Take a photo journey into the bewitching magical forest of culinary nostalgia created by Food24’s editor, Caro de Waal, for the annual Spier Secret Festival dinner.
With every last beautiful detail, the dining room of Caro de Waal was transformed into a softly lit mystical forest with twinkly lights and woodlands creatures between the branches laid carefully on the long table.
You know when you walk into a room and you suddenly feel light with excitement, kind of like it’s your birthday party or your best friends wedding, like you know there’s cake hiding somewhere and courses of meals juxtaposition to good conversation and pure enjoyment. I suppose that’s the essence of a Secret Dinner, wondering what’s going to happen next but not worrying about making it happen yourself. Being spoiled for sparkle and a nostalgia of feeling a genuine rush of happiness come through you for no reason other than instinct.
The first course let me do as I wish with a cheese spread, chunks of freshly roasted garlic that turned into a sweet paste, bone marrow that became a dripping buttery mess, with tart balsamic mushrooms to put on top of whatever I wanted to, so cheese on everything.
To the last course was a plate of nostalgia, a granadilla lolly that certainly made me jolly, and a spoonful of Nutella, which I can taste right now.
I’m so incredibly boastful and proud to have been a small part of Caro’s magic. She’s a wizard of entertainment and even after sitting next to her, everyday at the office, listening to detail after detail of what would go down at the Secret Dinner, I was still overwhelmed by the titanic amount of talent my team has. They are too humble, but deserve the praise that should be showered upon them for this fabulous dinner.
This was the menu:
The Land of Do-as-you-please
Parmesan cream with hazelnut crunch, honey roasted garlic, bone marrow, wild mushrooms, stuffed zucchini flower
The Land of Fragrance
Fresh hake with an orange, saffron, chive butter crust, braised fennel, cauliflower purée with vanilla and pistachios
Absinthe balloon, lime, apple and mint cool drink, fresh fennel and mint to rub
The Land of the Main Course
Lamb ragout in beetroot open ravioli, baby veg, rosemary cream and lamb jus
The Land of Nostalgia
Coke float, spoon of Nutella, granadilla sorbet beach ice cream ball
The devil in the details, with rustic lanterns lit for fairies to flutter around while we ate.
The most fabulous decoration of baby’s breath in a solar-powered Consol jar, swoon.
From a distance you could hear faint sounds of birds squawking, a curious noise coming from the bathroom, that made me feel obviously curious. When you walk into the bathroom a noise sets off a series of animated birds that make you giggle while you are peeing, which is the best kind of peeing. It was super silly and I absolutely loved that the theme was part of every experience during dinner.
Rows and rows of freshly made, starchy, pasta, infused with beetroot colour.
The most gorgeous buttery garlic, roasted and scooped out in perfect savoury fashion.
This is duck biltong and it is the best biltong. Juicy, rare, red, and buttery, melts in the mouth and needs nothing else.
Caro with award-winning mixologist Nick Koumbarakis.
The land of do–as-you-please.
The land of nostalgia.
Milk and cookies goodies to take home for a midnight surprise.
Restaurant Editor, Cath Shone, sharing the left over absinthe.
The training chefs of the Silwood school who helped Caro in the kitchen, along with the Food24 intern, Xandri, who, is, amazing. She made the menus, designed the dining room decorations, and brainstormed the dinner with Caro months ago. She’s legendary and can do anything.