Did you know that there are so many ways to make gnocchi? “Gnocchi” translates directly to “dough dumpling”, so essentially you can transform anything that binds together with starch into a dumpling. Some common forms of dumplings I’ve been making recently include traditional potato gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, and gnocchi made with choux pastry, or pâte à choux – Parisian gnocchi.
It has meant quite a bit of flour spread around the kitchen, on my clothes and on my camera, lots of batches of extra dumplings stashed in the freezer (perfect for those quick weekday meals), and a lot of bench scraping (I have realised that the bench scraper is one of my best friends in the kitchen). I absolutely hate cleaning up so it’s really nice to get out of the house and be treated to some Italian that someone else is cooking for me!
I was invited to Lime and Tonic’s Italian Kitchen ‘Modo Mio’ My Way with Massimo Mele, held at the Private Kitchen, on the third floor of the Old Rum Store. The Old Clare has had a recent face-lift which makes it perfect for a pre-dinner Old Fashioned or two before you make your way carefully in your heels down the charming cobblestone path of Kensington Street.
It’s a large turnout for the Lime and Tonic event, and people spill out onto the wrap-around balcony with their flutes of sparkling wine, eager for a taste of shaved wagyu bresaola and the cheese wheels oozing over the fire, served with crusty bread and fresh truffle. We huddle around the fire pits to avoid the cold winter chill, and admire the rotating hunk of giant porchetta, gleaming like a prize.
It’s nippy outside so I head inside. My plus one for the evening is Brother Bear from back in my pro bono days, and we catch up as we squeeze into seats at our table to examine the menu. Centrepieces at each table consist of fresh spring onions, radishes, chillies and herbs, picked that morning, and we are invited to take them home at the end of our meal.
Wine is free-flowing and a lovely medium-bodied red with rich tannins that has you smacking your lips but not so heavy that it weighs you down – I do believe it was a Tasmanian wine (Massimo Mele grew up in Hobart). It works well with the Antipasto of Mamma Maria pickled carrots and fresh locally made stracciatella cheese with lemon oil. Both of us dig into the Pirates Bay octopus cooked over the fire pit outside with almonds, chickpeas and olives, which is lightly smoky and deliciously tender.
Crusty bread also arrives with a herb oil, but I’m reluctant to fill up on it as I’m saving myself for the Hand-rolled macaroni, slow cooked wagyu beef shin, porcini and fontina cheese.
It was everything I had been hoping for and more. Chewy, moreish macaroni, meltingly good beef shin that fairly exploded on your tongue with flavour, with the rich, earthy notes of the porcini contrasting against the creamy subtle sharpness of the cheese.
Even Brother Bear was struggling a little by this stage, but then again he’s been on some sort of diet of set meals recently as he’s doing boxing training. But of course we had to gear ourselves up for the Main of Porchetta – cooked on the spit stuffed with fennel, garlic and rosemary, and served with roasted eggplant, wood fired bell peppers, and whipped potato puree.
The porchetta is pink, tender and delicious with pockets of melting fat and crisp crackling. It wasn’t as smoky as I thought it would be, but still amazingly delicious, mopped up with forkfuls of the silky puree. After I demolished this, I was very thankful that the Tiramisu “definitely not classic” was small!
Plentiful good food, free-flowing wine, a sociable atmosphere and best of all – no cleaning up. It’s a dinner party held for you and organised for you – all you need to do is to rock up. What more could you ask for?
For more, visit Lime and Tonic here to see their full range of unique experiences.