Enjoying (or is it surviving?) the Taste of Tasmania – Hobart, Tasmania

I tend to get a little conflicted over events like The Taste, whereby the likelihood of experiencing gastronomic heaven is tempered by the equal likelihood of surrounding myself with hordes of stupidity.

Well, perhaps that’s a little harsh, but you can just about guarantee that you’ll encounter at least one of these two jolly characters during your day out at The Taste…

The Oblivious Sideways Stepper

You’re starving hungry, you’ve spent the last 20 minutes queuing up at a couple of stalls, and finally you’re making your way back to your table. A plate in each hand, and perhaps even a couple of glasses of wine for the exceptionally nimble fingered, delicately trying to manoeuvre your way through the crush of bodies without spilling a drop. At last! Amongst the swirling bodies you see a path open up before you, a fleeting window of opportunity to be grasped with both hands (if they weren’t already full). With images of Moses, the Red Sea and rabid Egyptians at your heels, you speed up, striving to reach that light at the end of the tunnel  before the waves of humanity come crashing back down on your sunburnt head. Twenty metres, fifteen, step over the small child, ten, look up, almost there, you can almost taste victory, when….BAM!!! The lady with the big hair takes an abrupt and completely unexpected step to her right. Like the clashing of two titans, there is no stopping, there is only the inevitable and highly visible display of physics in action. A dollop of sour cream from your patatas bravas departs its cardboard container, gracefully soaring through the air, morsels of pulled pork tumble to the ground like a waterfall o’ pig, and a wilted lettuce leaf is catapulted upwards from its accompanying salmon ceviche, striking your cheek with a limp ‘pffft’… So close to the safe harbour of your table, yet so far. The accompanying apology somewhat alleviates the ensuing angst, but it doesn’t bring back your lunch.

The Territorial Statistician

So you’ve saved half your lunch, but how are you going to eat it? Options abound at The Taste, yet the most alluring is also the most unlikely. At a table? With your wife and/or friends? With sufficient elbow room to permit the wielding of blunt, recyclable cutlery? BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Fool!!

While there seemed to be a lot more tables and chairs this year, unless you were prepared to turn up at 11:00am or fork out your hard-earned for a reserved table, finding one was next to impossible. Like a mirage to a thirsty camel you catch hinting glimpses of space, luring you in, but then disappearing as another party of four dive into the breach with manic desperation, wild eyes dilated in glee, a harsh cackle issuing forth as they perch themselves on their newly acquired thrones… “You’re all MINE my pretties!!!”

And then, even worse than the party of four is the Territorial Statistician. That guy or girl that has never taken a maths class in their life, that never learnt how to share as children, and to whom Venn diagrams and Poisson distributions are ‘dirty foreigners’ that probably arrived by boat.

Low in intellect, yet high in animal cunning! These people have an innate ability to critically analyse the remaining free real estate at a table (that can comfortably fit 8), create a statistical distribution in their addled mind, combining the following inputs:

  • available family members (most likely Shaniqua, Brytnee and/or Aden);
  • accompanying prams, bedazzled purses, Jack Daniels eskis and ‘Monster’ branded jackets;
  • half empty plastic cups of Cascade (because who’d want to drink that expensive crap?); and
  • a primal understanding of the dynamics of ‘personal space’,

and, like Napoleon or Attila the Hun, through the strategic positioning of these resources, they are able to successfully both create the illusion that a family of 8 is currently enconced at said table (but the other 5 are off grabbing more of those fancy gor-mett hot dogs), and to make it quite clear that any attempt to breach their defences will be met with pointed looks and exaggerated ‘daggers’ at best, and a profanity riddled verbal tirade at worst!! It’s just not worth the effort… Bogans 1 – The World 0.

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But enough of the vitriol and bile!! Myers-Briggs tells me I’m an INFJ so it goes without saying that I don’t play well with crowds and their accompanying random behaviours 🙂 …and I love a whinge…

I guess you’re interested in how the day really did turn out?

The Appetizer

It was pretty good to be honest. We started the day with a Tasmanian Clover Hill sparkling (one of Australia’s finest wines in our opinion) and a dozen oysters. The oysters were on the dear side, perhaps explaining why the stall holders looked like deer in the headlights when we attempted to make our purchase… perhaps two hours after opening we were their first customers of the day? Regardless, the oysters were incredibly fresh and very tasty.

Clover Hill sparkling and oysters

Oysters!

The Entree

The Smolt stand had received some good reviews and also won the ‘Best New Entry Stall’ award for 2012, so we tried their Patatas Bravas and Salmon Ceviche as an entree.

Both were great, with the aioli on the patatas bravas chock full of awesome garlicky goodness, while the ceviche consisted of some very generously sized salmon portions together with a salad.

These entrees were accompanied by a couple of glasses of Jansz sparkling. Certainly not in the same league as the Clover Hill, but still very good.

Patatas Bravas – Smolt

Salmon Ceviche – Smolt

The Mains

The wife and I have a thing for ‘pulled pork’ these days (and no, that isn’t a euphemism!), so when we saw the Mt Gnomon Farm stall with their pulled pork tacos, in both regular and gluten free options, we just couldn’t say no!

