Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunshine after the rain at Taste of Sydney

It was three days of sunshine, some of it quite intense, after the Wednesday and Thursday rains that prevented the opening night of Taste of Sydney in Centennial Park. And what glorious sunshine it was that dried out the grounds and showed what a Sydney outdoor festival should be.

Taste of Sydney 2012, Centennial Park, Sydney
For the fourth year in a row, on Sunday I headed towards the white-tented city that smelt like a mouth-watering combination of char smoke and fat; appetite and plenty of dollars for Crowns (the currency of Taste) with me.

There were definitely more large stands in the middle of the park set-up, offering seating and respite from the hot sun, as well as the cute idea that was the Lilydale picnic area with entertainment from Argyle Bar.

Lengths of marshmallow at Patisse
There was also a noticeable concentration of stalls dishing out alcoholic and sweet products, and a sad lack of stalls offering cheese; something that was quite abundant in years past.

The Cho-mobile handing out loads of free Chobani Greek style yoghurt

Blood plum vanilla ripple ice pop by Pure Pops
The heat of the day called for an early icy refreshment, which we found in the 100% natural and colourful Pure Pops. The deep red of the blood plum, with a swirl of presumably vanilla ice cream towards the paddle pop stick, was refreshing yet pulpy like proper fruit.

Stretching ice cream by hand at the Booza stall
One of the most impressive sights of the day had to be the hand-stretched ice cream at the Booza stall. A labourious alternative to machine churning, this display was not actually how Booza make their petit fours and pots of ice cream, but showcased a dated art that creates ice cream of very unique texture.

Chalie & Co. stall
It wasn’t long after some nuts and za’atar tastings that we hit up the caravan/ truck-like outlet of Justin North’s Charlie & Co. While I think it was just an aesthetic style, it raises the prospect of a Charlie & Co. burger or hot dog truck of the likes we’ve never seen before.

The Dog - Mini artisan frankfurter chilli dog from Charlie & Co.
The hot dog blitzed the mini wagyu burger in the presentation stakes, so it was an easy choice. The chips were impressive – at least twice-cooked and crunchy yet still properly fluffy on the inside.

A well-bronzed hot dog bun encased a quality-tasting white meat sausage, all covered in a flurry of not-particularly-spicy chilli mix, green sauce and thin, patient zig-zags of American mustard.

Ketel One stand, hosted by Eau de Vie
We spied the Ketel One stand by the Eau de Vie team towards the back of the park set-up, decked out with shelves of bottles of Ketel One vodka and hints of the Eau de Vie aesthetic.

Yuzu Mule (left) and Bloody Mary (right) from Eau de Vie
With the slick Eau de Vie boys in action, the Yuzu Mule was my pick with the promise of a sour hit from yuzu curd along with honey, orange, ginger beer and of course, Ketel One vodka.

The Bloody Mary wasn't even on the menu and was oddly not as cold as it really should have been, but downed nonetheless.

Spencer gulf prawns, avocado, lime, chilli, royal black quinoa,
tomato, basil & coriander from Agape Restaurant
The Sustainability area of the festival had just a whiff of hippie-ness but in the case of the Sustainability Pop-Up restaurant on Sunday, Agape Restaurant smelt nothing but delicious.

With some seriously appetising and fresh looking dishes on offer, we went with the grilled Spencer Gulf prawns piled high with a salad of black quinoa grains, tomato, basil and alfalfa sprouts - a beautifully fresh plate that sang of summer.

Crispy pork belly, pickled daikon and chilli jam in a sweet roll by Longrain
Not far away, the Longrain bar was pumping tunes and cocktails to the happy masses. Definitely a contender for my favourite of the day was Martin Boetz's crispy pork bun, jam-packed with thick, succulent slices of pork with crackling. The picked vegetables were the ideal foil for the rich pork while there was also a taste of seafood in a light smearing of sauce.

Casareccia al ragu from A Tavola
I found my favourite pasta type at Eugenio Maiale's A Tavola: house made casareccia with a ragu of slow cooked veal, pork and chicken and dusted with parmesan cheese. The al dente pasta was ridiculously perfect for something served in a paper bowl in a park, but made even better with the red sauce of so much depth and sweet meatiness.

