Taste of Sydney Festival

by Forager on March 15, 2009

Taste of Sydney hit Centennial Park for 4 days and foodies are out in force to sample fare from the best of Sydney’s top restaurants and food and wine producers. Yesterday, the co-pilot and I met up with L-bean and her husband, Spamtaro, to spend a lazy autumn Saturday wandering around the stalls and gorging ourselves with delicious food.

There were a few hiccups to the start of our feast though – the first barrier being the traffic. With a Navy parade in the city, the Sound Relief concert held in nearby Moore Park, race day at Randwick and track work on major train lines – it seemed like we had to drive to regional NSW to bypass some of the traffic! We arrived with frazzled nerves but at the sight of the stalls, L-bean and I were so excited we ran past the boys to the ticket collection lines. We needn’t have bothered though as we stood with other disgruntled people baking and burning under the hot sun waiting to collect our tickets, all the while muttering under our breath as we watched the ticket purchase lines churn through customers as our line stayed very much stationary. The co-pilot was outraged that we had to pay for the privilege to enter the festival, and then would have to pay for the food we’d like to eat – likening the situation to paying to enter a restaurant.

After a good half hour in the line and a healthy dose of sunburn and strange tan lines, we trudged inside, hungry and slightly cranky. At this stage my expectations for satisfaction had just been raised substantially. It was sweltering and the sun relentlessness. A few people near us had even collapsed from heat stroke. The food had better be good for us to have to endure this.

As I’d studied the menu and fellow bloggers’ accounts prior to going to the festival, I already knew which dishes I wanted to try. We made a beeline to Assiette, for their Loin and crumbed belly of lamb with basil mayonnaise and a tomato olive jus. Whilst the dish looked amazing and appetising, the small portion size was a little alarming – causing the co-pilot to stare in disbelief. I must admit – I’m part gourmet and part gourmand so it was clear that our combined 60 crowns was not going to go far. Nonetheless, we dully split the dish into 4 portions and each tried the dish. The lamb loin was rich and tender, the crumbed belly almost creamy and the accompanying sauce delicious. It arouses murmurs of approval from our group and I started to feel my initial crankiness dissipate.

The boys spot someone with a pie and they head over to Bird Cow Fish for their Braised beef cheek and roasted onion and jerusalem artichoke pie, red wine jus, before I read the description, we’re tucking into the pie so I am surprised when I read afterwards that there was artichoke in the pie – it was too subtle to detect. At this stage our appetites have merely been teased by the small morsels so we move on like a hunting pack of wolves to the next stall. We’re at Ottoman cuisine, and whilst all their dishes sounds tantalising, we settle on the Salmon Dolma – salmon, cray and prawn wrapped in vine leaves, lightly battered, served with savoury piquant sauce. It is crunchy yet chewy where the sauce has softened the batter, and the salmon is the standout flavour in this dish. The complementary turkish delight and rare roast beef nibbles were also delicious – their fruity turkish delight reminding us slightly of bubblegum in flavour.

Next on the hitlist is Civic Dining – and it’s moussaka of eggplant, sea scallop and taramasalata. Taramasalata is always a hit with me so this dish had to be tasted – especially after reading fellow blogger Lorraine’sCivic Dining for over a year now I still haven’t made it there to eat. *Shame* It is definitely on my hit list now. Still feeling peckish, the boys ask me what they should get if they need to be fed properly. I lead them to the Centennial Parklands Dining stall and promptly order them the roast Kurobuta pork neck with fennel and witlof salad. The dish is just what the boys (and us girls) needed – the pork is juicy, tender and perfectly pink. I find the pork itself perhaps a little on the salty side, but is fine in conjuction with the refreshing fennel and witlof salad. And importantly – it’s generous – the most generous in fact of all the dishes we’ve seen on offer. account of it. It certainly lived up to my expectations – flavourful, creamy, delicious! I’m ashamed to say that despite working only a block away from

The dulcet tones of an Italian tenor with Armando Percuoco as a backing singer lure us over to Buon Ricordo’s stall. He serenades us whilst we wait for our order of Fagottino di Carne – Homemade sausage bound with parmesan and truffle egg, finished with lemon extra virgin olive oil and the Braciolette Napoletana – veal rolled with parsley, pine-nuts, sultana and garlic cooked with fresh tomato. As our orders arrive, Armando’s singing is reaching a crescendo, his passion so infectious it leaves the crowd smiling. Incidentally, his dishes were both delicious! The sausage was rich, cheesy, and the truffle flavour permeating. The stuffed veal rolls were amazing, reminding me of Sicilian recipes – the veal tender, the flavours complex and intense. It was so delicious it prompted the co-pilot to engage Armando in a spirited discussion about the recipe, which Armando happily obliged.

Satisfied with our meals and with the initial morning crankiness now a distant memory, we bought ourselves a glass of wine and went off to wander leisurely through the many produce stalls, tasting and sampling their goods. We came across the gleaming butcher’s blocks at the Imperial Hospitality Retailers and proceeded to coo, fuss and stroke the blocks lovingly. We’ve wanted one for so long and all but placed a deposit on an antique white block. Alas, our current kitchen doesn’t permit the block – but one day…

We leave the festival satiated and happy having sampled delicious fare in the company of good friends. The highlights for us were Civic Dining’s eggplant moussaka and Buon Ricordo’s stuffed veal. On a stroke of good luck, when we got home the fat clouds hanging over Sydney opened up and spilled their contents. *phew* Glad we missed that. The Festival has now closed, but there’s always next year to look forward to. I’ll bring sunscreen next time.

Check out the website: Taste Festival

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Helen (AugustusGloop) March 15, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Wow, I can’t believe you had to wait over 30min to claim your tickets. I think I would’ve been cranky too! Sounds like the food made up for it in the end. We were tempted by the beef cheek pie too!

2 Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella March 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm

How fabulous you got a song too! I hear you the traffic was crazy on Saturday :S I was running late too!

3 Forager March 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Hey Helen – Lucky for the organisers that the food was delicious and made up for everything in the end. Whilst standing in the line waiting, our party of four were secretly fantasizing about Godzilla-like scenes if our food expectations weren’t met, but luckily it never came to that. Hehe – would’ve been funny though… ;P

Hey Lorraine – Your comment made me realise that I’d somehow deleted a whole paragraph I’d written about Civic Dining, Centennial Parklands and made a reference to you. So thanks! :)

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