Friday, November 26, 2010

Luke Nguyen's Affair ... with Clinique

Affair? More like a marriage made in Heaven!

On a mellow evening in Sydney (soon to be repeated at Zinc in Melbourne), a 350 strong crowd of (mostly) women flocked to Doltone House to enjoy a 6-course degustation menu including 25 so-called super foods designed to make your skin glow.
Deep down inside, we all know “we are what we eat”. Cosmetic company Clinique uses specially selected ingredients in their products to help us look good on the outside, how great would it be if those same ingredients could be used to make a meal that would help us from the inside?

Bringing together proponent of ethical eating, Chef and Owner of  Red Lantern, Luke Nguyen and Teresa Cutter, of The Healthy Chef, popular author, healthy eating and fitness advocate, the premise behind the event was to introduce these ingredients by using them in dishes that could be re-created at home.

The evening started in the forecourt with a Lychee and Young Coconut Martini. Described as a “fusion of hydrating minerals” the drink was coconut water well balanced with the slight dryness of vodka, the crispness of  the toasted coconut garnish and the alcohol soaked lychee as a final reward.

Upon entry into the dining room, we were offered a Soft Rice Paper Roll with Green Mango, Asparagus and Enoki Mushroom. The key ingredients here were “filled with amino acids needed by the body to repair cells and maintain a healthy immune system”. This was offered with a dipping sauce again containing coconut water. I tend to steer away from sauces as I’m never sure what’s in them but the roll itself was beautifully fresh with a mixture of textures and mild but complementary flavours.

Once seated, the next 3 courses were cooked, in a series of demonstrations, on a raised platform at the front of the room. I do not mean to imply that Chefs Nguyen and Cutter cooked enough for the entire room (as that would have been quite a challenge despite the fabulous Electrolux induction stove!) rather, in a feat of well-orchestrated timing, we were served each dish just after it was completed on stage.
I was lucky enough to be seated very close to the front where the aromas of the ingredients wafted so temptingly to our table, we could barely wait to be served but between courses, we sipped on  wines provided by bio-dynamic vineyard Tamburlaine

Located in the Hunter Valley, the vineyard is the third largest bio-dynamic vineyard in the world, the grapes used to make the wine being grown using Rudolph Steiner’s farming practices.

Certified organic (made without herbicides or pesticides), the wines claim to be hypoallergenic and, as such, well-suited to asthmatics. I didn’t sample the white, but the red, the Wine Lovers Grenache from the Orange-based arm of the vineyard, was a berry-flavoured, light, perfectly worthy accompaniment to the dishes and didn't give me the stuffy sinus which I sometimes get. Big tick!

The third course was Citrus Cured Salmon with Mandarin, Perilla and Black Rice Powder – the dish described as being “filled with Omega-3 to help lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure”. The salmon was served ceviche style and, colourfully scattered with the perilla (a type of herb which is a member of the mint family) as well as the petals of miniature flowers and freshly roasted black rice ground in a mortar, was an absolute joy to eat. I am a personal fan of sashimi and always feel healthy after a meal of it.

The fourth course was a Tamarind and Lemongrass Broth, served with Tofu and Water Spinach – this was described as “a super detoxifying broth to help the liver restore and rejuvenate”, also “a nutrient rich dish to help your body cleanse and digest better”. The broth was wonderfully light and slightly tart in taste (due in part to the tamarind) with the chilli only being spicy if you ate the garnish; the water spinach was amazingly crisp but tender and the bean sprouts fresh. The tofu blended beautifully with the rest and although I’m not a fan of tofu I ate the lot! Steeped in the broth were little antioxidant-rich goji berries.

The evening was not only entertaining but educational. While slicing, grinding, blending, seasoning and steaming, Nguyen and Cutter explained why each ingredient had been chosen and how to use it. 

Coconut water, now the drink of choice at many a Hollywood home, contains potassium and so is 5 times more hydrating than water. This was used not only in the martini but in the cooked dishes.

Some ingredients, like galangal and turmeric, were good for reducing inflammation, (linked to the development of cancerous cells); others like reconstituted tamarind water and chia seeds, were there to cleanse and detox, a fact that led to the evening being punctuated by bowel jokes. Ah well, what’s a dinner party without a little toilet humour?!

We also heard about Nguyen’s childhood confusion about the cooling and heating properties of foods and how healthy eating stems from his Vietnamese heritage while both Cutter and Sarah Wilson, author and ex Masterchef host and MC for the evening, came to healthy eating through a bout of ill health; Cutter, from being overweight at a young age, discovered good nutrition for herself and refused to eat unless her mother cooked healthy meals and Wilson, having been struck by an auto-immune disease, chose to change the foods she ate in order to recover.

