Published in the City Hub, Inner West Independent and City News.
Local area festivals are my kind of events. For a relatively small amount of money, you can sample the wares of all the local restaurants in one place. Usually I earmark any standout restaurants for a return visit at a later date. The more multicultural the area, the more I like the event.
Two of my favourite festivals are Petersham’s Barrio Fair, which highlights Portuguese culture, and Leichhardt’s Norton Street Italian Festa. I’m definitely biased, but I’m going to say my home suburb’s fair has the edge, mostly for the long promenade it provides along Norton Street, combined with the conveniently placed Pioneer Park. The later provides a comfortable spot to consume your gathered bounty on grass and in the shade - even so, I’d still recommend hats and sunscreen – it’s usually blisteringly hot!
In a food fair not dominated by the ubiquitous gözleme, you’re sure to see pizza, fresh pasta, and Italian sweets like torrone (Italian nougat) and cannoli. My favourite moment last year was watching the now-defunct Osvaldo Poletti crew reminding squeamish visitors that porchetta comes from a pig, by cooking theirs with the head intact.
More than just food it’s also a chance to eye off your neighbours, in a visual feast of dark eyes and olive skin. It runs the gamut from seniors wearing vibrant traditional folk dancing costumes to fashion forward Italian teens flirting over gelato. After fifteen minutes, you’ll feel like you are in a Fellini film…
So note down Sunday 28th October 2012 into your diary, I suspect you’ll need to block out the bulk of the day. After all, keeping up your fluids is important in full sun. I recommend cocktails at the Vanilla Room followed by Italian wines at Aperitivo. Here’s hoping your adventure gives you a taste for our local businesses, that gives you a hunger to come back and explore the full cultural melting pot!
The highlight of my month was a rousing speech by Bob Hawke at The Workers launch party, which reminded the gathered faithful of Balmain’s true roots as Australian Labor Party heartland. The funky setting is like a cross between The Norfolk and The Abercrombie, with a little bit of Astroturf Melbourne rooftop thrown in. The crowd, which included a swathe of local television stars from All Saint’s Michela Noonan to Underbelly’s Roy Billing, were also treated to a live performance by Tim Freedman from The Whitlams. We were kept from getting too drunk on Ben Johnson’s (Lo-Fi) clever concoctions by samples from their Mexican finger food menu – yep, more tacos, sliders and jalapeno poppers. Owner Patrick Coughlan was right on the money when he declared that here “locals really will get the experience that has been missing from Balmain.”
What first appealed to me about Seatonfire Chilli Chocolate was the story. This small Aussie producer had to close for three and a half months and replant their chilli crops after the Queensland floods devastated their chilli farm in the Lockyer Valley. What will make me buy it again though is their beautifully hand-packaged dark chocolate. The couverture Belgian chocolate is glossy and well tempered. It’s full of rich, aromatic flavour, backed up by a nicely feisty chilli hit in the Wild Orange variety I tried. Get yours online, or at House of Chocolate in Bondi.
Since we’re talking fine chocolate, I’d be remiss to not mention Princess Coco Chocolaterie. Already famous for their in-window Willy Wonka styled chocolate fountain, you’ll find them just across from Darling Quarter. Imported French Valrhona Grand Cru chocolate is the corner stone of their offerings, and they’ve snaffled a ripper pastry chef in Rika Shiina (ex-Sokyo) too. It’s also the first Australian spot to offer individual Valrhona chocolates (you can get blocks from retailers like Simon Johnston). Perfect then, for a small square of indulgence…