Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Food in 2015: Restaurant Trend Predictions

A Year of Culinary Contrasts 

The year 2014 saw brunch menus soaked in almond milk and saturated with coconut everything, raw desserts battling it out with doughnuts and trendsetters drinking green smoothie breakfasts before downing fried chicken dinners. It’s been a year of juxtaposition in the food world and as we approach the end of 2014, I see Indian, urban booze and upscale comfort food on the horizon.

At this time of year the average person panics about unbought Christmas presents. In my world, people start talking food trends. What will be hot in 2015? What did we eat in 2014? What will it take to banish pulled pork to a dark cave in Middle Earth? Like fashion, technology and art, food is driven by fads.

Let’s not forget that foodies are the minority here. While we tend to eat out with like-minded people, the edible trends we subscribe to – including our appetite for free-range this and no-waste that – do not extend to the entire population. Most of Melbourne is content with Domino’s Pizza on their doorstep and coffee from 7/11. Self-proclaimed foodies are on the rise, but many would sooner defrost dinner than read this blog post.

As Jay Rayner recently wrote in The Guardian, “Food fashions are no different to any other. They aren’t a mark of increasing sophistication. The whirligig merely turns... Here then, is my prediction for 2015. There will be food. Some of it will be horrible. Some of it will be really nice.”

I agree with him. Defrosted dinners aside, people are undeniably interested in food. One of the reasons I adore eating is because humans have taken a basic survival requirement and turned it into something utterly gratifying. Freud would blame it on the ‘id’, the force that drives our pleasure-seeking instincts. It’s for this reason that I encourage discussion of food trends present and past, rather than take an eloquently sarcastic stance like Mr. Rayner.

Last week I popped into ABC Studios to record a segment on food trends with RN First Bite. It airs this Saturday at 9.30am in what will unfortunately be the last instalment of the program in response to Federal budget cuts that have affected the ABC. Jill Dupleix and I talked trends with presenter Michael Mackenzie for half an hour. When we were done, I was barely a bullet point into my notes. Thanks to the power of self-publishing, I can continue that conversation here. The remainder of this blog post is a personal, educated wrap-up of food trends in 2014, followed by 2015 food trend predictions.

If there’s one thing I learnt in 2014, it’s that there’s no such thing as too much fried chicken. At the other end of the scale, we bought into superfood smoothies and raw food concepts, perhaps in a subconscious attempt to balance the grease. Maybe George Calombaris opened Mastic, his health food café in Kew, to counter all of those souvas at Jimmy Grants? Almond milk laughed in the face of dairy while the word ‘coconut’ was written on so many brunch menus I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d single-handedly destroyed a tropical habitat somewhere offshore.

Thankfully the trend to locally source and seasonally serve looks like it’s here to stay, which means we’re increasingly eating in a way that supports nearby producers and lessens food miles. But offer me caviar and Champagne imported from France and I wouldn’t hesitate – eating is relative. In restaurant kitchens everything was made in house, by hand – gravlax, chilli sauce, protein bliss balls, bacon, sausages – and will be again in 2015. BBQ isn’t quite done with us yet, nor is smoking and fermenting.

Those with Italian roots helped Melburnians to get over the fro-yo frenzy and come to terms with the fact that nothing beats proper gelato. In fact Italian popped up all over town, from cafes such as 5 Lire and pasta bars like Tipo 00, to Gradi at Crown, Artusi in Southgate and Heartattack and Vine on Lygon Street. Aussies are taking to aperitivo more than ever (any excuse for a Negroni before dinner).

Food trucks stepped it up and refined their offerings in 2014. There’s no more room for burgers and Mexican on wheels, but the same can’t be said for jaffles and ice cream sandwiches. The transition from pop-up to permanency is also trending. Concepts such as Place Holder, Milkman Café, Pop-Up Scrolls and Mr. Claws are all testing the waters with plans to stick around if all goes well. While eateries were popping up, top chefs were toning down. Fine diners have undergone segregation –for example, The Press Club into a smaller version of itself and Gazi – and will continue to do so in 2015, starting with Scott Pickett’s Estelle.

As we leave 2014 behind, some food trends will be left behind with it. Diets such as paleo will give way to more wholesome eating with a focus on balance and pleasure (as opposed to sadness and starvation); sliders, bao and pulled pork will disappear; Mexican and Korean have had their fifteen minutes of fame; people will realise that kale isn’t actually seasonal 12 months of the year and that broccoli is more beneficial for the body; and doughnuts can’t get much tastier or OTT than those at Doughboys, so why bother?


