I was thrilled to be part of the second annual Savour Tasmania, an epicurean festival featuring Australian and international chefs and fabulous Tasmanian produce. Beginning on 27 May there were various sell-out degustation dinners and masterclasses for students and the public in Hobart and next weekend more events in Launceston and Burnie.
Guests came from around Australia to dine on the cuisine of Spain’s Paco Roncero from Casino de Madrid, Alvin Leung from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, Philippe Nouzillat from Brasserie Wolf in Singapore, New Zealand’s Martin Bosley from Martin Bosley’s in Wellington and our very own The Cook and the Chef, Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant.
I mced two dinners by Alvin Leung, whose restaurant, Bo Innovation in Hong Kong recently catapulted up the San Pellegrino Top 100 List from position 97 to position 65. Held at Mee Wah, which brought elegant and sophisticated Cantonese dining to Tasmania, the dinners were as much fun as they were innovative.
Alvin, with his streaked hair, sunglasses, funky clothes and ‘Demon chef’ tattoos, held the audience captivated as he explained the motivation behind his dishes created with the science of molecular gastronomy. All had a recognisable basis in Chinese cuisine from his Molecular ‘xiao long bao’ transforming the much loved Shanghainese dumpling into a sphere which popped in the mouth with familiar flavours
Trio of Chinese Appetizers - Molecular xiao long bao
M8+ Wagyu Beef with vegemite, cheung fun, black truffle
While loving these, my favourite was South Cape Crayfish, har mi oil & powder, vermicelli and wasabi leaves, the comforting starch of the vermicelli given a little kick with chilli in the shrimp oil and powder.
South Cape Crayfish har mi oil & powder, vermicelli and wasabi leaves
With this food we drank delightful Tasmanian wines, including 2003 Kregliner Vintage Brut Sparkling, Riesling, gewürztraminer and a Botrytis Riesling from Pipers Brook and a range of wines from Domaine A. On chatting with the owners Peter and Ruth Authaus, I was fascinated to learn that they never add acid to their wine (which can be done in Australia where grapes ripen so well, as opposed to Europe where the addition of sugar is allowed) believing that grapes can be picked in perfect balance. Interestingly when wine writer Andrew Jefford was in Australia as wine writer in residence, he applauded this, saying that acid is the enemy of terroir – the microclimate which gives grapes their sense of place.
Other highlights of the weekend included a Masterclass and lunch from Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant. Maggie revealed that her favourite food in the whole world is sea urchin, and although they couldn’t source enough for the 270 there, she had made every apprentice in the kitchen try some during prep the day before. We also found out that in their show The Cook and the Chef, neither of them knew what the other was cooking, though their executive producer did!
Maggie Beer, Kate McGhie & Simon Bryant
In the final chat on the couch, hosted by my friend and colleague Kate McGhie, Simon implored everyone to “have a think about where you food comes from and ask a few questions”.
Sunday lunch at the magnificently restored Islington Hotel saw the chefs and food writers mingle for a casual ‘Aussie BBQ’ as a pleasantly low key finale to a stimulating weekend.
Paco Roncero and me
There’s still next weekend to go (Burnie and Launceston) but if you have missed out this year, Savour Tasmania is set to take place again in May 2011 with some exciting plans already in place. For more information visit http://www.savourtasmania.com.au/.