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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"A Taste of Slow" Food Festival

Abbotsford Convent courtyard
Well, there's certainly been a bit of blogging about this weekend's Slow Food Festival already, so I should get in with my photos and thoughts! Yesterday Belinda and I spent the day at 2nd A Taste of Slow at old Abbotsford Convent, and wandering around the Collingwood Childrens' Farm market. Belinda has already provided a great wrap-up of what we did, so instead of doubling up, please do check out what she's written about what we got up to.

We arrived about 11am, after grappling with the hoardes and decided to go to the Collingwood Childrens' Farm market first. I think half of Melbourne turned up, which is great for the event. We hadn't yet had breakfast, and I guess we should have first taken a wander and sussed what we wanted to eat, but when we saw the menu at the Farm Cafe we were sold. There was a bit of a queue and a 20 minute wait for coffees, but my breakfast bagel arrived within minutes. Belinda had to sit there watching me croon over the perfectness of my food, waiting for hers to come out. Eventually. AND mine didn't have a moth in it! I guess you really know it's organic lettuce when the moths are happy to eat it too....
Great bagel - one of the best I've had. The slightly sweet bread works well with the salty bacon and cheese. Poached egg - fine. The tomatoes had real tomato flavour (bonus!) and even this relish-hater loved the relish. Good for $6. The cafe's a permanent feature, so do make a visit.

A wander around the stalls. Isn't it a great setting for a city market? You'd hardly believe you were only streets away from industrial inner-city factories and major roads. We stopped at every stall and tried as many things as possible. I liked the jelly bean topping Belinda bought - which had ouzo in it for that real black jelly bean flavour. I bought a goats cheese called "Sensation" from the Red Hill Cheese. We would have liked to buy much more, but we're going overseas in a week and couldn't justify too many food purchases.

Up to the convent to enter A Taste of Slow. It would have been a good thing if they had large signs or pamphlets describing what the Slow Food Movement is all about. In a queue for the toilets I overheard some girls saying they thought the Slow Food Festival was all about casseroles and stews, and were pretty disappointed they hadn't found anyone offering casserole samples! I wanted to go up to them and explain the premise behind Slow Food, but I decided I'd come across as a bit of a nob, so I left them alone.
No, it's not about Slow Cooking, but slow food - as in the opposite of Fast Food. It's about taking the time to enjoy good food, grown well and cooked well. That food can be anything, not just stews and casseroles. It's also about maintaining regional recipes and culturally diverse food. The Slow Food Movement was established in Italy as a protest against a the opening of a McDonald's franchise. Why McDonald's when the local cuisine is so good? Why run the risk of losing those old recipes and our culture to a dull, standardised menu found all over the world?
So, yes, their mascot is a snail. It was pretty funny to see Belinda nearly run down by that very snail when she was looking the other way. LOL! This one wasn't so slow!
Incidentally, we were wondering if A Taste of Slow festivals were held in any other Australian cities. Anyone know the answer?

What a pity we'd already eaten. These were the lunch options at the indoor eating area. Various restaurant chefs were responsible for the canteen lunch each day. Not bad for the price!

A wandering folk trio, adding to the atmosphere.

Henry of Harcout ciders. We weren't taken by their apple or pear ciders, but the man doing the tasting was very entertaining. We weren't the only ones who thought this. As we were picnicking on the lawn later on a friend came up and announced "I've fallen in love! But I don't know whether it's with the cider or the man selling it!!"
If you're in the apple-growing Harcourt area (near Bendigo) and want to try some cider, I can recommend Bress Wine, Cider and Produce. I did a post on their cider last year - just like champagne but with an apply aftertaste. Yum!

Australia's doyenne of cookbooks, Stephanie Alexander. I feel like I've seen the queen now! Our friend told us she went up to get a book signed and she turned into a babbling, star-struck teenager who couldn't say much more than her name ("why would she care what my name is?!") and that she loved her books ("like, she's never heard that before! Oh, god, she probably thought I was an IDIOT!!!"). I choked with laughter on my gourmet rhubarb muffin hearing that. To think a cookbook writer can turn grown women to jelly, just like a rock star! (I could sympathise- I turned into a blathering idiot when I met Bill Bryson. Proves you don't need looks to be sexy!)

