Presenting all the news that’s fit to digest from Tasting Australia 2012.

Presenting all the news that’s fit to digest from Tasting Australia 2012. This website will publish a series of daily reports, reviews, opinions and observations from participants in the Tasting Australia Food & Wine Writing Course.

MONDAY April 30

Food SA: Think Food – From The Idea To Here, by Bridget McNulty
In a shed, on 50 fertile acres of land in Loxton North, South Australia, Anne Battam lovingly produces an extensive range of tasty fruit products.  Her company, AUSNAT Fruits, first came to fruition in 1994. At that time, the value of oranges had decreased, so her friend Mandy had a brilliant idea to use the oranges grown on her property in a more adventurous way. It turned what seemed a lost cause into something more profitable and productive.
“We had no assistance from the government at the time and all profits were put back into the business,” says Anne. “Up until about five years ago, we had dollar-for-dollar grant from the government when we attended trade expos, but now nothing.”
Anne grew up on a fruit property. “Mum used to preserve fruit and it felt natural to carry on the tradition.” Today, Anne and her team of four dedicated employees create 32 delectable, handmade fruit products for the local market. “All fruits used in production are locally sourced,” Anne says. The brandied apricots and chocolate oranges are the company’s best sellers, and having tasted both I can see why. All fruits are dried, with no chemicals added. 
Anne remains focused on local markets and has embraced the use of online shopping, which is a growing area of her business. “If someone wants to purchase our products this way, great,” she says, but wants her company to remain manageable and is not keen on expanding into export markets.
The focus is to maintain control of all aspects of the business. Anne is extremely passionate and parochial about the products she produces, and hopes that when the day comes to hand over the reins to someone else, they will put as much passion and love into the business as she has. “We are proudly South Australian,” she states.

 Stirring the Pot by Lizzie Moult
Should you take business advice from a chef? Definitely, according to four successful chefs who shared their insight into culinary business operations at Tasting Australia's Stirring the Pot industry forum on Monday. Food critic John Lethlean lead this discussion which also embraced training staff, marketing and business.
“Small business is tougher than ever,” says Jeremy Strode from Bistro CBD, Sydney. Industry relations have changed over the years. Wages, rent and food costs are major factors of running a profitable business that need at least a 100 seats to be able to cover costs. “If you are going into business, you need to be able to do accounting,” adds Adrian Richardson from La Luna, Melbourne. “It helps to be vigilant and check everything. You need to know when your restaurant is going to break even during the week or know when.”
Briefing staff before service, or at least each week, is important, so they have the knowledge of what is on the menu and drinks list, and understand the company’s direction. Using words such as “grass-fed, free-range, product names”, Adrian says he gives customers the best information to make an informed choice. “Listening to the customer and staff feedback is a good way to improve menus,” explains Matthew Kemp from Restaurant Balzac, Sydney.
“We use what is cheap, which usually is what is in season,” Jeremy explains about his fruit and vegetable costs. Matthew goes to the markets, to find the best prices on food for his restaurant.
All the panel agree that understanding mark-up needs to be applied to food and drinks so the business can make cost. “Advertise to the people who love us,” says Matthew, showing his “warmth” by rewarding regular patrons of his restaurant by informing them of upcoming events. Camillo Crugnale from Assaggio Ristorante in Adelaide treats his clientele as if they are his best friends, while Adrian keeps a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

A Hard Act to Follow, by Suzanne Le Page
Ian Parmenter’s swansong has been a magnificent success. As Festival Director, he hosted the eighth biennial Tasting Australia, and presumably with divine intervention organised perfect weather for public feasting, drinking, presentations and lectures on the banks of the River Torrens, attended by an estimated 40,000 people over the two days. Interstate and overseas visitors will assume that this perfect weather, mainly cloudless blue skies, mild breeze and perfect temperatures are typical of Adelaide.
The river was especially attractive, with tame swans wandering the paths, and multicoloured paddle boats available for hire. Dragon boats and a gondola added a touch of international interest, and Popeye boats, a well-known Adelaide icon, drifted silently by.
The banks of the Torrens were crowded with people strolling, catching up with friends or sitting under umbrellas and sunshades, sampling the produce from many and varied food and wine stalls erected behind the public areas.
Two marquees accommodated large numbers attending debates, cooking classes and lectures by many famous chefs and food writers.
Ian Parmenter’s contract to direct this function expires this year, and there is already speculation about his successor. Well-known Adelaide identity and chef Simon Bryant has been mooted as a contender.
Announcement of the successful candidate will be eagerly awaited, but Ian Parmenter can certainly depart knowing that it will be exceedingly difficult to improve on this year’s Tasting Australia.

Changing Tastes: Andrew Fielke, by Brett Tizard

The importance of communicating with customers was a feature of Tasting Australia's Word of Mouth series and was highlighted by Stirring the Pot panellists. Native produce advocate and chef Andrew Fielke has been communicating with his customers for more than 25 years about the importance of native produce and the fantastic flavours to be found in the Australian bush.
Starting with Bush Tucker Supply in 1987 and moving on to the Red Ochre restaurants based in Adelaide, Cairns and Alice Springs in the 1990s, Andrew is now promoting his Tuckeroo range of spices, sauces and other produce. He is taking opportunities to share the secrets of these great flavours at events such as Feast of the Senses and FoodSA's ThinkFood expo, and next week will be in Darwin for an Australian native produce master class and a public food expo.
Fielke is a key player in Australian Native Produce Industry Ltd promoting the diversity of native produce in this rapidly growing industry. He has been working with regional and remote communities across the country over many years to develop reliable supply chains for these great Australian tastes.
Dark roasted wattle seed with chocolate and coffee overtones, the floral citrus flavours of lemon myrtle and Tasmania's pepper berry and pepper leaf are part of the selection that can now be purchased online. Desserts don't miss out, with strawberry gum and peppermint gum leaves adding special flavours boost to vanilla and chocolate dishes.
Fielke is part of an industry that is beginning to blossom with online stores, a major retail chain interested in taking on his antipasto range, and big rural producers looking to move into native produce.
Truly Australian tastes are coming to supermarkets and restaurants near you.

