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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014

The Immersary at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014

Philippines one day. Denmark the next. I loved that this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival saw me eating lechon roast suckling pig one night and smoked herring with raw egg yolk the next. There were more than 200 events to choose from at this year's Festival but I was keen to attend these two, because hey this will probably be the closest I get to Noma and um, crackling - need I say more?

The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure, Melbourne
The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure

Tourism Victoria flew me down to Melbourne for the Festival, flying me with Virgin Australia and putting me up at the The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure.

Toiletries at The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure, Melbourne
Fancy toiletries in the bathroom

The Swanston is in an older building but its location can't be beat, located smack bang in the middle of the city. There's a constant flow of tourists in and out of the building and receptionists are on 24/7. The bedroom furniture looks modern and although the bathrooms might be a little dated, that's more than made up for by the fancy Appelles Apothecary toiletries.

View of Swanston Street from level 11 of The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure, Melbourne
View of Swanston Street from my hotel room on level 11

The hotel is so central that you can hear the steady stream of buskers on the street below, but things usually quieten down by night time. Hearing the occasional ding of trams only added to the atmosphere.

Busker on Southbank, Melbourne
Southbank, Melbourne

A Danish Food Trail
- Restaurant Dansk

Pouring cocktails at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Pouring cocktails at Restaurant Dansk

A Danish Food Trail was run by Restaurant Dansk, a community club originally open only to members but now free to dine at by all members of the public. I have a deep fondness for community clubs and I was surprised to find that Restaurant Dansk was located only a few blocks walk from my hotel.

Executive Chef Bente Grysboek from Restaurant Dansk
Executive Chef Bente Grysbæk leading us through the menu

Executive Chef Bente Grysbæk was our host for the evening. Our seven course meal would take us through several cities across Denmark, all helpfully mapped out for the geographically challenged.

A Danish Food Trail menu map
A Danish Food Trail menu mapping our courses by region

Copenhagen cocktail with fish and chips at Restaurant Dansk
Course 1: Copenhagen canapes
Copenhagen cocktail with fiskefillet med pomfritter (fish and chips)

We were welcomed with rather alcoholic Copenhagen cocktails and canapes of fish and chips wrapped in tiny newspaper cones.

Fried prawns at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 2: Pre-entree at Gilleleje Harbour
En kop med rejer (a cup of prawns)
with Dill Aquavit and Amass India pale ale from Mikkeller

Gilleleje Harbour, we're told, is a humble and unassuming fishing town, but the fish shop on the wharf produces the most amazing seafood. Tonight we were served Clarence River prawns, deep-fried shell and all until they reached an earth-shattering crisp. It was a fingers-only affair as we dove into the paper cup, but the prawns were so deliciously fresh and sweet you could almost swear you could hear the distance screech of seagulls.

Each dish tonight would be matched with an alcoholic beverage - many of them beers - but this course also included a shot of Dill Aquavit, headily alcoholic and imbued with a distinct and alluring flavour of dill.

Skagen fish soup at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 3: Entree at Skagen
Skagen's fiskesuppe (fish soup)
with Wicked Wheat beer from Beer Here

It was a case of pour-your-own-soup when we received our bowls with a bed of prawns, scallops, dill and asparagus. The personal jugs provided allowed you to control exactly how much fiskesuppe or fish soup you wanted to add, but really I don't think anyone could resist pouring the entire lot. The intensity of flavour was incredible, deep and gutsy with fish stock but tempered with the beguiling lightness of cream.

Adding caviar to gravlax at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Plating up our pre-main in the kitchen

I constantly snuck out of my seat every time I spied the chefs commence plating for the next dish. Cool, calm and collected, it was mesmerising to watch them gradually add each component across fifty or so dishes until finally they reached their masterful completion.

Limfjord Østers at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 4: Pre-main near Limfjorden
Limfjord Østers - gravlax with oysters, apples, creme fraiche and fennel
with Mama Vodka and Greed beer from Amager Bryghus

The gravlax roulade rolled with creme fraiche was a revelation. Not just because the creme fraiche added a lightness of tang, but because hidden within was the delicate crunch of grated green apples and then surprise pockets of raw oyster that burst in your mouth with brine.

