South Australia is definitely one of Australia’s best food and wine destinations, and one of the best times to visit is during their eating and drinking festival, Tasting Australia. This year’s festival was particularly special, because it was the first locally run event, having moved from Ian Parmenter’s WA-based company Consuming Passions to local organisers (Events South Australia), with Simon Bryant and Paul Henry as Creative Directors and South Australian food legend Maggie Beer was Event Patron.

The theme this year was ‘Origins’ which Simon Bryant explains, pays homage to a sense of place, tradition, community and most importantly South Australia’s unique provenance. SA’s glorious bounty was on showcase in its purest form.

Tasting Australia town square

In true reflection of the theme, located in Adelaide’s CBD, Victoria Square was converted into ‘Town Square’, a central hub showcasing the finest regional produce from the Barossa, Flinders Ranges and Outback, Riverland, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Limestone Coast, Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula. On stage, ‘Eat’, ‘Share’ and ‘Think’ sessions with butchers, bakers, cheesemakers, fishermen, farmers, chefs, winemakers, brewers and other food experts offered unique classes, experiences and discussions to suit everyone.

Tasting Australia town square in Adelaide

Every corner was Instagram-worthy, from the vintage prop wares, to hay bales covered in picnic blankets.

Rustic and chic decor at Tasting Australia town square

I especially was inspired by all the repurposed wooden pallet furniture. It was like walking around my DIY Furniture Pinterest board!

crate furniture at Town Square Tasting Australia

Adding to the rustic charm, edible gardens designed by eight South Australian schools involved with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation dotted around the Town Square.

Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden at Tasting Australia town square

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Share sessions in Town Square

One of the main motives of this year’s Tasting Australia was to make the festival more accessible, and the pricing of the Share Sessions at Town Square definitely reflected this. At just $35/person, participants were able to take part in 45 minute hands-on cooking classes hosting by chefs and producers.

Tasting Australia cooking session with Skye Gyngell

I attended the ‘Garden Fresh’ session with Skye Gyngell – Australian-born chef and food editor, and the former head chef of Michelin starred London restaurant, Petersham Nurseries Cafe — who shared her renowned style of cooking from garden to plate. Her relaxed style of encouraging participants to embrace the seasonal ingredients on our shared benches caused a bit of fluster amongst some, but most were too star struck to actually flex their cooking muscles and instead spent the time absorbing Skye’s positive energy and understanding of flavour pairings: anchovies to add depth, finishing dishes with lemon juice and fresh cracked pepper for zing, using parmesan for umami, to name a few.

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We later returned for the ‘Botanicals and Bootlegging’ sold-out session with John Lark from Kangaroo Island Spirits who guided us on blending our own gin! We were supplied with the base gin blend of juniper, coriander and angelica, and then were given free whim to concoct our own blends with distilled botanicals including aniseed, cinnamon, cardamom, orange, ginger, lemon and more. The take-home 200ml bottle and ‘taste as you make’ experience sure left us in high spirits!

Kangaroo Island Spirits
856 Playford Highway, Cygnet River SA
Web: kispirits.com.au

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Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI

Another event worth adding to the calendar next year would be the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI national launch at the National Wine Centre of Australia. Following an invite-only event (which is what I had the pleasure of attending), the event was open to the public at a cost of $120/person. Helmed as the ‘Oscar’ winners of Australian wine, it was the perfect opportunity to taste the definitive collection of Australia’s finest, more acclaimed wines.

Langton's classification of Australian wine VI tasting event at Tasting Australia 2014

Cured meats and cheese platter, Tasting Australia 2014

Buffet at National Wine Centre of Australia as part of Tasting Australia

To accompany the prestigious wines, a selection of some of South Australia’s premium local food and produce was available: Murray Valley pulled pork arancini with aioli; Kangaroo Island garfish; Coffin Bay oysters with lime & seaweed salad; Richard Gunners salt bush lamb kofta with Paris Creek yogurt.

Greenslades of Kapunda free range chicken liver pate

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Thomas Farms’ Carnivore

By dusk, we were chaperoned to the Cathedral Room at Adelaide Oval for Thomas Farms’ Carnivore dinner event, which priced at $160/person was one of the most premium ‘Eat’ events held by Tasting Australia.

In a theatre style setting, chefs Paul Wilson and Mike McEnearney gave a masterclass on selecting and preparing less familiar cuts from a beef carcass live on stage.

