The Royal Show tends to bring memories of nostalgia in people. Most families attend every year, the lollies, the rides, the show bags, the show bags, the show bags. But beyond that, there are livestock competitions, dog competitions, show-jumping competitions and for me this year, the food pavilions!
Yes, after a lapse of some 10 years at least of attending the Royal Melbourne Show, I was tempted by the publicity of the FOOD presence. Well, not strictly. The Masterchef kitchen was opened to the public onsite. So away we went!
* Do note that this post is photo-heavy and may take some time to load.
* Do note that this post is photo-heavy and may take some time to load.
But of course our first stop was the Masterchef Kitchen. Not the pop-up restaurant but the actual set of the TV show. On hand to greet visitors was the very affable and lovely Emma Dean.
The familiar building with unfamiliar crowds. It is missing the red scooter and the crates of herb garden. The creeping lines were constant and despite mumblings of falling ratings, there's no doubt Masterchef Australia is still very much a big drawing card and a phenomenal brand name.
To the right of the entrance is the area where they film contestants anxiously waiting to hear their results.
Wall of cooking equipment.
The bench space is generous for one contestant but certainly would be a bit of a squeeze for 2, especially if both are sharing the one sink.
Voila! The Mystery Box! Ariston stovetop and oven.
Signature red scooter that obviously belongs to Matt Preston.
Your time. Starts. Now! Howmuchtimeontheclock??
It's. Time. To. Panic.
The door to mecca. Be prepared to be wowed by the unlimited produce of the panty....
Until you enter and scratch your head. Where are the shelves and fridge displays of exotic produce?
There's no freshness like Coles?
But at least the Masterchef insignia is present everywhere. We can breathe easy.
This reminds me of a general store in a local town. Rustic, stocked with the essentials and no-pretence.
This is actually located right at the back of the set. The table and place settings mimic that of a restaurant.
Where many invited guests have awkwardly pecked at their food and slyly peeked out the corner of their eyes sub-conscious of the cameras.
"Now tell us why is Masterchef so important to you?" Cue sob story and tears. The judging table of course.
Look before you. This is what the judges see and address as the contestants cheffed away.
Just what every kitchen needs.
Full array of smoked and dried meats in their larder and an impressive looking butcher block.
One of my favourite features of the new Masterchef set was the vertical garden. The unfortunate thing was I wrongly saved and resized my pictures to tiny proportions.
Masterchef Professionals was filmed here in the unisex locker room. It's missing the pacing, the head-clutching and the tension of course.
This amazing French Poodle was groomed to the P and was strutting her stuff better than her tired and weary looking mistress. Hang on, we feed, groom and clean up after their mess. Who's the mistress here?
German Shepherds, all amazingly obedient. Their parents not so much. The fidgeting and scratching was frustration from a dodgy mic as the judge orders her instructions. It was quickly rectified however.
We wandered to the next shed and there was a variety of kids-focused activity with veggie gardens and education on farm animals.
See? Potatoes in a truck tyre. Who would have thought?
Canola Oil - so this is how they are processed.
After the sheep were shorn, there were bags of wool and women weaving them into yarn. Although the process is a lot longer than that in reality. The wool has to be washed.
The Bengal cat is breathtaking. The beauty of their markings and slim silhouette is haunting.
This little girl was bored with all the fawning...
Many strive to achieve...
...but never quite succeed at the feline beauty of cat eyes.
The Greyhound Adoption Program is a wonderful initiative aimed at re-homing ex-racing greyhounds. They do not just stop there as they take on training and preparing these racing dogs into domestic life. This is a cause close to my heart and well worth our support
Tastes of Victoria - a stomping ground for all food and wine producers in Victoria. This also includes artisan patisseries such as Burch and Purchese Sweet Studios. Mr Darren Purchese is sweet as his studio. He smiled and came over to us, shaking S' hand and going, "Hi! How are you?!".
I have written about the superb salted caramel from Caramelicious before. They are at most food fairs and their products are tres delicieux!
The lemons from this stand were as big as oranges.
The olive oil by itself was wonderful but the dressings have let it down a little when mixed with some strange flavours.
Boosey Creek Cheese was a bit of a surprise.
The gentlemen were none too chatty
But they didn't have to be. Their products speak louder than any words.
The camembert was just beautiful.
* Update (14 July 2014)
We have been woefully greedy and completely addicted to this cheese. Buying 6 Boosey Soft from Bills Farm at Queen Vic Market every fortnight!
The Kiwi Fruit Winery had a great concept with their Kiwi Cider. But in S' opinion, it has to be refined a little to be more palatable.
Olives are a fave with Europeans and Americans. Australia is a little slow to catch up, but they'll do well to try the offerings of Salute Oliva. On pointe.
