An opinionated foodie that loves to write. Or maybe an opinionated writer that loves to eat.
Published June 23rd 2012
Game Renaissance is the brainchild of Dirty Girl Kitchen's Rebecca Sullivan and her lifelong pursuit of safeguarding the culinary 'granny skills' - the kitchen arts we never got around to learning from our foremothers. Combining the talent of local chefs – Fiona Roberts and 2011 Masterchef runner-up Michael Weldon – with locally sourced produce, the evening achieved its simple desire to share the joy of wild meat and nose-to-tail eating.
With wild meat now a memory of yesteryear, so too became the theme of the evening. Guests were invited to embrace an old-world feel, channelling Downton Abbey for inspiration. Presented surreptitiously in a church hall in inner-city Adelaide, Rebecca and her team saw to it that the venue was transformed through the careful selection of artefacts – no doubt every op-shop in Adelaide is now a little richer for it.
The inner-city chuch hall was beautiffully transformed through the careful collection of artefacts
Quintero boxes signalled the start to the evening's feast. But with no tobacco to be found, it was instead pigeon confit rolled between layers of pastry leaving puffs of steam, rather than smoke in the air. Having witnessed the pigeon's bloody chopping block, one could be excused for feeling a little squeamish at the thought of this amuse-bouche, but when cooked to perfection, the surprising origins of the tasty starter needn't be realised. Scotch quail eggs with duck mince soon followed and were appreciated by first timers and scotch egg traditionalists alike.
Don't let the Quitero box fool you - these are pigeon confit cigars
Venison, an increasingly common menu item in Australian restaurants, was served in its simplest, yet perhaps most flavoursome form – carpaccio. Topped with baby radish, capers, wild puffed rice and vinaigrette the lean woody flavours of the meat shone through. In Masterchef terms, it really was the hero of the dish.
Venison carpaccio with baby radish, capers, wild puffed rice and vinaigrette
Pumpkin soup was certainly a surprise on the gamey menu – but so too was the caramelised duck tongue and crispy venison chorizo, which when hidden within the household winter favourite saw it maintain its rightful place in the evenings proceedings. Never before have I enjoyed soup in fine bone china – I could only imagine a knit of grannies tut-tutting us from above for clinking our collectors spoons on the tea cups. Yes that's right; a 'knit' could very well be the collective noun for 'grannies'.
No ordinary pumpkin soup - it's topped with caramelised duck tongue and crispy venison chorizo
Next on the menu: lamb skewers. Yum, we all enjoy a good lamb skewer come Australia Day. Only, I'm not sure how many patriotic toasts would be required before convincing someone to eat the lamb tongue, heart, kidney and liver on offer. Thankfully none of us needed convincing, and the careful butchering by Feast! Fine Foods ensured there were no visual challenges to stomach. The simple treatment of the meat allowed the crowd to taste the true flavours of the offal – and surprisingly learn that lambs tongue is divine (yet not a big seller in a butcher's window).
Lamb skewers - who would have thought it was tongue, heart, kidney and liver
Slow roasted goat with sides of roasted beetroot, smoked goats curd and burnt sage butter, heritage carrots with caraway, honey and wilted greens drew the savoury side of the evening to a close, but revealed a few memorable things: the Honey Lady, Silvia Hart, was a few seats away and it was her Willunga-based products that enhanced the heritage carrots. The gentleman donned in red hunting coats that had been courteously filling our glasses with some unique varietals from K1 and Pertaringa were in fact the winemakers. No doubt, to mingle through the room further would have revealed the local sources of all of the evening's produce. It was this sense of community, reinforced all evening through the share-plate meal, that one leaves one thinking – this is how food should be enjoyed.
There is, however, one thing that is never to be shared. Dessert. Especially when it's a rhubarb, pomegranate and ginger chocolate pie with orange creme anglaise, enjoyed with a glass of Full Fronti Muscat. One could be mistaken for thinking this was the perfect end to a magical evening. Until the arrival of black olive truffles – what a dangerous, yet delightful combination.
Nothing gamey here: rhubarb, pomegranate and ginger chocolate pie with orange creme anglaise
The focus of the night may certainly not have been to everyone's liking, but if it were to be judged on tasty and adventurous food, memorable wines, considerate service, educational entertainment all hosted in a beautiful setting then it really is hard to flaw.
Despite the tempting references to "enjoying Bambi's mother" for first course and "quietening Disney's Thumper" during the rabbit skinning demonstration, the proceedings were tasteful (and of course tasty) leaving me with a feeling that, vegetarians aside, the night should not have only welcomed the game, but rather encouraged the fearful.
Following the buzz from the crowd, and with talk of another pop-up restaurant returning to Adelaide, I'm getting my tickets now because no doubt word will spread like rabbits.