Tasting Australia 2014
It has come and gone, Adelaide has just thrown another fantastic Tasting Australia festival this year and I was very lucky to be back here in South Australia again to celebrate this event for the third time! Tasting Australia is a biennial event and it has been running for more than fifteen years, launched by Ian Parmenter and David Evans back in 1997. This year, South Australia tourism has taken over the helm for organising the festival and appointed Maggie Beer, Simon Bryant and Paul Henry, three new creative directors who are truly passionate about what South Australia has to offer.
The festival ran over two weeks from 27 April to 4 May, and I am glad that I got to experience some of the most exciting events during the final week. Since I’ve been to the last two Tasting Australia before and knew exactly what to expect this time round. It is one of those events that you don’t have to worry about going hungry.
Well, start scrolling and be prepared to get very, very hungry!
Town Square (Victoria Square)
The newly redeveloped Town Square (or Victoria Square) was the permanent feature of this year’s Tasting Australia, it has been transformed into a hub showcasing each of South Australia’s unique food and wine regions in the one location. Many different events were carried out during the festival – from “Fork on the road” was a street food party where all the food trucks in one spot to “The Producer’s Picnic” where local market stalls sprawled out the whole square, turning into a big picnic.
I just loved the whole setting at Town Square by using reclaimed materials like pallets and turned into tables, stools and chairs.
San Jose Smallgoods stall offered tasting cups of some of their best cured meat including bresaola, chorizo and sopressa.
Visitors get to try some of the best wines from all different regions in South Australia.
I got mobbed at the festival by this group of Malaysians, so it it only fair that I took a photo of them and post it on my blog.
On Stage with Skye Gyngell
A live stage was set up at the Festival where everyone got to watch all the live action in the kitchen and punters were also welcomed to join in for some cook along with celebrity chefs. The first cooking session I joined was with Sky Gyngell, an Australian chef who now resides in London, running her one-Michelin-star Petersham Nurseries Cafe.
Her session was all about sharing her love of vegetables and we got to learn a few tips on how to prepare and cook vegetables:
– Cooking food is like music should have base notes and last notes. You season your food with base notes like herbs, dried chillies then finish it off with last notes like lemon juice, zest, cracked pepper.
– the trinity of her cooking: fennel, anchovies and dried chillies; she uses them quite often in her cooking
– root vegetables (except new potatoes) should be boiled in cold water; vegetables that grow above ground should be boiled in hot water
– don’t run cooked beetroot under water as it will wash all the flavour away. Just leave them to cool down and then peel the skin off
– she uses a lot of parmesan, a good umami flavouring in her cooking
– try not to use dried herbs because usually they have musty flavours; but she loves dried oregano and also dried mint for Moroccan dish
– make pesto on the day of serving to keep it fresh. Also, using a mortar and pestle to pound the pine nuts will have a different flavour for the pesto. And don’t put in the fridge, it will keep the herbs.
Kis – Gin mixing class
My favourite On-Stage masterclass was the Gin mixing class, “Botanicals and bootlegging” with Jon Lark from Kangaroo Island Spirits, who I got the privilege to meet last year. By using the rare native herbs only grown in Kangaroo Island, Jon’s gin was seriously one of the best I’ve ever tasted. During the session, we learned how to mix gin and got to take home a bottle of our own blend!
There are a few basic rules how to classify the spirit as gin, but at the end of the day it is all up to personal taste. You can have from 8 up to 32 botanicals in one blend.
For gin, it should have:
50% juniper of less
then is up to you what your gin to taste like. The botanicals we got to choose including aniseed, ginger, lemon, orange, cinnamon, cardamom, mint and a lot more.
Since it was my first time mixing my own gin, so I called my blend – Vir”gin”. Get it? LOL!
Any leftover, we made ourselves a glass of G&T of course.
The Agrarian Kitchen at Appellation
The Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania is still high in my must-visit list. So I was pretty stoked to arrive in Barossa Valley where I got to enjoy a scrumptious lunch, a collaboration between The Agrarian Kitchen’s co-founder Rodney Dunn and Ryan Edwards, head chef of The Appellation. The lunch was focused on the paddock to plate philosophy where all the produce used was locally sourced or from their own kitchen garden. Our three-course lunch was also tastefully matched with Henschke wines.
The highlight of the lunch of course is the roasted Berkshire suckling pig. They were intended to put the pig on the spit outdoor but sadly defeated by the miserable weather and it was finished back in the kitchen in the oven. Nevertheless, we were rewarded with succulent pork and tiles of crispy cracklings. The tail was extra crunchy.
The waitstaff also brought out the roasted pig’s head for us as nothing goes to waste. Some felt a little uncomfortable just by looking at it, but for a few of us; it was love at first sight and we did not hesitate and started picking through all the good bits.
The cheek is the best part!
Thomas Farms’ Carnivoré
This event was for the meat lovers! Hosted inside the newly renovated Adelaide Oval, it was a night of meat fest. MLA master butcher Doug Piper along with chef Paul Wilson (Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Bondi) and Mike McEnearney (Kitchen by Mike) took the centre stage of the ‘dinner theatre’ and showed us how to break down a whole lamb and explained the different cuts of beef. It was a long and informative process but most punters were more interested to start digging into these glorious meat.
It was truly a meat fest, with meat courses came out one after another. I never had so much meat sweat in my life. The highlight for me were the pulled brisket pie with the most buttery pastry, I could have smashed a dozen of them; the slow braised beef cheeks in red wine was simply divine, melt in the mouth tender meat soaking up the rich red wine jus was simply to die for. And also the slow cooked rolled shoulder of lamb was a beautiful winter dish, loved the unusual pairing of lamb with mushrooms which worked surprisingly well together.