We've been toying with the concept of a vertical herb garden for quite a while. There were quite a few varieties that were interesting at the Show giving us some great ideas and conviction to erect one on our pergola.
The Fine Food Deli stand was offering 2 different packages of show bags. Unfortunately, we've already purchased individual items of what was inside as we head around the stands.
Gourmet gluten-free pasta is really the way to go nowadays. The coeliac-inflicted have risen in numbers and awareness over the years.
My attention was caught by the brittle before the stand and the rest of Spotted Dog's products.
They might be selling fudge but the brittle was all I wanted...
Farmer Dan was mighty proud of his sausage.
Head out of the gutter please. I'm talking about his award-winning chorizo. They keep well even without refrigeration as all of the sausages are tightly vacuum-sealed.
Some interesting flavours here.
Ice teas were a bit late to catch up in Australia. But the Yarra Valley Tea Company offers some good and unusual flavours.
The Woolworths Pavilion was a mix of various food products. Probably slightly more pedestrian but no less appealing to the enthusiastic crowd of people heaving through the doors.
Needless to say, the longest queues in the building were for the fresh food on offer to the throngs of hungry customers.
The much mispronounced but utterly delicious Gozleme was one of the most popular stands.
We opted for the Veggie Gozleme, despite the overwhelming popularity of the chicken.
We really wanted to try Baby Burgers. The chips looked like they were seasoned with cajun. Unfortunately the queues were far too long and we decided to move on.
Being a cupcake aficionado, I just could not pass up the opportunity of trying the only cupcake stand there.
There were a great variety of flavours.
But as always, only one caught my eye.
It did wander so enticingly to the carrot cake,
But no, Red Velvet's my beloved. The icing was cloying with butter and sugar with barely a taste of cream cheese. The cake had a dense but bubbly texture. Somewhat chewier than the smooth refinement of cupcake crumbs.
S cannot pass up a hot donut. I warned him about not getting his hopes up. It's street fair donuts after all.
I had to literally eat my words. The donut was amazingly light and fluffy with an almost bouncy texture.
My thoughts on margarine are not very charitable and far preferable in comparison to real butter.
But it must be said the baker was wielding a very suggestive pose with his "weapons" and it drew a crowd to the pie stand.
Coke is an ever-present marketing machine. So we were not surprised they had a presence at the Royal Show. But was pretty impressed they did a slushie version of their signature drink.
A staple at most gourmet food fair, Butch's Smallgoods is a credit to the smoked and dried meat fare on offer in Australia.
S is a big fan of their spicy products.
What better way to sell bolster-packs of caramel corn,
than to have the friendly Pink-lookalike lady on your stand?
Drawn by anything hot and spicy, we made a beeline for The Chilli Factory stand.
Only to be told their signature hot sauce, Devil's Delirium, was sold out.
The motto to have.
Hoping for a reprieve in the queues, we headed back to the fresh food stands.
The food for sale were multicultural and varied.
In the end we opted for a weak and stodgy gumbo with hard dried rice from the New Orleans Po Boys.
And a reasonably good beef Po Boy.
Chris Badenoch was on hand to do a live cooking demo, courtesy of Neff at the Tastes of Victoria Pavilion. He did a spicy honeycomb with sorbet.
In person, Badenoch is very different from his TV persona. He was friendly, jovial and was quick to crack a joke and have a laugh. The honeycomb was burnt, although I appreciate his sense of adventure adding chilli to it and an unorthodox method of cooking. The constant questioning from the host was likely a distraction that would not have occurred in the kitchen otherwise.
Heading back to Woolies' massive billowing tent, they were promoting products sold in-store.
Macro corn chips, which I've always loved even back when the actual Macro existed. The corn chips are thin and full of corny flavour.
Food exploration over, we just had to head back to the livestock section.
Award-winning fleece were displayed proudly on a wall of fame with blue ribbons starkly stating who's boss of them all.
The babies were adorable and certainly some were more socialised than others.
The baaaahs were beyond cute and the different breeds of sheep were so distinctive in their personalities and the texture of their woollen coats.
He might look a little puny but this merino ram was amazingly stocky and huge!
This spoilt Mooster was fastidiously groomed to perfection by 2 young men while he munches on his feed.
This Highland sire was one of the highlights of the livestock experience.
He rocked his Justin Bieber hair like no other.
This mum of one was so eager to be patted. She demands attention and sticks her head out like a diva. I placed my hand softly on her head and she rubbed her head under my palm. Such an amazing feeling of trust.
Such a pretty pretty face.
I think we found Mary's little lamb.
This little baby was curious and adventurous. She is the baby of the diva we patted above.
It was altogether a wonderful day with lots to see, feel and taste. Till next time, Royal Melbourne Show, you grand old dame!