Hello everybody - it's our favorite time of the year! The taste of Taste of Sydney outdoor food festival is on this weekend and we Empty Fridgers were lucky enough to attend a preview session on opening night. We wanted to share some snaps and some favourite dishes with you. So hopefully; if you are heading there this weekend, we can help you plan your path of eating and drinking.
If you remain undecided on wether to go or not; we hope we can sway you that little bit more into heading on to Centennial Park - we dare say this post is part one for us; as we are definitely heading back for round two!
Now in its third year; Taste of Sydney is a deliciously fun outdoor drinking an dining experience. Favourite Sydney restaurants such as Balzac, Bilson's, Cotton Duck, Etch, L'etoile and many more all within metres of each other - serving delicious signature dishes en masse.
With exhibitors, local producers, wine tastings and informative sessions - could you ask for anything better and more convenient for hungry patrons?
"Crowns" ($1=1 crown) are the official currency for the day - and are used to purchase dishes from restaurants and the producers. Most dishes are priced from 8-10 crowns and drinks start from 6 crowns; but some producer stall gladly take cash too. If you ever find yourself low on crowns - lookout for staff in pink shirts roaming the grounds to top up your stash.
Our tip is to print out the "menu" on offer from each of the restaurants and literally circle each one you want, then make sure you have enough crowns. Although; they sell them throughout the venue - you just wouldn't want queues cutting in on your eating time. Prioritise.
First stop is the Victor Churchill Stand for some tasty sampling. Victor Churchill in Woollahra is a happy place - its home to amazing produce and is the probably the only butcher where you can spend hours in and not smell like meat. They are all about quality and lucky for us we were able to sample some delicious meats they had on offer.
The photo above shows the amazing "melt in your mouth" David Blackmore Wagyu Bresciola. With a super high marble score of 9+, it is the cotton candy of wagyu - and as the friendly staff told us - you do not need teeth to eat this.
The impressive slicer they have on display is a hand operated Berkel machine - quality meats deserve quality machinery to cut; this quality machine costs a whopping $70,000. Thats roughly 3 Toyota Yaris's.
The Berkel slicer is very kind to the small good in question as it does not generate heat which in turn affects the quality of the sliced meat - therefore it is worth its weight in wagyu.
The 'Tartufo' salami above was indeed a winner. Kurobota pork with truffle - wow. The truffle flavour was generous, but not overpowering at all and it really worked well with the saltiness of the pork. We were told that this has actually become a favorite with kids that visit a shop! Ah, the kids of today with their fussy palettes!
The crowd favorite was the Biltong, a South African staple of air dried beef. This Biltong was made with Blackmore wagyu topside and is salted for a day then rolled in black pepper and coriander (!!) seeds. It is not tough at all and would be perfect with an ice cold beer.
Drop by Victor Churchill Stand and have a chat with their super friendly and informative staff. They have Charcuterie Tasting Plates for $12 and delicious desserts for $8 as well.
Cocktail time! Our next stop was the Sensology Session, an iteractive and simple lesson to teach each and everyone the art of cocktail making. As we walked in, we herd that very familiar tune - "If you like Pina Colada's..and getting caught in the rain..." and you guessed it - we had a lesson on mastering the art of Pina Colada!
The session was so much fun and full of handy tips to keep in mind for the next cocktail party. If you are like us, are a professional at drinking but a novice in making - then get on down to the Sensology session With only a few ingredients and some muddling, mixing, shaking and of course drinking, we had a delicious and refreshing Pina Colada that can easily be re-created at home.
For 10 Crowns you can master the Mojito, Daquiri, Breakfast Martini, Cosmopolitan or Pina Colada plus you get your cocktail too, to quench the thirst from all the hard labour!
Food Time! We then went behind the scenes at Restaurant Balzac where Chef Matt Kemp was leading his team for service. The energy and pressure, as well as the high level of organisation is evident as they churn out delicious dish after delicious dish. Matt casts his eve over nearly each serve that goes out and explains to us that they have prepare and brace themselves for over 1000 dishes to go out a session.. Insane when you break that down into dishes per hour.
We all crown inside the small space, as Matt's staff try to work around us - we were so lucky that he welcomed us behind the scenes! Twitter tells us that the dishes were so popular that another 50kg of Wagyu was braised overnight for 1500 spring rolls for today alone!
Now, Gianna has given up fried food for 40 days in lent, and without realising this wagyu spring roll was demolished - and it was so sinfully good we are going back for more.
After a few minuites in the kitchen, we moved outside to try out the dishes that were making our hungry bellies grumble. A big thank you to Matt Kemp and the Balzac team for giving us backstage access and for really showing us the massive amount of effort that is put into these dishes at Taste of Sydney. Here are the three dishes on offer at Balzac :
Saddle of Suckling Pig with Baby Garden peas - 12 Crowns
Crisp Wagyu Beef with Truffle and mushroom foam - 12 Crowns
Seared Regal King Salmon with Pomegranate, Mint and Feta salad
We browse through as many stands as we can - this years Taste of Sydney is far more spread out than previous years and as well as the astro-turfed out "eating benches" outside each restaurant stall, there are more tables spread across the grassy area (You can also find a nice comfy patch of grass, where you can pass out later after too many wine tastings..not that we are speaking from experience!)
