Every year, the Melbourne racing season induces a celebratory mood across the city, and Melbourne’s food scene jumps right on board. With food festivals and restaurant launches abound, it seems the city’s foodies run rampant in a feeding frenzy unmatched by any other city on the planet. There is so much going on food-wise across our urban jungle this November – The Night Noodle Markets, the launch of the Gault Millau restaurant guide, Jump The Queue where you can actually RESERVE A TABLE AT MAMASITA (whoa) and of course, the Taste Of Melbourne festival.[singlepic id=6 w= h= float=center]
I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first-ever Taste – would there be food bloggers falling all over each other to get to the Burch&Purchese desserts? Was it an excuse for everyone to get drunk on Paul Louis sparkling wine? Would there be lines for days?
I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. Some of Melbourne’s best restaurants each presented around four of their signature dishes, a host of wonderful metropolitan and regional food and drink producers from across Victoria exhibited, Masterchef’s hilarious Alice Zaslavsky hosted some delicious demonstrations at Taste Kitchen and the crowd for the most part was calm and sophisticated. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain – including about 10 kilos of stomach fat.
Taste’s gala opening night saw the festival’s best dishes awarded for their efforts. Uncle’s pig’s ear banh mi received third runner up, B/Stilla’s BBQ octopus was second and the overall winner was Pope Joan for their smoked yoghurt ice cream with raspberries and pistachios. I was fortunate enough to try two of the three winning dishes, along with two other dishes making a splash at the festival.
First up: the pig’s ear banh mi from Uncle, and my, was it worth the hype – brioche with black sesame seeds, a hint of mayo, shards of salty crispy pigs ear like intense pork crackling, pickled cucumber and coriander. This dish was all about texture; the softness of the brioche combined with the crisp crunch of the pig’s ear. Delicious.[singlepic id=11 w= h= float=center]
Also at Uncle, I tried the beef brisket with pomelo and fragrant herbs. There was a nice sweet fresh tang from the pomelo, which went very nicely with the tender brisket. I wasn’t as enamoured of this as the former dish, but that’s probably because the banh mi was phenomenal.
I moseyed on over to Pope Joan for Matt Wilkinson’s smoked yoghurt ice cream with raspberry sauce, dehydrated raspberries and pistachios. This sundae was just amazing – food innovation at its finest. The whole experience was like smoking berry-flavoured tobacco through a shisha pipe – the bacon-like smokiness of the soft serve was surprising and delicious accompanied by the tangy raspberry components and the nutty crunch of pistachio crumble.
My fourth and favourite dish tried at Taste was Gazi’s soft-shell crab souva – it really is the stuff of dreams. The crab’s delightful soft creamy flesh encased in a crispy light batter, creamy mayo, a drizzle of honey, mint and Calombaris’s unbelievable souvlaki bread. Not that Calombaris’s horn needs any more tooting, but this was the standout for me.
Overall, Taste was a success. Personally, I found the crowd and the sheer number of restaurants in the one place a bit overwhelming, but don’t let that deter you from next year’s event – the food was great, the atmosphere was buzzy, but best of all, it was an opportunity for some of Melbourne’s best culinary talent to showcase their food. And in a city saturated with food choice, that kind of opportunity for a food outlet is second to none.