Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015 preview

Expect the Unexpected at Eau de Vie.
Expect the Unexpected at Eau de Vie. 

Another day, another festival. Or that's how it seems in a city which insists on celebrating staying awake all night, getting frocked up, growing flowers, galloping horses, and even driving fast around a lake. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is a 23-year-old fixture in our crowded calendar and deserves attention for being a tasty, fun and increasingly accessible way to chomp on Melbourne (and country Victoria).

The only problem with a 17-day feast of eating, drinking and cooking is working out how to slice and dice it. That's why I've done the sifting and stirring: tell me what you want and I'll tell you the events that slot right in.

See melbournefoodandwine.com.au for ticketing and further details.

I want it for free

Artisan Bakery and Bar The festival's hub is an ambitious and rather brilliant purpose-built working bakery. Artisan Bakery and Bar opens day and night for coffee, wine and baked goods, with a roster of local bakers and superstar internationals feeling the heat. Look out for London baker Justin Gellatly, who's stacking the oven for the first three days of the festival. His doughnuts and sticky buns are cult objects and his Royal Bun was on the table at Kate and Wills' wedding.

February 27-March 15, 7.30am-late; paid workshops also available. Queensbridge Square, Southbank.

In demand: Justin Gellatly.
In demand: Justin Gellatly. 

Open Kitchen Eat your way between Birrarung Marr and South Wharf as Open Kitchen takes over the riverbank. Along the way, pause for chef demos, food trucks and stalls, and "Sweet Alley" stacked with alluring sugary concoctions.

Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1, noon-5pm. Yarra River, between Birrarung Marr and Southbank.

A Global Gathering Join A Global Gathering on Bridge Road, Richmond, a feast of free entertainment and low-priced tastes. Start at Harvey Norman at No. 479 to watch cooking demos and to pick up a "passport" which you can have stamped at the shopping strip's globetrotting pubs and restaurants. Participants include Mr Winston's (No. 571, lamb on a spit), Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder (No. 48-50, croque monsieur) and Burmese House (No. 303, fish cakes and red bean fritters). Keep your appetite honed with free dance classes at Phoenix Dance Studio (1pm, 2pm, 3pm), and if you tire yourself out, hop in a free tuk-tuk trundling the street.

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Sunday March 1, 11am-4pm. Bridge Road, Richmond.

Seddon Festival The highlight of the Seddon Festival is sure to be the waiters' race in which local front-of-house stars zoom along Charles Street carrying a tray loaded with a drink and cake. Blu-tack is verboten and a trophy is up for grabs (2.25pm). There's plenty of musical entertainment, including young band Whiteout (members are aged 11 to 14) plus a dog show (11.30am), market stalls and lots of eating options.

Saturday March 7, 11am-6pm. Victoria and Charles Streets, Seddon.

Pop up: St Crispin and Friends.
Pop up: St Crispin and Friends. Photo: Dean Cambray

Not Forgetting Yous At All Aboriginal leader William Barak and the de Pury family of Swiss winegrowers in the Yarra Valley became unlikely friends in the second half of the 19th century. Max Allen, wine writer and State Library Creative Fellow, has been digging into the archives to learn more and will share the tale in his talk, Not Forgetting Yous At All.

Thursday March 12, 5.30pm-6.30pm. State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

I want to learn to cook

Tastes of Italia@Home Learn to make a red wine base from a winemaker, ricotta from a cheesemaker and a sausage necklace from a master jeweller – um, no, sausage swami – under the expert eye of host and Mister Bianco chef Joseph Vargetto. The event, officially called Tastes of Italia@Home but dubbed the Italian Home Cook Olympics by the Mister Bianco team, is a response to all the customers wanting secrets to nonna's dishes. The workshop ends with a shared lunch.

Pinned down: Beasts from the Bush.
Pinned down: Beasts from the Bush. 

Sunday March 1, 10am-3pm; $180 (includes apron and book). Mister Bianco, 285 High Street, Kew.

The Essentials The festival's flagship event for food geeks is MasterClass and the best room is definitely The Essentials (disclaimer: I'm MCing it), in which great local chefs, producers and experts lead practical classes dedicated to one particular topic. Some one-hour skill sessions are sold out but you should still be able to join Tammi Jonas (ethical charcuterie, Sunday 3.30pm), Matthew Bax (Advanced Mixology, Saturday 3.30pm) and Shaun Presland (Sushi Training, Sunday 11.30am), among others.