Chef plating up Sol over Gudhjem at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Adding the finishing touches to our main

Sol over Gudhjem smoked fried herring with raw egg at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 5: Main on Bomholm Island
Sol over Gudhjem (sun over Gudhjem smoked fried herring with raw egg yolk) 
with Smoking Scotchman Scotch ale from Amager Brewery

Sun over Gudhjem, a small fishing port on the northern coast of Denmark, is such a poetic name for a dish. The sun was represented by a raw egg yolk and we were instructed to pierce the yolk and pour it over the rest of the dish, a dense slice of rye bread covered in smoked fried herring, shavings of radish, red onion and chives.

Smoked herring can be quite an oily and strong-tasting fish, but the egg yolk worked well to balance the saltiness, helped too by the red onion and crisp radish.

The Smoking Scotch ale is worth mentioning. Everyone thought it tasted like chocolate with a smokiness that lingered on the palate. One gent even reckoned it tasted like alcoholic Ice Magic!

Gamle Ole cheese at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 6: Cheese from Fyn Island
Gamle Ole cheese
with walnut Aquavit and Nordic Saddle Buffer barley wine-style beer from Kissmeyer

We were warned that the Gamle Ole cheese was a bit of an acquired taste but I couldn't get enough of it. Translating to Old Ole (Ole is a man's name), the cheese is aged for at least 40 weeks until distinctly ripe and fragrant. You say stinky, I say aromatic.

Here we were encouraged to move the cheese on top of the dark seeded bread and to pour the walnut aquavit over the top. The jelly turned out to be beef jelly and its gentle umami notes worked so well against the cheese, rounded out by the red onion, deep-fried eschalots and warm bitterness of the walnut Aquavit.

Chef plating up rye bread cake dessert at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Plating up dessert

Rugbrødslagkage rye bread cake dessert at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Course 7: Dessert in Sønderjylland
Rugbrødslagkage layered rye bread cake
with Somersby pear cider

Dessert was the biggest crowd-pleaser of the night, mostly because noone could believe that rye bread cake could taste so good with cream. Rye bread cake is a recipe borne out of clever frugalness, made from stale dark rye bread crumbs that are combined with eggs, milk, sugar and spices to create a new and delicious cake.

Usually it's layered with sour cherries and buttercream. Tonight we had it with white chocolate cream and fresh berries. Everybody scraped their plate clean.

Danish licorice at Restaurant Dansk for A Danish Food Trail
Danish licorice

Filipino Barbie
- William Angliss Restaurant

Filipino Barbie at the William Angliss Institute for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014

And then there was the Filipino Barbie. I'd requested this event thinking there'd be a whole pig on a spit, lechon style, but tonight's meal would end up being a fancier procession of dishes based on Filipino favourites.

What the Heck is Filipino Food by Melbourne food blogger Adrian Briones from Food Rehab
What the Heck is Filipino Food by Melbourne food blogger Adrian Briones from Food Rehab

It was heartening to see this event was fully booked out, filled with plenty of Filipino ex-pats and a happy mix of curious Aussies. And for those who were wondering What the Heck is Filipino Food, Melbourne food blogger Adrian Briones' book was there to help.

Filipino Barbie menu at the William Angliss Institute for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014
Filipino Barbie menu

I ended up being seated at the table filled with the former college classmates of tonight's host, Chef Sau de Rosario who'd flown in from the Philippines for the event. His friends has come from as far away as Hong Kong, Wellington and Brisbane to support him, creating their own mini reunion at the same time, and it was a treat to hear them muse aloud and appreciate the new twist Chef Sau had given to familiar Filipino dishes.

Kare kare braised oxtail at the Filipino Barbie
Kare kare
Braised oxtail simmered in peanut sauce and anatto seeds stuffed in ravioli

Kare kare, for instance, is usually a thick and hearty stew made with oxtail and peanut sauce. Here the oxtail was stuffed into ravioli pockets, deep-fried and serve with a peanut macadamia sauce on the side. The Filipinos around me nodded their head in amazement. "It tastes just like kare kare but better".

Pouring the binakol chicken soup at the Filipino Barbie
Traditional chicken soup cooked in coconut water

Binakol is a chicken soup that is often presented in a whole young coconut. This year's theme for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival was water, and tonight's event was riffing off that with a central ingredient of coconut water in many of its dishes.

Here the binakol was cooked with coconut water, a delicate broth poured from shiny silver teapots over an island of sea bass - cooked sous vide so the flesh flaked easily with a fork - dotted with straw mushrooms, green papaya and candied ginger.

