Taste Sydney 2011
Ah, I love food festivals. And Taste Sydney is an excellent example of that. Not only can you get a huge variety of people showcasing their food-wares, you can also get to sample food from all the top restaurants in the one spot!
After having so much fun last year, I absolutely had to go again this year.
But first, we all know that I love free food, and I certainly got a lot of that this weekend!
Johnny Walker had a tent that held tasting sessions (to full tents) every 20 minutes. I would love to tell you more, but I am, quite unfortunately, allergic to alcohol. But it did look interesting though!
One of the sponsors was Regal Salmon, and there were little cups of awesome given out at various points of the festival.
What else can I say? I love salmon, and when you put fresh, raw, salmon, and salmon roe together, I believe that nothing much can go wrong. Seriously yummy.
Tabasco had a booth again this year, and I had to go again. (I am an absolute Tabasco fiend - I carry a small bottle in my handbag always - you never know when you need that burst of flavour on something!) They had dips made with all the different flavours of Tabasco, and Sean and I had a lot of balancing piles of dips on itty bitty crackers.
The omnipresent Pukara estate (I see them at practically every food festival/fair that I go to) had flavoured oils, vinegars and mayos up for tasting.
Little bits of bread on the end of toothpicks were dipped into every flavour and savoured. Most of the flavours were good, but not particularly outstanding, but the blackcurrant vinegar was definitely a winner. I could definitely see ripe, red, succulent strawberries macerating in it. The caramelized balsamic added a syrupy coating to the little cubes of bread, and it's something that I can eat all day.
Speaking of little cubes of bread, there was a fantastic selection of yeasty goodness from The Grumpy Baker.
Soft, fluffy sourdough were amongst other offerings, and my absolute favourite was the roasted garlic and olive sourdough. Chunks of smoky roasted garlic and bits of salty olives were threaded through each chewy bite. An om nom nom moment.
Another thing that I love about Taste is the ability to mingle with the chefs!!
The crew at Aperitif were a hoot and a half. Miguel Maestre was his charming self as always, and early on in the evening there was quite a bit of friendly banter between Miguel and Manu, who own Aperitif together.
But the thing that makes Taste stand out for me is definitely the Chefs Table. It's one thing to ask a quick question as you see a chef walk past you, but chances are, they would be busy, and it wouldn't be nice to disrupt them in the middle of work.
And that's where the Chefs Table comes in. The chefs take some time out of their busy schedules, and about 20 people get to sit around the table with them and have a chat. You can ask them anything you want, anything, and the answers are fairly candid, but some of the sessions are filled with hilarity.
The very extremely expressive Matt Kemp, who spoke about his start in cooking, working in Balzac...all with wild gestures and a very quick wit.
And this year, the man whom I think is the sexiest chef EVER had been scheduled to speak. He talked about his son, Ready Steady Cook, Aperitif, the best places to eat in London...amongst a myriad of other things.
How sexy is that? And the best part of all is that he has such a wicked sense of humour - every sentence was followed by guffaws of laughter and giddy giggles.
I even managed to get a photo with him!
Other chefs who spoke included Alessandro Pavoni of Ormeggio at the spit and Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish.
They both shared insight into the culinary world, and they discussed their experiences in cooking. It was extremely enlightening to hear words of advice from the mouth of experienced chefs. It gave me some ideas and inspiration, which definitely helps with my obsession with food.
The Main Event
The Churros Con Chocolate from Aperitif were fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and it was all coated with silky smooth chocolate.
The Regal King Salmon carpaccio with orange segments, citrus and chardonnay vinegar dressing, shaved fennel, salmon roe, baby herbs and crispy salmon skin might have been a mouthful to order, but it was a delicious mouthful nonetheless. it was all wonderfully balanced - my only gripe about it was that I felt the salmon skin wasn't quite as crispy as I had hoped it would be, but in the grand scheme of things it was good.
The Regal King Salmon curado with chilli and star anise tasted good, but personally I couldn't really taste the chilli nor the star anise. All I could taste was the dill with the firm flesh of the salmon, which, I'm really not complaining about.
To follow my salmon obsession, Balzac's Seared Regal Salmon with a salad of pomogranate, mint and feta was light and refreshing, with the just amount of tang and sweetness. Very good for a hot and sticky day.
And how can I visit a food fair and not sample one of Manu's creations. The Slow cooked shoulder of lamb, smoked potato puree and jus had the deep mature flavours that I absolutely love about lamb. Every bite just falls apart in your mouth, and the puree leaves a lingering sense of luxurious creaminess.
Dank Street Depot & Cotton Duck's Stone fruit roasted with home cured pancetta, verjuice and chilli was glorious in all its succulent, salty, garlicky goodness. Every mouthful was an absolute joy, and Dank Street Depot never disappoints. I'm still dreaming about last year's Watermelon Smoked Ribs.
Now if you're in the market for a heart attack, then Balzac's Saddle of suckling pig with baby garden peas is for you. According to Matthew Kemp, the suckling pig is smothered in duck fat, slow cooked in a vacuum pack, deep fried, then covered in a buttery sauce. Oh, and the peas apparently have bacon bits too. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to coronary failure must be paved with mouthfuls of this delectable, melt-in-your-mouth dish. Definitely something I couldn't get enough of.
On the lighter side of pork, Four in Hand's offering of Confit of pork belly with Squid, Chorizo and Chickpea was a hearty dish indeed. It invoked memories of rich winter stews and the aroma of ripe, fresh tomatoes. Not quite as impressive for me as the saddle of suckling pork, but not bad at all!
And there were a couple of desserts that we absolutely had to try.
The Ricotta Fritters with berries and honey were soft sweet balls of lovely. For some reason, they reminded me of very sophisticated jam doughnuts!
On a side note, Sean and I were just having a discussion about how many cultures seemed to have somehow have created a dish involving fried dough sometime through history. There are doughnuts, 油条 you tiao, roti prata, churros...Every culture seems to have come up with a dish that includes flour, moisture and hot oil.
But anyway, back to the food.
The final dish that we had for the day was Otto Ristorante's Amadei milk chocolate mousse with salted caramel and fresh berries. The mouse was light and lovely, and an excellent foil to the rich, dense salted caramel that it hid within. This was a dessert to share for sure. It was one of those ones where we really felt like we wanted much more, but knew that we absolutely couldn't have any more of the rich stuff.
As Sean and I waddled slowly out of Taste, patting our satisfied tummies, we made the decision that we absolutely have to go back next year. We had an absolute blast, and can't wait for the next one!
And to leave you, I will end with this hilarious picture of the sexy Manu.