16 iconic Sydney restaurants. 48 tasting dishes to choose from. 90 'Crowns' to spend. And only 4 hours to do it in. According to the organisers it was the ultimate opportunity to create your own degustation menu, and that we did.
All the food and drinks ranged from 6 to 12 Crowns, Crowns being the 'official currency' of the event. Having a booklet of coupons made paying for food easy, there were no queues or searches for ATMs. Plus it put me in a Disneyland kind of mood, with another currency we were practically on holidays.
In a moment of brilliance, Rahul and I had decided to do a spin class a few hours before arriving at the festival, so by the time we walked in the gates we were famished. I sounded like some kind of junkie, desperately telling Rahul I needed 'something to take the edge off.'
This something turned out to be the famed wagyu beef burger from Justin North's Becasse offshoot, Plan B. I've seen references to the wonder of this burger all over the print and internet media, and when Rahul went to Plan B for lunch a few weeks ago I told him he had to try it but sadly it wasn't on the menu that day.
All I can say is that it totally lives up to the hype. 12 Crowns well spent. We were also given a booklet containing some of the recipes from the day, including this burger. I was slightly alarmed to find that a four burger recipe contained not only 400g of wagyu beef, but another 100g of wagyu fat. Which brings me to another important festival feature, all of the servings were miniature versions of the real menu item.
Longrain is one of Rahul's favourite restaurants, but one I haven't been to, so I was itching to try some of their food. The yellow curry of Byron Bay Berkshire Pork with pickled mustard greens was amazing. The pork was incredibly tender and the curry strong and rich, so the pickle provided a great bitey contrast.
We also tried the Faggotini di Carne from Buon Ricordo which was a 'home made sausage bound with parmesan and truffle egg', grilled king prawns with black pepper and curry leaf sauce from Flying Fish and manchego and serrano montaditos from El Toro Loco which turned out to be a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. Quite ironic because after pondering the enormous menu we decided to try something which was outside our comfort zone, which cheese and ham sandwiches certainly aren't. In fact I think that ham and cheese toasties are a universal cuisine!
Eventually I persuaded Rahul that it was dessert time and therefore time to order a vanilla panna cotta with lavendar honey and fresh pomegranite from Jonah's. The service staff are obviously highly aware of this pudding's reputation of looking like a wobbly boobie, and gave it a good circular swing and jiggle as they served it. It was hands down the best panna cotta I've ever eaten, the combination of lavendar, honey, vanilla and pomegranite was perfect.
We took a little break from eating to do a Planet Cake cupcake decorating lesson with Handi, whom you might remember from Masterchef. We had a scintillating discussion with Handi about how he can eat lots of cake but remains trim svelte from the physical exertion of carrying giant cakes around. Hilarious. Planet Cake were running free classes five minutes apart all day, and teaching a range of cupcake designs. Rahul ate his about two minutes after the class finished, but you can still see what a top job he did despite only a half dragonfly visible below!
By three o'clock we were about ready to be rolled home, but with my few remaining Crowns I bought a Pat and Stick's Caramel Pecan Ice Cream which is basically an incredibly up market Monaco Bar. So good. I've since been scheming about how I could make one at home using mini cake rings and my new ice cream maker (more on that later!)
All I can say is bring on Taste of Sydney 2011.