Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Rocks Aroma Festival: The buzz is back

The Rocks Aroma Festival was back to its packed best this year, with the completion of renovations at the Park Hyatt at Campbells Cove and mostly at the Museum of Contemporary Art returning usable space to the festival.

The Rocks Aroma Festival 2012
Fortunately, the rain held off on the wintry Sunday afternoon and indeed, most of the day. The chilly weather meant there was nothing better than a hot beverage, like coffee or tea, in hand.

George Street for The Rocks Aroma Festival
However, the lack of rain meant that the infamous queues for $2 cups of coffee from a range of roasters were in action, equating to 30-minute waits at some stalls. For coffee - at a coffee festival.

Circular Quay for The Rocks Aroma Festival

Damien Heads, head chef of Pony Lounge and Dining
The wait for food wasn't quite as bad, although the extended line for deep-fried spiralled and skewered potatoes was slightly insane.

I made a beeline for the Pony Lounge and Dining stall, which every year has produced some very fine festival fare.

Steak panini with rocket, mayonnaise and salsa from Pony Lounge and Dining
Two separate queues after, we landed a soft panini filled with medium-to-medium-rare steaks, straight off the grill and juicily so. At least half of the meat was lovely and tender, while the tomato salsa kept it all together and interesting.

Haloumi panini with rocket, mayonnaise and salsa from Pony Lounge and Dining
Surprisingly, I preferred the vegetarian option of the haloumi panini as it was an easier festival eat. Not only that, it was some of the best haloumi cheese I've had in some time - not too salty nor rubbery but just right even when cold.

Camel rides in The Oasis
The festival was again split into global region sections, with The Oasis proving to be the most exotic by a nose. Or snout. Or whatever part of the camel's head that should be called.

Coffee cup readings in The Orient
The coffee cup readings seemed pretty serious so I steered clear of it, instead turning my attention to the stage where various dancers performed, including a belly dancer who was probably much colder than she let on.

Dancers on The Oasis stage

Belly dancer on The Oasis stage

Bird's nest baklava from The Baklava Stall
It was difficult to choose from all the varieties of sweet, sticky baklava at the stall but I decided on the round Bird's Nest version because honestly, it looked at least twice the size of the regular finger or rectangular ones.

But for it to be one of the best, flake-everywhere, honey-all-over baklava I've had the pleasure of tasting, it was sugar-high happiness all round, washed down with a sweetened black Turkish coffee that certainly woke me up in a few sips.

Turkish coffee stall at The Oasis

Camel rides and the Sydney Harbour Bridge
I'm infinitely amused by the thought, and sight, of camels on the harbour as it probably doesn't get much farther from home, presumably the desert, than Sydney Harbour.

Camel rides and the Sydney Opera House
These camels were also larger than I expected; indeed, bigger than a horse in most cases, but comically cute and lovable.

Camel rides on Campbells Cove

Filling Dragon Beard candies in The Orient
We detoured through The Orient section of the festival on the way back and stumbled upon the queue for hand-made Chinese Dragon Beard candies, featuring a crushed peanut, sesame, coconut and sugar filling.

Stretching sugar
It was quite mesmerising to watch a stretchy but solid sugar concoction made of corn syrup get pulled and shaped almost like noodles.

At first it's a small, thick hoop that's eventually looped over and stretched again, then looped over and stretched again to form thinner and thinner noodles and eventually, fine, white, hair-like strands.

Dragon Beard candies
Sections of the fine sugar strands were then doubled over, filled with the nut filling and closed up looking very much like a cocoon.

When eaten fresh, these candies need a delicate touch to pick up although the strands go back to a chewy toffee state in the mouth. Leave them a little longer and the strands tend to solidify and toffee up a little more for a truly stunning, mind-blowing sweet.

Dancers in The Orient
With a packed layout and schedule throughout all the global regions, it looks like The Rocks Aroma Festival has its buzz back: coffees, queues and all. See more photos on my Facebook page.


The Food Mentalist said...

I didn't go this year but it looks like a lot of fun and the food looks delicious :)

bitemeshowme said...

I am meant to go every year but for some reason something always just comes up. Argh! Looks like it gets better and better every year though :) said...

Think I lost my comment. Looks like a fantastic day. I am intrigued by those Dragon Beard Candies. Looks like they're gonna be the next big thing

Christine said...

looks like a fun day out! i love festivals.. and those paninis look deeelish!

Tina said...

Hi The Food Mentalist - It is a very well organised festival though I am always baffled about the queues for coffee.

Hi bitemeshowme - This was a good year and lucky weather-wise.

Hi Tania - They're pretty unique candies but very time consuming to make, with very limited shelf life.

Hi Christine - Love festivals of food and drink especially! :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow, there were camels? I thought that there was just coffee and other bits and pieces but it sounds like a fun day out.

Sneh | Cook Republic said...

Awww we were meant to go but we missed out. The boys would've adopted the camels! Looks like so much fun!

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - It's a fab day out with food, drink, dancers and of course the adorable camels...!

Hi Sneh - It was much fun. There was a lot of love for the camels :)


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