Then came the 5th course, the Super Skin Dish – Galangal, Lemongrass and Turmeric Marinated Mulloway Wrapped in Banana Leaf and Steamed. Served with a Green Papaya & Pomelo Salad. This is the dish they suggest we eat once a week to provide us with the “11 potent superfoods packed with antioxidants to heIp protect and nourish the body for optimum health and vitality”. I missed the opportunity to ask “why Mulloway” because I was advised that the fish was specially selected (and there was some concern that they wouldn’t be able to find any) but I’ll have to come back to you on that one! 

This dish, garnished with a large red chilli and, unlike the previous courses, was served two to a table, allowing guests to help themselves. The flesh of the fish was so tender it was falling apart and it was generously coated with the yellow of the fresh turmeric. There was only one dish of the salad and unfortunately a couple of the guests at our table missed out. I was lucky enough to taste it as I love pomelo. Again it was refreshing and light. The condiments in the fish marinade were blended so well as to be a harmonious whole. I could happily have eaten the entire dish myself as a main course.
The cooking done, the last course, Sorbet with Diced Fruit was presented. Three scoops of no fat and low sugar sorbet, created specially for the dinner by Passionflower, were flavoured with coconut, blueberries and acai berries and sitting on a bed of Jack Fruit strips - more antioxidant boosting goodness! The acai berry sorbet was a little disconcerting as it was a light chocolate colour and not what I was expecting when it hit my tongue. All were pleasant and not as sweet as normal sorbet with the Jack Fruit being a crunchy contrast.
The meal was completed with a warm, very smooth cup of Organic Genmaicha Green Tea and a glass of the Tamburlaine sparkling – a dry, not overly sweet accompaniment to dessert.

The evening moved along quickly and before we knew it, we’d spent 3 hours, in what felt like someone’s dining room, with our favourite girlfriends sharing a meal and great conversation; except this dining room had its own DJ and Clinique-stocked make-up booths where guests could have their make-up refreshed or learn how to use the products in the goodie bag. (To be honest, the majority of the crowd were so damned attractive that it was hard to believe that anyone needed the advice but the girls were certainly kept busy!)

So what did I learn from this night? To apply Clinique’s 3-step system not only to my face but to my eating habits! Or, to sum it up: 

Cleanse, tone, moisturize = Eat well, exercise, drink coconut water.

It was a fantastic experience - informative, tasty and left me feeling incredibly healthy. 

Congratulations to Myf and Bec from Frank PR for putting the event together and a personal thank you to Sophie (you know who you are!) for inviting Yaya’s to attend.

PS: The recipes for each of the dishes as well as the photos from the night are available on Clinique's site

Enjoy and be well! : )


  1. Wow! What a great idea...should be more of it as we all get a little puffier in our stature! Being recently on a health kick of my own, I can do with new combinations of food. When trying to lose weight long term, I find I get quite tired of the usual salads, dishes. The food and evening sounds like it was sensational. Give me a "fusion of hydrating minerals” (masquerading as a lychee martini) any ol' day!

  2. What a fabulous idea, I love that they've put together a banquet of good for us foods in the form a a fab deega. No wonder there were a majority of women there. Love the pics too. Thanks for sharing ;)

  3. Hey I was thinking of going here! Sounds great!

  4. Thanks for the report Yaya! I've definitely heard how good coconut water is, I love it too when it's chilled. Sarah Wilson does a great job hosting events!

  5. Attending in Melbourne tonight! Any opportunity to meet Luke?

  6. @Gummi - Really? I've emailed you :)

  7. Check, check and check...beautiful on the inside! So what happened Melody, did you and Luke meet up???

  8. I feel healthier just by reading about it! Are you addicted to DSLR's yet?

  9. Yes Lobo, I have been researching DSLRs all weekend so I have to apologise to readers of The Last Appetite blog on "3 Things You Don't Need for Food Blogging" as I publicly declared that I didn't intend to purchase a DSLR! Famous last words! :D

  10. @YaYa - Yes! My friend and I met Luke before the dinner started. He was walking around the foyer area while we were all enjoying our Lychee & Coconut cocktails :) I think he was a bit overwhelmed by our excitement, especially when we asked for a book signing :p

    Food was amazing - from the photos above, looks to be the same menu as Sydney, however the presentation was different. My favourite dish was the Citrus Cured Salmon.

    (Side note.. I've discovered my love for Tamburlaine's Organic red wine!)

  11. So glad the evening went as well as the Sydney one. I hadn't tried Tamburlaine before that night either and will be sampling some more of their product soon. Would still love to see your photos to compare. Please send them to the address above or the one you used before. :D

  12. Will definitely forward on some photos :)
    (I will be receiving my wine order tomorrow!)

  13. That was fast! Good to know! : )

  14. A very creative event! ;)
    Yummy food to make my skin look better? Bring it on! :D

  15. Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by. Since this blog went up I've updated it with some links to the recipes, they truly are worthwhile downloading.

  16. What a fab event you had! Thanks for the links to the recipes. They look great.