Thomas Farms' Carnivore dinner with chefs Paul Wilson and Mike McEnearney

And boy, did we feast on meat:

Canapes
Oxtail and barley broth shot
Handmade pulled brisket pie
French-trimmed lamb rack topped with mint pesto

First course
Saltbush and buttermilk crusted lamb neck, topped with organic mixed baby leaves
Adelaide Hills herb-salted lamb rump sous-vide served on Weichs noodles tossed in Coriole extra virgin olive oil

Second course
Slow-cooked, rolled shoulder of lamb with farce of Angus Park dried fruits, topped with mushrooms and caramelised shallots
Six-hour roasted, cubed CAAB Scotch fillet, served on choy sum and XO sauce
Beef cheeks slow braised in red wine, carrots and celery served with chickpea chips
Green salad
Garlic and hazelnut green beans
Lemon and oregano roasted potatoes with pomegranate molasses

Cheese course
King Island cheese with fresh and dried fruits, assorted nuts and water crackers

Carnivore meat menu - Tasting Australia 2014

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Fine Food Forage at Adelaide Central Market

If black-tie events aren’t your thing, Adelaide Central Market’s self-guided forage was a great value experience which included a tea towel, tote bag and lots of products valued at over $75 for just $25/person.

At our own pace, we followed the map through the market to collect local, artisan and unique market products.

Fine food forage at Adelaide Central Market

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Adelaide Central Market
44 – 60 Gouger Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Phone: (08) 8203 7494
Web: adelaidecentralmarket.com.au

Opening hours
Sunday & Monday: closed
Tuesday: 7am – 5:30pm
Wednesday & Thursday: 9am – 5:30pm
Friday: 7am – 9pm
Saturday: 7am – 3pm

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The Agrarian Kitchen at Appellation

One of the most memorable meals during this SA extravaganza of a trip, was The Agrarian Kitchen at Appellation event ($95/person). 

The Agrarian Kitchen’s Rodney Dunn and Appelation’s Ryan Edwards both have similar philosophies and approaches with cooking locally and seasonally, so this partnership couldn’t have been any sweeter.

Held at The Louise, we were first given a personal tour of this idyllic luxury vineyard retreat.

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The short stroll from the self-contained suites to Appellation offers the ultimate convenience for those who want to go all out and not have to worry about how they’re getting home!

The weather unfortunately wasn’t cooperating so the pig on the spit was brought in, but as you’re about to see, all the share-table-style courses and Henschke wines were exceptional and absolutely flawless!

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Kitchen garden

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Baby vegetables with bernaise

It was incredibly satisfying to embrace the paddock-to-plate philosophy, and be fed by chefs who really appreciate the flavour of real food.

With the kitchen garden in our sights, we pretended to have harvested our own baby vegetables for the starter courses. The radishes were sweet, crispy and juicy, with root and green leaves intact of course, we ate them in its entirety. There were also Jerusalem artichokes, broccolini, and the baby fennel – all grown by Appellation and freshly plucked for our nourishment.

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Air fried ham, labna, olive and herbs; pickled beets, mustard leaves and walnuts; Autumn vegetables, honey and mustard cream dressing; Berkshire piglet on the charcoal grill

Having eaten suckling pig in many forms and styles, this thoughtfully crafted combination, was the entire package (literally – we were served the head too… crispy pig ears anyone?). The wholesome side dishes paired with the perfectly cooked Berkshire piglet, and a glass of Henschke 2010 Abbotts Prayer; this all simply encapsulated the Barossa experience for me.

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Head of berkshire piglet with lime salt

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Quince and feijoa, wild fennel and nut crumble, jersey cream

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Henschke 2013 Noble Gewurtztraminer

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Corella pear and frangipane tart with bitter almond ice cream

Appellation
The Louise, 375 Seppeltsfield Road, Marananga, South Australia
Phone: (08) 8562 4144
Web: thelouise.com.au/dine

The Agrarian Kitchen
650 Lachlan Road, Lachlan, Tasmania
Phone: (03) 6261 1099
Web: theagrariankitchen.com

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Nose to kale dinner

Because we clearly hadn’t had enough roast pork, that amazing suckling pig lunch at Appellation was topped with a Nose to Kale dinner ($175 per person including wine) collaboration by the one and only Fergus Henderson (St John Restaurant, UK), with Ian Curley (The European, VIC) and Andrew Davies (Press* Food & Wine, SA).

