Taste of Auckland
I am originally from Chicago, the Best City in the WORLD! Go White Sox! And my favorite festival in Chicago is the Taste of Chicago. The Taste of Chicago is the worlds largest food festival, and takes place about two weeks a year in June/July since 1980. There are up to 3.5 million visitors to the event annually, great live music (I’ve seen Train, Lynard Skynard and Carlos Santana for FREE) and up to 70 restaurants set up shop. While the event is free to attend, free music, live demos and such, you can buy coupons which you exchange for sample portions of food. Restaurants serve several taste portions which are small and cost between $1.50 to $3 and some full size options for about $10. There are hole in the wall places, like one year a south side crawfish shack served crawfish and boiled potatoes and there are also upscale dining, ethnic and regional foods. I’ve had alligator, boar, snake and of course Chicago style pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef. I love Lola’s beer battered artichoke hearts, and of course Eli’s Cheesecake among other dessert places too (I would not recommend the chocolate cupcake filled with mashed potatoes, it sounds better that it is). Yummm! Best event ever and no taste or food festival will ever come close.
But I still try! And there are some fun events out there. I’ve been to the Taste of Boston and a German food festival in Chicago too. This past week as I went for my run through Victoria Park I saw they were setting up for the Taste of Auckland. Sweet, right? So I pull up the information on-line and it turns out that there is a Taste Magazine that puts on Taste events in cities world-wide, Sydney, London, Berlin. Turns out the event costs $25 per person for a 4 hour entrance and doesn’t include food. Ouch. Not to be discouraged, I found a buy one get one free coupon online and convinced Andrew it was worth it. (The Whiskey Shop free tasting and class didn’t hurt.)
On Friday after beer-o-clock at Andrew’s office we meandered on over to Victoria Park and headed for The Whiskey Shop Masterclass, “On the Whiskey Trail”. We learned about where the distilleries were and how to make whiskey then proceeded to taste four 12 YO single malt whiskeys: Macallan, Highland Park, Ardmore and Laphroaig. Macallan was my favorite but the others had some great characteristics. I love the way the Highland Park smelled so sweet and Andrew liked the Ardmore best. Good times.
Since we were still on empty stomachs, we decided to drink more. We stopped by White Haven wines and sampled a good number of them. I was most intrigued by a new style of wine of which I’d never heard: a Gewurztraminer. It is a very fruity white that tasted like you were biting into a green grape.
At this point, food was necessary, and at $12 a taste (ouch) and small portions, we picked up 36 tickets. Granted, it was probably a lot less than we would have spent if we went to these restaurants. The vendors were all very upscale joints. We tried a Fare Game wild deer, earth baked kowiniwini (a fancy name for an heirloom potato), fern curd with blackberry & malt soil from Kermadec Fine. MMMmmmm, was it tasty! Next, I picked the Cannelloni of confit duck and wild mushroom with a porcini sauce, parmesan and truffle oil from Poderi Crisci. My least favorite of the three we tried, it was still divine. Lastly we made our way to The Commons and had Duck leg with panang custard, micro herbs, peanut and lychee. Such delectable flavors! It was just a shame everything cost so much. To ensure we got the most of our money we continued to scour the festival for free samples of meats, bread and Tuatara beers from the various retailers touting their goods.
Before the loudspeaker announced the end of the event we tasted a “mystery drink” at a tent set up around a Mini car. We correctly guessed the four ingredients (water, grapefruit juice, coriander (cilantro) and apple juice) and entered to win the car. Fingers crossed 😉
The time passed very quickly while we were waiting in lines for the various events and before we knew it the festival ended at 9:30pm. On a Friday, no less! Andrew and I had a great time and we went back to Andrew’s office to pick up his laptop only to find a bunch of his co-workers still partying on the balcony. We grabbed another drink and I connected with one of the founders of Oktobor who happens to be an American from San Diego where the ship I used to work on was built. He has been in Auckland for about five years now and offered to chat on Monday about some possible job connections. What a way to end a Friday night!
Have a great rest of the weekend!
PS. Andrew is taking part in a mustache growing charity event for Men’s Health. Hence that lack of shaving. Male readers, take a moment to check out the website and stay healthy : http://www.movember.com/