Category: Events,Reviews | Post by: Andrea Wong
Imagine the sun shining its summery rays gently on a large grassy field dotted with white marquees. People mingling, many dressed not for a stroll in the park, but in pretty dresses and well-pressed suits. Walking into the grove of marquees, we are greeted with the smiles of the producers on the opening night of Taste of Auckland.
Outdoor furniture was dotted around, where we could rest our weary feet and enjoy some of the food and maybe a glass of wine.
Mr H, Tumble and I wandered around, sampling some of the food from the
120 producers. We had to remind ourselves, that we were there for the
food from some of Auckland's top restaurants, and not to fill up on
olive oil and yoghurt tastings!
There were a few products that caught my eye – and yes, I went home with a bag filled with goodies – I sampled Purple Monkey Finger kumara vodka and the admired the cutest Christmas decorated chocolates.
Victoria Park is an ideal place to host Taste of Auckland: it's close to the CBD and public transport, parking was surprisingly easy, and the big park gave the whole event a nice, tranquil feel... even though the little flying bugs came out at dusk.
Some stalls were giving out little samples of cupcakes and cheeses. Fisher & Paykel couldn't really give out little samples of their fridges, they gave out tea towels instead. What a great idea, I loved the simplicity of them! Three lovely ladies showed me their tea towels from Fisher & Paykel.
After about an hour, we realised that we hadn't had any of the restaurant dishes yet. We had Crowns to spend and we were determined to spend them all.
First up on our list was a couple of dishes from Bracu. Tumble and I had the aromatic tea and vanilla cured duck prosciutto, butter roast scampi tails, orange blossom gel, marinated beetroot. The tea and vanilla flavour was gently infused through the duck although the beetroot was a bit on the crunchy side. "Your beetroot is nicer" Tumble said to me. Oh shucks!
Mr H chose the pressed slow cooked lamb shoulder, ewes milk cheese, capponata, lamb jus gras. It was a very meaty dish but Mr H nibbled his way through it quite happily.
Tumble felt like oysters. I'm not keen on them, I don't like the slippery, gooey feeling of them so I watched her and Mr H gulp them down. They were Te Matuku Bay Oysters (Waiheke Island), bloody mary granita, cucumber, deep fried shallots from Mudbrick. I think the combination of a super-cold granita and the tabasco sauce was too much for poor wee Tumble, it had her dancing around on the grass, the brain-freeze and tabasco burn fuelling her fish-out-of-water flop.
The restaurants were in groups of three, spread out around the park. It was probably just as well because it gave us a chance to work up our appetites and admire the other stall holders like the beautiful Petal Cupcakes.
From metres away, we could smell something smoky and sweet and a smoke signal wafting out from under a marquee signalled where we should go. It was Soto's teriyaki chicken infused with manuka honey that was causing a buzz, making people like Mr H and I to hang around the tent like bees to honey.
The serving was generous and moist. A big thumbs up from Mr H.
Tumble had the Prawn Filo Tempura with Japanese style Worchestershire sauce, tartare sauce and wasabi caviar.
Instead of the traditional tempura batter, the prawn was wrapped up in
finely sliced filo pastry. It looked like a savoury candyfloss and was
easily the best-looking dish of the show.
The highlight for me (remember I have a sweet tooth), was the Valrhona pavé from The Grove. The pavé is like a melted block of chocolate, with a drop of cream added and reset... what a huge chocolate hit. It was served with a thick chocolate sauce, chocolate crumble, strawberry mousse and marinated strawberries. You should have seen the huge smile on my face. I was enjoying it so much I forgot to offer a sample to Tumble and Mr H, oops!
While I was floating in my cloud of chocolate happiness, Tumble tried the Carpaccio di Polipo - Octopus carpaccio with asparagus, fennel, citrus salad and macadamia crumble and Mr H had the porchetta - Roast free range pork belly,stuffed with pistachio & mixed herbs on spicy greens and cannellini beans from Totó.
Mr H's porchetta didn't sound very exciting on the menu but was easily the best value dish that we had. The pork slice was generous and the crackling crisp. I can imagine this being a fantastic full-sized meal.
Taste of Auckland was a great night out. If you like eating out, you would love this event. Admittedly it's not a cheap night out: it costs $25 for entry, $8-$12 for each dish plus additional purchases. Get a few food-loving friends to go with you and if you all save your pennies, you will have a great time.