Pouring the binakol chicken soup at the table at the Filipino Barbie
Pouring the binakol chicken soup at the table

Pinoy salad with prawns and pineapple salsa at the Filipino Barbie
Pinoy salad
Grilled prawns with salad and pineapple salsa

You could smell the fish sauce in the pinoy salad even before it hit the table. Peeled prawns were marinated in coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and ginger, then grilled and served with crunchy cos lettuce, cherry tomatoes and a zingy pineapple salsa.

Chef JP Anglo carving the rolled pork belly at the Filipino Barbie
Chef JP Anglo carving the rolled pork belly

I'd been encouraged to make my way into the kitchen as I pleased, and I made sure I did so during the plating of the lechon. Lechon is traditionally a whole roast suckling pig but tonight they elevated this dish by using only the pork belly and rolling it with Paella Valencia, a nod to the Spanish influence in the Philippines.

Rolled pork belly crackling at the Filipino Barbie
Hello crackling!

Rolled pork belly stuffed with Paella Valencia at the Filipino Barbie
Roasted pork belly stuffed with Paella Valencia

CCA Manila chefs in the kitchen at the Filipino Barbie
CCA chefs on the assembly line

A team of chefs from the Center for Culinary Arts in Manila had also flown to Melbourne to assist Chef Sau de Rosario and Chef JP Anglo. It was fascinating to watch them come together as a team, each person responsible for one task until the dish seamlessly came together.

CCA Manila chefs plating up the pork belly at the Filipino Barbie
All hands on deck

CCA Manila chefs behind the scenes at the Filipino Barbie
A brief gap in production

CCA Manila chef plating a Dutch baby carrot at the Filipino Barbie
Adding the Dutch baby carrot

Plated pork belly dishes at the pass at the Filipino Barbie
Plated pork dishes finally hit the pass

Crispy pork belly roulade at the Filipino Barbie
Crispy pork belly roulade stuffed with Paella Valencia

And yes, this dish was amazing. The pork belly was beautifully juicy and tender, curled around a huddle of paella rice, each grain still slightly chewy, bordered with a brittle layer of golden bubbled crackling.

Pouring the Filipino chocolate at the Filipino Barbie
Pouring the Filipino chocolate

Dessert took a sustained amount of time to plate as well. There were so many components on this dish, each one laid out in exactly the same way across 120 dishes.

Cutting out discs of flan at the Filipino Barbie
Cutting out rounds of flan

Chef Sau de Rosario slicing halo halo spring rolls at the Filipino Barbie
Chef Sau de Rosario slicing the halo halo spring rolls

Halo halo spring rolls at the Filipino Barbie
Halo halo spring roll

Plating dessert at the Filipino Barbie
Dessert assembly

Desserts leaving the kitchen at the Filipino Barbie
Desserts leaving the kitchen

Halo halo spring roll and Filipino petit four at the Filipino Barbie
Halo halo spring roll and Filipino petit four

I'd been skeptical about the idea of a halo halo spring roll, but this re-engineering of a shaved ice dessert somehow works: purple yam, red beans and coconut rolled up into logs of pastry and then deep-fried. There's a puddle of vanilla ice cream, a dab of kaya coconut jam and then stepping stones of uraro arrowroot cookies, polvoron shortbread, a cookie with taro and coconut and a disc of eggy flan rich with condensed milk.

A cup of Spanish-style hot chocolate was so thick you could eat it with a spoon and I also loved the wrapped Chocnut, a crumbly childhood sweet of milk chocolate mixed with crushed peanuts.

Chefs at the Filipino Barbie
All the chefs receiving congratulations and thanks on stage

Much fun. Much laughter.
Much crackling.

Chef Sau de Rosario and Chef JP Anglo flank one of the lead instructors from CCA Center for Culinary Arts Manila
Chef Sau de Rosario and Chef JP Anglo flank Chef Tristan from CCA (Center for Culinary Arts) Manila 

Chef Sau de Rosario at the Filipino Barbie

The Filipino Barbie was held on 7 March at the William Angliss Occasions Restaurant and cost $60 for six courses with a glass of wine.

A Danish Food Trail was held on 8 March at Restaurant Dansk and cost $180 for 6 courses with beverages.

