Event: Taste of Melbourne 2008

Well, sort of.

If I had the money, I would but alas, I’m just a mere mortal so I have to contend with eating at those places every once in a while when funds are available. I did eat dishes produced by the chefs of the above restaurants, though, so technically I’m not lying. How on earth did I do it? Well, let me introduce TASTE OF MELBOURNE. It was held this weekend at the Royal Exhibition Building and follows the successful model they have in London – stalls set up by Melbourne’s acclaimed restaurants, fresh produce, tasting booths and demonstrations. For $25, you get entry to the event and you can buy a book of “crowns” that you can exchange for sample-sized dishes there ($1 = 1 crown. Dishes range from 8-14 crowns). I booked my tickets online prior to the event to avoid queues and got for $50, entry to the event plus a book of 30 crowns thus saving me $5 or so.

How refreshing is it to come to this building and not have to sit an exam?! (If you’re confused by this statement, I’m referring to the fact that Melbourne Uni students sat their exams in this building while I was a student there. And chances are, they probably still do)
The girls were getting all excited about the pretty things on display such as the cupcakes at the cupcake stall and kitschy odd bods such as this glass table filled with citrus fruits.
Meanwhile, all their partners were running off to the many beer stalls they had in the building. Typical .
Yarra Valley salmon roe on wholemeal bread pieces for people to sample (shushhhh… I kept sneaking up and taking more than I should…). Yarra Valley make the best salmon roe in the country, in my humble opinion. I think it’s got to do with the way they milk-feed the salmon when they’re young before releasing them into the wild not long after or something like that. Anyway, do give them a try when you have the chance to – they are AWESOME.
Dishes from Longrain, there for the taking. Okay, you did have to surrender 10 or so crowns for them but hell, they were just sitting out on the bench so anybody could have easily walked up, grabbed one or two and ran off as no one was supervising them like they were at other stalls (the Longrain crew were too busy mixing cocktails and doof-doofing to their music because they’re sooo young and sooo hip, YEAH! )
Plates of ocean trout from Jacques Reymond. I would have given this a try except that I didn’t really feel like fish.

We bumped into Guy Grossi of Grossi Florentino fame who was awesomely down-to-earth and even though he was a very busy man, he chatted to us for a bit before inviting us to his cooking demo which he was rushing off to. Naturally, I couldn’t decline a personal invite from the man himself!

Armed with a bunch of lame-o jokes, uber-elite kitchen equipment and some helpful hints for making pasta, he worked his way to a simple pasta dish using broccoli leaves and pork belly.

I’m holding a plastic cup of James Squire ale like an idiot and my eyes look more Squinty McSquinty than usual but the whole time, Guy kept asking us if he looked alright and if his hair was in place etc etc. Oh, you’re so vain!

George Calombaris from The Press Club! He’s got an awesome book out (‘The Press Club’) and is probably my fave chef on Ready Steady Cook (okay fine, only because he’s from Melbourne, heh). Like Guy, he was awesome to chat to… even though he kept insisting that Libby is a Greek name for some reason (?). When I told him that I wasn’t Greek, he shrugged and said that there must’ve been some Greek in me. I wasn’t sure if that was meant to be dirty but let’s hope not! Oh, and while George was signing my book as well as chatting away to other people, some guy yelled out, “Hey George, can you do this to Peter Everett next time you see him!” while making hitting motions. Haha yes, I second that too.

Okay, now to the most important part: THE FOOD! Now, Adam and I both had a book of 30 crowns each which we were planning to use very wisely. I had bought a dish and a drink 30 minutes into the session when I realised that my book of crowns went missing! Frantic attempts at retracting our steps and searching for the book proved fruitless, no doubt that some lucky fcker found my book with 18 crowns still in it and went straight to the Nobu stand. Anyway, so I’m standing there in the middle of the building chucking a fit, obviously in a shtty mood and not realising that Adam had ran off. Moments later, he came back with a new book of 30 crowns which he bought for me in order to make me feel better. I felt bad that he had to spend money to do that but aw, what a darl! As for the fckwit who took my book of crowns, I hope you get food poisoning!

Anyway, back to the food!

We first stopped by at the Interlude stand, a restaurant that Adam and I went to earlier this year. While the lunch we had wasn’t the best, I was impressed at the lengths that chef Robin Wickens went to in order to make his food interesting using the most unusual combination of ingredients. In fact, the lunch might not have been fantastic but nevertheless, my visit left a lasting impression on me… and made me want to his their dinner degustation later down the track. The first thing on the Interlude sign simply read “Bacon and Eggs.” Initially, I scoffed and asked myself why on earth they’d serve bacon and eggs when we could easily get them at Maccas or the local cafe?! But aha! They weren’t your usual bacon and eggs! Nosiree!

