March is Festival Month in Melbourne, there's no denying it. And apart from my obvious affinity for all things delicious, I have a special place in my heart for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival because their headquarters are here, yes RIGHT HERE AT THE MARKET.
If you look up as you walk towards Market Lane, you might even spot the Festival staff on the balcony, making the decisions that shape the events this city enjoys so much. One particular employee has been known to occasionally accidentally dampen passerbys when watering the Festival herb garden!If you think this means I get inside knowledge, think again. Everyone at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is sworn to secrecy over next year's theme and no amount of bribery will cause them to spill the goods. Humph. We wait (impatiently).
There are more events than any one foodlover could possibly attend, but I particularly enjoyed two this year. One, our collabaration with Napoleone and Co Cider and Walter Trupp. Set up on the Market floor was our very own Market of Eden, hay bales and apple trees surrounding a hessian-clad table dotted with chilli plants.
Chef Walter Trupp designed and cooked four courses to complement different apple and pear ciders created by the team at Napoleone and Co. It was an enjoyable and unique experience and you can read about it in detail at The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua and MEL: HOT OR NOT.
The second was the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Langham Chef Masterclass over the weekend of 9 - 10 March. Packing demonstrations and discussions from chefs, winemakers and critics over a weekend led to a fabulous couple of days filled with new tastes, knowledge and ideas. So buzzing that I couldn't fall asleep for five hours on the Saturday night! Fortunately, thanks to the inhouse Festival coffee pop up, I managed to be bright(ish) and ready for the Bertrand Grebaut session on time on Sunday morning.
|Matt Preston tries Magnus Nilsson's burned cream sauce|
|Note Vegemite amongst the selection of ingredients!|
And amidst all the dazzling tastes the food of Karen Martini stood out. A regular here at the Market, her techniques were not as startling as some nor did her ingredient list included edible ants or grits but it was food that I loved to eat and it was food that I will cook over and over again for my family. Her dish of kingfish with labne, nuts, watercress and pomegranate is already bookmarked to be shared over a Sunday lunch.
That's what the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is about for me. Discovering new producers, chefs and techniques. Tasting dishes that I know I'll never even attempt to recreate, wines that will never sit in my cellar (note, dirty cupboard under the stairs). Setting my mind ablaze to the point where I can't sleep and at the end, coming home. With a full stomach, some recipe notes and eyes to the future of food in a city I love.