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The Surreal Gourmets – Sydney Food Bloggers Christmas Picnic 2009

puppy luv!

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario.

It’s a wonderfully moderate Summer’s day with a nice, cool breeze. You make you way out to a park, perhaps to walk the dog. Before you, a large gathering of people (you estimate around fifty) are having what looks to be a picnic. Rugs laid out on the grass, as well as a generous spread various foods, both savory and sweet, which remains otherwise untouched. People sitting or standing around in small clusters socialising & seemingly enjoying each others company. The person whom you presume to be the host, gathers everyone’s attention in order to say a few words. A moment later, forty odd digital cameras, ranging from a basic camera phone, point & shoot compact cameras, through to pro level camera equipment worth thousands of dollars, suddenly appears from seemingly no where & proceeds to fire away. The focus of their photo frenzy is not aimed at the group as a whole. Not even an individual. The food is the epicenter of their attention, & continues to be that way for the next ten minutes or so.

I’d imagine it would be quite a surreal sight to bear for the person walking their dog in the park. Believe me, as one of the fifty odd attendees of the Sydney food blogger’s Christmas picnic in Hyde park, it was surreal even for me.

It takes a little something special to organise a food blogger gathering of fifty people. However, we are talking about Helen (Grab Your Fork) and Suze (chocolatesuze) after all. I doubt that anyone else from the Sydney food blogging community would have been able to pull those sorts of numbers.

chili chicken wings

When you have a gathering of food bloggers, invariably food will be involved.

Almost seems redundant to have to say it.

Anyhow, this poorly conceived segue brings us to my contributions to this picnic of all picnics. We were asked to bring an item of food along with us to the picnic. I chose to bring two. The first one is what I refer to as Korean fried chicken wings with a sweet & spicy chili sauce. I was expecting for this to disappear in moments. However, it seemed a general rule that day that if the food was likely to leave your hand sticky or otherwise soiled, it wasn’t as popular.

Either that or Billy’s savoury item of Korean roasted pork ssam set such a high bar that when other savouries were contemplated, it was like “Meh, not as good as Billy’s. I can do without”. I wouldn’t know, cause I totally missed out! :(

mini cheese burgers

Anyhow, my second contribution were these mini cheese burgers. Initially, I’d not even intended to bring these along but I figured that there were some people who aren’t the best of friends with chili and may appreciate these as an alternative. These were more popular as only a single burger was left, which surprised me to no end.

For those of you who’d like to know how this was made, I’ll give a basic prep guide below. For those that don’t, please move on to the next image.

The mini cheese burgers are pretty straight forward. The prep guide is as follows:

  • The burger patties starts off as 40% veal mince, 40% pork mince & 20% chunky paste of caramelised red onions (made the same way you would start making French onion soup, including brandy & seasoning). All ingredients should be at room temp.
  • Incorporate together with a single egg and enough bread crumbs to bring together. Season to taste.
  • Shape/fry burger patties as you see fit. In this case, it was done over a charcoal bbq to add a little extra smokiness.
  • Once cooked on both sides, place a slice of cheese on top (Red Leicester in my case) and either place under the grill or, do as I did & use a blow torch to melt the cheese.
  • Assemble mini burgers with a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom (Baxter’s tomato chutney in my case), burger patty, slice of dill pickle & finally more sauce.

One final note on the mini burgers, after making these, I’ve developed an appreciation for a pickle’s role within a burger. Not only does the flavour work well with the tomato chutney but the acidity of the pickle cuts through the fat of the burger patty and cheese.

buffet shot

Naturally, there was a little more food than just what I had to bring. Ok, a lot more food :)

Some of the ones worth noting for me were…

Suze's platter

Suze (chocolatesuze) had contributed what I’d like to refer to as a platter of childhood memories. From top to bottom, fairy bread, honey joys & chocolate crackles.

