En­ter­tain­ing 101

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Delicious. On Sunday -


On a re­cent evening, Marissa Lanier, a pub­li­cist, was pulling to­gether the el­e­ments for a party at home. The bio­dy­namic rosé and craft beers were on ice, the ar­ti­sanal cheeses and raw veg­eta­bles were pret­tily ar­ranged on a board. Later, when the dozen or so guests had ar­rived, she grilled or­ganic beef pat­ties, toasted brioche buns, and served the burg­ers with a quinoa and kale salad. The pic­nic ta­bles were swathed in butcher pa­per and burlap, while the flow­ers were wild and na­tive. The whole af­fair was as breezy as the Mo­town tunes she streamed.

Lanier, a re­cent émi­gré from the US who has worked for a clutch of lead­ing LA restau­rants, ad­mits to be­ing ini­tially con­cerned about how to en­ter­tain in her newly adopted home. “I started think­ing that it would be a lot of re­search,” she ad­mits. “But then I re­alised that ev­ery­thing that makes for an in­ti­mate party at home is what I al­ready had – sim­ple food, fresh flow­ers, good mu­sic and ca­su­ally dressed ta­bles.”

Lanier’s in­stincts em­body the spirit of the times. Small at-home events that use food as a fo­cal point are a ma­jor trend in do­mes­tic din­ing. Farm-fresh in­gre­di­ents and com­fort dishes are now the shin­ing stars, with in­creas­ing at­ten­tion be­ing paid to the same pad­dock-to-plate credo found at the coun­try’s top restau­rants.

“Party pies and dips are no longer ac­cept­able op­tions,” says Aaron Teece, the chef and cre­ative di­rec­tor be­hind cater­ing com­pany and events space Stu­dio Neon in Syd­ney. Teece, a na­tive of By­ron Bay who spent time work­ing as a pri­vate chef in Lon­don, has cooked for the likes of Kate Moss and Keira Knight­ley. “In Aus­tralia we have a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion of food and the qual­ity of lo­cal pro­duce,” he says.

At Stu­dio Neon, Teece di­rects mul­ti­course din­ners, in­clud­ing one that took place in a beach cave in south­ern NSW. “Raw seafood is a hit at the mo­ment,” he says, cit­ing king­fish, sea urchin and oc­to­pus. “It’s light, tasty and beau­ti­fully pho­to­genic.” Teece once catered for a Rus­sian bil­lion­aire who in­sisted on serv­ing 10kgs of Al­mas caviar; the pearly white va­ri­ety is the rarest type of Bel­uga avail­able and costs over $30,000 a kilo. But oli­garch style is an anom­aly.

In terms of drinks, you don’t need to have a selec­tion of booze ri­valling the bar at the Four Sea­sons to keep guests happy. “Serv­ing only one or two types

750ml rosé wine (full-bod­ied is best) 1 cup (220g) caster sugar 125g rasp­ber­ries ½ tsp vanilla ex­tract Pour rosé into a plas­tic con­tainer, cover with a lid and freeze overnight. The next day, place sugar in a saucepan with 1 cup (250ml) water over medium heat, stir­ring to dis­solve. Sim­mer for 5 min­utes un­til slightly thick­ened. Cool, then place in a blender with rasp­ber­ries and vanilla and blend to a smooth puree. Strain through a fine sieve. Place puree in the blender with 2 cups ice and blend on high un­til ice is crushed. Scrape the frozen rosé with a fork to form a granita and com­bine with the puree. Spoon into glasses and serve.

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