Food, glorious food.
I don’t know about you, but I would happily forgo plenty, if not the majority, of my basic human rights in the place of really, really good food. So, for someone like me, hearing about a foodie festival I’ve yet to come across during my travels is exciting.
Very, very exciting, indeed.
Who are Taste?
Taste Festivals have been running since 2011, and have seen huge success across 15 cities worldwide to date including Auckland, Amsterdam and Toronto. The company first established an event called The Big Feastival, teaming up with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to launch in the UK.
What is Taste?
Taste festivals incorporate restaurants from the host city who essentially operate “mini-kitchens” at the event, serving a multitude of delicious taster menus. From tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries through to Michelin starred, any restaurant can exhibit – from rich Mexican cuisine to delicate Indian delights, spicy South American dishes to juicy German bratwurst, you are sure to be spoilt for choice, no matter what your Taste preference.
How does it work?
So, you’ve bought your ticket ($25 AUD), you’ve dolled yourself up and you’re ready and waiting at the gate. How do you go about sampling all of these mouth-watering goods on the menu card which you’ve spent hours poring over in the lead up to the event?
Taste festivals have a brilliant system in place to make it as easy as possible for you to experience as much as possible during your session. You purchase one of these…
…and load it with “crowns”; each crown is generally equal to a dollar/one unit of the local currency. You can load as many or as few as you like – let your belly decide how hungry (or thirsty) you are, and off you go. Dishes and drinks can range from 2-20 crowns, depending on what you’re eating, where from, and how much of it you’re enjoying. At most exhibits you can also pay with cash, if you find a product you’d like to take home and try yourself – be it a bottle of wine, gin, a marinade, a jar of curry paste… In fact, all of the above?
To make it even easier to get enjoying some tasty treats, you can pre-load a crown card when you purchase your ticket beforehand, to make sure you don’t waste good eating time in any queues at the Box Office AND, before you leave, you can redeem any leftover crowns from your card into cash. You even get the $1 bond you paid for your card back. Nice.
Taste of Melbourne 2015
I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Taste festival in the wonderful city of Melbourne – and what a beautiful night for it. The sun was shining across Albert Park’s Pelican lawn; such a stunning venue for a brilliant time.
A great night was had by all. We gorged ourselves on “cerdo” – smoked pork neck with a multitude of spices – from the wonder that is Pastuso, we nibbled on scorching empanadas from the incredible St Elmo. We sampled the absolute delight of Gazi’s softshell crab souvlakakia, and their prawn kataifi (an impressive accolade, coming from someone who cannot stand seafood). Delish.
Movida enticed us in with the scent of their exquisite charcoal lamb, and Mamasita did not disappoint with their most incredible tasting chargrilled sweetcorn with chipotle mayo and lime. Super Normal’s New England lobster roll (again, this coming from a lifetime hater of seafood!) was to die for, and we couldn’t resist taking home a few tubs of the Smoke Shack’s delectable meat rubs.
Not only could you spend a whole evening perusing the 50+ different tents at the Taste of Melbourne, but you can actually get interactively involved with a lot of them too. We took part in Lurpak’s sandwich making contest – 10 minutes to make the world’s best with your chosen set of ingredients, from coriander to goats cheese to balsamic vinegar (plus lashings of Lurpak, of course). We watched beefandlamb.com.au’s incredible demonstration on how to choose, prepare and cook a cut of steak – properly. Taste Festivals are more than just gorging yourself on incredible food; for those who love to cook, it’s educational. And FUN.
As the sun set over Albert Park, edging each cloud with a fluffy pink hue and casting long shadows about the lawn, it became clear that Taste of Melbourne was not just about food. From hoppy craft beers to fizzy, refreshing ciders, there was something for everyone to tipple – not to mention, of course, that Australia is known for its famous wine regions; the country is a world-renowned creator and distributor of some of the planet’s finest vinos. Many of these were exhibiting in Melbourne, with taster sessions galore.
A favourite stand of ours was The Wine Society: they are a member’s club which gives individuals access to some of the country’s best vineyards, at incredible prices; just $50 (£25) for general membership gets you two bottles of wine for signing up, and a lifetime of amazing discounted bottles… We met the lovely Hugh, with whom we sampled many wines, from an earthy Pinot Noir to the smoothest Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted. It’s a great organisation operating all over Oz, and well worth looking in to, for all wine lovers out there.
Another brilliant find was the Bass & Flinders gin tent, where you can sample their sharp range of gins, or even take a gin-making masterclass and bottle your very own recipe. Another astonishingly delicious discovery for myself was the previously unbeknown wonders of Indian wine – yes, Indian wine. Grover Zampa are a grower and creator of incredible wines, from India of all places. I know it sounds strange – we’re used to hearing of wine from the famous regions: Napa Valley in California, Marlborough of New Zealand, etc – but Grover’s wines were absolutely fantastic; I actually found a bottle of Rose wine that I liked (first time for everything), and their Reserve line is absolutely delicious. Click here to have a look at their site – Indian wine, a new concept for me, but certainly one to watch.
The best thing about Taste? Everyone at each festival will be a local business – meaning, when you leave, you have just to make a quick search online to track down the nearest branch. And, ouila; you can relive all of your favourite Taste moments in full.
So where to next?
Taste festivals operate on a worldwide basis, so it’s well worth giving them a follow to make sure you know when they’re coming to a city near you – which, given their success to date, they certainly will be.
You can follow Taste via social media by clicking the links below:
Click here to check out a list of everyone who was exhibiting at Taste of Melbourne, and here for their main homepage, to have a look at where they’re going to be heading next – scheduled events already include Dublin in the summer of 2016, Dubai next March, Christmas specials in both London & Italy and many, many more locations across the globe.
Taste of Melbourne was incredible, and I truly can’t wait to see where I run into these guys on my travels in the future.