Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show 2009 - Friday

Well, the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show is over for another year. It was three massive days of food, wine and fun. My mother and I (in what's becoming a yearly tradition) attended on all three days and we had a great time.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in this year's show offerings. There were over 300 exhibitors, but there didn't seem to be as many repeat exhibitors. Last year, I bought some fantastic sauces and other goodies and I was hoping to get some more, especially The Chilli Man sauces which I absolutely adored. Out of the nine exhibitors I purchased from last year, only three were at this year's show. There were many many other exhibitors, but I did miss the ones that I had enjoyed previously.

While I was hoping for the The Chilli Man to be there, I was really hoping to get some great sauces. I just can't get the depth of flavour that I like in a sauce from the supermarket brands and I haven't found a gourmet brand that meets my high expectations. I was really excited about the show, because where better to sample different brands than a food show? However, I wasn't very lucky this year.

Another noticeable absence was all the cooking magazines. Last year all of them were there and some of them even had the cooking demonstrations. This year all we had was BBC Good Food.

Anyway, enough about what wasn't there and on to what was there.

Friday was an awesome day to go to the show and we didn't realise how good we had it until Saturday morning when every move you made was against a crowd of people.

A few days before the show started, members of the mailing list received an email saying that the first 150 people to the show on Friday morning would win a gift bag which included Curtis Stone's new book Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone. Originally, Curtis Stone was one of the Celebrity Chefs who would be appearing in the Celebrity Theatre. My mum really likes Curtis' cooking so I booked my tickets at 9am on 25 August, the day they first went on sale, and we had front row centre seats. Then we found out that Curtis couldn't attend because of filming commitments in the US and we were a little disappointed. We decided that we would get to the Convention Centre early on Friday so we could at least get a copy of his cookbook if we couldn't see him live.

We arrived before 9am for the 10am show start along with many many other people. When we started queuing, there were around 50 people in the queue (thanks to the lovely people behind us who counted) however, we ended up behind around 80 other people. Nobody likes a queue jumper people. I don't care who is holding your spot. I'm talking about people like the lady who casually pushed in front of me without a look or a word while talking on her mobile and ran over my feet with her trolley and then, talking all the while, pushed her way through other people until she settled in near the front of the line. She didn't even have someone holding her spot!

Rude and inconsiderate people notwithstanding, we did manage to get a copy of Curtis' book and it's lovely. It's just amazing how free stuff can make people go crazy.

Wild Oats Restaurant

The first thing Mum and I did was visit the booth selling tickets to the restaurant. Last year the line for the restaurant was always crazily long and we hoped to beat the crowds having to queue twice (once for tickets and once to get in). After a short time of browsing through the stands, we decided to take an early lunch, again hoping to beat the crowds. We didn't realise how lucky we were, as we had no problems finding a lovely table and Mum only had to wait for one other person to be served before getting served herself.

The restaurant prices have been hit by the global financial crisis (just joking), increasing from increments of $7 to increments of $8. A dessert was $8, entree and glass of wine was $16 and a main and a glass of wine was $24.

Main dish from Alistair McLeod - Peppered beef salad, roasted tomatoes, kipfler potatoes and horseradish cream

Mum chose the peppered beef salad from Alistair McLeod. Noticeably absent were the roasted tomatoes, however Mum can't eat tomatoes so they weren't really missed. We also looked the dish over quite closely and couldn't see the pepper. We must have to take the kitchen's word for it. The beef was a little overdone for my tastes, but I can't imagine that cooking for such a magnitude of people could be easy and I could understand that something like that may be a casualty of the situation, however it was 11:30 on the first morning.

Wow, that sounds really critical. It wasn't meant to be. The horseradish cream was beautiful and creamy and went really well with the beef and the salad was lovely and fresh, there were just a couple of things we noticed.