Dollars and Chefs, by Susan Lang-Lemckert

Fawlty Towers has a lot to answer for. Petulant chefs of the madman/genius kind who never left their kitchens – if they ever existed – have no place in today’s restaurants, as the guest panellists at Tasting Australia’s Stirring the Pot forum showed.
With the Australian food and dining market more discerning and competitive than ever, today’s chef/restaurateurs need good business-savvy as much as they need good Cab Savvy.
“I’ll float between front of house and back of house all the time,” says Adrian Richardson, star of Good Chef Bad Chef and proprietor of Melbourne’s popular La Luna restaurant. “That way you get to see what’s going on, the staff know you can see what’s going on, and the punters love it. You have to be hands-on if you’re running a restaurant.”
No arguments about that from Matt Kemp of The Montpellier Public House in Randwick, Sydney, who even visits the markets three times a week to source produce for his menus. “We all want to use what’s in season, but how can you know what’s in season if you don’t go to the markets?” he asks.
Tweaking menus is important, as is effective marketing. “I employed a marketing specialist for a year to help me develop strategies to keep our clients coming back,” says Matt. “And now I have a young person doing the Twitter. That’s much better value than paying for a newspaper advertisement that can be hidden by a reader’s thumbs.”
And a working knowledge of accounting is essential. “You need to check and sign off on everything,” says Adrian. “I can tell exactly when we’re going to break even by looking at the bookings on Wednesday. When other people are spending your money, you really need to be across where it’s going.”
So today’s chef wears a few more hats than yesterday’s ... but they all fit comfortably. Basil Fawlty would be proud.

Stirring the Pot: Lessons Learnt, by Kate Yates

English-born chef Jeremy Strode has been working in kitchens since he started washing pots at the age of 14. Following an apprenticeship in five-star hotels in London, he’s been fortunate enough to work alongside chefs Michel Roux, Roger Verge and Pierre Koffmann, before moving to Melbourne in the early 1990s. With these strong mentors and his own strong reputation for excellence in cooking, you’d think he would know what makes for a successful restaurant venture – but it took many mistakes to get there.
Jeremy spoke as a panellist as one of four chefs in frank discussion about the realities and pitfalls of the restaurant as a small business, at the Stirring the Pot forum – a catering industry event.
I found it interesting to learn that despite a remarkable career, awards and success with Langton’s, Bistrode and his latest venture with the Merivale Group, The Fish Shop in Potts Point, Jeremy is still learning. He is humble enough to admit that the public and industry recognition has been for his restaurants and cooking, not for his business sense.
Through Bistrode, a simple, rustic bistro in Bourke Street, Surry Hills, admits he’s learned the hard way. Living above the restaurant, housed in a century-old butcher’s shop, to attempt a balance of home and work life, the early years of the bistro were easy. Over the course of time, Surry Hills became a thriving dining precinct, but now has too many food businesses, all competing for diners. This has led to increased costs, rising rent, changes in wage and running costs. 
Despite running a successful operation, he forgot a simple rule of looking after the locals (“your bread and butter”). He says if you “give them love” they reward you with return visits. He knows he is a good cook but recognises his cooking skills don’t translate into being a good business manager.
Four years ago he took up an opportunity to join forces with the Merivale Group (led by Sydney dynamo Justin Hemmes). This allowed him to concentrate on cooking by taking the burden out of management and achieving a better work life balance.
All the chefs shared their experience of key aspects of business success, such as -keeping costs down by shopping at markets (and knowing the suppliers, what is in season, flavoursome and cheaper), costing out all dishes, keeping a reign on cash flow, understanding how many covers are needed to break even and make a profit. They also discussed the importance of working on the floor and in the kitchen, learning the secrets of marketing to grow and maintain a following of clients using database management systems, social media and other methods, and listening to what the customer wants.
Anyone in the trade can learn from these lessons.

Salt is Not a Dirty Word, by Melissa Barnett
It has been taxed and vilified. It has enabled humans to explore far-away lands. It has been blamed for disease and used as cures. Salt is one of life’s essentials and without it we would quite literally die – 0.9 per cent of blood is salt, to say nothing of how dull our food would taste. Just ask any chef – especially at Tasting Australia.
Barry Beach of Beach Organics luckily ignored the salt myth-information and has been importing hand-made sea salt from South-East Asia for a number of years. His salt is collected in buckets of seawater from the Wallace Line near Indonesia, the second deepest ocean trench in the world.
He sources from this region for reasons sustainability ahead of taste alone. The seawater is then put into copper vessels and poured onto sand to bake into flakes. This process is called seeding. Once evaporated, the salt is raked and rinsed with fresh water, creating a brine which is then poured onto traditional palm wood tables to dry once again. After the second evaporation the salt is gathered, rinsed again and evaporated for a third time before it is ready for use.
Barry sources his salt from traditional Javanese salt farmers in a relationship that he describes as “helping to keep indigenous food traditions alive”.
The salt comes as a fine “fleur-de-sel” or a larger grain, which resembles a tiny pyramid of salt between your fingertips. Salt in its most unadulterated state, says Barry, contains 74 different minerals, and when tasted should leave no bitterness on the back of the tongue.
Barry adds a range of herbs, fruit and flavours to his salt including chilli, vanilla pods, whole limes, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Walking past his stand at Tasting Australia’s Feast for the Senses on Sunday smelt like a walk beside the open ocean, complete with the tang of salt-laden sea spray.

Stirring the Pot, by Tania Paola
Some chefs argue about cooking the perfect fish. Some chefs argue about plating a dish. Four chef restaurant owners on this panel are passionately arguing the difference between warm marketing and cold marketing – and the perils of their business being left behind by social marketing.
“Marketing? Isn’t that where you buy your fruit and veg?” jokes Adrian Richardson, owner of La Luna in Melbourne for 14 years. Camillo Crugnale, owner of Assagio Ristorante and Assagio Cafe in Adelaide, confesses that he doesn’t tweet and Matt Kemp replies, “just find someone younger in your business to do it for you!”
Opinions quickly rise to the boil as host, respected food critic John Lethlean, admits that some chefs are “self-serving rubbish tweeters, so I switch them off”.
Humour aside, the celebrity chefs agree that being a good chef is not enough. Chefs need business skills, and owning a restaurant has been a steep learning curve.
Members and visitors at Restaurant and Catering SA’s Industry Development Day heard an exchange of thoughts and ideas, and insider knowledge of the chefs’ culture in their restaurants. They shared the wisdom of their mistakes, as well as their success.
“How to communicate with customers is all about giving them a reason to come back,” says Matt Kemp, owner of Montpellier House in Sydney. Warm marketing – email and newsletter marketing to people that are already customers – gives them an incentive to keep dining at Montpellier House, and has grown its database incredibly to more than 9500 people.
Jeremy Strode, owner for seven years of Bistrode in Sydney, admits “small business is tougher than ever because produce, wages and rent have all gone up”. Matt Kemp saves money by buying direct from growers markets, something that Adelaide restaurateur Terry Soukoulis, owner of Auge Ristorante, agrees with. “My chef and I buy direct from the growers at the Adelaide Produce Market every Sunday morning,” says Terry. “It’s amazing what you can find there.”

