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Monday, February 01, 2016

Tasting Australia 2016

Dessert trolley at The Mayflower Hotel Restaurant, Adelaide

If you've never been to Adelaide, coinciding your visit with Tasting Australia eliminates half the organising legwork. This week-long festival offers a comprehensive program of one-off events and collaborations in food, wine, cooking and touring. For previous visitors and locals, it's a chance to try something new.

Tasting Australia will be held 1-8 May 2016 with events in Adelaide as well as regional areas including the Barossa, Clare Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Flinders Ranges. Tasting Australia was the first food festival for Australia, originally conceived as a biennial festival in 1997 but will now be scheduled as an annual event from 2016 onwards. The theme for Tasting Australia this year is Landscapes.

I was flown to Adelaide late last year for a media preview of the festival. What's in store this year? Here are a couple of my favourites from the festival program.


A Few of My Favourite Things Tour with Cheong Liew

Chef Cheong Liew, Ambassador for Tasting Australia 2016
Chef Cheong Liew, Ambassador for Tasting Australia 2016

You can't beat a food tour with a fellow food afficionado. Cheong Liew is one of Adelaide's finest food legends, a Malaysian student who came to Australia to study electrical engineering in 1969 before turning his hand to the kitchen. Hearing him talk is surreal and inspiring. He says he discovered cooking as a necessity for work, starting first in a Greek restaurant. "I didn't have an apprenticeship. I just bought a lot of cookbooks and tried to remember what my grandmother did," he says with a smile.

Liew is most known for his head chef role at The Grange within the Adelaide Hilton Hotel, but as we have a cup of coffee with him in the morning, Liew tells us about how hired Tim Pak Poy to work for him at the hugely popular Nediz restaurant. When he found out he was vegetarian, he bet his wife it would take him less than six weeks to get Pak Poy to eat meat. Liew shrieks with laughter at the memory. "I did it. I swayed him with lap cheong."

Pak Poy, of course, would go on to become head chef and then owner of Claude's in Sydney.

History of food and textiles on A Few of My Favourite Things Tour with Cheong Liew for Tasting Australia 2016
History of food and textiles

As part of the media preview, we follow Liew to a few of his favourite places around Adelaide. I won't say where exactly where we went to avoid ruining the element of surprise. Locals might be able to guess some of the locations but, having said that, the tour may well have evolved by the time May rolls around.

Visiting an Asian grocery store with Cheong Liew on his A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Cheong Liew in an Asian grocery store

We trail behind Liew into an Asian grocery store where he points out his preferred brand of soy sauce and his favourite fish sauce. He happily and patiently answers any questions posed. It feels like we've just discovered an uncle we never knew we had.

Shelves of spices during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Shelves of spices

He leads us into a bulk foods store where he talks about grains, pulses, flours and spices and the things he likes to use in his cooking.

Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016

And it's no secret to anyone that he takes us to Adelaide Central Market - everyone's favourite market - where we pause at fruit shops and butchers and bakers and more.

Morning coffee in Adelaide Central Market during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Morning coffee in Adelaide Central Market

Cruffins at Adelaide Central Market during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Cruffin, a croissant and muffin lovechild

Kangaroo Island free range eggs at Adelaide Central Market during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Kangaroo Island free range eggs

Cheong Liew's favourite Malaysian eatery during his A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016
Cheong Liew in his favourite Malaysian eatery

And even though we'd already eaten lunch together (I won't say where), he insists we have second lunch at a Malaysian eatery that has all the dishes he misses from home.

Yong tau foo during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016, Adelaide
Yong tau foo tofu stuffed with fish paste

Yong tau foo is such a great dish but so hard to find, even in Sydney. This was a mix of tofu and vegetables stuffed with fish paste, as well as soft and quivering cubes of steamed silken tofu.

Iced teh tarik during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016, Adelaide
Iced teh tarik sweet Malaysian tea

Hainan chicken during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016, Adelaide
Hainan chicken

Pan mee Hakka-style noodle soup during Cheong Liew's A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016, Adelaide
Pan mee Hakka-style noodle soup

Cheong Liew and his A Few of My Favourite Things Tour for Tasting Australia 2016, Adelaide

>> A Few of My Favourite Things with Cheong Liew will start at 10.30am on 6 May. Bookings can be made here.