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Best known for his use of offal and his ‘nose to tail’ approach (before it became a hipster thing), Fergus Henderson drew quite the crowd to Press. Just an arm’s reach away were the likes of Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander!

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Then, the photo opportunity arose:

Nose to Kale, Tasting AustraliaKale crisps; deep fried tripe with onion vinegar; cured ocean trout crudo

Highlights of the meal included the deep fried tripe which was insanely tender and moreishly crunchy (I’d even go as far to say that it was better than yumcha tripe), the crayfish and wombok salad, which had so many layers of crisp clean flavours, and the pork belly – oh my! The crackling was out of this world!

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Kangaroo Island crayfish & wombok salad

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Honey & anise roasted sweetbreads

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Cauliflower puree

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Pot roasted bacon, trotters and prunes

Nose to Kale, roast pork belly
Roast pork belly with anchovy and olives

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Roast potatoes with cumin salt

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Beetroot salad, red onion, red cabbage, chervil & creme fraiche

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Pyengana cheddar, Fergus Henderson crackers, pickled walnuts; beignet, apple, cinnamon sugar; chocolate baked alaska, lemon anglaise

Press* Food & Wine
40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Phone: (08) 8211 8048
Web: pressfoodandwine.com.au

St John Restaurant
26 St John St, London EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7251 0848
Web: stjohngroup.uk.com

The European
161 Spring St, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9654 0811
Web: theeuropean.com.au

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A few of my favourite things with Paul Henry

The ‘A few of my favourite things’ tours ($150/person) were run by five of Australia’s top wine writers: Tim White, Nick Ryan, Max Allen, Nick Stock and Paul Henry. No tour was alike, with each taking 15 guests on a unique eating and drinking walking tour around the city of Adelaide.

With Paul Henry as my guide, first stop was Clever Little Tailor for fresh bloody marys with a twist! I love the combination of savoury and sweet so I’ve always been quite fond of this classic cocktail, but never have I had it with garlic, sardines and jalapenos! The combination may sound bizarre but it worked!

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The bulk of the tour took place in a laneway pop-up table, with Simon Bryant orchestrating the kitchen. Keen to showcase the best of the best produce, here’s what we devoured:

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Coorong wild MSC certified cockles with Sassie’s pork chorizo, bone dry Sepeltsfield Fino; sourdough and woodside cultured butter

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Oven roasted baby beets, Hindmarsh Valley Caprino Fresco curds, nettle and Willa’s vincotto

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Hutton Vale lamb shoulder, baked celeriac with giant mustard leaf with Coriole five year vinegar

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KI dirty lentils, Rachael’s Willunga carrots and celery hearts, romanesco

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The ultimate cheese board!

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Origins Dinner

The festival climax was the Origins Dinner ($180/person) which combined 30 great chefs with South Australia’s best produce, in a secret location! Promoted as a ‘nightclub for foodies’, the event did not disappoint.

Dishes included: Paul Wilson’s Baja-style Ferguson’s snapper tacos with adobe and lime creme; Lloyd Cremer’s Paroo Roo slider with blood plum ketchup; Matt Wilkinson’s Saskia Beer black piggy bits with parsley and chilli radishes; Shane Delia’s dirt(y) red nugget KI lentil, carrot, cumin and smoked chilli olive oil manti with spiced heirloom carrot puree and Outback Pride river mint;  and Toby Gush’s fat goose orange and lavender icecream, Food Forest pistachio meringue and nougat terrine with orange syrup, and so. Much. More.

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Producers’ Picnic

By Sunday, Town Square expanded into an outdoor festival with plentiful local producers and gourmet market stalls.

The focus on local and quality produce meant we were spoiled for choice with options such as 20kg of boneless Suffolk lamb cooked over charcoal; hot loukoumadas made from Laucke Mills flour and Flinders Ranges honey; smoked wagyu beef, duck terrine and award winning ham on the bone by Barossa Fine Foods; quandong berry ripple icecream by Bushtucker Icecream and more!

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Tasting Australia 2014 South Australia food festival sign

Tasting Australia is a biennial (to be an annual event from 2016) South Australia food event that has been running for over 15 years. The 2014 event was held on 27 April – 4 May. For more information, go to tastingaustralia.com.au.

I Ate My Way Through travelled to Tasting Australia 2014 as a guest of The South Australian Tourism Commission

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.