Food and Wine Writing Course, by Victoria Miranda
Stories surround all of us every day, but how do we identify the ones that will interest others and report on them? This is a skill many journalists develop through years of practice, but Tasting Australia's Food and Wine Writing Course offered participants a degustation of writing knowledge in its program.
Over five days, the food novices in this course are exposed to the life of a journalist with tight deadlines and pressure to produce a story that readers will want to read.
Professor Barbara Santich and David Sly, with more than 60 years’ experience between them, mentor the students with ease. Imparting tips on writing disciplines, identifying a story and the art of communication have been invaluable tools. The information generates sparks of interest amongst the students that inspire them throughout the course.
The energy of the students did not wean – not from the first day, when Tasting Australia director Ian Parmenter brought his infectious enthusiasm to the class, to the final day, when Janet Boileau, Publisher of Taste & Travel magazine, offered tips on pitching a story.
The motives of each participant varied. Some look at writing as a hobby, while others are considering journalism as a career. No matter the reason, Barbara and David devoted time to each student, encouraging them to find their own voice which would entertain and educate the reader.

SA Sustainable Seafood, by Sarah Mayoh
Sustainability seems to be a hot topic on everyone’s lips throughout Tasting Australia 2012 in Adelaide. South Australian producers are particularly interested in sustainability, specifically as it pertains to their thriving seafood industry. The old adage there are plenty of fish in the sea is becoming less relevant as the world realises that our resources, especially seafood, will not in fact last forever.
The Australian Conservation Foundation refers to sustainable seafood as that which is “sourced within the natural limits of our oceans with minimal damage to ocean life and habitats”. Wild catch, aquaculture and processing are the three main sectors of the seafood industry in South Australia, involving products ranging from rock lobsters to abalone and southern bluefin tuna.
Food SA’s Think Food trade expo on April 30 provided the opportunity to meet several South Australian seafood businesses. Aussea Seafood, which received approval for the internationally recognised Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in sustainability last year, was one producer on show. Rick Mezic, from Aussea Seafood (a prawn co-op with 21 members), explained that their prawns are all wild caught and snap frozen on-board within hours of hitting the decks. He says this process maximises the prawns’ taste and texture, and helps minimise waste. Since receiving its MSC certification May 2011, Aussea’s export orders began flowing in from July 2011, mainly from Europe.
A key objective for the illustrious SA seafood industry is “ongoing ecological sustainability”, according to its Food Plan 2010-2015. Fishermen, processors, the government and consumers all need to play a factor in ensuring sustainable seafood practices continue to forge ahead hand-in hand with sustained quality. Education will play a huge role in consumers understanding of sustainable seafood, and hopefully make them willing to dig a little deeper into their wallets at the fishmonger.

Celebrity Chefs? by Martha French

What does the word celebrity bring to mind? Maybe arrogant, beautiful, aloof or unapproachable. Which brings me to question if celebrity is the right term to be pairing with the word chef.
I was recently privileged enough to be part of the Food and Wine Writing Course as a part of Tasting Australia, and repeatedly witnessed over five days the graciousness, accessibility and generosity of all of celebrity chefs involved in the event.
Rachel Allen, during her book signing, fussed over a couple’s baby like any mum and made the experience much more about the couple than about her. At the Miele Chefs’ Showcase, Guy Grossi tossed chunks of bread dough into the front row and shared good natured banter with the crowd, giving the impression that he was having as much fun as they were. Grossi shook my hand and thanked me, a student writer, for covering the event. Paul Mercurio stood patiently in the lengthy lunch queue along with everybody else.
Adrian Richardson cited an incident where a patron was annoyed that he was not present at the restaurant while they were dining. His comment was that the experience should be about an enjoyable night out and good food: “It shouldn’t be about me.” 
What is it that keeps these chefs so down to earth? Maybe it’s because food is an essential part of all of our lives. Or maybe it’s because they all run viable businesses. The celebrity status these chefs have been assigned still seems to be very secondary to their passion for the profession. Their main concern is the people who pay to eat at their restaurants, not about their cookbook sales. It is still all about the food and pleasing the punter.
These chefs do have a celebrity-like influence on our lives, as many of us would aspire to produce lamb as tasty as George Calombaris’s or a golden apple pandowdy like Maggie Beer. However, these people demonstrate that being a celebrity does not necessarily mean having to act like one.

Stirring the Pot by Liz Nicholson

Restaurateurs are finding that they need to utilise social media to stay connected with their customers. Treating customers as friends and keeping them interested in your brand outside of the restaurant was one issue discussed at Stirring the Pot, an industry panelled event for Tasting Australia 2012. The discussion touched on using social media to help foster relationships with customers and encourage new and repeat business.
Panellist, restaurateur and chef Matthew Kemp said he uses social media to be a presence, be informative and to keep people interested in his brand, without trying to be too much about sales. Matthew finds that a Twitter account is meeting the needs of his restaurant Montpellier Public House, giving him the opportunity to give out information about current specials, mention a meal for the night and directing traffic back to the website.
Using the public interest in celebrity chefs to his advantage Matthew also has a professional Twitter account for himself, as it gives him a chance to make a more personal connection with customers and direct them back to the restaurant’s Twitter account and website. Matthew can therefore tweet when he's at the farmers market in Sydney or when he's just finished a radio interview in Adelaide, and keep connected with his customers and staff without mentioning sales directly.
Adrian Richardson is using the La Luna Bistro Facebook page to stay connected to his consumers by posting photos of dishes and events that the restaurant is participating in. Adrian was surprised by recent positive responses to the album uploaded showing the art of butchering involved in making salami. Photos such as this give Adrian the opportunity to entice prospective customers by re-connecting them with the food. Customers can see where it comes from and are ensured of its quality.
It is clear that both Adrian and Matthew think social media is an important tool for business, and Matthew’s advice to inexperienced or uninterested restaurateurs is to hire someone younger to do it.

