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Taste of Sydney 2012 Preview

by Simon on March 4, 2012

Photo of a yellow fin tuna dish from Flying Fish

The Taste of Sydney Festival is one of the few food events that I look forward to each year. You have the opportunity to sample great food from some of Sydney’s premiere restaurants, meet with and learn from acclaimed head chefs, and sample a wide variety of foods and beverages from various artisanal food producers, vineyards and vendors. What’s not to love?

As a preview for Taste of Sydney 2012, a host of fellow bloggers and I were invited to partake in a progressive degustation to sample some of the food and beverages on offer at this year’s festival.

Read on to have a taste of what’s on offer and an opportunity to win some free passes to the Taste of Sydney Festival 2012.

Montage of images from Sake Restaurant & Bar

The first leg of the progressive degustation commenced at Sake Restaurant & Bar with cocktails and canapés. Each of the canapés were bite-sized samples of dishes Sake will be serving up at the festival. These dishes were (from left to right) Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche, Pan Seared Ocean Barramundi and Hiramasa Kingfish Double Crunch Sushi.

While all the canapés were good, I was particularly fond of the ceviche, with its light and refreshing hit of citrus. The barramundi was quite interesting too with its textural contrast of chewy, ponzu-flavoured buckwheat kernels.

We split into two groups to head off to a separate set of dining destinations with the assistance of chauffeur-driven vehicles. Details regarding the restaurants and the food to be served for each course were kept from us until we arrived at each destination.

Montage of images from Flying Fish

Our driver takes us around the city, past a multi-vehicular accident and down a long dark drive way until we arrive at our first destination. We walk out to a scenic waterfront view on a decidedly unscenic sort of evening to Peter Kuruvita’s Flying Fish Seafood Restaurant. The kitchen is headed by Chef Stephen Seckold, who bears quite a resemblance to the actor Cary Elwes during his younger, less rotund years.

We start off with some of the best bread sticks you’ll likely ever have in a restaurant, smeared with fish paste and dusted with nori (dried seaweed) powder. Unfortunately, this is a dish that won’t be available at the Taste of Sydney festival. Pity. It’d make for some fine drinking snacks.

Photo of the yellowfin tuna dish from Flying Fish

Each year the organisers of the Taste of Sydney festival incorporate new concepts or activities, which keeps things interesting for returning clientele. One such concept this year is the Icon Dish. The Icon Dish is a special menu item that some of the participating restaurants serve that are available at a higher than average cost and with a limited number of serves available per session.

Chef Robin Hood presents what amounts to the entree course of our progressive degustation. It’s a signature dish of the restaurant and their Icon Dish at the festival – Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Ruby Red Grapefruit, Sweet Crackling Pork & Black-Pepper Caramel.

It’s an absolute cracker of a dish. Every element in harmony with each other; from chili salt coated seared tuna, segments of tart grapefruit, the twig of crispy pork crackling as well as the surprise pieces of pork belly, through to the black-pepper caramel sauce.

Montage of images from Four in Hand

The next stop on our mystery food tour was Four in Hand.

Chef Colin Fassnidge runs an impressive kitchen, one that runs like a highly-tuned performance machine. With an intense focus, concentration and economy of movement, watching the chefs go about their work in the rather small kitchen seemed more like a performance art than food preparation.

We indulge in a young Spanish red and a wonderfully flavourful fish broth as we wait for the main course to be served.

Photo of the Suckling Pig with Cauliflower and Prunes from Four in Hand

The generous platter of food that we received, Suckling Pig with Cauliflower and Prunes, bears little resemblance to the dish that they will be serving up at the Taste of Sydney festival, namely Roast Suckling Pig, Coleslaw, Onion Rings & Hot Sauce.

The Suckling Pig with Cauliflower and Prunes consists of three different cuts of pork with crackling attached. It’s served along with cauliflower, cauliflower puree, prunes, radicchio and a drizzle of pork reduction. There are also some fried greens foraged from coastal regions of the Eastern Suburbs which are reminiscent of fried seaweed. Finally, colcannon, a traditional Irish potato mash with cabbage and spring onions, is served in a miniature cast-iron pot.

This is an absolutely fantastic meal. If the Roast Suckling Pig (which they will have roasting whole at the festival) and its accompaniments are even a shadow of this one, it’ll still be a great dish.

Montage of desserts from Quarter 21

Finally, we make our way to Quarter Twenty One for the dessert course of the evening. We’re here for the Hokey Pokey Ice-cream Sandwich; chocolate-coated honeycomb pieces embedded in vanilla ice cream sandwiched between biscuit layers. The “soil” and quenelle appeared to be much the same as the ice-cream sandwich itself but in a deconstructed form.

We were also introduced to a number of other desserts available on the Quarter Twenty One menu, including a Mango and Passionfruit Bombe, Macadamia, Yoghurt Sorbet and a Warm 68% Alto Beni Zokoko Chocolate Pudding, Cherries & Coconut Ice Cream, both of which are pretty nice desserts. Unfortunately, these desserts won’t be available at the Taste of Sydney festival.

Montage of cocktails being made at Longrain Restaurant & Bar

The final destination of progressive degustation was Longrain Restaurant & Bar, where we joined back up with the other group to discuss our respective dining experiences over some expertly-crafted cocktails. There were four cocktails on offer, all of which will be available at the festival – Acapulco Gold, Ginger Rogers, Ping Pong and Stickmata.

The Stickmata is a good cocktail for those that have an aversion to drinks with a strong taste of alcohol. With Eristoff sloe berry vodka and strawberries, raspberries and blueberries shaken with fresh lime, it’s a sweet and refreshing beverage that’s very easy to drink. It was a great way to bring our progressive degustation to a close.

To find out more info about the other cocktails or details regarding the other dishes on offer at the Taste of Sydney festival including the new Icon Dishes, check out the official Taste of Sydney menu (PDF). For more information about the Taste of Sydney Festival itself, check out their official website.

Also, make sure to read Jenius’ post to find out about the other group’s preview dishes and dining experiences.

Image mocked up to look like a ticket

With thanks to Stellar* Concepts and the guys at Taste of Sydney, there is one VIP double pass valid for one session Friday-Sunday (valued at $200) and five General Entry double passes valid for one session Thursday-Sunday (valued at $50 each) to give away.

All you need to do to enter the competition is to leave a short comment below stating one challenge you would hold if you were in charge of producing a show called “The Amazing Taste” – a fictional food-centric reality TV game show in the same vein as The Amazing Race.

The most interesting, creative or humorous idea will win the coveted VIP double pass, which give you and your guest access to the exclusive HSBC VIP Lounge, 3 complimentary drinks and 30 Crowns to spend at the festival. An additional five entries will be selected to win the General Entry passes.

Entries for the giveaway closes at midnight, Tuesday 6th March with the winners to be announced on blog the follow day. The competition is now closed.

Make sure to enter a valid email address as this will be the address that you will be contacted on regarding details of claiming your prize if you happen to be fortunate enough to win.

Good luck with your entries!

the heart of food dined at the courtesy of Stellar* Concepts

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