If there's one thing that Sydney does well at, it's eating outdoors. Good food outdoors.
All the necessary factors were in play for the annual Sydney Food & Wine Fair, one of the final events for Good Food Month. The sun was out, the skies were a glorious blue, and the crowds were flocking and ready to eat.
Over 70 food stalls and more than 30 wine and drink stalls lined the grassy verges of Sydney's Hyde Park. The familiar white tents housed happy teams of chefs and servers, all volunteering their time and resources for the Aids Trust of Australia.
Purchases operated via a coupon system, where $2 vouchers were bought from coupon stalls, and then exchanged for the object of your stomach's desire.
Feeling much like children clutching play money, Saffron and I grinned happily and within three seconds of purchasing our coupons we were off and snapping...
Food stalls lining The Avenue, in Hyde Park
The Ocean Room chefs were busy prepping seared tuna layered in crispy tacos with soy ginger caramel, spring onion and tomato.
Serving up salad (sorry - forgotten which stall this was from)
Industrie - South of France
A chef from Industrie seasoning seafood for their Risotto de la Mer - risotto of king prawns, scallops, calamari and spiced marinated tomato.
I confess, catching sight of Chui Lee Luk was embarassingly exciting. She's female, she's Asian, she has both an arts and law degree, and, after a year of working as a solicitor, decided to chuck it all in and become an apprentice chef. Now at only 35 she's both head chef and owner of Claude's. And she has three hats. She's my hero!
Salon Prive Catering
Salon Prive canapes
Art installation as part of the Aids Trust Association
Oysters topped with salmon roe
Noodle-mobile - A Wagamama Mini
These were being marketed as retro prawn cocktails. Thousand island dressing still doesn't do anything for me, but I admit the black cone presentation was ingeniously classy.
Chui Lee Luk, Claude's (again).
Yes, I was stalking her. But with good reason. This time I proferred a handful of coupons.
Chef from Hugo's throwing some prawns on the barbie.
Sizzling King prawns
Deciding what to eat was a painfully agonising decision. Painful because it was gone midday and I hadn't eaten any breakfast; agonising because of the self-imposed pressure on making the best choice from the wide array of dishes on offer.
The dangers of dilly-dallying with decision-making were illustrated when we backtracked in the direction of Flying Fish only to discover their famous snapper fish curry was completely sold out. "500 portions sold out in under an hour" the man shrugged, but Saffron's wily ways =) secured us a chef's tasting of the leftover curry sauce, straight from the ladle and sipped at with agreeable nods all round.
Resisting the forboding sense of rising panic, our need to buy!buy!buy! quickened our step, lest we get lumped with soggy noodles or uninspired fare, a nightmare for any intrepid foodblogger. We sniffed, we examined, we jostled the mass of peoples in search of hidden goodness.
Grilled king prawns on avocado stack from Hugo's
Saffron eventually found her lunch partner from Hugo's. Two King prawns sizzled to juicy perfection, intertwined like lovers on a lofty bed of avocado salsa.
Poached veal in a tuna mayonnaise from Claude's
I eventually elected for the veal from Claude's, reasoning that this is the closest to Luk's food I'll get to for quite a while. The veal was moist and tender, pairing suprisingly well with the creamy tuna mayonnaise. The tuna was subtle but enhancing, and a garnish of finely chopped greens (salted shallots, cucumber and celery at a guess) added a refreshing crunch.
It was only afterwards that I realised I had compromised my political integrity by eating veal, but it was so good that I don't know if I could trust myself to choose otherwise.
Serge Dansereau dispensing happiness
Like two sugarholic soulmates, the need for The Perfect Dessert was never far off either Saffron or my mind. Catching sight of Serge was another cringeworthy moment of excitement, but watching what he was doing was even more breathtaking.
A perfect almond tart was clothed in a scoop of mascerated berries and crowned with a gentle dollop of fresh whipped cream. We watched buckets of vivid red strawberries unite with blackberries, blueberries and mulberries.. showing us all that colours united are indeed a perfect place.
As we noticed the parade of others holding this trophy aloft, we knew we had to have it. And so did everyone else, judging by the enormous queue numbering at least 80 people.
Almond tart with berries and cream from The Bathers' Pavillion
But joy was ours. Patience paid off and Serge remained calm but friendly as he personally handed each person their plate of perfection. Apparently they had 550 tarts allocated for the day, and I have no doubt they ran out not long after.
The taste? Divine. A light, moist and not-too-sweet almond tart. Crisp buttery pastry shell. Citrusy almond meal. Sweet berries. Joy of cream. Eaten with eyes half-closed in delirium, eyes half-open to guard against trespassers.
Perfect closure and two contented sighs of happiness.
The Sydney Food & Wine Fair takes place annually in late October.
All proceeds go to the Aids Trust of Australia
Related GrabYourFork posts:
GFM 2007: Sugar Hit #2 at the Sofitel Wentworth
GFM 2007: Sugar Hit #1 at the InterContinental Sydney
GFM 2006: Good Living Growers' Markets
GFM 2006: Hats Off dinner at Becasse
GFM 2006: Night Noodle Markets Week 3
GFM 2006: Night Noodle Markets Week 2
GFM 2006: Night Noodle Markets Week 1
GFM 2006: Spring Picnic
GFM 2006: Sugar Hit #4 at the Sofitel Wentworth
GFM 2006: Sugar Hit #3 at the Intercontinental Sydney
GFM 2006: Sugar Hit #2 at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
GFM 2006: Sugar Hit #1 at the Park Hyatt Sydney
GFM 2006: Sydney Food & Wine Fair
GFM 2005: Good Living Growers' Markets
GFM 2005: Night Noodle Markets
GFM 2005: Spring Picnic
GFM 2005: Sydney Farmers' Market
GFM 2005: Sydney Food & Wine Fair
GFM 2004: Twilight Trail: Cocktails and Sugar Hits
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10/30/2005 11:59:00 p.m.