Saltwater at Emerald Beach.
Dustin pictured centre
Stefano Mazzini from Fiasco Restaurant in Coffs Harbour, Taz Huggins who is also from Fiasco.
Last, but certainly not least, a chef with a huge personality, Clayton Donovan from Jaaning Tree in Nambucca.
What a formidable team! I have had the pleasure of dining at each of these restaurants in the past, and I know with the guys all working together in the kitchen we will be in for a treat tonight.
The other contenders in the 100 Mile Challenge are Southern Highlands, Central Ranges, Riverina and South Coast, with prizes being awarded to the winner of each course. The big event is being held at the Eveleigh Markets in Sydney on the 30th October 2011.
On the 17th October 2011, Osprey Restaurant in Coffs Harbour played host to a dress rehearsal dinner, for the Sydney Crave Festivals 100 Mile Challenge. Myself, and three guests joined 60 privileged individuals to sample our culinary entry to the competition.
We were treated to the three course “100 Mile Challenge” menu, which was also accompanied by a selection of local wines. Gaeme Davies from Long Point Vineyard narrowed down the selection of matching wines to two for each course. Guests at the dress rehearsal were asked to vote for their favourite wine to accompany each course. This involvement was a real honour. I think everyone took their role seriously. It was also a great opportunity for patrons to try a variety of local wines which they otherwise may not.
So what is the taste of the Mid North Coast? Let us begin the feast with an entree from the river and the sea.
Nambucca River Oysters freshly shucked and served with a Dorrigo Vodka Foam.
A salad of squid and prawn with delicious tomato jelly, finger lime and macadamia. Ceviche Cured Kingfish with foraged flowers and betel leaf, the wine to match this course was a choice between Roses Vineyard Sparking Chardonnay 2011 which I have previously reviewed in “Top Drop,” or a Bago Spritzy Chardonnay NV.
The entrees were all light, fresh and delicious. My favourite was the Nambucca River Oyster, it was a large plump oyster which tasted like the sea, the accompanying foam was the perfect addition.
The main was about being free range and organic. We were served a gorgeous melt in the mouth rich, dark meat Gaian Duck thigh, and twice cooked spiced Pork Belly with a pickled salad of diakon, cucumber, radish, chilli and mango slivers. The native fruit Apple Berry also featured on the plate and can be seen in the “plating up” image.
Accompanying this course was the choice between Cassegrain Edition Noir 2010 Pinot Noir, which is my current favourite red at home, and the Rose’s Chambourcin 2010. The Roses Vineyard Chambourcin caused a bit of an upset at our table when it was served. It was so gorgeous! A very mellow, full palate wine which we felt suited the dish to a tee. Our loyalties were shifted and I think there were a lot of votes for the Chambourcin at our end of the table!
No meal is complete without a dessert, so from the beds, bushes and brambles we are served a dish of local berries and native wildflowers. The delicious berries are presented on a hand crafted slumped glass dish with strawberry coulis and a yoghurt and basil pannacotta and honeycomb crumbs.
The berries were so sweet and delicious that I would have happily consumed them alone!
To finish the evening we are asked to chose between the Cassegrain Noble Cuvee NV and the Long Point Vineyard Agent Orange on the rocks. I have a soft spot for the Cassegrain Noble Cuvee so this was a lovely way to finish a delicious evening.
On a more serious note, competing in the 100 mile Challenge in Sydney is one of the many ways the Mid North Coast is developing a reputation for having a luscious food based tourism culture. As locals we also need to celebrate our blossoming local food & wine industry, and support the restaurants, growers markets, festival and vineyards to grow.