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Taste of Sydney 2011

by Simon on March 11, 2011

The Taste of Sydney festival is back on, currently in its third year. A food lover’s oasis; where you can find some of the finest food and beverages from around Sydney and beyond.

There are some well-regarded local restaurants, wineries, confectioners, food producers, butchers and purveyors; not to mention the opportunity to have a round table discussion with chefs, cooking demonstrations and wine tasting as well as other educational activities.

Read on to get a sample of what the Taste of Sydney 2011 festival has on offer.

 

If you’ve never been to the Taste of Sydney festival in previous years, come prepared with a large appetite, a lot of time and money. Perhaps leave the car at home or find some poor sap to be the designated driver, as there are plenty of opportunities for wine tasting and sampling alcoholic drinks. A carry bag and loose fitting clothing may also be advisable.

For those of you that have been before, there are some little differences. The festival grounds are extended out so they have the feeling of being more spacious. There seems to be less of an issue fighting over seating as there seems to be plenty of it. There is also the Italian Piazza; a small corner of the festival devoted to all things Italian. This is where you can find the Italian restaurants participating in this year’s event, such as Omerta & Otto.

There are also a few extra exhibition areas for classes, as well as a few new vendors for the “market” portion of the festival.

 

Victor Churchill is synonymous in my mind with the finest of foods. I mean who in their right mind would spend $70,000 AUD for a manually hand cracked meat slicing machine that looks like it was pulled from the pages of a steampunk novel; a device that is orders of magnitude more expensive than its electric counterpart, all because it does the least to affect the quality of the sliced product?

This Berkel slicing machine is now the most expensive item on my most coveted kitchen appliance list, above the KitchenAid mixer and Pacojet. Seeing this thing in action is hypnotic, well at least for a food & tech enthusiast such as myself.

There’s a range of fine charcuterie that you can sample for free, such as the bresola made from Blackmore Wagyu; considered the finest of Wagyu outside of Japan. The 9+ marble rated Wagyu slices almost melt in the mouth.

There’s also the *mumble* cured dry sausage made from pork with *mumble* and truffles. Ok, so I forgot the specifics. It tastes great. Let’s just leave it at that.

This biltong, also made from Blackmore Wagyu, is a southern African dried meat that resembles beef jerky in a lot of ways; very chewy and very flavourful. A few of these babies would go down well with some free samples of beer.

Feel free to ask questions to the friendly staff at Victor Churchill, or for any of the other purveyors for that matter. Actually, I’d advise approaching each stall with a curiosity of a child.

Sample things that you’ve never tried before or things you think you wouldn’t like. Ask questions about the food and the purveyors. By showing a little interest in a purveyor and their produce, you may be surprised with not only what you learn but also how fun learning about new foods & beverages can be.

 

There are also a number of demonstrations and classes to keep you entertained during the festival. A chef’s table where you have the opportunity to meet and have a discussion with some of Sydney’s top chefs. There are also wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, as well as the Sensology cocktail mixing class.

Some of the most popular cocktails are covered during cocktail mixing class, with each class covering a single drink. Examples include the daiquiri, the mojito and in our case, the pina colada, though not in a form most people are familiar with.

 

We’re put through our paces working on making a cocktail based on the original pina colada recipe. One that is light, refreshing and delicious, unlike the thick, cloying drink that most associate with this otherwise fine beverage. I am a huge fan of the pina colada made this way.

The best part about this class? Not only do you learn how to make a cocktail but you also get to drink the fruits of your labour. So, from a certain point of view, you can have your cocktail lesson and drink it.

 

For those of you with enough money to throw around, there’s the HSBC VIP Lounge with its covered enclosure, soft leather seats, jazz band and outdoors, more seating and an area to play bocce.

 

There are also two bars located within. Your regular bar (for lack of a better term) as well as a whiskey tasting station.

 

Lastly we come to the restaurant stalls, where friendly staff take your orders, serve you food, and maybe even pose for a photo or two.

Restaurant Balzac doesn’t do things by halves when it comes to dressing up their stall; with large, mouth-watering images of food to draw you in.

 

Matthew Kemp, the head chef at Restaurant Balzac, was kind enough to allow a small group of food bloggers to peer behind the curtain to see the operation of their onsite kitchen at work.

