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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Taste of Sydney Festival, Centennial Park

"This nipple tastes funny."

Oh yes, there was lots of fun and frolic to be had at the inaugural Taste of Sydney festival in Centennial Park. And what's an event without a quotable quote from the always loveable Chocolatesuze. But more on that later.

Crown festival currency
Available in booklets of 20 crowns ($20) and 30 crowns ($30)

I headed to the Taste festival on its opening night, Thursday, along with Billy and Chocolatesuze. It was quiet and much more navigable early on, although as crowds picked up, so did our sightings, as we bumped into Christie and Lorraine and various other friends of ours.

Taste of Sydney is about good food, good drink and great products. We meandered our way through the stalls proudly showcasing their wares, many with samples on offer and most happy to chat to customers to explain more about their products and philosophies.

Gourmet pates including: wild boar, apple and sage;
duck, orange and pistachio; and venison, red wine and almond

Retro rainbow of Smeg fridges and a candy pink dishwasher

Baby roma truss tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes and
distinctive kumato tomatoes and kumato grape tomatoes
from Moraitis Hydroponics

Herbal teas from iTea

Choclatea: chocolate blended with crushed tea leaves from iTea

Taste Festival Sydney is also about restaurants, with 15 participating restaurants offering bite-sized sample dishes, many created specifically for this event. Prices range from 8 crowns to 14 crowns and as we're meandering our way along the strip, reminiscing about the dishes we tried at the media launch, we notice a flash of white bound up to us and are interrupted by an American-accented "Excuse me, but are you Chocolatesuze?"

It's none other than head chef George Francisco from Jonah's, and he's recognised her as the star from the now famous wobbly panna cotta video. It's quite a sight to see George excitedly chatting to Suze, telling her that not only has he seen the video countless times, but so have all his friends and relatives in the United States. "I love that video. It's so cool!" he waxes lyrical.

Chocolatesuze makes another wobbly panna cotta video
with George Francisco from Jonah's at Whale Beach

Of course this just means Suze must make a sequel video with George himself doing all the jiggling. Check out the wobbly panna cotta video starring George Francisco here and Suze's second version (with her own sound effects) here.

Roast Kurobuta pork neck with fennel and witlof salad 12 crowns
from Centennial Parklands Dining

We spend quite a while deliberating on what to have for dinner. We pore over the free menu cards, and whilst not all restaurants have pre-plated preview samples of the dishes available, I'm grateful for the ones that do.

Hiramas kingfish in citrus oil with fresh peas and creme fraiche 10 crowns
from Centennial Parklands Dining

Saddle of suckling pig with crackling and baby garden peas 12 crowns
from Restaurant Balzac

Spicy pork sausage and betel leaves with pickled ginger 12 crowns
from Longrain Restaurant & Bar

Tempura ricotta filled zucchini flowers with basil pesto sauce 10 crowns
from Jonah's at Whale Beach

Strawberry bellini with strawberry and cinnamon donut 8 crowns
from Assiette

Balzac's bread and butter pudding 8 crowns
from Restaurant Balzac

Sari burma - hand opened filo pastry 8 crowns
rolled with pistachios and served golden with honey syrup
from Ottoman Cuisine

Dining al fresco

Four of us pooled together our crowns giving us maximum opportunity to taste the many dishes on offer.

Saddle of suckling pig with crackling and baby garden peas 12 crowns
from Restaurant Balzac

Suze picks the saddle of suckling pig with crackling from Restaurant Balzac. The pork is sweet and succulent with a thin crisp shell of crackling around its circumference. The peas are so fresh, that one seems to jump off the plate before we know it.


Wagyu beef 'bourguignonne' 10 crowns
with truffled cauliflower and onion rings
from Restaurant Balzac

Billy and Yas both opt for the wagyu beef 'bourguignonne' from Restaurant Balzac. This may look like a spring roll, however it's anything but. Thin crisp shattering pastry houses the most delicate folds of red-wine cooked wagyu beef.

Loin and crumbed belly of lamb 12 crowns
with basil mayonnaise and a tomato olive jus
from Assiette

I'd opted for the loin and crumbed belly of lamb from Assiette. It's one of the fancier plated dishes on show, like a miniature replica of a dish you'd receive in a restaraunt. The slices of pink lamb loin are moist and tender, but its the crumbed belly of lamb that wins us all over, soft and unctious and coated with a crunchy golden crumb.

