Update 24 April 2016: I now have a few of these recipes up on my latest post – enjoy!
January 2016 was filled with lots of “simchas” (celebrations) and a whole lot of love!
It was also filled with many, MANY hours of travelling. I found myself going from one wine region by the water to another to celebrate the love of two very special couples.
It started with the whole family travelling to New Zealand to surprise my baby sister on her engagement to her Kiwi boyfriend. Daddy Rich, Little B and myself took a short break in Auckland where we spent a day on the magnificent Waiheke Island (94 square kilometers of beaches and wineries), before meeting the rest of the clan in The Bay Of Islands where my future brother-in-law’s family has their bach, a very special place for their family and my sister as well. We visited different wineries, mostly dictated by which ones had space for Little B to run and play (how times have changed!). We ate and drank as much as being parents could allow and we even splurged on a beautiful bottle of pinot, only to get it confiscated at the airport days later (lesson learnt: never EVER forget wine in your carry on luggage!!!) We bonded with our family-to-be and mostly just had good old fashioned fun spending quality time together and celebrating the love of two incredibly special souls.
After this five day whirlwind of love, laughter and LOTS of delicious wine and food, Rich and I travelled to Perth, where we braved the bush fires and petrol shortages and drove 6.5 hours south to Margaret River. We were literally there for 36 hours, for the wedding of two very good friends, before doing the 6.5 hour drive and 4 hour flight back to Sydney. It was a lot of hours on the road and inland Western Australia was not what you would call scenic (unless you count the unseasonably busy McDonalds in Collie), but the wedding, fit for royalty, set in a forest just a few kilometers from the ocean was not something to miss!
It was on the way home from our Winery By The Sea trip, that I was inspired to start this blog. I couldn’t wait to try replicate just a little of how special and romantic our little holiday had been.
It took a while for me to get my dinner underway and in the end it was pretty last minute – but we were happy to use the opportunity for a special romantic experience for just myself and Daddy Rich.
The table decor was simple and inspired by nature – the twisted branches, greenery of the vines and magnificent roses that were part of the wedding decor as well as in the wineries we visited. I used unassuming backdrops of natural materials with neutral colours such as the woven table mat, linen cloth and serviettes with hessian accents, which allowed for the simple beauty of the peachy-cream roses and colourful food to really pop. The soft tones continued with the dusty miller foliage laid carefully along the centre of the table, perfectly nestled the crystal vases of roses and glowing candles.
I used sea shell scented candles which reminded us of collecting shells with Little B on Devonport Beach in NZ and they created a perfectly soft, romantic glow.
The colours of the glassware and plates, sea green and turquoise, were suggestive of the ocean and rolling vineyards.
A similar colour scheme was used for the serving ware with gorgeous Mud and David Edmonds pieces taking centre stage.
The bottle of Voyager Estate chardonnay, siting elegantly next to the citrus and mint flavoured water, instantly reminded us of our morning outing to the Cape Dutch Style vineyard in Margaret River where we sampled and purchased the bottle.
The salted caramel candles had the most delicious sweet yet slightly salty smell, so reminiscent of the delicious treats and fresh salty air of Margaret River and little islands of NZ.
The honey-smoked salmon was smoked by Daddy Rich himself, and so our open plan kitchen/dining room had the wonderful smoky scent of a bush barbeque, which we is how we ate in the Bay of Isles.
ocean sounds instrumental
The playlist I chose for entrees seemed a little cheesy, but it worked! It was just instrumental relaxing music with some sounds of the ocean. It definitely set the mood and brought our energy down a notch, after the last minute rush of putting Little B to bed, last minute food prep and getting ourselves dressed and ready for our (date) night in.
I then changed the music to the more upbeat Jack Johnson/John Mayer, which is the type of music we listen to on holiday while relaxing by the water. Bliss 🙂
Another reason for selecting acoustic style guitar music was to try recreate the very special atmosphere at the bach where my sister’s soon to be brother-in-law strummed love songs for us over dinner.
The slightly rough textures of the linen tablecloth and serviettes helped to create the sense that we were in a luxurious yet natural environment. The textured blue wine glasses also added to the tactile experience.
Entrees: grilled avocado with seared tuna, pine nut and coriander in sesame and soy dressing
The fact that this dish turned out to be so yummy was a very pleasant surprise – it was my first time trying the warm avo and it was amazing! Being an ocean themed meal, I wanted to serve fish for entrees and mains. The flavour and texture combination of the creamy pine nuts, fresh coriander and tangy sesame oil, soy and chilli dressing was just right paired with the seared tuna.
Mains: Honey wood smoked salmon with quick pickled tomatoes, watercress and walnut pesto pasta, and grape and pomegranate salad with spiced nuts
My second fish dish was also an experiment, and as I said earlier, Daddy Rich did an amazing job! I’m lucky to have a great sous chef who loves smoked food!
I wanted to do the pasta as the green pesto and leaves were obviously reminiscent of the greenery everywhere we went. With the addition of the yummy pecorino cheese, and the Vintage Merlot Salt from spice specialists Gewürzhaus that I seasoned it with, it was a great accompaniment to the fish.
The salad came from a recipe from a wellness magazine that I picked up at the airport in Perth. I loved it as it had grapes, sultanas and verjuice, which symbolised the vineyards and the spiced nuts for exotic crunch. With clean plates at the end, we were positively stuffed, but very happy!
Dessert: roasted peach and blueberry vanilla frozen yogurt sandwiches
This was a seriously wonderful way to end the meal. The inspiration for this dessert was a little market stall somewhere between the Bay of Isles and Russell airport where they were selling the most incredible blueberries. We had fresh blueberry frozen yoghurt and blueberry smoothies as our last culinary treat in NZ. I substituted vanilla frozen yoghurt for the vanilla ice cream that the recipe called for. And I’m glad I did! The tartness of the yoghurt complimented the sweet citrusy filo pastry and caramelised fruit perfectly. And the artist in me had so much fun making it!
Despite our intentions of opening the dessert wine, we were just too stuffed! But Daddy Rich had a coffee and I just watched and pretty much licked my plate clean!
Good: Everything actually turned out better than expected and I don’t think I would change much next time. Smoking the fish was easier than expected and definitely going to become a more regular occurrence.
Not so good: Because of the last minute nature of the dinner, I didn’t have time to let the bottom layer of the filo sandwich freeze before adding the filling, and so it was a little soggy… lucky the flavour was still good! I also didn’t have much time to source decor so I made do with what I had at home (I used left over curtain material for the table cloth!)