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Monday, March 15, 2010

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010: World's Longest Lunch and Death by Chocolate at Koko Black

Five words you don't ever want to hear?

"Your flight has been cancelled."

It's a small dampener to the spirits of Billy and I, and even though the next flight is full, and the one after that is delayed by 40 minutes, we're still rather jubilant when we land in Melbourne three hours behind schedule.

We're a little excited you see - two food bloggers flown down from Sydney by Tourism Victoria for our first ever taste of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

The World's Longest Lunch

We head straight from the airport to the Festival's premiere event, the World's Longest Lunch, a gathering of some 900 diners for a three-course al fresco lunch seated at a snaking 400 metre-long table.

The location of this event changes each year - this year the lunch was held outside the National Gallery of Victoria in the St Kilda Road Arts Precinct.

Entree: Three Emperors
Soft shell crab with black beans, four seasons dumpling
and chilli spiced duck salad

We arrive to find the lunch already underway, the table stretching for what seems like forever, and patrons all a-chatter as they bask in the brilliant sunshine of a glorious day. Our late flight has meant we've missed entrees--soft shell crab, a four seasons dumpling and a chilli-spiced duck salad--by five minutes although a waitress does eventually find a sample for us to photograph. We're explicitly banned from eating it though, as it's been sitting out for some time. Comments and tasting notes about its deliciousness from our seated neighbours are both helpful and somewhat torturous.

Main: Modern Magnolia
Braised lamb with soy, star anise and Shaoxing wine
with gingered sweet potato puree, wok tossed peas,
pomegranate seeds and fried leeks

We're more than ready for mains, a modern Asian take on the classic roast meat and three veg. In this version, a fan of braised lamb slices are soft and fall-apart tender, aromatic with soy, star anise and Shaoxing wine. A bed of sweet potato mash adds nuttiness and pale pink pomegranate seeds are refreshingly tart.

Dessert: Study of Fruits
Coconut sorbet, mango brulee with lychees,
poached peach and raspberry coulis and sesame tuile

Dessert is a spectacularly plated affair, plumes of dry ice shrouding a terracotta tea pot that holds a scoop of coconut sorbet in its upturned lid. The coconut sorbet is refreshing in the heat, although the sun does reduce the toffee disc on the mango brulee to a puddle of sauce rather quickly. The peach is the only disappointment, more crunchy than poached, but overall we found the catering impressively complex for such a large scale event.

Chinese dancer

This year's lunch had a Chinese theme, and diners were treated to a roving series of entertainers and performers.

Chinese parasols

World's Longest Lunch longest supporters

The World's Longest Lunch also has its longest supporters. The group in the rice paddy hats attended the very first World's Longest Lunch in 1993. They've attended every one of the World's Longest Lunches since then, and always dress up according to the theme.

Lion dancers

Lion dancers

Death by Chocolate at Koko Black Chocolate

The following evening, Billy and I attend the Death by Chocolate event at Koko Black Chocolate. Whilst the Melbourne Food & Wine revolves around gustatory pleasures, the idea of hosting a Who Dunnit Event within a chocolate tasting adds an interesting element of theatre.

Koko Black Chocolate on Collins Street

We enter the Koko Black Chocolate store on Collins Street to find an elegant saloon adorned with mouthwatering displays of handmade chocolates.

Chocolate gelato

We're offered our choice of a miniature chocolate dessert on arrival - Billy's chocolate mousse is intense in flavour yet light in texture. My chocolate gelato is velvety smooth with a pleasing cocoa hit.

The premise of the evening is that all guests are student detectives who must unravel a whodunnit murder mystery by piecing together clues and interviewing suspects.

Suspects in the chocolate room

The suspects are all actors, and we must interview them to find out who was the murderer, who was their intended victim, and what was the motive.

Evidence trays for each suspect

The back of the room holds evidence trays for each suspect, and our detective books are used to record notes are we rifle through and thoroughly inspect wallets, purses and assorted paraphernalia.


Everyone takes the task of questioning reasonably seriously, and it's fascinating to watch not just the actors, but the interrogations themselves. It's a complex case with interwoven storylines that slowly emerge. A noticeboard allows people to share snippets of new information uncovered so the mystery can be solved collectively as a group.

Billy and I, on the other hand, are somewhat more interested in finding out where is the next tray of sample chocolates being circulated?

Clockwise from front: Caramelised coconut, hazelnut clusters,
almond praline, and walnut on hazelnut praline chocolates

The gleaming silver platters of chocolates are a fun way to explore the Koko Black range. My favourite of the evening is probably the mango and vanilla, a ganache made with mango puree infused with vanilla.

Clockwise from bottom: Chai tea,
Leatherwood honey, ginger and dulce de leche chocolates

Ginger-infused ganache and the dulce de leche are also highlights. The exterior shells of each chocolate have a wonderful snap and there's a smooth finish that gently lingers on the palate.

Chocolate moulds

Chocolate moulds

Event guests collaborating on their theories

The evening ends with a group debrief on the clues uncovered and a vote on the murder theories proposed. We are given a web address to consult after the event where more clues will help us uncover the identity of the murderer. As one person we chatted to said, it's much harder than it looks on TV!

Taking notes

The World's Longest Lunch took place on Friday 12 March 2010.

This year's festival runs from 12-23 March 2010. For further information on events check out the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival website.

Grab Your Fork attended the World's Longest Lunch and Death by Chocolate at Koko Black as a guest of
Tourism Victoria for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

**Don't forget that all Australian readers can enter the draw to win double passes to see My One and Only featuring Kevin Bacon, Chris Noth and Renee Zellweger. Entries close tomorrow, Tuesday 16 March at 5.30pm AEST. More details...

