Sydney Good Food & Wine Festival

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Photo by David Wilbanks

“Wake up! Wake up!”

My housemate Dave has the look of a kid on Christmas morning on his face. I’m groggy. The combination of a 2am bed-time and a night of drunken idiocy. He places a plate on my lap and literally skips out of the room. You’d think it was free blow-job day.

I force down my breakfast of ‘soldiers and googies’ (soft boiled eggs with strips of toast) and chug a glass of Berocca. He insists it will be necessary for what lays ahead.

Before long we’re on the bus down to Darling Harbour, where the Sydney Good Food & Wine Festival is taking place at the Sydney Convention Center. Tickets clutched in hand like kids about to explore Willy Wonka’s famed factory, we meet our friend Kiran and before too long we’re inside the great hall and being assaulted with the sights, smells, and sounds of the massive celebration of food and wine.

Our first port of call is finding a place to purchase a wine glass. We got distracted along the way by various stalls offering up samples of various savory treats, but eventually purchased our $3 wine glasses. We could have opted to pay $10 for the same glass with a handy little necklace style carrier that would leave our hands free for… I’m not sure what.

Dave and I rocking Shark Hotel in 2010. We're trouble together.

The wine flows thick and fast. I’m no wine connoisseur, but before too long I’ve picked up enough to at least look a little less like the country bumpkin I know I am. I swirl it around the glass and nod appreciatively as they discuss the way the grapes are harvested and the length of time the wine has been bottled. I learn to refer to it as ‘nose’ rather than ‘smell’. I finally figure out which wines are reds and which are whites. Apparently Muscatos are for women and I discover that I like a good Riesling far more than I thought possible. Prior to the festival, my wine experiences had been mostly confined to Fruity Lexia straight from the cask…

You’re supposed to spit the wine out after you taste it, but I don’t think anybody does. The most mature concession we allow ourselves is to periodically ask for some water to rinse our glasses with. We drink it, of course. Got to stay hydrated.

Before too long we’re all nicely buzzed. We strike up conversations with the friendlier presenters and make fun of the people who were there early enough to be drunk before noon. It won’t be too long before we join them.

At around 2pm we break for ‘lunch’. For Dave it’s a $7.50 chicken burger from the cafeteria. For Kiran and I, it’s foraging like hunter gatherers at the various free sample tables. I wolf down a little kimchi at the Korean tourism stall; sample various kinds of duqqa; and consume a large quantity of tiny pieces of bread dipped in various oils and chili jams. It’s all very fancy.

Shortly after lunch my paths crossed with Tony from It’s Good Overseas and we chat briefly about the next Travel Massive meeting and make a few recommendations of stalls worth visiting. I even convinced his lovely girlfriend and her friends to join the wine tasting fun. I hope Tony had a good time wrangling that trio home at day’s end.

The rest of my afternoon is something of a blur. We eased off on the wine tasting but picked up on the ‘other alchol tasting’. I tried a variety of fruit infused vodkas; Kiran and I sampled all eight of Grand Mariner’s fine beers; I tried my first organic lager; and we finished it all off with some Peruvian spirit that I can’t remember the name of. It tasted pretty phenomenal with some lime though. We kept ourselves fed with delicious Jack’s piri piri jerky, I bought a tube of delicious toasted muesli, and Dave bought some quince paste and a few bottles of wine.

Dressed in our hobo finery for the 2010 Hobo's Ball

We lost Kiran somewhere along the way, and stumbled out into the cool evening air at around 6pm. Famished from a day of wine drinking without much food eating, we  headed up to Chinatown for some over-priced Chinese. I had kung pao chicken that wasn’t half bad though. Our night then took a turn for the ludicrous as we opted to have a man-date at Passionflower. A pair of drunk blokes sharing a tiny table at a restaurant frequented almost exclusively by couples. We cut an odd picture as he ate his brownie sundae and I polished off a plate of banana pancakes.

From there it was time to end our adventure together. I hopped the train out to my old stomping grounds in St Leonards, slept through my stop and woke up at Linfield, and finally collapsed into bed at around 10pm. Like a kid after a big day of eating candy and unwrapping presents, I was thoroughly exhausted.

Only 365 days to go.

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