You can also go on a Favourite Things tour with the legendary Maggie Beer and Jessie Spiby (MasterChef Australia 2015). 


Lunch with Benjamin Cooper at Africola

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I love the sense of energy you get as soon as you walk into Africola. This South African eating house is an uplifting riot of colours, repurposed brown bottles, old-fashioned school chairs and woven straw lampshades hanging above.

Benjamin Cooper, group executive chef for the Lucas Group (Chinchin, Gogo, Baby, Kong and Hawker Hall in Melbourne), will be mashing things up in a collaborative five-course dinner. South African flavours going head on with South East Asia sounds like a wild ride ahead.

Charcoal beef short rib at Africola, Adelaide

We sample a number of dishes from Africola's standard menu. There's the heartiness you expect from beef short ribs cooked over charcoal, but also a surprisingly elegant touch in lighter dishes like cured kingfish, local clams cooked over wood and smoked mussels with Savannah cider butter.

And the housemade chilli sauce in reused glass Coca Cola bottles can't help but bring a smile to your face.

Housemade chilli sauce at Africola, Adelaide
Housemade chilli sauce

Table settings at Africola, Adelaide
Table settings

Cured kingfish at Africola, Adelaide
Cured kingfish with naartjies, oxalis and smoked leek

Charcoal beef short rib with biryani carrots at Africola, Adelaide
Charcoal beef short rib with biryani carrots

Dining room at Africola, Adelaide

>> Lunch in the Company of Benjamin Cooper at Africola will be held on 8 May at 12.30pm. Bookings can be made here.


High Tea with Belinda Jeffery at the Mayflower Restaurant

Dessert trolley at the Mayflower Restaurant in the Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide

Award-winning cookbook author and celebrated food stylist Belinda Jeffery will be talking all things cake and more during a special high tea event at the Mayflower Restaurant in the Mayfair Hotel.

We don't get a chance to meet Jeffery during our media preview visit but we do have dinner at the French-leaning Mayflower Restaurant one evening. The first thing everyone sees upon entry is the dessert trolley, parked teasingly at the front of the dining room. It's deliciously old skool, a heavy trolley with every kind of sweet confection you could possibly dream of, retro choux swans included!

Reading the menu at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide

The temptation of dessert would almost make you want to skip savouries, but the unashamed celebration of classics like prawn cocktails and chicken kiev alongside lobster bisque and chateaubriand makes us sit up to attention and soak up every moment. And calorie.

Freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters with champagne mignonette dressing $4 each

Butter roses at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Butter roses!

Classic prawn cocktail at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Classic prawn cocktail with baby gem lettuce $22

Beef steak tartare at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Beef steak tartare and classic condiments $20

Duck and tangerine pie at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Duck and tangerine pie $34

Slipper lobster and leek fondue pithivier at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Slipper lobster and leek fondue pithivier $35

Whole King George whiting at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Whole King George whiting with lemon butter caper sauce $36

Triple cooked handcut chips at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Triple cooked hand cut chips $10

Dessert trolley at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Dessert trolley

Our table of twelve end up getting practically one of everything to share between us - enough for a spoonful or two so we can taste some of each. They're all good but I especially love the religieuse. The desserts are all made in-house by a dedicated pastry chef.

Vanilla pudding at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Vanilla pudding

Breton dessert at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Breton filled with salted caramel and coated in feuilletine

Religieuse pastry at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide.
Religieuse

Choux pastry swans at the Mayfair Hotel Mayflower Restaurant, Adelaide
Choux pastry swans

>> High Tea in the Company of Belinda Jeffery at the Mayflower Restaurant will be held on 6 May at 2pm. Bookings can be made here.


Embark on a Wine Adventure

Vineyard tour at Primo Estate for Tasting Australia 2016

You can't visit Adelaide without visiting a vineyard. The city is surrounded by wine regions. You can reach McLaren Vale from the Adelaide CBD in about forty minutes - you'd barely make it out of Sydney in that time!