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> Read the next Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 post (The Edible Garden)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Wellington on a Plate festival festival 2009
13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/15/2010 02:11:00 am


  • At 3/15/2010 6:27 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I remember before going overseas, my family and I were talking about a group catering event one of us went to where the poached pears were similarly crunchy. It surprised us, because poaching fruit is something you can do way in advance, and be sure of getting right!

    Also - ahhhh I was just in Bruges! Ahhhh I love whodunnit games and now feel obliged to do a How to Host a Murder Party when I get home! Ahhhh chocolate!

  • At 3/15/2010 11:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OOhh woooww you guys so lucky!! (apart from flight problems :P) A whodunnit in a chocolate shop sounds awesome fun!

  • At 3/15/2010 2:04 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    What a fun event! It must have been exciting to travel to Melbourne specifically to eat. On the other hand, it's probably just another normal day for you, hehe!

  • At 3/15/2010 6:14 pm, Anonymous Tresna @ Duty Free Living said…

    What a fabulous day you had after such awful airport trauma! Koko Black chocolates are a real treat - it's one of the things that got me through 5 months in Canberra! I'm a big fan of the Cassis one which has a sherry and black currant infused ganache centre.

  • At 3/15/2010 8:00 pm, Anonymous Elaine (Three Wise Pigs) said…

    I think I came down to Melbourne the same time as you did - did you go to Koko Black on the Saturday? I went to Koko Black on the Saturday but not as part of the Death by Chocolate event. The Melbourne Festival looks great!

  • At 3/15/2010 8:55 pm, Anonymous Adrian @ Food Rehab said…

    Nice to have finally met you in person!

    The Koko Black event sounded like a treat. I would've been crap at the game due to my fixation on the chocolate. Focus is right out!

    p.s. Pink short shorts...budgie! LOL

  • At 3/15/2010 9:11 pm, Blogger Iron Chef Shellie said…

    Oh man, I'm still cringing at the thought of a "who dunnit" thing going on whilst trying to sample chocolate!

    Great photos! I'm now craving a chocolate hit... well truth be told, I've had it for about 2 hours now, but after seeing this, I'm getting off my butt to get some now :P

  • At 3/15/2010 11:33 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    I was wondering wether or not you were going to Taste this year... looks like you got to attend something even better! =D I would so be distracted by the chocolates rather than the "game" too. Mmmm chocolate (Homer voice). Sucks about the flights but at least you didn't miss out on the whole lunch! And in response to your comment... if they gave us some free water I would have saved my crowns and tried to fit more dessert in!

  • At 3/16/2010 12:57 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    Your teapot is puffing so much! Mine was totally melted by the time it gets to my table.

    Oh, how I wish I have more time to really enjoy those chocolates...

  • At 3/16/2010 1:38 pm, Blogger Two fit and fun gals said…

    koko black is really sumthin :O)

  • At 3/16/2010 5:46 pm, Anonymous Myriam @Detours said…

    Lucky you!! The Death by Chocolate event sounds like fun (even though I'm with you here, it must be hard to focus on the plot and clues when you have all these trays of chocolate coming out of the kitchen!)

  • At 3/16/2010 8:23 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Longest lunch looks like a fabbo thing to do.

    It must have been hard to concentrate on the game when you were surrounded by so much good chocolate. The smells must have been intoxicating.

  • At 3/17/2010 3:20 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - I suppose that very soft poached fruit can be difficult to handle but trying to eating crunchy pears with a spoon is a little tricky in polite company!

    You were just in Bruges? I'm so very jealous. I've never been. I've never even played Cluedo let alone attended a How to Host a Murder Party - no wonder my attention to detail was hopeless. lol

    Hi FFichiban - It was a very clever idea although I'm not sure whether the chocolate will now be associated with relief of distraction or the hard work of trying to unravel all the clues!

    Hi Belle - Ah yes, I believe I wake up every morning specifically to eat! But indeed, it was a fantastic weekend adventure!

    Hi Tresna - I did have my eye on the Cassis one based on the menu but alas either it wasn't circulated or I kept missing out on them. Lots of lovely flavours - handmade chocolates are always a treat.

    Hi Elaine - We were at Koko Black on the Saturday. What a coincidence! The Festival was lots of fun but hey, anything celebrating food is a guaranteed winner!

    Hi Adrian - Was great to meet you too. Thanks for squeezing us into your busy Saturday!

    The murder mystery was fun but yes, the chocolate somehow ended up being our major focus instead. Oh the pink shorts... forever in my memory!

    Hi Iron Chef Shellie - I don't think we were the only ones in the room with an eye on the chocolate but I do have a greater appreciation for detectives - so much unravelling and cross-referencing to do!

    Hope you found some tasty chocolate and good to see your beef stew turned out so well.

    Hi Angielivestoeat - A shame we couldn't make it to Taste, especially as it looked like there were quite a lot of tasty dishes on offer. I tend to carry my own water bottle at those types of affairs - handy, cheap and good for the environment too!

    Hi Billy - I took a lot of snaps quickly but yes, the dry ice did melt really quickly in the 30C heat. I agree, the chocolate tasting was fun - would have been great to really take our time to savour each one.

    Hi Betty - Have only heard good things about Koko Black. Next time I must make time to have a hot chocolate!

    Hi Myriam - The Deathy by Chocolate concept was quite ingenious although yes, the trays of circulating chocolate samples were very much a distraction to our attempt at concentration!

    Hi Veruca Salt - The Longest Lunch was a great idea. I like that the location changes every year and we were lucky to have such glorious weather for it too.

    The chocolate trays were very much a distraction although they did tend to get demolished rather quickly. I think my clue book has more than a few chocolate stains. lol


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