Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Nonno's feast (the looooong lunch)

Dad (Nonno) and jetlagmama

My father turned seventy last week (Happy Birthday Dad) and to celebrate he (my Mum) organised a lunch at a favourite place of his called Bells at Kilcare. S and Jack and I arrived the day before so we could prepare ourselves for the mammoth feast that awaited us. Others stayed at Bells while some (but unfortunately not all) caught the ferry over from Palm beach. As people arrived we gathered in the bar

Richard and Chris start with an aperitif

Cheryl and Peter

and Ganma took Jack and Scarlett to her cottage to show them the exciting games she had bought for them to play with. The adults too found them hard to resist.

Aunty Judith, Jack and Scarlett try the fishing game

Then Shelley, the babysitter arrived and we wished her luck and returned to the restaurant. We took our places at the loooooooooong table on the verandah and scanned our menus.

the long lunch (view 1)

the long lunch (view 2 with photographer seated)

It seemed like a long menu. As the food started to appear (Parmesan and caper biscottini, Liguarian and Sicilian olives, bread and olive oil) Dad made a speech thanking everyone for coming and giving a bit of background on all of the guests and how they came to be there (not Craig and I - I think we know how we got there).


No one took up the offer of right of reply (at that stage) and we all readied ourselves for the antipasto.


I tried to take photos of all the food but some were pounced upon so quickly that not all photos show the dish as it looked when it left the kitchen. I was supposed to be taking photos of the guests but as you'll notice most photos are taken from my seat. I didn't want to move in case I missed anything.

Parmesan & rocket frittata with sweet & sour roasted peppers
with batons of polenta wrapped in prosciutto

We started with Parmesan and rocket frittata with sweet and sour roasted peppers and batons of polenta wrapped in prosciutto and little dishes of the most delicious and crisp pickled vegetables I have ever tasted. Next we had grilled prawns with salsa salmoriglio served on radicchio (sorry no photo as they were consumed too quickly) and freshly shucked oysters (they definitely were fresh and they were wonderful - living in the country I can't remember the last time I ate oysters - for some reason the Seafood night at Junee Reefs Hall makes me nervous, though apparently it is one of the great social highlights of the year).

freshly shucked oysters

One of the most popular antipasti was the braised oxtail 'agrodolce' which was tender and aromatic and lived up to its name which translates as sweet and sour. It was certainly a far cry from the flouro pink sweet and sour of many a cheap chinese smorgasbord. Again no photo as this time I was too busy eating. Antipasto concluded with these lovely little spinach and ricotta gnocchi.

spinach and ricotta gnocchi

After a visit from Jack, Scarlett and a mildly frazzled Shelley it was time for mains. Jack and Scarlett made themselves at home in the bar with dessert.

jack, scarlett and lou 'relaxing' in the bar

Scarlett took against the panna cotta and after sticking all ten fingers in the top she then flicked it around the walls with gusto. Jack, who is not the kind to wantonly waste anything sweet got stuck into the cassata. And so onto the mains.
porcini risotto

We started with a porcini risotto and I have to say as I rule I rarely order this in restaurants (unless it's a very good restaurant) and I'm not a big mushroom fan, but this was luscious and creamy and wonderful. I think I had about five servings with Richard across the table also partaking enthusiastically. The risotto was followed by the slow roasted pork belly with sage and roast garlic (it's pork belly do I need to say more?)

slow roasted pork belly with sage and roast garlic

and then morsels of grilled Blue eye with salsa piccante.

grilled blue eye with salsa piccante

We finished the mains with roast Flinders Island suckling lamb with roast rosemary potatoes and salsa dragoncello. There was a brief discussion about what dragoncello was. I knew the information was rattling around in my brain but it refused to present itself. We didn't ask the waitress because we'd already asked about agrodolce and salmoriglio. It wasn't till later when I was supervising the bubble machine (and Jack and Scarlett) that I got to ask one of the chefs as he nonchalantly walked past with a shovel and a handful of freshly dug horseradish. Dragoncello is tarragon. He stressed the importance of using french tarragon and I have to say the flavour of the lamb was fabulous. My only regret was that the pieces were quite small. I guess this is to be expected when you get suckling lamb instead of some of the jurassic lamb (ie mutton) that you get some places. Was it true that a group at one end of the table feigned missing out on the lamb and thus secured themselves another serve? The potatoes were crispy and hard to resist as I noted as some of the guests snaffled an extra one or two while their partners weren't looking.

roast flinders island suckling lamb with roast
rosemary potatoes and salsa dragoncello

It was at this time that a helicopter appeared on the horizon and kept getting closer and closer. Several jokes were made about the identity of the occupants, including the speculation that it was Clive James, an old school friend of Dad's, arriving fashionably late. Actually he's probably more likely to arrive in a hot air balloon powered by himself. Our questions were answered when a young couple having finished their meal, dashed from the restaurant in the direction of the helipad.

By this stage it was still quite hot and we were blissfully unaware of what was going on in the kitchen with staff experiencing two blackouts as they prepared the meals. We still received our desserts, which we had chosen at the beginning of the meal, with only a slight melting of the cassata indicating that anything had gone awry.

my slightly melted cassata - still delicious

The choices were tartufo di amedei chocolate or raspberry, pistachio and vanilla cassata or lavender panna cotta with cherries and moscato jelly. Funnily enough S and I ordered exactly the same thing we'd had when we had dinner at Bells the year before. Funny but not surprising that S would choose chocolate and I would choose pistachios. Dad also chose the cassata and his came with a candle (just the one not seventy luckily). Jack and Scarlett were unavailable to help with the candle, but made up for it later.

Nonno's birthday cassata

Scarlett samples the panna cotta

the tartufo

During desserts there was a sudden flurry as a spontaneous series of speeches was made. No sooner had one person sat down after talking, then another person would leap to their feet to sing Dad (and Mum's) praises. By that stage a middling amount of wine had been consumed so I'm a touch hazy on the specifics but the jist was to thank my dad for his support, generosity and friendship or in the case of my Aunties Judith and Nette for being a great brother. Craig also spoke about Dad being not only a loving father but a role model too. Unfortunately as I was seated most of the photos were not great (chin close ups) so I'm only posting this photo of Aunty Judith.

Time was marching on and some people had to leave to catch their ferry back. Jack and Scarlett appeared as did some very pink birthday cupcakes that Craig and Lou had had the foresight to bring, with candles.


These were lit and Jack and Scarlett helped blow out the candles, while Richard eyed off the cupcakes.

blowing out the candles

After some extensive repairs to Jack's tractor (thank you Jenny and Chris)

we adjourned to the bar so Nonno could open his presents and the restaurant staff could prepare the tables for dinner (the lunch went that long). Jack helped Nonno open his presents

don't read the card nonno - just open the present

and then he and Scarlett abandoned what was left of the cupcakes and went outside to play with the bubble machine. There is something about kids and bubbles and except for a mild case of bubble eye, they had lots of fun. I could see some of the chefs preparing for dinner that night watching rather enviously and eyeing off the machine.


And so, with our numbers depleted and our bellies satisfied we decided to return to Terrigal where Jack was keen to go for a swim. Mum, Dad and Cheryl were contemplating a piece of fruit for dinner, while Richard was thinking about popping back to the restaurant for a spot of dinner.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a fabulous day! I felt like I was there with you (which of course anyone in their right mind would want to be with that food!). Even the antipasto looks amazing and a cut above every other one I've had!

Jenny & Chris said...

What a great day it was and we so enjoyed being there. We nearly sank the ferry on the way home after being so well "feed and watered".
It was lovely to meet you all after hearing so much about you over the years. We look forward to meeting you all again.