Some restaurateurs are canny. Craig Macindoe from Mumu Grill is one of them. Whilst some restaurants lack even a basic website, some realise that not only is a website crucial, but your presence is also commanded on places such as twitter and facebook as that is where your diners are too. After Good Living printed a list of chefs and people in the food industry (food bloggers were largely absent from this list) chefs scurried online and figured out what twitter was quickly. Craig was there tweeting well before this mass invasion and as someone who sees the potential in food blogging, he invited 10 of us to dine at his Take It Slow Wine Dinner on him.
The Take It Slow movement was started by Italy's Carlos Petrini in 1989 as a way of consciously combating fast food and life and presumably to preserve La Dolce Vita in response to people's waning interest in the food they eat and its origins and how our food choices impact the rest of the world. In turn this dinner involves letting us know all about how the food and wine is produced and knowing who and where it comes from. This dinner celebrates the Slow Food Movement in that the produce and cooking time took a total of 18 months (the 18 month jamon), 16 hours (the slow roasted Saltbush lamb and double roasted duck) and 40 minutes (the brown sugar pavlova).
Dining with me tonight are: Simon, Howard, Shez. Anna, Arwen, Lisa, Trina, Jennifer and Steph. At 6pm we've arrived to have a pre-dinner tour of his kitchens and backstage. Yes for a food blogger, a kitchen visit is like getting a Backstage Pass to meet your favourite artist. He shows us the cool room where they hang their meat for several days to tenderise. He also shows us the whole lamb, about 6 months old and about 12 kilos heavy and proceeds to hang that too. He points out that the space is cleaned and tested every 2 days for bacteria which you need to do if you hang meat. Hanging meat helps to break down the fibres in meat which in turn, makes it more tender and soft.
He also shows us the food preparation for tonight. The catalan bread is topped with tomato oil which is a fantastic and incredibly tasty sauce and it is topped with 18 month Jamon. We also see the duck which has been cooked twice and we take a peek (not too far in) into the purpose built meat oven.
The olives are juicy and spiked with rosemary and are delicious. We're given a Mr Riggs Viognier 2008 and a Mr Riggs "Yacca Paddock" Tempranillo 2007.
The smell from the kitchen is beckoning but first we hear from Graham Strong, from Arcadia Saltbush Lamb who along with his parents raise the lambs on a diet including that of Old Man Saltbush in the Riverina district of NSW. They are suppliers to not only Mumu Grill but also Becasse and Etch. I wrote earlier about Saltbush lamb and the benefits of raising lamb on this but in short Saltbush is a hardy perennial which helps to reduce the salinity in soil which helps in times of drought which of course we have a lot of in Australia. They are also part of the WWOOFing movement (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) where in exchange for working on the farm, you get accommodation and food and get to be part of the experience.
Arcadia saltbush lamb roasted for 13 hours served with minted eggplant and white bean paste, green beans, beetroot jus
Our dish of Whole Arcadia saltbush lamb is roasted for 13 hours served with minted eggplant and white bean paste, green beans, beetroot jus. As Craig explained in the cool room, the leg was slow roasted and the mid section was cooked as a lamb cutlet. At first sight, the beetroot jus appears as blood from an unrested cut which is a little startling but a quick consult of the menu and I realise it is the beetroot jus. I can't decide which part I like better, the soft, yielding and rich slow cooked part or the tender cutlet. It's a moot point really though as I devour both along with the minted eggplant which is an unusual combination that works well together and white bean puree.
Anna and I battle internally as to whether we should pick up the rib and get the last morsels off, it's a dilemma and we err on the side of caution. Simon however chomps away without a care in the world.
Our second course is preempted by a talk by Ben Riggs from Mr Riggs wines (said to be a Winemaker's Wine) who have supplied the wines for the night and he talks about the history of the brand as well as his own hisotry culminating in a deal with Moet Chandon.
The serve of the 2 1/2 hour double roasted duck with book choy and poached pear is extremely generous. The duck is, as expected, fall apart soft much like a confit and slightly crisped on the outside. The bok choy and poached whole pear are perfect accompaniments to this.
It seems almost crazy that we would have room for the pavlova but once I sink my fork into the pavlova I immediately make room. Having never had a brown sugar pavlova before I immediately wonder why I haven't as it's delicious. With a soft, chewy texture inside and a crisp exterior and a dollop of cream and blueberry flecked fruit it's a perfect ending.
A game of options by Mr Riggs where everyone has the chance to win a fantastic bottle of Mr Riggs rounds out our night (none of us won sadly). And I can't imagine a better setting for an education. Why wasn't University more filled with classes like this?
Mumu Grill Take It Slow Dinner
Shop 1-6/70-75 Alexander Street, Crows Nest, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9460 6877