Shows and Festivals

Taste of Sydney – March 2012

Saturday, March 10th, 2012


After huge amounts of rain on Thursday in Sydney, it made a lot of sense that the Taste of Sydney‘s opening Thursday night was cancelled. When I went after work on Friday night, there were still ponds around trees in Centennial Park – and these ponds were under seating and benches, so we knew they weren’t meant to be there, but that didn’t stop the ducks from paddling their feet there.

Arriving at 6.30pm, there was not much room to park at all, although this meant we had a nice walk through park on our way to the festival (it also meant it was a dark walk back – which I used my iphone torch to help guide our way, so we didn’t get caught in any puddles).

I went straight to buy Crowns (the currency of the Taste of Sydney), pick up my free Gourmet Traveller magazine, and then on to buy the entrees.

For my entree, I purchased the Barbarossa Ravioli – Ravioli of Sliced Pickled Beetroot with Goats Curd, Pistachio and Horseradish from Otto Ristorante. It was beautifully presented – people even came up and asked what it was and where they could get it – and the taste was lovely too. I only wish there was more 🙂

Nick had the Charcuterie Tasting Plate with Cornichons and Mustard Fruits from The Cut Bar and Grill. The flavours of the meat were certainly a great starter for the night.

For the main I had the Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Polenta and Green Sauce from The Montpellier Public House. The Lamb fell off the bone and was lovely and flavoursome. I wish there had been more meat, as there was a lot of bone and fat left over.

Next to try was the Roast Suckling Pig, Coleslaw, Onion Rings and Hot Sauce from Four in Hand. The pig fell apart beautifully had a good flavour, Nick enjoyed this.

On to dessert, I decided to try the Hokey Pokey Ice Cream Sandwich from Quarter Twenty One, and found the honeycomb and chocolate worked very nicely. I didn’t think preserved citrus that was paired with it worked well, so I ate the ice cream sandwich by itself.

The other dessert we tried was the Cremino al Cioccolato: Amedei gianduia chocolate crema, salty caramel gelato, Italian meringue from A Tavola. This dessert came in a little coffee cup, and the combination of flavours worked well, with chocolate at the bottom, caramel and soft Italian meringue on top.

As we ate quite soon after arriving, we managed to get a good spot on the picnic rugs and tables provided by LilyDale which were located in the middle of the festival, and also surrounding some wonderful entertainment provided at the Argyle Bandstand. On Friday night, Fantine was playing – and she was fantastic! A wonderful singer and entertainer.

We then walked around looking for some free trials of foods, and of course City Tattersalls Club did not disappoint, with drinks and Greek Doughnuts on offer. We also tried frozen yoghurt from Foxy’s Premium Frozen Yoghurt, breakfast juice from Nudie Foods, jams from the Jam Lady Jam, mango and chilli biltong from Springbok Delights, and soft creamy feta from Yarra Valley Dairy. We bought a few foods to take home and will keep an eye out for any recipes that are posted from this year’s event.

Anita received 3 tickets for the Taste of Sydney from Stella Concepts.

Taste of Sydney – March 2010

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

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I went along to the Taste of Sydney on Friday night 12th March, for the first time (this was the second year it was held). It is held in Centennial Park in Sydney – and I’ve included a few photos Nick took whilst making his way to the festival (in the top part of the park). How cute is the baby black swan?? 🙂

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I had already highlighted at least 12 dishes on the menu before getting there: more than half which were in the dessert section.

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I managed to convince a few people to come along, which made trialling all the food much easier. When we arrived, we straight away received our free Gourmet Traveller – the Greek issue (which I was excited to get) and the Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine.

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Soon after arriving and trying some Ferrero Rondnoir (very yum), we went along to the first session of the Taste Kitchen. Guillaume Brahimi from Guillaume at Bennelong was the feature chef and he was showing us how to make the perfect potato mash. The session was very good, with Guillaume having a good stage presence and was quite funny. The session made me really crave the mash potato at his stall.

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We decided to buy our meals first, before going and trying the specialty stores. This would give us better lighting for photos – and even better – seating! We got some great seats near the Opera Bar stand, so we enjoyed some great music while eating.

We bought $120 worth of crowns ($1 = 1 crown – the currency used at the taste of Sydney) to share between the three of us – which I think was just the right amount.

