Babies Taste Better – MFWF event at La Luna Bistro

Babies taste better…

I know – it’s a disturbing name for a Melbourne Food and Wine event. Designed to be provocative, when you first read the title in the festival guide (where you don’t have the benefit of the picture of a suckling pig) – you do a double take!   Then, when you read on… baby goat, baby lamb, and suckling pig.  With Adrian Richardson at the helm of the cooking, you think – Hey! This sounds fantastic. Then you throw in the fact that all the food will be accompanied by gloriously sourced Pinot Noirs from the team at Pinot Unearthed – we’re onto a winner!

So it was, on a rainy Saturday that we convened (I managed to get Andrew along to this one) with another five good friends to enjoy an fantastic afternoon.

Our menu and Quartz Reef Brut Rose NV

With some lovely sparkling to set the mood, we settled in for a relaxing afternoon.  We quickly got to know the people next to us (as if they had a choice!) – Rachael & David, who as luck had it, were actually linked to our group through only one-two degrees of separation!  You’ve got to love Melbourne!

Adrian Richardson is not shy about his meat – or where it comes from – and he is passionate about educating people!  Here is a sample of the fantastic blackboard art in his restaurant that serves to instruct you on the various cuts of the beast!

 Bread and Roasted Garlic

The first dish to come out was this amazing roasted garlic. Oh my gosh – it was divine!!  Roasted, creamy garlic – seasoned with some beautiful parprika and olive oil.  It was devastatingly luscious and soft, and was delicious scooped generously onto the bread.

Young marinated olives

These olives were also delicious, from La Luna’s olive grove in Seymour, marinated with fennel seeds, and then generously scattered with fresh flat leaf parsley – divine!

Stuck Piglet Sausage

Interesting name for the classic blood sausage!   Being a nose to tail eater, Adrian utilises every method he can to use the whole beast.  In this case, he used the blood from the piglets and enriched it with cream and chocolate to make this beautiful blood sausage – which was served atop a gorgeously crunchy crouton.  Really lovely.

Scotch Quail

Hmmm…. it looks quite innocent doesn’t it!!!  That Adrian Richardson though…. he’s feeding us offal by stealth… I don’t think you want to know what these gorgeously crumbed croquettes are because I certainly don’t know if I would have eaten them knowing what they were beforehand.   They are in fact quail embryos – about 6 days before being hatched.  He has taken them and wrapped them in sausage meat and crumbed them before deep frying them and serving them with a glorious aioli.

I had my suspicions when I bit into one and could see all manner of unmentionables – but I just closed my eyes and kept eating.  Miracle upon miracles though… Andrew had three!!!!  He loved them… the man who won’t eat mushrooms – will eat quail embryos!!    Am I in another space-time continuum…… ?????  Anyway… now we all know we could go on Survivor!!

With these last few dishes, we enjoyed The Wanderer (2010) and Oakridge (2010) pinot noirs – my preference was for the Oakridge, which was a lighter bodied pinot.  The Wanderer was a whole bunch pressed wine – so it certainly had more body, and spicier savoury notes with more profound tannins.

Roast chicks, Nanna style

These were tiny birds – apparently only 7-8 days old (in size terms they’re 1.5) – they’ve been roasted with garlic and seasoning, and served with some beautiful fresh parsley and squeezed lemon juice.  These were a hit – gloriously tender and delicate, people just stopped talking when they took a mouthful. Delicious.

Baby heirloom tomato salad

These dishes were accompanied by this wonderfully colourful and fresh baby heirloom tomato salad.  So juicy and delicious – it was a great counterpoint to the baby chicken!

Bunnies with butter, onions & parsley

These baby rabbits, also known as “kittens” (to friend, Bubblezz,’ horror) – were also a firm favourite.  Adrian says that he sources these from his in-laws who live in Buchan.  He took much delight in describing their delicate black tipped white fur, being a cross between Californian and New Zealand bunnies!! Oooh… too much information – but stewed in white wine and garlic – they did taste fantastic!!

Lamb’s tongue croquettes

This dish ended up being the only lamb on the menu – which was a bit of a disappointment for me – because I love roast lamb.  Ok, Ok….so technically they’re lamb and meet the brief – but it was not quite what I expected.  My goodness – deep frying can hide a multitude of sins can’t it.  These tasted like a normal croquette – I think by this stage, the pinot noir might have been kicking in, because I can’t actually remember if there was anything distinctive about these morsels… sorry Adrian!

