Zoe Smith has an unforgettable evening of fine food in beautiful surroundings.
It's 8pm on a Saturday night in Port Douglas and chef Ricky Jordan is talking macerated blueberries.
How exactly does a blueberry become macerated, one of my dining companions asks the affable Jordan.
As he explains the process of marinating the juicy berries that gave his dish that extra pop, I survey the table – contented faces all around.
We've just been presented with the first cab off the rank in what turns out to be an unforgettable night of degustation dining using local far north Queensland produce.
On paper, his dish sounds simple. Jordan, who plies his trade at Port Douglas Catering and Events, has dipped the buratta, a baby mozzarella ball, in truffle honey.
Topped with walnuts, a slice of oh-so-crisp prosciutto and the aforementioned macerated blueberries, it's nothing short of a taste sensation.
Tonight's menu, Jordan tells us, is just a sample of what's in store at next month's al-fresco dining event for the Port Douglas Carnivale festival – the Palates of Port.
Billed as a night of degustation under the stars, it's a unique event that only Port Douglas – with its rainforest setting - could pull off.
It's all about celebrating the local. Diners will be ferried to a rainforest glade where eight chefs from the town's restaurants will each prepare a dish using regional produce.
A giant video screen will project the action to the diners/viewers, with the chefs giving a run-through of their dish as they prepare it. Given the nation's obsession with MasterChef, it's a smart formula.
And it's sure to be a winner. Because here's the thing – the food tastes better in Port Douglas. No joke. The tropical climate makes for local produce which is nothing short of stunning.
The exquisitie handmade buratta on my plate is case in point – it's produced at family-run company just down the road in Cairns.
And what does Jordan have lined up for the Palates of Port? He'll be serving up a wagyu beef fillet with blue cheese-filled steamed zucchini flowers.
Take me there, now.
The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Queensland.
Virgin Blue has a fare from Melbourne to Cairns for $198 and from Sydney for $165. Qantas also flies non-stop from both cities.
Exemplar Coaches and Limousines provides coach transfers from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas ($33 adult, $20 children). Phone (07) 4098 5473, see www.examplaronline.com.au
The Sea Temple Resort & Spa's Carnivale Package offers two nights in a luxury Studio Spa Room with full buffet breakfast included. Also included in the package are unlimited transfers around Port Douglas on the Port Douglas shuttle.
From $329 per night for two adults. Valid for travel from May 19 to May 29. For reservations call 1 800 833 762 and use the promotion code: CARNIVAL
Port Douglas Carnivale runs for ten days from May 19. Go to www.carnivale.com.au
Tickets to the 2011 Palates of Port ($160pp) can be purchased online at the site. Cost includes matching wines and return transfers from Port Douglas to the venue, the Flames of Forest in the nearby Mowbray Valley.