Stirring the Pot, by Angela Malberg

The look of disappointment when customers don’t get what they expected is not what Matt Kemp, owner of The Montpellier Public House, wants to see. Kemp regularly briefs his staff about his vision for his restaurant. “This is my restaurant, my business and my reputation,” says Kemp at Stirring the Pot, presented by Restaurant and Catering South Australia. Keeping control of his business is essential for ensuring the restaurant remains a going concern. Good recipes and photographs keep staff on track to produce consistent flavour and presentation.
More often, customers’ expectations of a restaurant are built from images. Restaurateurs and bloggers are posting photographs of dishes on websites and Twitter. Adrian Richardson posts photographs of his dishes on Twitter to market his restaurant La Luna. Bloggers tweet photographs of his dishes during and after dining.
Beautiful appealing photographs can leave a restaurant vulnerable to such comments as “This is not what I ordered,” or “It doesn’t look like the dish on Twitter”. How do owners make sure that customers aren’t disappointed when served a dish they have been looking forward to?
Kemp provides photographs of his dishes to all staff so they have an easily accessible reference. “Photos help all cooks and chefs know what a dish is supposed to look like,” he says. Photos help staff to not miss items on the plate and help with consistency of presentation every time.
Photos need to be supported with accurate recipes and instructions. Dishes won’t pass customer scrutiny unless they are accompanied by flavour. Recipes help cooks and chefs know how a dish should be cooked and how a dish should taste, so that the flavour is the same every time.
Appealing photographs supported by accurate recipes protect Matt Kemp’s vision for and investment in The Montpellier Public House.

Stirring the Pot, by Nikkita Wood

A restaurant can’t survive without staff. It’s paramount to have competent and well trained staff both front and back-of-house to ensure the success and longevity of a restaurant. This topic was one of many at the panel discussion Stirring the Pot as part of Tasting Australia’s trade events on April 30.
Adrian Richardson, chef and owner of La Luna in North Carlton, instilled the importance of front-of-house staff knowing their product. The public are becoming more aware about the food they are consuming and aren’t afraid to ask questions. They don’t just want to know the cut of beef but whether the beef was grain or grass fed, Angus or Hereford, dry-aged, MSA Certified or what the marble score is, it’s really everything but the beast’s name.
At La Luna, staff also have input in the wine list, creating a positive relationship between workers and management.
Assaggio chef and owner Camillo Crugnale discussed incentives used to inspire staff at their café in Campbelltown. Gifts such as bottles of wine are used to motivate staff to sell spirits or upsell side dishes and desserts.
Ruby Stoddard, of Appellation at The Louise in the Barossa, revealed the importance of investing in juniors. “It’s hard to get quality staff to commit to a regional restaurant,” she says, so by continually training and investing time in staff, it ensures commitment and loyalty.
When it comes to kitchen staff, Jeremy Strode of Bistrode in Sydney knows that training the staff to understand correct recipes and food costs is essential to achieving a profitable business.
By paying staff well, creating an enjoyable atmosphere to work in and maintaining professional standards it creates a better environment for employees, restaurateurs and customers alike.

South Australia – from an outsider, by Steven Wiltshire

During Tasting Australia, a group of 17 students from very different professional backgrounds spent five days learning the foundations of food and wine writing from the expert tutelage of David Sly and Barbara Santich. The participants came because they have a passion for communication but also share a love of food and wine.
Lizzie Moult, a chef from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Hinterland, made the trip to Adelaide specifically to attend the course, but also to investigate a city with a reputation for great food. It is her first visit, and she likes what we are doing. An early impression was of the quality of produce and enthusiasm that both purveyors and customers have for produce. Compared with “back home in Queensland”, she says Adelaidians unashamedly care about eating the good stuff and customers take an interest in seasonality, regionality, sustainability and provenance.
Lizzie says South Australians think about food and this is reflected in the little things: the way we will happily queue at a crowded market stall and the popularity of the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market on a Sunday morning. Although she has not ventured outside Adelaide, she is very impressed with what she has seen of our produce and says she will return with her husband to explore the food and wine regions of South Australia.
At Tasting Australia’s Feast for the Senses, exhibitors said that although most of their customers were South Australian, the reputation that brought Lizzie to Adelaide was strong enough to draw a large number of interstate and even overseas food and wine enthusiasts to the event. This is a reputation to be cherished.

Success in the Dining Business, by John Tomich

How do you determine success in a profession with so many layers of ingredients? Is it the diner’s experience, the chef’s recognition among his peers, the chef acquiring celebrity status, restaurant award accolades, promotion of food to children or strictly financial reward? A forum of celebrity chefs presented their views at the Taste Australia 2012 Stirring the Pot forum chaired by well know food writer John Lethlean, whose reviews appear in The Weekend Australian.
A satisfied and loyal diner is the critical goal of a successful restaurant. This can be achieved through quality food and beverages but also to devoted attention and engagement with the diner. Adrian Richardson of La Luna Bistro in Melbourne was of the view that a chef should be encouraged to make direct  “hands on” contact with the diner at the table to discuss the meal, thereby creating a total dining experience. This, in turn, creates diner satisfaction and loyalty. He maintains that in order to maintain freshness and interest in his restaurant, regular tweaking of the menu is essential – this being based on continual review of his personal dining experiences, both locally and internationally.
The dining establishment needs to have a strong business structure, including marketing. Camillo Crugnale of Assaggio in Adelaide advised that meticulous attention be paid when selecting an accountant – especially one that specialises in the restaurant business.
Matt Kemp of Sydney placed a great deal of importance on marketing – the focused mostly on promotion and price. Matt discovered that well kept databases and email newsletters of special invitation offers maintain his “warm” loyal clients but also helped to attract new business. Profitability is helped by his custom of buying fresh produce direct from the grower, which also exposes him to the seasonal variations of produce.
The total dining experience must surely be the final determinant, being a distillation of all the various levels of ingredients in a successful recipe.

SUNDAY April 29

Wine Selectors’ Food and Wine in Harmony, by Victoria Miranda
“We all have different palates. Halleluiah,” proclaims wine educator Michael Quirk to 20 eager faces, and it is obvious he is preaching to the converted. With his 30 years’ experience in the wine industry and an obvious passion for food and wine, the participants at his Wine Selectors’ Food and Wine in Harmony session are in good hands.
Encouraging people to enjoy wine with food is a concept widely talked about and promoted but perhaps misunderstood in the general community, even among self-professed food and wine connoisseurs. If government campaigns against binge drinking are anything to go by, we are a nation with a culture of drinking to excess. Wine, for me, however, is best enjoyed when coupled with a particular dish in the same way side dishes are matched.
In much the same way, we do not want to overindulge on a main meal or its accompaniments, and therefore we should not have the need to overindulge on wine. The combination of food and wine should facilitate conversation, a sense of enjoyment and belonging among those sharing the experience.
This is where Michael Quirk assists people, balancing the flavours of food with the aromas and characteristics of wine. Michael confidently instructs participants to "follow your sauces first and then look to your meats". This may be where many people don't quite achieve a successful pairing of food and wine, as there is a general perception that red wines match red meat and white wines with white meats. It is not quite that simple, but it isn't rocket science either.
Michael contends if we match the flavours of our sauces with the characters that a wine offers, we achieve harmony between wine and our meal.

