Earlier this year we followed three chefs and three sommeliers from the iconic Melbourne restaurant group, MoVida, with a view to understanding their relationships with producers and how that produce ends up on our plates. For two days we trekked across the northeast region of Victoria visiting producers, farmers and winemakers. Along the way they gathered produce samples and let their creativity go wild, planning the menu and matched wine list for a pair of exciting events in June. Both events could have sold out three times over – one was hosted at Michael Ryan’s Provenance in Beechworth, the other back in Melbourne at Frank Camora’s MoVida Aqui.
The resulting MoVida Meets High Country degustation lunch saw chefs Scott Stevenson, Ewen Crawford and Shane Kelly working with sommeliers Ellie Capper, Dizzy Birchmore and Alex Coutts to craft a set of six paired dishes. The food, the wines and the event were all superb. So, prepare yourself for superlatives and hyperbole as we take you through three-and-a-half hours of culinary wonder.
We kicked off with a G&T made with Remedy Gin. Part one, already in Happy Town. The cocktail made with Mandy Jones’s Correll was a curious kind of deliciousness, very much like a Negroni. The Bridge Road Brewers Chestnut Pilsner was a particularly good foil to the exquisite tapa – Tolpuddle goats cheese with Beechworth honeycomb and venison tartare were the kind of dishes that made my pregnant lunch partner weep – or make a dietary exception.
The second course of rainbow trout with Long Lane Capers, King Valley crème fraîche and yuzu was paired with a beautifully balanced Sorrenberg sauvignon semillon blanc. The dish was made all the more special through knowing about the love story that is caper farming.
Indigo Lamb is grown on a property known for its huge contribution of grapes to some of Australia’s best wines – Brokenwood, for example. The lamb cutlet was served by the MoVida chefs with a walnut crème, beetroot and the faintest scent of a rosewater syrup – a hint which exploded when the inevitable wipe of the finger across the plate picked up the beetroot-stained syrup. The team matched this deliciousness with a Castagna sangiovese, which we recalled tasting at the vineyard. It’s stunning – weighted like a pinot, with fine tannins and a finish like syrah.
One of the best ways to enjoy MoVida is sitting at the bar, ordering all of the tapas on the menu, and letting the amazing sommeliers bring us exquisite Spanish wines, including their spectacular collection of sherries. The fourth-course Pennyweight oloroso felt like a condensed taste of the High Country, but not thick or sweet like Nanna’s customary tipple before bed. No, this is a proper sherry – still fresh and a touch acidic. It matched wonderfully with the king brown mushroom, truffle butter, and chestnuts. This was our dish of the day – full of the earthy flavours of colder months. It was a dish that made the room fall quieter. People stopped talking, texting food photos, and began to eat. The touch of aged balsamic vinegar was the kind of detail that fulfilled our expectations of this great dining experience.
The great thing about events like this is that you find yourself at the table with producers like David and Connie from Myrrhee Boer Goats. They laughed as it was suggested that if they’d brought a small herd of baby goats for show and tell, no one would eat the dish. Still, the slow-cooked goat in whey had a lingering sweetness about it.
Somellier Ellie described the fifth-course wine as ‘Australia’s best tempranillo’. Wine writers like Huon Hooke agree. Hooke also declared the 2015 release of Mayford tempranillo ‘off the charts’. Discovering the winemaker, Eleana Anderson, at the table next to us was a particular delight, and one of the best things about events like this.
Our road-trip of the High Country in April ended with a pair of highlights: Bright Chocolate and the Australian Pumpkin Seed Company. It was fitting, for the same pair to come together in the final dish at this lunch event. Bright Chocolate and pumpkin seed–oil sorbet with quince – like all great dessert dishes this was some kind of sorcery. The pumpkin-seed flavour was a beautiful creamy compliment to the chocolate cake, with the quince cutting through. The dish was served with a Pfeiffer Wines Classic Topaque, and a Bridge Road Brewers Robust Porter. The latter was like drinking a slightly bitter salted caramel, the former was rich with malty flavours that matched the bitter chocolate and sweet quince perfectly.
This was a fitting end to an epic road trip. Take the idea away for yourself, and you have a beautiful long shopping trip and a wonderful meal. Frank hosted an extraordinary lunch, and his team put together an unforgettable experience which truly showcased the producers of Victoria’s High Country. At the first sign of one of these lunches in your email in-box, book tickets then and there. It’s that good.