We started with the Crispy Wagyu Beef with Wild mushroom and Truffle Foam (10 crowns) from Restaurant Balzac. This dish was very nice, with the wagyu encased in pastry with a lovely sauce (or foam). I think it would have been easier to eat by hand rather than with the knife and fork, like we did.

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The yellow fin tuna with sweet pork crackling and ruby grape fruit (10 crowns) was next on the list and was quite lovely. I had a small piece of this and enjoyed what I tried.

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I decided to go straight for the mains, trying the Braised Cape Grim beef cheek and glazed onion pie in sour cream and puff pastry case; red wine veal jus (12 crowns) from Bird Cow Fish. The pastry was lovely and crispy, with the beef cheek flavoured beautifully and falling apart with a slight pull of the fork. I really enjoyed this dish – as you’ve got to love a great pie.

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My second dish was the 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder; minted crushed peas and feta dressing (12 crowns) from Four in Hand. The lamb shoulder was also falling apart beautifully and worked wonderfully with the minted crushed peas (which weren’t too minty for me).

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The Organic Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Burger (12 crowns) from Plan B was perfectly cooked and had great flavours incorporated in the wagyu beef patty.

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Our last main dish – and I think the winner of the night – was the Wagyu Beef Daube with Paris Mash (12 crowns) from Guillaume at Bennelong. (Am I glad I convinced Nick to go and buy that one – I couldn’t stop digging in with my fork and taking bites of the gorgeous beef and mash). The taste and texture of this meal were just gorgeous. Definitely high on my list of meals to try.

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Moving on to desserts… A couple of us really wanted to try the chocolate fondant with vanilla bean ice cream (10 crowns) from Restaurant Balzac. When it arrived at our table, it looked slightly different to what I was expecting, although upon tasting, I was relieved that the inside of the chocolate cake was soft and very rich and chocolately. Altogether one of the top desserts.

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Another top dessert was the very talked about vanilla panna cotta with lavender honey and fresh pomegranate (12 crowns) from Jonah’s at Whale Beach. It wobbled gloriously, with us all having a great laugh at its movements. The panna cotta was the perfect level of richness, with a great vanilla flavour, which worked very well with the lavender honey and pomegranate molasses.

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The fig and ricotta pizza with honey ice cream (8 crowns) from Assiette was chosen as our 3rd dessert and was nice although didn’t rate as highly as some other dishes.

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When I ordered the 4’s dark chocolate Cherry Ripe (8 crowns) from Four in Hand I didn’t know what to expect, although was for some reason thinking of an upper-class cherry ripe – like a gorgeous chocolate and cherry tart. It was composed of cherry sorbet on a chocolate cake or biscuit base.

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Lastly we decided to take some pistachio, chocolate and strawberry macaroons (8 crowns for 3 macaroons) from Guillaume at Bennelong home with us on the train. The favourite of these was the strawberry macaroon which was strongly strawberry flavoured.

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Now on to the extra things available at the festival… I was given a few tips from people who went to the Thursday night opening session – this included some foods not to try, make sure to check out portion sizes of other customers food to help you choose, and which places gave out the best free food or drink.

One of the best places to try out new foods is the New Zealand stand, which had a great range of lovely gelato, a beautiful marinated salmon, clams, mussels and a range of New Zealand cheeses.

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The second was City Tattersalls which had a great range of dishes including a lovely mini wagyu beef burger, fresh donuts with injectable white chocolate or raspberry and mini servings of caramel and chocolate panna cotta. They also had a competition which you could enter. These two places are a must visit.

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A couple of other places which served free food or drink was Pure Spirits (I tried the chocolate vodka!), Game Farm (they had some lovely quail pieces), Baileys (which had coffee baileys on ice cream) and the Grumpy Baker (which was where we spent our last crowns to buy the sourdough rustica).

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Overall, we had a good night, lovely food – I really enjoyed trying so many dishes, good music and fun atmosphere.

After comparing the taste of Sydney festival with the Good Food and Wine show, I would say the taste of Sydney has far better food at a more reasonable price. Although the Good Food and Wine show had a very large range of exhibitors that were giving away a lot of produce to try. It was only at that show that I found some wines that I enjoyed, and imagine some exhibitors at the taste of Sydney would benefit from giving more free samples to those attending, rather than making people pay for them. I tried a lot more wine and spirits at the Good Food and Wine show, and those that I enjoyed have certainly benefited since then, whereas I only tried one drink at this festival, which really did limit the exposure they may be seeking.