OzHarvest: Saving Food and Saving People, by Martha French
A fiercely energetic volunteer bearing pamphlets steps forward from the OzHarvest booth at Tasting Australia’s Feast for the Senses. Lyn Howland’s enthusiasm is infectious, explaining that OzHarvest is Tasting Australia’s official charity.
OzHarvest is a not-for-profit organisation that rescues food from various sectors of the food industry and diverts it to local charities that feed people in need. Lyn beams as she describes the joy on people’s faces when they receive pastries donated by the TAFE SA baking program. “They said it’s just like something from TV,” Lyn said.
OzHarvest was founded in Sydney in 2004 by Ronni Kahn, who was instrumental in forcing amendments to current Australian food laws allowing organisations to donate surplus food, free from concern over liability. The organisation began operating in Adelaide in January 2011, and to date has provided more than 330,000 meals. In March alone, OzHarvest provided 50,000 meals, double what they would normally do in a month.
Because OzHarvest has no storage facilities and deals mainly with perishable items, it must pick up and deliver food on the same day. Hayley Everuss, coordinator of operations says with a relaxed smile, “Yeah, one day Maggie Beer sent us a pallet of soup.”
The environmental benefits of diverting food previously headed for landfill are also immense. For every kilo of food rescued, the organization saves 2kg carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions and 143 litres of water. Additionally, money that charities would have spent on food can now be used for other programs.
Operations in Adelaide are currently limited by having only one refrigerated truck (donated by the Australian Hotels Association). “We have a waiting list of donors and recipients. We just need the trucks and finances to support them to move ahead,” says Hayley. Currently the organisation services Port Adelaide, the CBD, Glenelg and, from next week, Norwood. Another two trucks would allow the organisation to service the south and north of the city.   
There won’t be any need to rescue food from me today, as I set my sights on lemon pepper calamari from Squid Inc. My new five dollar OzHarvest bag will provide funds for five meals, and I leave feeling much better about a world with OzHarvest in it.

Food Safety, Food Security, by Suzanne Le Page
Two eminent academics, Professor Randy Stringer from the University of Adelaide, and Associate Professor Judy Carman from Flinders University discussed this issue of food safety and food security with food writer and critic Simon Thomsen from the Daily Telegraph in Sydney.
Risks can be divided into issues of availability, distribution or access, and diet safety. While there is now more food per person produced throughout the world than ever before, there are two major problems. Firstly, distribution is not equitable, and more tragically, in both under-privileged and wealthy nations, approximately 30% of all food produced is wasted, either discarded or spoilt without being consumed.
Spoiling or contamination of food is a major risk, and most South Australians still remember the E Coli poisoning by Garibaldi smallgoods, which not only caused death of a child, but long-term health problems for many affected consumers. More topical is an $8 million compensation award for a child severely damaged by salmonella bacteria allegedly purchased from a fast-food chicken outlet.
Risk of contamination has increased over recent decades, as food preparation and consumption has altered. Two generations ago, few people ate in restaurants, or only for special occasions. If the family meal was contaminated, only a few people were sickened. Today with restaurant food, perhaps 100 will become ill, and if the food is factory manufactured, possibly 1000 will be affected.
More serious in Australia are the long-term effects of diet, particularly on-costs related to obesity, diabetes, and diet-related conditions such as heart and cardiovascular disease, which will be a prolonged financial and social burden. Aboriginals and the elderly are considered at increased risk. Food in hospitals, schools and aged care centres has been industrialised, downgraded, monopolised and cost-driven. Poor diet is also learned from one generation to the next.
Concerned individuals and groups are flagging the problems and making attempts to rectify them, but the issue is social, national and global and will need government intervention and support to achieve results.

Market Abundance, by Angela Malberg
The thrill of visiting Adelaide for me has always included the expectation of tasting, smelling and savouring familiar foods and learning something new at the Adelaide Central Markets. Visiting the markets during a break from the hectic pace of the Tasting Australia Food and Wine Writers Course, I hoped to feel nurtured. In comparison to my experience at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market, I realised I was disappointed.
“You have to come to the Central Market. I’ll show you,” I said to Liz, a fellow student. She hadn’t seen or smelt or tasted stockfish. That rock-hard dried cod of my childhood that mama would soak for a day or two and smash with a mallet until soft, then cook mantecato or in umido. I expected to see it hanging in that familiar fashion from the ceilings of market stalls, together with dried oregano and salamis. It wasn’t there.
There were glorious smelly piles of cheese to taste, with baskets of real boiled bagels, a few smallgoods stalls and lots of crisp, fresh, colourful fruit and vegetables, but not that deli culture that I so fondly wanted to revisit. Central Market manager Roger Bryson feels ‘that life’s balance is restored just walking through the market”. I didn’t get that warm feeling and left disappointed.
Although I didn’t find stockfish, I found bounty blossoming at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market. I tasted the unctuous molasses stickiness of carob syrup from the Carob Kitchen and the creamy sweetness of prosciutto, chorizo and lombo from San Jose Smallgoods, then marvelled at light fluffy chewy handmade gluten free bread (I know that doesn’t sound possible) from Enzo’s Gluten Free. After savouring the glace figs in their warm robes of thick chocolate from Willabrand, I learned about four different varieties of chestnuts grown by Adelaide Hills Fresh Chestnuts. Abundance and joy overflowed.
Bryson’s passion for the Adelaide Central Market is admirable but instead of spitting pomegranate pips, he might find time to visit the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market and revel in its abundance. 

Australian Chardonnay, by Steven Wiltshire.

