Frank’s Spring Seasonal Feast
The Feast: Uncategorized • September 16, 2015
El Dia de los Muertos - The Day of The Dead
Words Scilla Sayer, Images Andrew Wilson
Within days of the official start to Spring, Primavera was fêted in Hobart with a superb bitter-sweet performance at Frank’s sell-out Seasonal Feast. This was only the second in what will now be a quarterly tradition for the restaurant on Franklin Wharf and an occasion for the kitchen team to showcase their latest innovations with the freshest ingredients local producers have to offer.
The inaugural shared dining experience with a set menu and selected wines was a hit at the start of winter. With this recent celebration of the advent of Spring, seating capacity was doubled and the entire venue was booked.
The Spring Seasonal Feast in September was a night where sharing of tables and melding of cultures created a vibrant and unique dining experience and the cycle of life was celebrated in style.
Preparation on both sides of the pass was full of energy and anticipation, colour, texture and flavour. The chefs cast their spells on the fresh pickings of local produce with spice and seasoning from ‘South of the Border’ while front of house staff were putting on everything but ‘a happy face’.
Impressive, impassive, but certainly not deadpan, the countenances of the famously friendly bar and floor staff were transformed by the skill of local artists, Sarah and Milly. Frank’s hosts donned costume and make-up as calaveras – the ‘dapper skeletons’ who star in the parades in the annual fiesta of marking El Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead.
There are many festivals and community rituals to honour the ancestors around the world but Mexico proudly offers their ancestors what are seen as the most flamboyant fiestas of this kind. Symbolic offerings of food and gifts are prepared with joy and appreciation before they are laid out on altars to those loved and lost.
This celebration is neither sombre nor spooky and, although the date now used in Latin America for the festival coincides with our Halloween, vampires and ghouls are not invited to show their faces! The theme of the festival is loving, respectful appreciation of those who came before and acceptance of the vital necessity of Death to facilitate Life.
The festival in the pre-Hispanic period was held in the days of full sun and ripe growth but, like many rituals of indigenous peoples, the European powers who colonised their land also subsumed their customs and found ways to integrate them into their own calendar of significant occasions.
In this case the Christian traditions of celebrating All Saints Day following the Eve of All Hallows resonated with the ritual of honouring the return to Earth once a year of the souls of those who have died.
In Latin America, the Goddess Mictecacihuatl is revered for and she is preeminent in many regional festivals. According to myth, she was sacrificed as an infant and descended to the Underworld where she reincarnated in spirit, became Queen and assumed responsibility for caring for the souls of the departed.
Mictecacihuatl also has responsibility for maintaining the balance between night and day. In the classic Day of the Dead effigy, hers is the gaping skull mouth that, according to legend, enables her to swallow the stars at the end of each night.
At Frank, we fed our bellies on gourmet delights rather than galaxies. The piquant twist of pisco sour prepared our palettes for the sensuous contrasts of taste and texture that were to follow through the four-course dinner.
Canapés were almost a meal in themselves – smoked pork belly with crispy skin complemented by the sweetness of carrot ketchup, followed by mouth-watering lime and chili calamari salad on black quinoa lavoche.
We shared samples of the best derivations of cuisine de paysan (country food) with the delicious spoonable entrees: prawn and lima bean hot pot and chicken picante incorporating olives, egg and rice. A freshness and vibrance of the Jed Pinot Grigio & Colomé Torrontes balanced the delicacy of the white meat and fish dishes.
In contrast the Buena Vista Zinfandel & Padrillos Malbec matched the full-blooded main course of char-grilled venison leg with smoked piquillo pepper and potato mash. A refreshing salad of green leaves and shaved raw vegetables added a crunchy complement to the succulent lean meat and puréed roots.
The theme of sweet and sour, often with an element of hidden surprise was sustained to the end. The iced lemon parfait contained a soupçon of delicious citrus sauce concealed beneath a brazil nut and dark chocolate sliver and dulce de leche ice cream. The final glass of the night was poured from a bottle of Don David late harvest Torrontes.
December will see the southern Summer in full swing and ideas for the theatrical theme for Frank’s next Seasonal Feast are already in the melting pot. Given the growing popularity of this informal and inclusive way of enjoying great food and wine, it might be advisable to book a place at a long table well in advance. Who knows whether a pirate will pour your drink or a siren serve you dinner but whatever disguise is adopted by the members of the Frank family who will look after you, it is guaranteed to be another unique night out.