Helen's Elvis cupcakes

Helen’s (Grab Your Fork) OMFG! Elvis cupcakes. Having had the pleasure to sample previous cupcakes of bacon & maple syrup & coca cola, there was much anticipation on how these would be. She didn’t disappoint. These cupcakes, containing bacon bits, a strawberry jam core, with salted peanut butter icing topped with more bacon, were her best yet.

Very few dishes were completely gone by the end of the picnic. Billy’s roast pork was one of them. Helen’s cupcakes, I believe, were the only other one.

Billy's jelly

Having missed out on Billy’s (A Table for Two) roast pork ssam, I at least had the pleasure of sampling his champagne jelly with longan fruit and flecks of gold foil. This was quite a nice dessert, though quite hard to eat under picnic conditions. Would love to try this again in more formal surrounds.

Rose cake

Had a slice of this cake which I believe was Rose’s (hmm… just click on the link, you’ll find out). This was a really nice cake. Would love to find out where it was purchased from.

Steph cookies

Steph (raspberri cupcakes) brought these cute little festive biscuits with a candy cane fudge filling. If you’ve had any of Steph’s pastries, it’s pretty much same-same. In other words, fantastic! :)

Now, for a small collection of food I would have like to have tried but otherwise didn’t (damn you, socialising!)

Ellie's duck wanton

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) brought along these duck in wanton cups. Being Ellie’s food, I bet these were delicious!

Way it crumbles rolls

Rice noodle rolls from Chris and Tim (The Way it Crumbles). Would love to know where these were purchased as well :)

Ya yas cupcakes

Gummi Baby, Lobo, Moya & Shanks (YaYa’s Yum Yums) contributed these lovely looking cupcakes, which were finished on site. Not the only group to bring cupcakes but I believe the only attendees to not go by their real names. Unless those are real names, which in that case, cool :)

Actually, there are a lot more than these that I missed out on, some of which I have photos for. For a larger set of food photos, check out the heart of food Facebook fan page. I’ll post the photos a little while after this post goes up so come back later if you don’t see them there. Otherwise, keep an eye out on my Twitter timeline, as a lame auto message pops up there when photos are uploaded to the fan page.

present pile

Food wasn’t the only thing on the agenda for this gathering of gastronomes (oddly enough). We were also requested to bring a gift of around $10 to contribute to a Kris Kringle game. Never understood the concept of Kris Kringle. Having seen it in action, though I get the appeal, it still seems somewhat alien to someone who generally puts as much effort as they can into finding a present the receiving party would appreciate, or not give at all. While some people had such bad luck with their present selection that it may have been better to have done without, others the sting of disappointment as the present they were sufficiently happy with was taken from them and replaced by one that was sub-par comparatively speaking, overall people seemed to enjoy themselves.

Richard's egg nog

With the passing of Kris Kringle, people made their move and headed off into the sunset. A remaining few that stayed behind to clean up enjoyed a cup of Richard’s (Here Comes the Food) egg nog.

Cheers to a successful, and not to mention fun, food blogger gathering. Hope the Nuffnang Christmas party coming up this Thursday or the Australian food blogger’s conference planned for early next year will be just as big and just a fun! Otherwise, there’s always next year’s Christmas picnic :)

Kris kringle

One final note. To the person who came up with this idea for the Kris Kringle that I received, you rock! Really appreciate this sort of humour. The chocolates are pretty good too :)

Edit: Ever experience a moment of irony (not the Alanis Morrisette kind; only thing ironic about that song was that it contained no irony) whereby you, say for example, take a group photo of fifty food bloggers at a Christmas picnic, process the images, have them distributed to all the attendees and then forget to include it into your own blog post?

group photo

Thanks to my editor-in-chief and online media advisor for picking up this rather stark omission :)

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • shez December 16, 2009, 11:47 am

    Loveit! GrabyourforkOMFG! :)

  • Rose December 16, 2009, 1:54 pm

    I would have loved to chat to you more too! There were soooo many people it was a bit impossible though. Thank you so much for sharing the burger recipe, I wanted to replicate it at home cos I’m currently dreaming about my next pickle fix. The chocolate tart is from Victoire in Balmain (right next to Bertoni Casalinga). They’re a French bakery – everything that I’ve tried there is good albeit a bit expensive.