Wine Australia showcased 22 brilliant examples of Australian chardonnay from seven regions, with winemakers and distributors on hand to guide tasting and to answer questions. Aaron Brasher, Wine Australia's Regional Director for Australia and Emerging Markets, writes that Australian chardonnays “have metamorphosed in recent years into a new genre of wines that show structure, finesse, balance, acidity and fine, delicate fruit flavours”. At last!
In Australia, chardonnay is an often divisive and much maligned grape variety. Poor quality chardonnay fruit had been made into wine with too much winemaker influence for far too long. Fortunately, the historically typical Australian style of overworked, over-oaked, buttery wine made from low quality grapes is dying a long overdue death.
The change in style is due to several factors. The guys who grow the grapes are producing seriously good fruit from carefully managed vineyards. Winemakers are now keen to let the regionality, or terroir of the grapes dominate. In the past, it has seemed as though winemakers were trying to adhere to a generic “Australian chardonnay” mould. Australian consumers are now becoming more demanding of varietal and regional characteristics rather than standardised swill. Everybody is experimenting, and the results are very impressive.
Regionality plays a huge part in the finished product. Chardonnay from a cooler climate such as Mornington Peninsula may be thought of as more elegant, with a leaner structure, more subtle chardonnay fruit characters and racy acidity that is not as evident in a Margaret River wine. These differences should be celebrated.
While climate is highly influential, other factors are also at play. Soil type, vineyard altitude, viticulture techniques, and even the time of day (or night) that the grapes were picked are all important considerations and all influence the finished wine.
With so much good chardonnay from so many Australian regions it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t. Australian chardonnay has changed for the better, and it’s great.

Food Security at Word of Mouth by Liz Nicholson

Tasting Australia is not just a festival about tasting food, but also focuses on the environmental and social responsibility aspects of food.
Food security was discussed during a Word of Mouth session at Sunday’s Feast of the Senses as part of Tasting Australia 2012. The discussion questioned whether there is enough food to feed the world’s current population and that of future generations. The answer, according to Randy Stringer, Professor of Agriculture, Food and Wine at Adelaide University, is yes. “We will destroy the environment doing it but we will have enough food,” said Professor Stringer, drawing on the research he has conducted in food security.
Food security is about availability, access and utilisation of food, and the latter two aspects are of concern to Professor Stringer. He says we are currently producing more food than what is necessary, but at least 30 per cent is going to waste. Improvements need to be made to the access and utilisation of that food for those who have limited finances.
Some improvements in this area are through the hard work of Oz Harvest, the official charity of Tasting Australia. Oz Harvest rescues excess food that would otherwise be discarded, and distributes it to charities supporting vulnerable people. The Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC) is one business donating its spare meals after unexpected drops in numbers at its events. Donating 7896 meals to Oz Harvest in its first year of operation, the ACC and Oz Harvest are proving that improvements in access and use of food security can be made.  

Knowing Your Food, by Brett Tizard

Buy local, you can't go wrong, says Simon Thomsen, restaurant critic for The Daily Telegraph at the Food Safety, Food Security discussion as part of the Selector Word of Mouth series.
Touching on issues as diverse as rat droppings in rice, massive increases in food production across the planet, the price premium for non-GM canola ($150 per tonne) and how 800 million people don't have access to enough food, Simon Thomsen, Professor Randy Stringer from the University of Adelaide and Dr Judy Carmen from Flinders University, all stress the importance of knowing more about our food, where it comes from and how it is processed.
This is what a big crowd found at Tasting Australia's Feast of the Senses, which provides a fantastic opportunity to get the inside scoop on some great produce. Whether you are chatting to Andrew Fielke about Australian native ingredients, discussing beer with Jackson Beavis from Woolshed Brewery, talking about wattle seed recipes with Jennifer Lucas from Australian Native Bushfood or learning about the right coffee to go with your pastries from the people at Delicias Argentinus, you are talking to the suppliers and growers that feed you.
This doesnt just happen at Tasting Australia. Producers at regional farmers markets, neighbours at local produce swaps at Croydon and Brompton-Bowman or suppliers at the Adelaide Central Market can all provide some history about the journey your food has taken from paddock to plate. And the great thing about it is that everybody wants to share their stories.
Good food is important, regardless of whether it comes from across the seas or over the back fence, and we all need to learn more about our food and its journey to our plate.

The Loneliness of the Long-distance Food Writer, by Susan Lang-Lemckert

Writing is not for the faint-hearted – nor those with a frail ego, social aspirants or the early-to-bed brigade. And not, it seems, for the gregarious.
Four renowned food writers – Rachel Allen, Stephanie Alexander, Julie Biuso and Matthew Fort – told Tasting Australia’s Brought to Book forum of their varied paths to success – complete with speed bumps and roadblocks.
But the constants threaded through the variables were that writing takes a long time, seldom pays well and is generally done alone.
Not surprisingly, Matthew Fort was bombarded with requests to join his trip through Italy on a Vespa, which he recorded in his book Eating Up Italy.
But when his vision of the journey becoming “a procession of elderly mods” was dissolved by sudden heavy rain, he embarked on a solitary road trip.
“I realised you had to do it on your own,” he says. “If you have company, you talk to them, so you’re not looking around. You need to make notes and observe people.”
Rachel Allen, too, spoke of “many nights at the laptop, two-finger typing the text for my books when my children were in bed and my husband was working.” Still, its clearly a winning formula, as she’s currently finishing her ninth book.
The solo approach also suits Julie Biuso, who loves being her own boss and prefers working alone at home, as it’s free of the noise and distractions inherent to shared offices.
“But I’m also a social person,” she says, “so I make an effort to call people round for drinks, or to share the dishes I’m testing. That said, I love my ‘writing days’, as I’m very creative and can get through so much work quickly that way.”
So writers are all alone, albeit alone together. If only the frail egos, social aspirations and late nights were so easily dealt with.