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Gordon Ramsay, the MasterChef Judges and The Good Food and Wine Show 3-5 July 2009

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

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Now some would say that counting down the days to buy tickets in the pre-booking period and calling your husband panicking 30 minutes before the lines open 6 months, 6 days and 1 hour before an event might be considered a little…. Let’s say… obsessive…

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I would be one to agree with that view.

But it did not stop me late January making sure I did not miss out – as this is the first famous person I’ve met (that I can remember) and the first Good Food and Wine Show I’ve been to. Last year I was too busy and the year before that was the first time I’d really heard much about the show.

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Gordon Ramsay was very different to how he acts on his shows. He seems to be more like how you see or hear him in interviews. Quite nice, with the occasional rude joke and a little swearing (I don’t even recall him swearing… maybe once or twice – but I missed it, which is not such a bad thing).

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He made (with help from another chef) Cod and Tomato Chowder, Glazed Salmon with Spinach and Radish Salad and for dessert Poached Pears in Mulled Wine – with the most fantastic smelling caramelized figs! Unfortunately I wasn’t picked to go up and taste test the dishes (two females and two males from the audience were chosen).

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After the show, Gordon did a book signing and was absolutely lovely in person. He greeted Nick and I, giving me a kiss on the cheek and having a small conversion about who does the cooking in our house, baking and how it is a science and wishing us well. I was delighted with how it went and look forward to cooking some of the lovely dishes from his new book Healthy Appetite, which we got singed.

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A Photo from Healthy Appetite: Vanilla pannacotta with blueberry sauce:

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In between this show and the next, we went around the Good Food and Wine Show trying out new foods and a lot of wines. The foods on offer ranged from lovely chocolates in a variety of intriguing flavours, nougat, biscuits, cheese, olives, olive oil, cakes, ham and lovely dips.

I was lucky enough to find my way to The Biscuit Tree, where ChocolateSuze was chatting to Lili and was extremely generous is giving us a taste test of some of her lovely biscotti and shortbread. The only problem with this was trying to decide on which to buy. 🙂 We ended up choosing a lovely Cardamon & Pear Pistachio Biscotti. The flavours complement each other really well and don’t compare to anything you can buy in the shops. Nice to meet you finally Suze! 🙂

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The wines on offer took up probably more than half the stalls, I decided to try and find a wine which I liked and since I don’t really like wine, Nick ended up with double the amount of wine he had asked for. I did find a couple which I liked though, so all-in-all with a lot of taste testing done – a few Muscato’s will be remembered and possibly bought in the future.

Moving on to the last show we saw before we left, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris (two of the judges from MasterChef) from the Boathouse and The Press Club respectively, were on stage making a lovely array of dishes including Jam filled Donuts. Matt Preston also made an appearance during their cooking, with Gary and George giving one of his cravats to an audience member. Matt made sure the oven and oil was at the right temperature, as he mentioned the day before it wasn’t checked which made some of the dishes not turn out as they should.

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Gary and George were very entertaining, working very well together, with many good jokes throughout. Some of the contestants from MasterChef came on the stage, with the audience picking Poh to help them with the donuts.

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I had seen George’s book The Press Club a while ago and had put it on my Birthday wish list. Although after hearing George was doing signings, I made sure I bought his book at the show and got it signed, so we’ll have to see if I have to wait till my birthday to get it, or whether it will be a present to myself 🙂 . George seemed surprised by the number of people at their show as it was more packed than the earlier Gordon Ramsay show (perhaps because it cost extra and was quite early in the morning).

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Just looking through the photos in The Press Club is enjoyable, with each dish presented like a piece of art. I look forward to making some of these dishes, especially as I have a big love of Greek food – especially sweets.

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Photo from The Press Club: Island of Chios Mastic Pannacotta, Greek Doughnuts:

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All-in-all, I really enjoyed my first Good Food and Wine Show in Sydney. I would have liked a few more foods available to try and I also found the prices quite high on a lot of the food to eat there. The shows themselves were very enjoyable, more for the celebrities themselves than the actual cooking.

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