One of the greatest joys of working with restaurants is definitely the part that involves eating. Thankfully, there are many opportunities for that - after food photo-shoots, concept tastings, and at special events such as this, where months of planning all come together.
In October, Cibo e Vino, one of the Hills District's hidden gems, ran their annual 100 mile degustation.
The concept of a 100 mile meal is an initiative of the Crave Food Festival where restaurants are challenged to serve food from within a 100 mile radius.
Having done a lot of behind the scenes work with marketing the restaurant, I've become quite knowledgeable about their producers and suppliers, so it was fantastic being able to join their celebration of local food.
We start with the roast asparagus with slow-cooked free range egg. This dish is earthy and heart-warming. I love the sweetness of the onion confit and the clean vibrant flavours of the asparagus. The egg is perfectly slow cooked and oozes over the dish with elegance.
Next are baked new potatoes from Swallow Rock Organics with house-cured bacon and onion confit.
I love eating out because chefs put that extra effort into cooking food, that you'd never do at home. Never would I dry cure my own pork for a week and then hot-smoke it.
Each mouthful of this dish is just so heavenly. Even more so, because I appreciate the myriad connections that make up this one course. It's the commitment and dedication of growers and producers and creativity of chefs that makes food like this exist.
Course three is deep fried zucchini fritters stuffed with Willowbrae goats curd. I've always loved zucchini flowers. It's a beautiful thing being able to eat the fruit and blossom in its entirety. Using fresh zucchini from Middle Dural and artisan goatscurd from Willowbrae Chevre Cheese Farm from the foothills of the Hawkesbury Valley, this deep-fried zucchini flower is ever so delicately battered. It's quite the exquisite combination, balanced with a smear of red pepper puree.
Following on, we have the squid ink risotto with sauteed Hawkesbury calamari. It's a gorgeous dark and velvety risotto. Almost like a fashion statement, the bright yellows and reds of the capsicums and the pink undertones of the calamari are a stunning contrast against the black sheen of the squid ink.
Already preparing myself for the long awaited Melanda Park roast suckling pig, the palate cleanser of mulberry granita is a welcoming treat.
And then here it is - the roast free-range Melanda Park suckling pig with mustard fruits.
This highly prized pork is sweet and succulent and is used by the likes of Neil Perry, Justin North and Kylie Kwong.
The meat to crackling ratio varies across tables as everybody is served a different cut from whole suckling pigs. What is consistent, is the enjoyment of tasting the crackling, which is definitely one of the best I've ever had. There's an ultra crispness that is so deeply satisfying. The savoury flavours paired with the sweet and tart mustard fruits is beyond divine.
Here's a closer look at that amazing crackling -
A glass of strawberries and cream, YoGo style is served as a pre-dessert teaser. It is wonderfully fresh and delightfully creamy.
Last but not least, gratinated black figs and vanilla bean ice cream. I love the sticky sweetness of the figs but I'm so sure there's a shot of alcohol in there somewhere as I find myself instantly blushing (Asian Glow).
Cibo e Vino is so lucky to be surrounded by so many local farms and artisan food producers. I know I'm a bit bias when I say this, but they're really doing some special things out in 'The Hills'.
Cibo e Vino
Shop 2, 299 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, NSW
Phone: (02) 8002 0912
The 2011 Cibo e Vino 100 Mile Degustation was on October 22 and costed $85/person.
Disclaimer: Cibo e Vino is a client of Jennifer's at The Bamboo Garden.
JENIUS & partner dined as guests of Cibo e Vino