16 Nov Taste of Melbourne 2012
I thought it would be a good idea to attend a food festival for the first time, before I start full-time work/study again (I’d rather not attend on the weekends because I know it will be crowded), so for mum’s birthday present I took her to the Taste of Melbourne festival. This year is the first time they’ve held it outdoors in Melbourne. It was set up on the Pelican Lawn at Albert Park and it was quite a warm, sunny day, despite the the weather looking a bit menacing earlier that morning. In an attempt to avoid the crowds as much as possible, I got tickets for the 12-4pm session.
There was a bit of a queue to get in. Oddly, security staff went down the line to take our tickets before we got to the door. Instead of just separating the stub, they took the whole thing so a few of us were concerned about people pushing in the line and getting in for free, or us being barred from entering because we had no proof of purchase. Since our tickets were gone, as soon as the gates opened, everyone just filed through the doors and started visiting exhibitor stalls. Mum and I headed straight for the restaurant food first, before more queues built up.
Our tickets included $30 worth of Crowns (festival currency) each, so the week prior to the event we pored over the menus to plan our tastings.
1. The Aylesbury – Meredith Goats Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Rooftop Honey. (8 crowns)
A very nice combination of crunchiness from the batter (even though I don’t normally go for battered things), smoothness from the goat’s cheese and the sweetness of the honey. We both agreed that if the batter were a bit thinner the flavours might have come through better, but it was enjoyable.
2. Livingroom Restaurant – Beetroot Cured Salmon, Vanilla and Lime Pickled Cucumber, Horseradish Cream (10 crowns)
Another one of the standouts of the day. I honestly don’t know how to describe it, but it was…very good.
3. The Atlantic – Atlantic Prawn Cocktail w. Spanner Crab, Scallop, Moreton Bay Bug, Prawn, Iceberg Lettuce, Rockmelon, Basil and Soft Boiled Quail Egg (12 crowns)
Neither of us were particularly impressed by this dish. We expected more seafood for the price, and it wasn’t really anything special. We also weren’t sure where the quail egg was – maybe it was in the sauce?
4. Mamasita – Spicy Taco de Pescado (8 crowns)
This was actually much better than I anticipated. The spicy sauce was nice and they weren’t too stingy with the fish pieces.
5. Movida – Fideua Mejillones – Braised Pasta w. Mussels and Calamari (12 crowns)
This was a very generous serving of tasty noodles and A LOT of seafood. There were about 6 mussels in our serve and it was a satisfying and substantial dish. Great value.
6. The Botanical – Lamb Burger w. Truffled Mayonnaise (10 crowns)
In the past, people had raved on about the Botanical’s wagyu burger, so I thought I’d taste their lamb burger. This was the second most disappointing dish we tried. I thought the patty was a bit dry and overcooked and mum thought the lamb had too much of a gamey smell. We would have preferred another serve of fideua.
After trying out the restaurant we wandered past all the stalls, tasting samples of many different products including mango, nougat, juice, cider, Huon salmon, spice rubs, rice crackers (which were put out with a huge amount of various chunky dips), chocolate, cheese etc. Nescafe was one of the major sponsors and they had two stations which was giving out free coffee, made from one of their capsule machines. Mum had 4 cups of coffee. We also saw Kate and Chris from Masterchef.
We were very, very tempted to have one of Movida’s chargrilled moorish lamb skewers (8 crowns), but we were just too full and also had run out of crowns. Since crowns could only be bought in lots of 10, we’d have 2 spare.
We actually wanted to go to the Dilmah Chef Skillery tent to listen to Nuno Mendes, whom mum had read about in Epicure the week prior, but we spent so much time looking at things (and drinking coffee) that we forgot about it. We did join in for the last session with Darren Daly from Livingroom. He went through how to section off rabbit and showed us what he normally does with the different cuts. Most of them involved prosciutto and rolling or stuffing techniques. The session finished late, at about 4:10pm. It was a very casual setting, with guests and the presenter seated at a large square table, being served Dilmah tea and also having the opportunity to ask the chefs questions throughout. I had jasmine tea, which I did not enjoy, but it was a pleasant and educational talk.
All over, I had a good time at the festival and it was nice to be able to sample dishes from well-known restaurants.