I get invited to a lot of events. Some are great, some are ok and some are not great. But very few are amazing. I think the last amazing event I went to was the launch of Olmeca Altos. The launch of the Woolworths Flavour Society was one of the amazing events.
The point of the event was to focus our awareness of our senses in the context of food. The event was held at Babylonstoren. We arrived and congregated in The Green House, enjoying coffees and an interesting turmeric tea. We got to see the whole turmeric plant dissected. We then went for a tour around the garden. If you’ve never walked around the food garden at Babylonstoren, you need to make a plan to do that soon. It is an experience nobody should miss. We touched and smelt all sorts of fruit, herbs and all sorts. We heard the crunch of our steps on the peach pip walkways and we tasted fresh naartjies and guavas, bursting with flavour.
From there we were taken to the banquet hall. One long table for about 40 or 50 of us. We were given a giant menu with beautiful imagery and a tantalising invitation:
We invite you to enter a laboratory of the senses: a participatory investigation of complementary flavours, pairings and provocations.
And in front of us was the long banquet table filled with all sorts of beakers, vials, petri dishes and more. All filled with interesting looking contents. This was an invitation nobody would decline. So we sat down and the sensory extravaganza began…
There were 7 ‘stages’ with the first being ‘imbibe’. We had a table full of interesting mixers that spanned the tastes of sweet (quice and sage flower cordial), savoury (salted caper & tomato juice), bitter (Earl Grey, ginger & grapefruit iced tea) and sour (lemongrass & rhubarb cordial). We could mix them with water, sparkling water, wine or bubbly. We were still experimenting and having fun with the mixers when stage two arrived, ‘bread & breadth’.
It seems like everybody is either on the Paleo diet or the Banting diet or some other derivative of the low carb, high fat diet. But you wouldn’t have thought so when we started tucking into the delicious fresh wood fire baked artisan bread! We had dishes of oreganum & white chocolate butter (sweet), olive & kale herb oil (savoury), Clemengold peel & coffee butter (bitter) and rhubarb & winter savoury yoghurt cheese (sour). We ripped, dunked, poured, spread, chewed and tasted on a blissful flavour journey. We would probably have gorged ourselves silly had they not distracted us with stage 3, ‘colour fields’.
We were each given a salad, there were 8 different colours of salad which each had different ingredients. As an example, the orange salad had butternut, persimmon, orange and carrots. I was given the white salad with apple, pear, radish, turnip, onion and cauliflower. There were then 8 different coloured salad dressings with which we could experiment. They had very unusual flavour combinations, for instance, black was roasted black garlic & liquorice. Yellow was coconut, banana & cardamom. Red was star anise & smoked pork vinaigrette. And to complete the colour festival on our plates, there were edible flowers in various colours too.
The flavour journey was not nearly done. Stage 4, ‘river bounty’ presented us with lightly smoked trout accented with Italian flavours and enhanced with flavoured salts like pink vanilla & betroot salt or dried fig leaf sea salt. Stage 5 & 6, ‘winter harvest’ were delicious lamb cutlets with interesting and unusual sauces and pastes. Then came the final stage, ‘conclusion’.
In a separate room was another long table covered in the most amazing chocolate cake, cheese cake, creamy blue cheese and a selection of Woolworths chocolates and sweets. Wow, I haven’t had a sugar rush like that in a long time. I think that could be the best chocolate cake I can remember eating. And if that round of blue cheese could have fitted in my bag I would have tried to steal it!
The lunch was a culinary adventure, literally a feast for the senses. It will linger in my memory for a long time to come.
So what is the Woolworths Flavour Society? Well, this is how they describe it:
At Woolworths, we’re passionate about food. That’s why flavour is so important to us. To celebrate the tastes and aromas that bring our food to life, we’ve created the Woolworths Flavour Society. Embark with us on a monthly journey as we explore traditional combinations, while delighting in new flavour trends.
The Youtube video explains a little more:
You can get involved at www.woolworths.co.za/flavoursociety and follow the #wwflavoursociety hashtag across social media.
There are more pics from the event over here.