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Now, who does not love an opportunity to sample vittles and enjoy carefully selected libations? While the common denominators for a willing culinary inclined audience are easily defined, demonstrating creativity and innovation when it comes to offering tasty and interactive experiences and taking consumers on a carefully curated epicurean journeys to uncharted territories in terms of taste, all the while ensuring that the local food and hospitality industry gets exposure and making the visitor’s point of view a priority, is a balance act and no mean feat.
Sydney has established itself as a significant gastronomic tourism destination and in its ninth year, Taste of Sydney has become THE event to get an idea of the status quo, by discovering and indulging over four eventful days with a diverse lineup of pop-up bars, restaurants, chefs, live music courtesy of Australian artists, artisan producers, special menus and hands-on live cooking demonstrations, cook offs and master classes conducted by culinary luminaries.
In a world where most food festivals are in essence merely glorified markets, Taste of Sydney creates a massive village fete atmosphere and an enjoyable day out for free-form followers, descending upon and nestled in Sydney’s green and leafy Centennial Parklands and bringing out a diverse crowd. The 2017 incarnation of Taste of Sydney food and wine fest had a lot to offer: A far as restaurant highlights are concerned, authentic flavours of Turkey – be it the elements of Ottoman court cuisine or the Black Sea Region – found their way to the festival courtesy of Anason; Bouche on Bridge brought their approachable fine dining experience and won the Best in Taste award for their wallaby skewers with spiced cashew sauce; new Latin American bar restaurant Tequila Mockingbird convinced with their pairings and exquisite marriage of fresh Australia produce with a curated beverage list from around the globe – their ceviche taco is was one of the many highlights.
The fish whisperer Josh Niland’s seafood hound Saint Peter proffered his signature Pambula Sea Urchin Crumpet; Four in Hand by Guillaume brought French classics with a twist; Spain was represented by the meat heavy Mercado Restaurant with its signature Berkshire Porchetta; and Poteño stayed true to their motto “barriga llena corazón contento” (i.e. “full belly – happy heart”) with their signature BBQ beef belly with fried Brussels sprouts and won an award for Best Dressed.David Thompson’s Long Chim presented a Thai cocktail menu to go along with his fiery hot food based simple ingredients with flavors that explode in your mouth, and with Charred rice noodles, chicken yellow beans & Chinese broccoli being one of the faves of your humble narrator.
Wine enthusiasts got to sit in on intimate classes at The Wine Society, while Meat and Livestock Australia hosted their Cooks Corner with the Food Network, where meat mastery was the focus. An array of artisan producers was on hand to showcase their products in between all of that queuing and eating: 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka, the name being an ode to the native Tasmanian Devil, presented their range of velvety smooth, yet distinctively clean tasting purity, which is achieved through a slow, single batch distillation process using copper pot stills, mellowing the spirit with charcoal and a final filtration via activated charcoal, ensuring that all the impurities are removed.
As if that was not pure enough, their emissions are then blended with the world’s purest rain, Cape Grim Water – a water that is fabled to be diluted if you add ice to it.666 also presented the world’s first natural butter vodka, which might sound odd at first but makes sense with Tasmania having one of the best dairy industries in the world. It is hand made with a slow fat-wash process using low heat, loads of local butter, giving the resulting vodka a creamy, complex flavour, which is quite an interesting taste experience given that vodka seems to be commonly known for the fact that the more common brands actually lack in taste.
Mexico and tequila was represented by Arette from the “El Llano” distillery – one of the oldest distilleries in the town of Tequila. Arette and other tequilas will get an in-depth review in an upcoming feature on Mexico. Another discover that had not been on my radar is Verano Cider, which is handcrafted in the Basque region to a recipe known by five generations of the Soroa family. Made with local handpicked apples, sun-ripened and freshly pressed it creates a crisp, sharp, flavorsome cider with a refreshing finish. It proved to be a nice accompaniment to grilled salmon. Not usually a fan of sweet liquors, RumChata, a blend of Caribbean rum, which is then homogenized with dairy cream from Wisconsin, won me over. It goes exceptionally well with everything from baked goods via ice-cream to your mixed drinks or is delicious simply served over ice.
Botella is a local family operation producing a range of sculptural Mediterranean-style olive oil and balsamic vinegar decanters. Each bottle has two separate chambers, the inner chamber for the balsamic vinegar and the outer chamber for the olive oil. Botella bottles create a visually appealing sensory experience that transforms into an artwork and sits like a glass sculpture on the table or kitchen counter. Elegant, sophisticated and functional. Jeff de Bruges catered to the ones with a sweet tooth – Belgian artisan chocolate, no matter if you like it intense, fruity, creamy or spicy – Jeff de Bruges kept things simple yet at the same time delicate.
Little Green Kitchen is a bespoke baking business in Drummoyne, Sydney that takes great pride in hand-making products from family recipes. Their natural muesli with oats, almonds, macadamias, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, sultanas, cranberries, cinnamon, ground ginger, apple juice, honey is simply of thing of beauty and ideal to greet the grimmest mornings with. Henri Abelé champagne offering tastings of their luscious sparkling emissions with honeyed floral aromas, and a toasty, biscuity, full-bodied palate. The mousse is fine and smooth, the finish long, lovely and persistent. Too pretentious? In layman’s terms: A bubbly with character and resonant aftertaste.
One of my fave exhibitors was Pic’s: Pic’s Peanut Butter was launched just nine years ago. Devoid of nasty emulsifiers and sugar, they use hardly anything else than 100% Hi Oleic Australian Kingroy nuts, which provide a high dose of protein, good fats, and more fiber than rope. Once it enters your gob, it is both a sensory and sensual experience tickling your tonsils. See, saying that I harbour a weak spot for a good slab peanut butter would be an understatement par excellence and I have sampled quite a few on different continents, yet Pic’s takes it to the next level and sampling their range made me an instant convert.
The fact that everything from the labeling to the way the jars are created (including hidden messages) provide a sources of both information and amusement does not hurt either. One does not come too often across such a coherent product and brand. Pic’s will certainly take a prominent position in an upcoming special on peanut butter. Proceedings of the day were finished off with a pre-mixed Negroni courtesy of East Indian Trading Company. Usually not a big fan of pre-mixed concoctions, EITC’s cocktails provide a sharp edge.
A Negroni might look like a simple composition of equal parts gin, vermouth and campari, yet it depends on the quality of ingredients and EITC seems to have it pat down: A clean, navy strength gin strong on the botanicals complementing the forceful finish of the Campari. The perfect palate-cleansing settler for a day filled with culinary adventures and new discoveries. Taste of Sydney 2017 was another seamlessly organized event with the right mix of newcomers, established old hands and a festive atmosphere.
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