Immigration Museum (Victoria)
400 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9927 2700
Prior to flying out to Cairns last week, I attended a special evening at the Immigration Museum. As a lot of you Melbourne foodies would know, the Melbourne Food and Wine festival started this weekend and runs for two weeks, giving food-crazed Melburnians a chance to wine and dine their way through many events around Victoria. Now in its twentieth year, the festival doesn’t seem to get any smaller. With hundreds of events on offer, there is sure to be something for everyone.
In addition to a couple of express lunches at a few restaurants that I’ve been dying to go to, I’ve got my eye on some ‘must go to’ events such as the ones the Immigration Museum are throwing this year. Why? Because they involve sweets! Starting in March, the museum will be doing a wonderful program called ‘Sweets: Tastes and traditions from many cultures.’ This program will include a daily sweets exhibition starting from March 15th where patrons can explore the significance of sweets in various cultures, a special sweets festival on March 18th only and on the evening of March 15th only, a special five course degustation dinner designed by Guy Grossi ($180 p/h), incorporating sweet elements from Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mauritian and Turkish cooking.
Now, avid readers of my blog might be thinking, ‘Hmm but I thought this bitch doesn’t have a sweet tooth? What’s going on?’ Well, you’d normally be right. HOWEVER, the reason why I’m interested in these events and the reason why I went to their preview evening last week was because I am a bit of a history and culture buff – a nerd, if you wish. Thus, I welcomed the museum’s idea of exploring several migrant communities around Melbourne, and showing the rest of us what these communities bring to Melbourne’s vibrant community through sweets. Apart from AFL, there’s not many things that can bring different communities together than food. Sweet foods. Learning about culture and through sweets? Hell, yeah! The thought of an ultra-rich chocolate mousse and many bars of Violet Crumble might make me sick but sticky squares of home-made baklava and a lemon tiramisu that’s not too heavy on the stomach? Bring it on, baby!
I started off with the Italian sweets, mini canoli and pistachio biscotti. Not surprisingly, they tasted as amazing as they looked. Not pictured was a bowl of lemon tiramisu, which Ashley and I both liked. The lady who made the tiramisu explained that in her home town of Naples, citrus fruits grow in abundance and the temperature is warmer than the Northern part of Italy, hence why this lemon tiramisu was very light and airy, not heavy like a traditional tiramisu. I liked this version better, anyway.
The cutest desserts on display: nerkiri, cakes made with a sticky mochi-like paste filled with sweet white bean paste. They require a lot of time and effort to make, and the result is seriously too cute to eat. Wahhh!
More Japanese sweets! This time, daifuku (red bean) mochi.
Matcha (green tea) versions, which I liked, as I’m partial to green tea. Heh.
Baklava is also a favourite sweet of mine. I can never be sure which country can rightfully claim the rich, sticky and nutty filo pastry snack as its own (my desk buddy, Helen, insists that the baklava, along with Alexander the Great, was Greek while any Lebanese you may bump into on Sydney Rd will say that it’s Lebanese). For the purpose of this post and for the sweets exhibition, however, let’s say that the baklava is a Turkish sweet, mmmkay? The baklava I sampled on the night was delightfully buttery, with the layers of filo pastry slowly melting in my mouth with every passing second. Loved it. Meanwhile, the tel kadayif (shredded dough pastry) also did not fail to impress while the hanim gobegi (in the background) reminded me of almond cookies, only denser. Delicious.
Despite having Mauritian friends and having a sister who is dating a guy who was born there, I must admit that I don’t know a lot about Mauritian cuisine. So when I saw the Mauritian sweets, in their bright and colourful glory, I was excited to learn more. And by learning, I mean tasting. Of course. The pink and green coconut cakes in the pic above were soft and squishy, and covered in dessicated coconuts, in contrast to the white puit d’amour, which were filled with a seductively creamy filling.
Mauritian banana tarts. Unfortunately, at this stage, I had exceeded my monthly quota of sweets and visibly struggling, much to the laughter of a few of my fellow food-bloggers, so I didn’t have any of the tarts. Nor did I get to try any of the lovely Indian sweets such as the gulab jamun which were, unfortunately, brought to the table much later on. A shame, because they all looked awfully good. The banana tarts, in particular, were something that I’d enjoy with my morning tea at work. Given that bananas are cheap at the moment, perhaps I should try and make my own. Hmm?
What to drink with the sweets? Why, sweet drinks of course! The glasses of shochu (Japanese plum wine) were extremely popular with my fellow food-bloggers.
And for wines? Moscato, of course!
My favourite, however, was the classic piña colada which was rich in coconut (my favourite thing to eat at the moment), with a generous splash of refreshing pineapple added. Loved it.
As part of the evening, we also got to see some of the artifacts that will feature in the sweets exhibition.
Want to know what these cute little things are? Well, you just have to attend the sweets exhibition to find out!
To celebrate the launch of ‘Sweets: Tastes and traditions from many cultures,’ the Immigration Museum would like to give one lucky reader a chance to win a double pass to the museum. Although this pass can be used at any time, I strongly urge the winner to use it to attend the Sweets festival on Sunday March 18th so you can sample the sweets in this blog. And not only that, the winner also comes home with an exclusive Sweets book, featuring recipes that will be in the exhibition. All you need to do is complete the following steps:
1) Follow me on twitter (@libishski). I may not win awards in the number of tweets sent, but I will try my best to provide semi-decent-quality updates when I actually do use it.
2) As a segue to the next entry (this amazing gelati shop in Cairns), I want to know what flavour gelati you’d like to see on the market. Be as weird (or not) as you like. How does buttered popcorn sound? Maybe a splash of sangria-flavoured sorbet would ensure that your day is a perfect one? Please submit all responses by COMMENTING below BEFORE 5pm AEDST Friday March 9th 2012 – don’t forget to leave your e-mail address. I will choose the best one, and notify the winner by e-mail.
NB: For your entry to be valid, YOU MUST COMPLETE BOTH STEPS.
Good luck, folks!
Disclaimer: libishski attended as a guest of the Immigration Museum.