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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lunch & name dropping

Ok, so I have a thing about food, cooking, cookbooks, chefs..... Somehow, everything always comes back to food! So I was very pleased when DH booked us into a lunch with Signor Antonio Carluccio, courtesy of The Age & Dymocks. We'd been to a few of these 'authors' lunches' before (Jeffrey Archer - before he went to jail, and Chris Patton, the erstwhile Governor of Hong Kong), but this was the first one with a celebrity chef! Antonio is quite well known and loved here in Australia, bringing his passion for food and love of Italian regional dishes to our TV screens back in the 90's. I watched his cooking shows regularly, he was a great ambassador for Italy, and had a very down-to-earth demeanor and straightforward way of presenting his recipes. He just let the food, colours, textures, and landscape speak for themselves, without frippery or fancy ingredients. My kinda chef! So I was very much looking forward to spending some time with Signor Carluccio today.
The lunch was at our Art Centre in Melbourne, very apt, I thought, since food and art surely compliment each other. His books were on sale, and of course I needed one more cookbook for my collection! And a DVD for good measure!
Thus armed, and fortified with a glass of bubbly, we took our seats in the Arts Pavillion, a large airy room comfortably seating around 120 guests. The lunch, a two-course meal, was inspired by Mr. Carluccio, and consisted of slow-cooked lamb shoulder in its own juice, creamy polenta, and fragrant wild mushrooms. It certainly did the master credit! The meat was impeccably cooked, moist and nearly but not quite falling apart. The polenta supported the strong flavours beautifully, and the mushrooms were heavenly! We don't get a large variety of mushrooms here in Australia, so I'm always impressed if someone cooks them well. But wait, there's more! In keeping with the Italian theme, we had a trio of desserts, a small serve of tiramisu, a tiny pear poached in red wine, and an orange and lemon ricotta tart, followed by really good coffee. Life couldn't get much better than this!We chatted with the other guests on our table; they were foodies like us and we had lots to talk about! Antonio made the rounds and very graciously posed for photos with many of us. A notebook was sent around, for people to write a message to Antonio, which I thought was a nice idea. He spoke for a while about his life in London, his restaurant, his love for food (and the ladies!), and told some jokes ("How does a NZ sheep farmer find his sheep in the high grass? - Delightful!"). At 73, he's bursting with vitality and is currently writing his biography and producing another TV series, which I'm looking forward to seeing.
Finally, Antonio signed his cookbook for me, and I hope he'll come back to Oz one day soon! Problem is, now DH wants me to cook all his recipes....


  1. Dear Donna, your day sounds delightful with a delectable dalliance with food. In following up on your DH's requests I am willing to fall upon the sword in providing a taste test of these recipes should that be required at any time.
    (I am not saying anything derogatory about your cooking but one never knows when there is a slip up in the printing of the cookbooks).

  2. Ha, you can be my taste tester anytime! As Dad always said to Mum after a particularly good meal "This was great, but you need to practise so you don't forget how to make it!"