About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, June 04, 2007
Good Food and Wine Show
Ever been to a sporting contest to watch your side play and they absolutely kick arse? Then you go again some time later and you'd swear it wasn't the same team you were watching as they put on a mediocre performance. That's how I felt about this year's Good Food and Wine Show compared to last years. It didn't even start well, for when the three of us who came last year, plus one new person, turned up and purchased our tickets, we chose what we thought was the shorter of two snaking lines at either end of the auditorium at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. We stood there for a little while when a person came up to inform everyone that this was the line for Ticketmaster pre-purchased tickets. There was no sign or anything to suggest it, but we had no choice but to trudge back to the other line, 100 metres away, that was by now considerably longer.

After a bit of a wait we managed to get ourselves inside and went straight to the stand selling calico carry bags, emblazoned with the show's logo. There was already a long queue to get a bag, but my daughter P's friend S noticed that on the other side of the stall they were also selling the bags - with no queue. Around we went and bought our bags and I mentioned to one of the assistants that the queue was much longer on the other side, she looked and nodded her head in agreement, but did nothing to point out to anyone that they could come around to her side.

I could put all that aside but for one of the first stands we came to, Danish Dan. There was no one there except for the chap serving, standing at his counter, head down wiping his clean bench. We stood there for a minute without acknowledgement, when I finally asked if he had any samples for us to try. He said no and walked off. If he was a computer I would have gone to the computer shop and bought him a customer service chip for he was so obviously lacking one. There was no attempt to engage us or let us know anything about his product, which appeared to be a new concept.

Well, we walked around some more and you could say if there was a theme for this year's event, it would have been chocolate. I wasn't counting but there were at least half a dozen chocolate stands, chocolate was everywhere.

This was the only photo I took, because when I was whipping out the camera and setting up a great shot, THEY DIDN'T GIVE ME ANY CHOCOLATE. I took no further chances.

We wandered into a darkened tent, curtained off from the outside for a chocolate tasting and as went in the entrance was cordoned off. There were about ten bar stools along a short counter and as we sat down, we were each given a piece of chocolate but told not to eat it. The guy in the photo gave us a short lecture about the chocolate, which turned out to be a Club Noir, a newish range from Nestle that seems to be taking on the Lindt Noir range.

We were asked to close our eyes and smell the chocolate and keeping our eyes closed we had to place the tablet in our mouths without biting, just letting it melt on our tongues. This part was nearly too much for P, who almost had an attack of the giggles, this was just damn chocolate after all, it was way too serious, though I can report the chocolate was of excellent quality. At the end we could purchase the chocolate, but at three dollars a 100 g block it compared poorly with the Lindt's stand offer of three 100 g blocks for five dollars.

As we traversed the auditorium we noticed that compared to last year there weren't as many samples on offer and the girls mentioned they thought it wasn't as well laid out this time. Near the theatre we could hear Ainsley Harriot, everyone could hear Ainsley, he's no shrinking violet that's for sure, but from listening to him it was easy to see he's quite the entertainer as well as cook.

I went up to one of the Asian stands from where last year I purchased a very yummy sample bag. They were handing out samples of a very tasty curry, but when I went to purchase the ingredients, they told me they weren't selling them, just bags of rice and they were donating the proceeds to the Salvation Army. Don't get me wrong, I have donated many times to the Salvos, but they seemed to be stopping me from getting a decent curry! Grrr.

Time for a drink.

In one of the more positive moves, they abandoned the two dollar entry from last year into the drinks enclosure and you could walk in freely and be given a wine glass to conduct your tastings with. Since I was the driver, I was fairly limited in what I could taste. Spit you say? I don't think so. Anyway, two wines that I liked were the Garden Gully sparkling shiraz and the premium chardonnay from Nicholson River. Not forgetting of course all the Belgium beers. Maybe it's a good thing they are fairly pricey, I could easily see myself drinking a lot more of them otherwise.

The Pravda stand was a disappointment. It's a new premium Polish vodka, distilled five time along the lines of Grey Goose. They put in two lovely looking girls, but they couldn't have been expecting someone like me. First question about the maker revealed nothing, another question got the same blank looks. Please, if you are going to the trouble of having such a great looking stand, educate the servers, not everyone wants to perve.

At last I found what I was looking for - a stand of informed people giving out samples of their product that were really delicious that I had never tried before. It was the Pitango stand, a New Zealand company that specializes in fresh, organic soups, packed neatly in a plastic pouch. I tried a couple and fell completely in love with the New Orleans Cajun Seafood Gumbo. It tasted fresh and more importantly it tasted of the sea. They had a three for ten dollar offer and I bought three of just these. Okay, the name has a bit of marketing license, there's no rice for instance and it needed a bit of chile heat, but this was easily the best thing I tasted at the show. This is the reason I go to food shows, to make discoveries like this. We had one for dinner that night served on top of rice, with some cayenne pepper added, it was wonderful, full of fresh vegetables, john dory and mussels.

Edited too add: I forgot to mention Phillips Foods where I had a taste of their fresh crab meat which is available from Safeways. They said that there were four blue swimmer crabs in every pack and the meat was sweet and tasty. If you have ever picked meat from a crab you will know what a boon this product is, I'll be using some for sure in the very near future. Available in claw or body meat packs.

I think that The Good Food & Wine Show needs to lift their game for next year, as do some of the exhibitors. The wine side of things was better this year, but on the food side, things could have been better organized and laid out. My daughter P for instance was looking for organic maple syrup and only found out this morning that there was in fact a stand. As long as I can make discoveries like Pitango I will keep going, but if they don't improve things, it will be under sufferance.


  posted at 7:31 am

At 12:04 pm, Anonymous Trav said...

Neil, I felt the same as you about this year's show. It was definitely lacking compared to last year's.
One thing that stung me was the lack of actual food being sold. Plenty of samples and condiments, nothing decent though. There was that one hot dog stand selling their wares. But for $8.50 I expect a lot more than a one hot dog with cheese and onion. We ended up buying lunch from the slightly less overpriced (but only just!) kiosk in the back wall. Not exactly "good food".

The Boscastle Pastries stall had a pie warmer and yet they still refused to sell us individual pies. Judging by the amount of people there, they missed a great opportunity indeed.

At 2:35 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi trav, I might be wrong, but I reckon that hot dog was more expensive than at the footy. We tried the Boscastle fillings, pretty good, so I can imagine your frustration at not being able to have one. We went early and had lunch after we left.

At 1:25 am, Anonymous cin said...

Completely with you about the show. We didn't see anything new and I've already made up my mind not to attend next year. We'll go out for dinner somewhere new instead.

At 4:35 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi cin, it must be hard to keep things fresh, but I'm the eternal optimist. If I can find one good thing it helps a lot, but there did seem to be a few complaints this year. I even finished up complaining about my non blue King Island blue, though to the companies credit, they did refund me later on.


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