Delicious food, great wine, wonderful dinner conversations - and no bill - occasionally there are perks to being a journalist!
I had the wonderful task of being invited along to TAFE Bega's latest 'Paddock to Plate' long table dinner, held Tuesday night, October 31.
Initially it had been scheduled for September 19, but was among a host of event cancellations and school closures across the shire amid a catastrophic fire danger warning, hot temperatures and high winds.
Thankfully the new date arrived much more sedately and dinner guests were treated to drinks and canapes on the balcony of the new Barracks training restaurant and a glorious sunset during the main meal.
Head teacher of tourism and hospitality for TAFE's south region (Bega, Cooma and Jindabyne campuses) Deirdre Jory said the Paddock to Plate event came about as part of a program developing the skills of two young female students of the Bega campus.
Lillian Britton and Holly Corke have had an incredible experience recently as part of the Tasting Success program.
A somewhat nervous Lilli shared some of the program's highlights with the dinner crowd on Tuesday, describing recent trips to Sydney to partake in a seafood butchery masterclass with Josh Niland, food styling and photography with the Women's Weekly, a visit to the Sydney Wine Academy, business and career development workshops and - among her favourites - lessons in tempering chocolate.
Ms Jory said the program was designed to empower women in the hospitality trade and will continue through further collaborations with industry, and a mentor for the two student chefs in Kelly Eastwood from Eastwood's Deli in Bermagui.
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"It has been an incredible collaboration with industry," Ms Jory said when introducing the night's chefs following dinner.
Those collaborations were clear with several of the Bega Valley's most celebrated chefs partnering with Lili and some of her commercial cookery student colleagues in preparing the evening's multi-course meal.
Jamie Sverdrupsen and Mitchell Hanlen from Monti, Huw Jones from Banksia, Ashleigh Cotter from Valentina and Matt Crossley from Wild Rye Bakery were all involved in the delectable meals served to around 50 dinner guests.
The key premise behind the dinner was sourcing all the produce from within this region - with many of the first year apprentices invited on a "food tour" of the south-east to meet the producers firsthand.
That involved trips to Broadwater Oysters, South Coast Fish, Millingandi Greens, South Coast Sea Urchins and Gulaga Gold Truffles among others.
As a result the menu covered a gamut of flavours and textures, all celebrating the incredible quality of produce sourced or grown right here in the Bega Valley.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Canapes: Fried ravioli of abalone, parmesan, custard and sofr herb creme fraiche; Toasted nori with portobello mushrooms and coconut sambal; and Broadwater oysters with sea urchin globe and white soy.
Appetiser: Dashi and parmesan Arpege egg.
Entree: Trio of Smoked broth with calamari noodles in green juice; Fish crackling tartare with cured fish eggs; and Keorpok Ikan, tarama, lemon myrtle and caviar.
Main: Wild Gippsland venison wellington, creamed spinach, Bordelaise sauce and Millingandi lettuce.
Dessert: Fig leaf pannacotta, olive oil ice cream, with toasted grains and berry spheres.
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