Tasting Australia Day 4


Brand new day and a brand new adventure was ready for me at Tasting Australia on Wednesday 3rd May. This morning I arrived to a bustling office with information about the Glasshouse Dinner and Marco Pierre White’s generous gesture in signing all the books of the attendees (that’s over 150 guests!).

Perhaps he was preparing himself for this evening’s showcase, in which he would be interviewed by Fool Magazine’s Lotta and Per-Anders Jorgensen at the Chef’s Journey in Town Square, followed by a ‘White Heat’ book signing in the Living Library.

Yi was finally back in the office today, after spending the weekend in the Barossa for Maggie Beer’s Tribute Dinner and the Marco Pierre White Dinner at FINO in Seppeltsfield. I got the inside scoop on the amazing dishes, how lovely the guests and festival stars were, the beautiful scenery, and I snapped up an extra menu of what was served at FINO. Yi sadly didn’t get any photos (boo!) because she was so busy rolling up her sleeves and soaking up the moment.

Maddie and I headed over to Town Square at 5pm to prepare for the Chefs Journey with Alex Herbert, Analiese Gregory and Marco Pierre White. The stage was set up for a panel of three, with the Jorgensen’s interviewing the chefs. Analiese was to go first, followed by Alex, and finally Marco.

As much as I would have enjoyed listening to their stories, it was time to get to work and set-up for the book signing in the Living Library. Elle came over to discuss the procedure for the evening and we got to work setting up the bollards for two individual cues; one for priority ticket holders and another for secondary ticket holders. As it turns out, by purchasing a MPW book from the Living Library during Tasting Australia, a priority cue ticket would be given to allow first preference when getting it signed this evening. Additionally, other guests would receive tickets in a colour coded format from yellow, blue, green, and red; and they would be attended to sequentially in the second cue.

I’ll admit, I did fear for my life a little, as I was setting up. I could foresee a stampede of fans racing towards the shipping container we were guarding, holding the precious celebrity chef. The crowd had gotten quite large for Marco’s Chef Journey Interview, and people were eager to cue before it was over; missing some juicy gossip as the author of White Heat disclosed his family history of chefing and evolution in the industry over the years.

I was pleasantly surprised when the guests cues formally, and with tranquillity. Despite the cold settling in past 7pm, everyone was relaxed and content to wait for their turn. I counted almost 90 people in the priority line which began to move solidly within the hour. The Living Library team set up a desk between the cues and consequently sold out of all MPW merchandise, which caused the priority cue to grow as people became aware of the exclusive tickets available with their purchases.

Managing the secondary cue was pleasant as the cheery Marco fan at the front happily chatted about her following of the star and her excitement to be attending Marco’s Kitchen at the Adelaide Casino the following day. I excitedly shared stories about Marco’s delight in Adelaide and how he had hoped to extend his stay here. Her partner behind her was also enthusiastic about meeting him. I was so happy when the priority cue diminished and they were swiftly ushered into the Living Library to meet their legend live. Events like these really get you in touch with community, and it is a pleasure to hear their passions and pursuits, and being part of having them actualized. I was delighted to meet them both. I’m sure they had a wonderful time at the lunch the following day.

With insider knowledge, I had purchased a book in advance, so after dismantling the bollards, collating the tickets, and removing the signage. I joined the end of the cue to get my copy of White Heat signed as a gift to my wonderful Bar Mercato manager. As I skipped inside I was stopped by Verrity who opened the book to the correct page and asked me what my name was. Fearful there might be a mistake, I slyly said “Its Maria” which she whispered to Marco, behind her, while passing on the book. He was seated at a small table with a bottle of wine and half full glass of red. In his glasses, his limbering frame, covered in a classic grandpa cardigan, hunched over the book he began scribbling away.

I watched wide-eyed with wonder, and was taken back when he looked up and said:

“Maria, how are you my dear?”.

“Well, thanks, how are, urm, about you?” I stammered, feeling embarrassed and nervous that I was addressed.

He continued to scribble as Lucy appeared next to me and asked if I’d like to take a photo. I gleefully handed over my phone and threw my arm around his shoulders as he held up the book; giving that classic brooding stare, I’m sure you have seen everywhere, and Lucy snapped away.

He handed the book back to me and I thanking him, to which he replied, in that smooth strong accent, “You’re very welcome my dear”. I kissed him on the cheek and skipped out, bumping into Elle. “How was it?” she grinned. Surreal was the only word I had.

The crowd dispersed at that point, I was happily hugging my prize as Maddie cam over and said the event was over, time to head home. I grabbed my beanie and jumped on the bus. I couldn’t wait to see the look on Maria’s face when I handed this book to her tomorrow!

Tasting Australia Day 3

Tuesday was another late start for me, heading into town at 10am. Today was going to provide a bit of adventure, stars, and escape from the office. My first task was to accompany Thi Le to her cooking demonstration in Adelaide Central Market.

