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.

 

Melomakarona

IMG_0887.JPGCaution: trying to say the name of these biscuits as an Anglo can have dangerous consequences for earworms.

These biscuits were my first foray into the Greek chapter of Tess Mallos’ Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook. They’re honey-dipped cookies and they were, of course, a winner. They were a bit fiddly to make what with the kneading and then the pinching off and the adding the filling and then pinching shut, but in the end it was totally worth it.

The pastry is a pretty straightforward sweet one; it has both oil and butter which surprised me a little but they don’t come out particularly oily or anything. Orange zest and juice is a nice touch.

The filling is honey and cinnamon and walnuts and orange juice; it’s meant to have some almond essence but I decided it wasn’t necessary. You grab a bit of pastry, make a flat disc, put some filling in the middle and then pinch it together. Like I said, a bit time-consuming… but I made just over 40. (The recipe says 60; I presume my biscuits were IMG_0886.JPGbigger than they’re meant to be.)

After they’ve cooked you also dip them in a honey syrup; you only dip the ones you’re going to eat immediately. I made some for friends, but didn’t dip them all; I’m not sure how long they’ll last. Ate some that had been dipped the day before – they still tasted fine, although yes probably a bit better when they were fresh.

I can imagine making these again although it will have to be an important event to make the time worth it.