Being located right on Hobart’s waterfront, the big-ticket item on The Taste of Tasmania program is their New Year’s Eve party.
We rocked up just as the sun was setting on Hobart’s long summer twilight, and, as Sydneysiders, marvelled at how few people were inside the fenced off compound.
It was a far cry from fighting your way down to Sydney’s packed and heavily policed foreshore on New Year’s Eve!
This party is the only time that the bulk of the Taste of Tasmania festival stalls are sealed off from free access by the general public, with General Admission ($75/head) charged to enter the event.
While many people did opt to pay more for guaranteed waterfront seating ($110/head) or access to a VIP area ($220/head) in the commercial kitchen where they were met with a grazing table and two free drinks, to my reckoning you didn’t need to cough up for these add-ons.
The festival offered plenty of places to sit away from the waterfront, and you could stand to watch the fireworks, which proved to be a lot briefer than the Sydney version.
The event was designed with a 1920s speakeasy theme, that was only partially adopted by guests. To my ears, it was a mistake to push this theming onto the entertainment program that featured Tex Perkins (The Cruel Sea) and headliner, Mojo Juju, (who both performed backed by a ten-piece band), as it wasn't what either artist does best.
Luckily there were plenty of other things to keep guests entertained, like eating, drinking and interacting with the hundred-odd stallholders. Queues for most stalls were wonderfully short during this New Year’s Eve party, allowing us to get quality time and attention from artisan producers like The Tasmanian Chilli Beer Company.
At their well-stocked stall, we tasted across their whole alcoholic ginger beer range before arranging to get a mixed case of their Spicy Mule ($12) and Dark & Stormy ($12) shipped back to home to Sydney.
All of the alcohol stalls contributed to the best drinking New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had!
Instead of being trapped in a Sydney event with limited drinking options, I happily skipped between the botanical garden setting of the Forty Spotted Gin garden and micro-distilleries like Knocklofty, quaffing my Dark & Stormy ($12) along the way.
Having so many different snacks helped keep me upright and functional for the midnight fireworks.
Some of the snacks I tried were quite orginal, like the Fat Elvis Sundae ($10) topped with bacon jam that I ordered from a super-cute 1963 Commer Karrier original ice cream van. The folks behind this unusual creation were Sweet Envy, who are said to be one of Hobart’s best cake shops.
Other snacks, like the steamed Taiwanese Bao Zi ($6) produced by Deep End Farm, a sustainable small farm in Geeveston, were tasty and easily digestable, making them particularly well pitched for festivals where people are drinking plenty of booze.
While Festival Mushrooms are a bit of a Taste of Tasmania icon, what with two decades of festival operation under their belts, I personally didn’t rate their Tempura Mushrooms ($11/meal). I found the tempura batter too heavy and doughy, rendering the mushrooms pretty tasteless even when smothered in sauce.
Scallops, on the other hand, were a win pretty much everywhere I ate them in Tasmania (in case you haven’t guessed by my constant scallop pie sidebars).
My favourite rendition on New Year’s Eve came courtesy of Vineyard Seafood Restaurant. Garnished with a blue corn tostada, their Tequila Lime Scallop Ceviche ($12) was light, well-presented and cleverly designed to highlight the delicate flavour of raw Tasmanian scallops.
With the colourful tent quite an attractive space to linger, we also visited their neighbouring stall, Munchies Street Food.
Based upon the range from their famous food truck, they were serving up Korean inspired bao. We tried the Pork Belly Bao ($10) served with lettuce and a Korean barbeque sauce.
With a name like The Porky Duck, buying something at their stall, which only serves Tasmanian sourced duck and pork dishes, teamed with their own sauerkraut and kefir cream. We opted for the Duck Mini Roll ($10) because all this eating was making us rather full.
Luckily it was almost time for the midnight fireworks.
This came as a bit of a surprise to me, because I usually find the gap between the 9pm and midnight fireworks interminably long at Sydney New Year’s Eve events, like the Lord Mayor's New Year's Eve Party.
We grouped on the wharf, which was far from overcrowded, and watched the fireworks while toasting a great evening of eating, drinking and celebrating the advent of another year with friends.
Scallop Pie Side-Bar:
Reading they had the best scallop pie in Tasmania, we visited the Dunalley Bakery twice to secure our taste of one.
On our first visit, early in the day, they were completely sold out but had more in the oven. When we came back later in the afternoon, it was evident that they rushed them to meet demand, because the pastry was thick and doughy, wanting for more time in the oven.
What the Dunalley Bakery’s Scallop Pie ($8) did do well, was capture the taste of the Tassy scallop the best, though in this exemplar, the curry flavour was much less evident.
The number of scallops in this pie wasn’t particularly generous, and the bakery setting was a bland, tiled expanse that lacked character. They do have an ice cream fridge by Valhalla Ice Cream, who have been making ice cream in this state for more than two decades. Unfortunately the range they stocked on the day I dined tended towards child-friendly flavours like rainbow, rather than their more exotic vanilla yogurt, liquorice and ginger offerings.
168 Arthur Highway, Dunalley
Ph: (03) 6253 5248
Heading to Tasmania? Does My Bomb Look Big In This? has you covered...
The Taste of Tasmania: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.
Breakfast (Hobart): Born in Brunswick, Dandy Lane, Room for a Pony & Macquarie St. Food Store.
Lunch (near Hobart): Willie Smith's Apple Shed & The Dunalley Store.
Dinner (Hobart): The Source, Franklin, Frank & Templo.
Beyond Hobart: Freycinet Marine Farm, Harvest Launceston & Mudbar Restaurant.