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Surfing the menu with Curtis Stone

fullerton

As part of Sun Festival, Curtis Stone is one of the chefs invited to host a dinner this year. The event officially closes today so just in time to spread the sun festival cheer!

Voted one of the sexiest man alive in 2006 by People Magazine, I had the privilege of meeting him. How often do you meet a sexy man who can cook anyway? With barely any knowledge about him save for the fact that he is a celebrity chef (but these days...it's almost as if who isn't one!) and has a wildly popular programme on Travel and Living (which I cross my heart and admit I've barely caught a full episode and there's a higher chance of me recognising Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver or even Buddy from Cake Boss than him).

When researching on Europe I was quite bent on visiting a celebrity chef's restaurant for the kick of it...to complete the whole "I've been there and done more than that". We were so close to patronizing Jamie Oliver's Fifteen in Amsterdam but decided against it after all the scathing reviews.

Thereafter I have been plagued with "If Curtis Stone ever ever ever comes, we'll go okay!"

I agreed knowing well he wouldn't. And I've got to eat my words for it.

Before heading for the dinner I had absolutely zilch idea what was going to be served, perhaps the organizers wanted to maintain some form of surprise..I had no clue. 

Held at Fullerton Hotel, it was a glitzy affair with tickets sold out way beforehand though the media did not highly publicize it. Turns out that the tables were mostly corporate purchases and the ones who bought them were allocated tables near the back (read: us). I am not complaining though, given that Curtis Stone was waltzing in and out of the kitchen right behind us every now and then obliging and spoiling us with photos, hugs and lots of questions.

my favourite champagne

Consistently a favourite.

nuts

At 645pm, we were considered "too early" and had to loiter around with my favouritest champagne, Veuve Clicquot and a platter of nuts which I ended up nibbling a whole lot of.

hall

Once the doors swung open, the crowds poured in and canapes were passed around. We had the pleasure of having live music played by a trio which set the mood for the night quite nicely with the boisterous beats and quick tempo.

Note: This will be a lengthy entry...I'm perhaps too overwhelmed by the whole evening that remains so deeply etched in the mind...a first of its kind for me and I have to document it as detailed as possible for memory's sake!


tassles

Luxe tassles!

table plant

Couldn't help stealing a snap the table plant.

fork arrangement

Notice how the cutlery is arranged in varying distances...did not quite see the point in that though.

oyster canape

Chilled Oysters
Nuoc Cham Vinaigrette/Compressed Cucumber

My first non-tabasco sauce or lemon drizzled oyster. Loved the refreshing sauce that came with it and the aphrodisiac of the oyster. Slurpiliciously good! Now where are the refills when I needed one.

canape ocean trout

Smoked Tasmanian Ocean Trout
Pumpernickel/Persian Pickles

Nothing too spectacular with this crunchy bread and ocean trout mayo which would otherwise go really well in a lunch sandwich.

The drinks for the night were a dazzling 12 types and a mixture of red and whites. I was floored, as it is. It was a pleasant surprise infact...a dinner paired with wines!

whites

Just a few of the things that made me really happy.

glasses numbered

Labelling of glasses made easy for remembering.

Freeflow of wines, soft drinks and still water but the most memorable had to be a particular South Australian White called "No Regrets" - 2009 Peccavi No Regrets Sauvignon Semillon. Definitely not a wine connoisseur, neither can I describe the wines in their fruity or spicy kicks but it was the best of the lot...light and easy on the palette.The reds were a tad acidic for me though.Curtis from Cullen Wines was the sommelier for the night and the rest of the Sun Festival, dancing from table to table doing the honours of glass refilling for us.

bread basket

Constant refills to ease the pangs.

fullerton butter

Bread basket of multigrain, onion roll and what seemed like an ordinary bread roll was served with normal butter stamped with a really cute "F" for fullerton.

bread upclose

All were dry and dense with the exception of the bread roll that was sweet. It could be the long pauses in between dishes that Curtis Stone had to give an introduction about that exacerbated the hunger.

curry saffron soup

Spiced Mussel Soup
Saffron/Curry

First up was a daring soup made of saffron, curry and mussels. The rich broth that left a spicy trail down the throat was incredible. Have not quite tasted anything close to this, some may find it too strong but I am so loving this Asian-inspired broth! Best of all...the freshest mussels ever.

mussel

Plump and juicy...move over green lips...it's notches higher!

pasta

Ricotta Cavatelli
Sweet Corn/Pecorino Cheese

The second was from Curtis' partner, Ben's creation of pasta with corn kernels, braised pork and pecorino cheese. It looked much like macaroni and cheese at first glance. I'll say it upfront, I'm not fan of the handmade pasta dumplings which reminded me of gnocchi drenched in sweet corn sauce and bits of cheese with what looks like rockets.

upclose pasta

Too homemade and lacking in all aspects, taste especially. I would rather a explosion of cheese than this, harshly.

