Taste of Auckland is upon us again!
I expected wet grass and ducking into shelters but the night pumped away, totally oblivious to the weatherman. Armed with a graffitied menu and a teasing stomach, we marched right into Victoria Park. The lineup this year is impressive, those who weren't there last year from the Rugby World Cup came onboard full force this year.
It's easy to be overwhelmed inside. There's so many people carrying beautiful plates, you'll be tempted to point and ask for the same thing. There's the Crown Card this year. Crowns is basically the currency where 2 Crowns = $2. It was so much easier than counting Crown coins last year. But, like credit cards it's easy to get carried away with the swiping.
Dish number #1 was easy. I just watched the making of the carrot cake snapper from Nick Honeyman the other day. It's a real treat for Taste goers to have such a well thought out and complicated dish from The Commons.
The Commons Carrot cake snapper: spiced beignets, carrot puree, cream cheese, baby carrots, ginger & lemon olive oil
As soon as this was put down on the communal table, we had people oohing and aahing. There's a lot going on in this dish and the presentation shows. Nick Honeyman always like to add in elements of raw food (especially flowers) to add extra freshness on the palate. This was no exception. Though, I wasn't a big fan of the taste of baby carrot (I eat my vegies! Just didn't enjoy the taste.)
Euro Simon Gault's crab & prawn, jalapeno creme, fraiche sauce, tobiko & tuna wafers
Not sure if slapping Simon Gault in front of the dish name helped the sales but many were precariously carrying this one around. And you'd want to be careful or you'll spill the precious sauce. I had to fish around for the prawn and crab meat was almost non-existent, but the creamy and spicy sauce was gorgeous. Just enough to tantalise you into the next dish.
Depot Lemon meringue pie with cream
We love the oysters and sliders at Depot so it made sense to try something different. The awesomely sad thing about Depot is that their dishes always sound ordinary. Though this works perfectly with Al Brown's philosophy: Cook with the best produce for amazing food that's totally undisguised.
Clooney Saikou Salmon with orange peel, saffron & fennel pollen
Instagrammers: you have to order this. Plated up on the cutest cardboard plate with a printed plate and cutlery, this gives off the feeling of reserved elegance dining at Clooney. The pairing with saffron and orange peel was beautifully matched. It's a shame the wafer went soggy under the wet weather (or maybe we waited too long), but all in all an understated elegant dish.
The Commons Violet & Valrohna: Valrohna chocolate delice, almond sandcastle, violet ice-cream, violet merine shard
The words “Valrohna chocolate” got me from the very beginning. I could already imagine the beautiful violet and chocolate colours in my mind. Funds running low, this was one dessert I could not leave without trying. It was heavenly. You'll want to mix a bit of everything onto your spoon though, everything on that plate works so seamlessly into each other.
Toto Restaurant Porchetta: Free range crispy pork Roman-style, homemade bun, spicy greens, sharp Auricchio provolone, mustard
I was against the idea of ordering a burger-looking-thing at Taste because I thought I was better than that. And boy I was proved wrong. So very wrong. The sharp tang of the spice makes you bite deeper into that bun and makes you really savour the ring of crispy pork winding around. I really do believe the secret to this burger was the crispy pork and the mustard. If you weren't full from your dishes before, make sure you have one of these!
FISH Pepper cured trevally fillet served with horseradish, beetroot & puffed rice
Towards the end of the night, I scoured the menu to find something tasty for 8 crowns. I was surprised this trevally came in the form of sashimi. The lady opposite me looked on jealously while cupping her pregnant belly. I described the dish in full to her instead (I know, how cruel) and we got chatting. Asking “So how do you know Shane? (head chef of FISH)”. There was a confused pause and a smile. “Well…he's the father of my child?” No wonder, she had that glow about her. I would recommend this dish for one of your first dishes but it was just as refreshing at the end of the night.
Clooney Pecan creme brulee with Pedro xeminez & earl grey
Understated deliciousness strikes again. This creme brulee is one of the best I've ever had. Beautifully creamy with a hint of earl grey from the two dollops of sauce on the side. Careful though, just don't have the earl grey sauce on its own, or you'll get a bitter smash.
Mexico Prawns in a chipotle mayonnaise with baby cos lettuce, green gazpacho tostada and candied lime
I didn't think any other dessert could top that creme brulee. And with that mindset, I chose the prawn cocktail to finish off my night. I think I was spoilt by the amazing choices before. This was good, though not exceptional. There were plenty of prawns, and it gets even better when you dunk them deep into the spicy sauce. But honestly, I would probably choose to spend my last 10 Crowns elsewhere!
How to make the best of Taste:
– You'll be tramping around on grass so I'd write 5″ stilettos out of the picture. Wedges are lifesavers.
– It can be hard to find street parking. We nicked one at 5.30pm but that's just us being lucky
– Stay hydrated! After N number of wines and dishes, the tiredness probably isn't from the walking, it's the lack of H20.
– If you wait for dessert at the end of the night, expect long queues.
It costs $25 for entry and $8 to $12 for each dish so it can be an expensive night out. But, having said that you're going to spend way more for a degustation and I like the idea of trying dishes from different restaurants.
Taste of Auckland:
Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 November, 2012
Victoria Park, Auckland