I learnt that stilettos are inappropriate attire for a grassy field, and Friday afternoon is a great time to visit Sydney’s ultimate food festival, as the crowds were still taking care of their day jobs. Above all, though, the lesson that hit home the hardest was don’t judge a meal by its cover.
I shimmied up to the large marquee, which was Otto Ristorante and Otto Bar, to the sights and sounds of a DJ spinning funky tracks among comfortable-looking leather lounges. Their three-item menu read: smoked veal ragout pasta with parmesan and bresola; salmon carpaccio with citrus; and milk chocolate mousse with salted caramel. Deciding on one of each, we set up shop on one side of the synthetic-lawn-covered high tables and awaited our order.
The pasta turned up first (hand delivered, actually), as the marquee was fairly quiet with customers bobbing their heads to the rhythmic tunes. I instantly thought, 'Horror, it’s hospital food", as the pasta came served in a foam cup – an implement popular within hospital care facilities, used to serve soup to sick folk.
The dish was flavorsome thanks to the veal ragout and the pasta cooked well, but I was left wondering, 'Why am I eating pasta? I could have made this at home". Not to mention the fact that hearty pasta certainly didn’t complement this hot humid day.
The second dish of salmon carpaccio with citrus, fennel, baby herbs and crispy salmon skin looked as pretty as a picture, but did not deliver on flavour. It was an underwhelming journey in a sea of taste sensations. We did, though, enjoy the crispy salmon scratchings and could have happily gnawed away at a bowl full of them.
With trepidation, I entered into a conversation with the chocolate mousse topped with fresh raspberries, which also featured my guilty indulgent pleasure – salted caramel. The mousse was light, airy and almost whimsical. A delicate layer of dark chocolate ganache encouraged you to break through its shell and sample the hidden pocket of salted caramel treasure that lay in wait amongst the mousse’s collective air pockets.
Reminiscent of a multi-layered chocolate mousse cake made immortal by Peter Gilmore of Quay Restaurant, the dessert impressed this non-dessert-eating girl and left a contented saccharine taste in my mouth.
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The ability to reflect on one’s experience and ask questions is the foundation for growth. So, I ask myself: What did I learn from my afternoon of sampling at Taste of Sydney 2011?