On the ground and in the air, guests at the take-off of Tourism Australia’s Invite the World to Dinner celebration were on a high.
By JOHN CORBETT. 13 November, 2014. Every commercial flight should be like this. A scant five minutes after wheels-up, the drinks trolley whisked up the aisle to begin its good work. On board flight VA9010, a chartered Virgin Australia 737-800 travelling in considerable style from Sydney to Hobart, the happy passengers raised their glasses.
In the place of honour in seat 1A was Alice Waters, founder of the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, and doyenne of the global farm to fork movement.
On board as well was a constellation of Australian celebrity chefs and food personalities, and many of the 80 key media influencers, chefs and food professionals from around the globe invited by Tourism Australia, Tourism Tasmania and Virgin Australia to attend the Invite the World To Dinner gala event in Hobart. I was in seat 17F.
Before the mid-afternoon flight, guests arrived from points around Australia (I enjoyed three luxurious days in Adelaide and the Barossa Valley – watch this space!) and gathered in the exclusive Upper Level of the Virgin Australia Lounge. Plied with Arras, the superlative sparking wine from Tasmania, the food and wine specialists sampled pan-Australian offerings including hors d’oeuvres of Tasmanian spanner crab, delectable salumi from the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and plump Pristine Oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia. It was a taste of the extravagant offerings that unfolded during the next three days.
Once on board, Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan took the intercom to describe the clever cold collation he created especially for the short (one-hour-and-fifty-four-minutes) flight*. (Mangan also creates the signature dishes and menus for all of Virgin Australia’s travel classes.)
Matched with the meal was perhaps the best Pinot Grigio I have ever tasted: Calabria Richland Riverina New South Wales 2013 Pinot Grigio is rich, crisp, rounded and mouth-filling all at once – and a triple Gold Medal-winner. No less impressive was Heemskerk Abel’s Tempest Tasmania Pinot Noir 2012, alluring from the very first sniff of its berryfruit nose, through its cherry-ripe smoothness on the palate, to its elegantly balanced finish.
“I hope you enjoy the meal,” said Mangan, as cloths were laid on tray tables and the lunch service began. The only possible reply was: Luke, the force is with you.
* Luke Mangan in-flight menu, Virgin Australia VA9010:
Sonoma rustic bread roll served with Luke Mangan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Dukkah
Petuna ocean trout and pickled cucumber with ginger, soy and lemongrass
David Blackmore’s wagyu bresaolo [air-dried aged beef], buffalo mozzarella, fig, heirloom tomato and balsamic dressing
Lemon and lime meringue with mixed berries
Photos: John Corbett