Tea Festival

I went to the Melbourne Tea Festival! I was pretty excited to go, although at the same time I was apprehensive; I don’t love crowds and I am easily overwhelmed these days. So I was worried that it would be just TOO BIG and I would find the choice overpowering.

Happily this was not the case.

I mean, I’m still amazed and impressed by the number of small scale tea blenders in Australia, and there were even some people there selling Australian-grown tea. But it wasn’t like a craft festival where there’s a dozen people selling identical stuff.

Well. Except they were all selling the same sort of product, I guess.

Also I just ignored all the naturopathic places, and if you’re selling Slimming Tea I am walking past.

ANYWAY. There were people selling black tea, green tea, and chai; I felt like green and chai dominated. Possibly because I don’t love those things, although my co-attendee, my sister, does like both of those so she was interested. This was my haul:IMG_1461.JPG

So yeh, I have a thing for Earl Grey (the two test tubes of black tea are both French Earl Grey). Partly this was in order to give myself a way of focusing; it would have been verrrry easy to just go completely nuts. At least this way I had some direction… and then there was the chocolate one. That’s made from the husks of cacao pods! How cool is that? Take the leftover stuff and roast it and serve it up as tea. Yes, it is still quite chocolate-y. The ceramic cup at the front was included as part of the entrance fee; pretty much everyone had tea brewing for you to sample, and that’s what you got to use.

IMG_1459.JPGThere were also some food stalls. In the spirit of my obsession, we had to try these Earl Grey macarons. They were very nice… but they were not very Earl Grey-y. WOE. (They were a not-very-overpowering jaffa, basically.)

I will probably be back next year.

25 years of Nebbiolo

IMG_1436 copyI enjoy wine, but I am by no means a connoisseur. For me, going to an event like this (with friends Gillian and Andrew), is an interesting exercise – doing a vertical tasting of the same variety of wine to see if I can actually taste a difference in them. It’s also usually more about the food and company though.

Organised as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, this was a celebration of Pizzini Wines having made wine, and especially nebbiolo, for a quarter of a century. We didn’t get to drink any of that first vintage because they drank it all…

IMG_1437.JPGIn the first bracket, I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I really didn’t enjoy the 1993, although it did actually improve with some air (I’ve always been a bit sceptical of this claim). The 1995 was definitely my favourite of this trio, although the 1997 was also fine. The 21st century wines, however, were far more to my liking. The 2004 in particular was very drinkable… we later discovered that this vintage was stored in new oak, which basically equates to sugar in wine-making terms; thus, no surprises. The 2006 was fine – I would drink it although it wouldn’t be my choice; I found it too dry – and and 2011 was a bit meh, although it too improved with some air; it didn’t have quite the flavour of the 2004. The last pair were intended to be a bit special, and they certainly were. Sometimes I have tasted wine that’s meant to be all ‘this is the reason we have a top shelf’ and I’m all ”I’d pay $25 a bottle”. The 1998 magnum was quite tasty. The 2004 Coronamento, though, was definitely the best wine of the evening. I don’t have the training to use all the proper wine-snob words, so all I can say is: it was very, very tasty.

The vertical tasting was definitely worth it in that sense – the same grape tasting different based on growing conditions and time in bottle and all those sorts of things. It was a good education in that.

…well, the Coronamento was the best nebbiolo, anyway. Because not listed here was the final wine we tried: we tried it out of a cask, because it hasn’t actually been bottled yet. I don’t know if it has a name but it’s made from trebbiano grapes, is a dessert wine, and whooooaa. A. Maze.

The food was provided by Project 49, in the restaurant which isn’t officially open yet. The first course was a wee plate of four types of mushrooms, accompanied by a white bean puree and truffle paste with dehydrated/rehydrated mushrooms and was spectacular. Next was a risotto of pine nut, pear, pear, ash… and rabbit. And it was also amazing. Then main was two thick slices of a pan-fried sausage, which was a bit like chorizo and all caramelly from the frying and delicious, with lentil and pickled radish. So good. Dessert was fig-leaf pan cotta and rhubarb, with a hazelnut shortbread. Overall, I enjoyed the food more than the wine (except for the trebbiano); this is no reflection on Pizzini and absolutely a reflection on me!

The event was well-organised, with quite a small number of people and tables fairly well spaced – it was still a pretty loud environment, thank you concrete floors, but it was bearable. There were four members of the Pizzini family present (it’s family owned and run), with one at each table, and they were pleasant and generous with their time and knowledge. Papa Pizzini should have been made to use notes, though, when he spoke… The Project 49 staff were delightful, and the food as noted was excellent.

Tea and brunch

IMG_1345.JPGA tea and brunch degustation, folks. Tea and brunch. My sister (of Mexican cooking class fame) and I gave this to each other as a Christmas present. It was hosted by Flag and Spear in a cute little studio in Fitzroy. All of the food was served as canapés; on the left is the menu.

The first tea was slightly carbonated and had a touch of passionfruit puree added; it was delightful and I wish it existed as a tea I could buy or easily make up. I would drink it all summer.