Waste Not Want Not, by Kate Yates
Early Sunday morning at Adelaide Showground Farmers Markets, there was a sea of people armed with their trusty shopping trolleys, recycled carry bags, and most with a big contented smile on their face. They are out in their community to gather fresh, quality, flavoursome, seasonal ingredients.
I found it interesting that unlike dashing around Coles or Woolworths supermarket for their groceries, they waited patiently in lines at their pick of the stallholders (who may only be there for a few weeks a year depending on their seasonal crop), to fill up on what’s in season this week and to chat with the grower.
The market it so popular that growing number of the community are becoming market members. In return for their support, they earn discounts on their purchases. They also enjoy the reassurance that their food is fresh, local, seasonal and of high quality – it’s positive stuff.
In the past three years, there has also been a groundswell of grass roots action by swapping excess home grown food. Urban Orchard is a community-driven, home grown food swap. Rather than let your bumper crop of lemons or tomatoes rot and fall to the ground, people take them to monthly meetings in parks and community centres, and swap their backyard bounty for someone else’s. People also swap seeds, collective experience, know-how, stories. “To paraphrase Bill Mollison, Urban Orchard is a proven way to turn consumers into producers,” explains organiser Joel Catchlove.
Increasingly food waste and the sustainability of the amount we eat and waste, and subsequent effects on the environment are issues raised in the press. There are many reasons, such as food safety requirements of “best before” labelling, excess packaging and buying more than we need. At most supermarkets, why is it we can only buy apples and carrots of certain size, without a blemish, all year round? What happens to the residual fruit and vegetables that doesn’t pass the test of size or shape?
Ronni Kahn, founder of Oz Harvest says, “Supermarkets need to not reject wiggly carrots because they think we only want straight ones, and because straight ones fill up their shelves better, but equally we need to be willing to buy fruit and veg with a freckle or little mark and not only want a perfect apple or unmarked banana.” In the meantime, Oz harvest collects more than one tonne of fruit off supermarket shelves each weekend.
Oz Harvest is a non-profit charity that collects excess quality food left over from kitchens that would otherwise be discarded and distributes it to charities supporting the vulnerable. The idea of solving waste not want not, is making a big difference to so many people in need, and in the process reusing food and reducing the quantum of waste ending up in landfill.
Chef Richard Fox, the man behind the UK’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign, spoke at Tasting Australia’s Word of Mouth session on this topic, saying it is a real problem. “People in the UK eat one third of two thirds of the world’s resources. We live in a throw-away society and we seem to think about food the same way. We have become disassociated with where our food comes from,” Richard says. “We need to reconnect food with the producer. Think every time you throw away food waste from the fridge; you are dismissing the farmers work, the blood, sweat and tears.”
So what can we do at home to reduce the amount of food we waste? He suggests we think laterally about what we already have in the kitchen. By cooking pasta sauces by using odds and ends in the fridge crisper, we reduce food waste. He argues that by reducing our food waste, we can not only save money but also act locally by enjoying shopping at farmers markets for quality food at its seasonal best.
Education and learning to cook is important in making this happen. An awareness of where our food comes from, how it is produced, the energy required and education is needed.
Maggie Beer believes we need to empower every child in Australia to grow and cook, to not only understand flavour, but the joy of waiting for something to grow, to mature, picking at the right time and how to cook it.
Richard goes one step further. He believes cooking should be compulsory at schools, with farm school trips so that kids can learn that potatoes are not grown on bushes and perhaps learn to love speckled apples of all sizes.

Feast of the Senses: Beer, by Lizzie Moult
In 2008 only two per cent of beer sold in Australia was craft beer. It’s now 13 per cent, according to Chuck Hahn, James Squire brew master from Malt Shovel Brewery.
Chuck is passionate about educating people on crafted beers. In four years he has expanded the James Squire range to include lagers, pilsener, amber ale and pale ale, all brewed traditionally in copper kettles and in small batches.
Two and a half years ago, Jackson Beavis started his small microbrewery in a 100-year-old wool shed in Renmark, using rainwater and solar power. Beer has many variables at play, he says; barley, wheat, hops, the type of yeast and sugar to make unique flavours. Women like his beer, he has observed. “I don’t normally drink beer, but I like this,” is a common response.
Richard Fox, a UK beer expert, went from catering to creating recipes for a beer company in London, which led him to appreciate beer. During that process he found that beer had “gastronomic qualities.” Experimenting with Hoegaarden, a wheat beer, he found that its orange and coriander flavours made a great marinade.
“People’s tastes are evolving,” Richard explains. Since his previous visit to Australia four years ago, he has found much more variety in Australian beers. He thinks regional beers should be matched with regional food to guarantee a great meal.
Chuck also has favourite beer and food pairings, such as spicy Thai stir fries or freshly peeled prawns with his Four Wives Pilsener, and his complex dark beer, Jack of Spades, with chocolate. Jackson Beavis agrees that chocolate is best eaten with dark ale.
The revolution to replace the wineglass is happening at events across Australia. Check with your favourite craft brewery to be involved.

Biodynamics and organics, by Bridget McNulty  
What is organic and biodynamic farming anyway? Biodynamic farming, as developed by Dr Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925), is based on spiritual, ethical and ecological approaches to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamic and organic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility.
At Tasting Australia’s Feast for the Senses in Elder Park, four South Australian producers were proclaiming their belief in this type of farming: BD Farm Paris Creek, Wild Fox Wines, Willunga Hills Organic and Australian Harvest/Bio-grape. Judging by the crowds gathered around their stalls, while tasting organic and biodynamic jams, chutneys, olives, almonds, cheeses and a fruity shiraz wine, the interest is growing.
 “There are many benefits to consuming organically grown produce,” says Sarae Adamopoulos, vice-president of the NASAA Organic Association. “It’s grown with no chemicals or pesticides, and most importantly, it tastes better. The food comes alive,” said Sarae.
“There is a higher nutritional and therapeutic value in the product, which is based on scientific research,” says Dr Stephen Hardy, co-author of Organic Food: A Guide for Consumers.
Even major supermarkets are embracing organically grown produce by selling fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry and many other products grown and produced by this method.
It was only a few years ago that organic and biodynamic farming was considered alternative. Today, many consumers are taking a keen interest in finding out about more benefits to their health and wellbeing, as we all want to live a long, healthy and happy life.

Word of Mouth: Brought to Book, by Sarah Mayoh
The Selector Word of Mouth discussion on April 29 – Brought to Book, featuring Stephanie Alexander, Matthew Fort, Rachel Allen, and Julie Biuso – provides hope to food lovers everywhere that cookbook is not in fact dead.
The panel are luminaries in food writing, with numerous titles under their belt, yet they all cite a “steep learning curve” on their first publication. Alexander says she got “stuck” at the letter C in her encyclopaedic book A Cook’s Companion, taking four years to complete.
Each panellist touches on the trials and tribulations of being published. Fort says “the devil lies in the details”, and you will never get rich writing books. His first title, Eating Up Italy, for which he travelled by Vespa, he says “writing the book was the excuse for the journey”.
A common theme all the writers touch on is having their own style and not trying to emulate someone else. “There was no competition in those days,” says Biuso, of when she was first published. The authors agree that you need to have something to offer that is unique and relevant to attract publishers and readers.
Looking to the future, Allen says she “dreads” the path that technology (I-Pad, Apps, E-Books) may lead food writing, but she stands firm on her passion for the tactile. She still “loves to curl up with a cup of tea or glass of wine” and leaf through a cookbook.
The world of publishing is vastly different today than when these writers started. They feel despondent about the impact reality TV shows have had on accelerating cookbook production, with books commonly being churned out in three to four weeks.
There was no specific path taken by any of these authors to become food writers. Their careers all developed organically, not by the book, but every time they write they put a piece of their journey, heart and soul on paper. “The death of the cookbook .. not anytime soon,” says MC Joanna Savill.