Miriam McLachlan of Sake Restaurant and Bar in the Sake Masterclass
It might have been just a touch early in our day to have been faced with  four tasting glasses of sake, but we took it in our stride as we meandered into one of the Gourmet Traveller Wine masterclasses.

It was only a few minutes into wine and sake sommelier Miriam McLachlan's talk before we were throwing around words like daiginjo (sake made from rice that's been milled down so a maximum of 50% of the grain remains) and junmai (sake made with only rice, water, yeast and koji mould; that is, without the addition of distilled alcohol).

Sake tasting glasses in the Sake Masterclass
My favourite was the Kozaemon Tokubetsu Jikagumi Origarimi which is an exclusive brew that captures the carbon dioxide from the first fermentation in the bottle.

The Kozaemon 3 Year Aged Sake is a trend-driven product that smelt like those smelly Chinese dried shitake mushrooms but tasted like a heavy chardonnay.

Prawns served with okra sambal by Flying Fish
There was a serious need for food after the unexpected generous serves of sake in the tastings. Having somewhat studied the restaurant menu before attending the festival, the prawns with okra sambal by Peter Kuruvita's Flying Fish was something I was very keen to have.

What we received was nothing like what I'd imagined, with plenty of prawn but very little okra. Indeed, I'm pretty sure I didn't manage to taste any okra in the prawn skewers I shared, though there was a enough of the orange, creamy coconut sauce for flavour.

Traditional charcoal BBQ lamb and veal kebab, smoked eggplant and
Chobani Greek yoghurt from Efendy
For the first time, Taste brought in an award for the best dish of the festival - and this was the winner, belonging to Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy. I was very keen on this version of an adana kebab, award or not, for the smoky charcoal cooked meat and soft-cooked eggplant.

And I could easily see why it was a winning dish: spicy, packed with flavours from the meat and smoke and contrasting well with the softening yoghurt and eggplant flavours.

Hiramasa kingfish ceviche from Sake Restaurant and Bar
Going to the complete other end of the food scale, Shaun Presland of Sake Restaurant and Bar's ceviche of raw kingfish slices, tomato, Spanish onion and chilli was a bowl of freshness, though it could have done with more lime juice and seasoning.

Prawn, capsicum, chilli, salsa verde pizza by Hugo's
Ever reliable pizza also made a show with at the Hugo's bar stand, and they were certainly the real deal too. The crunchy, thin bases held a generous topping of prawns, capsicum and a squiggle of salsa verde and came out fresh from the oven.

Pear cider (or perry) by Sunshack Cider
Sunshack Cider made an appearance among a surprising amount of stalls featuring cider; at least three hailing all the way from Sweden. Sunshack's pear cider is the most perfect drink on a hot and sweaty day, especially when you're watching a pig on a spit.

(Potentially disturbing image below).

Suckling pig on the spit by Four in Hand
The petrified gaze of the rotating suckling pig on the spit was almost enough to turn a few people off their pork. But Four in Hand's pig on the spit made for a great spectator sport, all the while sipping on cider and hoping that the chef slicing it might hand over a bit of crackling.

Roast suckling pig, coleslaw, onion ring and hot sauce by Four in Hand
Colin Fassnidge wasn't around but it wasn't hard to join the queue after watching the pig do a few loops. We were justly rewarded with a fair-sized plate of tender and moist meat, two crunchy and quite oily onion rings, and a strange kind of coleslaw that comprised two huge shavings of carrot.

Ragu di pollo affiumicato from Otto Ristorante
We thought we finished up with the savoury dishes on another pasta dish from Richard Ptacnik of Otto Ristorante. It was a very different ragu of smoked Lilydale chicken that had the unfortunate texture of tinned tuna, but the strong smoky flavours were actually quite impressive.

Lamb and eggplant mini burgers by the City Tattersalls Club stall
But it wasn't quite the end with the perennial free stuff on offer from the City Tattersalls Club stall. This time I managed a battered and fried prawn of some sort and a mini lamb burger, while their panna cotta certainly looked the goods, as did their cocktail samples.