Dish #1 “Bacon and Eggs” from Interlude. Okay, the name of the dish may have been misleading as there is obviously only one egg but let’s not get technical about it okay? The large puffy egg was slowly cooked in a bacon consumme, with little bits of crunchy rice and tomatoes floating around. It was a very interesting – and yummy – dish, the only thing missing was a piece of toast to slurp up the runny egg yolk!

Dish #2 Hellenic Republic lamb souvlaki from Press Club. Ladies and gents, presenting the most awesomest souvlaki in the whole wide world! I swear, it was AMAZING! A steal at only 10 crowns, you got a chiko roll-sized meal of puffy bread (I dunno what it’s called but it wasn’t pita nor Turkish bread), with bits of marinated lamb and the usual trimmings – onion, garlic sauce, tomatoes etc and yes, you are seeing fries! I don’t know what made this taste so damn good – I don’t think it’s the potatoes – but I’m willing to find out. Yes, it may have been small and for $10, you can get a huge monster of a souvlaki at Lambs or any other souvlaki joint, but they would never be as good as this. There is no prizes in guessing which prized restaurant I’m going to book for my next “up-market” restaurant adventure…

Dish #3 Porcini and sage Risotto from Grossi Florentino. I usually shy away from risotto when it comes to eating out, mainly because it’s something that anyone can make at home and also because it’s pretty boring to eat when you’re out. This risotto, however, was anything BUT boring… which is not surprising seeing as it’s apparently a signature dish at Grossi Florentino. Yes, it does taste better than it looks. Although I’ve been to the Cellar Bar, I’m yet to visit THE Grossi Florentino but one day…

Dish #4 Wagyu Burger from The Botanical. This was Adam’s favourite from the festival. It may have been small but it was mightly impressive. A thick chunk of wagyu sat atop a sourdough bun filled with the most basic trimming – a few shreds of lettuce, some onion and relish. What really made it stand out from other burgers though was the dab of wasabi paste on top of the wagyu. I had no idea that there was wasabi in it and because I’m not a fan of it, I naturally cried my eyes out when that nail varnish taste hit my tongue. Adam, on the other hand, relished it.

Dish #5 Glass noodle salad from Longrain. Another restaurant on my to-go list. I had initially planned on booking my birthday dinner there but apparently they don’t take bookings and I didn’t want to risk missing out on a table when I rocked up there with my entourage. Longrain is yet another restaurant that serves Asian-influenced food cooked by a white guy. Like Gingerboy, they also do it well but I think there is less of a “Western” influence from what I ate. The salad consisted of cold bean thread noodles tossed with chilli jam, peanuts and mint which gave it a very Thai-slash-Vietnamese flavour. Two hefty Crystal Bay prawns played sidekick to the salad as did the lime wedge provided. While it was light and yummy, Ads and I both agreed that this dish could easily be made at home if we tried.

Dish #6 Saddle of Highland venison tataki on soft parmesan polenta from Jacques Reymond. Yep, deer meat. For those curious, it tastes a lot like beef but unlike beef, it doesn’t have as much fat which gives beef that flavour. Those beans might look a bit off-putting but this dish actually tasted alright. The creamy polenta… the soft seared venison … the sweet tamarind and soy dressing… all topped with a crispy parmesan slice. Mmmmmm!

Dish #7 Swimmer Crab Chowder from Stokehouse. Last dish folks! I wanted something hearty to top it all off before leaving the building. I guess we could’ve gone for dessert as our last dish but none of us aren’t really dessert people so we went for another savoury. Stokehouse was our final destination and crab chowder won over the wagyu meat pie from Circa @ The Prince because we already had a wagyu dish and because Adam’s already been to Circa. As Randy Jackson would say, this dish was aiiiiight, y’know? Just aiiiight. A rich stew of crab was topped with breadcumbs, chives and “Spanish pepper” creme fraiche. I don’t know what made the creme fraiche peppery, or even what made the pepper “Spanish” because it taste like any other creme fraiche. It had the potential to be a great dish and I am by no means bagging it – it tasted just fine – but perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt if it was a little more tasty.

So there you have it: Taste of Melbourne 2008! As Guy Grossi said to us earlier, “I’m glad that Melbourne got the event before Sydney did because we are MORE CULTURED THAN THEM” and even though some Sydneysiders might want to disagree with Guy, I’m just glad that we were able to experience this festival as it definitely beats many of the shows/festivals I’ve been to. They’ll most likely do it again next year but for those of you reading this on Sunday morning and looking for things to do, go check it out (last day!). And save me a cupcake too – when I went back there after having the chowder, they were all gone. Sniff.

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14 Comments

  1. You know what Lib? You and my younger brother should write a book on Melbourne Eateries or something (as if the publications by the Herald Sun and Age aren’t enough).

