"My name is Billy, and I am from A Table for Two," I said.
"Oh sorry, this is a private function tonight," she replies totally unaware that I've just stated my foodblog's name to RSVP myself at the Australian Pork Yuletide Dinner at Restaurant Atelier this evening.
Classic! We both burst out laughing at our own silliness before she hands me over my official name tag for the night to join in the dinner party. I am amused by the awkward situation like this because of my foodblog name, and I can sense that there will be a lot more to come. Speaking of funny foodblog names, Grab Your Fork, ChocolateSuze, Not Quite Nigella, Eat Show & Tell, Here Comes The Food, One Bite More, Citrus & Candy, Pikelet & Pie and Simon Food Favorites just to name a few, who also partake to celebrate the pre-winter solstice. All thanks to Melissa from Fooderati for the invite to this event, organised by Stewart White, the founder of Whiteworks PR company who is also a true foodie, as the President of the Food Media Club of Australia.
The theme of this evening is 'PORK'. It is a well organised yuletide feast in conjunction with Australian Pork, a much needed stimulus boost to raise awareness that eating pork doesn't give you swine flu. Who doesn't like a piece of juicy pork, and a square of crunchy crackling on top? No more pork-ing you say? Don't be silly! I will be inclined to eat even more pork as an excuse to build up my immune system against A1H1. And this evening, I definitely have injected myself a heavy dose of porkalicious!
The Restaurant Atelier, an old sandstone terrace converted restaurant delivers a homely and cosy ambiance. A contingent of foodbloggers among other guests are gathering outside the verandah with Piggs Peake wine in hand, and totally spoiled with a constant flow of canapes - little creamy pork neck rillette morsels with cornichon, green beans served in a Witlof Leaf, a great little morsel to keep us going with conversation while waiting for others to arrive before we all march into the restaurant for the main dinner.
Monkey see, monkey do; the guests are in awe when the whole troop of foodbloggers pulling out their cameras and suddenly feels like a rave party with flashguns going off every few seconds at every corner. Once sat down, three different types of wine are poured to pair with the beautiful presented entree plate trio. The grilled pickled loin of pork is juicy and tender, pairs so well with the celeriac remoulade to soak up all the sweet earthy tartness. This dish is paired with 2008 Piggs Peake Peartree Riesling - very sweet and smoothing almost like a dessert wine.
The mini surf-n-turf oink of pulled neck salad with Crystal Bay prawns delivers an Asian fusion flavour with the use of coriander leaf for garnish. The intensed flavour of sweet and saltiness from the prawn and pork are balanced nicely with a clean and crisp 2008 Piggs Peake Sows Ear Semillon.
My favorite from the trio would be the honey-glazed pork hock paired with 2008 Piggs Peaked Amanda Love Viognier. The sweet glazed hock is succulent and impeccably tender, just melt in the mouth. Topped with tiny roasted apples marbles adds bit of crunch in contrast with the tenderness from the pork.
Finally, the "Pork Star" is unfold and becomes the center of attention over a carving ceremony right in the middle of the dining room. The guests are rather bemused when the rack of pork is mobbed by a flock of seagulls foodbloggers with their cameras turning into a paparazzi frenzy. Imagining Paris Hilton is a rack of pork, rest on a plate with the sexiest pose that makes you salivate... yep, you get the idea.
The cut up pot roasted Murray Valley moisture-infused pork rack is now plated and shared among the tables. First time I've seen pork that is pale almost white, with only a fraction of pinkish flesh. It is definitely not overcooked, as it is moist and juicy to the bone. Its sweet flavour is enhanced with a simple clean taste of broad beans, pomme cocotte and sauteed pine mushrooms. I love matsutake (pine mushroom) when I was in Japan. It has the most distinctive scent of pine and adds an intensive flavour to the dish. Somehow I couldn't taste any of the pine mushroom flavour in this dish, as my initial thought that it is Shiitake mushrooms were used. This dish is paired with a 2008 Piggs Peake Wolfie Zinfandel, full of spice flavour and smooth from the tip of the tongue to the throat, it is a jolly good winter warmer.
Next to the pork star on the plate, is a shiny fatty slice of boned shoulder of pork roasted with winter herb cure on creamed parsnip and buttered kale. Another tender piece of pork, with a healthy layer of fat for extra slippery smoothness. Unfortunately with so much promise of crackling on the pork but instead it was a crackling-less chewy fatty rind. We have the 2008 Piggs Peake Hogshead Chardonnay (you should noticed by now all the piggy names on the wine list) to go with the dish.
Dessert is a good twist of the traditional Christmas pudding. A Christmas pudding ice cream is served with poached winter fruits infused in aromatic spices. The velvety smooth ice cream is almost mousse like carries a rich aroma of spices and a subtle hint of alcohol. The Piggs Peake Little Pig Verdelho Fortified proven a tad too sweet for some people to handle together with the dessert, while I am happily sipping it till last drop.
To finish the evening, we even have a pork-luck goodie bag to take home but on one condition - Melissa kindly set up a masterchef challenge for everyone to test our creativity with that 1.2kg rack of moisture-infused pork insid. Thank god there is also a copy of Australian Women Weekly's pork cookbook to save the day. Now, I just have to decide whether I want to be the inventive Aaron or the panicky home-cooking Julie.
Thanks once again to Stewart White, Melissa, Australian Pork, and Restaurant Atelier for being such a great host!
Restaurant Atelier 22 Glebe Point Road Glebe, Sydney
P: +61 (02) 9566 2112
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm