Growers, Cookers & Eaters 2014 – presented by the Trentham Food Hub
Trentham Mechanics Institute, Saturday, October 11
Consider The Sauce has always taken an extremely broad and self-serving approach to what constitutes “western suburbs”.
But still, I procrastinated about whether to attend the Trentham Food Hub’s Growers, Cookers & Eaters bash.
Having taken the plunge and bought my ticket, however, I am oh-so-happy to be hitting the road with some hot music late on a Saturday afternoon with the sun shining.
Head up the Calder, turn left at Woodend, keep on going – easy!
I’m told this is the third Growers, Cookers & Eaters event.
The party is just one of the activities that make up the Trentham Food Hub, which sees as its vision to create “a vibrant network of informed, passionate and creative people working together within the community to expand the capacity of our local food and fibre industry”.
I’ve never been to Trentham before, so make sure I arrive early enough to introduce myself to Justin, the event’s organiser, and have enough time to have a wander up and down and through the town’s CBD and main drag – such as they are.
It’s all gorgeous and there is a good deal of foodie activity of one sort or another that all looks very appealing.
CTS will be heading this way again!
The delights keep on piling up, one atop another, as I survey the venue – the Trentham Mechanics Institute is a cool old-school hall and I’m already smiling.
I choose a table and wait to see, in the lottery that accompanies such events, who my dining companions will be.
I’m very happy to spend the evening in the company of Janine and Alan from Bullarto South (“the Paris end of Bullarto”) and Robert and Kim from Castlemaine.
Through the course of the night we have many laughs and much lively conversation over a wide range of topics – even canvassing, rather foolishly but with no great mishap, politics and religion.
And, of course, food.
The evening is set up in both a degustation and buffet styles.
I’m usually lousy at buffet eating, always going way too hard too early on the starters and entrees.
Tonight, I nail it by pacing myself. It helps that during the course of the day I’ve skipped breakfast and have eaten only a pair of bananas.
Here’s where it’s at - Growers, Cookers & Eaters 2014 turns out to be one of the peak CTS food experiences of this or any other year.
There’s paper napkins.
The plates are cleared either by hard-working volunteers or by us guests ourselves.
But the food is mind-blowingly amazing and the happiness in the room tangible.
Truth is, purchasing what we eat a la carte at the sorts of restaurants and pubs that serve this kind of food would cost much, much more than our $65 ticket price.
What a bloody great bargain!
Warm olives, terrific sourdough bread and potted meats – pork rillette and pate de tete, both from Jonai Farms – make a fine starter.
With the arrival of the chicken salad (pictured at top), I start to realise this going to be a very special evening indeed – such wonderful freshness and flavour!
It’s a testament to the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb that it requires no carving – the serving platters come equipped with forks to pull the meat apart.
Oh boy – it’s wonderful, served with baby carots, a wild tabbouleh and yogurt!
The yearling pig, served with carrot puree and salad, is another juicy delight.
Later in the evening, our table is joined by Tammi from Jonai Farms, which produced the pork. It’s interesting talking with her about her family’s farming and her own journey to becoming a fully-fledged, muscle-bound butcher!
Some folks seem a little nonplussed by the potato gnocchi with flaked, smoked Tuki trout and cannellini beans in a saffron sauce.
I like it as a rustic, austere contrast to the richness that is going on around us.
Roasted Sidonia Hills beef?
Simply, and by quite some distance, the best roast beef I have ever encountered.
So very, very juicy and flavoursome, it’s perfectly joined by roast potatoes and fennel and a beautiful tied bundle of baby leek, carrot and asparagus.
The beef, I’m subsequently told, is scotch fillet cooked for 38 hours at 55 degrees using the sous vide method.
By this time I’m just about bouncing of the ceiling with happy.
The only dish that leaves me less than wowed is the apple and cashew tart – just OK in my book.
But the pear poached in spice pinot noir and served with luscious Inglenook Dairy cream is fab – the still-firm pear really does taste like it’s been cooked in mulled wine.
Well done to Justin and his team – the event has been very well run, and on time.
I’ve managed to make a single bottle of cider go the whole night, so I’m good to drive and have enjoyed a wonderful cafe latte with my dessert.
As I depart, I tell my table friends, in all sincerity, that I hope to see them next year.
And circumstances permitting, that is just what I plan to do – with Bennie along for the ride.
And maybe even with a gang of our CTS foodie pals!
Who is up for it?
The food has been cooked by: Mark Mills from the Plough, Trentham; Gavin Draper from the Cosmpolitan Hotel, Trentham; John & Al Reid from RedBeard Bakery, Trentham; Gary Thomas from Spade To Spade, Daylesford; Andrew Dennis from the Grande Hotel, Hepburn; Tim Austin from La Bonta, Kyneton; Mand arika Oost from the Village Larder, Woodend.
The food has been supplied by: Ngelica Organics, Wombat Forest Organics, Daylesford Organics, Mt Franklin Organics, Duck Puddle Farm, Thomas Walsh, Trewhella Farm, Blackwood Orchards, Inglenook Dairy, Meredith Dairt, Holy Goat Cheese, Jonai Farms, Milking Yard Farm, Tuki, Mt Zero Olives, Barfold Olives and Flowerdale Farm.