I took a rare day off work yesterday to go to the Good Food and Wine Show Perth with Jac.
I’d booked us in for the Gourmet Garden Cooking School’s Go Local class. Not that Jac needs to learn how to cook :), but we thought it would be a bit of fun. We arrived at the show just after 10:30am, picked up our show planner and map and went straight to class.
We got there a few minutes before the scheduled start time of 10:45am. We were shown to a workstation, asked to put on our aprons and wash our hands. We did that, then sat and waited. And waited. And kept waiting. If you’re not familiar with Gourmet Garden products, the photo below shows what they look like – herb and spice blends in ready to use tubes that you store in your fridge.
Each workstation had a person on hand to help out – our helper’s name was Ronald, a first-year apprentice chef. Poor Ronald. We got a little cranky with the waiting. We didn’t take it out on Ronald – it wasn’t his fault, of course. But our cranky talk may have scared him a little – I wouldn’t want to be hanging out with us when we’re cranky (we freely expressed our boredom and irritation as we sat there). There were five or so other couples waiting at the other workstations. Apparently, we were waiting for other participants to turn up. In the end the class didn’t begin until 15-20 minutes after the scheduled start time. By the time we started there were still empty places in the class – thank goodness they didn’t make us wait any longer, because I didn’t see anyone else turn up late after that. Jac and I both felt there was no need to wait that long for people to turn up. If you had bought your ticket for the class (as we all had), you would know it was supposed to start at 10:45am – so if you turned up late and class had already started, well, you wouldn’t be surprised nor have the right to get annoyed – that’s what happens when you’re late to a class. I have no problem with waiting five or so minutes for latecomers, but not 20 minutes!
When the class finally began, the first dish was grilled chicken breasts with basil and parmesan sauce.
The chicken dish was very easy to prepare. We made a herby garlicky butter and parmesan mix and inserted it under the chicken skin, saving two tablespoons of the butter and parmesan mix to add to the chicken right at the end of the cooking process so it would melt and make the sauce. We seasoned the chicken breasts, drizzled them with oil then placed them in a hot pan skin side down. When the skin was golden-brown, we flipped the chicken over to cook it on the other side, then left it to cook at a lower heat with a lid on the pan while we got to work on the next dish.
The herb and tomato tart was easy to prepare too. We spread Dijon mustard on a square sheet of shortcrust pastry, sprinkled cheese over the mustard, then arranged sliced fresh tomatoes, crumbled goat’s cheese and then drizzled herb oil over the top. We made the herb oil using extra virgin olive oil and squeezes from various Garden Gourmet tubes: rosemary, chives, basil, dill, parsley and garlic. This is how it looked before it went into the oven – it smelled amazing! Our tart was whisked away by the head chef to the ovens next to the demonstration workstation (which incidentally wasn’t used to demonstrate anything during our class).
We got to to work on the third dish – seafood spring rolls with lime and chilli dipping sauce. Jac sauteed the onion, garlic, ginger and vegetables to which I added the rice noodles, soy sauce and coriander. We got to work brushing the filo pastry with oil. I must say I am totally uncoordinated when it comes to working with pastry – and it probably didn’t help at all that filo is so fragile! I didn’t massacre the filo too much, but it would’ve been clear to any observer that filo and I are not old friends!
Anyway, we placed the noodle and vegetable mix on the filo, added sliced prawns and strips of fresh salmon and then rolled and folded the pastry into shapes that vaguely resembled spring rolls. We laid the spring rolls in a baking tray and brushed them with more oil and sprinkled them with sesame seeds. Once again, our baking tray was taken away by the chef to the oven while we got to work making the dipping sauce.
Once the sauce was made, we quickly tidied up our workstation. As we did this, a wonderful aroma filled the air – our herb and tomato tart was ready and out of the oven! Ronald checked on our chicken and announced that it was ready too. Another staff member poured us each a glass of white wine. We also had bottle of Mount Franklin sparkling water to drink, if we preferred. It was time to sit down and eat our creations!
The herb and tomato tart sizzled tantalisingly on its tray. The head chef came over with a knife and sliced it into four. It looked a little soggy but smelled so good I couldn’t wait to have some.
We feasted on chicken and tart. That chicken was beautifully tender and succulent. The garlicky herby butter and parmesan made the chicken very moist. We spooned some of the juices from the pan over our chicken. It was quite an impressive looking dish and would be perfect to serve to guests at a dinner party. The tart was really tasty. I couldn’t stop eating it. I reckon the only thing that would’ve made that tart even better was a little fresh rocket placed on top just before serving.
