Thursday, March 17, 2011

A tasty bit of Taste of Sydney 2011

Taste of Sydney 2011, Centennial Parklands, Sydney
For the third year in a row, I headed to the Taste of Sydney festival in Centennial Park on a Sunday afternoon, immediately desperate for a cool drink in the dizzyingly hot weather.

The well-stocked Kronenbourg stand
The sun blared as we skipped from shaded stall to shaded stall with beer in hand, checking out the wares on offer this year. Many stallholders returned from last year, and as always, there was a plethora of wine and harder booze to taste, try and buy.

Lots of fun at the Sagatiba stall

Whisky Galore stall

Cocktail fountain at the Green Fairy stall

Patron Tequila stall

Bob the buffalo at the Buffalo Trace stall

Angostura - clever with the cold, non-alcoholic drinks
Food samples were abundant too; though there were noticeably fewer cheese stalls this year.

The winner in my books had to be Craig Cooks Prime Quality Meats for their mouthwatering, smell-from-a-mile-away barbequed meats, especially a bit of very tender, juicy and flavoursome sirloin I tried.

Craig Cooks Prime Quality Meats stall

The City Tattersalls Club stall – at it again with freebies

Gorgeous marshmallows at the Sweetness The Patisserie stall

Frozen pearl meat at the Paspaley stall
Particularly unique this year was the Paspaley stall. Synonymous with high class pearl jewellery, imagine my surprise when they were dishing out cold starters of marinated pearl meat.

Thin slices, rather like very tender abalone meat in a tangy, dill-spiked dressing, this was one delicacy that seemed to polarise tasters – I, for one, loved it.

Whisky tasting at the Johnnie Walker stand
Most heavy hitting session of the day was definitely the Johnnie Walker whisky tasting, especially for a non-whisky drinker (to me it tastes like leather, on fire).

The sample of a whisky-based cocktail was manageable, followed by three tasters of Johnnie Walker Black, Green and Gold that weren’t so, even with a few drops of water to “open up the whisky”.

Tasting partners of vanilla, dried apricot, orange peel and dark chocolate were supposed to help enhance the flavours though for me, were more like tools to kill the taste of all the blended whiskies.

Taste of Sydney crowds
I didn’t make it to a Sensology cocktail class though I desperately wanted to learn the art of a proper Piña Colada (there were only classes for Cosmopolitans left); and the Planet Cake stall had packed up by the time I got around to it.

I saw Jared Ingersoll of Cotton Duck and Danks Street Depot briefly at the GT Chef’s Table though didn’t manage any Taste Kitchen sessions – reminding me how much planning and scheduling is really necessary to make the most of a Taste day.

Chef Jared Ingersoll at the Cotton Duck/Danks Street Depot stall
In fact, chef spotting was one of the most entertaining activities of the day with Jared Ingersoll, Dietmar Sawyere, Warren Turnbull, Colin Fassnidge, Tony Bilson, Miguel Maestre, Richard Ptacnik, Alessandro Pavoni, Eugene Maiale, Peter Kuruvita and Manu Feildel, all spotted cooking, plating, serving or socialising at some point during the day.

Day's most popular use of the complimentary HSBC hessian bags

HSBC hessian bag hat #2
Respite from the heat and floating dry grass was found momentarily in the HSBC customers VIP tent, where air conditioning and some seating gave rest to our hot, weary selves and cool drinks were on offer amid the resort-themed decorations.

Inside the HSBC VIP tent
We brought in food from a couple of stalls, but it wasn’t long before we had to head out again, in search of more food, tasting bits and the moving about that is an outdoor festival.

Slow cooked fillet of ocean trout, 'French onion soup' puree, peppered
oxtail 'croustillant' from Berowra Waters Inn/Ad Lib Bistro
We started at a momentarily short queue at Berowra Waters Inn/Ad Lib Bistro and nabbed their seafood dish of slow cooked (sous vide?) ocean trout with an unidentified and rather flavourless foam with chives on top.

