Good Food Month's Dinner Under the Stars
Giulietta Avenia | On 12, Jul 2014
The air was crisp, the lights were twinkling, the conversation convivial and the sound of strumming guitars enveloped the crowd in a warm glow.
The stage was set for the Good Food Monthâ€™s Dinner Under the Stars and it was set beautifully.
Four of Brisbaneâ€™s most popular restaurants created a laneway to celebrate the communal atmosphere of the Barracks. The restaurants Libertine, The Chelsea, Cabiria and Peasant, joined forces to create a stunning, seasonal menu that wooed the diners into returning soon.
The Dinner Under the Stars was one of the first events in Brisbaneâ€™s Good Food Month and it was a fantastic introduction to the month ahead. Turning a usually empty space into a beautiful social area for dining made this night particularly special.
A table stretched from the doors of Libertine down to The Chelsea, adorned with candles and hanging centerpieces of fresh herbs and vegetables. You could reach out for a handful of rosemary or coriander to add to your dish or simply breathe in the aroma of these ingredients.
The courtyard of The Chelsea was strung with fairy lights as the diners mingled and sipped on champagne before being shown to their seats. CanapÃ©s from the restaurants enticed and provided a welcome beginning to the meal ahead.
The Chelseaâ€™s goatâ€™s cheese and tarragon croquette with a tomato relish was my personal favourite of the canapÃ©s. The chevre was oozing and lightened by the tangy tarragon. Fried to perfection and sprinkled with salt, the croquette was at once indulgent and moreish and had me returning to the dish many times.
Cabiriaâ€™s sesame seed and potato cornetto filled with a salmon tartare was equally delicious. The wafer of the cornetto was thin and crispy yet effortlessly supported the fresh, wholesome cubes of salmon. Seasoned to perfection, these cornettos were moist and juicy and far surpassed any you can buy at the corner store.
The third canapÃ© was from Libertine and was a Vietnamese rice paper roll filled with peanut chicken and crammed full of fresh vegetables. With a mint yoghurt chutney for dipping, this canapÃ© was light and scrumptious and balanced out the richer options.
Once we were seated it was straight onto the entrees. The dishes were served for groups of four to share, enabling everyone to get a taste of each dish.
A charcuterie board from Peasant with cured meats, pickles and olives greeted us at the table and provided the perfect ice-breaker to meet those seated around us and start a conversation. I found it fascinating how this event brought so many different people together due to their love of good food and their love of experiencing everything this city has to offer.
And when part of this offering is Libertineâ€™s dumplings filled with five different types of mushrooms and a chilli infused soy sauce, itâ€™s no wonder Brisbane is so loved. Soft, plump and pleated to perfection, these dumplings were delicious. So itâ€™s no surprise that their removal from the regular menu resulted in a protest from the Libertine locals until they were reinstated!
The final entrÃ©e was Peasantâ€™s squid stuffed with morcilla and prawns garnished with black squid ink. This dish wasnâ€™t my favourite. The morcilla (blood sausage) took away from the freshness of the squid and prawns and no amount of lemon juice squeezed on top could bring it back.
The lull didnâ€™t last long, however, as The Chelsea presented their honey-braised pork belly with roast celeriac, watercress and crackling. It is seriously impossible to have any negative thoughts when a plate of soft, buttery pork belly and thick, crunchy, eye-wateringly delicious crackling is waiting to be eaten. Amazing. The celeriac was perfect for wiping up the remaining sweet honey sauce and the peppery flavour of the watercress cut through the richness.
But my favourite dish of the night was still to come. Libertineâ€™s Coq au Vin with pork floss and a Vietnamese sauce verte which was dreamily delectable. The chicken had been lovingly cooked in red wine until it was soft and juicy. The skin of the chicken was salty from the pork floss which had melted into it and I simply could not get enough of the green herb sauced poured on top. It was fresh and intriguing and brought together some of my favourite ingredients in a way I had not seen before.
Cabiriaâ€™s applewood smoked lamb shoulder with an autumn vegetable fricassee and charred tongue was less impressive. Whilst I was impressed with myself for eating tongue, which was surprisingly tender and smooth, I was not enamoured with the lamb shoulder, which had been made stringy and pale. As lamb shoulder is usually served in large, rich and pink portions this seemed like a poor alternative. The vegetable fricassee was also rather flavourless against the rich flavours of the pork belly and coq au vin.
One dish does not a meal ruin, however, as our excitement had been bubbling away all night due to the bubbling paella pans being attended to by the chefs of Peasant. This Catalan style paella was full and rich with prawns, mussels, clams and chorizo filling the dish. I fell in love with the fat, verging on obese, prawns and was equally delighted to discover my neighbours didnâ€™t like clams. More for me! The sweet morsels of flesh soaked up the flavours of saffron, tomato and herbs.
Of course, a meal isnâ€™t completed without dessert, which was supplied by MÃ¶venpick. Little tubs of crÃ¨me brulee ice cream rounded off the evening well and ensured that all diners left with sweet memories of the night.
This dinner marked the beginning of a fabulous month of food in Brisbane and made me eager to attend as many similar events as possible. Until another Dinner Under the Stars comes along, however, I shall visit the four restaurants that participated to continue enjoying their scrumptious food.