Guys, I did it.
I survived Taste of Melbourne 2010.
My shoulders are sore, my feet are aching, and I spent far more money than I expected, but to be honest, I’d repeat the experience in a heartbeat if I could!
After arranging to meet quite a few friends there, my date for the evening and I got there at a quarter past five to a crowd which had gathered in hungry anticipation to see what the event had in store for them, and the wait seemed like forever to get in, but soon the beautiful big doors of the Royal Exhibition Building opened and the herd eagerly pushed its way inside and scattered amongst the many many sights to see and things to taste.
Our first stop was at the Gourmet Traveller stall to pick up our complimentary copy of the August magazines, then we zipped over to the Green & Blacks stall to witness the chocolate fountain and say thank you for all the tickets they provided to my readers so that I could invite them to experience the event for themselves!
While we were there, we tried a number of lovely treats, but the standout was absolutely the chocolate chip cookies made with Green & Blacks butterscotch chocolate bars.
My friend (who is not a huge fan of sweets and definitely not much of a chocolate fan) grabbed two cookies, popped one in her mouth then her eyes doubled in size as she shoved the second one towards me and demanded that I “shove that in your gob!”
Let’s just say that I’ve sourced the recipe and it will be featured on the blog very very soon. It’s actually from the currently being developed Green & Blacks recipe book, but more on that later this year…
For now, let’s continue on with more delicious foods from Taste of Melbourne.
We wandered past the many wine stalls (alas, we were both driving and therefore were having a sober night) and our next stop was at Yarra Valley Dairy who were exhibiting a fabulous selection of their goats cheeses.
As we both adore our cheese, we plonked ourselves front and centre and proceeded to taste every single one. As soon as I was done with the tasting, I grabbed my wallet from my bag and purchased some of the Gentle Goat and Cardi marinated goats cheese without a second thought – and in fact, I’m fairly sure that they will not live to see through the weekend as I’ve already got plans for them!
Wagyu beef cigars, artichoke tapenade and horseradish
Verdict? The best way to describe them would be to say that my friend and I both sat in our chairs, experiencing intense foodgasms as we savoured every mouthful of this splendid dish. This is one that I highly recommend to every omnivore attending the event as it is just sensational!
Jess from That Jess Ho then called me over and shoved a plate of scallops in my face, ‘encouraging’ me (let’s try ‘demanding’) to try them. Jess, I will love you forever for this because they were absolutely gorgeous, and I already regret not having them with the perfectly crispy lardo that they came with!
Seared Atlantic scallops, lardo, breadcrumbs, gazpacho dressing
After this was the slow braised pork cheek and the schiaciatta from Mezzo Bar & Grill, both extremely generous portions and very well cooked – we adored both offerings though we found them quite filling and wondered about how much stomach space we could conserve for other dishes that we were yet to try!
Schiaciatta (Sicilian pastie) with beef, corn, chilli and oregano
Organic slow braised pork cheek, white polenta, raisins and marsala sauce
At this point we found ourselves rather thirsty, so decided to pop upstairs to Longrain Bar where a fantastic selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails were to be found – we tried the Ping Pong, Calmin’ Miranda and Mojito, and each one was fantastic. Not only that, but the showmanship of the bartenders meant that the considerable wait to get these drinks was not lost as they put on quite a show while mixing each drink!
Virgin Calmin’ Miranda – mandarin, apple, cranberry and pink grapefruit juice (with some added passionfruit pulp)
Virgin Ping Pong – lychees, passionfruit and fresh lime
Unfortunately we had both had rather late lunches and weren’t particularly hungry, so we decided to make our final dishes special and chose our stand out favourites. Bec went for the Baby Chorizo from Comida Bebe, while I decided to go with the smoked duck, apple & walnut rillettes from Libertine & Le Traiteur.
Baby Chorizo – glazed in cider, served on a skewer with candied and fresh apple and topped with an apple toffee sauce.
Smoked duck, apple & walnut rillettes – shredded duck confit en croute
At this stage, we were pretty damn full and decided to retire to some couches to chat and digest with our second Longrain mocktails for the evening while perusing the many other dishes on offer that we didn’t think we’d be able to try due to our rather full bellies. However, when my eyes settled upon the pistachio panna cotta offering from Sarti, I knew I had to give it a try.
The look on my face as I took my first bite into it caused my friend to burst into laughter…not that I was paying attention since I was so intensely focused on the beautiful texture and wonderful pistachio flavour in the panna cotta!
Pistachio panna cotta with caramel salted popcorn
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every dish and though I spent far more than I anticipated, I don’t regret a single dollar as I thought every dish and purchase there was totally worthwhile!
However, if you’re planning to attend the event this weekend, these are my tips on how to survive it!
- If you are driving, then park close by (the Melbourne Museum next door has very handy undercover parking). The reason for this is that there’s no room for trolleys, and carrying armfuls of goods gets very tiring very quickly!
- The restaurants and displays are split over two floors and each has got a LOT to see and sample. Pick a floor and take your time winding all the way around it, then try the second one. If you go backwards and forwards continuously, you may find yourself getting lost and losing track (and time!)
- LOOK AT THE MENU! There is so many dishes on offer that if you don’t go there with some game plan in place, you could lose a lot of time deciding what to get! The full menu of dishes on offer from each restaurant can be downloaded from the Taste of Melbourne website, so I highly recommend that you do this before attending.
- If you’re working with a budget then be firm and stick to it, otherwise be prepared to spend quite a bit of money. The crowns aren’t a problem so much as the actual produce itself – I spent almost $100 on wine and cheese alone, which I certainly hadn’t intended on doing but once I tried the samples I wasn’t able to stop myself!
- Attend the event with a friend or two – some serves are large (well, larger), some are small, but the more friends you take, the more dishes you can split and ultimately this means the more dishes you can try!
While I enjoyed the event, I do think that it’s tailored more towards the mid range consumer who doesn’t eat out a great deal or has not tried these restaurants as it gives them a chance to experience their food and see if it’s too their liking and may encourage them to go to the actual restaurant in the future. I can safely say that I’m already planning on going to dinner to a few of these establishments since their tasters at this event impressed me so much!