Aside from the stalls and restaurants there are several informative and interactive demonstrations and sit down sessions. With the sensology cocktail class covered, there is also the Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen with live demonstrations, and the chefs table where you can have a chat with your favorite chefs. Jaguar has a Wine theatre, Nespresso will teach you all about coffee and there is also a Patisse pastry cooking school - See the features schedule here so you can plan your day right
We were then treated to acess to the HSBC VIP stand where you could kick back and unwind from your food coma in some comfy chairs, and enjoy the live music behind the snazzy bar.
The made a delicious Pimm's cocktail and a few of these refreshing drinks were downed to cool down.
As the sun went down we were spoilt with canapes and mini desserts. A friendly bocce competition was also on the cards, and at this stage Demos had far too much sugary treats mixed with a few alcoholic drinks which resulted in hyperactiveness and unfair bocce taunting.
Hungry for more, we ventured outsite to try more dishes.
The first stop was Danks St Depot / Cotton Duck to sample some of the dishes on offer by Jared Ingersoll. We even spot his friendly little watermelon on the corner of the table!
We order the Hiramasa kingfish roasted in jerky and nigella seeds with heirloom tomatoes and basil (12 crowns) The crispy crust was a hit and the kingfish was cooked perfectly, the saltiness pairing up so well with the fresh tomatoes. This flavoursome and light dish was consumed so fast - especially chased with some refreshing Cotton Duck Ale (8 crowns)
From Asiette and District Dining - Crispy Pork Belly with Cashew nut caramel, watemelon and mint (12 crowns)
From Four in Hand, the Dark chocolate snickers dessert (8 crowns) another hit!
From Adlib Bistro and Berrowa Waters Inn - Fromart Raw Milk Alpage Cheese, Sauvignon Blanc Poached Apple and Beetroot Oil (10 Crowns) This cheese is so strong - it will, and we quote the quote of the evening "Rape your tastebuds.." but we did enjoy it, as neither of us have tried raw cheese before - the poached apple will get the tastebuds back in action in no time!
That is the run down of round one, we must be off to head to round two this weekend - Domo was a bit unhappy with us that he did not tag along but if was punishment for his shenanigans at Taste of Sydney 2010. We have so much fun at these food festivals, and since its on all weekend, of course we will be heading back for more!
A big thank you to Ashley of Stellar Concepts Australia for inviting us Empty Fridgers along to the preview night. Also thank you again to the Victor Churchill staff, Matt Kemp an the Balzac team and also the Sensology Cocktail masters for spending some time with us!
You can check out and print out the Taste of Sydney Menu here
See the full list of restaurants here
Some great reviews of the day also from The Heart of Food, Simon Food Favorites, Chocolatesuze and Penguin Says Feed Me
Visit Taste of Sydney for more information on session times, you can purchase tickets (from $25) online or at the gate.
AND NOW FOR PART II..
Now don't think we just stopped at one visit. We returned to Centennial Park for another round of eating on a sunny sunday. This time we had the little monster in tow - Domo's day out! Taste of Sydney 2012 cannot come any sooner!
We spent nearly the whole afternoon eating and walking around - what a fun day it was! Here are some happy snaps from the day as promised. Did we have a repeat of the fun last year and pass out in a patch of soft grass..? You'll soon find out!
What we ate..
L'etoile: Slow cooked shoulder of lamb, smoked potato puree & jus - 12 crowns
Aperitif: Paella a la Maestre - 12 crowns
Charlie and Co : Parmesan and Truffle fries - 6 crowns
Four in Hand: Confit Pork Belly, Squid, Chorizo and Chickpea - 10 Crowns
District Dining: Spicy Free Range Lilydale Chicken with Lime Aioli and Coleslaw (but they ran out of coleslaw so we got a fourth piece of chicken)
Balzac : Crisp Wagyu Beef with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Foam 12 Crowns
(Yes, we came back for this awesome dish! It was a hands down favourite!)
Apertif: Churros con Chocolate - 8 Crowns
Gelatomessina Gelato - $4 1 scoop, $6 2 scoops
Four in Hand: Dark Chocolate Snickers $8
Some Chef Spotting!
Manu Fidel at L'etoile and Miguel Maestre and his paella.
Tony Bilson at the Bilson Stand and with Miguel Maestre at Aperitif
We came home with some awesome Sangiovese from Pizzini, a winery from the King Valley region. We also tried some Achachas - an odd fruit which tasted like a cross between a banana and orange..
We had more time and energy this time around to navigate through the product stands and the standout favorite alcoholic product this year was the St Germain elderflower liqueur. It was delicious and refreshing, and the hint of lychee was welcomed on this very hot day.
Now for the Jaguar Gourmet Traveller Wine Theatre! ThE afternoon session was a "Sommelier Showdown" where food and wine pairings were discussed while tasting 4 delicious wines.
With Domo bursting at the seams we called it an afternoon - thank you Taste of Sydney for another fabulous gastronomic experience! We could not have asked for a better day!
Being the traditionalists that we are, a quick nap under a shady tree in Centennial park was in order - food makes you sleepy and so does numerous wine and cocktail tastings!
Until next year Taste of Sydney!