My personal pick for 'dish of the day' was spawned by the relatively low-profile The Millswyn:
Utterly unctuous (an adjective I use so sparingly you can be assured it fits!). I missed the presence of some form of starch to offset the richness of the braise (a simple mash perhaps?) but the petite beetroot cubes provided adequate counterbalance. I also really enjoyed the addition of the mushroom (with genuine fungal flavour), and wished they came in pairs.
Their other savoury dish was a cured Regal King Salmon with pickled daikon, lime and vanilla cucumber:
The Millswyn also featured a bar with 5 Rum Ginger Mai Tai, Spicy Vanilla Margarita, and Watermelon & Rose Jam Punch:
I'd say the crowd pick was St. Katherine:
KFC (St Katherine's fried Lilydale chicken with BBQ sauce (plus, oddly, Japanese mayonnaise)
Slightly spicy, very moreish, served hot to go and moist to mouth. A simple but great filler-upper, which made it good value for both punters and the restaurant. But don't take my word for it, check out the number of empty containers within a 10-metre radius just 20 minutes in:
And true to the Made Establishment (formerly The Press Club) Group's business acumen, right next door they were marketing George Calombaris' new cookbook for kids, Georgie Porgie, namesake of the nursery rhyme I've sadly always associated with child molestation.
Another great crowd pleaser was Mezzo.
Sher wagyu meatballs, Sicilian cous cous & salted ricotta
A very respectable and respectably-sized dish of meatballs. The cous cous was cooked perfectly, neither mushy nor grainy, and ricotta in a savoury dish is a rare treat. Masterchef contestant Alvin Quah absolutely raved about it during his cooking demonstration, which was very effective advertising: the restaurant's stand was swamped right after.
In case you are suffering from Masterchef withdrawal, Alvin will be doing another three demonstrations today, and Darren Purchese (not Stephane Le Grande as advertised) one.
We also visited Sarti.
Intense lamb flavour and the pearl barley salad was delicious. Unfortunately, it was the most underwhelming savoury dish because it had such a small portion size for the price (especially in comparison to other offerings around). Also, the piece of meat I received had a disproportionately large lump of inedible fat attached.
I remember Sarti's 'pistachio panna cotta' with caramel salted popcorn being a real hit at last year's Taste, so they must have been hoping to repeat its success this time around:
Unable to resist the call of anything labelled 'chocolate fondant', however, I obtained my dessert from Esposito:
Fondant de chocolate with Earl Grey jelly
I've always thought chocolate and Earl Grey make for an excellent partnership, and most recently had a lovely macaron of this flavour from La Belle Miette. Unfortunately, although the chocolate was of exceptional quality, there was only a tiny tinge of Earl Grey in my jelly. Texturally, the 'fondant' was more like a very smooth fudge.
On the savoury side of things, they had on offer a carpaccio of farmed Barramundi with peas, mint & wasabi sorbet:
Other restaurants not tried:
Left to right: Regal King Salmon fishcake, Kinkawooka paella, Western Plains pork parcels
The Kitchen Cat
The recent explosion onto the Melbourne macaron scene, Luxbite, was present in full force.
Saucy sauceboat cakes and tarts
Impressive macaron tower
I purchased salted caramel and kaffir lime (!) macarons.
These were fabulous, bigger than the ones from La Belle Miette, and bolder in flavour and texture.
One of the reasons I go to Taste of Melbourne at all is for Dello Mano brownies. These are not the kind of 'regular' brownies I'd feed to kids because they are (a) a pricey $5 a pop; and (b) mine, all mine.
These used to be sold at Prahran market every Saturday, and I would buy two of them weekly (Espresso Walnut and Honey Caramelised Macadamia) after a strangely ineffective weekend gym session.
I never realised how integral they were to my weekends until they stopped selling them at the market; I stopped gymming in the vicinity altogether. I felt particularly resentful last night when I discovered that they've since started making Peanut Butter ones as well, but these were sold out completely by last night's session. The humanity!
Another long-time love: Mini Melts.
These are not fancy, they do not have intense (or even particularly authentic) flavour, and they are as juvenile a snack as you can imagine.
But they are also tiny pebbled pops of ice cream that you can pick at with your fingers (but do it quickly) and then they crunch and melt in your mouth. That is magical.
Having grown up in Asia, I'm more than familiar with fast-talking schmoozers waving gadgets and hands and 'as seen on TV' miracle products:
So I'm not sure how this man sliced and diced his way into my wallet. I do know, however, that I am now $50 poorer and in possession of a see-it-to-believe-it Bellini chopper and dicer and peeler and mandolin with two tupperware containers thrown in for free! Whatta deal. And I'm sure this person's experience is simply an anomaly.
With other yet uneaten spoils of war, including a Burrowes Park aioli...
...sold to me by its very lovely maker Bettina Berry (price perhaps a tad steep at $10.50)
Nespresso had a huge presence at Taste this year.
It had massive stands at the centre of both floors.
Salmon samples were also in vogue, with both Huon and Tassel occupying some very prime real estate:
Tassal salmon skewers
Other savoury, spicy, and saucy exhibitors:
Spice Bazaar Cooking School and Spice Supplier
Roza's Gourmet Sauces
Dunav Butcher & Smallgoods
Yarra Valley Smokehouse
Wasabi Salad: a cross between rocket leaves and wasabi
The pure cheesy:
La Latteria, Carlton
Jindi Cheese, with voluptuously large sample
Yarra Valley Dairy's goat cheese
Other sweet treats:
Heart of Chocolate
Desserts of the cakey and fudgey persuasion:
180 Degree Cupcakes
Sweet by Nature
Some refreshing retailers:
Local Mineral Water