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Highlights From the King Island Long Table Dinner

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King Island has long been lauded for its outstanding produce – with its rich pastures creating award-winning beef and cheese and the surrounding Bass Strait waters bountiful with seafood.

King Island is world-famous for its beef, and cattle can be seen all over the island. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

So it’s no wonder that an event that brings top chefs from around Australia to the island and gives visitors a true farm to feast experience should be incredibly popular.

Celebrating its 10th year in 2018, this year’s King Island Long Table was held from April 6-8 and as committee member Tara Clark said, from its humble beginnings in the shape of a small wedding, the event has evolved to become a reputable foodie event.

King Island beef cheek, burnt eggplant, miso butter, quke pickle and polenta. One of the dishes on the six-course Long Table Lunch menu. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

“The weather was great and ticket-holders enjoyed picking, cooking and eating King Island’s best produce over a number of days of farm tours and cooking classes,” Tara said.

“There were too many highlights to list – a master class in constructing a cheese platter at King Island Dairy’s cheese shop is one, and sipping wine under the walnut tree and listening to live local music during a farm tour was another.”

The old King Island Dairy Products Ltd factory, which is not far from the current King Island Dairy factory. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

“The Long Table lunch was the culminating event, with over 80 people enjoying a degustation menu prepared by chefs from Pure South in Melbourne. The dishes showcased KI’s freshest and finest produce and were complemented by Tasmanian wines.”

Guests at the King Island Long Table Lunch. This year was the event’s 10th anniversary. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

It was local lad Paul Daniel’s wedding to Cynthia in 2003 that became the catalyst for the festival. With friends travelling from interstate and overseas many of the guests were strangers to each other. Led by their hosts they worked together – diving, hunting and gathering ingredients, helping each other to prepare for a wonderful wedding. A shared camaraderie prevailed, bonds were forged and strangers became friends.

Several years passed and in 2008, the couple reminisced about this special day with Melbourne chef Lucinda MacDougal. It was then that the seed for a King Island Long Table Festival was planted. Since then, Long Table has developed into a three-day event and draws visitors from all over Australia and the world.

Whipped panna cotta, quince puree, macadamia and apple. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

The Long Table Festival is run by a small team of local volunteers in conjunction with visiting chefs to display the best of local and Tasmanian produce. Past chefs include Stephen Russell and Nicholas Cooper, Melbourne’s Pure South Dining and Tasmania’s Bay of Fires Bush Retreat’s Thomas Dicker.

This year’s event saw farm and produce tours to the fishing port in beautiful Currie Harbour, where guests met Donna Whitehouse-Summers from King Island Seafoods who shared the wealth of knowledge she and her husband Max have accumulated about local seafood – especially lobster, oysters and king crab.

Seal Rocks is about 20km south-west from Currie. It’s also just a short distance from the spectacular Calcified Forest. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

Guests also had the chance to visit the festival co-founders, Paul and Cynthia Daniel at The Garden, where Paul showed them around the farm and talked about his experiences, as well as a trip to the famous King Island Dairy to meet master cheesemaker Ueli Berger. Ueli talked about the intricacies of making the perfect cheese and the elements that make King Island Cheeses world renowned. There was of course also time to taste some of the products.

On the Saturday, guests visited the farm of Shona and Fred Perry, who have been involved with the festival for many years. After a tour around the prime beef property and orchard they then relaxed under the walnut tree, sampling delectable tastes while enjoying some local live music.

Visitors then continued on to the King Island Dairy for a “how-to of cheeses platters”. After learning why King Island Dairy cheeses are so unique and delicious, exploring the range of award-winning specialty cheeses and meeting the cheesemakers, guests were able to create and enjoy an impressive cheese platter, complimented with Tasmanian wines and specialty beer.

As well as the tours to discover where the finest local produce is grown and made, there were also opportunities for guests to learn how to create a delicious feast with the fare.

Scallops, pickled daikon, wakame, seaweed butter bisque, finger lime, sea herbs and apple. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

On the Saturday morning visitors joined chef David Hall and the team from Pure South Dining to create their own amazing feast in King Island District High School’s commercial grade kitchen – a brilliant opportunity to garner chefs’ techniques and expertise.

In the afternoon it was festival co-founder Cynthia who led a hands-on Indian and Malaysian experience for participants, who then enjoyed their own creations, including favourites like Piaz Bhaji (spicy fried leeks), Gajjar Salat (carrot salad), a traditional meatball curry and Banana Lassi.

The final day was the culmination of the festival when the guest all gathered together for the Long Table feast, sharing the bounty of King Island as prepared by chef David Hall and the team from Pure South Dining. New and old friends celebrated seasonal local dishes and fine Tasmanian wines at the festival’s most special event.

Cape Wickham golf course, hugs the coast on the north of the island and offers a world-renowned golfing experience enhanced by the raw natural beauty of King Island. Photo: Cat Gale-Stanton

“There were a few sore heads on the aeroplane on Monday, but all had a great time and many have promised to return,” Tara said.

“2018’s Long Table event will be a difficult one to follow, but we will do our best.”

The next event is only nine months away – the dates for the 2019 festival are February 22-24. So it’s time to start planning your visit as tickets sell fast! Head to the website at King Island Long Table and register your interest for next year’s event and you will be kept updated as more details become available.

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