Chouxmacas from Adriano Zumbo Patisserie
Dessert was no simple matter with the number of offerings from both the restaurants and the stalls. There was relatively little fanfare at Adriano Zumbo's first Taste stall, where the 'Chouxmaca' puffs proved too tempting.

The creamy filling in the choux puffs was a little lacking in the chocolate macaron shell topped one, while the pâté sable a choux would have been my favourite part of these miniature works of art.

Wild berry and chocolate flake Foxy Premium Frozen Yoghurt
Between three people, we also did the clever thing of sharing a tub of Foxy Premium Frozen Yoghurt, though there might have been a scoop of lemon cheesecake gelato later in the afternoon too.

With some cute branding and flavour names, the frozen yoghurt was a little on the icy side so that standard plastic spoons struggled, but the flavour was spot on.

Pepe Saya buttermilk and vanilla panna cotta with poached fruits from
The Montpellier Public House
The day was certainly getting on when we heard the call of "2 Crowns" for panna cotta as Matt Kemp's The Montpellier Publich House emptied its kitchen. Quite a fair crowd turned up for cheap desserts, which was a very sweet mix of unidentified poached fruit, burying some very fine vanilla panna cotta.

This was definitely the bargain of the day although I also bought my favourite Gingerbread Folk men and bunnies, free Chobani yoghurts, Sunshack Ciders, a selection of Huon salmon products, and spicy twiggy sticks from Jim's Jerky.

So it was heavy bags and stomachs that we left Taste of Sydney for another year; hot, sweaty and happy in the sunshine. See more pictures at my Facebook page (and Like me while you're there!).

Food, booze and shoes attended Taste of Sydney as a guest, with thanks to Stellar Concepts. All food and Crowns were paid for separately.


joey@FoodiePop said...

Hooray for sunshine again. The Longrain crispy pork bun looks so good; I'm glad it tastes as good as it looks!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

I agree with you! Not enough cheese stalls this year :( Your Longrain pork bun looks so much more abundant in pork than mine did - probably why I found it a little too sweet, needed an extra slab or two of pork. I was on the Chef's Table - Sake Restaurant on Sat and Miriam is so enthusiastic about sake! Shame I was too full to try booza, it looked real cool the way he was pounding and stretching it.

Simon Leong said...

i like how you got a whole tub of Foxy Premium Frozen Yoghurt. i didn't even know you could do that. clever! the agape dish looks fantastic.

OohLookBel said...

Thank goodness the weather cleared up. All the dishes you had look fantastic, though the pig on a spit might be less pukey if they covered its eyes ;)

JasmyneTea said...

Yum! I've had the pleasure of trying the Efendy adana at their Australia day bbq, it's no wonder they won. Glad the weather cleared up!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I haven't been for a couple of years now. Good to see that the rain cleared in time for the weekend though, the Thursday was horrendous!

Dolly said...

everything looks amazing.. too bad i missed out!

Tina said...

Hi joey - I think it might just have been my favourite dish of the day..!

Hi Vivian - I think I only had one bit of cheese from the NZ stall :( Miriam was so great!

Hi Simon - Yup, sharing was caring and cost effective!

Hi Bel - Yeah, not all the piggies looked quite so scared/scary...

Hi JasmyneTea - Pretty special! Looking forward to checking out the restaurant some time.

Hi Lorraine - The weather turnaround was amazing!

Hi Dolly - There's always next year ;)

Jasmin said...

I am dying with envy. The spitroasted pork looks to die for. I guess I'll just have to wait til next year. Or pop into Four in Hand?

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

I didn't go this year. Nice to know there is more seating area for the general admission people. Sake masterclass, hello, how good it that!!

Marlo Perry said...

Your photos Are fantastic! It looks like so much fun. Unfortunately I was in QLD so I could not go - hopefully next year!

Tina said...

Hi Jasmin - Haha, I think you've found your solution! ;)

Hi Sara - The sake class was great, totally worthwhile.

Hi Marlo - Thanks! There's always next year ;)

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

I agree, I noticed A LOT of booze stands this year! I wouldn't mind a more artisan snacks, treats etc to balance out all the drinkies haha.

Tina said...

Hi Rita - There were barely any cheese stalls :( I was kinda looking forwardto stoking the fridge with a few blocks...

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