Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fair play

The (probably) biggest ever Crave Sydney International Food Festival, yet a decidedly smaller Sydney Food & Wine Fair event – does that seem like fair play? Perhaps restaurants had invested so much in the rest of the event that there was no budget left for the major AIDS Trust fundraiser.

The AIDS Trust Sydney Food & Wine Fair 2010 at Hyde Park North, Sydney
I capped off the end of the food festival on the weekend at the annual AIDS Trust event in Hyde Park – for which the skies remained clear with just a touch of a breeze.

Pathway south of the Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park North
Rather than filling the pathways of Hyde Park North as in previous years, the stalls had dwindled in amount with none surrounding the Archibald Fountain and stalls on just one side of the path south of the fountain; making for less atmosphere but more space.

But it was a case of the quick and the hungry for many stalls, with some selling out not long after opening and most continuing to sell out during the afternoon. We started near the St James station exit and got into the food quick-smart.

Mini burgers from The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay

Pork and prawn burger with radish coleslaw from The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
The mini burger at The Boathouse of Blackwattle Bay came with half a Hahn Premium or a glass of wine, so not too bad in value. The burger pattie on the little white bun was rather reminiscent of wonton filling with pork mince and the taste of prawn. The coleslaw was seriously addictive, refreshing with a great mayonnaise dressing.

Squid ink risotto with prawns and green peas from Ormeggio at the Spit
We scooted around Joanna Savill and Giovanni Pilu chatting to Alessandro Pavoni at the Ormeggio at the Spit stall to get the squid ink risotto – an ideal Halloween dish on appearances. Black, soupy and dotted with bright green peas, the grains of rice were right on al dente in a flavoursome stock with little (honestly, none) prawns to be found.

Yellowfin tuna sphere filled with bonito cured snapper, mustard miso,
shitake, apple and fennel from Selah
It was great to see Selah really pick things up this year with a standout star dish; my favourite of the day and sold out minutes after I purchased mine. Not only was it stunning to look at the tuna sphere, it was completely and utterly delicious, tightly filled with diced bits of raw snapper that had the distinct taste of bonito flakes.

The garnishes alongside were also fabulous: crunchy deep fried fennel with the most delicate juliennes of green apple that didn’t overpower with sweetness but complemented the marinated snapper, microherbs and sliced shitake mushroom, while I don't seem to remember the yellow gel blobs of mustard miso. It was a very generous dish for just three coupons.

Mekong mary cocktail from Jimmy Liks
As per last year, Jimmy Liks served up their fiery take on a bloody mary – the Mekong mary with chilli vodka and characteristic nahm jim sauce mixed into the tomato juice. Aside from chilli and coriander, the pervading flavour was the savoury tomato juice, so I’m not sure where the vodka hit was – but it was a great palate starting drink nonetheless and the perfect partner for perusing the stalls.

The chef dishes up some braised pork belly at La Mint

Artisanal breads at Brasserie Bread

Stunning croissants at Brasserie Bread

Damian Heads of Steel Bar & Grill - ready, steady and cooking

Antipasti share plate from Pazzo
Surry Hills' Pazzo enticed with a warm antipasti platter featuring three of their restaurant items. The skewered goat's cheese wrapped with prosciutto was extremely salty (grilling cured meats will do that) with the two main ingredients fighting for prevalence. I think I would have preferred a milder cheese like mozzarella with it, but the skewers were scoffed anyway.

The whitebait fritters were exceptionally fresh and firm, teeming with white squiggles of whitebait and delighfully served with a tomato salsa. Lastly, the golden crumbed tuna and potato balls, looking like arancini but eating like croquettes, were a non too starchy affair with tinned tuna, and not at all bad with its own tomato sauce too.

Meringues at Central Baking Depot
Both Bourke Street Bakery and Central Baking Depot stalls were sights to behold, with signature tarts at one and meringues, brownies and pies at the other.

Chicken pie from Central Baking Depot
We grabbed a chicken pie (smaller than a regular but also not quite as small as a party pie) which was boiling hot and although verging on a little dry being in the pie oven all afternoon, had a tasty filling of vegetables and chicken pieces.

Black sticky rice with mango and coconut cream
from somewhere I don't remember
This Thai style black sticky rice dessert was particularly similar to another festival one I had recently, although the mango was not quite as ripe as it should have been. I liked the crunchy toasted sprinkle of sesame seeds, desiccated coconut and sugar on top, but the black glutinous rice was definitely the highlight.

Bill’s brown sugar pavlova with strawberries and cream
from the Delicious Magazine stand
We also picked up the second last pavlova at the Delicious Magazine stand, and gladly so. It was the first brown sugar version I’d tried, then subsequently loved. The meringue was particularly chewy, which I now prefer over the usual fluffy white meringue, and was sweetly divine with syrupy strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

Performance stage
Not quite stuffed for several sheets of vouchers but by no means hungry, we tarried awhile in the searing sun at the performance stage while Erika Heynatz performed a handful of pop-py songs, followed by Courtney and Jimmy from the recent series of MasterChef doing some kind of barely visible, overly audible cooking demo.

The Ben & Jerry's van
We ended the day at the ever-long queue at Ben & Jerry's - free ice cream will do that. But I found it odd that they were scooping half scoops from pint tubs, rather than more commercial sizes of the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Brownie ice cream
Anyway, the Chocolate Brownie flavour of the afternoon was just what was needed to cool us down, and hit us up with sugar. I especially liked the fudgey brownie chunks I got, even if they get stuck in my teeth and I feel like I need to brush my teeth there and then.

In the end, with funds raised, tummies filled and skin somewhat tanned, it was a fair day out and a pleasant way of celebrating the end of another year’s Sydney International Food Festival. Congrats to the organisers on the success of the overall festival and to next year and beyond!


MelbaToast said...

What a pity there wasn't a lot of food to choose from. I found this at the Parramatta CRAVE street event. Only a few street stalls to eat from...I hope next year it will be bigger and better!

Tina said...

Hi MelbaToast - There was a lot of options - just not as many as previous years - I'm just being a whingey glutton :S

Julie said...

Antipasti share plate! omg i did not see this! I missed out. Great recap of the day :)

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Great recap Tina! I missed out on it this year. Shame that there was less choice but it sounds like you had some tasty morsels!

Tina said...

Hi Julie - Yep, Pazzo was near the end; we almost missed it too...!

Hi Lorraine - Not so much the choice, but support for the AIDS Trust... :(

missklicious said...

It's a shame that it's smaller than previous years, I didn't make it this yr due to a silly date miscalculation on my part :(

Gianna said...

Totally agree that there wasn't much selection! I Thought it was just because we got there late. I regret passing up on the pavlova from delicious - looks amazing! by the time we went back to the stall, it was gone - so lucky you get the second last plate!

Tina said...

Hi missklicious - Ooops, there's always next year ;)

Hi Gianna - It was definitely one awesome pav (sorry to rub it in...)


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