Inside the crumbed belly of lamb

Dessert is a true smorgasboard of flavours and textures.

Semifreddo Montegranelli 10 crowns
Semifreddo with crushed torrone and nuts
from Buon Ricordo

The semifreddo Montegranelli from Buon Ricordo doesn't look very exciting in its ice cream cup but its semi-set foamy texture wins me over. I love the fluffiness of the barely-set semifreddo against the nobbly crunch of crushed nougat.

Dark chocolate tart 10 crowns
with end of season berries and mascarpone sabayon
from Berowra Waters Inn

The dark chocolate tart from Berowra Waters Inn isn't as rich as it looks. Expecting a thick ganache centre, the tart is not half as sinful as it appears, tempered by a small mound of berries clustered beneath a blanket of cocoa-flecked mascarpone sabayon.

Love cake with cinnamon cream 8 crowns
from Flying Fish

The love cake from Flying Fish is fragrant and spicy, and reminds us of chai. We taste nutmeg and cinnamon, the flavours enhanced by the accompanying dollop of cinnamon cream.

Vanilla panna cotta 8 crowns
with lavendar honey and fresh pomegranate
from Jonah's at Whale Beach

Head chef George Francisco from Jonah's is so enamoured with Chocolatesuze's video efforts, he insists on giving her the dessert for free. I'm not sure what jiggling mischief she got up to, but by the time she returns to our table (not so much a table, but an empty Sydney Morning Herald stall to which we've laid claim), the top of it has broken off.

The vanilla panna cotta is every bit as good as we remembered. Soft, silky, sweet and sexy, it melts on the tongue into a vanilla-drenched cream. Since the dessert has come courtesy of Suze, we give her the tip which she eats slowly only to declare, "This nipple tastes funny." The tip is made up almost entirely of vanilla bean seeds which gives a slight bitter taste.

Goat cheese marshmallow 8 crowns
with strawberries and basil granita
from Centennial Parklands Dining

And how could we go past the goat cheese marshmallow from Centennial Parklands Dining? Speaking with the chefs, they confirm that it's made just like a normal marshmallow with egg white, sugar and gelatin. We all make a strange face when we first taste it, the caramelised surface giving way to a salty tang. The intense flavour is refreshed by the slices of sweet strawberry and coolness of basil granita.

The Taste of Sydney festival concludes today (Sunday) and is open 12pm-5pm. Tickets on the door cost $30. Booklets of crowns are available for sale on-site.

Taste of Sydney also includes the Australian Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen, Australian Gourmet Traveller Chef's Table, James Squire Beer Masterclass and Taste Wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine.

With thanks to Prue from The Mint Partners for the complimentary entry tickets.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Taste of Sydney media launch
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/15/2009 12:37:00 am


  • At 3/15/2009 5:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We were lucky to attend on Thursday without the heavy rain eh? I'd probably go back tomorrow again, and I've got to get the panna cotta again!

  • At 3/15/2009 7:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did you get any chocolatea? Is it like a hot chocolate?

    I love the rainbow fridges.

  • At 3/15/2009 9:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    happy time, only wish it can be more affordable and a bigger portion sampling size :P I am kind of regret that we didn't try the Goat curd with verjuice ;) It will haunt me forever to know what it taste like...

  • At 3/15/2009 10:20 am, Blogger K said…

    As much as I would love to go to these events, I find that they are no longer affordable! Cost of dishes, ok. But entry fee as well? And a dish costing average $10-12 for a small portion, I fear I would spend $50+ to get full. In which case I might as well have proper sit down service at the restaurant themselves. :( I know they are good famous restaurants, but... it's just too expensive!

  • At 3/15/2009 11:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ^^! Great coveragggee! I wish I was going again today now haha since I missed out on so many yummy dishessss!

    LOOOLLL at Suze, wobbled the PC too much so the 'nipple' fell off haha!

  • At 3/15/2009 1:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Some cracking photography there....has made me rethink my lunch plans.

    I went to this festival in Edinburgh a few years ago and it was fun but cripplingly expensive. I think the two of us spent about 120 pounds and came away hungry. The sample menus from many excellent restaurants were also rather disappointing in this sort of setting (home smoked salmon replaced with bog standard Sainsbury's stuff :( ).

    The variety and choice is what it's all about though. Hungry now!

