When I talk about food and produce, something lights up inside of me. The pace of my phrases pick up, my smile widens, I take shorter breaths and I seem to talk with somewhat furious delirium, falsely believing every person on this planet is enthusiastic as I am about food.
It’s what we call an eye – bulge moment, a phenomenon that somewhat scares my poor boyfriend on a far too frequent occurrence.
It’s sometimes hard for me to swallow the thought that not everyone shares my sometimes erratic keenness.
I try to step back often to acknowledge that to 80 per cent of the world, food is fuel. They don’t care if the silverbeet is grown from my mum’s vegie patch, composted with chook poo from their happy cackling hens any more than the relish on that ham and cheese baguette is made lovingly by my grandfather every Christmas.
Last week I had the fortunate invitation to attend a function with Matt Moran at his Brisbane restaurant Aria, hosted by agri – marketing firm #yoyo.
In the past few years I’ve been blessed enough to frequent a few incredible restaurants and I have to say, the different between reading the menu and having the chef explain it to you and where it was sourced from makes all the difference.
Listing to Matt describe Cone Bay barramundi sourced from the pristine waters of Buccaneer Archipelago, about 200km northwest of Broome and the unrivalled taste of this fish was a beautiful sight.
His smile widened, he spoke faster – it was a total eye-bulge moment.
He’s a game changer.
Through his TV show, Paddock to Plate, Matt tells us ‘great produce isn’t told in the kitchen – our amazing country is full of inspirational producers, growers and farmers, all with incredible stories to tell’.
I have to agree on this one.
At the heart of his philosophy is food, family and farm, elements that resonate with my essential approach to life, cooking and working. The past three years have seen me travel to some pretty incredible communities, talk to some pretty passionate producers and eat some incredibly fresh food. It truly can’t be beaten.
The magic of the meal starts with the creator, whether it is a piece of perfectly grilled grassfed beef from Central Queensland or a jar of quince paste, cooked down from fruit pinched from your neighbours vine.
The difference between a good meal and a spectacular one has everything to do with this strong foundation, but also by the person delivering the final product on your plate. A clever chef will know the true value in the produce, enhancing it just enough to tip into the category of sublime. Over complicate it, or worst, fail to respect it will result in a feeble attempt of a meal.
What is produced from the kitchens of Aria screams respect and understanding.
The food is refined but simple, combining flavour pairings which seem so obviously matched the moment you take the first bite.
Blood peach and pork belly takes the classic apple and pork combo to a whole new level with the acidity of the stonefruit cutting through the fattiness of the meat. It’s surprising but familiar.
It’s also painstakingly modest. No crazy foams, jellies or crumbs; just honest fresh produce done right, things you sometimes don’t associate with fine dining.
I can never resist ordering duck when I see it on a menu, a meat I have zero confidence in pulling off at home. It’s probably the $40+ a kilo price tag which sends me into panic at the thought of butchering it in the frying pan, but I’m perfectly content with leaving as a special occasion meat.
Paired with wiltlorf, turnips and toasted buckwheat, the roasted duck was breast was cooked well and the toasted buckwheat added the always craved crunch.
I love that the menu is designed around what is in season, to showcase each element in its prime. When Matt started talking about banning his staff from buying asparagus from the US in winter I wanted to jump up and give him a high five. I refrained, but I’m pretty sure I sat there grinning and nodding like an idiot.
A total eye-bulge moment.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of #yoyo through my day job although all opinions, Matt Moran lusting, high five dreaming and musings are my own.
Photographs are courtesy of #yoyo, the very talented Kate from Quince and Mulberry Studios and #madamrepublic