Now for the fun bit: the predictions. First up, craft beer will reach a new level in 2015 with urban breweries (and wineries) setting up in town as young brewers and winemakers demand an urban lifestyle to complement a traditionally rural trade. Beverages will become artisan, starting with booze and seeping through to syrups. In terms of cuisines, Southern American food will make way for South American food (think Peruvian, Argentinean, Brazilian) and Indian will be the Korean of 2015.

Upscale comfort food will debut in the form of upmarket steakhouses and rotisserie chicken, while more restaurants will see the value in delivery service, and offer it accordingly. Chefs will continue to locally source and seasonally serve, but aesthetics will give way to more rustic, wholesome presentation that enables premium produce to speak for itself.

If 2014 was the year of Southern American concepts (po’boys and fried chicken) then 2015 will be the year of the deli. Expect bagels and all the glorious fillings that accompany them. Brunchers will continue to have their smashed avo and eat it too, but cafés will begin to cater for those who have learned that no one does smashed avo like Bluebird Café in Collingwood, anyway, so impress me with something unique.

Good riddance to Scandinavian and industrial décor. Spurred by oversaturation, new establishments in 2015 will strive to differentiate themselves based on appearance. Operationally, restaurants and cafes with space and funding will continue to invest in environmentally conscious waste solutions, from industrial composting machines to innovative relationships with suppliers. Restaurant staff will become savvier when it comes to the new EFTPOS system (where tips are awkwardly and electronically entered) driven by a lack of tips, while more restaurants will embrace the ticketed booking system, like Prix Fixe. 

Finally, Melburnians’ ever-insatiable appetites will see the rise of culinary tourism, where vacations are organised around dining out and food experiences as opposed to traditional sight-seeing and cultural activities. This will stem from home soil, where restaurants – through introducing people to new cuisines and hosting special events – will educate customers and inspire ‘hungerlust’ (it’s like wanderlust, but for food).

The above predictions are based on educated guesses and discussions with professionals in the food and beverage industry. It is by no means to be taken as gospel, but don’t be surprised if it comes to light. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you have an interest in food. So tell me, what do you think we’ll see in 2015, and what are you happy to leave behind?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rae's Restaurant, Balgownie Estate, Yarra Valley

Wined and Dined in the Yarra Valley 

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Flexicar. 


Last weekend I was invited to Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley. Of course I made the most of the opportunity, dragging my father around this beautiful part of Victoria, from TarraWarra Estate to Yarra Valley Chocolaterie (you can read my Yarra Valley dining recommendations here). The dinner at Balgownie Estate coincided with the opportunity to put Flexicar to the test. 

You may already be familiar with Flexicar from mistakenly thinking you’re about to score a parking spot directly outside where you need to be, only to realise it’s reserved for Flexicar. Prior to my Yarra Valley road trip, that was the extent of my experience with the car-share company. Aside from the reserved parking spot, it’s as simple as signing up, booking a car online, picking it up nearby and eventually dropping it back in that conveniently located parking spot. 

I drive too far and to too many different locations across town to continue to use Flexicar, but if I were ever stuck without a vehicle or wanted to try something different on a road trip, I’d definitely do it again. I have friends who live in the CBD and rent out their apartment car park because they didn’t use their car often enough to justify keeping it. Whenever they need to drive somewhere, they turn to Flexicar. If you’re keen to give it a go, Flexicar are offering all new members who join by the end of the year a $15 credit towards a booking in January 2015. 

Flexicar took us around the Yarra Valley on a gourmet roadtrip, but our major destination was Rae’s Restaurant at Balgownie Estate. The dinner was held to promote a new menu, the ever-knowledgeable head winemaker Tony Winspear and head chef Graham Taute, who came on board in the middle of 2014 after spending the last 25 years in Tasmania, most recently as executive chef at Wrest Point Casino. 

The media dinner, like all media dinners, aimed to impress. Although you’re unlikely to experience the same seven course degustation as I’m about to describe, you can order two courses for $60 or three for $72, which is on par with prices from surrounding wineries in the Yarra Valley. For lunch you won't pay more than $20 for an entree and $32 for a main. Think of me as a guinea pig, so when you visit Balgownie Estate, you can use this to decide what to order. 


Dinner started small with pale green cucumber foam dainty enough to pass as dessert, if it weren’t for the addition of salmon roe. The same child-like pleasure people experience when popping candy hits their tongue, I get from attempting to pop tiny roe against the roof of my mouth. The bubbles in the Balgownie Estate NV Premium Cuvee Brut mirrored the airiness of the foam. 