The spring rolls were difficult to eat because they were so hot and practically impossible to pick up. The noodle, vegetable and seafood filling was nice and gingery (perhaps I was a little heavy-handed when squeezing the ginger out of the tube). The chilli dipping sauce went very well with the spring rolls. I wouldn’t choose to make spring rolls with filo pastry though – it’s just so brittle and shatters with every bite. We had more food than we could eat at our little workstation and when a woman looked on hungrily as we enjoyed our food, we offered her a spring roll. She called her husband over and they shared it. It felt a little awkward as they stood there but I think they enjoyed it.
While we’d been cooking furiously at our workstations, one of the chefs had been busy icing a chocolate and herb cake, and now he came round with slices for everyone. The cake was the recipe on our fourth recipe card, but I guess they skipped having us cook our own because there wasn’t enough time. According to the recipe card, the cake had rosemary and basil in it. I think if I didn’t know there were herbs in the cake I’d have barely noticed that hint of “something else” in it. It was a sweet, very moist cake. The icing was made from ricotta, honey and lemon zest, delicious!
- The class was fun. It reminded me of cooking class at high school (at my school it was called Food and Nutrition, or, as we preferred to call it, Food and Nut). I was probably the messiest, clumsiest cooking partner ever, back then in Food and Nut and now at the Gourmet Garden Cooking School. :P
- Jac got some new cooking ideas from the dishes we prepared – she can’t wait to do her own version of the chicken dish and the herb and tomato tart. She loved the ricotta and honey icing too.
- The dishes we cooked were really tasty! I felt kind of proud that I’d helped cook these delicious dishes. As a chicken thigh lover I was really surprised by how tender and juicy the chicken breasts turned out. I told Jac I’d happily eat chicken cooked that way at home. Especially with crispy golden oven roasted potatoes, mmm.
- We each got a cooler bag with recipe cards as well as the Gourmet Garden products for all the dishes. I thought that was a nice touch.
The not so good
- The waiting to start was irritating. As I mentioned earlier, I have no problem with waiting a few minutes for stragglers to turn up, but not 20 minutes.
- The class seemed very disorganised. The mise en place, additional sauces, oils etc and cooking utensils were placed in three different spots at the workstation and once we started cooking it was hard to find and reach all the things we needed – it didn’t seem very well thought out. Some of the ingredients had been pre-measured to the amounts required for the dish; other ingredients we were told we wouldn’t need to use all of. It was kind of confusing as we weren’t familiar with the dishes we were cooking and we didn’t have measuring cups or spoons or scales to do our own measuring. Our hand blender didn’t work and it took two attempts to find one that worked. There was no paper towel handy for wiping my herby garlic butter hands, then my goat’s cheese covered hands. The only tap and sink was in the corner of the Cooking School area and you had to squeeze past other participants to get to it.
- Jac didn’t like how the class was out in the open so we were a spectacle for passers-by to gawk at. It was a weird feeling, sitting and eating with beady eyes staring at us, hungrily ogling our food. You could sense that some of them were wondering if this was free for anyone to join in. I don’t blame them, I know how great our food looked and smelled!
- For a “Cooking School” there wasn’t much instruction. We didn’t know what the dishes were supposed to look like before we made them because they didn’t have any pictures and there was no demonstration up front to show us what to do. We just jumped right in and started cooking. “Chaotic” is probably the best way to describe how it felt!
- The recipes and ingredients were clearly set out for four people; although there was only Jac and I at our workstation there was no easy way to halve the recipes/ingredients, so we cooked everything (enough for four). Presumably at the other workstations that did have four people around them, the participants found a way to cook together (or maybe it was even more chaotic with four people, I don’t know because I was too busy with our own chaos!). Our two uneaten chicken breasts and half our herb and tomato tart (it was far too much for Jac and I to finish on our own) were taken away by a staff member who assured us there’d be someone out the back who’d happily eat it all – I hope that was true and the food wasn’t simply thrown away. I wish we’d thought of inviting random passers-by to eat the extra chicken and tart. But at least we got to share the spring rolls around. Jac whispered to me: “We should’ve brought some takeaway containers!” to which I whispered back: “Are you sure you’re not Chinese?” ;P Of course, even if we had brought takeaway containers, there’s no way we’d have eaten the chicken later after carrying it around the show all day!
