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Feasting on the Region: La Dolce Vita

Josephine Walsh

One winters’ evening a few years ago, my Italian neighbours invited us to join them in their garden.

My family live in Goulburn, where you need a pretty good excuse to be outside anytime after dark unless there’s plenty of mulled wine on offer and you’re wearing enough wool to rival the Big Merino.

We sat eating roasted chestnuts around a bonfire in their garden. My elderly neighbour showed me how to crack the nut before roasting it, and how to easily peel the shell to enjoy the warm nutty reward. It’s become a sweet tradition whenever I’m home during the cooler months of the year.

Hence why I was so delighted to be offered a small brown paper bag of warm of chestnuts upon entering the gorgeous Conservatory Restaurant at the National Arboretum for Ginger Catering’s most recent regional event.

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The Kitchen Cabinet feasts offer the chance to experience the best of the region’s seasonal produce, accompanied by presentations from the passionate local makers and producers.

The theme for the evening feast was ‘La Dolce Vita’. As I was tucking into my chestnuts, Richard Moxham and Alison Saunders from Sassafras Nuts told us about their autumn harvest. They own a commercial chestnut and walnut farm in the Budawang Ranges, approximately 130 km north east of Canberra.

As The Kitchen Cabinet is all about ‘food less travelled’, it’s great to know that everything on the menu supports and promotes the work of passionate people like Richard and Alison.

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Richard Moxham and Alison Saunders

For our amuse bouche, we enjoyed a delicious array of tasty morsels, including a creamy chestnut soup shooter, a bamboo charcoal crouton topped with rare Dexter beef, and a refreshing spoon of beetroot, walnut and feta. We then had a warming Sassafras chestnut tortellini and chicken consommé accompanied by a divine Pinot Grigio from FREEMAN Wines.

The wine was exceptional. Dr Brian Freeman, previously the Professor of Wine Science at Charles Sturt University, took to the floor to speak about his unique small specialist winery. Based in the Hilltops region of New South Wales, the family winery boasts an impressive portfolio of Italian-inspired wines. We sampled the award-winning FREEMAN Secco, which earned the Red 5-Star rating in the 2016 James Halliday Australian Wine Companion.

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The Secco was perfectly paired to our main course, Ballalaba Dexter osso bucco from chef Janet Jeffs’ heritage property. Jeffs is Ginger’s Executive Chef and Director, whose passion is to advocate for a fair and sustainable food economy. The osso bucco has been slow cooked for many hours and was melt-in-your-mouth good, and was accompanied by Ingelara pink fir potatoes and fresh greens.

Although completely full, I was unable to resist tucking into our final course, a delicious desert of Sassafras walnut and La Barre olive oil cake. The cake was accompanied by an intriguing olive oil gelato, which was unexpectedly sweet and salty.

The olive oil, red wine and rosemary soil that seasoned the dish brought unlikely desert ingredients together beautifully. The FREEMAN Dolcino desert wine was the perfect way to end the night.

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If you’re a foodie who likes to eat locally, The Kitchen Cabinet feasts are the perfect way to support and learn more about Canberra’s regional producers.

the essentials 

What: The Kitchen Cabinet 2016 feasts
When: Monthly – the Winter Solstice: Here Comes the Sun feast is on Thursday 23 June
Where: The Conservatory Restaurant at the National Arboretum Canberra
Cost: Between $90-$100
Web: www.gingercatering.com.au

The author and her guest attended courtesy of Ginger Catering but their opinions remain their own. 

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Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh is a digital communications specialist who also runs her own blog, mapleandmabel.com. She has a passion for museums and the arts, a deep love of travel and more shoes than sense. Having worked in museums for the past seven years, she loves finding new ways to connect people with their cultural institutions. She loves meeting new people, hunting for a decent espresso, and planning her next adventure.

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