The second course also mimicked dessert, this time in the form of a panna cotta. Instead of vanilla or seasonal fruit, this one was flavoured with goat’s cheese. We spread the creamy base onto garlic sourdough crisps, dispersed the Parmesan wafer and reset our palates with tangy tomato and fennel salad. The 2013 Black Label Sauvignon Blanc cut through the rich panna cotta, although I still found myself unable to manage the whole thing. 

When two bulging scallops scattered with corn and coriander salsa arrived, the immediate reaction was to ask where they came from. Later we found out they had been imported from Canada, because Canada had the best the chef could find in the face of Aussie scallops being pumped with water and drained of flavour. I’m all for importing ingredients and clocking up food miles if it’s A) the best produce out there and B) balanced with local ingredients. During this course we had a glass of wine per scallop, both Balgownie Estate Chardonnays but one from 2011 and the other, 2012. The former was my favourite wine of the evening, extremely elegant with clear butterscotch notes. 

I was just about through the 2012 Chardonnay when the 2013 Pinot Noir was poured – the first from the Yarra Glen estate, as opposed to the estate in Bendigo – to accompany the salmon tasting plate. The presentation was simple, nothing to write home about as I’ve read in other reviews. But as we were repeatedly told throughout the evening, Rae’s Restaurant is not a fine diner – it simply focuses on quality and consistency. Back to the salmon, of which there were three varieties: house cold-smoked salmon wearing a buckwheat blini whose dryness wasn’t saved by a feeble spurt of crème fraiche, “Asian-inspired” gravalax with soy mayonnaise and house hot-smoked salmon with salsa verde. The latter was the clear victor, the smoky aftertaste putting the more subtle salmons to shame. 

Just when we truly believed we couldn’t manage another bite, a hunk of seared eye fillet shimmering in thick brown sauce spiked with blue cheese turned up. It’s always a challenge to control oneself around perfectly cooked meat – pink in the middle with the outside seared to keep in the flavour – especially when it comes with two glasses of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from 2010 and 2012. I preferred the latter, which was not only fruitier but had me sipping it repeatedly in what turned out to be a failed attempt to grasp a faint memory. 

The Balgownie Estate Sparkling Shiraz came next. I’ll spare you wine wankery terms such as ‘ripe’ and ‘smoky’ and be completely honest – it tasted like an R18+ version of Ribena. Never being allowed to drink the stuff growing up, it was a given I took to the Shiraz. It accompanied a velvety chocolate parfait with kirsch cherries and roasted hazelnut praline (more like crumbs or ‘soil’). There was also a splodge of coconut gel, which I could have done without. 

After chocolate came cheese, a whole board of the stuff with muscatels, fruit and nut bread and candied walnuts. King Island brie, Roaring Forties blue and smoked cheddar were matched with Balgownie Estate Old Vine Shiraz, a glass from 2008 and another from 2009. It was the final course and the final glasses, but by this stage, I was so full I could barely appreciate them. 

As I lay awake in bed after dinner, too stuffed to sleep just yet, a thought popped into my head: it doesn’t matter how wonderful the food is or how highly James Halliday rates a bottle, if the company is unbearable, the meal will be also. It works in reverse, too: average food and wine in good company becomes something much better than it is in reality. On this particular evening I was lucky enough to have already spent a beautiful day with my dad, had treated myself to a massage and was surrounded by people with similar interests who made for great conversation. And if that wasn’t enough already, Mother Nature sealed the deal with an incredible sunset. 

Even though we were spoilt with a stunning meal at Balgownie, I still would have enjoyed the experience if my tastebuds were disappointed. The best way to eat and drink – regardless of whether you take a gourmet roadtrip or chow down on a rotisserie chicken picnic while being attacked by mosquitoes – is in the company of others. 

Until the end of January, you can purchase a Balgownie Estate Summer Indulgence package that includes a bottle of BG cuvee, a $100 voucher to spend at Natskin Spa Retreat onsite, breakfast and complimentary wine tastings in the cellar door, for $349 per couple, per night.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Yarra Valley Dining

A Gourmet Roadtrip in the Yarra Valley 

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Flexicar. 

One minute Melbourne is visible in the rear-view mirror, the next you’re surrounded by vines. It's as if you set cruise control moments ago and yet the Eastlink has turned into picturesque country roads bordered by blue mountains that melt into the horizon. Welcome to the Yarra Valley, a stunning region just an hour out of Melbourne known for its cool-climate wines, produce and walking tracks. It’s an easy day trip, but you need at least two days to fully appreciate the Yarra Valley – more if you plan on eating your way around it like we did. 