The pork was soft, juicy and delicious! With freshly diced tomatoes and a coriander garnish to cut through the fatty pork it was a messy match made in heaven!

The tacos were then followed up by a bowl of Thai mussels on a bed of rice from the Inn Cider & Mussel Bar stall. While I thought the mussels were perfectly steamed and delicious, I felt the Thai garnish that they squirted over the dish was a little too salty. It’s surprising for me to say something like that, as I normally love salty dishes, but this was just going a little bit too far.

Pulled Pork Taco – Mt Gnomon Farm

Thai Mussels – Inn Cider & Mussel Bar

The Desserts

To finish off, Karen was very keen to try the goat’s milk ice cream from the Bruny Island Cheese stall, while I was hunting for the perennial favourite…chocolate!

I didn’t have to look far, with all sorts of options involving combinations of chocolate, berries, cakes, mousse’s and ice creams. I settled on a strawberry and marshmallow skewer drizzled in chocolate, together with a chocolate mousse topped with fresh berries. The strawberries were so good!! Massive and yet full of flavour. The marshmallows were a bit bland, but that was more than compensated for by the quality of the strawberries and chocolate.

The Goat and Lemon ice cream was also a winner, and was extremely good value for money, with $5 getting you a massive 180mL tub of delicious ice cream and a wooden spoon to extract the tasty goodness!

Strawberry and Marshmallow skewer – Strawberry Avenue

Chocolate Mousse with Berries – Strawberry Avenue

The Conclusion?

As a diversion from the Christmas and New Years madness, The Taste was a winner. Despite the crowds, it was a great afternoon spent in the sun trying some delicious foods that we otherwise might not have tried.

Despite this, we both got the feeling that The Taste has somewhat lowered its standards over the last few years. The increased seating capacity was welcome, but at the same time the bigger stalls keep getting bigger. Household names (n Tasmania anyway!) such as Waji’s, Bruny Island, Mona etc… all had massive stalls that obviously came at the expense of perhaps providing a smaller outlet with a chance to show Tasmania, and the world, what they are capable of. While the dishes were tasty, there weren’t really all that many that were new, exciting and ‘must try’. I guess they need to cater to everyone’s tastes, but in our opinion it was a lost opportunity to showcase quality, lesser known, Tasmanian produce.

I hesitate to provide comparisons, as the two cities are vastly different in size, but the The Taste festival in Hobart could learn a lot of lessons from the Autumn Fest held in Sapporo, Japan. More variety,  a lot more space to lie on the grass and chill out with your favourite dishes, less congestion queuing up for food, and lower prices. These all came together to make the Autumn Fest an absolute triumph. The potential for The Taste to be that good is certainly there, but to do this the organisers will need to take a chance and try something a little bit different.

At the end of the day, with full bellies and happy memories, we slowly waddled back to the car up at the Cenotaph and made our way home.

Welcome to The Taste!

The Shed

10 Comments

  1. Hi Andrew – great summing-up of Taste! I’m in total agreement with you about those crowds, and the bogan element! Must admit to finding it hard for these (older) eyes to read the pale print on black background in the body of your blog. The white against black – no worries, just the paler shade of the script is difficult!

    1. Thanks for the feedback Rita! Unfortunately I don’t think I can change the font colour, as it comes standard with the blog template. I’ll look into though. It’s always good to get someone else’s opinion and improve where possible.

      1. As with Rita I’ve struggled with the SIZE of the print and the black background. I’ve been wanting to say so for ages.

        Back to your post which also had me thoroughly entertained! We’re yet to join the throngs for all of the reasons you’ve outlined, but will definitely go just in case we miss something wonderful and just occasionally, we’re happy to be part of a situation with it’s own special atmosphere such as Salamanca Market etc

        Maybe it’s time to share the pride and spread the Taste further, or as our international advocate Tetsuya Wakuda suggests, a more permanent showcase?

        I love The Taste, the hype, the vibe, the focus on Tassie and the excuse to be proud. I’d be happier if it was run by MONA! That’s me Done!

        1. It looks like I can actually adjust the font colour and size manually for blog posts (not the background colour unfortunately), but I think the comments are a default setting over which I have no control (unless I fork out cash). I’ll see what I can do on my next one. Thanks for the feedback!

          It’s certainly a very special event and we don’t let the crowds stop us, it just seems to bring our day to an earlier close than might otherwise be the case if there was a bit more room to spread out. I really like the stalls they’ve got outside the main shed, so maybe they could look at expanding in that way, removing the need for quite so many tables in the middle of the shed, and freeing up more pedestrian space in the shed between stalls?? Probably not so desirable in the event of rain, but I can’t really see any other option.

          I’d love to see what MONA could do to the Taste! Even if they only did it for one year just to put a different perspective on the event and get people thinking outside the square!

  2. Too funny Andrew, Shan and I had a good laugh at the oblivious sideways stepper, we also enjoy the frequent abrupt stopper we meet regularly at Salamanca Markets :). Yummy food pics the pulled pork looks a treat, we are braving the Taste tomorrow so will give it a lick :).

    1. I know what you mean about the markets! I’m sure you’ll love The Taste. The kids should have a great time. We obviously weren’t so interested in the buskers, but they are everywhere and the kids seemed to be loving it.

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