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Tasting Australia fires up

Eat | Drink | Explore

Cocktail chicken balls took on a whole new dimension at a sold-out tribute dinner for acclaimed chef, author, food icon and festival patron Maggie Beer which kicked off festivities for this year’s Tasting Australia.

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Among the several hors d’oeuvres served with pre-dinner vintage pear cider were surprisingly large rooster’s testicles, lightly sautéed in butter before being impaled on cocktail sticks.

“I wanted to push you a little,” Beer told her 150 guests seated at two long tables in the Pheasant Farm function centre near Tanunda.

But apart from the smoked brains in brioche, the remaining hors d’oeuvres reverted to more familiar fare as she introduced the five former Pheasant Farm chefs and apprentices, spanning three decades, who prepared each course.

Memories and anecdotes flowed as freely as the Barossa Valley wine in an evening that chef Sophie Zalokar described as a “full circle moment”. Steve Flamsteed said he “arrived as a fully qualified chef and left as a much better cook”, while patissier Natalie Paul told how “Maggie taught me how to eat.”

Maggie Beer addresses guests at the Tasting Australia dinner. Photo: Tony Lewis

The menu included potted blue swimmer crab with tarragon sourdough and mace butter from Zalokar, escabeche of chargrilled Coorong mullet from Alex Herbert, a cassoulet of Berkshire pork sausage with smoked pork belly from Flamsteed, and a blast-from-the-past mini pheasant pie with mashed parsnips and pears from Beer and Chris Wotton.

Natalie Paul finished things off with roasted quince, verjuice mascarpone crème and prune caramel.

An emotional Maggie Beer, in paying tribute to her chefs, suppliers and former customers, described the occasion as “the most memorable night I’ve had in 30 years”.

Less than 12 hours later (yesterday morning), fragrant smoke filled Victoria Square – or Town Square, as it is being called during Tasting Australia – as a dozen chargrills and fire pits signaled the opening of the Charred street-food market.

Cheong Liew with his beggar’s chicken at Charred. Photo: Tony Lewis

The TA opening day also provided the first glimpse of the Glasshouse Kitchen and the glasshouses that will host dinners from culinary stars including UK chef Marco Pierre White and Ana Ros, acclaimed as the world’s best female chef 2017.

White has clearly decided he likes Adelaide: “I didn’t know what to expect from Adelaide when I came here,” he said, “but now I’m falling in love with it.”

The chef again praised Jasmin for “one of the great Indian meals of my life – it was about refinement, not invention”. He also singled out Lost in a Forest at Uraidla, along with Africola (“amazing”) and his friend Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana.

The range of flame-grilled, wood-fired, roasted, toasted, smoked and charred dishes on offer for lunch and dinner at Charred over the next week is extraordinary – from Cheong Liew’s crusty beggar’s chicken stuffed with pork, lotus seed, Chinese mushroom, black fungus and “lots and lots of ginger”, wrapped in lotus leaf and clay and baked in a massive fire pit, to Andrew Fielke’s hot smoked Coorong mullet, Comida’s wood-grilled chicken and charred corn, La Boca’s asador-style beef cooked over an amazing grill, and a slow-roasted whole cow from Coriole.

More information can be found here.

Cooking with fire at Charred. Photo: Tony Lewis

Charred meats. Photo: Tony Lewis

Chefs Jock Zonfrillo and Marco Pierre White in the Town Square. Photo: Tony Lewis

Charred in the Town Square. Photo: Meaghan Coles

The Tasting Australia Town Square bar. Photo: Meaghan Coles



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