Last week I went completely berserk at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. What follows is a summary of the MFWF-related shenanigans I got up to as the week progressed, culminating in a fantastic day at the first ever Australian Food Bloggers Conference. Once you've read this post, you will understand why this week is an alcohol-free detox week for Melbourne Gastronome. :-)
For the Monday I'd booked tickets to an event that, as it turns out, was THE highlight of the festival for me: Dessert and Wine Matches, and Beyond. That event will get its own dedicated Melbourne Gastronome post posthaste - in the meantime here's a photo of Pierre Roelofs' dessert sorcery in progress, to whet your appetite...
On Tuesday I committed the food blogger's unpardonable sin, and forgot to put my digital camera in my handbag. I was cameraless!! Which is a damn shame, because I attended not one but two MFWF events that day. During my lunch hour I strolled down to City Square to check out the Metlink Edible Garden, because it was a lovely sunny day and because The Provenance chef Michael Ryan had said the Garden was impressive.
I arrived to find that Embrasse chef Nic Poeleart (who, along with Michael, I'd met at the MFWF media launch) was doing a demonstration, using heirloom vegetables to make a deceptively simple but wildly impressive-looking dish. Pat from the blog Cooking Down Under took a great Flickr photoset you can view of all the vegetables growing in the edible garden set up by the Digger's Club.
On Tuesday night I'd been invited by Dana from the Festival to attend the Heat Beads Hawkers' Market, for an evening with the first lady of food blogging herself, Pim from the blog Chez Pim! I jumped at the chance to meet her, and a group of other Melbourne food bloggers and I had a fun, relaxed night hanging out with Pim (she is CUTE AS A BUTTON, by the way) and sampling different hawker dishes. Write-ups of the food on offer can be found on Eating Melbourne and Eat Drink Stagger.
On Wednesday I'd cunningly structured my working day so as to be able to duck in briefly to the morning tea for the MFWF Legends of Melbourne Food and Wine, where past inductees mingled and congratulated the 2010 legends. I live-tweeted the results as they were announced - ooooh, how very citizen-journalist of me...
The new inductees were Yarra Valley vigneron Guill de Pury (Yeringberg), Epicure's Rita Erlich, France-Soir restaurateur Jean-Paul Prunetti, the Seymour family (Mt Zero) and Maggie Beer. Lots of famous and familiar foodie faces, and the morning tea was held up on top of the portico of Melbourne Town Hall. A gorgeous spot.
As I left the Town Hall, the trams were being held up by two camels loping down Swanston Street. But of course.
On the Wednesday night I'd reserved tickets to attend South of the Border, Tommi Miers' Mexican-inspired MFWF meal at MoVida Aqui, with best-friend-K. Joining us at our table was the lovely Kate from the blog Eating Melbourne, and her J. You can read Kate's review of the evening here.
I seemed to enjoy the meal the most out of the four of us - though I agree with Kate that at $110 per head prices seemed a little steep (especially as the wines weren't matched the way they were at the similarly-priced Taste of Spain at MoVida lunch that we went to last year). That said, I'm looking forward to visiting Tommi's restaurant Wahaca next time I'm in London - her approach to Mexican food is so fresh and different to what we tend to get here.
Unlike Kate, tequila doesn't trigger horror projectile vomit flashbacks for me, so I loved sipping my glass of 100% agave and alternating it with the glass of sangrita. The culinary highlight for me was the aguachile (Mexican chilli water with scallop, cucumber and fresh lime) - lots of sour, a little salty and with a kick like a mule. :-)
On Thursday I took a break from MFWF and went to my friend Schatzi's house for dinner. That night, Twitter was ablaze with Melbourne foodies feeling the #momofukurage (a more fulsome explanation of the phenomenon we named #momofukurage can be found at the end of this page) at not being amongst of the anointed few to get a ticket to Momofuku does Melbourne. One particular food writer who was at the event wrote such an insufferably smug tweet that night about the dinner the plebs were missing out on that it triggered a spate of angry foodie unfollowers!
