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Friday, April 03, 2009

Behind-the-scenes at the Chefs of Merivale Gala Dinner


The tides. They are a-turning.

At the start of the month, Grab Your Fork, along with several other Sydney food blogs, reported on the March Into Merivale launch party. Open to anyone and everyone, it was a great evening. Free food, free drinks, lots of photos, a chance for some chef ogling and did I mention the free food? We ate, we photographed, we blogged the evening in all its glory. Just another late night of editing for a food blogger.

So it was quite unexpected to receive an email from Melissa of the web team at Merivale. Not only had Merivale noticed our online coverage (Justin Hemmes included, by all accounts), but they wanted to extend an invitation to we food bloggers for a behind-the-scenes look at their Chefs of Merivale Gala Dinner, a final hurrah for their month-long March Into Merivale campaign.

Would we like to take some photos inside the Merivale kitchens, to meet the chefs and to taste the canapes that would be served before dinner? Is that a rhetorical question?!?

Plating up sample canapes for we food bloggers

Heading into a commercial kitchen during service is a bit like a groupie going backstage during a major concert. Or a revhead heading into the pits at Bathurst 1000. A little awestruck at first, we expected the hustle and bustle of frenzied activity, however the functions kitchen at the Ivy was remarkably calm and quiet, teams of two and three working studiously over different canapes.

Quail saltimboca
Quail breast and sage leaf wrapped in prosciutto
served with a spicy tomato relish

Oh the joy of unhurried photography. Oh the pleasure of space. Oh the delight of delicious samples.

Nobiyuki Ura, Chef de Cuisine, Sushi E
helps plate up the tuna canape

We checked out the cool room (spotless), the stove (huge and again spotlessly clean), the gigantic ovens and the row of deep-fry baskets hoisted over simmering oil.

Like a horde of grinning Japanese tourists, we photographed everything. The chefs just smiled and kept offering us food.

Tuna tartare towers

Tuna tartare topped with finely diced tomatoes and a sprig of chervil
served on lavosh crackers

And oh, such food. As waitstaff ferried plates of canapes upstairs to waiting guests, we loitered over our dedicated serve of samples taking photo after photo, no morsel to be eaten before a group all-clear confirmed.

Oh the tender delicacy of quail saltimbocca, a quail breast and sage leaf wrapped in prosciutto and pan-fried til crisp.

Then the contrast of soft tuna tartare crowned with a finest dice of sweet tomato and a sprig of chervil served on a crisp tile of lavosh.

Tuna spoons topped with scallop and tobiko flying fish roe
doused with a ponzu dressing

Spoons of tuna topped with scallop and tobiko flying fish roe swooned into a sweet and zesty puddle of ponzu dressing.

More tuna spoons (with different plating)

Akira Urata, Chef de Cuisine from Teppanyaki
puts the finishing touches to the calamari canape

Salt and pepper calamari topped with deep-fried lotus root chips
served in butter lettuce cups

Salt and pepper calamari? Hello my friend. The golden crunch of its shell gave way to a strip of calamari that was as soft and silky as the butter lettuce cup it rested on. The lotus root chip gave a dignified elegance. A squiggle of chilli garlic miso dressing added a salty sweetness and heat.

Apple finely julienned

Lobster with fresh fig, apple straws and micro leaves

And then the unmistakeable beauty of the lobster spoons served with fresh fig, apple straws and micro leaves. Subtle, clean and fresh flavours that enhanced the sweetness of lobster, the sexiness of fig.

Oh how we smiled. How we wished we could stay and partake in the six-course-with-matching-wines $300 per head dinner that evening.

We headed upstairs for a tour of Ucello, a hello to the chefs upstairs and a quick nod at the offer of champagne by the oft-talked about pool. And just when we thought our night couldn't get any better, we were asked, "so.... you guys can all stay for dinner, right?"


Click here to continue

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Chefs of Merivale Gala Dinner
March Into Merivale launch party
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/03/2009 02:08:00 am


  • At 4/03/2009 5:18 am, Anonymous Ivan said…

    "so.... you guys can all stay for dinner, right?"

    A rhetorical question if I've ever heard one.

  • At 4/03/2009 6:45 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    I bet even for someone with your history in the food scene that this, especially the option for staying for a $300 meal, must have been a unique experience.

