Tasting Australia

Alexia Santamaria knew very little about the Adelaide food scene before being invited to attend Tasting Australia earlier this year. She tells us why she’s glad she took the opportunity to learn.

Tasting Australia is an annual event; a celebration of the food and drink of South Australia. The 2019 festival consisted of 100 events, lunches, dinners and tasting classes both in Adelaide itself and other South Australian destinations. While there are several people responsible for putting on such a fantastic event, perhaps the best known is Jock Zonfrillo, owner and head chef at Restaurant Orana (recently named Australia’s best restaurant in the Good Food Guide awards). Zonfrillo was the festival’s programming director and helped put together 10 incredible days of culinary indulgence.

While I was lucky enough to do fancy things like fly to Kangaroo Island (to have lunch and visit the wonderful gin distillery) and attend one of the fabulous ‘Glasshouse Dinners’, one of my favourite things about the whole festival was the street food at the Festival Square. This square was open every day and there was no cost to enter, making this a festival for everyone. My apartment was right on the square and every night I meandered back there through the twinkly lights, live music, delicious smells and sounds of people from all walks of life, having a great time. The street food stalls were incredible: smokey American barbecue, bright orange tandoori chicken charring over coals, modern Taiwanese delights, luscious-looking Sri Lankan curries and – perhaps my favourite – prawn tacos made with tortillas that were mixed, pressed and cooked on site. I spoke to many people who worked in the area who said they weren’t bringing their lunch to work all week!

Obviously the Barossa is the best known wine region close to Adelaide, but the Clare Valley, McClaren Vale, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula are all within a two-hour radius from the central city. I only had time to sample a few of the delights of Adelaide Hills (I can highly recommend Barristers Block and Goldings) but also thoroughly enjoyed Lot 100, a fairly new operation with a distillery and brewery on site too. Nice to have a beer and gin break in between wine tastings.
Where to shop
Adelaide Central Market is definitely my happy place. Built in 1869 it stands proudly in the city centre and is constantly thronging with people popping in for a pastry, some cheese, charcuterie, produce or a chat with vendors they’ve been buying from for years. I spoke to several locals who said a real Adelaide family tradition is to go to yum cha in Chinatown together in the weekend and follow it up with a visit to the markets to get fruit and veggies for the coming week.If you’re ever there make sure you take a market tour with Food Tours Australia. The lovely Cheryl made everything come alive with back stories, anecdotes and fascinating tastings. A huge highlight for me was the brightly coloured Turkish delight stand with jewel- like sweets I’d never seen before, and the fascinating Something Wild which specialises in indigenous Australian ingredients. On the tour we got to taste a platter of venison salami, finger limes, karkalla and muntries. They were all delicious but I’m still dreaming about the finger limes and their little caviar-like pearls bursting with fresh citrus flavour- heaven on fresh oysters or atop a G&T.

Where to eat
I didn’t have a bad meal in Adelaide and would highly recommend Shobosho if you’re looking for excellent Japanese food. There are lots of fabulous little bars and laneways round Peel St and you’ll be spoiled for choice browsing Rundle St, where many of Adelaide’s favourites reside. Orana was the highlight of my trip and, in my opinion, entirely deserving of all its Australian and international awards and accolades. Jock Zonfrillo’s talent with indigenous food is mind-blowing and I loved that he spends weeks in Aboriginal communities, really understanding their food and then finding ways to serve it in a modern context. Diners get the chance to experience something really unique and a percentage of all profit goes back into alleviating poverty in those communities. It’s definitely the first time I’ve ever eaten a 17 course degustation in a high-end restaurant with my hands (warm towels provided).
I really felt like I only scratched the surface of what Adelaide has to offer someone who’s keen on eating. I highly recommend booking Tasting Australia into your travel plans for 2020.

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