There’s a frantic order to the kitchen. It’s well organised, clearly under control and yet the restaurant’s engine is constantly redlined. Even under these conditions and with the number of people occupying the space tripling with our tour group, the chef was still able to run his kitchen and answer any questions we threw his way. It’s a testament to not only his abilities to run a kitchen, but also the generosity of his time & knowledge, and the inconvenience that our presence placed onto the kitchen.

If you’ve ever wondered, preparation for this event starts in January, a couple of months before the festival. 200kg of Wagyu is slow cooked down to 150kg of succulent meat that goes into their Crisp Wagyu Beef with Mushroom & Truffle Foam, of which there are anticipated to be well over 2000 servings dished out during the course of the festival, if previous years are anything to go by. If you’ve not had it before, it’s definitely something that I recommend. It’s so good!

The pork for the Saddle of Suckling Pigs with Baby Garden Peas, another great dish, are broken down from a number of whole carcasses. Nothing is wasted. The meat that doesn’t go into this dish is used for other dishes at the restaurant. Even the bones are used in the preparation of the jus.

Seared Regal King Salmon with a Salad of Pomegranate, Mint & Feta rounds off the menu for Restaurant Balzac. A dish for those that prefer a lighter meal over the richness of the other two on offer.

 

There are a many other dishes that can be had from the various restaurants at the festival. Some of the ones I had also include the Crispy Pork Belly, Cashew Nut Caramel, Watermelon & Mint from Assiette/District Dining, as well as the Fromart Raw Milk Alpage Cheese, Sauvignon Blanc Poached Apple & Beetroot Oil from Berowra Waters Inn/Ad Lib Bistro.

The crispy pork belly was purchased close to closing time so it was more like spongy pork belly as the crackling was not at all crisp. Probably best to order anything “crispy” in its name earlier on in the festival. Otherwise the flavour combination was quite nice.

I’d purchased the raw cheese dish simply because I’ve yet to try raw cheese. The cheese is quite pungent with a strong flavour. Not for everyone as I believe one person described the experience as “raping your tastebuds”, or something similar. The poached apple and crackers are a very welcome and necessary contrast. I personally don’t dislike this dish. I’m just not a huge fan.

There are many dessert options available to cap off your time at the festival, both from the restaurant stalls and vendors alike. If you find yourself with a weird number of Crowns, the currency of the festival, vendor stalls are the best place to offload them as a lot of vendors accept a mixture of Crowns and cash as payment.

One dessert perhaps worth considering is the Creme Brulee from Victor Churchill. Yep, the butchery people with the fine meats and even finer slicer also have a dessert section. Whilst the caramel brulee crust has a satisfying crunch to it, the custard contained within is rather soft. There seems to be mixed views as to whether or not this was a good thing but however you may feel about that, it’s undoubtedly rich and flavourful.

If you do make it to the festival, which goes until Sunday 13th March, I hope you make the most of the experience. For further reading, please feel free to check out my posts on previous year’s festivals as well as a guide to help make the most of you time there:

For more information regarding the Taste of Sydney festival, including event schedules and restaurant menus and how to get there, check out the official Taste of Sydney website.

the heart of food attended the Taste of Sydney 2011 festival as a guest of Stellar* Concepts Australia.

A special thanks to Matthew Kemp & his Restaurant Balzac staff, the staff at Victor Churchill & Sensology.

 

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

sugarpuffi March 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm

wow awesome photos! this is giving me more ideas on what to eat. ^^
sugarpuffi recently posted..New Domain Name for Sugars Sweet Blog

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OohLookBel March 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go this year, as it’s quite expensive for the entry fee plus the food. But seeing the dishes has changed my mind and I already have the crispy pork belly and maybe a Sensology class on my agenda. Thanks for the comprehensive roundup.
OohLookBel recently posted..Chorizo pilaf in cute dishes is a winner – FACT!