On Friday I went along to Fed Square to check out the cooking demonstration that was on before that night's MFWF Barilla Foodie Film. I went along because the demo was being done by my good friend Andrew Kelly from Auction Rooms on the coffee syphon and Pierre Roelofs (whose dessert magic had so bewitched me on the Monday night) doing a dessert that would incorporate both Barilla pasta and syphon coffee. Pierre filled rigatoni with mascarpone (as a tribute to tiramisù) and included all sort of ingredients like poached pineapple, syphon coffee gel, ground Yirgacheffe coffee beans, Egyptian willow water and gold leaf (because the film being screened was called Black Gold).
The good news is that Pierre Roelofs is poised make his official return to the Melbourne dining scene, with dessert-only evenings at Cafe Rosamond in Fitzroy each Thursday from 22 April. Andy will be serving Small Batch specialty coffee to accompany, and I'm pleased to announce that on the 22nd they'll be recreating the Black Gold dish I described above. Looking forward to it!
After swinging by Fed Square I met up with Kate and friends to embark on a MFWF High Life circuit. We claimed that we were going on a very highbrow rooftop art installation tour, but really it was just an excuse for a booze hag bar crawl on an empty stomach, who were we kidding. We visited Madame Brussells, Sarti and Rooftop Bar... by that stage we lost track of things and didn't make it to bar #4...
But there is no rest for the wicked! On Saturday morning I was up early to meet a few interstate food bloggers freshly arrived in Melbourne for breakfast at the excellent Hardware Societe. Then I popped in to check out the MFWF Miele Hands-On Masterclass, where Ana Sortun, chef from Boston restaurant Oleana, was teaching a class of twelve in the Miele display kitchen to prepare Turkish, Lebanese, Greek and Moroccan dishes using spices the class participants had roasted and ground themselves.
Some of the dishes the class prepared: Moroccan style beetroot salad with goat cheese, ras el hannout and smoked cinnamon almonds, and roasted autumn baby pumpkins stuffed with Persian spice and pilaf. The latter was particularly good.
Which brings us to Sunday, the day I was most looking forward to: the day of Eat.Drink.Blog., the Australian food bloggers conference!
The conference, held at The Essential Ingredient, was a smashing success: all of the panels were both fun and educational, and the 45 food blogger attendees got along famously (aided somewhat by the awesome scrolling tweetwall projected on the wall, which showed live comments all of us iPhone-addicted attendees were sending to #EatDrinkBlog).
I gave a presentation entitled "I thought you might like to mention our product on your blog": The impact of trade practices regulation on bloggers and the ethics of freebies and conflicts of interest - stressing of course that I was appearing in my capacity as a food blogger and NOT in my capacity as a trade practices lawyer, and looking very tongue-tied if anybody tried to ask for legal advice. Sorry, bloggers! :-)
After the conference itself ended, we all went to a warehouse opposite St Ali for the Food Bloggers Photo Exhibition which SBS Food had facilitated for us as part of the conference. Cocktails were provided by Der Raum and included the Camomile Chroming, disgorging clouds of liquid nitrogen from jars labelled 'POISON'.
St Ali then put on a fabulous degustation dinner for us, and beer, wine and mineral water were provided for us from Red Hill Brewery, Prentice Wine and Daylesford and Hepburn Springs Mineral Springs Co respectively. A very sincere thank you to our patrons - given that there was no incorporated body organising the conference, it wouldn't have been possible from a legal or practical perspective without you. And a HUGE thanks to the amazing food bloggers who put so much work into organising the conference! Can't wait for the next one in 2011.
This post has already gone on long enough so I'll shut up now - but for more detail on the conference, check out the links on this page to related posts by other bloggers, and have a chuckle at the mention we got in The Age. Apparently, food-related blogs were - until recently - the domain of teenagers in their bedrooms (!).