photo taken by Ed from Tomato
Food preparation for Monday night's dinner was a more nerve-wracking process than usual. Usually it's just me in the kitchen, with Neighbours on for company, putting together something to greet Michael with after his netball game and then to pack into lunchboxes for Tuesday. Contrary to what the above picture might suggest, neither was I cooking for Satan on this particular Monday. Rather, I was contributing food to a Bloggers' Banquet, a chance to meet other food bloggers in Melbourne face to face, palate to palate. The venue was the Vegout Community Garden in St Kilda, which features a wood-fired pizza oven.
Naturally, the weekend was spent carefully planning and preparing my offerings. I needed to choose food that could be created in advance, transported easily via tram, preferably finger-friendly to share among the crowd, and served either at room temperature or hot out of the pizza oven. Sweets were easy - with ingredients I already had on hand, I whipped up a double batch of ginger chocolate clusters. Something savoury was a bit more challenging, but when I saw Vanessa's shiitake mac & cheese cupcakes I had precisely her reaction: "good God YES!"
I figured I could make up the mac & cheese mixture on Sunday night, bake a few as a test run, then bake and pack the rest on Monday evening. The test run ones were OK, but they didn't hold together all that well. For the main event I decided to skip the breadcrumb step and bake these straight into shiny cupcake papers, ensuring that they'd be easy to handle. When I arrived at Vegout and saw the homemade pizza dough and table heaving with other gourmet treats, I actually thought twice about bringing out my cupcakes. The day in the fridge had caused the brown mushrooms to spread their grey juices through the macaroni, and pasta with cheese just seemed a bit dull. Eventually I decided to go ahead and put them in the oven queue for a quick heat-up before offering them around. To my surprise and relief, they were warmly received. All 22 of them disappeared, and a couple of people confessed to going back for seconds, one person even for thirds.
photo taken by PG, the Goddess in the Kitchen
Of course there were many, many other fabulous dishes to enjoy on the night and I didn't pay any attention to my own cooking. And what of the people behind the food? Here's the goss according to Cindy...
- Ed, the elder statesman of Melbourne's food blogging scene (due purely to his blog's age, not his own!), is friendlier and more approachable than you can possibly imagine;
- Jamie may also be a veteran but it sure doesn't guarantee good service, he has the stories to prove it;
- Elliot knows a heck of a lot more about the history and traditions of food preparation than most of us, with the possible exception of Neil, who won Elliot's quiz;
- Sarah is seriously psyched for all things edible in Germany;
- Purple Goddess is as crazy and funny (and purple-wearing) as you would guess from her blog;
- Sticky is actually almost as boisterous;
- Anna is a down-to-earth girl on a never-ending quest for good eating in the outer suburbs;
- Katie is a dab hand at maneuvering a scary-hot pizza oven;
- Duncan is a refined gent with the careful attention to detail required for good web design, cake decorating and, yes, perfectly formed salted caramel macarons;
- Jon is the slightly shy new kid on the block, but he very effectively broke the ice with a plate of homemade chocolate truffles;
- Josh is in no way the expanding man - where can he possibly be storing all that food?
- Jackie is the go-to girl for Melbourne's restaurant gossip;
- Claire is a stylish gal who can put anyone at ease with her gentle conversation;
- Thanh is just who I imagined him to be, but even quicker to smile and laugh;
- Vida's was the most reassuring face I could possibly have seen as I timidly entered the garden gate.
It was a pleasure to meet every one of them. (You can 'meet' them too on a joint Flickr page.) Here's to another Bloggers' Banquet before summer escapes us!