Last night I attended the last of the Ambassador Series dinners for 2014. This time it was the turn of four times Ambassador Chef, Darren Wright from Chillingworth Road in Christchurch to host an exclusive beef and lamb six course degustation dinner. Darren loves to use fresh local produce in his cuisine and is renowned for combining secondary and primary cuts to showcase flavoursome and interesting dishes which never fail to produce the ‘wow factor'. And last night was no exception.
We were welcomed into Chillingworth Road's elegant dining room and the evening proceeded to unfold an array of gastronomic culinary delights. The thought of sitting down to six courses of beef and lamb may make plenty wonder how they could possibly digest such a thing in one sitting. However, with Darren's talent he was up for the challenge of preparing the most perfectly balanced menu yet still allowing us to have enough room for a divine dessert.
First up was a very delicate dish of beef tataki, cucumber and carrot salad, wasabi mayonnaise and gion. This was a fusion of fresh, tangy flavours married with the tender texture of the beef, creating a perfect first course.
Next up we were treated to the lamb rissole, French onion soup, croute and Parmesan
. Presentation was outstanding as we were served the lamb atop the croute, draped with the creamy Parmesan and with the French onion soup meticulously poured around the lamb as the plate. The tender lamb and creamy Parmesan soaked up the French onion soup creating a delicious savoury flavour for the palate and providing a nice contrast to the first dish.
Wondering how Darren could top a dish like this we were then presented with my favourite dish of the night, beef cheek cannelloni, capsicum jam, red pepper gel, smoked bone marrow and brioche crumb
. Beef cheek is so full of flavour but adding in the flavours of capsicum, smoked bone marrow and brioche just elevated the beef cheek to another level.
Darren had worked hard at perfecting the right balance of protein on each plate so when course four arrived we had plenty of room to devour the lamb rack, mixed grain risotto, spinach and bacon powder
. The dainty cutlet was perfectly cooked and deliciously pink, surrounded by a creamy risotto with just the right amount of seasoning and flavour with the bacon powder adding another dimension and pulling the whole dish together. The textures of this dish stood out to me as the creamy risotto and tender lamb fused together creating a dynamic mouth-feel.
Referred to as the 'main course' by Darren we were treated to a perfectly cooked beef sirloin with a braised beef rib, red cabbage, kumara and a red wine jus
. This is where Darren’s use of combining a secondary slow cooked cut with a prime cut came to the fore and provided his guests with a delicious combination of textures and flavours to delight the palate once again.
And finally the dessert; vanilla panna cotta, chocolate torte, strawberries and cream
- not only was this visually stunning but was a real palate pleaser to finish off the evening with a creamy panna cotta and rich chocolate torte with the strawberries and cream provding a nice fresh fruity addition to the dessert. You may well ask how a dessert can be claimed as a beef and lamb course, but as Darren cleverly pointed out the panna cotta contained gelatine and we all know where that comes from!
All in all, this was an amazing evening of elegant dining with an outstanding combination of cuisine and wine matches all highlighting the reason why Darren Wright has now been elevated to a Beef + Lamb Platinum Ambassador Chef - a lifetime status and an appreciation of his four years of service to Beef + Lamb NZ as an Ambassador Chef.
Thanks Darren and Leanne for a wonderful evening!