Okay, here's one epic megapost covering the rest of what I got up to during the twelve action-packed days of this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (apart from the Roy Choi dinner and the Sommeliers Australia Long Lunch which I've already written about).
Broadsheet Cafe popped up for the duration of the festival in the tiny site opposite Gingerboy that housed the Baker D. Chirico pop-up last year. I went along to the launch party. The cafe had a rotating cast of baristas from specialist coffee cafes around town - I popped in on one of the days Dead Man Espresso was calling (and pulling) the shots. They were serving up EARL Canteen sandwiches, as well as Heilala vanilla crème brûlée macarons from LuxBite that were criminally good.
Crown hosted a diverse group of international chefs, dubbed the Stars of Spice, during the Festival. I was invited by the Festival to lunch with the chefs down at T'Gallant, which was a good opportunity for the chefs to get out of the kitchens and to see a bit of the countryside. I had an animated conversation with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, the 'jungle chef' of Peru, about the horsemeat brouhaha that erupted in Australia last year, and about how he prepares guinea pig meat.
The spread they put on for us at T'Gallant's La Baracca Trattoria included a lovely panzanella salad with shaved kefalograviera, and blue eye done three ways (pan seared fillet, poached cheek and belly sashimi) with shaved fennel and black sesame salad.
Oh and the slooooow roasted sirloin of beef (50 degrees for 14 hours) came with a spiced yoghurt crust, a toasted bread puree and a brilliant preserved lemon grape dressing. Suit you, sir!
An event I went along to with Mum and Dad was the Middle Eastern Bakery Tour along Sydney Road ($45 per head). It's been running for years and is good fun, whether it's your first visit to Sydney Road or your fiftieth.
Behind the scenes at A1 Bakery.
At Pamukkale Bakery (Turkish) we enjoyed freshly baked simit with grape molasses.
These spinach and haloumi pies from Amir Bakery (Iraqi) were PERFECTION. I can't stop thinking about them and must go back for more.
At El Fayha Sweets (Lebanese) we learnt just how much sugar and butter goes into baklava and 'princess jewels' pastries (you don't want to know!).
Later that afternoon I met Emily and went along to South Afrikaans, a South African wine tasting event held by Sommeliers Australia at La Vita Buona ($35 per head). We enjoyed pinotage, cabernet sauvignon and chenin blanc, but my favourite wine was definitely the puntastic Goats Do Roam.
Later in the week I went along to Reinterpreting Dessert ($150 per head), the collaboration between Der Raum and desserts gurus Burch & Purchese. Five cocktails and five desserts, it was madness I tell you.
Isn't it pretty? Forgive me for not remembering the precise ingredients, but I seem to recall it involved cheesecake and two kinds of cherries. It was matched with the Chicago 2300, one of the new cocktails on Der Raum's autumn menu.
This one was probably my favourite, as I loved the way the mint lifted the dish: a mint mousse sphere with lime shortbread, mint tapioca, compressed cucumber and sugar mint leaf. It was matched with Der Raum's Tzatziki Sour, which had been whipped up from its usual liquid state into a mousse-ier texture and sealed with a silver foil lid, like an old-fashioned milk bottle.
Another impressive dessert was the apple sugar tube which contained burnt vanilla cream, explosive hazelnut crumble (helloooooo Pop Rocks!) and acidulated apple. Matched with an appley cocktail that came in its own cardboard box (that looked suspiciously like a McDonald's hot apple pie container).
By the time the last course arrived (involving chocolate truffle and truffle truffle) we were all COMPLETELY wired from hours of consuming sugar. Getting to sleep that night was not easy!
I was invited along one morning to Breakfast Wine, a wine tasting and breakfast held at Le Traiteur at 8am (!!!). Because it was a working day I had only a few baby sips (obvs), but enjoyed the intimate group and the way Ben and Dan challenged us to think outside the box when it came to matching wines with breakfast (for example, the idea of pinot noir makes a bit more sense when you consider the tannins that exist in your mug of English Breakfast). I also loved loved loved the taste of the 2009 Greystone Dry Riesling from the Waipara.
The other event I was invited along to was the 19th Century Decadence Degustation which was served on the balcony of the historic Werribee Mansion. We were put up in very comfortable rooms in the adjacent Mansion Hotel & Spa and had breakfast the next morning in the hotel's restaurant, Joseph's.
Joseph's newly-appointed executive chef Marcus Levy designed the 19th century menu (think sorrel and spinach soup with sheep's milk curd, quail stuffed with chicken liver, pheasant, venison etc). It was a perfect night for dining al fresco, and the surrounds were pretty damn magnificent.
As you can imagine, by the end of the twelve day festival I was BROKEN. The last event I attended (before collapsing in a heap) was pleasantly low-key: the Forgotten Fruits High Tea at Southpaw.
The event was $25 per head for high tea with a pot of tea, or $35 for high tea with a jug of Pimms. I gladly went with the tea option, (a) because my charming tea companion is expecting her first child, and (b) because I couldn't face any more alcohol.
The high tea included Daylesford charcuterie, scones, finger sandwiches (I particuarly liked the one with smoked chicken, crab apple chutney and chive crème) and a few sweets (including a lovely gooseberry and toffee tartlette).
The forgotten fruits preserves we got to try included rosehip, apple and date chutney, crab apple, pear and maple chutney, elderberry and rhubarb jam and cherry laurel, shadberry, vanilla bean and brandy jam. I liked the last one so much I bought a little jar to take home.
So there you have it! The MFWF event I wish I'd gone to was one of the Bombas and Parr events: despite all the hipster hype, the Sweet Architextural event they put on at the Espy with Burch & Purchese sounds and looks like it was a riot, or alternatively the Funerals and Food event sounded equal parts bizarre and interesting. And hey, maybe next year I'll finally make it along to some of the Masterclasses.
Melbourne Gastronome, over and out!