A food fest to Savour

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

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.

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