Sunday, April 06, 2014

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 - Prahran Market, Donovan's and Dalmatino

It's amazing how fast time passes by. I remember the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival from 2013 as if it just happened yesterday. Last year I was lucky to be invited to some events and they were really good. You can read about there here. This year, again I was fortunate enough to be invited to a few events. They were all really different and interesting events and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Prahran Market - Harvest The Sea and the Vine

The first event I attended was the Prahran Market's Harvest the Sea and the Vine event which combined the food from Walter Trupp's Cooking School with wines from Punt Road Wines. Walter cooked up 4 dishes using seafood, and it was matched by Punt Road wines. Here was the combinations

*Lightly poached oysters with beetroot jelly, peppercress and horseradish foam with a NV Sparkling
*Oven baked scallops with saffron and anise butter with fennel shavings with a 2012 Airlie Bank Pinot Grigio
*Shellfish bisque with curry broth with a 2012 Chardonnay
*Prawns A l'Armoricaine with white polenta with a 2012 Chemin Pinot Noir

I'm so impressed with chefs who can make food to really compliment wines or sommeliers who can pick wines to compliment food. It is indeed an excellent skill to have. In this case, Walter decided on dishes to compliment the Punt Road wines and he did a great job. Everything worked so well, even the prawns which had a really strong sauce matched well with the Pinot Noir. For me personally, the match of the NV Sparkling and the oyster was my favourite combination, followed closely by the scallop with the Pinot Grigio. Each dish was definitely lifted by the wine. Prahran Market as usual put on a great event and it was fun, delicious and for $30, excellent value. If they have another event next year, I highly recommend you participate.

Donovan's - By The Sea Where We Live

There are a number of culinary institutions and one of those that I haven't been to is Donovan's. Hence I was super excited to finally go to Donovan's for their By The Sea event. The moment I stepped into the restaurant I was feeling good. The restaurant interior is beautiful, in that it feels like an amazing house, someone's house. There is a couch and coffee table, a kitchen type area and just decorations all over the restaurant that makes it feel like you're in someone's home. And that's exactly how owners Gail and Kevin want you to feel. Everything has been procured by them and it's all really beautiful. I was browsing through the coffee table books and I seriously wanted to steal them all (stealing is wrong, don't do it). I definitely need the New York Sweets book, the Safari flip book, the Text From Dog book, the Underwater Dog book and the Knit New York book.

The meal started off in the courtyard where drinks were served with canapes while lifeguards on stilts worked the crowd while a band entertained everyone. It definitely got everyone relaxed if they weren't already. The canapes were just the start to an absolutely huge array of foods that would be served buffet style.

The feast was all seafood related to reflect where we live, surrounded by water. There were small appetiser sized dishes served at the table along with food served at a buffet. Below were the food served. I tried my best to eat everything but just couldn't.

Blue swimmer crab on ice, Oysters on ice, New England clam chowder with croutons, Lobster brioche rolls with aioli, Fried Crystal Bay prawns with lime and chili salt, Salt and pepper calamari, Mussels with white wine and basil, Scallops with citrus butter and toasted crumbs, Octopus, chorizo and potato skewers, Salmon in a salt crust, Salmon gravlax, Seafood paella, Chilli crabs, Barbequed prawns with chili and oregano, Beer battered fish and chips, Swordfish medallions, Spiced cauliflower, Baked potatoes, Grilled corn, Heirloom tomato salad, Tossed baby greens

There was so much food and you could go back and eat as much as you wanted. I did 4 trips to the buffet in between being served food by the staff. Everything was done simply but all so good. All the seafood was so fresh. The oysters were some of the best I've ever eaten. I also greatly enjoyed the fried Crystal Bay prawns, the salmon gravlax, the salt baked salmon, the paella, mussels in white wine, the baked scallops and the baked prawns. I don't think there was a bad dish.

