A food fest to Savour
SAVOUR Tasmania is in need of a rethink. Why are we doing it? What is Tasmania hoping to gain from the money and hard work of so many people that goes into it?
Some say it needs to get bigger. A few industry people from the mainland suggest it needs much higher- profile international chefs.
Others believe it needs to be smaller, more focused on Tasmanian ingredients and, given our long list of other food and wine events, that the TMAG and Long Table nights by themselves would suffice.
The Long Table, for example, is really just a big, happy and affordable party – and that’s great. But, like at all good parties, the food doesn’t matter much. Which, this year, was just as well.
Tough baby abalone; burnt seaweed that didn’t need cooking; a so- called ceviche with the chef’s signature but unauthentic dose of sugar; a rendang that was only a marginal improvement on the rendang the same chef had served two nights earlier; jumbo mussels that were out- muscled by a heavy, nondescript sauce; and, in the case of one guest chef in particular, a disrespect for the products that simply horrified the team of locals working with him.
We were promised plenty of spices and, while the flavours took some people back to holidays in Bali, Thailand and Vietnam, many others were only taken as far as one of our local Asian eateries or takeaways.
So, apart from Nobu’s original and fabulous Lark Whisky cappuccino, where was the excitement, the new, the learning experience – for both the public and industry – that justified the expense and the generous support of so many local producers?
And, for me at least, it was ironic that many – not all, but many – of the best dishes of the four Savour dinners were provided by local chefs: Waji’s excellent tapas and Mako Seafood’s barrel of super- fresh oysters in the TMAG courtyard; Karen Goodwin- Roberts’ creative use of an array of some of Tasmania’s rare and neglected products together with some stunningly good ciders at her Elizabeth St Food and Wine; and Daci and Daci’s Long Table desserts.
Held in conjunction with Savour, the Red Wine Weekend this year was the best- attended ever and, with excellent food from See More Catering, enjoyable music, a two- day program of interesting masterclasses and tastings of wines from the top 2012 and ’ 13 vintages, it proved a Savour highlight.
But the most successful aspect of Savour is the familiarisation tours for groups of interstate industry people, plus the few wine writers from Hong Kong, this year brought here by the government and – as he has generously done each year for selected clients – Phil Lamb of Spring Bay Seafoods.
Whether it was examining algae- eating mussel spats and pulling their big brothers and eating them straight from the ocean at Spring Bay, feasting on fresh crays and abalone on Rob Pennicott’s Seafood Seduction on the wild waters off Bruny Island, or the wine writers’ experience in the kitchen and restaurant at Frogmore Creek, the common comment was they were blown away.
And it is those sorts of natural, blown- away experiences that have won for Tasmania the honour of hosting Restaurant Australia at MONA on November 14, the centrepiece of Tourism Australia’s new international food tourism campaign, to which 80 of the world’s most influential food writers and bloggers will be invited.
“Tasmania’s got a great heritage of wine, whisky, cheese and seafood and we want to highlight that to the world,” Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan said at the campaign’s launch at The Source last week.
And it is exactly that heritage I feel any rethink of Savour should most importantly seek to celebrate.