Main dish from Tobie Puttock - Veal Osso Bucco

On the other hand, I didn't notice anything out of order with Tobie Puttock's main dish, a wonderfully rich osso bucco. The veal was cooked beautifully and fell apart when you prodded it with your fork. The mash was creamy and delightful and the sauce was deep and fabulous. It was so good.

Dessert from Alistair McLeod - Chocolate creme brulee, Irish whiskey roasted strawberries and almond biscotti

This was also amazing. So amazing, in fact, I had it again on Sunday. Friday's was the best though. The Irish whiskey roasted strawberries were sweet but had a deep taste from the whiskey that wasn't boozy at all. The chocolate creme brulee had an awesomely crisp top and divinely creamy chocolate custard. It was so good I had trouble concentrating on what Mum was saying while I ate it, shamelessly dunking the biscotti into the chocolate cream.

Tobie Puttock in the Celebrity Theatre

First up on our Celebrity Theatre schedule was Tobie Puttock and his awesome shirt. He was wearing it to promote a friend's business, but I can't remember what that business was. Whatever it was, it is a very cool shirt.

Tobie is the only celebrity chef that we have seen every year that we have visited the show and he always is great to watch. This time he made a rotolo of beetroot leaves and ricotta and beef for two roasted in herbed salt.

Watching him make the rotolo was great. I don't think I'd ever try this one at home, but it looked very cool. He wrapped some beetroot leaves, ricotta and mushrooms in some fresh pasta sheets and then he wrapped that in a chef's cloth and cooked it in a water bath in the oven.

This year they had two small tables at either end of the stage and during the show (as usual) they chose an audience member or two to taste the dishes. However, this time they sat the audience member/s at the table for the whole show and they got to taste all the dishes. I much preferred previous years when more people had the opportunity to see/smell/taste the finished dishes. Gary and George were a notable exception to the general rule, running up and down the aisle giving out chips and doughnuts and Matt Moran chose two sets of audience members, one for each of his dishes (more on these chefs later).

Moving on, Tobie made a beef roast in a pastry-type crust that can imitate a full salt crust using flour, salt, herbs, egg whites and water. The beef is first browned in a frypan before being finished off in the oven. When he cut open the beef it was a gorgeous shade of pink. I would really have liked to taste it, so I guess I will have to try and cook it at home.

Tobie was excited because he was heading off to Wet 'n' Wild after the show. I hope he enjoyed himself.

Ben O'Donoghue in the Celebrity Theatre

We bought tickets to see Ben O'Donoghue later that afternoon and were lucky to get some really good seats near the front. The only experience I've really had seeing Ben on TV is from the BBC show The Best in 2002 (which I love) but Mum, who is lucky enough to get Lifestyle Food, has seen him on Surfing the Menu and more recently on The Best in Australia and last year at the Barbeques Galore stand at the show. She wasn't all that interested in seeing Ben as she didn't like how horrible they were to Darren and she told the box office clerk this (I had no idea what she was talking about) but when the show started Ben asked the audience if they thought he was mean to Darren on TV he explained that it was all editing and they had to do it. After that, Mum was a little more kindly disposed towards him.

He put on a good show. He cooked nice clean flavours and was entertaining to watch. I was one of the lucky two picked to taste his dishes and it was very uncomfortable sitting up there with everyone watching you eat, plus it was hard to see what Ben was doing as you couldn't really see the screen and the angle was off to see the counter. However, I did get to taste his cooking, which was awesome.

He made two dishes, the first was a great fresh entree of prawns with a watermelon and mango salad. The prawns were lightly brushed with wasabi and then were wrapped in kataifi (I think - it was Greek shredded filo pastry. Can anyone correct me on this?). They were then deep fried and served with salad of mango and watermelon with some greens, and some small dollops of Japanese mayonnaise mixed with wasabi. It was very nice and light, I loved all the flavours separately, and it was a lovely fresh salad.

