DISCLAIMER: Kitchen Wench’s entry to Taste of Melbourne 2012 was provided with compliments of HotHouse Media, however all images and views expressed are her own.
Another year, another Taste of Melbourne over. My skirt fits a bit tighter, my wallet feels a bit lighter and I’ve discovered a whole lot of taste-based awesomeness that I need to further investigate.
Those of you who have been to Taste of Melbourne in the past would be familiar with it’s previous location at the Exhibition Centre in Carlton. While it is quite a majestic old building, the event has slowly outgrown it’s location to the point where last year it felt like spending four hours in a sardine can.
The organizers themselves must have recognized that it was now too popular for a stuffy indoor venue (not to mention the rather precarious steps that drunk people had to navigate between the two levels) so for this year, it was held at the wonderful Pelican Lawn at Albert Park – right next to the water.
Whilst marvelling in the fact that I could now wander around in the fresh air and sunshine while nomming the deliciousness that this event always has to offer, I was handed a (plastic) glass of Rekorderlig’s new Orange and Ginger Cider. Now I know that sounds unusual, but this is close to the most perfect summer cider that I’ve ever drunk – due to the fact that it is sweet without being cloying and has a wonderfully fresh afternote similar to that of a ginger beer. Whilst I was tempted to scull this sucker right then and there, I thought that wouldn’t be the best idea while trudging around the uneven grounds in heels.
One thing that took me by surprise was seeing the talented Frank Camorra manning the charcoal bbq at the Movida stand, and cooking the marinated lamb skewers himself. With a beaming smile on his face, he happily cooked and handed out the skewers – even managing to have a little chat with me about what he thought of Taste of Melbourne’s new location and what he thought of the event itself!
(If you’re a Melbournian and haven’t been to Movida then I highly recommend it – it is absolutely one of my favourite restaurants in town and the lamb skewers at ToM were one of the highlights!)
Another highlight was meeting the talented John Lawson, the brains behind Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar in Southbank. One of the few restaurants at ToM where I just couldn’t help but order all three dishes that were being offered. To start off with, the Regal King Salmon ceviche, served with smoked paprika yoghurt and native finger limes. The finger limes worked wonderfully against the rich, fatty salmon and made for a dish that was an excellent starter for a warm Spring day.
The saltbush lamb with peas and mint was also delightful, with a rich cut of lamb braised till it was so tender that it fell apart at the merest touch of our plastic forks, and the summerberry eton mess was, in my opinion, the best sweet dish of the event. Fresh berries strewn over a bed of fresh blackberry curd and coulis, with a few raspberry meringues provided contrast of texture. A-MA-ZING! And whaddaya know, the recipe is also available online!
The Livingroom in Malvern is a restaurant that I’ve heard of in passing a few times, so it was great to be able to chat to head chef Darren Daley (a funny bastard who didn’t bat an eyelid at my potty mouth!). While I didn’t get a chance to try his incredible grilled marinated chicken Tyska with pickled chillis and lime yoghurt, the smell was incredible and had me salivating at the stand. Darren did admit that he totally ripped this recipe off another chef on the internet – so if anyone can find it then please let me know as I would give my right arm to try it myself!
And of course, it just wouldn’t be ToM without stopping by the stand for Libertine French Dining Room in North Melbourne! Glad to see that all the lovelies were there, and I got a chance to say a quick hello despite the mad rush of people EVERYWHERE!
Below we have a photo of the most enigmatic Gemma (who is always at their ToM stand and is divine and unforgettable), the incredible and super-friendly Zoe Ladyman (half the brains behind Libertine) and Nick Creswick (the other half of the brains behind this enterprise!)
If there is one thing that I know is ALWAYS a good bet at Libertine, it is their terrines, and this year’s chicken and pistachio terrine did not disappoint. And while we munched on this, we also got to witness Nick take us through the process of how one properly de-bones a chicken.
Which, of course, I filmed. And which will end up on Youtube as soon as I have time to edit out the point at which he totally cut his finger off…
At Sake, the tonkatsu cups blew my dining companions away, but I was completely overwhelmed by the double piece of sushi that we were served (not from the official ToM menu!)
Quite a few restaurants had surprise dishes that weren’t in the official organizer’s guide, but there was something about watching Sake’s sushi chef prepare each piece with such careful attention that made it impossible to miss. My only regret about this is that I shared this dish with my sister instead of getting two separate ones for each of us!
The handsome fellas at the Cointreau tent. Despite their physical appeal (and the free drink card), they still couldn’t make me like this particular boozer.
This year’s ToM featured a Sustainability corner, where eventgoers could talk to volunteers about making sustainable and ethical choices when it comes to the foods we eat and the products that we buy. Not only that, but Bishop of Ostia & Pope Joan were also on hand with a little nose-to-tail dining! The crispy salmon wings with chilli salt were an absolute winner as far as I was concerned, but unfortunately the crispy pig’s ear, chilli and spinach sandwich was a little bit of a let-down – purely because the pig’s ear was soggy with only the slightest hint that it had ever been remotely crispy.
Other than the main participating restaurants, there were a gazillion other exhibitors there – displaying everything from cake-shaped soaps (seriously? At a food event?) to a number of raw/dairy-free/sugar-free chocolate purveyors.
However, when it comes to my decadence, I prefer the proper shit (you know, the stuff that will kill you), so I was very glad to see Darren there from Burch and Purchese peddling pure sugary goodness (and who was my dealer for a bottle of fantastic 50/50 Chocolate Hazelnut and Salted Caramel spread!)
Considering the vast difference between last year’s Exhibition Centre event and this year’s open-air fiesta, all I can say is that I think Taste of Melbourne is one of Melbourne’s best food events – and I just can’t wait to see what surprises they have in store for us next year!