In the courtyard we saw people with boxes of fresh asparagus and packets of oysters. We still weren't hungry but when we realised they were coming from the "Taste of Tasmania" stall and they were doing tasting plates, we had to give it a go. For $12 you got the plate above, which included:
  • "get shucked" Pacfic Ocean oyster with Thorpe Farm wasabi mignonette
  • Scallop ceviche with a saffron rouille
  • Stripey Trumpter soused with cider seaweed
  • Bruny Island Cheese Co.'s O.D.O. (one day old cheese)
  • John Bignall's sheep's milk blue on rye with Julian Wolfhagen leatherwood honey

Seafood and cheese - who'da thunk it? The seafood was incredible, the cheeses were even better. My doctor told me to cut down on cheese. What does he know of the pleasure I get from it?!? Belinda's written what we thought of the platter - check it out.
Apparently the platter from the New South Wales tent included long sausages, venison and quail. That would have been worth trying!

We ended up finding a group of friends and picnicking on the lawn until the rain came, before taking shelter in the covent bakery and sampling some chocolate truffles. Yummy unusully flavoured chocolates we bought from the Collier Chocolate man. Swiss couverture with all kind of fillings; we decided to give the Picked Ginger and Wasabi truffles and the Cocksucking Cowboys a go (Butterscotch Schnapps and Baileys Irish Cream). Very, very good. Our favourite was the ginger and wasabi. Couldn't taste any wasabi, except for maybe a bit of heat on your palate, but the ginger ganache and dark chocolate were a sublime combination. I'd drive to Bendigo to get more!!

A great day with good food, surrounded by like-minded people. And it didn't even hail!


  • I did worry about us posting about the same things so I stuck with what we ate and knew you'd be good at telling the funny stories.

    I just sat here cracking up about that snail!

    By Blogger Belinda, at 9/10/2006 06:28:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki - that sounds like so much fun! The only Slow Food event I've ever seen around here involved lots of money and a fancy restaurant... wish something like this would come to town!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 9/11/2006 12:26:00 pm  

  • That is the biggest snail I've ever seen! Pity it is too big to add to my collection of snails. I might pass the idea of a "Slow Food" Festival onto a chef friend here in Tartu. And have fun on yout European trip.

    By Blogger Pene, at 9/11/2006 06:28:00 pm  

  • Hey Niki,

    Omg I drove past The Convent on my way to work on Sunday morning!! I wondered what the big commotion was. Such a shame I couldn't stop off for a bit.

    xox Sarah

    By Blogger Sarah, at 9/12/2006 05:47:00 pm  

  • Hey Niki,

    Just wanted to let you know I've udpated my blog with some pictures and comments from my trip to Rome (finally!), so check it out when you get a chance.

    xox Sarah

    By Blogger Sarah, at 9/12/2006 11:46:00 pm  

  • Oh my god, ya GOTTA let me know next time you go to that - it sounds amazing!

    See you Sat :)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/13/2006 06:08:00 pm  

  • Wow - that sounds great! And seafoood and cheese really isn't a combo I woudl have thought of, but if you say it works then I'd give it a try ;-) And I love that papier mache snail!! hahahaha

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 9/13/2006 11:49:00 pm  

  • Niki, Canberra had a slow food festival just last weekend. So to answer your question, yes, A Taste of Slow festivals are held in other Australian Cities. The Canberra festival was a very small affair, a few stalls with gourmet sausages, lots of wine tasting and some excellent green tea icecream (the best I've ever tasted)! Similar to your experience in Melbourne, the definition of Slow Food was a little obscure.

    By Blogger Ali-K, at 10/25/2006 12:50:00 pm  

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