Grab Your Fork attended both events as a guest of Tourism Victoria for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014. Flights and accommodation were included.

Restaurant & Bar DANSK on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Dansk
Denmark House
Level 3, 428 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9600 4477

Opening hours:
Monday to Tuesday 12pm-3pm
Wednesday to Friday 12pm-9pm
Last orders half an hour before close
Closed Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

Related Grab Your Fork posts
MFWF 2014: Johnny Iuzzini Afternoon Tea and Langham MasterClass
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/23/2014 12:02:00 am


  • At 3/23/2014 7:47 am, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    Wow! That crackling looks amazing!

  • At 3/23/2014 10:47 am, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Very cool that you got to experience such different cuisines but both very refined versions. My lama is Danish and his name is Ole but he doesn't stink :)

  • At 3/23/2014 3:41 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Being Estonian-born just for once I will not lean Asian ! Loved, absolutely loved your Danish fusion food: thank you so much for posting!!! We shall still be scrolling when the darkness descends!!

  • At 3/23/2014 7:44 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    That lechon looked great! But I am drawn to the Danish feast. A cuisine I want to learn more about. Maybe one day! Nice post Helen!

  • At 3/23/2014 9:27 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Chef Jayps is the man! He knows his pork well. That halo halo spring roll is so innovative! That amazing lechon stuffed with paella looks so damn awesome too. So of this whole post! P.S. I'm craving for some chocnuts now hahaha

  • At 3/23/2014 11:33 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    From alcoholic ice magic (to) the delightful combinations of crisp apple & oysters, you already had me salivating. Love the look of modern style Filipino food and the delicious crackling (of course!)

  • At 3/24/2014 12:24 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ooooh lechon!

  • At 3/24/2014 9:21 am, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    What a wonderful experience! I got to attend HEAPS of events at MFWF as well, as one of the Festival Explorers (just blogged about it!). It's remarkable how diverse the events at the festival are!

  • At 3/24/2014 9:47 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Lechon looks good but the crackling looks even more awesome and it wasn't part of the lechon dish?

  • At 3/24/2014 10:07 am, Blogger Annie said…

    ohhh yummy lechon! hopefully i get to attend the festival next year :D

  • At 3/24/2014 10:50 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    Two very cool events! Too bad there was no rotating pig on a spit but I guess you can't complain with a rolled pork belly stuffed with paella!

  • At 3/24/2014 6:20 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    I've been lucky enough to eat Philo food once at a friend's house and it was delicious! This fancided up version looks fantastic

  • At 3/25/2014 9:01 am, Anonymous GourmetGetaways said…

    What a delicious and amazing experience!!
    The food looks so good!! How the hel do you get crackling like that on pork!!! Loved the rolled gravalax too... delicious, stuffed with oysters YUM!

  • At 3/25/2014 9:12 am, Blogger The Food Mentalist said…

    What a delightful trip. I just LOVE Melbourne. So many great restaurants and amazing shopping. Love the hotel you stayed in too. Will have to put it on my list for my next visit.

  • At 3/25/2014 11:28 am, Blogger Pearls of Style said…

    Sounds like a wonderful event and that food looks so delicious. I'm drooling at my desk and now the sandwich I have packed for lunch pales in comparison!

    Krissie x - http://pearlsofstyle.blogspot.com.au

  • At 3/27/2014 5:22 am, Anonymous Padaek said…

    What an amazing experience! All the food looks so delicious, especially the Limfjord Østers and halo halo spring rolls. :)

  • At 3/27/2014 1:41 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Fancy Filipino food! Didn't think it could be done but that looks great!

  • At 3/27/2014 7:55 pm, Anonymous Adrian (Food Rehab) said…

    Was totally rad seeing you again Helen aka Ms Walksalot! Sorry I couldn't come out any earlier. Hope to catch up soon so we can talk more real housewives lol.
    p.s. thanks for the mention mama. You wok!

  • At 3/27/2014 9:00 pm, Anonymous Humble Crumble said…

    Never had Filipino cuisine but, damn that pork belly looks fantastic.

  • At 3/28/2014 12:47 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    crackling! enough said. oh and leche flan!

  • At 3/30/2014 11:57 am, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    What an awesome smorgasbord of continents, delicious.

  • At 3/31/2014 2:17 pm, Anonymous Fishadventureseveryday said…

    Omg I was having lunch just as I saw the pork belly crackling!


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