Disclaimer: I was invited to Taste of Tennis complimentary by Two Birds Talking PR
Ah, January. Summer in Australia. The wonderful time of year when beaches are filled with sun kissed bodies, the cricket is in full swing, heat waves come rolling in…and the tennis is on.
Oh and not just any tennis, the Australian Open!
You're either into it, or you're not, but it's kind of hard not to be swept up in the excitement, because you will surely know one person, or two, or maybe three who are crazy about the tennis, following on all the top players and all the key matches. And let's face it, it's kind of hard not to get infected with their excitement!
I used to kind of not really care, the points system is dumb (let's be honest here), the girls make funny sounds when they hit the ball…what was there to be interested in?
But then you really sit down and watch a game, you get tense, you ooh, you aah and as a great rally starts, or an ace is served right down the middle, you just can't help but quietly stare at your screen and cheer as a point is made, or not made.
For 13 years in New York, the 'Taste of Tennis' has opened the US Open Tennis Championships. Which brought great food, celebrities, tennis players and a good cause all together in one great night of fun.
It only made sense to bring it to Melbourne, what with our love of food, the quality of our restaurants and of course, the tennis!
This year I can assure you that the Taste of Tennis in Melbourne, was a wonderful, glittery and delicious affair, especially since it was held at the Grand Hyatt.
Although I had shown up alone, fortunately I ended up meeting Adrian and his partner, and had food buddies as we ran around the tables, turning eating into our own kind of sport!
We started with Sydney rock oysters from Silk Road, even before we got into the main room, on beds of ice in giant champagne bowls, they were never ending, with our trio going back for another one…and another one…aaaaand another one! Whilst they came with a variety of dressings and flavours, we just opted to have them raw and naked. Oh yeaaah.
In the same area as the oysters, were where the silent auction items were kept, with a couple of pretty cool things such as signed tennis balls (very nearly nicked the one signed by Andy Roddick…), other signed sports memorabilia and some great offers from some of the participating restaurants. Would have loved to put my name down for one or two, but those tended to very quickly get out of my price range….The money raised at the silent auction went to Diabetes Australia - Victoria and the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, two causes I think any sportsman and food lover can appreciate.
Whilst I'm sure we all do love our dose of gluttony, there does need to be a balance and an awareness, as after all, we only have one body to look after as well. I too often get asked why I'm not the size of a house, but what's not up on the blog is the fact that I'm at the gym very regularly and in-between sumptuous meals, I try to keep things relatively healthy…and at the end of the day, all things in moderation. Such is life!
The main function room, where all the restaurants had tables set up, was lively, with a stage at one end, restaurants all around, a big wine bar in the middle…and well…people everywhere!
Before I start covering the rest of the food we munched on, I have to make a blanket comment about everything and just say on how impressed I was in general with the quality of the food. Yes, these are some very reputable chefs and very reputable restaurants, but these are not typical kitchen situations. Despite that, the flavours were bright, there was texture, there was beautiful plating and everything was well executed. I don't think there was anything I disliked, just some things that I liked more than others! Good place to be in right?
So where does one start, in a room with 17 different morsels waiting to be consumed? Although dessert is always a tempting way to start, we were instead lured over to Mama Baba's table, where Kevin Middleton had freshly boiled tortellini that was being dressed in a tomato sauce and a sprinkling of herbs. The result? A fresh, warm homely bite with sweetness and tart and all the aromas of Italy. This definitely got Adrian, Chris and I all discussing a potential visit to Mama Baba…soon!
Kingfish crudo with horseradish and pommes pails by Justin Wise from The Point. Lovely and refreshing, it had a bit of creaminess to it which wasn't overwhelming and the texture of the fish was just divine, with a nice bit of body to it.
There's really nothing better than watching your food be made, and sometimes the wait is worth it when you know it's just a minute away….although it felt like the longest minute in my life watching Jason Camillo from the Grand Hyatt fry peppered Wagyu beef served on wanton crisps. Um. Yum.
From Jill McDougall at Stefano's, murray cod, light flavours of smoke, soy cream, wild fennel and air-dried pig cheek. Sigh. Sigh. Take me now!
Pei Modern, by Matt Germanchis, pulled lamb, lemon and radishes. Simple in name, but the flavours were wholesome, the lamb was so tender and so filling. I've become quite fond of a bit of lemon on my lamb, as mum's been making lamb skewers lately and there's nothing better to dress them with, so this was just very easy and quite comforting to eat. Really enjoyed the crunch of the radish as well, to mix up the textures in there a bit.
Hi Kerri Anne!
Shaun Presland from Sake Restaurant and Bar was showing the love (literally with sauce squeezed into a heart shape, so cute!), with a little kingfish jalapeno double crunch sushi roll. Um. I'm not sure how many we were supposed to have, but we might have pinched about 4 or 5 plates through the course of the evening….the rice was fluffy and delicious, and as the name promises, the sushi roll came with plenty of crunch. Um, another need to visit restaurant?!
