Saskia and I were very chuffed to be invited to attend a blogger’s session on the opening night of Taste of Melbourne. April has already posted a blow by blow account, so here are some of our highlights of the evening.
We arrived to total chaos as the building had been evacuated after the fire alarm went off. Several hundred people (mostly stallholders) were left congregated at the entrance, waiting for the all-clear. Now for the gratuitous man in uniform shot:
Love the axe!
All was fine and shortly thereafter we were ushered in to the building.
Our first stop was to Regal Salmon where we tried a salmon mousse (which was very cute in its little cone):
We also had a mouthful of some limoncello-cured salmon that Saskia and I both adored:
Regal assured us that the recipe will be put on the Regal website in the recipe section shortly and Saskia and I plan on having a go at making this ourselves. The limoncello worked so well to cut through the richness of the salmon. Yum.
Another highlight was the Sensology ‘Art of cocktail making’ hands on session (presented by Bacardi), which was new to Taste of Melbourne this year. First, we watched the ‘mixologist’ make the cocktail, then we were instructed how to make it ourselves. Look at him go!
In our session we made a Grand Margarita, but other sessions include Tom Collins, Mojito (my favourite!), Martini and Daiquiri.
To make a Grand Margarita, rim the lip of the glass with lime then dip in sea salt flakes. Juice 2 limes, then mix 30ml lime juice, 30ml tequila (we used Cazadores), 30ml Grand Marnier and a bar teaspoon or two of sugar (to taste). Add a lot of ice, pop it into a shaker and give it a vigorous shake. Strain and serve immediately.
It was a miracle that I did not end up with Grand Margarita all over me as I kept holding the shaker upside down and being gently corrected by the instructor. Some important (and somewhat obvious) tips that I learnt in the session are to carefully measure your ingredients, add the cheapest ingredient first (in case you need to start over), add plenty of ice, hold the shaker by the metal base (not by the glass as I did) and shake above your shoulder.
Behold my beautiful (and really tasty) Grand Margarita:
This packs a bit of a punch, so my recommendation is to enjoy it in the accompanying lounge, rather than drinking it in a single gulp (as a couple of other patrons did!).
The next highlight (for embarrassment factor alone) was the Smeg lounge, where there was a cooking demonstration by Daniel Vaughan from The Pantry in Brighton. Somehow or other both Saskia and I ended up assisting Daniel to make a wagyu beef tataki and were mercilessly mocked for our cooking prowess (or lack thereof, although I think it was mostly the ‘blogger’ moniker which was at issue). Saskia made the dressing and my role was to separate an egg (the pressure!!). Here is the final dish:
Next, we popped by some of the restaurant stalls. Another new feature of Taste of Melbourne this year is the pop up restaurant, which hosts a different restaurant each day of the festival. On Thursday when we visited, Koots Salle a Manger was in residence, and subsequent restaurants include Comida Bebe, Izakaya Den (which is such fun and you can read about here) and Embrasse (which I love and will post about shortly). Koots’ seven hour braised leg of lamb looked to die for:
We also popped by the Charcoal Lane stall and met head chef, Damien Styles. Charcoal Lane is a restaurant with a difference as it is run by Mission Australia and provides work experience and training to Aboriginal and disadvantaged young people. The restaurant is a fine dining establishment with a focus on native Australian ingredients. On the menu at Taste, there was wallaby tataki, seared kingfish with red curry (that Saskia and I tried) and a raspberry and rosella flower cannelloni (shown in the foreground):
We also met with a number of other producers, including Alberto’s Delicacies (a family owned and run pesto, antipasto and pasta operation). I was very excited to hear that Alberto’s is also introducing a gluten-free range of fresh pastas, including a range of filled pastas (which I have barely eaten since going wheat-free 5 years ago). These will be available from their East Brunswick site in the coming weeks.
I also really enjoyed meeting the team at Bultarra Saltbush Lamb and having a taste of their seriously delicious product. Saltbush lamb is a favourite of Maggie Beer and while I have never cooked it before I am keen to give it a try. Here is my artful shot of the saltbush on which the Bultarra lambs are fed:
We then cracked on with some tasting of the dishes that the restaurants had on offer. Saskia and I headed to Mezzo where Saskia tried the Cavatelli di Messina with prawns, peas and lemon oil and I tried the braised pork cheek with polenta:
The pasta was intensly lemony (in a good way) with a nice pop of freshness from the baby peas. The pork cheek was meltingly tender and I loved the crunch from the pistachio.
Time for dessert, Saskia and I shared a bombe from the Stokehouse:
I’ve said this several times – it was the bomb! I loved this dessert, with the white chocolate parfait, fresh and not too sweet strawberry sorbet and soft almost oozy meringue. I had promised to give Claire a taste of this dessert too, but she was momentarily distracted by chatting to a friend and so I seized the opportunity to eat it all (not a particularly nice move, but Claire ended up getting her own portion and was happy with that).
Last taste of the night was Longrain’s dessert of tapioca pudding with poached pears and jackfruit:
I like tapioca but this was a shade bland and a bit too liquid. Saskia reported that the wheaty element (the toile) was a bit powdery and was flavourless.
We then hot footed it to the VIP lounge to indulge in some much-needed sparkling wine and to toast a great night at Taste of Melbourne.
Note: Saskia and I were guests of HotHouse Media and received a number of freebies, including entry, cocktail making, tastes, produce, goody bags and all that sparkling wine above.