Our gourmet road trip started like all road trips do: at home. We hired a zippy little Suzuki Swift online using share-car company Flexicar. His name was Hopskotch, and he was chilling out in his allocated spot a breezy five-minute walk from home. We unlocked Hopskotch with a single swipe of our membership card in time for a 9am booking and not a second earlier (we tried). The whole thing was incredibly convenient: petrol is included thanks to the petrol cards in the vehicle and we simply dropped him back in the same spot when we were done.

Hopskotch got us from A to B to C, assuming those letters represent wineries, produce stores and restaurants. Along the way the Yarra Valley unfolded before us – where vines were absent, verdant fields dotted with hay bales took their place. Cottages perched atop hills with cows, goats and black-faced sheep meandering below. The weather could not have been better for our drive, or as we watched the sun set from Rae's Restaurant at Balgownie Estate. 

If you’re keen to take a roadtrip this weekend, Flexicar is offering 15 per cent off hourly bookings up to four hours in length. If you have an appetite and the Yarra Valley tickles your fancy, here are the places you should be eating and drinking. 

Where to Eat 

Also good for: the whole family 
336 Maroondah Highway, Healesville | (03) 5962 6111 
Book ahead before rocking up to Innocent Bystander; this restaurant in the centre of Healesville is extremely popular. Choose a couple of items from the grazing menu to complement your wine of choice (perhaps some salumi, chicken, date and pistachio kofte, or salted cod and potato fritters?) or dig into one of the wood-fired pizzas with regional toppings. There are also banquet menus at $40 or $60 per head if you can't decide. There’s also a bakery, coffee roasting, hand-selected cheeses and wine tastings onsite. The comprehensive wine list is divided into a diplomatic 'Our Wine' and 'Their Wine', showcasing both the best of Giant Steps and wines from other producers that inspire them. 

Also good for: cooking classes 
874 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream | (03) 5962 6161  
Belle Vedere doesn’t use the term ‘seasonal’ lightly. Here, locally sourced produce is not a publicity stunt, but a necessity. The menu changes regularly based on what producers are producing. Vegetables are plucked from the organic garden, bread comes straight from the Bella Bakehouse and the rustic dessert table will make your eyes pop. Dishes such as lamb sweetbreads fried in molasses butter are available in the cooler months, while fluffy ricotta gnocchi with fresh peas is perfetto when the sun is shining. Make yourself at home in front of the open kitchen, surrounded by olive-coloured walls and native flower arrangements. 

Also good for: lovers of modern architecture 
864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream | (03) 9738 9900 
The rolling vineyard view at Oakridge is worth a million dollars, but a two-course lunch will only set you back $50 ($17 for the kiddies, or $60 for three courses). Starters might include spanner crab and Parmesan gratin with pickled cucumber, or beef carpaccio with bone marrow croquette, white anchovy, succulents and black salt. Local produce is flaunted in mains such as the Yarra Valley lamb back strap with bay leaf-infused mousse, as well as heirloom beetroot, Yarra Valley Dairy goat's cheese and spinach raviolo with candied walnuts. Save room for the ginger panna cotta with rhubarb compote and biscotti at the end. 

Also good for: art aficionados, visit the gallery after lunch 
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen | (03) 5957 3510 
There is so much to love at TarraWarra Estate: the monolithic stone and glass contemporary architecture, a downhill view of the vines and a willow overhanging a bubbling pond, a neat cellar door and an art gallery that’s worth a visit alone. Book ahead and ask for a table outside. Once you’re seated, order from entrees such as hot smoked Yarra Valley trout or specials like yabbies three ways, caught from the pond below. Mains range from salt and sugar-cured duck breast with cannelloni of shredded and confit leg, to barbecue baby chicken with dolmades and flawlessly cooked kangaroo fillet. 

Also good for: weddings and private functions 
14 St Huberts Road, Coldstream | (03) 9739 0900 
The Stables is the epitome of country chic with high, red-brick walls and timber finishes contrasted against fine glassware and leather seats. The building dates back to the 1800s, the former stable hand quarters of a local farming community. Come for the regional dinner on Friday or Saturday (from $60 for two courses through to $125 including five courses and matched wines), or pop in for a tapas-style lunch on the weekend. Dishes such as buttermilk chicken with sweet corn veloute appear on both menus, but you can only order marron with compressed peach, crackling and sorrel as part of the set dinner. 