With misses of bread and second course haunting the meal, I was lowering the expectations by now. There were only four courses to begin with and things were really not looking good.

lobster

Atlantic Lobster
Pancetta/Chicken Oysters/Shellfish Foam

Lobster was its name...I was smirking smugly when I spied it on the menu. Finally a dish that got me sitting up and looking forward to the entire night. It was inspired by a "Surf N Turf" theme during one of the episodes in Australia. The snow pea-cherry tomato reduction and foam was oh-my-god kind of delicious. The foam was savoury yet the reduction was made so sweet, I truly enjoyed the natural juices of this one. The grilled cherry tomatoes were done so perfect, a slight prod would cause a violent spillover of juices. Lobster was naturally the main star of the dish, two consistencies presented; the firm pincer meat or succulent flesh from the body. Loved either variations. Chicken oysters were also embedded in this magical display, simply chewy knobs of chicken that you'd find when you flip the whole chicken over after baking. Seems that every chicken has 2 oysters so imagine the number of chickens done for for the night. Between beef and seafood, it has always been the former. Yet this one, proved me wrong. Maybe it is time to opt for seafood over beef now?

With my spirits lifted high and expectations blown over...I was belly happy by now.


tart tartin

Pineapple Tart Tatin
Tahitian Vanilla Icecream

Once again Curtis told us a little story of the origins of tart tatin, how a mistake of overturning a tart could be an inspiration of today's fruit turnover. His rendition of Pineapple Tart Tatin complete with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream was mind blowingly awesome!!! I had my perception of Tart Tatin being a thin pastry with flaky layers. Boy, how so wrong I am. Mega loved the flaky layers that came together tasting like the base of the most perfect savoury pie ever. Then comes the caramelised pineapple ring that is cut so thick and baked to such precision, it was sweet yet not overly ripe and retained the lovely bite as well. To top it off and smashing all records of the sweetest finish of all time, there lies a portion of vanilla bean icecream just enough to please and satisfy the sweet tooth. I am sold, very sold...and very much in love with Curtis Stone's creations. To date, this has to be the bestest dessert of 2010.

To set the record straight, I am a bread, beef and dessert person so seafood, soup and pasta or the equivalents are good to have though not necessities of my kind of meal. No fancy food fads like white truffles or caviar or foie gras, Curtis Stone serves up hearty food dishes with a touch of home, the kind you would whip up in your kitchen if you had that affinity with the herbs and pots.

Like the recording of a telly programme, the whole night rolled on as smoothly as a rehearsed session. Curtis Stone is a natural, a pro when he's handed the mike and has to tell stories, crack a joke...give magazine-perfect answers to any question you throw at him. He can go on and on and on (not that I minded!), so rehearsed...so smooth.

If you really want to know the 5 things he keeps in his fridge (totally not a magazine-perfect answer, he has the honest truth and one for publishing).
  1. Beer. He favours Duvel Beer from Belgium.
  2. Fruits.
  3. Organic eggs from free range chickens
  4. Lentils.
  5. Good chicken stock (made or bought)
  6. Icecream (he didn't elaborate on this one but I'm totally agreeing with him!)
It was a 3 hour dinner that was over in a flash. At some moments I lamented I could be well off whizzed off to Otto enjoying the awesome steak and pasta but all in, this is truly an experience. How often do you get an affable chef who seems down to earth and obliges so very much to every whim and fancy of a curious crowd?

Service was not top of the pops kind of good, it was the usual inexperienced staff faced at wedding banquets but really, that was the least of all considerations. It was a swell good time surfing the menu with Curtis Stone!

autograph

The only memento from the event, autograophed by Curtis.

A foodie born to eat, shop and travel. Forced to work.

7 comments:

  1. Wow I wanted to go but it's so expensive! Must have been swell!

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  2. omg, curtis stone is the coolest person ever! Love his show 'take home chef'. And once he cooked for iron chef america but lost and I was so cross because he creations looked 10 times better and more creative than the other guy.

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  3. @ ice: ;) definitely an experience.

    @ oysterdiaries: heh...he is quite! very charming guy and his creations are really awesome.

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  4. @oysterdiaries: Yeah! I think I watched that episode of Ironchef America!

    phoebe! Must have been quite the experience!

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  5. @ glenn: definitely was... :) pity the nite ended so early!

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  6. Hello there,if If I comment on the Curtis Stone event, all the wines were from Margaret River, Western Australia -the Peccavi a classic example of fresh, crisp unwooded SSB. Indeed I was the sommelier for the event and all the Sun Festival events -but do not work for Cullens - I am an independent wine writer -please visit www.thewanderingpalate.com Cheers Curtis Marsh

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  7. @ curtis: hi there! apologies for the assumption. :) any idea where I can get a bottle of "no regrets"? It's been so unforgettable.

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