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Taste of Sydney – March 2010

I went along to the Taste of Sydney [1] 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?? 🙂

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.