Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 32: Foodie Heaven at Taste of Sydney

"Testicle #10!" the woman yells. "Testicle #10?"

The surrounding customers snicker a bit as I step forward with my ticket.

I am, as it happens, testicle #10. File that under things I never thought I'd type.

Before you start getting any crazy ideas, this scene took place at Taste of Sydney, an annual pop-up restaurant festival that features many of Sydney's leading restaurants, wineries and artisan producers. My friend's roommate casually mentioned to me Friday morning that this was going on, and I was immediately sold. As in, how quickly can I get there?

After buying a $55 ticket online — which included my entry and $30 worth of Crowns, the festival's currency for buying food and drinks — I walked 3 km to beautiful Centennial Park for the noon session of Taste of Sydney.

Almost there!



I collected my ticket, book of Crowns and menu card at the box office and was ready to go!



Upon entering Taste of Sydney, I was immediately thrilled to be there. It was a bit fancy-schmancy and not very crowded. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. And I've been making food from the grocery store all this week, so I was totally ready to gorge myself on delicious bites from local restaurants.

Note: I photographed everything I ate, so if you don't want to see animal testicles, this is your fair warning to jump ship right now. Run, don't walk.






I did a lap of the festival to get my bearings, and then studied the menu card to figure out which dishes were worthy of my Crowns. The first item that caught my eye was the traditional charcoal BBQ lamb and veal kebab, smoked eggplant and Chobani Greek yogurt from the Turkish restaurant Efendy. Yum!

I headed over to the Efendy stand just in time to overhear an older Australian gentleman inquiring about lamb testicles. Oh, yes, I had seen those on the menu, too: pan-fried lamb testicles with almond tarator — only 20 available per session.

The woman behind the counter confirmed that they were still available, and the guy was so freakin’ happy. He was then handed a numbered slip of paper and became, naturally, testicle #9.

I asked this man if he’d eaten testicles before and if they were good, and he responded, “Of course. They’re gorgeous!”

But of course. Ah, what the hell. I decided to abandon my original plan and get some testicles, too.



I wasn’t grossed out by the appearance of this dish, but I made sure not to think too much before I dug in. I can only describe the texture as sort of like fatty, oily chicken. There wasn’t any particularly strong flavor involved, and the almond tarator didn’t add anything exciting. By the time I’d reached the third… um… piece, I was very aware of what I was eating. I didn’t want to wimp out, though, so I polished off the whole damn thing.

So… what do you even eat after that? I resumed my search for a tasty dish and settled on the slow-cooked and caramelized short rib with bone marrow persillade from Quarter Twenty One.



This. Was. Heaven.

The short rib was impossibly moist, tender and rich. The mashed potatoes were whipped into smooth perfection. I set down my knife and fork after the first bite and just reveled in the flavor. I’m not a super-sophisticated food connoisseur or anything, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I wanted it to go on forever.

What the hell are these people eating? Short ribs for life!




Pause. Breathe. Make it count.




I chatted with a woman who also had the short rib, and she said she visits Taste of Sydney every year and uses about 150 Crowns ($150 worth of food and drinks).

“30 Crowns are never enough,” she emphasized. “Not even 100 Crowns are enough.”

Hardcore. But I was beginning to think she was right.

I knew no other meat could top the short rib for me, so I went with seafood next — the Hiramasa kingfish double crunch sushi roll from Sak√© Restaurant and Bar.



It was a miniature raw delight featuring a refreshing flavor I didn’t expect: parsley! I just love me some sushi.

With that, I was out of Crowns, but I knew I had to have some dessert. On my way to purchase a $10 booklet, I spied a Chobani truck giving away free Greek yogurt.



The (very cute) guys in the truck informed me that blueberry was the best flavor, so I chose based on their advice. I plopped down on a red bean-bag and enjoyed it in the sunshine.

I then perused Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine for a bit in order to give my stomach time to free up some space for sweets. I found a recipe for prune and fudge brownies — I’m an unabashed prune-lover — and the first direction is to soak the prunes in Cognac for two to four days. Jeeves, fetch the decanter!

Back to the eating. I could have easily chosen one of many desserts that cost 10 Crowns a pop, but where’s the fun in that? With a little strategy and a little more guilt (which I promptly squashed), I chose Black Forest cake gelato for four Crowns…



… and one of these magnificent creations for six Crowns. Can you guess which one?





If you guessed the most chocolate-y combination of cupcake and frosting available, you win!


My God, it was beautiful. And delicious. I’m pretty sure edible glitter significantly improves lives.

After devouring the cupcake, I was out of Crowns and really out of stomach space — but I didn't want to leave quite yet. I was happy as a clam at Taste of Sydney and wanted to hang out a bit longer.

Luckily, I happened upon a cooking demonstration by big-shot Sydney chef Justin North.



He spent 45 minutes whipping up some delicious dishes involving pears and duck fat and some other stuff. I was paying more attention to the pear samples being passed around along with blue cheese and brie, but I did catch Justin's advice that everyone should keep some rendered duck fat in their fridge for everyday cooking. It keeps beautifully, you know.

Right.

After this, I headed back to my friend's flat in a state of utter contentment. The 3 km walk back was wonderful, as it helped me digest and featured lovely tree-lined, sun-drenched sidewalks like this:


Yup. It was pretty much a perfect day in travel-land.

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9 comments:

  1. Taste of Sydney sounds amazing! I'm still drooling over those cupcakes.

    Were there many options for vegetarians? I'd love to go to an event like this but if I couldn't eat anything it'd be pure torture :)

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    1. Looks like there were some veg options! Chilled cauliflower soup with blue cheese creme; ravioli with sliced pickled beetroot with goat curd, pistachio and horseradish; vanilla and blueberry cheesecake with chestnut crumble. : ) But most of the main dishes did feature meat or seafood.

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  2. CUPCAKE with a MACAROON ON TOP?? This is insanity. Too much goodness in one place.
    You're super brave for eating the testicles! ha ha...

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    1. Maybe we'll just call that insane cupcake my reward for braving the testicles...! : )

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  3. Oh man... You needed a warning not to read this if you hadn't eaten breakfast yet. AMAZING! Although I was sad to hear the lamb testicles tasted just like, well, lamb testicles. I thought they might have been a surprise!

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    1. I hoped so, too!! Wellllll, now we know, and you don't have to try them if you don't want to. : )

      Thank you for the link love in your weekly roundup!!

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  4. Super jealous! We really wanted to go to a food festival in Sydney. Looks delicious. How were the balls? Lol

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    1. They were... exactly what you'd think they were! Stick to thin-crust Domino's. : )

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  5. I made those brownies. I had to leave out the prunes because I couldnt wait 2 - 4 days. I used walnuts instead. Best brownies ever!!

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