With this bracket of dishes we were served pinot noir from Scorpo (2010) and Yabby Lake (2010).  Again, both glorious wines.

Naughty roasted kids (sic)

Roasted naughty kids – yes – that’s what it said on the menu – so, be good children!!!  This was the baby goat, or “kid” – only two and half to three weeks old – it had been marinated in olive oil and garlic, roasted on the bone, and basted in honey! So good!!

In fact the adventurous P thought it was good enough to pick up and eat!! He didn’t want to miss out on any of the beautiful, sweet meat.  In fact, Adrian encouraged this – saying that he cooked all the meats today on the bone for that reason – he said “meat’s sweeter on the bone”.  ‘Nuff said!!

Chef Joel with the runt of the litter

Then they came, a promenade of suckling pigs!  Chef Joel led the charge – admittedly with the smallest of the litter – but he was no less proud! The cavalcade of about 5 chefs were very pleased to present their burnished baby offerings!!  The piglets ranged in age from 3 days to about 2.5 weeks.

Carved suckling pig

I tell you what… I think this was the dish of the day for me.  Gloriously tender, dripping with gorgeous juices, with a delicious layer of fat all over – it just melted in the mouth!  Amazing!!

Roasted baby vegetables

Keeping with the theme… we were also served some roasted baby vegetables!! These were beautifully prepared and presented – gently swathed in some olive oil and fresh flat leaf parsley!

This meaty range of dishes was served with Wooing Tree Pinot Noir  (2010) and the Quartz Reef Pinot Noir (2010).  Wooing vineyard (love the name) is close to Queenstown in a little place called the Cromwell Basin in the Gibson Valley. It was a bit sweeter and more fragrant than the Quartz Reef which was from the Bendigo region.  The Quartz Reef Pinot was described as being more muscly, denser, and with coarser tannins.  Both worked well with the richness of the meat.

Vanilla spiked goat’s curd, fresh berries, figs, honey

A simple and delicate way to finish up a very protein heavy meal – this dish was lovely.  The goat’s curd was creamy, light and luscious – and the figs and berries were fresh and lively.  They were sparingly drizzled with the house honey.  Adrian revealed that he has a beehive behind his cool room – and the bees collect honey from a 5km radius – resulting in this gloriously complex sweetness.  Delicious!

Dessert was served with a further two pinot noirs – both from the Waipara Valley near Christchurch, New Zealand.  Christchurch has been through a tough time lately – so it was lovely to be able to enjoy some of their wine – especially as this region is often overlooked in favour of Martinborough and Marlborough. The Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir (2010) was quite deep, dark and masculine – apparently from basically being grown in a riverbed – where the soil is gravelly.  The Black Estate Pinot Noir was a bit more feminine, more pretty and perfumed – which was helped by being grown on a sloped vineyard, in a clay soil, over a limestone base. They were both quite lively on the palate – and thoroughly enjoyable!

Friends iMac and Bubblezz (self chosen pseudonyms), with Ben (middle) from Pinot Unearthed

Ben, Dan and Chris, from Pinot Unearthed did a great job of introducing us to these wonderful wines – and explaining each one’s provenance and style. They demonstrated a real understanding of the wines (hard job, but someone’s got to do it) – and better than that – when they talked you could tell they had forged great relationships with the winemakers so they could better represent them. Well done guys!!

Adrian – Feed the man meat – Richardson!!

Needing no introduction, Adrian was incredibly entertaining and passionate about his food!  I reckon his favourite moment was telling us about the scotch quails!!  You naughty man!!  Incredibly knowledgeable about his produce – he answered questions from the very appreciative crowd (including one about which gender pig is better to eat. Answer: Once they’re over 6 months – go for the females, otherwise you’ll get “ball taint”.)

It was a wonderful lunch, and being my first event for the season, a great way to kick off the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.  Thanks to all my wonderful friends for joining me – iMac (who can always be counted upon to feast), the adorable Bubblezz and her adventurous hubby P,  the lovely foodie friend J and her hubby G!  And of course, the surprise package of the day – my hubby, Andrew – who ate and loved those scotch quails (and who is now slumbering on the couch!!).  There’s more fun to come with events at Ezard, Gingerboy, Rockpool and Cutler and Co to go… stay tuned!!

Good times! 

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