The white foam was in stark contrast to the intense flavour of the French onion soup puree, which was caramelly sweet and savoury, pairing well with the subtle but so beaitufully textured fish that nearly melted on the tongue.

The golden-skinned ‘crisp’ roll filled with fall-apart oxtail meat was small but punched above its weight with rich, beefy flavour – almost too much with the puree but harmonious with the ocean trout.

Black pepper and curry leaf prawn skewers with lime and fresh coconut
from Flying Fish
Looking like one of the best value dishes of the day, two skewers of prawns were obtained from the Flying Fish stall, adorned with flavours and garnishes that tempted us and passersby.

The small tail-on prawns were just cooked, and fresh-tasting for it, with fresh coconut shavings and lime giving the dish a tropical air while the garlicky sauce couldn't quite hold on to the crisply fried curry leaves which blew away in the wind.

Spicy French sausage on sourdough with relish from Victor Churchill Meats
Not one of the restaurants but feeding the masses anyway was Victor Churchill Meats, which had sadly sold out of their charcuterie plates by the time we got there. But the barbeque was smoking and we waited patiently as the sausages sizzled.

Rather miniaturised in a small, crunch white sourdough roll, the thin sausage was shrouded in a deep red relish of onions. The French sausage was substantially meaty, with what seemed like chunks within rather than a processed texture. And it was certainly spicy.

Paella a la Maestre from Aperitif
The unmissable Miguel Maestre was spotted in the Aperitif stall eating paella – it must have been good, so we followed suit. The plate of saffron-yellowed rice we received was abundant not with the squid/mussel combination I had expected, but pieces of flaked salmon chunks.

Its slight dryness was helped along by a squeeze of the lemon wedge all over, which added a sweet, tart note to the filling dish.

Stracci with smoked veal ragout , eschallot puree, bresaola and parmesan
from Otto Ristorante
My favourite savoury dish of the day was the pasta at Otto Ristorante, where chef Richard Ptacnik was calling out something melodic every time a dessert was ordered. A boring old pasta dish this wasn’t.

The stracci pasta (translates as ‘rags’ in Italian) were beautifully thick and wide pasta pieces with a cute ruffled edge. How the kitchen maintained a state of al dente for such mass cooking is a wonder.

Paired with the only lightly smoked minced veal ragu and topped with slivers of bresaola and grated parmesan, the flavours and textures were comforting as too the great value, well sized dish.

Dark chocolate Snickers from Four in Hand
With precious few Crowns left, I had to forgo the desired lamb shoulder at Four in Hand in favour of the even more desired Snickers dessert. I didn’t know what to expect other than peanuts, caramel and chocolate.

The dessert delivered these ingredients and more. The centre scoop of ice cream was a little overwhelmed by the other flavours, so I’m not even sure what flavour it was. A mousse-y chocolate moat hid caramel peanut halves (I think – I dunno, it was all covered in chocolate).

We devoured this one quickly, scoffing spork-fuls that had a bit of everything, especially the unknown flavour ice cream. The plastic spork made it a bit difficult to scrape the emptied bowl of all the chocolate and caramel.

Hazelnut, peach and nougat, and yoghurt and berries gelato from Gelato Messina

After Four in Hand’s take on the Snickers, the heat made more ice cream a must, although I couldn’t handle any more nutty richness in the peanut butter and chocolate gelato.

With free scoop at the Gelato Messina stall thanks to HSBC, we instead go a little fruity with peach and nougat, yoghurt and berries, and my ever-favourite hazelnut gelato.

Lolling about on the dry grass with an empty gelato cup, I faintly heard the announcement that Taste was coming to an end – though much clearer when told by the security guard.

Waddling out the gates, I admit I had to have another sit/lie-down before heading home, just to let the all the food and drinks settle somewhat.

