Nov 15, 2011

Nettle Pop Up Restaurant

Ok a busy week doing assessments for college but I promised you guys a sneak peak into the world of Botanical Cuisine. 

Those regular readers will know that I've posted on Botanical Cuisine and an amazing 8-course raw vegan degustation menu before here and here, but those unfamiliar I'll do a quick explanation.

Botanical Cuisine is an simplified approach to life and food that is focused on all things artistic and heirloom, where organic, seasonal produce is enough to please the eyes and the palate. Botanical Cuisine draws its inspiration and ingredients from the wealth of flavours, textures and nutrition found in the plant kingdom to create dishes that are raw, lactose-free, egg-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and adaptable enough to accommodate any allergy.

Botanical Cuisine is the business and creative genius of Omid Jaffari - a great friend of mine he is also brilliant in the kitchen (his Shiitake blog is full or incredible recipes you've gotta try). And what he brings to the table is something very different to what I've seen out there in the raw food world. Typically you've either got beginner basics with smoothies and juices, or the heavy nut-based 'gourmet' raw foods. Now if you're like me, past the smoothie basics and don't tend to eat alot of the gourmet stuff, you're in the kitchen on your own (making a delicious mess, getting creative, having fun nevertheless...)

So, Omid's food is probably somewhere half way between the two but with a huge emphasis on presentation and trying new things (which to be fair can seem a little tricky at first, but once you've tried it once, and nailed it, you can leave confident in showing off your skills at home to impress those closest to you. And let me tell you, they'll definitley be impressed!!)).

So a few weeks back we had Sydney's pop-up restaurant Nettle. I had weeks of organising to do for it but the few days of food prep before - I was happily holidaying here in Queensland. Lucky me! But Friday came and it was all hands on deck. We started early (after my run of course), and packed the car and drove over to Manly to begin setting up; the beautiful Georgia from Stirring Change who I was so eager to meet and instantly clicked with, Omid and I all began finishing food prep, dismantling the furniture then re-designing the furniture the way we wanted it (try hauling antique tables and chairs, carpets, stools, and more all into one room we could shut up and lock!!), organising flowers, table cloths, place settings, glasses, cutlery, candles, menus, cleaning, the order of the evening... then Amelie Kale (yes best last name ever I know) arrived just in time for juice down at Pure Wholefoods when Omid and I decided we needed a break, Georgia's sister also came over to help out and whilst having a shitload of laughs, a few o-oh moments, and last minute showers, we managed to get everything done and looking fabulous just in the nick of time.

And then the guests began arriving. We had about 30 guests in total, and offered nettle tea was a welcome drink whilst overlooking Manly Wharf before we led the guests into the dining room.


Entree - Semi dried tomato with dehydrated black olive tapenade
Main - Mushroom Bouillon with truffles
Palate Cleanser - Mango and Lime Granita
Dessert - Strawberry Crumble with White Licorice Ice Cream
Melbourne Nights - Layered Hazelnut Fudge, Rosewater Vanilla Butter, & Coffee Caramel dipped in Bitter Orange and Chilli Chocolate

This was the entree - a mouthful of tomato that gently burst when bitten into allowing the sweet juices to pour on to your palate, with touches of chilli, pepper and citrus served warm on a bed of dehydrated black olives and capers...

And then main course - Mushroom Bouillon. Shitake, swiss brown and shimjei mushrooms marinated for hours in a delicious bouillon, served with cauliflower rice and truffle oil...

Plating up the Strawberry Crumbles... cashew and mesquite base, with a warm strawberry citrus jam, lavender flowers -

Served with white licorice ice cream and a dusting of lavender salt. This dish is incredible... and the recipe can be found here

But to top it off (as with Omid's events you'll come to realise that as each dish comes out, it seems to be the new favourite. Better than the last. Better than that one. So hold off until the end)... Melbourne Nights. Can you wait a little for this one? Allow me to indulge in the best foodie vocabulary I can further down when I talk about Melbourne; where this little guy stole the show!

So... Melbourne! We did the same gig, same menu on a Friday night a week later, and yep the manic prep days leading up to was exactly the same, and this time we had 43 guests!! The venue was an amazing artist space in Richmond that we dressed up with tables, chairs, table cloths, an amazing florist's work, mismatched antique cutlery... very Melbourne.

 Ooh and yep - that's me!!

 So, of course there was the food prep. Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes...

... to be turned into these beauties again.

Main course was the Mushroom Bouillon, and always a taste-bud favourite.

Melting our specially made bitter orange chilli chocolate whilst restraining ourselves from eating it all straight from the bag...which wasn't completely successful (of course)

And then covering the Melbourne Nights in it...

(done ahead of guest arriving... and taste-tested for good measure).
Then the strawberry crumble's were crumbled from their perfect circles ahead of service...

to be turned into the sweet delicious dessert that they were..

 And then of course, the Melbourne Nights.

So to really appreciate this creamy, rich, sweet chocolatey morsel; you first carefully take a small breaking through the crisp bitter orange chilli chocolate coating. There's an amazing coffee taste, and sweet caramel, the chocolate so rich with flavour, then a hint of rosewater... 

 Layered Hazelnut Fudge, Rosewater Vanilla Butter, & Coffee Caramel dipped in Bitter Orange and Chilli Chocolate

A mild black chai the perfect accompaniment to such a rich dessert that keeps on giving and giving and giving... (note to self only have ONE next time)

So as I mentioned earlier, “Nettle” is the newly anticipated pop up venture, conceived by the Botanical Cuisine Crew. I'm the event organiser for both Sydney and Melbourne so was extremeley happy with how everything turned out, and more importantly how all the guests loved every teeny tiny bit of food they put in their mouths. You know you've done your job well when they walk away deliciously full with taste buds wanting more!!

Anita, Natalia, Omid, Myself and Andrea - the Melbourne team

So the next Nettle is down in Melbourne and looks to be another winner! If you're interested in flying down for it or you're already a Melbourn-ian, have a look here for more details.

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