After compiling a running sheet for Talent pick-up for Nunce, Maddie and I met Thi and her sous chef, Mia in the Hilton Hotel Lobby. We strolled over to the Central Markets and Thi told us about how much she was enjoying Adelaide and Tasting Australia. This was her first time in the SA capital and she was mesmerized by how affordable the living was compared to the Eastern States. She divulged conversations with the other chefs that had involved opening restaurants in our small part of the country, given the grand interest received from the community and affordable venue rates. Going on a Primary Industries and Resources SA tour the previous day, Thi had thoroughly enjoyed Alexandrina Cheese Co. cream and was hoping to source some to take back to Melbourne with her that afternoon.

Arriving at the Central Market, we met with the Event Management team and Thi began to set up with her prep. The demonstration would take place in the Market’s Community Kitchen which faces a seating area of 30 and features overhead cameras so viewers have a birds-eye –view of the culinary creation. To the left of the kitchen area was a tasting area for Market produce. Today this included Poh’s Strawberry and Sweet Chilli Jam, home-made Hommus and speciality Butter from Jagger Fine Foods. The Strawberry jam was the definite winner for me – it was heavenly! The jam of your childhood; so fresh, light, and flavoursome. After indulging in the samples, Maddie and I went on a hunt for Alexandrina Cheese Co. products and the cream that Thi craved. After visiting several sites with our eyes on the prize, we located two vendors: The Smelly Cheese Shop and Say Cheese. Happily, we snapped a pic of the product and went back to watch the demonstration.

The demonstration went very well. Thi made her curried flounder dish, the most popular item on the menu at Anchovy. She showed us how she simmered the spices in creamy coconut milk to bring out the flavours and thicken up the sauce. Interestingly, she also gently bathes the fish in the liquid, giving it a decadent coating. I got a heck load of pictures of Thi and Mia, but not close enough to the dish sadly … the crowd was quite large, filling up the space and everyone there was keen to grab a small bite of Thi’s delicious fish, which intoxicated the room with heavenly aromas of spice and sweetness. When the demonstration came to a close, we took Thi and Mia over to Town Square to sign a whole stack of Tasting Australia plates (I’ll try to sneak a photo at some stage, they are quite magnificent!), then broke for lunch.

I was excited to see Simon Byrant in Charred, tossing together a spicy fish dish with rice; sustainably using the left over fish from the Glasshouse Dinner with Josh Niland, Katrina Armstrong, and Analiese Gregory the night before. He had a team of three, including himself and the scene was quite vibrant and lively. Simon had a solitary pan tossing the fish through with a selection of Asian spices before delicately tumbling the steaming meal onto a bed of rice. He had quite a selection of fresh fish to choose from: tune, mulloway and flathead. The line-up was huge! How could I say no?! I selected tuna and flathead and stared on, wishing I wasn’t so shy, and could have video-ed the entire experience.

Simon is such a fascinating person. I would love to sit down and interview him one day. He is so passionate, creative, and dynamic. He thinks fast on his feet, is very flexible, friendly and obliging. Plus his naturally sustainable nature, and fresh approach to keeping it real, despite his celebrity status is so inviting and welcoming. I would be absolutely delighted to have a one-on-one conversation with him in the future, perhaps I’ll get the courage to ask … Until that day, I would proudly take my unique and exclusive Simon-created lunch back to the event office to savour and dream.

After lunch I rolled up my sleeves and got to work on post event feedback for the Great Wine Voyage. There was much excitement around the office for the evening’s Glasshouse Kitchen event which would feature Marco Pierre White cooking alongside Clayton Wells and Jock Zonfrillo. Maddie and I banded together to retrieve all 150 copies of White Heat back at the SATC office, as these were going to be given out as gifts to the attendees of the dinner. Man they were heavy! The book is huge! We transported them to Town Square where we met Tess in the Glasshouse area, and set the books out for later in the evening. I found out the next day that after the dinner was served, Marco had actually gone around to each guest and signed each copy of the book! Such a generous gesture! I’m sure the guests were absolutely thrilled with this, he genuinely did this out of the kindness of his heart. I guess all that talk about his tyranny is just for show and drama; I’ll bet he is a real sweetheart inside (which, unknown to me, I was about to discover the following night …).

We crammed a lot in for half a day on the job, but it was an absolute delight. I jumped on the bus at 6pm filled with gratitude and a warm buzzing feeling of a vibrant and interactive day.

Tasting Australia kicks off today! 

Oh my gosh that came around quickly! As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for the bus to take me into Victoria Square where Tasting Australia will launch and Town Square opens at 11am. 

Last night my colleague Yi was in the Barista for the Maggie Beer Tribute Dinner, a final hurrah as her last year of Patron for Tasting Australia. Tonight Marco Pierre White will be cooking all things Italian alongside Jock Zonfrillo and Mitch Orr, at FINO in Seppeltsfield. Anyone who scored tickets is sure to have an amazing time! 

This week has been hectic, leading up to the event, with an office move into the Hilton, Glasshouse trail dinner service, and Town Square Warming; all in preparation for today. We will have our first glasshouse event this evening and Charred will be open from 11am. 