We did have fun and the food we cooked was delicious but at AU$50 a head if the format/disorganisation remained the same I don’t think I’d be as keen to do another class in future. I’d never done a cooking class like this before at a food show and I don’t regret the experience, but my favourite part of the day was what we did after the Cooking School – walking around the booths, checking out products and trying out all the free samples.
Eating our way around the show
At Eric’s Bratwurst Hut, I gazed longingly at the big pans of glistening juicy bratwurst. Sadly, fresh out of cooking class I was much too full to eat (or even share) a bratwurst hot dog.
We kept seeing people walking around with mini ice cream cones. Where were they getting them from? I was very excited when I found the stall – Bravo Gelato! They had bambino gelato in all kinds of flavours for a gold coin donation for Telethon. They all looked and sounded fantastic: chocolate coconut, nut encrusted, scorched almond, Oreo encrusted, hundreds and thousands, classic chocolate, original mix… It was an easy choice for me: Oreo encrusted – chocolate gelato dipped in chocolate and rolled in crunchy Oreo cookie chunks. Jac chose chocolate coconut – vanilla gelato dipped in white chocolate and rolled in toasted coconut. These cute little gelato cones are just 8cm from tip to tip. I love miniature foods!
I was quite excited to learn that you can buy Bambino Cones in party packs at a number of outlets around Perth. They’d be awesome for any kind of party, not just for kids.
We kept on walking and Jac sampled Sence Rose Liqueur, a wine-based quite perfumey rose-flavoured liqueur. As a woman remarked after sampling it “Tastes like boozy nanna!” Funny yet disturbing at the same time! :D
As I walked on, a man talking on his phone waved and smiled at me. I didn’t know him, so I just nodded and smiled back at him. But he hung up his phone and came over to talk to me. He greeted me warmly and told me he’d recognised me! “I love your blog!” he said. I’ve never had someone come up to me in a public place like that before! He introduced himself as James, Director of Mini Melts Ice Cream WA. He’s a big fan of The Food Pornographer and invited Jac and me to try some of his ice cream. Mini Melts ice cream is cryogenically frozen by immersion in a liquid nitrogen bath at -190 degrees, so cold the ice cream freezes into individual little balls. The Mini Melts are stored at -42 degrees so that they stay in those little ball shapes. I’m sure some readers (especially US readers) would have heard of similar product called Dippin’ Dots.
I chose strawberries and cream. Although I’d just eaten gelato not 10 minutes earlier, I couldn’t stop eating the Mini Melts. We both loved how creamy the little ice cream balls were. James told us proudly that Mini Melts are super creamy because the cream mix is made with 16 per cent milk fat content.
James told us Mini Melts are currently available at YoYo at Midland Gate Shopping Centre, Neverland 4 Kids in Joondalup and Kidz Paradise in Carlisle. And they will soon be available at IKEA! Now the IKEA eating will be even better: Swedish meatballs, $1 hot dogs and a cup of Mini Melts! I really want to try mocha and Oreo cookies and cream next. But at 16 per cent milk fat I think it will have to be a very occasional treat. It was great meeting you, James!
Having eaten Bambino Gelato followed closely by Mini Melts I really wanted something salty. I found it at Cobs, where I tried sea salt popcorn and discovered the joy of cheddar cheese popcorn that tastes like cheese Twisties. Fantastic!
By this time we were starting to think a Good Food and Wine Show trolley (AU$30) might be a good idea. We chose a black one and packed up all our booty into it.
At the Wine & Truffle Co there was a large truffle on display, apparently worth approximately AU$1000. Jac called it “the big poo you’ll definitely want to photograph”. :P
At the Kikkoman stall, we sampled tender pieces of chicken freshly cooked with honey and soy marinade, and tried a number of different soy sauces, including my favourite, a citrus ponzu sauce.
At the Luv A Duck stand, we got to try succulent roast duck and potatoes freshly roasted in duck fat. There was no chance I could take photos of those free samples, because the minute they were placed on the counter, swarms of people arrived to snap them up! There’s no way I’d get between a hungry mob and potatoes roasted in duck fat!
You could buy yourself duck fat in a tub to take home. Believe me, I was tempted! I’ve said “duck fat” a lot, haven’t I? I love saying it! Duck fat, duck fat, potatoes roasted in duck fat!
Jac usually has a very low tolerance for crowds. I was worried initially that she’d get cranky being among hoards of people. Some areas were more congested than others due to the popularity of the booths (Harvey beef being an example, where people lined up for steak sandwiches), but it wasn’t too bad the day we were there, perhaps because it was a week day.