Wine tastings in the vineyard at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Wine tastings in the vineyard at Primo Estate

Our group visits Primo Estate in Mclaren Vale, hiking up the steep hills in shimmering heat. At the top of the hill, wine bottles and opened and glasses are handed around. Soon we've tasted several bottles before the clock has even hit 11am.

2013 Joseph Nebbiolo at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
2013 Joseph Nebbiolo

The Nebbiolo in the Joseph range is made from a single hectare of dry grown vines in Clarendon, about twenty minutes drive from the Primo cellar door.

Grape vines at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Grape vines

I've had plenty of wine tastings at the cellar door but drinking wine in the field, surrounded by rows of grape vines that stretch on endlessly, is a completely different experience. There's a surreal sense of gratitude as you swirl the wine in your glass, right next to the grape flowers on the vine beside you waiting to reach their destiny.

Grape flowers at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Clusters of grape flowers awaiting pollination

Drinking wine in the vineyards at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Red wine in the vineyards

Cows grazing in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Cows grazing

Wine tasting at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Wine tasting at the Primo Estate cellar door

We drive onto the Primo Estate cellar door, where we sit down in cool air-conditioning for a full wine tasting from their Joseph label.

Pouring the Joseph d'Elena Pino Grigio at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Pouring the Joseph d'Elena Pino Grigio

Joseph wine flight tasting at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Joseph wine flight tasting with bread, Italian cheese and Joseph extra virgin olive oil $15 (or credited against a Joseph wine purchase)

The bread, olive oil and cheese are the ideal accompaniments for our progressive wine tasting.

Cooking pizza in the wood fire oven at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Cooking pizza in the wood fire oven

The outdoor wood oven - imported from a village in Umbria - is fired up to cook our pizzas for lunch.

Making prawn and mozzarella pizzas at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Adding fresh herbs to the prawn and mozzarella pizza

Pouring EVOO over pizzas at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Joseph EVOO being poured over the pizzas

Rocket, pear and parmesan salad at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Rocket, pear and parmesan salad

Serving pizza at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Digging in

Pizza and salad lunch at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Pizza and salad lunch

Primo Estate vineyard in McLaren Vale, South Australia
Primo Estate vineyard

>> Wine events at this year's Tasting Australia include barrel tasting in McLaren Vale, a food and shiraz matching dinner, and a roving lunch across three vineyards in the Barossa. For a full list of events, tick the "drinking" option here.

Simon Bryant, Creative Director for Tasting Australia 2016
Simon Bryant, Creative Director for Tasting Australia 2016

There's a whole heap of events scheduled, curated by creative directors Chef Simon Bryant and wine expert, Paul Henry. I'd be keen to go on a wild mushroom walkdo a cheese making class with Udder Delights and jump on the free hayride tour of Nangkita Olives at their open day!

EcoCaddy drivers in front of their hybrid-electric passenger tricycles in Adelaide
Friendly faces of EcoCaddy

We had an action-packed 36 hours in Adelaide and one of the highlights was getting around town with the guys from EcoCaddy.

EcoCaddy hybrid-electric passenger tricycle in Adelaide
Like a pedal-powered rickshaw

These are hybrid electric passenger tricycles that can be hired by SMS or via their booking app. Any journey within the city square costs $5 per person, increasing to $10 for crossing into North Adelaide.

EcoCaddy hybrid-electric passenger tricycle in Adelaide
EcoCaddy in the city

The EcoCaddys get up to 25km/hr and it was an exhilarating ride as buses and cars rushed past us. The drivers rarely have to use the electric motor as Adelaide is relatively flat, and yes, they do have female drivers!

EcoCaddy driver in Adelaide

Tasting Australia 2016 will be held 1-8 May in Adelaide and its surrounding regions. For a full list of events click here.


Grab Your Fork visited Adelaide as a guest of South Australia Tourism for a preview of Tasting Australia 2016.

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/01/2016 01:00:00 am



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