The following is a sponsored post on behalf of HotHouse Media and Taste of Melbourne
This year, I’m pretty sure I set some sort of personal record, but I’m not quite sure what that is.
You see, this year I attend Taste of Melbourne on almost every day that it was running for 2011.
By the end of the week, my feet were in pain (honestly, WHY do I wear heels when I know I’m going to spend the day wandering about?), my wallet was *much* thinner and I’d loaded up on an incredible amount of food, drinks and wines.
Melbourne is, without a doubt, the food capital of Australia. There are more and more events that cater to those of us who are gastronomically-inclined, the three major ones being the Good Food & Wine Show, Taste of Melbourne and the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.
While there are quite a few similarities between the Good Food & Wine Show and Taste of Melbourne, in my opinion the latter is the better one to attend.
Simply put, because Taste of Melbourne really is about taste. Tasting foods from some of the fabulous restaurants in Melbourne in a sort of DIY degustation, tasting various products from many small and independent producers around the state (and some even from around the country) and then finally tasting the sheer exhaustion that can only come after nonstop walking and eating for about 4 hours.
With samples as far as the eye can see, this is a great place to discover a new favourite jam, cheese, smallgoods, or even cider producer – mostly because you get a chance to “try before you buy”. Another great thing is that the stalls are mostly manned by the people who work or own the businesses that produce these goods, so it provides you with an opportunity to talk to them about their methods and products.
As far as the restaurants are concerned, with so many restaurants in town, there are quite a few great names who sign up to take part in the event – taking the opportunity to tantalize a few tastebuds in the hopes that ToM attendees will like what they experience so much that they make the trek out to the restaurant itself to see what they can do.
Though – I must share a word of warning here. Sitting space is a very limited commodity, so one skill that I recommend that you perfect before attending is the art of eating while standing / walking / huddling in a corner and salivating.
Another thing to note is that your “meal” here will possibly be the most haphazard dining experience of the year. You could very well start off with a little bite of chocolate, then work yourself through to an amazing cassoulet (like the one featured from Libertine in North Melbourne, a festival attendee this year), take a break for some ice cream before trying two or three different ciders and going back for yet more chocolate.
Or ice cream.
Depending on where on earth you happen to be standing next.
For those of you who haven’t attended this event before, the currency of Taste of Melbourne is “crowns”. 1 dollar = 1 crown, and these can be exchanged for pretty much any product at the event. Prices will vary on the various vendors in terms of produce, but the mini-meals from the restaurants tend to vary between $8-$12 so it makes for a pretty decently priced meal.
Though, considering the fact that there are about 15 restaurants who attend the event and each features three different dishes…you may want to go along with a few friends if you’re intent on trying a good selection of plates otherwise you may find yourself struggling for stomach space by the time you’re halfway through.
Another thing that I recommend for event attendees is to make sure you bring a bottle of water. I found it hilarious that you can find at least 20 different flavours of macarons and god knows how many different alcohols here, but finding a bottle of good ol’ H20 was like hunting for a magical lamp – to the point where my friend and I were panting like dogs by the time that we located a water fountain outside the building where we could (finally) quench our thirst!
Speaking of drinking, like I mentioned before, booze is aplenty here. You have wine, beer, cider, tequila, gin, and various cocktails – and these are just the ones that I noticed! Considering the prices, I’d say that it’s a shame to attend without having a drink or two, so make sure that you take public transport or talk some poor sucker (such as myself) into being the designated driver so you can get your drink on.
Responsibly, of course…
Which brings me to my Taste of Melbourne Survival Guide:
- For the love of god, bring a bottle of water. You’ll be going from cheese to ice cream to wagyu burger to chocolate and back to ice cream, so at the very least you need the water to cleanse your palate before moving onto the next taste otherwise your tastebuds could get very damn confused.
- Comfortable footwear. This is a must. The number of women who I saw stumbling out of the building, drunk and dangerously teetering about on stilettos is ridiculous. Looking good is one thing, but the metal stairs here are rickety and the crowds are big so you want to make sure that you’re pretty steady on your feet.
- Bring your wallet and make sure that you’re cashed up. The walking ATMs here are difficult to find and you may get a little frustrated halfway through your visit if you’ve run out of $$ and desperately wanting to buy a wheel of cheese. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’ll visit the stall again – 4 hours is barely enough time to visit the stalls once, let alone twice. Cash up beforehand and buy crowns as needed as leftover crowns can’t be exchanged back for cash at the end of the event.
