Finally, after all the farmer-chef dating you have read about, it was time to walk the talk and put things into practice.
Throughout the week I found it amusing how everyone were talking about the “marriage” between farmers and chefs. My first thought was when is the honeymoon and what will be the outcome of this reunion?
Well, this was successfully done at the closing dinner of the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week to mark the end of the event. All participants of the AgriTourism Week were invited at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, whereby the chefs had prepared a special dinner for us, using only local products!
Since we were all hungry and eager to discover the dishes, the speeches were short and the Minister of Agriculture from Fiji officially closed the AgriTourism Week.
The end result
Innovation was the word being used throughout the week and we actually saw the innovations in the way the food was prepared, combined and presented. On the menu, called “Celebrating Pacific Cuisine”, 8 appetisers, 8 salads & vegetables, 8 main courses, 2 side dishes, and 6 desserts were proposed.
This variety of dishes were made from local products and from the conversations around the table, I can say that many were impressed by the food that the various chefs from the Pacific region took the whole day to prepare. As for myself, I can’t quite say that it was my best dinner ever, but there are some items that I really appreciated. Again, it’s a matter of taste and preference.
In terms of presentation, the dishes were beautifully served, just calling out to be put on the plate.
From the appetisers, I personally loved the Pineapple boat chicken paddle with bush lemon and honey dip. I love experimenting with food, and this was one of the dishes that I believe was a real success both in terms of visual appeal and taste.
Between the duck and chicken proposed as main course, I really liked the chicken which was marinated in various spices that gave it a unique taste. On the other hand,, the duck in tamarind sauce was an excellent idea. Who would have thought that it was possible to prepare it this way?
Another dish that I appreciated was the Roasted eggplant filled with chicken fillets, served with duruka and tamarind rice cakes.
As for the salads, they were kept simple, but the dressing used gave it a really good taste.
Sounds mouth watery?
Indeed, the dishes were mouth watery. But when analysed deeply, appreciating local food and products is not the cup of tea of everyone. Since many of us are used to eat tasty and quick food (which also have additives), it was felt by some that some of the dishes were not really special and more attention and practice are needed at the levels of both farmers and chefs to come up with the right combination of flavours, spices, vegetables, fish and meat.
Nevertheless, it was creative, and something that the layman would not think of. In one of my previous blog I talked about lovo, and I did not really think about the innovation I saw in the form of the dishes presented at the closing dinner of the Agritourism Week.
Some dishes successfully captured the essence of Fijian culture and tradition. The reason I am saying this is because my fellow bloggers didn’t know what a ‘duruka’ (Saccharum edule) is, and discovered it during the dinner.
In the dessert section, I didn’t try much except cakes and ice cream, though there were other Fijian desserts. I chose not to take them as they were just not appealing enough for me.
However, according to the people around the table, they liked it. And I think it would be unfair if I gave my opinion without even having tried it. All I can say is that compared to the mains, the presentation of the dessert was simply not on par.
All in all, as our host of the evening Lenora Qereqeretabua said, “the eyes rolling in orgasmic pleasure are evidence that you enjoyed your dinner.”
I did, but the question is what’s next now? Was that a one night affair only? Where are these dishes going to be at?
Well only time and tide will tell if this ‘marriage’ is a success or it will head to a ‘divorce’ till the next expo.
Photo credit: Simione Tukidia/SPC
Blogpost by Avneel Abhishay, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015.