Not even sporadic torrents of rain on Friday night could deter the most eager food enthusiasts flocking to the heart of picturesque Centennial Parklands for a chance to dine, shop and learn from a selection of Sydney’s finest culinary innovators, as part of the annual Taste of Sydney premium food and drink festival.
A comfortably spaced array of restaurant stalls, marquees and pop-up kitchens greet guests in the middle of Brazilian fields, offering a range of wares from producers stalls and attractions, including masterclasses and talks on food and wine pairings. The jewel in the crown however, is a whole bunch of top Sydney restaurants competing against each other (all in good sportsmanship of course) in bid a to win over foodies with a selection of imaginative and ambitious taster dishes.
The Artisan Producers Market features over a hundred different producers stalls and one could spend most of their festival session trying to get through them all. Amongst those showcasing beverages sits Napoleone Cider Yarra Valley locals who press fruit grown in their family orchards since the 1950’s, resulting in light, dry and refreshing ciders. Hunter Distillery do a great job of enhancing their spirits with unique flavours, their Caramel Vodka pleasing with it’s toffee punch, whilst the Frozen Beer Co go with the slightly different and funky concept of serving chilled beers with a frozen slushy ‘head’. Guests can also sample from some excellent wineries such as Yering Station and Mount Langhi and Wirra Wirra.
Nestled amongst the providers Chocolate Chat run by Hungarian owners produce gorgeous dark chocolate made from Ecuadorian cocoa beans and crammed with delicious wine infusions, berries, nuts, chilli and ginger. The Canadian Way are all about the Salmon, serving up smoked and ceviche versions of the fish as well as a delicious salty and rich Salmon Caviar. Yours Truly Chocolates draw guests in with their Cocoa Spud a simple yet winning combination of coconut and cocoa, making a statement with their healthier confectionary alternatives. A diverse range of other products are up for grabs including kitchen equipment and other handy tools, teas, preserves, sauces, breads, cold meats and cheeses.
Attending the festival a day after opening posed the perfect opportunity to sample the top four ‘best in taste’ award winning dishes and they all came in over and above hype. Biota Dining took first place with their Smoked Taramasalata with pickled lettuce & charcoal cracker, a completely unexpected visual and culinary take on the classic salty pink greek dip. Heavenly creamy dollops of dip are taken to a new level when paired with an earthy charcoal cracker, bursts of roe and vinegary lettuce. Being a judge would’ve been a challenging and rewarding task, as coming in a close second Popolo’s Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi proved absolutely amazing, the pasta soft and pillowy, harmonising with crunchy mixed mushrooms, pine nuts, and a good hit of chilli. It’s definitely worth queuing up and finding that extra bit of stomach room for at the end of the night.
Biota Dining’s Smoked Taramasalata with pickled lettuce & charcoal cracker
Bloodwood’s Fermented Redbean Chicken and 4fourteen’s White Chocolate & Caramel Popsicle claimed a solid third place tie, the former challenging tastebuds with it’s pungent sweet yet savoury flavour and the latter almost an ice-cream version of a really good Caramel Slice. Kudos can’t just go to the award winners though, there are so many delectable dishes on offer such as Ananas Brasserie’s divine Salted Caramel Eclair, Sake Restaurant’s Wagyu Beed Gyoza in a moreish Butter Ponzu sauce and The Cut Bar & Grill’s kick ass Texas Style Smoked Pork Belly, mouthwateringly tender pork swimming in a tasty BBQ sauce and crispy slaw.
Sake’s Wagyu Beed Gyoza with Butter Ponzu sauce and Chilli
Electrolux, Lurpak and King Street Wharf provide the perfect distraction for recouping between mouthfuls to witness and participate in live cooking demonstrations. Sidling in on King Street Wharf’s Negroni Cocktail Making Masterclass courtesy of The Loft gets guests face to face with Keystone’s Head Mixologist Jason Williams and My Kitchen Rules past contestant Anna Lisle. William’s who has a host of awards and accolades under his belt, skilfully mixes up batches of the 1950’s classic, adding a signature twist in the form of an exclusive spiced gin created by Four Pillars Gin.
It’s the unique touches here and there at the festival that elevate the experience, one can’t simply walk past a massive bush flashing with strobe lights without curiously gazing around the corner and into the funky niche, sustainable mobile bar Trolley’d have put together. Tastefully littered with aircraft debris, haystacks and music spinning courtesy of Bondi Beach Radio and Inner West Reggae Disco Machine, it’s a fun and relaxing place to hang and digest over one of their Riberry, chamomile and Rhubarb Vodka cocktails. The Timeout Kitchen and Hop-up Bar also holds it’s own limelight, a brightly lit and elegant pop-up that’s hard not to be drawn to and there are funky faux grass covered stands on which to rest one’s culinary prizes around the site. It’s not hard to see why the Taste of festivals are a global phenomenon and continue to strive to inject passion, colour and education around what the population consumes.
Taste of Sydney runs until this Sunday 15th March and is split into day and night sessions. Tickets, info, and a full menu listing can be found at the official Taste of Sydney website: http://www.tasteofsydney.com.au/