Also good for: high-flyers (request the helicopter package) 
38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen | (03) 9730 0100  
Slow cooked duck egg with truffle and Parmesan on toasted brioche. Roasted quail with pork stuffing, apple and shallots. Crispy skin barramundi with beetroot risotto, smoked mussels and baby leeks. These are just some of the dishes at Yering Station's superb restaurant. The team certainly makes it hard to save room for desserts such as butterscotch mousse with spied rum doughnuts and lime sorbet. The food is some of the best in the Yarra Valley, to the point where it’s almost enough to distract you from the magnificent vineyard beyond the expansive glass walls. Almost. 

Also good for: impressing the in-laws 
42 Melba Highway, Yering | (03) 9237 3333 
The dimly-lit dining room at Eleonore’s might remind you of the wealthy grandmother you never had – courtesy of plush maroon chairs and ornate green carpet – but the food is ahead of the times for the region. Five courses are a hefty $125, but you get what you pay for. The menu has an Asian spin, with dishes such as Moreton Bay bugs paired with chicken dashi, kombu and avocado. All the bells and whistles are there too: amuse bouche and a palate cleanser before dessert; perhaps the cardamom panna cotta with poached rhubarb, strawberries and rosewater granita? 

Also good for: cheese to go 
58 Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek | (03) 5965 2271  
Locale at De Bortoli is a taste of Italy in the Yarra Valley and a nod to the family’s heritage. The menu sticks to the theme with antipasti, from a salumi selection to kingfish carpaccio. In true Italian style pastas such as pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter and spanner crab risotto come before mains. Larger dishes range from crisp suckling pig to baby snapper fillet with Sicilian caponata and salsa verde. Don’t forget to pick up some Stilton blue from the cheese shop inside the cellar door to enjoy with your De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon. 

Also good for: making ‘Sunday School’ fun 
727 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream | (03) 9738 9245  
Although you’re better off eating a full meal at one of the above Yarra Valley restaurants, it is essential that you stop in at Chandon’s Greenpoint Brasserie for a charcuterie board or Yarra Valley tasting plate. That way you can sip the afternoon away at the immaculately manicured grounds, overlooking rows of vines flanked by rosebushes. Try the 2009 Blanc de Blancs made from 100 per cent chardonnay, or for something summery, the sparkling pinot shiraz is a best seller. Be sure to stroll around the grounds and take advantage of the self-guided tour. 

Shopping for Local Produce 

35 Old Healesville Road, Yarra Glen | (03) 9730 2777  
Parents be warned: as soon as you enter Yarra Valley Chocolaterie there are three oversized, stainless-steel bowls piled high with white, milk and dark chocolate pastilles for sampling. When visitors stop thinking with their stomachs, they head to the glass window through to the chocolate factory, where French and Belgian choclatiers are busy crafting everything from flavoured truffles and blocks studded with fruit and nuts from the property’s orchard, to edible native Australian animals and fudgy condiments. On warm days, sit on the deck and lick house-made ice cream. If it’s cooler, go for one of the indulgent hot chocolates. 

70-80 McMeikans Road, Yering | (03) 9739 1222 
The pungent perfume of a bona fide cheese factory is the first thing you’ll notice when stepping out of the car at Yarra Valley Dairy. Thankfully the smell doesn’t follow you into the cheese shop, located beside the factory in the property’s original, century-old milking shed. Inside you can sample the goat's cheese range including marinated, matured and fresh varieties. Ask staff to match local wine to your cheese and charcuterie platter while you take in the view, or browse the shelves heaving with homewares and regional and specialist produce. 

38 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen | (03) 9730 0100  
Stop in at the stunning grounds of Yering Station on the third Sunday of the month between 9am and 2pm for Victoria’s oldest farmers’ market. Producers selling everything from pies and preserves to pasta and chocolate are more than happy to chat. Free samples abound, so visit on an empty stomach. Purchase a pastry with your coffee and explore the beautiful property. 

What to do while you Digest

Make friends with the natives at Healesville Sanctuary 
Admire the Yarra Valley from above in a hot air balloon 
Catch a summer concert at Rochford Wines with A Day on the Green 
Sharpen those kitchen skills with a class at Al Dente Cooking 
Treat yourself to a spa treatment here, here or here.  

