Wine and prawns. That’s the simple formula behind Wok + Wine, which started in New York by a Kiwi expat and is now around the world. I can’t recall how I originally came across it (somewhere in my vast internet sleuthing, of course) but I’m glad I did. 40 people, 40 bottles of wine, and 40 pounds of jumbo shrimp/prawns is a winning combination.
The prawns get fried up al ajilo, aka ‘Venezualan style’, by the resident chef (The entire thing is overseen in Melbourne by a small team.) Plenty of garlic, a bit of chili, oil, and that’s about it. The rest of the flavour all comes from the prawns themselves. And boy, are they ever delish. After the chef poured them onto huge banana leaves on the table, he showed us how to properly peel the jumbo prawns. I was ripping/licking/sucking/dipping with the best of ’em. And then tearing off chunks of bread to soak up the super-tasty sauce.
Venues change each time, and January’s venue was a studio in Clifton Hill, down a laneway near the train station and up some stairs. My friend was already engrossed in conversation by the time I arrived, which boded well for the night. We found it fairly easy to talk to new people, although there did have to be a little effort on our parts. “Who should we talk to next?” we’d ask ourselves. While it’s not a networking event per se, we wanted to push ourselves to meet new people. Isn’t that the point?
The crowd seemed to be late-20s to 40s. My +1 of the evening, at 25, was definitely on the younger end of the spectrum. But no complaints there — he was in his element, as there were more ladies than gents. And Wok+Wine facilitates meeting people, handily providing sliced limes to rub on your hands after you wash them to get off the prawn/garlic smell. (Some of us thought they were to help you get the garlic smell off of your mouth, too…)
After one too many glasses of Yalumba‘s finest white, I was happy to take off after the third serving of prawns was ceremoniously dumped onto the table and devoured. I never thought I’d be ripping off heads of prawns and sucking out the contents, but there you go. That’s Wok + Wine for ya. It’s a fun night, and I recommend trying it out sometime!