It's the only word to describe the atmosphere in the room, as world-class tenor Benjamin Makisi holds a high note with ringing power.
Tonight we're at the Devour Gala Dinner for Wellington on a Plate, the big ticket event of the festival that is celebrating Wellington, particularly the City Market, its providores and its supporters.
The dinner takes place in the atrium of the Chaffers Dock Building, the usual site of the Sunday City Market. The Markets were established by local chef Martin Bosley in 2009, a weekly gathering of small and artisan growers and food specialists. Tonight the space is an elegant ballroom, festooned with fairy lights and decorated with all things edible.
At the entrance is a long table overflowing with products from the stallholders at the City Markets. Brown paper sacks spill over with potatoes, ruby red tomatoes are shiny and luscious-looking, and a rainbow of carrots make everyone appreciative of the fantastic range of produce accessible to Wellingtonians.
Breads, cheeses and preserves
French cheese and artisan breads
Yams and parsnips
Potatoes and Spanish onion
Waitstaff serving canapes
Avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder
We mingled with the pre-dinner crowd, snacking on canapes of oxtail tortellini with horseradish mousse, avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder and pressed chicken terrine with watercress and walnut mayonnaise. Freshly shucked Ta Matuku Bay oysters are enormous bivalves, sweet, plump and briny.
Te Matuku Bay oysters
Table settings have been themed, each holding a creative centrepiece featuring a certain stall or product.
I love the idea of writing guests' names on oranges!
Roses in milk bottles
Le Canard duck soup with duck liver mousse crostini
We take our seats at what turns out to be the media table, an eclectic collection of food bloggers and food journalists at the Le Canard table.
Our amuse bouche is an elegant serve of Le Canard duck soup, a rich salty broth that is topped with a shard of crostini slathered with the lightest and smoothest duck liver mousse one could hope for.
Smoked fish banadade with rye bread crumbs
Our entree is a very sophisticated-looked smoked fish bandade, served on a slice of celeriac panna cotta and garnished with a sweet corn emulsion, rye bread crumbs and micro greens.
The dish has interesting components although I'm left wishing there were more textures to this dish, like crostini or something crunch, to break up the mutiples of softness.
Mains are shared amongst the table, a huge platter of roast beef fillet with anchoide, sides of cauliflower gratin and roasted Agria potatoes, and the star attraction, massive Northland snappers roasted whole and served with Cloudy Bay clams in XO butter sauce.
Agria potatoes roasted in Martin Bosley's Vadouvan spice mix
Serving the snapper
Roast Northland snapper with Cloudy Bay clams in XO butter sauce
Fish eye goo
Of course nothing can go to waste here, and after John and I have a fish cheek each, we delve into the eye sockets with our forks.
I do love the gelatinous surrounds of the fish eye although the actual eye ball can be a little chalky. Go on. Try it next time.
Esque chocolate, Feijoa Turkish delight and Borek filled with Turkish delight
Dessert is also communal, squares of Esque chocolate studded with toffee and cubes of icing sugar-dusted Feijoa Turkish delight. The borek is a surprise treat, filled with stretchy rosewater Turkish delight inside.
The cheeseboard by Le Marche is an aromatic delight of soft bries, blues and a particularly feisty washed rind.
The entertainment was the real treat here, and later during the dinner, Benjamin is joined by two more tenors. They laugh as they call themselves the Three Pacific Tenors, enthralling us with spine-tingling performances of opera classics like Nessun Dorma and Santa Lucia, as well as Frank Sinatra's My Way.
There's much light-heartedness in their singing, and the joy in their faces easily spreads throughout the room. Benjamin is easily the show-shopper, commanding in his presence, with thundering confidence. Apparently he is affectionately known as the Polynesian Pavarotti because of his stature, stage presence and strength of voice.
An incredible evening.
Benjamin Makisi, the Polynesian Pavarotti
Keen to experience Wellington for free?
Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competition to win dinner for two at the Wellington pop-up restaurant in Sydney. Entries close on Thursday 16 September 2010 so don't delay, enter now!
>> Read the next Wellington on a Plate 2010 post [WLG pop-up restaurant, Sydney]
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Devour Gala Dinner
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Fidel's Cafe
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Matterhorn
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Osteria Del Toro
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Petone Food Tour
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Wellington Pop-Up Restaurant in Sydney
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9/11/2010 11:11:00 am