Monday, October 31, 2011

Reality bites Sydney Food & Wine Fair

It’s the end of another year for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival and the month of October is fatter and less cashed up for it. Unfortunately though, as the festival gets bigger and stronger every year, one of my favoured events – the Sydney Food & Wine Fair in Hyde Park – seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

It’s a real shame as it used to be one of the biggest days in the year for food and fundraising alike. With so many other events now for marketing to the masses or mini empires to run or indeed, financial troubles, perhaps restaurants just can’t spare the day, staff and 500 donated portions of food.

Sydney Food & Wine Fair, Hyde Park, Sydney
Nonetheless the mostly rain free, insanely humid day was pleasant, and well done to all those restaurants involved (see list at the bottom of this post). The noon mugginess meant it was impossible to walk by the James Squire stall and not stop in for the One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale – a relatively light drinking beer, subtle, fruity and just perfect for the day’s heat.

Confit Berkshire Black Pork belly, Chinese cabbage salad, citrus
sesame dressing from Restaurant Atelier
Drool-worthy smells were emanating from the nearby Restaurant Atelier stall where ever-popular confit pork belly was served with a refreshing and crunchy cabbage salad with touches of sesame oil. The pork was stunning, tender, not noticeably fatty and with a pleasurable slight crunch to the burnished skin.

Mushroom arancini and tomato arancini by Danny Russo at the Alfa One stand
The theme was Italian at the Alfa One stand where chef Danny Russo was pumping out squid and arancini skewers – both dishes cooked with the rice bran oil (every dish also came with a 500ml bottle of the oil).

I was pretty happy to have scored three of the mushroom arancini which were heady with earthy mushrooms and cheese, while the tomato one featured a subtle cheese that really paled in comparison to the former.

Pane Casereccio from Brasserie Bread
Passing by the Brasserie Bread stalls I spotted Matt Brock from the bread making class I was lucky enough to attend not long ago and stopped in for a chat. They had on offer festive-looking pane casereccio which I’m told is commonly eaten after big parties and gatherings in Italy where leftover bits, like olives or baked vegies, are baked into bread.

Thanks to Matt for the complimentary dish, it was such a pretty bread to eat with each mouthful yielding a different taste. Indeed there was almost more fillings than bread, and this was enjoyed very much with a glass of sauvignon blanc from the Giesen stall.

Ribs, lamb cutlet and potato salad from Outback Steakhouse
Most popular stall/dish of the day had to be the one at Outback Steakhouse. It was definitely the biggest dish going and the one I could smell a mile away, such was that magnetic aroma of ribs on the grill.

Presumably beef ribs for their Flinstones size, they were incredibly tender and doused in a barbeque sauce that was equally sweet and smokey (which some other places could really learn a thing or two from).

The charred lamb cutlet was also cooked nicely (medium-well is always safer at these types of settings) while the tangy potato salad rounded out the filling dish.

Cured ocean trout with tapioca pearls, salmon roe and microherbs from Selah
Most beautiful dish of the day had to be that at Selah, which also impressed at last year’s Fair. It was a gorgeous treasure trove of tapioca pearls and salmon roe with a hunk of jewel-hued cured ocean trout featuring beneath microherbs and bready bits.

And not only did it have looks to die for, the flavours and textures were spot on: the soft tapioca with pops of salty salmon roe, and the strong flavoured ocean trout having a party with the herbs and more subtle tapioca. Congratulations to Selah for yet another ‘wow’ dish.

Ice cream petit fours from Booza
With precious few vouchers left for desserts, it was great to see the Booza stall selling their wares for a mere voucher each. Recently making headlines for their new take on a traditional dessert (and residing in the same factory as Pepe Saya butter), these two balls of ice cream were each covered in Middle Eastern additions.

The pistachio praline was crunchy and rich with a burnt caramel toffee, while the halva had an interesting texture and sweet sesame flavours. And it’s hard not to adore the Persian fairy floss that was intensely nutty and just the perfect finishing tuft on the dessert.

Aside from a couple fat drops of rain that threatened, the skies remained clear and the entertainment pushed on, including an impressive cheerleading routine with flips, pyramids and all.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the Aids Trust fundraiser will pick up next year: with peak interest in all things food and restaurants at the moment, I’m hoping the empires will consider participating in what is truly a fun, fantastic day out for a good cause.

Burgers from Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
Participating stalls at this year’s Sydney Food & Wine Fair were: 1945, Alfa One, Alio, Allpress Espresso, Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Booza, Brasserie Bread, Brown Brothers, Brown Sugar, Café Sydney, Catalina Restaurant, Cracka Wines, Eat Fit Food, Exchange Café, Flying Fish Restaurant, Forsyth Tea and Coffee, Gastronomy, Giesen Wines, QVB Tea Rooms, Guillaume at Bennelong, Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Jamaica Blue, Jimmy Liks, La Mint, Le Pelican, Lisa McGuigan Wines, Longrain, Malt Shovel Brewery, Mezzaluna Ristorante Italiano, Tom Kime Fish & Co, Negociants Australia, New Zealand Wine Growers, New Zealand Wine Online, Nilgiri’s, Outback Steakhouse, Packed Lunch, Red Ribbon Prizes, Restaurant Atelier, Ryde TAFE, Scarborough Wine Co, Selah, Stonewall Hotel, Tempus Two Wines and Yellowtail Wines.


jacq said...

I was a little disappointed by the number of restaurants at the Sydney Food and Wine Fair this year too. The dish from Selah was amazing though - definitely my favourite dish from the day! And the BBQ sauce on the ribs from Outback Steakhouse was super tasty too.

Dumpling Girl said...

That pork belly looks so good, guess it doesn't help that I'm hungry, and that dish from Selah sounds wonderful. Now I regret not going. Oh well, always next year.

JB said...

Wooooooooooooow! The ocean trout from Selah look amazing!

Anonymous said...

I want those Flintstones ribs! I missed the fair this year, a shame that is getting smaller, but food looks great.

sooks said...

Selah's dish was definitely the winner for the day!

OohLookBel said...

The Selah dish looks so beautiful. I was there for about 5 seconds before being scared off by the threatening rain :(

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I haven't been to this event in years! I remember some really delicious dishes though :)

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I loved the pork dish but, yes, such a shame it was a poor turnout. And the ambience was lacking too.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

I didn't go this year but that pane casereccio looks delicious!

Tina said...

Hi jacq - Well, looks like we both made the most of the day anyway; especially with that Selah dish...!

Hi Dumpling Girl - I sure hope there'll be a better next year...

Hi JB - It tasted every bit as good as it looked!

Hi lateraleating - They were perfect for a filling dish, and generally good for the guys ;)

Hi sooks - Yep, almost unanimously :)

Hi Bel - Oooh, you must have been there about the same time. There were about 10 heavy drops and that was it!

Hi Lorraine - Tis my fave event of the year, even though it is shrinking... :S

Hi Corinne - Yes, ambience used to be amazing with crowds and stalls all around the fountain...

Hi Vivian - Yep, picked some very good dishes in the day we did!

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

I really need to promise myself that I will indeed make it here next year. I completely confused myself and kept thinking it was on the Sunday - d'oh!


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