Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Melbourne Food Adventure Part 1 - Good Food & Wine Show

I'm not gonna lie. The Melbourne Good Food and Wine Show is probably one of my favourite days of the year, behind Christmas, Easter and the Chocolate Rush Festival. Yes, I like to eat, don't judge me. So, at 9:34am yesterday morning when I jumped on the train to the city with Sous-Jeff, I was pretty darn excited! There's just something about being surrounded by good food and good alcohol and other people who enjoy it that just makes me happy! You have to understand, as a personal trainer, I'm generally surrounded by people wanting to lose weight and obsessively counting every calorie that goes into their mouths, so a change to celebrate and enjoy food is rare for me.

Despite the weather reporter's morning threat of rain, it was a beautiful clear day - my sign from the Gods that I was indeed meant to eat, drink and be merry! As the train carried us closer to our final, heavenly destination, I babbled on to Sous-Jeff about the exhibitors I knew of, ones that I'd heard of and what I had heard of their wares, recommendations from other bloggers, places we might be able to check out for dinner if Sous-Jeff could be bothered wondering the streets and putting up with me for a little longer... I think he might have tuned out for a while (not that I blame him), and thankfully, we arrive at Flinders St station soon enough. 

Again, feeling the fate of the Gods was with me, we disembark the train and exit the station only for me to come face to face with Degraves St. "Ummm.... honey.... do you think we could maybe just take a quick little detour? Please?" He looks at me quizzically, and I continue; "Maybe just a tiny, super quick detour to Little Cupcakes? Please?" I'm met with a look of exasperation and although he knows he can't win, he offers up a weak "but we're not even close to it!" I point across the road, and Sous-Jeff shrugs his shoulders and hands over his wallet. There are some battles that really aren't worth fighting.

Little Cupcakes
Shop 7 Degraves St,
(03) 9077 0413
Little Cupcakes 

Like a kid in a candy shop, I don't know where to start. There's already a long line of people in front of me, despite having only opened an hour ago, and I stand on my tip toes to see all the pretty cakes. Eventually, Sous-Jeff decides on a Carrot Cake (traditional carrot cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting) and the day's special cupcake, a Blueberry and White Chocolate number, with a white chocolate frosting. After much indecisiveness and Sous-Jeff declining to buy me more than 2 cupcakes ("we're going to the Food & Wine Show Jess, you do not need any more cupcakes!"), I finally pick out a Cookies & Cream cupcake (chocolate cake with Oreo vanilla frosting) and a Lamington cupcake (vanilla cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting and shredded coconut). I'd normally go with the creamy coconut cake, but sadly they weren't making an appearance in the window of goodness.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a cupcake connoisseur. In fact, if you were to play the word association game with my family and friends, I'm fairly certain 9 out of 10 would associate me with either cupcakes or chocolate. I've baked and eaten a lot of cupcakes in my 25 years. When ever someone comes to me with a cupcake recommendation, I head out and give it a try. So, please believe me when I say I honestly believe these are the best cupcakes I've ever had. Soft, fluffy, light, airy, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth, would all be understatements. They are magnificent, and if you live in Melbourne and haven't tried them yet, shame on you! Go now!

Would rate it a 10 out of 10. 

Little Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Full of sugary goodness, we continue on our path to the Food and Wine Show. One moment we're out in the hustle and bustle of Melbourne's South Bank, the next we're in food land... aaahhhh, where I belong :)

As this is our 3rd trip to the show together, we have developed some traditions. As such, our first order of business to attend to is to find the Bocastle Pies stand. Our grand tradition is to purchase a sample plate upon arrival before commencing our grand trek around the show. Our tasting plate today consists of 4 mini pies - Thai Chicken, Moroccan Lamb, Beef Burgundy and Aussie Beef, and they are all magnificent. Other than the Beechworth Bakery, these are some of my favourite pies.

Next up, we make our way to the Celebrity Theatre to watch George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan's "Celebrating the Sea" session. 
George whipped up a Millionaire's Moussaka - a little baked dish comprised of artichoke hearts, potato and crayfish, covered in a bechamel sauce, and topped with salmon roe and capers, and some Filo cigars - home made filo, filled with caramelised onion and anchovies. Gary produced some oysters with a vinaigrette of black beans, ginger and chilli, topped with some crunchy daikon, and fritti misti - mixed, deep fried seafood, dipped in tempura batter and served with saffron aiolo.