    That little fuckwit has already done Gross Fiorentino, Shiranui, Shoya, Kenzan, Rockpool, some place called Gas or some shit like that and Pellegrini’s.

    And the bastard is only in 2nd year Uni. Little bastard. When I was at Uni dining out meant KFC, Maccas, HUngry Jacks or one of them Honkie Cafes or maybe something like Groove Train at them most or them cafes down in Glen Waverley.

  2. @icesabre – Haha in 2nd year uni, I too was eating KFC, Maccas etc. As much as I would’ve loved to dine out at all those awesome places back then, sadly I couldn’t. How on earth does your brother do it?!

  3. Hey lovey! Long time no speaky eh? I’ve been reading your posts religiously (stalker-ly) but just haven’t had the energy to reply – though god knows why since I sleep 12 hours a day, every day. Either way I know you’ve still been cooking those awesome foods that made me want to lick my screen or kidnap you and force you to cook for me, is there anything else I’ve missed out on?

    I saw an ad for the above event in a magazine I bought a few days ago (marie claire, for the free mascara – ha!) but didn’t read into it, seems like it would’ve been a fun shebang to go to! That souvlaki looks sooo good (even though the boyfriend says I should only eat kebabs and not souvlaki’s now cos souvlaki’s are for Greeks whereas Turks like him eat kebabs – whatever!) I think he would’ve enjoyed going though, him being a chef and all and insisting on talking chef talk to me when I don’t really understand what the hell half the ingredients/cooking methods he’s talking about are.

    And I see your Ferragamo bag hun! Lookin’ goooooooooooood

    Also ages ages ages ago I asked you where a good ramen place was and you recommended Aisijen Ramen? Or however you spell it. Anyway I went with a few mates and loved it! Now I’ve got my friend hooked on Japanese food, on top of the fact that every week when we go out he stocks up on Asian snacks and raves on about how awesome they are – him being of Samoan/Irish descent.

    Hope you’ve been well!

  4. After a few-month-long hiatus, I’m back to see that you are still posting nice food pics on your blogs. =)

    The ocean trout would be better if it were raw.

    Lmao, Libby, ‘vampire’ is not a genre. =D Yeah you would have noticed them if you are a frequent visitor of bookstores. I grabbed a copy from dymocks today, and the first book in the series is #1 in the top 10 topsellers of the store.

    LOL. I guess you could read entire books from bookstores for free, but sadly I don’t have that much time on my hands. I’d rather read it in my own time such as travelling or in the comfort of my home. ;D

  5. @s_l_v – Hahaha, when I was dating a Turk I also got a lecture about why kebabs are better than souvlakis rarararara etc etc… and I guess I would have to agree because kebabs are more filling (perhaps it’s the bread?) but that souvlaki I had was better than ANY kebab! Glad to hear that you enjoyed AR… I really want to try Momotaro Ramen in Richmond, apparently theirs is a lot better and their servings are huge. Next time!

    @aznality – Haha yeah but given that there are heaps of vampire-themed books out there courtesy of Anne Rice, Laurell K Hamilton et al, they could practically be a genre. Anyway, let me know how the book goes and if it’s THAT good, I might give them a try šŸ™‚

  6. @SNSAZN – Haha, OK Lib… here’s the f***ed up part. I was a poor bastard at Uni, barely enough for stinking food, Public Transport tickets and books and stuff, and maybe the Ball ticket. Didn’t eat nothing but junk from Maccas or KFC or stuff from Home or the stuff in the Campus Dining Areas/shops… and I figured I want my little bro to enjoy Uni life and even his eatings out so he gets that little bit extra in funds. He’s next targets is Vue De Monde and Supper Club – except apparently Suppor Club is more of a bar than a Restaurant.

  7. @icesabre – The Supper Club is an awesome place for a drink and because it’s open until really late, heaps of people go there after clubbing or what have you. It’s classy and the wine list is rather impressive. Not sure about the food though as most people generally go there to drink but I’m sure they do food decently as I’ve seen people order plates of yummy-looking stuff with their wines!

  8. yummaaaay food! šŸ˜€ Heey Adam’s parents are the owners of the dry cleaning shop in Strand arcade!!! i recognize them! hahaha (been reading your old posts as well)
    Greaaat blog! with lotsa foodie temptations *rubs belly*

  9. @JeLLiE_BeAniE – Hey there, I was going to msg you privately but I was not able to because I need to be a “xanga friend” in order to access your xanga or to send you a message šŸ™

    But yeah, small world huh. You know Adam’s parents?! The trippiest thing is that I’m there a lot (just sitting in the changerooms reading newspapers or eating, or on the laptop on the net) so we may have seen each other a few times. Heh.

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