TASTING AUSTRALIA 2010 – ADELAIDE DIARY

Day 7

Enough of all this frivolity there’s work to do.

Up early – insomnia again – down for usual brace of flat whites, croissant, melon and the Hail Mary Muesli Bar – tastes so bad you can feel it doing you good. Tempted to a cleansing James Squire IPA but refrained.

On to web to acquire and marshal argument. Today, myself, broadcaster Alan Saunders and chef-turned-farmer Matthew Evans are involved in Word of Mouth, a new feature of Tasting Australia. We are to debate against some smartypants school kids, topic being ‘The kitchen is the hub of the universe’. We are proposing.

This will be no push-over. The opposition are the local debating champions who have put forward their crack trio. Still, I am on form, despite self-imposed lack of James Squire, having assembled an impressive array of facts culled from history regarding the importance of the culinary output to conquering armies from the days of Alexander the Great to the present. At the eleventh hour, though, I decide to ditch this approach in favour of a tear-jerking tale about a nerdy, geeky, socially-inept kid (me) who was rehabilitated by an awakened interest in cooking. Before we started I went among the audience and distributed Kleenex.

Matt kicked off the debate with a logical dissertation. He was rebutted by a sparky lass with a penchant for filling the unforgiving minute with puns, lots of them, each propped up by a generous dollop of culinary terms. I rose to my feet and accused her of “over-egging the pudding”, (good that eh?) before unleashing my dolorous tale. Tears flowed, two of the ladies in the audience wanted to adopt me.

The opposition’s middle person was firmly of the logic tendency, accusing us gastro types of having low self-esteem and insufficient imagination. She’s probably right. Next Alan, our anchor man, left the audience wanting more with a witty diatribe. We had it in the bag. The gap was narrowed, but not closed, I felt by an impressive youth who entertained the audience by revealing tales of his own culinary ineptitude, nub of his argument being “It didn’t really matter and anyhow I can always phone for a takeaway”. Yes, this one was ours.

Unfortunately, the cunning students had packed the audience. The volume of nose allowed them, marginally, to carry the day. We demanded a re-clap, to no avail.

Afterwards, a walk along the river bank (actually the Torrens here doesn’t seem like a river, more like a large boating lake. Pedalos outnumbered the black swans). The public at large were clearly enjoying the food and drink provided by the various stalls – for Irish readers, a larger and much less frenetic version of ‘Taste of Dublin’. Had a good chat with a man with a mobile pizza oven about the techniques of wood-firing, several glasses of wine and a few zzzs in the sunshine.

That evening we all departed by bus for Sparrow Kitchen and Bar, where the huge cold chamber full of salumi and prosciutto had us salivating. Unfortunately the team from their sister restaurant had been imported to do a near-reprise of the pretty tour de force that had won them the trophy. Have to say that the hard-nosed press gang found some of the combinations a bit contrived, evidence that what works in competition doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard over your actual dinner.

I found a brettanomyces-infused red. Took it over to fellow wine scribes Rick Allen and Winsor Dobbin who concurred, as did the sommelier, a young Londoner who whispered confidentially, “It takes an Englishman to find brett” Hmmm… not sure some of my Aussie winemaking friends would agree.

Afterwards back to Hyacon. Usual chaotic service in the bar but they do have a lass who makes a killer Tanqueray 10 martini.