  • At 3/15/2009 7:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    HAHAHAHA ohhh my! you and your photographic memory i really should watch what i say in the presence of you and billy! lol lol lol and i forgot about the pea! haha attempting to esca-pea from us i reckon

  • At 3/15/2009 8:30 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    I went yesterday and had such a good time. And I used your writeup from the preview to plan my assault on the dishes. The pannacotta was my fave - it moves of its own accord.

  • At 3/15/2009 9:40 pm, Blogger Renee said…

    we went today and I had the lamb loin and belly frem Assiette too - but it looked nothing like your serving (there's a pic on my blog). I was so dissapointed. I did love Ottoman Cuisine though and can't wait to go there for an entire meal!

  • At 3/16/2009 8:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    looks like the four of you had a fantastic time! i was curious about the goat's curd marshmallow too, but was trying to conserve stomach space for things i was a little more sure about. it did look mighty impressive though!

  • At 3/16/2009 12:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What lovely belly of lamb, it's just falling apart beautifully. And all the desserts too! They all look fantastically yummy - love your photos, they're making my hungry! This is on my list of events for next year.

  • At 3/16/2009 5:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great to bump into you (although briefly!).

    LOL, Suze is a funny one! :)

  • At 3/16/2009 6:08 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    I'd gotten too full to taste any of the desserts so I never got to try the infamous panna cotta. It's almost a cult item now. Can't believe I didn't try to just cram it in anyway!

    What was your favourite dish?

  • At 3/16/2009 10:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good work with pooling resources with the other bloggers. Sounds like you had a very comprehensive experience without blowing the budget.

    Best moment of the day?

  • At 3/17/2009 12:49 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - Lucky indeed, although the weather turned out brilliantly on Sunday anyway - so much so that I hear lots of people got sunburnt! Hope the camera made it out the bag on your next visit! lol!

    Hi Arwen - I didn't get any chocoltea but Billy did. It's a chocolate bar made/flavoured with tea, but whilst it was quite nice, I think I'd rather have chocolate with a cup of tea!

    The rainbow fridges were so cool. Funny how everything old is new again.

    Hi Billy - I noticed a few other bloggers tried the goat curd, but hey at least we tried the marshmallow!

    Hi K - I agree the prices do seem steep, but I expect they do offer a relatively cheap way to sample dishes from some of Sydney's premier restaurants. We did share our dishes to make our dollars stretch further, and we always planned to eat dinner elsewhwere afterwards!

    Hi FFichiban - I have no idea what Suze did to the pannacotta but it definitely looked like it had been molested by the time she arrived back at our meeting point! lol

    Hi Pete - True, I think these sorts of things need to be approached like a degustation - it's not about getting full but having the opporunity to try lots of different things. Plus the chance to meet lots of talented chefs is also a bonus!

    Hi Chocolatesuze - Haha. I have a good memory for quotable quotes! And the pea was so cute. It looked so perfectly set-up it looked staged!

    Hi Belle - Your post was great too. Love your detailed tasting notes. I think the panna cotta was the hit of the entire festival.

    Hi Renee - Ooh there is a bit of a difference in dish presentation, however it looks like you hit the jackpot with others? Maybe it all balances out?

    Hi Shez - The goat marshmallow sounds too bizarre not to try. Glad we did!

    Hi Anita - It was a good event for exploring Sydney restaurants you may not normally frequent. I'm sure it will be an annual event too.

    Hi Christie - Suze is one crazy kid alright :) And great to see you too!

    Hi Forager - I think the panna cotta was unbeatable but I also loved the crumbed belly of lamb too. And the wagyu beef bourguignonne was crazy good too. Yes, quite a few highlights!

  • At 3/17/2009 12:53 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - Best moment was meeting George and watching him talk to Chocolateszue!lol

  • At 3/17/2009 4:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi - we went on Sunday (very hot day) and our favourite dish was the pea soup from Becasse. And the lychee cocktails from Longgrain! What did you think of the value element? Even with our 2 for 1 tickets I thought it was a bit steep charging $25 for advance tickets to get in. There weren't enough goodie bags/samples to warrant that cost. The annual Hyde Park food thing is free yet seems to have the same good range of stalls (albeit not as many top end ones)...

  • At 3/17/2009 11:58 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jax - There was some discussion about the cost of tickets, but by the end of it, we can only presume that perhaps it was deliberately priced at a certain demographic. If anything, at least it kept crowds down to manageable levels? Taste also had demonstrations and talks, although I didn't get to any in the end.

    I note too that the Variety Children's Charity was being supported, so let's hope much of the money raised went their way!


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