Not to be out done, Yasu Yoshida from Ocha also dished up some hand rolled sushi's with some of the crunchiest and tastiest seaweed I have ever had on a roll. Pleasure in the simple things, Yasu clearly understands this.
I had wallaby for the first time, by Riccardo Momesso from Sarti, wallaby tartare, samphire, oregano rice bubbles, quail egg and bulls blood lettuce. I was smitten with the earthiness and the addition of the crunchy rice bubbles was just lovely. I loved how much creativity could still be brought into a situation such as this!
Scott Pickett from the Estelle never fails to express with his coffee cured salmon, horseradish and apple. Surprisingly creamy in texture, but quite light on the stomach.
Oh hi Lleyton Hewitt and George Calombaris! Hope you're not having too much issue with the Kitchenaid there! Teehee!
Miso marinated Tajima Wagyu beef, with crisp sesame vegetables on a shies roll by Delaware North companies, unassuming, but totally delicious. Another dish I wonder why I didn't have more of...
Philippe Mouchel was on hand to represent PM 24 and dish up his confit pork belly with a shallot and ginger confiture, raw cabbage salad and mustard sabayon. In a moment of being starstruck, and flailing about in his zen like presence, I failed to take good photos. Darned. Fortunately I had pork belly to drown my sorrows in. Sweet, sweet pork belly…Adrian commented that it tasted like Christmas ham…so dreamy…
It was kind of depressing amongst all the amazing food to be getting full, so throughout the night we had to carefully plan out what we were going to get and when we were going to have it. It did sort of turn into a sport, with so many people there, having to turn on the ninja skills and quickly grab a fresh plate when they were doled out, running around from table to table, I was working up a sweat! I didn't get to try everything, as unfortunately I do not own a second stomach…think I did well enough to keep up with the boys though!
Whilst the white chocolate tennis balls by George Calombaris and Anthony Archambaud from the Press Club just looked adorable, we decided to skip them over in favour of some of the other dessert options and ice-cream.
Did I mention at all there was a Movenpick ice-cream kart? Have I ever mentioned how important ice-cream is in my life? First thing I saw when I entered the room. I freaked. And then decided to be reasonable and wait till I had all my savouries. Then miss out on the creme brulee ice-cream flavour. Will just have to be unreasonable next time! But I settled for a scoop of mango and a scoop of raspberry sorbet, which were surprisingly dense and creamy for sorbet's. Movenpick does good work.
The mandarin velvet with liquorice and Valronha dark chocolate by Perry Schagen from the Graham Hotel was a surprising dark horse for dessert favourites. Smooth and silly mandarin velvet, with a lil crunchy dehydrated mandarin on top and a very subtle liquorice soil just made this a surprisingly tasty nibble. I'm not normally a fan of chocolate and orange flavours together, but we all loved this. Why didn't I have another one? Why?
Pierrick Boyer showed up from Le Petit Gateau with a very elegant tennis inspired chocolate sculpture, have to wonder how they do it! He of course, also showed up with sweet nibbles for us, which I feel must have been inspired by the sportsmen and the charities that were supported this night. Quinoa, coconut organic blueberry and raspberry, it tasted kind of like a sweet and tasty breakfast, and I imagine would have had quite a lot less sugar than his usual macaron goodness…!
And to bring us to a close, by Tim Clark from Cacao Fine Chocolates, with a more avant garde styled chocolate sculpture and 'Balle de tennis': Vanilla creme legere with raspberry jelly and passion fruit punch soaked coconut daquoise. All that in these tiny little half circles? Dessert chefs and chocolate makers honestly have me in awe, there is always so much work to their beautiful creations, yet it can all so quickly be demolished! I wanted more, but think it might've looked a little too gluttonous...
It was an incredibly fun night. Whilst any night eating good food is wonderful, it's always nice when there's excellent company and a good cause, or causes, being supported, even if only quietly. It was also fun playing 'spot the celebrity' and see who we could recognise from off the telly. I was a little surprised I didn't tuck into the drinks as much as I thought I might, instead comfortably sipping on one or two delicious cocktails made by the Silk Road bartenders. One of the tastiest espresso martinis ever!
Oh and not to spoil the Aussie Open, but I already won it. See? I'm holding the trophy!
Just line up for autographs over there, and leave the sponsorship deals on the otherside of the table.
After visiting this event, I'm really looking forward to getting to the grounds and watching a couple of tennis matches now! I wonder if I can just give my calories to the tennis players and have the run it off for me…anyone else going to be at the tennis, soaking in the action?
Be sure to check out Adrian's cover of the night as well!
Be sure to check out Adrian's cover of the night as well!