Ben served this salad by using a melon baller and then placing balls of mango and watermelon at random intervals about the plate and then interspersed them with dollops of mayonnaise. This seems like such a random Stonehenge-esque way to serve something to me, but Gary did the same thing so it must be the fashion at the moment.

Ben's second dish was an Indian style fish marinated in lime, chilli powder, zest of lime, garlic and ginger. He then toasted some dahl and peppercorns with some other things (I can't remember, I'm sorry) and ground them up. He mixed in some fresh chopped coriander and then coated the fish in the mix. He served the fish with some homemade tomato relish. The fish was absolutely awesome, nice and flavourful with a real kick from the chilli. The tomato relish was a huge winner too, I could have eaten it on its own.

Christmas Canapes and Sparkling

Two days before the show, another email was sent out with a competition to win tickets to an evening of canapes and sparkling wine with Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. I was definately up for that, so I entered and I was quite excited when I won a double pass.

Mum and I knew it was going to be a long day as the event didn't start until 6:15pm, and we had gotten to the show early that morning, so we were a little tired while we waited the short time between the close of the show and the start of our evening. We perked up once we entered the Reidel Wine Theatre and were given our first glass of sparkling. I don't drink, but I do like a nice sparkling and the Hardys Sir James Cuvee Brut is a very nice sparkling. I had three or four glasses, which is huge for me and made me quite a spectacle walking to the bus stop later that evening.

Anyway, the wine theatre had been elegantly arranged into a lovely little cocktail party with a DJ playing some great music. We enjoyed our wine and chatted to the couples around us until Gary and George arrived.

They mingled through the crowd and even stopped for photos (you don't get to see either of the photos taken of me with Gary and George as my photographer may have had more to drink than she realised and they both turned out blurry - love you Mum!). I got a cuddle from Gary too. He seems to enjoy the odd cuddle. George seemed a little over the whole thing and when I asked for a photo I was told to "make it quick", but they must have had a long day.

They took centre stage for a moment and explained that they designed the canapes we were about to try and we would be able to taste them paired with a matched Hardys wine. I loved my sparkling too much to change, so I missed the matched wine experience. After their little speech they did a bit more mingling before disappearing off into the night. They weren't there for very long, but we learned the next day that they were booked in to dine at Aria Brisbane so they must have had to rush.

The canapes were quite tasty, but knowing of George's opinion of food bloggers and twitterers, I'll just tell you what they are and comment that the vitello tonnato and the saganaki martini were my favourites even though he's apparently sworn off the internet.

Salmon Rillet (Gary) - fresh salmon mixed with shallots, lemon zest and juice and white pepper and then mixed with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and chives.

Vitello Tonnato (Gary) - poached veal scotch with a sauce of mayonnaise, anchovies, capers, lemon juice and zest and tuna.

Mezze on a Stick (George) - white anchovies, pistachio praline and octopus marinated in paprika, thyme, red wine vinegar, roasted garlic puree and olive oil.

Saganaki Martini (George) - fried haloumi served over some tomato, cucumber, candied olives and chives in a tomato gin tea.

After a long enjoyable day we caught a bus home, managed to eat some dinner and then went to bed early to rest up for more food and wine on Saturday.


  1. Sounds like you had a good time- I could only attend on Saturday afternoon and it was CHAOS! By the time we got there, people were half drunk and some people were rude and pushy- going around demanding samples etc. That sort of behaviour- just like the woman on the phone, can make a nice day turn ugly! I think the best idea would be to reduce the number of people allowed in at one time because it was so packed!

  2. I totally agree! My mum had a go at some drunk guy who pushed into the Olympus cheese line. He pushed in between the two of us and she yelled at him and forcibly pulled me in front of him because he wouldn't move and was just obnoxious about the whole thing.

    It was horrible that you almost couldn't move around the celebrity theatre end because of all the people queuing. We tried to avoid it as much as possible.

    Saturday was borderline unpleasant, the other days were much nicer.