Monday, July 20, 2009

Smells like festival spirit

A stunning winter's day on the harbour is the backdrop for The Rocks Aroma Festival this year - a traipse through coffee, tea, chai, chocolate and spices of the world. The smells lure today's traveller through South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East on an olfactory journey; ending, unsurprisingly, on a really full belly.

George Street (north view), The Rocks, Sydney

On what I like to call a perfect Sydney's winter day, I found myself mixing among coffee connoisseurs and tourists alike - people in every inch of walking space milling about and tasting the goods on offer. And what goodies!

Strawberries for chocolate dunking at Charlie's Chocolate Fountains

A shelf filled with cups of lovely red, sweetly ripe strawberries awaiting their drenching in liquid milk chocolate. Alas the chocolate-drowned strawberries were less photogenic but one of the taste sensations of the day. A definite pick-up from the pleasant but weak cappuccino from the Sacred Grounds Organic and Fairtrade stall. Strangely, the overall festival didn't seem to have much of a focus on sustainability or the like - a little surprising for this day and age, I thought.

BuzzMe energy drink (what a great name!) from Clayridge Honey

Biscuits galore from Delicious Hand Made Biscuits and Pastries

More biscuits from Whisk & Pin

Ever-replinished fridge at Traditional Pavlova

Passionfruit pavlova

Fruit and cream dressed pavlovas were in constant motion at the Traditional Pavlova stall - into the fridge, then into a pair of eager hands within moments. The stunningly smooth meringue was oddly without its crust; creamy even without the cream and almost painfully sweet. We were reaching a point of sugar hyperactivity, and we'd only been through one section - 'The Continent'.

George Street (south view), The Rocks, Sydney

Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney

Heading to 'The Orient' it was apparent that while coffee and sweets go hand-in-hand, the "real food" stalls were getting their fair share of attention, with the queues for Turkish gozleme - food of festivals - stretching for more than 20 metres down Argyle Street and corn cob eaters popping up all over.

Campbells Cove, The Rocks, Sydney

Campbell's Cove was home to 'The Orient' and hundreds of smart cookies who found seating in the glorious sunshine. Sunshine, and not to mention the plethora of tea outlets (just the one coffee stall, however) and even more sweetness.

Chocolatey cupcakes from Cakes Online Australia

Organic teas from Toby's Estate

Chocolate-covered strawberries from Flower Fruits

Bouquet of chocolate-covered strawberries

Giant cupcake from The Cupcake Bakery

Spice mixes from Chai

Goods from Italian Gingerbread and Sweets

Gingerbread man

Off with his head!

It would seem the gingerbread world is not immune to the obesity epidemic, presenting the fattest gingerbread men I've ever seen. The gingerbread was unlike any other I've tried: chewy and honeyed with only a subtle hint of ginger.

Campbells Cove, The Rocks, Sydney

The final unchartered territory of the festival was 'The Oasis', reaching down the far end of The Rocks precinct. We're not quite in a desert environment but the vibe is there.

Camel on the harbour

Cupcakes from Ghermez Cupcakes

Baklava from The Baklava Stall

It was impossible for me not to pick up a plate full of baklava. The crispy pastry and nuts cast a spell much like the musical entertainment in the background that just added to the chilled and open spirit of the festival.

I was yet to have "real food", despite filling up on sweets and chocolates. We follow our senses away from the (to put politely) stench of the surprisingly large and comical-looking camels and head back towards 'The Continent' section where we're momentarily distracted by a rectangular formation of coffee cups. Following the drift and instructions we head upwards to get the bird's eye view.

Mona Lisa coffee installation by Grinders Coffee

In a stunning collection of long blacks, flat whites, lattes and straight milk, Da Vinci's masterpiece stares out and up into the blue skies. I, and the many others who trekked up the stairs for a better view, am suitably impressed.

North view at Circular Quay west

It's time to follow our noses and stomachs, and crowds for that matter, migrating towards the smoke and its charred promises. It brings us to the Pony stall where an army of chefs, including celebrity chef Damian Heads and his doppelganger (younger brother, perhaps?), grill up a smoke signal for yet another 20+ metre queue.

Chefs at the Pony Lounge and Dining stall

Pony menu

Woodfire grilled 50-day grain-fed sirloin with chips from Pony Lounge and Dining

The smells emanating from Pony has the queue salivating and eyeing off departing customers. And it's worth the wait. A perfectly medium-rare, sliced-by-Damian-Heads-for-my-eating-convenience sirloin steak sits atop some soggy, some crispy French fries with a dollop of Dijon mustard. We scramble to find seating - any seating - so we can dig into the meal.

Perched rather precariously on the edge of the water must be the strangest place I've ever eaten a steak. The steak is meltingly juicy and packed with charred, meaty flavour that's so easy and fulfilling to eat that we're barely worried about falling backwards into the harbour.

Lunch view

And with that, the slightly backward menu of eating concludes. There's still plenty of entertainment and coffee to be had in the afternoon rays of sunshine, which we certainly take into our advantage. Having journeyed through and through The Rocks, and consequently a few regions around the globe, the nose has had a great day out, knowing a good festival day when it smells one.


Belle@Ooh, Look said...

That's a very comprehensive roundup! I was there, too, but after 2 hours my feet were hurting so I wasn't paying as much attention. It was a good day, wasn't it?

Tina said...

Hi Belle - It was a lovely day! The weather really made a difference. Towards the end we were just sitting basking in sunshine with coffees in hand :)

Anonymous said...

Oohh great cover! Hahah love how they combined the 2 potent stimulants - sugar and coffee into a festival :)
Also loved that gingerbread mannn he was soo phat and tastttyy!

Linda said...

aww Sunday's weather was perfect for the festival. I'm really dissapointed that I didn't go. Thanks for such a great review though, I think you've covered more than I would of if I were there.

Tina said...

Hi FFichiban - Lucky there wasn't any booze in sight (aside from all the pubs...) - although that's not technically a stimulant, is it? I loved seeing the gingerbread fish and basket and other goodies too :)

Hi Linda - Next year! It was such a beautiful day - barely a cloud in the sky!

Julia @ Mélanger said...

Love the little gingerbread man!

Betty said...

o h great pics TIna!!
I was there , it was so packed i was so annoyed!!

Tina said...

Hi Julia - I loved him too, in all his thick and chewy glory..!

Hi Betty - The queues for coffee were crazy, weren't they?!


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