The Market Shed on Holland
One thing you must do in Adelaide is to check out their farmers markets on Sundays. The Market Shed on Holland is a new kid on the block, only seven months old and already have a strong contingent of followers who come here to do their grocery shopping. Their objectives is to promote certified organic, seasonal, local, sustainable and ethical produce. We spent a good couple of hours there and marvelled all the fresh produce and also house made pastries, cakes, and all thing delicious. The Market Shed is a nice option from the Sunday market at the showground, it is a lot closer to the CBD within walking distance.
You simply can’t leave The Market Shed without grabbing one of these delicious sweet treats from Mother & Sons Bakery.
A Few of My Favourite Things with Paul Henry
I have got to say it was pretty dangerous to follow Paul Henry and drank (all kinds of alcohol drinks) our way through Adelaide, and it was only 11am in the morning. Since Paul is the creative director and the wine guru of this year Tasting Australia festival, he led us through a few lane ways of Adelaide and showed us a few of his favourite drinks, and not just wine. Paul believes that every man and woman should learn a basic skill including how to tie a bow tie for men, and how to put on make up in a moving car for the ladies (he was joking). And of course, he thinks everyone should know the basic skill of cocktail making.
Our tour kicked off at Clever Little Tailor bar located on the upcoming Peel St. Owner Chrispian Felke ready to waken up our tastebuds with a mean Bloody Mary. Chrispian emphasised that it is not about making the best Bloody Mary but their own take and it is constantly evolving. His concoction was definitely unusual, by using basil leaves from his garden, tomatoes and pickled ginger were gratefully donated by Simon Bryant, and then garnished with anchovy, pickled jalapeño, garlic and cornichon. He also used local St Agnes grape vodka which sadly already been discontinued, with only a few bottles left in the market.
We moved on to have a sip of Causes and Cures semi dry vermouth from Yarra Valley. Vermouth is Chrispian’s favourite drink, something refreshing that he drinks a lot while preparing dinner. The vermouth was simply infused with torn bay leaves, from his own garden of course. Vermouth these days are distilled from using native botanicals instead of using wormwood.
Our tour followed by a pop-up lunch in the lane way (where From Scratch set up its stall on Friday) right next to Coffee Branch on Leight Street. Paul thinks that all meals should start with a glass of champagne and poured us all a glass of blanc de blancs, a fine bubbly harvest from a single vintage and single year. But it only got better, we were very lucky to have Simon Bryant there cooking us a heartwarming lunch as well.
Simon Bryant is obviously very passionate about South Australia produce and sourced only the very best to share with us. He also had a big wheel of cheese made from unpasteurised milk to conclude our lunch. He told us that he also has changed the way he sources the ingredients over the years; he no longer needs to go to the farm but prefer to talk to the producers, as that way he knows and finds out that they are actually living it and passionate about what they are doing, rather than just a marketing sale pitch.
Nose to Kale at Press* Food & Wine
The event that I most anticipated from Tasting Australia this year has to be the Nose to Kale dinner, hosted by Fergus Henderson, Ian Curley, and Andrew Davies at Press* Food & Wine. The name Fergus Henderson is no stranger in the culinary world, his ‘nose to tail’ approach has become an intrinsic part of contemporary gastronomy, not only in UK but around the world. It was a great night of chefs, friends, families and foodies all get together for a night of offals and beyond and we were sure in for a very special evening.
If you love tripe, then you will love this deep fried tripe. Yes, deep fried! The jelly like soft tripe encrusted with golden crispy crumbs, it was seriously addictive.
Of course, I had to take a photo with the legend himself!
During the last night of the festival, Tasting Australia went out with a bang by holding one of the most impressive pop-up dinner events – the Original Dinner. Imagine 30 chefs in one secret location ready to whet your appetite with a bountiful of amazing food, it seriously take the meaning of secret dinner to a whole new level, or as they put it – the nightclub for foodies.
There were 300 strong punters lining up in a dark alley way, dying to get through the red glowing entrance to find out the secrets within.
There was a mismatch of funky, grungy yet carnivale theme going on at the event. A huge parking lot right behind a bar has been transformed into a food stadium. The space was grungy and funky with graffiti walls painted by local artists, there were over 15 food stalls lined on both sides across the whole room where chefs were frantically feeding the hungry mouths. It was all hands on deck for everyone tonight, all guests were welcomed by Maggie Beer who were standing right at the entrance pouring a glass of champagne to whoever walks in.
It was humanly impossible to try all the dishes prepared by 30 chefs in one seating, so we had to be rather picky on what to try so that we didn’t fill ourselves up too quickly. Good thing was we got to pace ourselves with the food as they split the dinner into two sessions, putting 15 chefs out there to serve their dishes first, and then switched over with the remaining chefs at 8pm with new dishes. And the food didn’t end there, there were more stalls inside the bar, plus a huge charcuterie table covered in all kinds of cured meat that you could think of.
It was so crowded and dark inside, everyone was walking shoulder to shoulder and all the stalls were packed with guests waiting for more food to come out, so I eventually given up on taking any more photos and just joined in for the food debauchery.
There was also a gypsy telling your fortune. By the look of her face, I think you are doomed, pal.
Tasting Australia has done it again this year. The new team has definitely brought a refreshing touch to the festival with a new direction. It was so successful that they have decided to held Tasting Australia annually start from 2016.
[A Table For Two attended Tasting Australia as a guest of South Australia Tourism]