Last week I was invited along by the Starlight Children's Foundation to attend the media launch for their major fundraising event of the year, the Starlight Five Chefs Gala Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne. It's a fundraiser I'm very happy to write about because I think it's an excellent event for an excellent cause: just about everything (including food, wine, staff, venue and auction items) is donated by some of the best names in the business, and the Starlight Children's Foundation doesn't receive any government funding for any of its core programs.
Each of the five chefs spoke to us afterwards, sharing stories about their visits to the Starlight Express Rooms the foundation has in paediatric hospitals around the country (in the photo below, Shane Delia was telling us about the teenage girl who repeatedly kicked his arse playing Super Mario on Wii).
The menu on the night (Thursday 16 June at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne) will be the same as we had at the media launch: I've included photos and descriptions below. Tickets to the event are $350 each: if you're interested in raising money for the cause and attending, further details and tickets can be found by clicking here and here.
The course I was most eagerly anticipating was the first one, prepared by Dan Hunter (the head chef from a little place in Dunkeld that you may have heard of, called the Royal Mail Hotel). The degustation at the Royal Mail was my favourite meal of 2009, after all.
And boy, the dish did NOT disappoint: Jerusalem artichoke, roasted and stuffed with triple cream cheese, on hazelnut and thyme (served with the Dal Zotto NV Sparkling). The Jerusalem artichoke had been soaked for three hours in a calcium oxide (quicklime!) brine, which had the effect once roasted of forming a crust on the outside and turning the inside of the vegetable to the most amazing purée that has to be tasted to be believed. OH MY.
Shane Delia from Maha and just-opened St Katherine's was responsible for the second course (which I also loved). Sous vide butter poached salmon (which had been rubbed in salt and cardamom, then honey) with vanilla-flecked fazolia, toasted cous cous, fennel seeds and almonds. The rich dish was matched with the 2010 De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Chardonnay.
Next course was from MoVida (one of Frank Camorra's chefs was standing in for him as he was in Spain). "Mont y mar", aka MoVida's delicious Catalan interpretation of a surf 'n turf. Baby calamari filled with a braised pork neck and pork belly farce then roasted, served with steamed mussels and slow cooked chickpeas. Matched with a bloody lovely pinot noir, the 2008 from Yabby Lake Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula.
Jason Camillo, the head chef at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, served the next course: corned Wagyu eye of rump served with a creamed onion soubise (which had a zing of horseradish) and roasted baby beets, carrots and pearl onions. A hearty dish matched with Best's Great West Bin No 1 Shiraz 2009.
The final course was by Melbourne's Willy Wonka-esque dessert maestri, Burch & Purchese, and had many of my fellow diners moaning in pleasure. It was made from yoghurt sponge, pineapple jelly infused with Vietnamese mint, homemade pineapple jam, dried spiced pineapple, Heilala vanilla yoghurt crunchies made with maltodextrine & freeze dried yoghurt powder. A great combination of textures and flavours, and matched with a Campbells Rutherglen Tokay.
If you haven't already visited the Burchese & Purchese Sweet Studio on Chapel Street South Yarra, GET DOWN THERE. I visited this afternoon and bought an obscenely good miniature cake made from caramelised white chocolate & vanilla mousse, crunchy macadamia meringue, caramelised banana cream, passionfruit jelly, caramelised white chocolate velvet spray and caramelised milk solids.
Once again, if you'd like to attend the Starlight Five Chefs Gala Dinner on the 16th of June, details are here.