- Organize transport. Public transport is pretty easy and parking is plentiful, but make sure you know how to get there and remember where you parked as trying to figure it out when you’re exhausted and just wanting to go home can be a little frustrating. Particularly if your designated driver has suddenly disappeared…
- Which brings me to the next point – bring friends! There is just so much to eat and drink here that it’s best with at least one or two mates to help share the burden (and stomach space). With 45 different dishes to choose from and an almost endless variety of samples to try, it is not a task which should be allocated to just one stomach. Trust me.
- And last but not least – bring your appetite. My brother went so far as to stretch out his stomach by drinking a few litres of water before the event so that he could fit more in, and even he was in the depths of a food coma by the time that we departed. This is not an event for the faint-hearted or weak-stomached. It is for those who enjoy, savour and desire their food. And wine. And cocktails…
So I survived Taste of Melbourne for another year, and the way I figure, I’ve got another 11 months to recover before I get ready to do it all over again next year! You can see more of my photos from this year’s Taste of Melbourne at my Flickr gallery here.
My thanks goes to the following producers from whom I exchanged monies for bites of sheer deliciousness!
Jindi Cheese – their Old Telegraph Road triple cream brie is stupidly rich and sends your heart (and cholesterol levels) soaring with each bite. The camembert that I scored is currently sitting in the fridge to ripen for a few weeks before I dive into it face-first! Their cheeses are still made 100% by hand and the quality definitely shows.
Ashbolt Elderflower – a family affair from Tasmania, run by a husband and wife team as well as their two children. Organically farmed, this elderflower concentrate is stunning and perfect for mixing with gin for a light, summery cocktail. Apparently you can cook with it as well, but my bottle has been set aside for summer drinkies
Ganache Chocolates – this chocolatier is located in South Yarra and is one of my favourite chocolate stores in Melbourne. Arno Backes makes deliciously smooth chocolates, and his claim to fame is having made little bites of heaven for the Queen of England!
Gundowring Ice Cream – Three words – golden syrup icecream. OMNOMNOMNOM!
Rebello Wines – You can keep your Bulmers and Rekorderlig. Their Cheeky Rascal range of ciders are delightful without the cloying syrupy sweetness that some ciders can have – of note is my favourite flavour, the pear and strawberry cider. The Strawbellini wine is also a fun, easy drinking sparkling wine perfect for warm weather bbqs.
Pukara Estate Oils & Vinegars – These guys make my favourite caramelized balsamic vinegar in the country (so much so that I’ve converted quite a number of people onto it) and now make a brilliant garlic mayonnaise with incredible punch and bite that it’s a must for any serious garlic-lover.
Sugardaddy’s Confectionary – Their dark caramel spread (a mix of Dulche De Leche and French salted caramel) is divine, rich, not too sweet, incredibly moreish and very very dangerous. Their earl grey jelly is also made with real earl grey tea not bergamot extract, and the flavour really comes through here.
Trumer Pils – I’m not a beer drinker but my brother quite enjoys a yeasty fermentation and said that this is by far one of the best beers that he has ever tasted. Considering the fact that he works in a bottle shop and tries quite a variety of beer, this is quite a statement!
Yarra Valley Dairy – Hands down my favourite dairy in Victoria for goats cheese. Their “Cardi” marinated goats cheese is my absolute favourite on the market. I should also apologize to the poor girl that I frightened when I ran up to their stall, shoved my grabby hands in her face and loudly declared “Cardi! Mine!”
Fudge By Rich – I usually hate fudge. That cloying, tooth-aching sweetness turns me right off and makes me feel incredibly ill, yet the fudge made here is rich without the overwhelming sweetness. In fact, it was so good that I bought three blocks of the stuff – milk chocolate & walnut, caramel and dark chocolate.
Giverny Estate – Makers of kiwi wines (which I did not try), I was utterly smitten with their kiwi cider with it’s balance of sharpness and sweetness. It is incredibly refreshing and an absolutely wonderful cider to have on a warm day.
Enni Cafe – Located in Thornbury, they have a particularly talented pastry chef who makes the best flourless orange & poppyseed cake that I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Most flourless orange cakes that I’ve eaten are quite dense, yet the ones here are incredibly light and fluffy and just can’t be faulted! I’d avoid the macarons though – the macarons themselves are fine but the fillings were a bit of a letdown.