Upon leaving the show, thoroughly hungry, it's time to start sampling our way through the vendors - yay! Here's my favourite picks:

Potato? Check! Battered? Check! Deep fried? Check! Chicken salt? Check! Yuuuuummmmm!!!
Korean Twisted Potato
Giant freckles from Freckleberry Chocolate Factory - I looooove freckles! In fact, I ate so many when I was a kid, my grand father convinced me that was the reason I had so many freckles! Unlike most freckle chocolate though, this chocolate was incredible smooth chocolatey, not the typical cheap, powdery tasting stuff you usually get. 
Freckleberry Chocolate Factory
A cup of Cookie Dough "ice cream" from Mini Melts. It's a premium ice cream, cryogenically frozen in order to lock in the flavour. They're like little ice cream pebbles - surprisingly creamy too!
Mini Melts
Starting in the alcohol department, the Howling Wolves 2011 SixPointSix Moscato was beautiful for a low alcohol variety. It wasn't as sweet as you'd expect, and the berry flavours really jumped out.
Howling Wolves Wines
Possibly my favouritest wine ever, the Rebello Wines Strawbellini - it's a strawberry flavoured Moscato. You may have noticed that I'm quite a sweet tooth, and my choices in wine are no exception. Perfection in a bottle. Their Apple & Strawberry Cider and Fragola Cielo Strawberry Liqueur are fantastic too.
Rebello Wines
The vodkas from Keglevich were lovely - Rockmelon, Mixed Berry Fruit, Peach and Blood Orange were my favourites, also great mixed with some bubbly!
Keglevich Italian Vodkas
No picture of this (oops!), but Sake Japan gave us a taste of the most delicious plum flavoured Choya - wish I'd bought a bottle now!

Dream Cakes provided me with the hit of sugar I started craving well into my alcoholic beverage tastings - thanks to their vanilla melting moment biscuit, I carried on!
Dream Cakes
Another goodie is the Think Spirits stand - their pomegranate "Pama" liqueur is delicious, but sadly very overpriced.
Think Spirits
Organic Times delivered a surprisingly yummy cookie - we tried both the white chocolate and macadamia, and the chocolate chip and cranberry. I was a little apprehensive, as I was yet to try a decent organic cookie, but these were great!
Organic Times

Another one I didn't get a picture of was the Mix My Muesli stand. I've been ordering my customised muesli (it's really not as pretentious as it sounds, I swear! from here for months now, and the quality is top notch!

Wow, you'd think we'd be done after that... but, off we traipse to the Cheese Matters Discovery Class where Naomi Crisante leads us through 45 minutes of cheesy delights. Here's a quick run down of our class...

#1. We paired a glass of Croser NV Sparkling with South Cape Persian Fetta, Gourmet Morsels Dukkah and crispbreads - delicious, creamy and soaked in olive oil and garlic. Loved it!

#2. Croser NV Sparkling with Tasmanian Heritage Signature Camembert with dried apple - great contrast between the creamy cheese and sweet apple.

#3. Croser NV Sparkling with King Island Dairy Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie and Always Fresh Beetroot Relish, with some fruit bread - contrast between the sweet relish and the insanely creamy cheese was magnificent, this was my favourite cheese.

#4. James Squire Amber Ale and Tasmanian Heritage St Claire Swiss-Style Cheese with rye bread and pecans - wait for the after-taste, it makes you want more!

#5. James Squire Amber Ale and Cracker Barrel Special Reserve Vintage Cheddar with South Cape Quince Paste and West Bengal Rifles Mango Chutney - looooove quince paste, and although simple, loved the cheese too!

#6. Mitchelton Botrytis Riesling or James Squire Amber Ale with Tasmanian Heritage Red Square and fresh dates - nice and creamy texture, perfectly married with the sweet dates.

#7. James Squire Porter or Mitchelton Botrytis Riesling with King Island Dairy Roaring Forties Blue, with smoked almonds and Truffle Honey. I'm certainly not a blue cheese fan, but the truffle honey was so beautiful that it actually brought out some surprisingly nice flavours in the cheese.

With our bellies full and hearts content, we shuffle out of the Food and Wine show. It's still day light, so I decide we still have exploring to do.... part 2 coming tomorrow!

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