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Hope you have a good time there and that it’s worth the expense for you :)

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MelbaToast March 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Some of your comments *mumble* “raping the tastebuds” literally had tears streaming down my face! Great post. Great photos. Look like a great event.
MelbaToast recently posted..Misschu- Darlinghurst

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I really should work on not having any *mumble* moments in my posts but glad you enjoyed it all the same :)

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Tina@foodboozeshoes March 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Yay – more seating, good to know. And whiskey tasting sounds just perfect for my Taste partner. With some biltong ;)

Great shot of Matt Kempt too, Simon.
Tina@foodboozeshoes recently posted..A Chinese treasure at the gallery

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Claire @ Food Guru March 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Simon

Brilliant post and congratulations on your beautiful photos. Looking forward to heading out there tomorrow.

Regards

Team Guru

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Susan March 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I went to the first taste of sydney and loved it, but haven’t been back due to conflicting agendas. So wish I was going. I went to Melbourne’s one last year and it was nowhere near as good.
Susan recently posted..Rogan Josh

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Sorry to hear that Melbourne’s event wasn’t as good. Wouldn’t have expected more from them.

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Moya March 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm

So how far down the list is the Thermomix, hehe!
Moya recently posted..Get Twisted!

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Pretty low. I’m not all that fussed about it. There are other things that are higher on the list. I’d much prefer to get a good stick blender for example.

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mademoiselle délicieuse March 11, 2011 at 5:56 pm

And the meat slicer is red and oh-so sexy!

*mumble mumble* delicious photos *mumble mumble* must remember for tomorrow night…
mademoiselle délicieuse recently posted..Kashiwa Yakiniku- Japanese BBQ Restaurant

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm

lol! Ah, so that’s how you read my posts… :P

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Simon Food Favourites March 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

i was wondering why the cheese was so pungent. definitely not on my wish list again. very much an acquired taste perhaps :-)

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

So I take it that it’s not a Simon Food Favourite? :)

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joey@FoodiePop March 12, 2011 at 7:11 am

Great photos and food! Suckling pig with peas sounds just about right for my lunch today. :-)

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Jacq March 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Great photos Simon! Funny, the girl in black in the Restaurant Balzac photo actually went to my school haha
Jacq recently posted..Taste of Sydney 2011

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Simon March 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Small world :)

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Gianna March 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I told you, If you distracted the Victor Churchill staff, I would have been able to carry the machine and run through the gates to the awaiting Yaris!

We would have had joint custody of little baby berkel :)
Gianna recently posted..Taste Of Sydney 2011- Centennial Park

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angie March 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Wasn’t sure if we were going this year, then I won free tickets, but then we couldn’t make it in the end. Mmm looks like I missed out on so many tasty treats!
angie recently posted..Family Holiday – Rotorua NZ – Part 1

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thang@noodlies March 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Great round-up Simon, looks like lots of great food and good weather too

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bhavani@ameanderingmango March 14, 2011 at 8:23 am

Hi Simon – I just found your blog and it’s beautiful. What great photography and it’s full of great foodie info – Glad to meet a fellow blogger in Sydney. I’ll be back for more!
bhavani@ameanderingmango recently posted..Simple spaghetti Saturday

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Simon April 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Hi there!

Thanks for the comment and feel free to leave more in future :)

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john@heneedsfood March 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

Omg that Blackmore wagyu! I’m salivating!
john@heneedsfood recently posted..GourmetRabbit Issue 2 – Launch at Harts Pub- The Rocks

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penny aka jeroxie March 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm

So happy that I made it this year! love the wagyu burger from Charlie & Co. :) And the trout from Flying Fish – so yum!
penny aka jeroxie recently posted..Oreos cookies and cream mini cheesecake

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Simon April 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Awesome! So… next year? :)

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bake in paris March 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Such an exciting event, have to include this in my future trip to Sydney! Thanks for the eye-opening information, it is enjoyable to read :-)

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Simon April 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm

When and if you do get around to it, I hope you enjoy it!

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Melissa March 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

awesome post! sadly i missed out the event this year due to travel plans. anyhow i must check it out next year!
Melissa recently posted..AVIV Cakes &amp Bagels Cafe- Elsternwick

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Simon April 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Ah, pity. There’s always next year! :)

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Heather March 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Drooling as always – how can I be missing this?!

The road trip has led to some boring meals and I am sooo ready for some great ones again, Sydney style.
Heather recently posted..Aussies and Mozzies

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Simon April 9, 2011 at 9:30 pm

If only you were around until next year’s event…? :)

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