Being a Taste of Melbourne virgin, I felt it was an absolute necessity to attend this year… and not only once, but twice! Taste of Melbourne is a festival where restaurants and other food and alcohol producers exhibit their goodies! There are food demonstrations by some of Melbourne’s most renowned chefs, food and wine tastings by a range of producers, an abundance of exhibitors selling almost anything and everything food related, and not to mention copious amounts of free samples, yes people, I said FREE samples. Tickets range from $25 to $125, allowing entry into the event as well as additional perks such as VIP entry and access to the exclusive VIP lounge (if you’re willing to pay the extra, of course).
This year I managed to score cheap tickets to the opening night for my partner and I, as well as an early bird special for any other session with 30 crowns inclusive of the price. Crowns are the festival’s currency (1 crown = $1) which come in booklets of either $10, $30, or $50 with each ‘coupon’ equalling two crowns. While you can pre-purchase crowns, I would suggest holding out until you actually get to the event as there are plenty of staff walking around with portable eftpos machines selling crowns as well as booths where you can purchase them.
Anyway, moving on to the actual fun stuff I took a ridiculous amount of photos, and had a hard time cutting down on them, so I figured I would put them in and let them speak for themselves (apart from a few funny stories). So, enjoy!
Day 1: Gala Night, Thursday 15th September, 5.30pm – 9.30pm
Mezzo & Mister Bianco: Sher Wagyu meatballs, Sicilian cous cous & salted ricotta, 10 crowns.
I really enjoyed this dish! The meatballs weren’t heavy and the salted ricotta was delicious!
Truffle Salt from Murray River Gourmet.
Toby Puttock and me outside The Kitchen Cat’s booth.
I said to Cam as soon as we got there: ‘Ok, mission number 1 is to find Toby Puttock and get a photo with him!’. After rushing over to The Kitchen Cat we spotted him on a mission but I quickly jumped at the opportunity to get a quick photo! He was very friendly and polite and was more than happy to have his photo taken with me! I was stoked Top guy, definitely going to The Kitchen Cat soon!
The Kitchen Cat: Pasta frolla with Giorgio’s mozzarella, black olives, fresh oregano and Victoria cold pressed olive oil, 8 crowns.
Yarra Valley Smokehouse.
Their chicken kabana and smoked chicken was SO good. We would’ve bought the entire place had we not worried the meat would spoil by the time we got home. We did come back at the end of the night to buy some chicken kabana though, and we will most definitely be taking a trip to their butcher’s store soon
Macarons from Shocolate.
St Katherine’s: KFC ‘St Katherine’s fried Lilydale chicken’ BBQ sauce, 12 crowns.
This was definitely our favourite dish for the night – I heard some mixed opinions on it, but it was delicious and good value considering how small the portion sizes were at a lot of other restaurants on the night.
Shane Delia and me outside St Katherine’s.
After scoffing down the KFC I was lucky enough to get a quick photo with Shane Delia! He was also extremely friendly, I didn’t see him without a huge grin on his face during the various times I spotted him throughout the night! I was pretty happy at this stage that the chefs were willing to chat and have photos with the public, it’s definitely great publicity and makes people love them even more! Haha.
All three dishes from Mahjong Black.
Peking Duck Wrap from Mahjong Black, 10 crowns.
Macaron Tower at LuxBite.
PB&J Popcorn Tart & Lemon Meringue Tart from LuxBite.
Chocolate Tarts from LuxBite.
Time for some cocktails? I think so!
Charismatic Staff @ Longrain Bar
Longrain Bar: Ping Pong – Eristoff vodka with lychees, passionfruit pulp @ a squeeze of fresh lime, 12 crowns.
Longrain Bar: Acapulco Gold – Cazadores tequila over crushed chunks of lemon & lime with chilli, vanilla & citrus soda, 12 crowns.
Sarti: ‘Pistachio Panna Cotta’ with caramel salted popcorn, 10 crowns.
Wine tasting? OK!
Tasting different Prosecco’s from the King Valley Prosecco Road.
Tobie Puttock’s cooking demonstration, cooking ricotta gnocci with broadbeans and speck.
Great way to finish off the night, although he managed to make us hungry again! We got front row, middle seats woohoo.
A broad bean..
Why is Cam holding a broad bean, you ask? Well Tobie was explaining how to clean them, and decided to give one to Cam to take home and try himself funny he hates broad beans, although I’m sure I’ll find something to do with it, hehe!
The Botanical: Wagyu Beef Burger, 12 crowns.
Definitely our least favorite dish for the night. After rushing upstairs 10 mins before closing time to try to get one of these burgers, we had to wait for at least 5 minutes (which was fine as it was the end of the day and they were making them to order) only to get this unappealing, poorly constructed burger. Not sure who liked these, but ummm pickled ginger? Excuse me!? Yes, this burger had pickled ginger in it – YUCK. Further dissapointment occured when I saw this burger appearing in other blog posts (and on my second visit to Taste) looking much better constructed with TWO beef paddies. Talk about ripped off, not happy Botanical, not happy!
Day 2: Session 4 – Saturday 17th September, 12pm – 4pm.
I went with my best friend, her sister in-law, and mum on my second trip to Taste. Girls day out, woohoo!
Macarons from Shocolate.
After regretting not purchasing some Macarons on the Thursday night, my first stop was Shocolate to grab some! From left to right, the flavours on the skewer were chocolate, (something tasty, unfortunately I can’t remember!), and salted caramel. Yum!
St Katherine’s: Turkish lamb dumplings, garlic yoghurt, sumac, dried fruit, 10 crowns.
I tried a little bit of this dish and wow do I wish I had have bought a whole one! Sooo good. I also had the KFC again
Celebrity chef spotting! Manu and George. No idea what George’s face is in response to, though! Haha!
All of a sudden all of the chefs were rushing out of St Katherine’s for a corporate photo, initially I was right in behind them
trying to photobomb, but after feeling left out I decided to take a behind shot! Who can you spot in this photo?
George Calombaris and me outside St Katherine’s.
Hang on a minute.. Who’s that in the background…?!
Why, it’s Josh Thomas! He looked like he was enjoying his KFC
Rekorderlig Cider, 6 crowns (for a stingy half-full plastic cup’s worth).
Choc Delice-ouse Tart from LuxBite.
Again, regret for not buying something from LuxBite on the Thursday night! My posse bought these and I was lucky to have a generous sample.
Lemon Meringue Tart from LuxBite.
Longrain Bar: Ping Pong (had to get this again!).
Jindi cheese tasting.
ALL of that cheese for our small table… For free! The blue was amazing, I wasn’t suprised to find out that it’s ranked the best blue cheese in the world.
Wild Dog Wines.
Ian Curley and me outside European.
Justin North performing a cooking demonstration.
A hint of advice, I’d suggest buying a small amount of crowns to begin with, and keep your cash handy, as the restaurants only accept crowns for their food, but a lot of the other exhibitors will accept either cash or crowns, with some only accepting cash. Why would they not accept the official currency of the event, you may wonder? Well I wondered this too, and was a bit frustrated at first as I had exchanged all of my cash for crowns (and you can’t reverse the transfer to get your cash back, either), but a small-scale exhibitor explained to me that as their produce wasn’t very costly, accepting crowns would cut into their profit margin as the event takes a cut of the crowns, but not cash – so they would rather accept cash so they get to keep all of the money they made. Seems fair enough, although it can be annoying if you are unprepared for this! I had a great time this year at Taste of Melbourne, and will most likely return next year. I highly suggest you get your hands on as many free events and samples as you can to make the entry cost worth while. I don’t think the standard rate of $25 is that bad though if you make it worth your while.