The Dusty Fork – The Event

Thank goodness it’s raining today because we need a slow day to recover from our “3 Star Michelin Restaurant Challenge” which we hosted last night!

We took the challenge rather seriously…but not too seriously…

To ensure a smooth flow, we specified our tasks beforehand. Since I got us into this mess in the first place, I would plan and organise food/drink combinations, wash plates, polish cutlery, set the table, prepare, cook and plate up the food.

Stu would sweep, vacuum and dust the house, prepare and present the wine and manage the heating and music.

We shared the serving and presentation of plates and the cleanup afterwards.

Our table was simple and elegant. We had a white tablecloth in the centre of which stood 7 tealights in small glass holders and 2 filled water jugs (one natural and the other frizzante). Each place setting had a cork placemat on which a silver napkin ring sat. Inside the napkin ring, a dark blue napkin and the menu were rolled. Each setting had 4 sets of cutlery (salad, soup, entree, main) and 3 glasses (white wine, red wine, water). A bread plate with a white bread roll, a square of butter and a butter knife sat to the left of each setting.

On arrival, coats were taken and guests were seated. The head chef (me!) wecomed them, then explained the name of the “restaurant” (“The Dusty Fork”) and the menu for the evening (“a 6 course menu which pays tribute to the name of the restaurant by ensuring that every course arrives at the table with “dust” on the plate”). I also explained the restaurant’s mission to showcase quality local produce and our vast experience in 3 Michelin Star dining and sommeliering (!?).

Before I escaped to the kitchen, I gave them some words of wisdom to ponder:

“Life is not a thing to consume; life is a creative project”

The sommelier (Stu!) then prepared a cocktail of spumante and vermouth on ice. The drink was served in martini glasses with a strawberry on the side and looked very elegant!

Then we started the meal in ernest…

For salad, we had a fresh salad of fava beans and baby peas with rocket, pancetta and grana padano in a lemon, honey, olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing. The plate was garnished with crispy pancetta, pea mash, coconut oil fava bean husks and dried pea “dust”. This was served with a chardonnay from a vineyard directly above our house (Cerutti di Cassinasco).

For soup, we had a creamy ciabatta soup of roasted garlic and almonds, drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. The plate was garnished with fresh parsley, an orange segment, blanched almonds and almond “dust”. This was served with a sauvignon from a small town a few kilometres away (Tenute dei Vallerino di San Marzano Oliveto).

For entree, we had poached chicken breast with roasted beetroot, charred sweet potato, fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzled in fig balsamic vinegar. The plate was garnished with fresh thyme leaves and pepper “dust”. This was served with 2 bottles of Barbera d’Asti (one from a small town a few kilometres above and behind us – Azienda Agricole Pianbello di Cirio Loazzolo – and the other from another small town a few kilometres away – Cento Ceppi di Tenuta La Mano Verde di San Marzano Oliveto).

For main, we had an eye fillet steak medallion poached in wooded Barbera d’Asti served on a crispy lard wrapped celeriac and quartirolo smash, topped with a dried bay leaf and drizzled with red wine jus. The plate was garnished with fig chutney, sauerkraut and bay leaf “dust”. This was served with 2 bottles of Barbera d’Asti (one from a slightly larger winery about 20 minutes away – Cascina Castlet di Costigliole d’Asti – and the other from a vineyard directly above our house – Cerrutti di Cassinasco).

Dessert was a trio of fresh ricotta mousse (pistachio and white chocolate, hazelnut and milk chocolate, walnut and dark chocolate). The plate was garnished with a plum coulis smear, swollen kirsch cherries, a chocolate shard, a glass of cherry liqueur and nut “dust”. This was to be served with a moscato from a small town a few kilometres away (Beppe Marino di Santo Stefano Belbo) but enough wine had been had by then (!) so the dessert glasses remained empty.

The cheese course was to be a trio of cheeses (pecorino, stilton, robiola) served with burnt marmalade, acacia honey and coffee grain “dust”. This was to be served with a selection of 3 liqueuers: Genepi from Canelli, Spingitutto from Murialdo and Grappa di Moscato from Valle Belbo. However, my portioning throughout the meal had been a bit on the large side (!) so the cheese course was not served.

At the end of the meal, guests were offered coffee.

Our guests are great conversationalists so entertainment wasn’t necessary.

However, some spontaneous and spasmodic entertainment did occur…

On one occasion, in his enthusiasm to demonstrate his new skills as a sommelier, Stu pulled the cork on one of the wine bottles with slightly more strength than required and managed to splash half a bottle of wine around the room!

On another occasion, I was plating up in the kitchen, when I heard the conversation turn to the matter of warm underwear amidst raucous laughter. Later, I learned that Stu, in his keenness to increase sales of long-johns, had “dropped his dacks” to display his own striped and colourful apparel!

Just before midnight we all started to fade and our guests quietly took their leave before pumpkin time.

We were left to do the final cleanup before finally falling into bed at 1.30am.

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