A few highlights from Taste of Melbourne

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Many of you will have that ever-expanding list of restaurants you have had been itching to attend, but have been prohibited by: time, money, a 3 month advance booking requirement, or a no-booking policy and a 2 hour wait in line.  Imagine how lovely it would be if all of those eateries all resided on the same street, and you could walk freely from one to the next, sampling their signature dishes, and constructing a bespoke grazing menu.  This is why Taste of Melbourne is a food festival I really look forward to each year.

Dining

A prime selection of Melbourne’s best restaurants have set-up camp on the Pelican Lawns on the banks of Albert Park Lake and are offering a handful of signature dishes.  Today, Tonka and Chin Chin will be joining the line-up for the last day of the festival.  Dishes are generally from 6 – 12 crowns, however, some venues are offering larger ‘icon dishes’ ranging from $15-$25. 

Warning: I would recommend planning your menu in advance if you are indecisive and unable to exercise restraint like me otherwise you are likely to be making several return trips to the crown vendors. (We spent around $110 on crowns between two people).

The highlights for me were:

Albert Street Food and Wine – Calamari fritto with char grilled corn kernels, black garlic, coriander,
green chilli, black aioli. It was clear to see why this dish earned the stamp of the ‘best in taste’ dish. The perfectly seasoned calamari was coated in a sparse batter and made music with the sweet corn and squid ink aioli.

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Huxtable – puttanesca Flinders Island lamb shoulder wrapped with strands of crisp filo pastry.  I suspect that the
pastry may have been holding the lamb together, because it fell apart in my mouth.  Which I particularly appreciated given the high volume, high pressure circumstances in which it had been produced.  The lashing of yogurt cooled off the richness of the incredibly flavoursome lamb perfectly.  I am ashamed to admit that this was a last minute use of my left over crowns!

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The Smith – sticky beef buns from The Smith were not something I would usually go for but they were a standout.  The sticky beef was sweet with just the right amount of salt, and complemented the soft texture of the stark white bun.

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Other dishes definitely worth a try were the melt in the mouth braised pork jowl in Pedro Ximinez with a creamy celeriac mash from Bomba, and the vanilla and coconut tapioca with fresh fruit from Longrain.  And, yes, I got sucked-in by that darned delicious corn from Mamasita which I have had several times previously – but my goodness I was a pig in mud gnawing on that cob of corn.

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Drink

A special mention must go to the Galliano stand. That’s right, Galliano – that potent apperative your parents used to drink after meals when you were a kid.  Not usually my go-to drink, but when I spotted a few people walking around with drink holders containing a handsome little trio of cocktails, I had to check it out. They are offering 3 cocktails for 15 crowns ($15) shaken up by some easy-on-the-eye Italians. I opted for one of each of the 3 cocktails on offer – Ristretto Martini (a slick take on an espresso martini featuring the world’s first ristretto liqueur), Vanilla Pallino and Amaretto Sour.

The Vanilla Pallino – a refreshing concoction of vanilla Galliano with cloudy apple and lime – went down particlaurly well after walking around all day in the sunshine! I was pleasantly surprised – and then a little tipsy. I will be keeping Galliano on the my drinks radar this summer.

Local producers

Make sure you visit the local producers exhibiting excellent produce, beer and wine, and load up your shopping bags with delectable gems that you won’t find on your supermarket shelves. Truffle infused salt or imported farro beer, anyone? I was tempted to book a plane ticket to Hobart, after grazing my way around the fantastic Tasmania marquee, sampling Tasmanian Oysters, Cape Grim beef, Bruny Island Cheese and Balvenie whiskeys.

Master classes

There are also a range of cooking and cocktail making masterclasses, a beer hall, and cooking demonstrations by some of the country’s top chefs. Check out top chefs Benjamin Cooper and Adam D’Sylva who will be on stage at the Taste Kitchen between 1.30pm-3pm today. 

Today is the final day for Taste of Melbourne 2013 and is open from 12pm – 5pm.   Although Albert Park can be an inconvenient location, and parking was a bit of a challenge, relocating the festival from its  previous home at the Exhibition Centre in Carlton was ultimately a clever move.  The open space made it so much easier to move around freely from stall to stall, while soaking up the sunshine.  However, the grass was still quite muddy yesterday after a week of ridiculously wet weather, so I would avoid wearing your best shoes!

Melbournians, we have finally been bestowed us with some delightful spring weather today – make eat while the sun shines!

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