Earlier this year, I was privileged enough to connect with Ai-Mei Nguyen, the founder of POPdining Impact. Ai-Mei isn’t just sweet to speak with, she also hosts some pretty special events – of which her Entrepreneur Dinners really call out to me. My first experience of these nights was held at Typika, and was a wonderful occasion of inspiration and engaging company.
As tends to be the case, the last few months of 2015 have just flown by – and during that time I attended the final of the year’s Entrepreneur Dinners. This time it was held at Small Print with speakers from the Raw Kitchen, Melanie Marris Eyebrows, Lei Lady Lei blog and Clean Slate. It was a blustery night on the terrace, but I was excited for the new venue, new speakers and food from Chefs Daniel Fisher and Jason Lampuu.
Set up as an intimate feeling event with long tables of eager attendees already conversing as we entered the venue, I was pleased to see I had a table with some great Perth business people and bloggers. These were the faces behind the Floral State, Mimi & Me, Perth Pop, Morsels and Fizz Ink. I was definitely with my kin – and of course I had my boy Jeremy with me since we both enjoyed the previous dinner so much.
While the night geared up to start, we were treated to drinks of our choice. Right behind us was a great spread of Inner Ego cold pressed juices, Kommunity Brew kombucha, wine and Gage Roads beer. While wine was definitely on my mind, I decided to kick things off with a fresh juice. It definitely hit the spot, with the sweet notes of red apple, decaffeinated green tea, strawberry, pomegranate and tomato working in perfect harmony.
Jeremy went for the Gage Roads Australia pale ale, which he said was refreshing, flavourful and a little too easy to drink!
From that point on the food flowed, while the speakers presented different stories of their successes, pitfalls and their journeys. There’s something really elating about hearing how people have paved the path in their careers – and it definitely seems to lift you up and make you want to do more too.
The shared entrees had my mouth watering as they were laid out on our table. Generous servings of fresh oysters with sharp and sparkling mignonette stole my focus immediately – and lucky me, there were some on the table who didn’t like raw oysters so I may have had more than a couple… I just could never bring myself to waste such beautiful seafood!
The charcuterie plate was stylish in execution – exactly what I would expect of a venue like Small Print, the smaller sister venue to Print Hall (which normally by day focusses on quality bakery goods). The cold meats were varied in flavours and well complimented by the array of pickled vegetables on the plate.
It was the fried chicken and fried squid plate that had everyone talking though – and it was pretty much picked clean by the time our table was cleared! Both cuts of meat were cooked just right, juicy and seasoned to a tee, offering perfect little crunchy bites worth dunking in the creamy sauces on the side.
We were given the choice of a main from three options – the potato gnocchi with roast pumpkin, goat’s cheese, almond and sage; the 250g Jack’s Creek wood-grilled sirloin with smoked onion puree; or the pan-roasted goldband snapper with lemon myrtle and pickled fennel.
If you know me at all, you’ll already have an idea which of these dishes I chose… Yes, of course it was the gnocchi – it’s easily one of my favourite dishes to eat and Small Print’s version has long been on my wish list to try.
It definitely lived up to all expectations. Soft, fluffy pillows with a lovely crisp outside sat on a silky pumpkin puree that was sweet but well seasoned. I loved the plethora of chervil sprinkled on top, with those nuggets of creamy cheese. I would happily (and I mean happily) order this again and again.
Reports from others on the table on the steak and fish was that they were equally delicious, with great flavour and cooked to a tee. It’s so satisfying for me when I see people cut into steak to reveal the juicy pink mid-section – and for fish to just flake away in moist strips with the simple prod of a fork.
There were a whole heap of sides to accompany our mains, which was fantastic to see – you definitely won’t leave a POPdining Impact meal hungry! There were the roasted carrots with grains and yoghurt, roasted crispy potatoes with radicchio and a vibrant pimped up garden salad.
These were all passed around the table, spoons heaping helpings onto plates while we eagerly listened to our inspiring speakers for the evening. It was feeling a bit like stimulus overload between the wonderful drinks, food and content. So much to absorb and take in!
At the end of the evening as the events wrapped up, we were treated to one final course for the evening – a scoop of chocolate chip gelato and a scoop of olive oil and rosemary gelato by Stampede Gelato. It’s already exciting enough to finish on a sweet note, but even better when it’s a local WA business’s product that was freshly made to enjoy.
While the olive oil and rosemary combination certainly wasn’t for all, I thought it was really quite addictive! I loved the smooth taste that had a balance between sweet and savoury, and the way the two hero flavours really popped. The texture was creamy and melted in my mouth. I really do need to get down to Stampede’s new store in Bayswater to try more of their offerings.
What a phenomenal evening, as I had expected after my first POPdining Impact meal! There’s something just so elating about being surrounded by innovators and entrepreneurs, and to hear the stories of how they have reached such success through perseverance, drive and never saying never. We all have our stumbles in life, but when we keep looking ahead it can all work out.
I’m looking forward to the next series of dinners for 2016, which I know will grow even bigger, and be even more inspiring. Please check them out for yourself, and I’ll see you there!