Sunday, November 26, 2006

Harvest Picnic - Werribee Mansion

I'm not really one for crowds. I didn't mind them when I was younger, but as I've gotten older - I tend to avoid them as much as I can. On a sunny day like today, I was prepared to make an exception for the Harvest Picnic at Werribee Mansion. To my delight, the layout of the area seemed a lot more spacious than my previous visit to a Harvest day - at Hanging Rock. As nice as the weather was though, the sun of course, brought out the crowds; the families and kids were out and even the end of year office parties were picnic-ing it up.

The big crowds meant that the lines to sample food from the many stalls were long and the tasting tents were full of people. We managed to wander around from stall to stall quite easily though, as it seemed most of the people were lined up for the Souvlaki and Paella stalls. Good to see people are being adventurous with their tastebuds!
It seems that most of these 'foodie' type events though are always full of the same old things. There's your flavoured Olive Oils, Dukkah, Wines, Jams, Honey and some very average hot food, which tries to be different. ie Yabby Burgers. Yabby burgers served at these do's are pretty much 70% potato, with a bit of Yabby mixed in.
I did manage to find a couple of interesting things though. One of tells me them was Chilli wine. I didnt taste it myself - as I don't drink alcohol. Rachel tasted it though and she said it was actually quite nice and was pretty strong with heat - however she didn't think she would have been able to drink much more than a sip of it. Lucky it's considered a liquer then.
We also really fancied the Babycakes stall, which made mini cupcakes. These were pretty similar to the cupcakes you would find at the Crabapple Bakery in Tecoma or at Prahran Market - just smaller. However the flavours were a little more interesting here. I had the Mexican Chilli Chocolate Mudcake. It was a perfect chocolate cake with thick chocolate icing. Unfortunately, there was only a tiny hint of chilli to it - the cake could have done with a bit more of a kick! Rachel had the Spiced Chai cupcake, which was really tasty. Quite like a Chai Tea (as you'd expect.

But in all honesty, I didn't come for the food as such. I came for the cooking demo's which were being held in the Miele tent. At last year's Harvest event, I found myself sitting next to Tobie Puttock, which watching Stefano De Pieri do a demo. This year I managed to catch 3 demo's; David Moyle and Matthew Wilkinson from Circa, Geoff Lindsay from Pearl and Alla Wolf-Tasker from the Lake House.
The guys from the Lake House came out with what appeared to be some interesting recipes, but had obviously not done many cooking demo's before or just didn't take it very seriously. Half the ingredients were missing from a salad they made and they managed to stuff up the bread that went with it. However they did make a Raspberry Tart, that did end up looking fantastic.

Geoff Lindsay on the other hand, was the complete opposite to these guys. This guy is a professional! He was informative, funny and a pleasure to watch. He made a couple of dishes from his restaurant - which is always interesting to watch. One of them was Watermelon, marinated Fetta and Sunflower shoot salad with a clear Tomato jelly.

The finished product looked fantastic! He did 2 versions of this salad - one was the restaurant version and the other was a make at home version - much more slap dash... quite funny really. The other dish he made was Raw Hiramasa Yellowtail Kingfish.
While demonstrating how to open a coconut, Geoff managed to shower me with his (Coconut) Juices (is it wrong to feel privileged?) This dish was another looker! I so wanted to taste it, I'll have to order it when I go to Pearl in a few weeks.

I also managed to catch the end of Alla's demo, where she made a Tomato salad, topped with Fried Green Tomatoes and Buffalini Cheese, garnished with a Grissini stick and drizzled with herb oil and with Chillied Gazpacho on the side. What a gorgeous dish.

The best bit is, none of these dishes were all that complicated (although the Circa guys sure did manage to make their dishes look complicated, even if they weren't).
If you want to taste some mostly average tasting samples and see some mostly fantastic cooking demo's, a Harvest picnic is a great place to visit. Apparently they have good Souvlaki too?

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