 Tasting Australia 2012: Where were the primary producers? by Melissa Barnett
You would think that an event about food and wine would be a showcase for primary producers, a value-for-money chance to show their wares to a diverse and discerning crowd. And while a good range of wine producers attended this year’s Tasting Australia Feast of The Senses, the vast range of food purveyors seemed to feature only a smattering of primary producers.
Anecdotally, attendance by primary producers was down from previous years. This was primarily put down to the cost of attending or the more pressing need to be at the farm in financially tough times. Feast organisers thought competition from the various farmers’ markets held over the weekend may also have had an impact.
Despite the difficulties, some producers did attend, most from areas close to Adelaide, and all felt that a stand at Feast of the Senses was worth the effort. Some attended under the banner of the Organic Federation of Australia, the first time the Federation has organised its producer members to participate in the event.
Beach Organics, a company producing exotically flavoured and organically farmed sea salt as well as palm sugar infused with an array of tantalising flavours, was one such producer. Owner Barry Beach sees Feast and other similar food events as offering an invaluable sensory education, giving him the opportunity to explain his passion and the history and sustainability of his business.
Australian Native Bush Foods (ANFIL), producers of native spices and spice-infused olive oils, mitigated costs by partnering with their neighbour, the Woolshed Brewery. ANFIL did very well from the previous Feast of the Senses, being invited to participate in a new enterprise, Outback Business Networking, which resulted in a swathe of new customers.
The opportunities are clearly there, so the question needs to be asked: why so few primary producers this year?

The Garden of Health: Let thy food be thy medicine, by Tania Paola

This is something very special. An intense tranquility immediately envelops visitors to Adelaide’s Botanic Garden, which is a short walk from Elder Park’s Feast for the Senses and host to many culinary delights. But what a contrast! In the garden, where east meets west and cultural boundaries dissolve.
From indigenous Australian and Chinese medicine to Ayurvedic healing and western medicine, the Adelaide Botanic Garden of Health nurtures a living album of knowledge from our ancestors. Chives are great for jazzing up a salad, but who would know they also relieve flatulence and colic? Or that the humble sage was seen by ancient Egyptians as a fertility drug, and used in ancient Greece to stop bleeding?
The Ginkgo Gate, a striking entrance to this city retreat, was designed by South Australian artists Angela and Hossein Valamanesh. The fountain inspired by the 16th century physic garden of Padua, Italy, is the centrepiece of this reflective space, where scents of lavender, sage and thyme relax the senses.
You can take a self-guided walk or just meander around the gardens. Butterflies circle plants, birds signal each other and wandering ducks visit from their pond. Plant labels include both medicinal and culinary usage.
The garden has two parts – the Garden of Healing, which explores how plants treat disease, and the Garden of Contemplation, which encourages reflection on the value of plants for wellbeing. The Orchard of Earthly Delight within the Garden of Contemplation is a pantry of wholesome plants drawn from healthy diets in traditional western, non-western and indigenous cultures.
It’s no accident that this spiritual haven has been built next to a major hospital and the Hanson Institute for Cancer Research. Glenn Woodward, a Friends of the Botanic Garden volunteer for five years, says that patients and carers alike enjoy the peace and quiet that this alternative feast for the senses provides.

All in the Eye of the Stallholder, by Nikkita Wood

It’s hard work, but does it pay off? There are stall fees, food and packaging costs, labour costs for planning and weekend penalty rates to consider, but the common reason local businesses decide to join events such as Tasting Australia’s Feast for the Senses is for the exposure.
Danielle from Let Them Eat says “it’s a great way to get exposure to people who wouldn’t normally know about you”. With free entrance and a perfect autumn day, a wide variety of different people are attracted.
 “At the end of the day, it’s 40,000 people that may not have known about you – but do now,” says Katie Pettigrew, part of the team behind Hotel Wright St and new venture Franklin Hotel.
Patrick, head chef at the Franklin, says this weekend has been months in the planning. For their first festival, these dynamic young hoteliers had no idea what to expect so planned their food to fit with the hotel’s current menu. This solution allowed them to minimise wastage. Similarly, Let Them Eat will take advantage of what’s in their Croydon shop and upcoming markets.
Some food needs to be used almost immediately, and this is where OzHarvest, official charity of Tasting Australia, comes to the rescue, distributing food to community organisations across Adelaide.
With the environment in mind as the festival comes to a close, stallholders use a variety of marketing techniques to sell any remaining products. Friendly rivals Hills Cider and McLaren Vale Beer engage in a price-matching contest that sees punters walking away with $4 pints, while Squid Ink offers bargain salt and pepper squid. Everyone leaves happy – and the environment and the community both win.

BankSA Feast for the Senses, by John Tomich
Are open air food and wine festivals worth going to? The recent BankSA Feast for the Senses, held at Elder Park by the River Torrens, was a resounding success, with the warm autumn day bringing out the best in the audience.
The Miele Chefs Showcase, where some of the finest Australian and International Chefs demonstrated their cooking styles, was more than just a cooking demonstration as seen often on TV. It turned out to be a refreshing, intimate sharing of knowledge and experience with a receptive audience from three to 80-plus year olds. It was impressive and entertaining the way Adrian Richardson from Bistro Luna in Melbourne was able to actively involve the audience in sausage making. They warmed to this sharing experience.
In a similar way, Rachel Allen from Ireland indicated her preference of cooking live as compared with TV shows, indicating that a live forum enabled her to better communicate with the audience.
Both of these presenters, with their active to-and-fro audience involvement, showed that cooking was fun and not a chore.
A session from Selector Word of Mouth discussed the future of wine in Australia. With a credible panel consisting of Louisa Rose from Yalumba, Christian Gaffey of Wine Selector and Darren Jahn, a wine educator, the topics discussed included emerging alternative varieties and chardonnay. Louisa spoke of Yalumba’s planned introduction of vermentino (a grape from Tuscany and Sardinia). Based on the company’s pioneering work with viognier, this will be worth the wait.
The panel was enthusiastic about the future of chardonnay in Australia. With better clonal selection and attention to winemaking – in particular, oak handling –more current chardonnays have lost their flab and the oaky characters that led to the 1990s ABC rule (Anything But Chardonnay!). They considered that when the wine showed abundant fruit as well as structure, refinement and acidity, it could compare with the best that Burgundy could offer. Perhaps the time has come for ABC to mean Ask (and) Buy Chardonnay.
It was a Big Day Out – an exciting, rewarding, relaxing and delightfully satisfying day that clearly showed food is fun. It also confirmed that open air food and wine festivals are an important part of Taste Australia.