Today I will be helping Maddie run The Great Wine Voyage which kicks off at 4pm in Adelaide’s CBD. This is going to be a fun event where guests will blind taste a SA Produced and Internationally Produced Wine and try to guess which is the local. There are 9 different venues to visit between Adelaide’s East and West Ends, each one showcasing a different Wine Capital of the world. Hopefully I can manage some sneaky photos, stay tuned! 

Well, my bus is finally here time to get to work. Hope to see you at Tasting Australia, it’s going to be a fantastic event xo

Lifeline Australia needs our help!

I have signed Lifeline’s petition calling on our Government to take urgent action to reduce the suicide death toll. This issue is important to me.

Suicide is a terrible tragedy that touches far too many families and communities every year. It’s a national emergency that needs to be addressed.

It tears children, parents, siblings, partners and friends away from loved ones, and leaves a legacy of heartache and sadness.

Suicide takes more young lives in Australia than road accidents or cancer, but suicide prevention only gets half the government funding of road safety.

It’s a shocking and outrageous situation – and it demands an urgent response from our leaders. We can do better.

We urgently need a National Suicide Prevention Plan. A  plan – like those developed in up to 30 countries around the world – gives us the best chance of coming together to make a real difference and save lives.

I stand with Lifeline and support the development of a National Suicide Prevention Plan.

So will you join me?

With that many Australians demanding action we have a much better chance of getting it – and saving lives.

Please click here to sign the petition
https://prevent-suicide.lifeline.org.au/sign?utm_source=mar17updeml

Thank You xo

Breaking News!

Tasting Australia L Plates

I am so excited to share this with you – there are a bunch of Learn-How-To-Cook Events taking place at my TAFE SA Campus – The Regency International Centre!

The Regency’s Gastronomic Adventures program will hold 2 sessions on Saturday April 29th, on the Days Road campus, giving attendees the opportunity to cook with some of the biggest names in the business, learn some new skills, and have an incredibly unique and personal experience.

For someone who can’t cook, I would love to head along to one of these. My top 5 picks are:

  1. Autumn in Italy with Salvatore Pepe
  2. Asian Vego with Simon Byrant
  3. Japan Easy with Eddie Ye
  4. Out of Algeria with Azou Bouilouta
  5. Heat Seeking with Greggory Hill

Please book one of these amazing mini adventures, and let me live vicariously through you! Further details on the Tasting Australia website, click here.

Well, I finally made zucchini pasta …

Tonight’s mission: attempt a pasta dish with zucchini strips replacing traditional pasta and make it appetizing enough to be wordpress and instagram brag-worthy.

The idea: clean-ish Alfredo sauce with coconut cream, mushrooms, and bacon.

And it was terrible! 

How is it that those videos on Facebook make it look so damn easy! Sure the consistency was good and the texture was pleasant, yet, there was really something lacking! Maybe the coconut cream was overkill? Excessive mushrooms? Surely bacon can’t be a negative contributor to the cause … Hmmm maybe I should go back to the drawing board on this one!

Here’s the scoop:

3 bacon rashes, chopped

One clove of garlic, chopped

2 handfuls of assorted mushrooms, chopped

1 350ml tin coconut cream

2 large zucchini, finely peeled into long strips using a potato peeler

Step 1: I got the frying pan fired up with the garlic and chopped bacon (and a teaspoon of coconut oil for frying). This was about medium-high on the hawt scale. That took roughly 10 minutes. Electric cooker. Work with me people.

Step 2: added the chopped mushrooms and gently tossed around the pan for about a minute. It was pretty damn fragrant by then, I was really starting to enjoy myself!

Step 3: vigorously shake up the coconut cream tin, get the juices going and an even consistency. I’m not dealing with that half-ass liquid BS. Open and pour into frying pan, reduce heat to low and gently stir around that sexy bacon/shroom mix. Allow to thicken for roughly 5 minutes.

Step 4: I actually seasoned at this point (wrong move/right move – you decide) before adding the zucchini strips and gently combining.

Step 5: allow to get saucier than Shakiras Bachata video (which I saw yesterday and dammnnnnnnn!) for approx 2-3 minutes.
Step 6: parmy up and eat. Should be pretty simple right?

Correct answer: WRONG!

Thick, heavy, sickly sweet and with a badass after taste. This will not be a combo I will be trying again anytime soon! 

I’m even thinking next time I’ll go with a basic aglio olio pepperoncino base and build from there. The green zucchini sure looked sexy swirling around in the cream though … it’s ok to say that right?

Over to you, have you attempted this new craze? How did you go? And what tips can you share for this young padawan? Let me know.

In the meantime I’m going out for pizza instead!

DJ NP spinning the mushroom mix
This is … zucchini pasta
Mushroom and bacon hangs
Cream and zucchini added … Pedicure time girlfriend! Yes, that’s an italian flag apron … it was my nonna’s haters.
The final product LOOKS almost good enough to eat!