In between the savoury and sweet foods, Gail and Kevin held an announcement for door prizes. I've never been to an event where the cost of the door prizes probably exceeded the event returns. There were like 40 door prizes for the 100 guests. And the prizes were all so great, from beautiful books to dining experiences to boxes of wine. Also, the way to wine the prizes were so varied, from drawing tickets to asking who had hit a hole in one to whose dogs were the naughtiest. It was all enjoyed in such great humour and Gail and Kevin were like everyone's new best friends. You couldn't help but be infected by their happiness.

Once we had regained our composure from all the laughing, a massive dessert buffet was put on. There were lemon meringue pies, banoffee pies, apple pies, bread and butter puddings, ice creams, heaps of toppings for the ice creams, fruit, caramel popcorn, chocolate crackles and even fairy floss. It was every kids, and adults who are still kids inside's, dream. I loved the apple pie so much and the ice creams were all made by the chefs and I ate one of the best strawberry and vanilla ice cream ever. Even the raspberries were divine and so sweet.

While dessert was served, we even got a surprise of a full parade of bag pipers playing lots of song. People clapped along and danced in the cool night air staring at the band and the beautiful beach. It was a truly amazing event and I definitely want to go back to eat more food at Donovan's. The hospitality there is wonderful as is the freshness of the food. The event is definitely at the high end for $200 but having experienced it, I would highly recommend it and say you will have the most amazing time that you won't be forgetting any time soon.

Dalmatino - The Sea of 1000 Islands

One cuisine I have always wanted to try and don't know anything about is Croatian food. I was extremely excited about going to Dalmatino for their Sea of 1000 Islands meal. As I learned, there are thousands of islands dotted across the Adriatic Coast and they all have such diverse climates and food. Seafood is very prominent in the cuisine and this meal would showcase some seafood combined with Croatian flavours. The meal consisted of

*Black calamari risotto
*Scampi cooked the Kvarner way with white wine, garlic, tomato with a majoram pasta
*Blue eye fillet cooked the Hvar way with vongole, cherry tomatoes and served with soft polenta
*Sour cherry cake fro Vis served with roasted almond ice cream

We started our meal with the calamari risotto, which didn't look the best with the black colour but boy oh boy, the flavours were stunning. Perfectly cooked risotto was dotted with calamari done two ways, boiled and fried. It was a great dish and I want to eat it again. The next dish of Scampi was also really delicious. The flavours were quite simple but so good. I loved the cherry tomatoes with the dish. The pasta was also really good. I've never had majoram pasta before but it works so well with the scampi. Next up, the blue eye was cooked really well and went well with the vongole. I didn't much care for the polenta as it was rather gloopy and didn't work with the fish I felt. Lastly, the sour cherry cake was wonderful. The sour notes in the cherry worked so well with the crumbly crust. And the roast almond ice cream, O.M.G. The most amazing ice cream and one of the best ice cream I've eaten.

The meal was excellent and I look forward to going back to try more things. I loved the food and even the wines were a revelation to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the Malvazija Kozlovic Istria. It was so refreshing and worked beautifully with the risotto. The restaurant setting and decor is also really beautiful. The warehouse style restaurant with the sun roofs, exposed brick and large open bar gives a great vibe to the whole room. I was so relaxed and happy throughout the whole meal and at $80 for the event, I would highly recommend it to everyone if they have another event next year.

The theme for this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival was water, and all three events I went to really showcased water. The water that help provide the wonderful seafood and wines that I had. Each event was a real highlight in their own ways, despite the total differences in price. For me, I'd definitely go back to the two restaurants and any other events the Prahran Market hold. I'm so thankful to all the restaurants and companies who helped cover the cost of my meals. It was a thorough pleasure and I had the best time. I really felt the diversity and quality of the Melbourne food scene and I look forward to next year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

I dined courtesy of the restaurants and companies.

Donovans on Urbanspoon
Dalmatino on Urbanspoon


  1. That scallop photograph looks divine; oh how I love saffron!

    Happy to hear the Prahran Market event was totally worth it too.

    1. Scallop was so good. Love the Prahran Market so much.

  2. Chowderrrrrrrrr! What a feast! I really want a lobster roll now too.

    1. Haha such a good feast. I could always use a lobster roll.