It was a shame we were too full to contemplate eating at The Fifth Leg restaurant. Each of the celebrity chefs has devised a menu – starter, main course and dessert. We had originally planned to eat lunch there but hadn’t thought we’d be so full from the cooking class. I laughed at the placement of the toilet signage in the photo below. The arrow is actually pointing behind the restaurant, but it looks more like it’s pointing at Gary Mehigan’s booth. Very appetising!
There was a booth selling cooking appliances and gadgets. I was drawn to the shiny Kitchenaid display. Maybe someday I’ll have my own Kitchenaid mixer.
If I get a Kitchenaid mixer, it will probably be red. Everyone knows red goes faster! If you look really closely you may see little me in my red denim jacket, reflected in the silver mixing bowl as I took its photograph.
Smallgoods of the Riverland, the stall with the longest salamis. “I hope you’re not putting that photo on the Internet,” the man said. “But don’t you want people to see the photo, think ‘those salamis look good’ and then come to the Show and check out your products?” I asked. “Good point,” he said. That’s one thing I think a lot of business owners are yet to realise – there is nothing to fear from bloggers with cameras, people! If you have confidence in your product and your business, why be paranoid? It’s free advertising, after all.
At Mahogany Creek Distributors there was a delectable selection of Goanna Gourmet meat and chutney samples to try.
The booth was very popular as you could sample smoked emu, smoked turkey breast, emu and Illiwarra plum sausage, kangaroo and riberry sausages, and crocodile and lemon myrtle sausages. Jac fell instantly in love with the smoked emu and urged me to try some. It was very good. It was the first time I’d eaten emu.
Back home with our show goodies
When we got home, we had great fun going through all our show goodies. Inside our Gourmet Garden cooler bags were our very own Gourmet Garden herbs and recipe cards.
All the herbs we used in our dishes were included. There was also 6-tube stand/carrier (not pictured) in each cooler bag.
We’d filled out a Gourmet Garden survey at the end of the class and were each given a cook book with recipes that use Gourmet Garden products.
We bought Yarra Valley Dairy Gentle Goat cheese and Black Savourine cheese. I loved the Gentle Goat – I got to taste it on a cracker at the Yarra Valley Dairy stand – surprisingly mild in flavour and very creamy. Maybe we’ll use it on our own version of the herb and tomato tart!
In addition to the Goanna Gourmet smoked emu, Jac also bought smoked kangaroo and smoked chicken breast.
We tried Abe’s Real Bagels bagel crisps at the show – the roasted garlic ones were really delicious! We bought a show special pack of five bags of bagel crisps – sea salt and roasted garlic. If you’re friend or family and come over to our house for a meal sometime soon, we’ll probably serve some of these.
The bagel crisps are oven-baked and low in fat. They’re extremely moreish and super super crispy! You can eat them just like potato chips (we did just that tonight)!
Jac bought two packs of chocolate mousse mix – Belgian classic and Swiss dark chocolate – at the show special price of AU$15 for two packs. You just add water and cream. This will be decadent special occasion chocolate mousse, I think.
Every time we go to a show or fair and there’s a Jack Links jerky stand, Jac will buy a showbag. And the contents of that showbag will be her jerky supply for the next year or so! I don’t like jerky, so she has it all to herself!
The Good Food and Wine Show was a fun day out. Other than AU$30 to get in, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on cooking classes or at the restaurant – there are plenty of free samples and cheap eats to fill up on all day. If you’re into alcoholic beverages, you can buy a glass for AU$3 and sample wines and beers to your heart’s content. I’m not a drinker but do like Baileys on ice – I enjoyed a free sample of Baileys with a hint of coffee on ice, no need to buy a glass at all – it was awesome!
It was tricky taking photos sometimes (it can be quite a challenge at these sorts of events with crowds and queues to deal with) – and I tweeted as much as I could throughout the day but not so often that Jac felt neglected! :D I’m well aware that there’s a fine line between experiencing the event and trying to capture/share the experience but in the process of doing so, not actually appreciating the experience.
Thanks again to the Good Food and Wine Show for our tickets – we both enjoyed our day!
The Good Food and Wine Show Perth
Perth Convention Exhibition Centre
Just one day left – Sunday 4 July 10am to 5pm
And if you missed them on the day, here are all my Good Food and Wine Show tweets arranged in reading order for your convenience.
If you went to the show, did you have a good time? What did you enjoy the most? Or was there anything you didn’t like?