Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s fabulous Roast Collection finishes up this week so it’s your last chance to get your roast on. In case you’ve missed it the Roast Collection involves restaurants around Victoria dishing up special events of slow cooked, roasted splendour during the month of June. At the start of the month I headed to Taxi for roasted duck five ways and I finished off my carnivorous month at Casa Ciuccio for lamb roasted on the coal pit.
I’m a big fan of Casa Ciuccio and I’ve eaten there many times since it opened so it was great to be invited to try out the restaurant’s roast event. Things started with a glass of the floral and light 2011 Chalmers Vermentino as we watched chef Matt McConnell break down a Plains Paddock lamb. Matt showed us how he coats the lamb with a simple rub of garlic, salt, pepper, ground fennel seed, lemon and of course lots of olive oil. “We like to cook nice and long and slow”, he explained.
The wine throughout the evening was excellent, all from small independent winemaker Chalmers which creates lots of more unusual varieties like the vermentino. A highlight was Tennille Chalmers raising a bottle of bubbles in the air and declaring “lambrusco is back”. Indeed it was, with everyone loving the fizzy but savoury wine. While we heard about the wine and the lamb we snacked on juicy, marinated octopus bandarilla served on skewers. There were also sandwiches of hot smoked mackerel with crispy bocadillo and creamy, oozing spiced lamb croqueta.
After a detour to inspect the coal pit we headed upstairs to be seated in the private dining area where we shared just pink grilled lamb livers nestled in a Romesco sauce and a Portuguese dish of shredded slow cooked lamb laced through rice alongside a salad of roasted zucchini, eggplant and labneh. Then came the star of the show, the slow roasted Plains Paddock lamb. Juicy and succulent the best part of all were the crisp, blackened edges still heavy with smoke from the coal pit. We finished with a classic Casa Ciuccio dessert, a pot of slightly bitter dulce de leche topped with shards of peanut praline. The praline in particular was addictive.
Dinner at Casa Ciuccio reaffirmed for me how much I love the place. It was great to have a peek behind the scenes and I think it made our roast lamb taste even better once we had heard from the producer, Anna Kelly, and seen the process that went into cooking it. There’s still time to get your roast on for the rest of this week around Victoria.
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Gourmet Chick was invited to review the Roast Collection by Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
Details: Casa Ciuccio, 15 Gertrude St Fitzroy 3065 (Ph 03 8488 8150)
Damage: Pricey. On this occasion I did not pay.