Where to Sleep between Meals 

Chateau Yering, for rooms with period charm in a historic homestead 
Balgownie Estate, for luxury without the snob factor and a restaurant and spa to match 
Myers Creek Cascades, for a romantic spa cottage getaway
Lyrebird Cottages, for a girls’ weekend away 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Food Events in Melbourne

November has is the best time of year in Melbourne. Spring Racing Carnival stress has dissipated, the weather is reliably warmer and people seem to be more courteous on the roads (any one else notice that?). November in Melbourne is also a food-lover’s paradise. There are hundreds of events on if you include everything under the Good Food Month banner, but aside from the iconic foodie affairs, there are some exciting newcomers, too. If you don’t attend at least three of these six events, you’re just not that into food. 


It seems that Melbourne is gin crazy at the moment – even more so now that summer is within reach. Bombay Sapphire is launching a three-week pop-up bar called Project Botanicals to celebrate ‘ginstronomy’. Wanky neologisms aside, I attended the media preview and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and complexity of cocktails such as the Cassia Blackberry Fix, complemented by some festive plates à la MasterChef Gary Mehigan. There are 10 cocktails and 10 dishes in all, each paying tribute to the botanicals in Bombay such as lemon peel, juniper berries and cassia. Tickets – which include two cocktails and two plates – are a steal at $35 (plus a $3.09 booking fee). It's worth noting that there are three, two-hour sittings: 6pm, 8pm and 10pm. It’s on Wednesday to Saturday at 64 Sutton Street, North Melbourne, from November 19 to December 6. 


I do my shopping every week at Victoria Market and was surprised a little while ago when my tomato guy relocated further down the aisle. In his place was a mysterious building site, which I soon discovered was the beginnings of The Social Kitchen. Dubbed “a global roaming cooking experience”, the kitchen is basically a way for Fisher & Paykel to show people they do more than just fridges. But instead of being a boring old show room, it’s a temporary cooking school featuring some of Melbourne’s best chefs. At the centre of the 26-week program is the fresh produce from the market.

Hungry students collect their own produce and then prepare, cook and eat the loot under the guidance of Peter Rowland Catering. Those who like a touch of celebrity with their food should opt for the Chef’s Collective master classes, with Maha’s Shane Delia leading a prestigious pack that includes Scott Pickett (Estelle), Darren Purchese (Burch & Purchese) and Benjamin Cooper (Chin Chin, Kong). Participants can choose from a huge range of themed classes, from Americana to Vietnamese Street Food through to high tea and canapés. There’s also a goodie bag to take home once you’ve finished getting your hands dirty. Classes are limited to 24 people and are on three times a day, while special celebrity master classes sometimes take place in the evening. 

GIVEAWAY – I’ll be giving away 4x passes to The Social Kitchen worth $135 on Instagram this week. Follow me at @fi_bird for your chance to win! 



If cooking’s not your thing, Queen Victoria’s famous night market started this month and is on until March. But if you want to avoid the school holiday crush it’s worth going earlier rather than later. Crowds of Melburnians and tourists alike do the rounds shopping at over 200 stalls before reviving themselves at 35 food vendors selling nosh from all over the world. Fancy Vietnamese? It’s there. How about Turkish, Ethiopian and Spanish? All there. Best enjoyed with a glass of regional vino near one of the two music stages showcasing local talent. 


One of the most peaceful food festivals Melbourne has to offer, the Paris to Provence French Festival is set in the stunning grounds of Como House. The weather always seems to turn it on for over 70 French producers and retailers selling everything from wine, cheese, macarons and crepes to clothing and home décor. There’s music, roving entertainment and the odd French bulldog. Bring a picnic rug and make a day of it. It’s on next week, November 22 to 24. 


Taste of Melbourne is on again this year from today until November 16 on the verdant lawns of Albert Park. It’s a fun day out, but it can add up despite the relatively cheap $25 entry fee (should you wish to eat, you pay for food once you’re in). Regardless, there are a whole lot of renowned chefs and restaurants in the one spot, along with top producers and lots of taste testers. Expect to see the likes of Movida, Huxtaburger, Mamasita and Burch & Purchese. Even if you don’t fancy forking out on a cooking or photography class, you can sit back, relax and soak up the festivities.


Now that Yotam Ottolenghi has been and gone, the thought of Good Food Month may not be quite as exciting to some. But jump on the website and sift through the hundreds of events yet to take place and you’ll immediately see that’s not the case. Presented by Citi, Good Food Month covers all edible bases: brining in famous overseas chefs, putting on high-flying dinners, creating special meal deals that everyone can afford, and hosting free events for the whole family. The Night Noodle Market is set to be a highlight bursting with activity, but for a more in depth look at my Good Food Month picks, see this post.