  • Ellie December 16, 2009, 2:13 pm

    Oh… didn’t realised you didn’t get to try the duck. Next time! I didn’t get to try your KFC as well. I have tasted them at your lunch and there were so good but you are right, didn’t want to get fingers sticky when there is no place to wash our hands. It’s nice to meet you again!

  • Steph December 16, 2009, 2:31 pm

    Ooh your mini burgers sound delish, I’m sad I didn’t get to try them. Don’t worry, the KFC found a good home *pats stomach* Thanks for mentioning my biscuits, hahaha i was like :O when I first read the ‘same-same’ bit but then I read the next sentence hehe!

  • Simon Food Favourites December 16, 2009, 5:28 pm

    i usually get a photo of you in action at these events but i think i was so overwhelmed with the food that I didn’t get the chance :-) great coverage. love the YaYa’s Yum Yums cupcake photo. these have inspired me to try and cook some cupcakes for my birthday next year :-)

  • Moya December 16, 2009, 9:02 pm

    Haha, great post, loved how you wrapped it all up beautifully. Yes, Moya is my real name, it’s an Irish derivation of Mary, don’t know why this ABC was stuck with it though!

  • Helen (Grab Your Fork) December 16, 2009, 9:42 pm

    Ahh I think you underestimate Sydney food bloggers – offer food and good company, and they will come :) I can’t believe I missed out on Steph’s Christmas tree cookies, and lol, glad you scored a cupcake before they all got eaten! omfg? lol.

  • Trissa December 16, 2009, 9:44 pm

    Great shots! I didn’t try Billy’s dessert but had two servings of the pork (how many times have I said I loved that dish!)… love the picture of the doggie!

  • chocolatesuze December 16, 2009, 10:10 pm

    bwahaha im such a stalker lol thanks for taking the group pic for us! and i want to try your cheeseburgers dammit!

  • billy@ATFT December 16, 2009, 10:42 pm

    yeah my jelly was melted in the heat, so sad. Wasted all the gold leaf! Next time I definitely will make them individual portion. Your cheese burger looks good actually, sad didnt get to try it. Your wings were good man…. karen was smart to doggie bag all of them! LOL

  • FFichiban December 17, 2009, 12:48 am

    Waahhh I missed out on sooo much food :( Must eat moorre RARRRR!

  • Jenny December 17, 2009, 4:56 am

    What a wonderful spread – we really should do something like that here in Seattle, too!

  • Anita December 17, 2009, 8:32 am

    Great write up – so sad I missed it!!! I went to a friend’s BBQ – not nearly as much food – and no photographing…. oh well. Next year???

  • Iron Chef Shellie December 17, 2009, 12:20 pm

    what an epic picnic indeed :P
    fantastic photos and what a great KK present!!

  • penny aka jeroxie December 17, 2009, 4:12 pm

    So much food and looks like so much fun again.

  • joey@FoodiePop December 19, 2009, 7:51 am

    I imagine it’d be rather easy to be so overwhelmed by the sight of the amazing food and trying to take photos and trying to talk to other bloggers and trying to eat and trying to exchange presents and …. you get the picture. :-)

    What a fab gathering.

  • Forager December 21, 2009, 3:27 pm

    I only managed to try a fraction of all the food on offer. Just too much food! I missed out on your cheeseburgers too! Oh well – there’ll be a next time!

  • Trisha December 22, 2009, 1:13 am

    I didn’t realise how much food (and cameras… and foodbloggers…) there were until I started reading all the blog posts!! WELL DONE ALL OF YOU woohoo Sydney foodbloggers just keep growing bigger and bigger!!!!!!!

  • yas @ hungry.digital.elf. December 27, 2009, 12:44 am

    So much food so little time is all I can say!

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