Clovely Estate’s Source of Inspiration degustation dinners are not only one of Brisbane’s best dining experiences, they also play an important role in connecting guests with growers and with the reality of our regional communities where artisan foods are produced. Mike Kirwin, Clovely’s Executive Chef, explains the philosophy and the process.
Each dinner starts with selecting outstanding regional produce to feature. We look for growers and makers in the region who are really passionate about what they do and have a great story to tell. We love working in partnership with genuine people who care as much about quality food as we do.
A great example is HighBrit Beef, who we featured in 2019. They are husband and wife farmers, Glenn and Skye Douglass, from the South Burnett, who produce grass-fed beef from a herd of about 500 Black Angus-Shorthorn-Herefords. The cattle have been cross-bred for meat taste, tenderness and ease of carving.
Seasonality is important too. Local producers are working with our seasons so we have to plan to use their ingredients when they’re at their best and freshest. It really reconnects our guests with the reality of nature and food production.
Eating locally and seasonally is what humankind did throughout history until the advent of fast transport and supermarkets. It still makes sense for both exceptional taste and sustainability.
Once we have our featured producer, we look for a theme suggested by the produce, which helps to inspire us further. For example in 2019, when we featured Kumbia Stone Fruit, the image of sitting under the orchard trees in summer came to mind.
The kitchen team discusses some of the associations that evokes – maybe picnics in an orchard or eating a juicy peach on a hot day. We brainstorm feelings, memories, complementary ingredients… It doesn’t matter who makes the suggestion – it’s all part of a collaborative process to create something exceptional.
When developing the menu, we want to balance textures and colours. We want to engage all the senses. We might try some new techniques or introduce an unexpected juxtaposition.
After some experiments and adjustments, the menu starts to come together with flavours and ingredients that will create a harmonious experience. The idea is to take our guests on a journey that will flow from course to course and reveal new taste sensations to surprise and delight.
Working with our Clovely Estate wines, we look for the best food and wine match to make the total experience more than the sum of its parts.
We may choose a wine because it has similar flavours and aromas – or sometimes because it is a bold contrast. Occasionally we may want to feature a new wine and then the wine comes first, inspiring a dish that will showcase all of its subtle flavours.
Our winemaker, Nick Pesudovs is our invaluable guide and inspiration here because he can take us more deeply into the story and nuances of each wine, sharing his outstanding knowledge and insight. Every degustation dinner is like finding the many parts of a jigsaw puzzle through patient, creative collaboration.
An important part of the dinner is when the producer gets up to tell their story. This is a great moment of connection between them and our guests and there are always rich and valuable insights.
For the producers, it’s exciting to see what we can create from their produce and to get some first-hand feedback from the diners. For the guests, it is fascinating to hear about the hard work and passion that is captured in each and every mouthful.
Some of our producers have said this interaction really reminds them why they do what they do, and it inspires them to stretch even further to create outstanding products.
Guests say it enhances their understanding of what it takes to produce their food and gives them a new appreciation of what they are eating.
Clovely will continue to collaborate with local producers to create our unique degustations.
Farmers have been doing it tough with drought and fire all around our region. By working with them, we can help spread the word about their produce and collaborate to support a sustainable local food industry.
Our partnerships are an ongoing commitment to producers – it’s not just about being friends for the evening! We continue to use their produce in other events and functions and we are genuine about paying a fair price for produce.
We want to continue to help educate people about what is involved in food production and to encourage creative, minimum-waste eating – nose-to-tail eating - which respects our food supply and where it comes from.
For us at Clovely Estate, the regional food and wine community is just that – a community. We all have a complementary role in supporting each other and sharing the best of our local area.
It’s a hugely pleasurable process to be involved in and it creates food and wine experiences that leave people feeling they’ve participated in something special that’s more than just an exceptionally creative meal. It is also a source of inspiration for them to explore more of our wonderful local fare and choose more sustainably.
Just because our degustation dinners come with a food philosophy, it doesn’t mean they are sombre occasions! The interactions between chef, winemaker, vineyard owners and guests are more in the atmosphere of a friendly get-together than restaurant formality. There is conversation between tables, laughter and the lively buzz of relaxed enjoyment. Many guests return each dinner to reconnect with new friends they’ve made!
We’d love you to be part of our food and wine community. Keep an eye on our website for the latest degustation dinners.