It was the stuff of dreams: an exclusive dinner party where local business people and sponsors gathered in a rooftop apartment overlooking the beach to enjoy a sumptuous feast prepared by two of our top chefs, Steven Snow (Fins) and Geoff Hart (Hank).
This intimate setting at the penthouse suite of The Beach, Casuarina, offers magnificent panoramic views of the Tweed Coastline stretching out in both directions, one end lazily stretching out yawn-like towards Cape Danger, the other curling up into a cosy cove.
It’s late afternoon, the cool winter skies clear with dappled sunlight, the sea in quiet repose as we meet, champagne in hand, torn between taking in the view and meeting fellow diners. Our host, Jayne Henry of Aria Events and Marketing, has been the festival’s organiser. On this final evening she joins us to celebrate the event’s success.
In front of us, a set table defines the rustic yet exclusive experience to come. In the kitchen behind us, we chat with Geoff Hart who puts the finishing touch to the completely delectable canapés:
• Smoked eel parfait, toasted brioche, sea succulents, pickled beetroot, horseradish, topped with salmon pearls;
• Local Witches Chase goat’s cheesecake, Duranbah honey, dehydrated heirloom tomato and Davidson plum chutney (giving a Japanese sour plum taste to the dish);
• Oxtail croquettes, pecorino crumbs, white truffle mayonnaise and Pedro ximenez onion jam;
• Kingfish ceviche, finger lime dressing, tangelo, Green Tabasco jelly and Spanish onion.
The winter sun disappears, leaving shades of pink across the landscape as we take our seats for entrée to be served: Slow roasted belly of organic pork, truffled crispy pig ear baton, toffee apple purée, textures of cauliflower, puffed pork skin and pork caramel – an amazing dish with intensity of flavour.
Jayne sings as we dine, our focus interrupted by a flurry of activity in the kitchen as Steven Snow arrives, apprentice in tow. One of North NSW’s most hatted chefs, he’s bravely chosen to cook a Moroccan Tagine of Fish in this unknown domestic kitchen. Of course most of the preparation has already taken place: the line-caught fish of the day already prepared, the chermoula sauce ready for plating up, as is the disc of sweet potato, fresh dates, preserved lemon and wine on which it sits. We watch as he adds final touches and oversees the plating up our meals.
Steve is also responsible for dessert: Rhubarb Bavarois with cardamom, lemongrass and vanilla bean ice cream, kaffir lime foam and young coconut shreds – a dreamy concoction which deliciously caps off the meal.
Top food, an idyllic location and lively company… it’s a fitting conclusion to a fortnight of culinary celebration which included the local food industry and artisan producers boosted by some international input. Intimate and grounded, this festival is a definite for every foodie’s calendar.
The festival’s Signature Dinner was held on 18 July 2015 in the Penthouse Suite of The Beach, Cabarita.