    What a wonderful start and I can't wait to see what's in the next installment. Ooo the suspense! :)

  • At 4/03/2009 7:26 am, Anonymous lili - pikelet & pie said…

    ZOMG indeed!
    What a great experience! I love that people are taking notice of the food blogging community.
    Congrats :)

  • At 4/03/2009 9:19 am, Blogger Sarah D said…

    EEEP i'm about 800% jealous right now! :-D

  • At 4/03/2009 11:31 am, Anonymous divemummy said…

    now this is food porn.

    It all looks divine - I would have been just hoovering up all those delicious canapes....mmmmm....

    Rightio, you've just taken me from pure delight at Nonna's to pure envy at Merivale's.

    Must remember to read your next post on a full stomach or it will be too much to bear [grin].

  • At 4/03/2009 12:03 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    canapes look yummo. wish I had got there earlier for this but I'm thinking i would have been struggling to eat my way through the 6 main courses. but then again I think I would have given it a damn good shot.

    love the pics.

    simon :-)

  • At 4/03/2009 1:28 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    You big tease. Working me all up, only to crash me down with a TBC.

    Very, very generous and smart of Merivale.

  • At 4/03/2009 2:35 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    How exciting! It's great to see blogging becoming a legitimate medium. I look forward to hearing about the dinner.

  • At 4/03/2009 2:48 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    What a unique experience that night was! My smile just couldn't not be wiped off! I love a two-parter. I threw all mine in one post and it's um pretty long!

    Oh that tuna and wasabi *still dreaming*....

  • At 4/03/2009 4:21 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    It must have been fascinating to see the dishes being prepared. Can't wait to see the mains....

  • At 4/04/2009 12:25 am, Blogger Suyin said…

    I am so happy for you! How wonderful to have your hard work acknowledged. With such wonderful food! :D

  • At 4/04/2009 1:41 am, Anonymous howard said…

    fantastic photos. I'm still dreaming about the dessert, I hope it wasn't a one off creation!

  • At 4/04/2009 3:41 pm, Anonymous Pete said…

    What an fantastic experience. As much as I enjoy eating the food, there is something spellbinding about getting the opportunity to talk to chefs and watch them work. A little insight to the massive effort and dedication that goes into that plate in front of you.

    Great photos and looking forward to part two :)

  • At 4/04/2009 6:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh wooww the canapes look so good! and yeah sif keep us in suspense XP

  • At 4/05/2009 12:54 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ivan - lol. Absolutely!

    Hi Simon - It was a great experience, and the first of its kind in my experience for sure! It's certainly something I could get used to :) Next instalment coming soon.

    Hi Lili - I agree. It was quite novel to be afforded such attention, and a great experience indeed.

    Hi Sarah - lol. I just wish I could live it all over again. The meal was divine.

    Hi divemummy - You should try editing the photos late at night with a grumbling stomach! Glad you enjoyed it - wait until you see part 2, coming soon.

    Hi Simon - Ahhh yes no wonder you seemed to do so well dinner; we were already half-filled with canapes. You were so quick with your post. Still working on part 2 here!

    Hi Veruca Salt - lol. You were never one for waiting! haha. I do applaud Merivale for getting in with food blogs and not just because it means freebies :) I think blogs are a lot more widely read and trusted than many people realise.

    Hi Arwen - Exciting indeed. I think we're several years behind the USA but it's inspiring to realise the wheels are finally turning.

    Hi Karen - Yeah I couldn't bear the thought of editing more photos and thought that the reader attention might be waning anyway :) The tuna, oh, I think it might be my favourite dish of 2009 already!

    Hi Belle - Hold on for a little longer. Part 2 of this post will be coming soon.

    Hi Syn - Aww thanks. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for 2009. I have already noticed an increase in attention via my email inbox :)

    Hi Howard - A great night wasn't it? I'm dreaming of the tuna :)

    Hi Pete - It was a welcome insight into the world of commercial cooking, especially with such high-profile and talented chefs. All very down-to-earth and not a cross word heard either. Testament to their efficiency and professionalism on the evening.

    Hi FFichiban - You'll be in suspense a little longer I'm afraid, but hey, isn't waiting half the fun?


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