Dinner post Taste of Sydney including Milawa Cheese Company Cow’s Milk
Camembert, Huon Hot Smoked Salmon and water crackers
scored from Huon Aquaculture
Getting home at about 6pm, dinner was the last thing on our minds but as the night rolled on (after a post heat/feasting nap), I could swear that the cheeses we’d bought from the Tourism Victoria stand were calling me.

The Milawa chevre was a taste sensation, sampled at the stand and sitting in the fridge currently. But for dinner, we polished off half the cow’s milk camembert along with half a fillet of hot smoked salmon (which is cooked in the smoking process, unlike cold smoked salmon) and other bits from the fridge.

The salmon was a revelation – savoury, dry-ish pale orange flesh that flakes at the touch; full of salt and smoke goodness, and divine in a pasta dish. And to think it was cheaper, and quite possibly more versatile, than the cold smoked stuff.

Taste of Sydney 2011 comes to an end

So that’s Taste of Sydney for another year. The organisers have to be happy with themselves – it really is an event that is getting bigger (literally) and somewhat better as a result.

One can only wait till next year to see what new restaurants, sessions, exhibitors and innovations that Taste of Sydney will bring to Centennial Park.

Thanks to Stellar* Concepts for the general admission tickets to Taste of Sydney 2011 - and the opportunity to spend so many dollars/Crowns on a great day out!


Mary said...

What a fabulous venue. Your photos are almost - almost - as good as being there :-). The food looks especially good. This is my first visit to your blog and I've spent some time browsing through your earlier entries. I really enjoyed the time I spent here and will definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

susan said...

Oh I wish I was able to go to this! Hopefully next year. Yeah hot smoked salmon is the best, I only used it for the first time in a pasta dish a few months ago and it was so good.

Betty said...

great fotos darls xox

Simon Food Favourites said...

i wanted to try that green fairy stand but too busy at the time and those hessian bag hats are hilarious. i didn't see any when i visited :-)

Tina said...

Hi Mary - Many thanks!

Hi Susan - It's fab! Better than cold smoked in pasta!

Hi Betty - Thanks :)

Hi Simon - Must have just been the super hot Sunday session then ;)

Jacq said...

LOL at whisky tasting like leather on fire! though I have to agree with you somewhat =P

Love the photos of the hessian bag hats! haha

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Aww it's nice to finally have more of a look at the stalls as most other bloggers concentrate on the restaurants ;)
Ended up having to give away my free tickets =(
Will have to try and save up to go next year!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

hehe sounds like you had a great time! I'm sad I had to miss it but oh well! And your post TOS dinner looks very tasty too!

OohLookBel said...

You must have visited every stand. That's dedication! Great photos, too. I should have fashioned a classy hat out of my hessian bag, it was certainly sunny enough.

sugarpuffi said...

wow i didnt find the sagatiba stall! missed out big time :( awesome use of the bag!

Julie said...

Great review! I regret not trying more at the show :( I was a on a budget xD

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

lol at the hat creativity!

Tina said...

Hi Jacq - Agreed yeah? I don't think I'll be a whisky coinnoisseur anytime soon...

Hi Angie - Oh shame, it was a nice day out :)

Hi Lorraine - Can't believe we even needed dinner!

Hi Bel - Almost...

Hi sugarpuffi - Really? It was a big and loud stall!

Hi Julie - Thanks. I didn't spend too much on the restaurants this year.

Hi Helen - Ingenious, I thought

Anonymous said...

Great recap. Love the prawn skewers!! Sound exotic.

Jasmin said...

It was a good year - sad to miss out on Matt Moran though. I didn't run along to Otto. I'm sad about that now, looks amazing.

But Johnnie Walker is not a good whisky, and well. It tastes like leather because they're blends.

Loved the photos :D

Tina said...

Hi Ellie - Yes, exotically delicious!

Hi Jasmin - Doesn't help that I'm not a whisky drinker... :)

sydneycool said...

Gelato Messina is one of our all time Sydney favourites - the best gelato in Sydney!


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