Taste of Auckland is here and last night, my fork buddies and I braved the weather to enjoy opening night. The promise of rain might have kept the crowds away and while the weather was nowhere near as horrendous as Taste 2014, we were glad we wore gumboots as it drizzled later in the night.
There are 5 more sessions to go over the next 3 days and with many different areas and entertainment to keep you busy, there’s something for every shade of foodie. Even those who hate the term “foodie”. Taking photos of your food is 100% acceptable at Taste, some of the servers even made styling suggestions when I asked if I could take photos. I love how Taste is a shared communal experience and it’s totally OK to ask complete strangers about the food they’re enjoying. A stranger at Taste is a fork buddy you haven’t met yet.
Once again, a well run festival, easy to navigate and meander around. No queues when we went meaning more time to enjoy the festival. Great atmosphere, delicious food, tastings and show specials. I’m looking forward to a second visit tomorrow. Hopefully the weather holds up.
The highlight of Taste for me and the best $15 I ever spent was at Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets. Over the 4 days of taste, 6 chefs will be sharing a signature dish each in an intimate cooking class. On first-come-first-served basis, I recommend heading straight to Chefs’ Secrets.
For $15 per person, you can enjoy a Famous Vodka cocktail, interactive cooking demo, a chef’s signature dish paired with a glass of Ara wine and a treat to finish.
Monique Fiso was the chef for Thursday’s sessions and her paua porridge with barley and cuttlefish ink was a delicious take on this often overlooked (or placed in the “too hard basket”) New Zealand ingredient.
Open to all, these free demonstrations will be showcasing food personalities including Adriano Zumbo, Nick Honeyman, Nadia Lim, Phil Clark, Peter Gordon and more.
This year there are 10 restaurant stalls set in groups of 2 or 3 on the outer edges of the festival. So make sure you make a loop journey to peruse them all.
Winner of Best in Taste two years running, Farina was placed 2nd this year with their Moreton Bay Bug dish, while SE Asian fusion newcomer Tok Tok claimed Best in Taste with their Crispy hapuka dry red curry. I adore hapuka so this punchy dish was right up my alley, though I’d love to have this again with a bowl rice as the flavours were turned right to full noise.
Make sure you check out the menu here before visiting to avoid accidentally missing out on something spectacular.
With various wine producers scattered throughout, a designated beer area in Brew Street, and various spirits represented, there is plenty to whet your whistle.
If you’re anything like me, I recommend going from cocktail to cocktail. Famous Vodka cocktails start from $7.
If you want to enjoy wine, you may need to purchase a festival glass for $6.50. Or you could just stick to cocktails. Your call.
No Taste is complete without free tastings! My picks would be: Smoked salmon (Ora King Salmon), Freedom Farms Champagne ham (Farro), burger patties (Angel Bay), free range chicken (Rangitikei Chicken), gelato and sorbet (Lalele Organic), Avocado ice cream (NZ Avocado)
Another crowd pleasure and for those that have a creative streak is FoodTV’s cupcake decorating station. I’m not a baker but decorating sure is a lot of fun.
There are heaps of local producers selling their products with great show specials.
Make a mental note of what you’re running low on, particularly in pantry and go nuts with stocking up at the festival. Most stalls will hold your purchases for you, in case you don’t want to carry around too many heavy items around. Just make sure to remember to pick up your goodies before you leave!
I ended up taking home a couple of butterflied free range chooks home with me and at 1.5kg for $10 each. That’s dinner sorted for tonight.
Tips for Taste of Auckland:
- Session times are 4 to 5 hours long. Get there on time and/or go during the day/week to avoid crowds.
- Eftpos cards or cash are accepted to buy crowns (festival currency).
- Look for show specials.
- Have a squiz at the menu early so you can plan your evening, but be flexible enough to change your mind if something else looks better (or they run out).
- Sharing with a friend (or two) means you can taste even more dishes.
- Wear sensible shoes. It’s a mostly grass and Auckland weather can turn the grounds into a chocolate pudding. A small umbrella or a raincoat would be wise too. Avoid high heels. Gumboots are perfectly acceptable.
- Bring a coat for the evening sessions, it can get chilly.
- Take a camera and an appetite.
- Catch a bus or a taxi so you can enjoy the delicious tipple.
- Drink responsibly.
Crowns and tickets
The festival currency is called a crown and 1 crown = 1 dollar. Festival currency can be loaded onto your Taste of Auckland card and these are used to make any purchases. You can get a full refund on any unused credit so don’t be shy about topping up using cash, debit or credit cards at any onsite Taste bank or roaming Crown seller dressed in pink.
Expect to spend $40-70 per person depending on appetite (and thirst). I spent $62 not including my take-home chickens.
Advance tickets General admission $25, Premium $60 (includes 40 crowns), VIP $110. Concessions available. Door sales $35. Tickets can be purchased via iTicket here.
This post is not sponsored, however the good people at Taste of Auckland and Lemongrass Productions have provided my entry (I also purchased an extra ticket for a second visit). All opinions are my own.