The food was excellent. The pumpkin dumpling was soft and there was a hint of lime in the mayo on top; the bircher was delicious, with the layer of pear in the middle. My sister is a bit over things served in Mason jars; I, however, am still besotted by them.The seeded toast – appetisingly presented here on my hand – was actually seeds and nuts that the cook had laid out and baked and then cut into sheets. Delicious. The waffle stack was amazing and we were a bit surprised  about the chilli on top; the tea smoothed it out nicely. And the French toast muffin was an excellent final dish.
IMG_1343.JPGIMG_1344.JPGIMG_1346.JPG

IMG_1349.JPG

IMG_1348.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, the tea was also a significant part of the event. I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of green tea so I wasn’t expecting to love all of these. But the second one, which is called white tea in Chinese but is actually a green tea – because it’s from a white jade tree – was delightful and smooth and wonderful… and in fact all of them were very drinkable. I wouldn’t have much more than this small glass of most of them, but there was no occasion when I was looking for a pot plant… and the last tea had such a story attached to it (it was all sold out from the tiny little plantation and the owner went to buy some back from her person in Shanghai just for the organiser for this event!).

IMG_1347.JPG

Acts of Kitchen: tasting with Alisa

AoK_logo_v2In which I make a few new things, and I taste Melbourne Kit Kats together with Alisa!

The Melbourne Kit Kat Chocolatory

 

Anne the preserving queen

Mexican tortilla ‘casserole’ (discussion of my version, and the disappointing cake)

Alisa’s previous appearance 

My Kit Kats:

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has featured fairly heavily in our Marchs the last few years – some things by ourselves, some things with some equally foody/wine passionate friends. We’ve done French, we’ve done Spanish, we’ve done Middle Eastern and Japanese; some have been incredibly overpriced and eye-rolly while others have been staggeringly good value and amazingly good food.

IMG_0044.JPGThis year we’ve done just two events, which is feeling really sparse now that they’re both done but it’s a shortened Festival this year… and it does mean we’re saving money. So I guess that’s good.

The first was “Melbourne meets Barcelona”, at a Spanish place in Hawthorn, with friends. It was… ok. It was a lot smaller than other venues I’ve been to which was nice. There were six courses, and they were nicely varied, but there was no course that I thought was amazing. One course was abalone… and I think I preferred the manchego-infused rice. The steak was ok but it was just steak. The dessert was weird: shortcrust pastry with a fig paste and then an almond milk cream of some sort, then with pieces of three different cheeses plonked on top. Like I said: Weird. Probably the greatest discovery of the evening, to be honest, was the Spanish vermouth. Totally in love. I also preferred the Australian wines (one from the Pyrenees, another from Heathcote) over most of the Spanish. I didn’t actually finish the sparkling wine *gasp*.

IMG_0045.JPGOur second event was at the Hellenic Museum: Hellenic High Tea. My beloved was a bit dubious but he was pretty impressed when we walked through the Hellenic Museum (which I’ve been meaning to visit for maybe a decade) and there was an amazing courtyard and pavilion with tables and chairs. In the middle of the city. For this one, we were seated at a mixed table of six. Two of the other people were quite happy to chat, and we had occasional interesting conversations. The other two… yeh. For a start they were pretty young, so maybe they had never been on a mixed table like that before. They barely spoke to each other. There were phones out. The beloved hypothesised that this was a gift that they weren’t wild about. I mean, they didn’t even eat everything. What even I do not understand.

Because oh, the food. It was pretty classic high tea food, but the Greek twist was wonderful. Chicken sandwich… with preserved lemon and dill. Gougeres… with oregano and feta (actually that wasn’t my favourite but still). Spanakopita, braised lamb cigarillos, pistachio macarons (SWOON), and it was just wonderful overall. The Greek island iced tea was
excellent. I’d gone for the ‘drink on arrival’ option – the sparkling was ok but I’m told the frappe martini was a bit like having cold coffee. The presentation of all of the food was great, the ambiance was lovely (a warm day but we were in shade; a trio of maybe-uni-students playing entirely background-worthy music; two of the most spectacular arrangement of dahlias I have ever seen in my life).

I’m already looking forward to seeing the advance programme for 2017.

 

Sipping vinegar

aka drinking vinegar

aka shrub

This is another recipe that I got courtesy of Kate of Just Add Moonshine. I have no idea where she got it from, and a very cursory search online doesn’t find me the recipe she gave me.

Sipping vinegar is for adding to soda water or other sparkling water, or gin and tonic or… other alcohol, I suppose. It’s very easy to make: it just involves fruit, white or cider vinegar, and sugar. The variations Kate told me about are lemon or apple. The lemon was ok but the apple – I used pink lady – was fantastic.

Three apples, grated

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

Put it all together in a saucepan; wait til the sugar dissolves then leave it simmering gently for half an hour. Then strain it – Kate’s method is to put a Chux into a sieve over a bowl or jug, and leave it to drip for however long.  The vinegar is really strong, of course, so you’ll need the rangehood going; I’ve taken to doing the straining outside, because it’s still pretty potent at that stage.

I’ve also tried it with mango leftovers – pips and skins, after cutting them up for dehydrating – and an apple to make up the quantity. It wasn’t very mango-y, tragically, and I’m not sure I can face sacrificing a mango or three to make sipping vinegar.

The end result: it is a little vinegary, of course, but the sweetness cuts through it nicely; refreshing is a good word for it. You don’t need too much for it to add a good flavour. The above recipe gives about a cup or so of vinegar; I haven’t noticed it going off, and I suppose it lasts for quite a while with those ingredients. I have no idea how many drinks you’d get out of that much – depends entirely on how much flavour you require.

It’s definitely worth giving it a go.