Thursday, October 16, 2014

OzHarvest celebrates 10 years with Table of 10 dinners

OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners, weeknights from 13-24 October 2014 at
OzHarvest HQ, Maddox Street, Alexandria
A decade of somethingis a serious achievement these days – 10 year anniversaries; 10 years in the workforce; 10 years since university. Food rescue organisation OzHarvest this year celebrates its 10 year milestone and it's certainly been an incredible journey for the once-fledgling charity and its effervescent, often yellow-clad founder Ronni Kahn.

OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn
Since 2004 OzHarvest has delivered 30 million meals to people in need across Australia and saved 9 million kilos of surplus food from going to the landfill.

OzHarvest facts and figures at the mobile kitchen
In addition to rescuing surplus food and providing meals to charities with people in need, OzHarvest has expanded into education and training.

Its NEST nutrition education sustenance training works with people at the food drop-off points while the new Nourish education, training and mentorship program seeks to provide a pathway to food and hospitality industry employment for disadvantaged youth.

Table for 10 table settings
OzHarvest is celebrating its 10th birthday and Good Food Month with a series of 10 dinners at the new OzHarvest HQ in Alexandria – a large, multi-purpose warehouse space donated by Goodman as a birthday gift – where they've only recently moved in.

The Table for 10 dinners – on every weeknight from 13-24 October 2014 and supported by Virgin Mobile and Vittoria Coffee – will raise funds whilst offering a unique dining experience that is, as Ronni puts it, made with love and good for the soul.

Matched wines by Handpicked Wines
Starring a secret chef every night – Café Paci's Hanz Gueco did the Monday night while Ester's Mat Lindsay, Bar H's Hamish Ingham and 10 William Street's Daniel Pepperell are yet to go – diners also get a sneak peek into OzHarvest HQ, where food rescue happens daily – often by the pallet – and its emerging kitchen and training space and thriving on-site garden.

Of course, there's also a beautifully soulful meal in a gorgeous setting with matching wines by Handpicked Wines which has vineyards and grower partnerships all across Australia.

Long table for OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinners
For the second of the 10 dinners on Tuesday evening, OzHarvest's own Chef for a Cause Travis Harvey was at the helm in the warehouse's mobile kitchen, with students from the Nourish program and a whole lot of rescued ingredients and produce harvested freshly from their own kitchen garden.

That Travis and the team could transform what would have otherwise would have become landfill into what was one of the best meals I've had all year was an unbelievably amazing feat – you'd only be so lucky to get him for one of the dinners next week (booking details at end of post).

Kale and other vegetables growing in the onsite OzHarvest garden
Our night started with a quick garden tour before escaping the rain inside HQ with a dry Handpicked Eden Valley riesling, enjoying fellow company and the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. This later turned into outright raging downpours accompanied by a light show, but several wines in by that time we weren't too worried.

Labneh with flat bread
We nibbled on labneh strained yoghurt and flat bread to start – a combination I could just eat forever. The labneh was made from rescued yoghurt and garden herbs while the flat bread was made from rescued flour.

Spring pea falafel with preserved lime hummus and almond dukka
Seated at gorgeous, artsy timber tables (rentals donated by Timbermill) we shared two entrées that were seriously impressive, paired with the similarly outstanding Handpicked Margaret River chardonnay that was full bodied and fruity, which I never would have thought I could say about a chardy.

The crisp-surfaced falafel – made with rescued chick peas and spring green peas from the kitchen garden – sat contentedly in a generous and nutty pool of hummus. Packed tightly and green within, I'd say the pea falafels were an improvement on the traditional pea-free version and so good that seconds were definitely justified.

Salmon dolma
Alongside the falafels were the slightly odd-looking salmon dolma featuring fillets donated to OzHarvest wrapped in vine leaves, battered and fried. Served on a salad of spinach, radish and pomegranate, the delicately-cooked salmon was a complete revelation within the soft, subtle leaf – enhanced stunningly by the sweet pomegranate seeds.

In true OzHarvest style, the generous shared servings meant that any leftovers were shared amongst the lovely volunteers who were there on their own time to wait on tables and share the OzHarvest story.

8-hour lamb shoulder with tomato confit
I could smell the main course coming a mile away and may just have swooned at the sight of a huge shared dish of slow-roasted lamb shoulder, pulled from the bone and served with the most sensational tomato confit. It was gold: soft and mushy skinless tomatoes cooked down to a chunky almost-sauce, so rich and full flavoured that it felt completely groan-worthy luxurious.

The tender lamb, crisp and burnished deep brown on the outside, almost played second fiddle to the tomato but together, they were utterly comforting and truly joyous.

Pistachio pilaf
Not to be outdone, the sides were perfect accompaniments to the bounteous lamb. The pistachio studded pilaf rice was lovely on its own but made for a delicious base to soak up the tomato with the roasted lamb.

Artichoke, parsley and mint salad
Meanwhile, the deceptively simple salad of sprightly parsley and mint leaves from the kitchen garden with shaved raw artichoke, dressed with lemon and oil, was a fresh, light and healthy reprieve that was simply superb.

Hanpicked Central Otago pinot noir from a custom-made decanter
Mains were matched with Handpicked's pinot noir from Central Otago, New Zealand. I don't know if it was because it was served in a stunning earthenware decanter, but the fruity red had an earthiness to it that matched the lamb and sides exceptionally well.

Cardamom panna cotta, poached rhubarb and black sesame caramel
It was almost as if there couldn't have been any more goodness to have but there was dessert to come, updated from the printed menu to account for some rhubarb that had been harvested that morning from the on-site garden.

The cardamom scented panna cotta was like a beautiful thick cream rather than a jelly, with just the right amount of spicing. The rhubarb, softly and sweetly poached to a shape-holding mush, was joined by small strawberry segments also from the garden and stunning shards of deep gold toffee shards, filled with the prettiness and nuttiness of toasted black sesame seeds.

Handpicked Italian moscato with dessert
Matched with Handpicked’s Italian moscato d'asti, it was a sparklingly sweet finish to the meal and night. While the weather outside was frightful, OzHarvest's Table for 10 dinner by chef Travis Harvey was truly delightful, nourishing the body and soul, and obviously cooked with lots of love.

The sharing of joy and celebration was palpable on the night and I basically felt like I'd walked into OzHarvest's home and received a giant, warm embrace on the other end – one of food and booze, but also of passion, care and trying to make our world a better place. Congratulations to OzHarvest on the 10 year milestone and cheers to many more years of your great, valuable work.

See more photos on my Facebook page and information on OzHarvest and the Table for 10 dinners. You can also find OzHarvest at the Good Fortune Cart (near the lucky cat) at the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park, 10-26 October 2014.

OzHarvest’s #mealforameal campaign is still going, where for each and every food picture posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #mealforameal, OzHarvest can deliver one real meal to someone in need, thanks to Virgin Mobile.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined as a guest of OzHarvest.


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Ronni Kahn is such an inspiration. Looks like such a bountiful event!

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