The "Taste of..." festivals are a great way to get a view into the culinary minds of your city without having to sit down to multiple $150 dinners. It's also a wonderful day out for a group of foodies, not to mention a good chance to restock charcuterie, endless cheese and perhaps your liquor cabinet.
In Sydney this means that Centennial Park gets filled with marquees and jostling fashionistas who don't mind putting away a bit of cake and champagne. Really, what more could a girl like me ask for?
There are also plenty of shopping opportunities for the home cook and premium quality cookware, knives and even whitegoods are on display to taunt the budget conscious with their shineyness and endless possibilities.
Unsurprisingly for a group of lushes we spent an inordinate amount of time purchasing alcohol - the only warning to give punters is that the alcohol licence shuts about an hour before each session and so if you wish to purchase liquor you should do it early at any Taste event. Though I was too busy bustling to the deadline for this reason to get pictures I really must give a shout out to Square One Botanicals vodka - a must if you like Zubrowka and also to Pama Pomegranate liquor which is an absolute flavour slap to the taste buds.
Apart from a good excuse to drink heavily at midday though the real attraction here is the top class chefs on show. So here are some of the dishes we tried throughout the day:
Danks St Depot: Organic Chicken Liver parfait with sweet vinegar raisins, dressed baby herbs and sour dough $10
While I may have had this dish many times it's still an absolute favourite, kudos to Jarod for another good year.
Bird Cow Fish: Terrine of Berkshire pork with "Grain Organic Bakery" white sourdough and a remoulade dressed salad $12
This is such a wonderful dish in this kind of weather, cold and satisfying with a glass of sparkling.
Bird cow fish: Braised Cape Grim beef cheek and glazed onion pie in a sour cream and puff pastry case wsith red wine veal jus $12
This is another dish that appeared on last year's menu but while it's an absolute classic regardless I will say that the recipe seems to have improved from last year and the pastry was absolutely perfect.
Danks St Depot: Beef ribs smoked in Watermelon with a Watermelon and avocado salad $12
All the twitterati foodie types were following the creation of this recipe for a long time before the actual festival with interest and by god it worked. The watermelon added a whole new dimension to the smoking in place of a sugar solution that is highly recommended and worth trying if you have a home smoker.
Guillaume at Bennelong: Wagyu Beef Daube with Paris Mash $12
Trust Guillame to do such a good rendition of such a classic French dish, the pomme puree particularly here is excellent and the meat melts in your mouth. It seems sad to serve it in a disposable plate.
Restaurant Balzac: Crispy Wagyu Beef with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Foam $10
The equivalent wagyu cigar served at last years Taste festival had me in such paroxysms of delight that I insisted on being dragged to Balzac only to be disappointed. This dish then kind of backs up my feeling that Balzac deserves at best one hat and at worst to be shelved until it has modernised. The foam has melted in preparation not fit for the festival atmosphere and the presentation on the wagyu this time around makes it look like a slightly upmarket chiko roll. Unimpressed.
Lets face it though I have a terrible sweet tooth so onto the desserts...
Pat and Stick's Ice Cream Sandwich 2 for $10
I discovered these delights at an Open Air Cinema viewing and my god are they good. Real ingredients go into thick creamy ice cream; sharp coffee, rich chocolate, good quality vanilla and heady light peppermint each excellent in their turn and sandwiched between good quality country feel biscuits. Definitely a worthy adult ice cream treat on a hot day.
Approved by Lou:
Assiette: Fig and ricotta pizza with Honey Ice Cream $8
Not what we were expecting but an excellent use of seasonal produce, Lou wanted to go back for more.
Longrain: Tapioca pudding with poached jackfruit and lychees $8
It is imperative to enjoy this dish that you were not ruined on tapioca by a boarding school cafeteria. For a lactic intolerant such as myself this was pure heaven though. Tapioca boiled in coconut cream with beautiful fresh sharp Asian fruits and a spiced quinelle; the perfect texture and taste off sets creamy and tart acidic and sweet.
Guillaume at Bennelong: Pistachio Macarons $8
Another perfectly executed French classic, perhaps a little uninspired but morish nonetheless. I fear that due to MasterChef we will see a seemingly endless march of Macarons over the next year.
Jonah's at Whale Beach: Vanilla panna cotta with lavender honey and fresh pomegranate $12
Another reappearance on the menu but oh so forgiven because to this day I still salivate thinking of this dish. Soft sweet perfect panna cotta is offset with strong lavender honey and fresh pomegranate seeds.
As if the taste and texture wasn't just perfect the movement to it must be applauded. When Nigella Lawson said that panna cotta "should have the quiver of a 17th-century courtesan's inner thigh" she surely meant this dish:
Taste of Sydney is an excellent way to sample restaurants on a limited budget and to get yourself some gourmet ingredients difficult to otherwise find such as game bird charcuterie, buffalo cheeses, organic wines and exotic meats. Highly recommended, but plan well and take some friends, if possible get yourself a seat as early as possible in a session.