A 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.
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!).
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.
This 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*.
Our 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.
aka drinking vinegar
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.