Saturday March 7 and Sunday March 8, 10am-4.30pm; $50 a session. The Langham, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank.

Outdoor Essentials Also part of MasterClass, chef Paul Wilson steps you through Mexican street food in the Outdoor Essentials. As well as getting your antojitos on, this is an opportunity to experience the outdoor art space that is Testing Grounds, a mélange of rubble, fruit trees, car junk and grass just behind the Arts Centre.

Saturday March 7, 11am-2pm; $100. Testing Grounds, 1-23 City Road, Southbank.

I want to be down with food trends

Git into Offal and Beer because innards are in and beer is the new black.

Wednesday March 4, 6.30pm; $75. Northern Git, 757 High Street, Thornbury.

51/49 Degustation Some people reckon we should mostly eat raw food. Chef Dylan Evans tests the theory with his 51/49 Degustation.

Thursday March 5 and Thursday March 12, 7pm; $80-$110. State of Grace, 477 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Beasts from the Bush American barbecue is hot and native Australian ingredients are the perennial next big thing. Beasts from the Bush brings them together in an all-day celebration. Think smoked wallaby with bush spices and yabby po-boys.

Saturday March 7, noon-11pm; $20. The B.east [sic], 80 Lygon Street, Brunswick East.

I want to take the kids somewhere fun

Bright 'n' Sandy Family friendly and well-organised, the Bright 'n' Sandy festival has all-day music, children's cake decorating classes and a specially rigged bike that allows kids to create pedal-powered smoothies. Neighbourhood restaurants do the food: expect quality offerings from the likes of True South and the hotly anticipated St Kilda Burger Bar, soon to open at the Grosvenor Hotel.

Sunday March 1, 11am-6pm; $2.50. Green Point Foreshore, Brighton.

Kids' Weekend at Pop Up Patch Budding gardeners are invited to the Kids' Weekend at Pop Up Patch for seed planting, scarecrow making and hands-on lessons in making a planter box or terrarium from a milk bottle.

Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1; free-$20. The Little Veggie Patch Co's Pop Up Patch, car park rooftop, Federation Square, Melbourne.

Snack Habitat Van Children's food author Alice Zaslavsky (1.30pm-3.30pm) is a special guest at the Snack Habitat Van, which drives around Australia spreading good-food messages in an upbeat way. Today's focus is bees, honey and the environment. There are little person eats on hand too.

Saturday February 28, 10.30am-3.30pm; free. Artplay, Birrarung Marr.

Granny Skills Children aged six to 12 are encouraged to bring a jar and a granny (or another favourite adult) to learn Granny Skills such as preserving and pickling.

Sunday March 1, 10.30am-noon, 2pm; $15. Artplay, Birrarung Marr.

Raw food class: Parents are encouraged to stick around with children aged five to 15 for this hands-on Kids' Raw Food Class, which aims to spark curiosity, broaden tastes and leave the yuk factor behind. Children will customise their own sauerkraut and design a label to stick on the jar.

Sunday March 8, 11am-1pm; $25. St Ali, 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne.

I'm glad FebFast is nearly over

Expect the Unexpected Bars don't come much classier than Eau de Vie so when they say Expect the Unexpected you are surely in for a great night. Each of five courses will be matched with a cocktail created tableside for extra theatre. Startling combinations are promised.

Thursday March 5 and Thursday March 12, 7pm; $200. Eau de Vie, 1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne.

Barcelona at Bomba Visit Barcelona at Bomba in this afternoon investigation of vermouth, the aperitif that is suddenly super hip in Barcelona. This is a serious study, so you'll have the opportunity to sample vermouth straight up, in cocktails, or from a carafe. Chef Jesse Gerner's tapas will bring tasty ballast.

Saturday March 7, 1pm-5pm; $120. Bomba Rooftop, 103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

#Bucketwine Bonanza I love the sound of #Bucketwine Bonanza, which brings experimental teeny-tiny batch wines made from rare Italian varieties at Chalmers winery near Mildura. You're unlikely to ever have a chance to taste these wines again.

Thursday March 12, 6pm-9.30pm; $55. Cohen Cellar Wine Bar, 166 Albert Road, East Melbourne.

I want to get out of town

Sausage: A Multicultural Journey Bonegilla Migrant Camp received more than 300,000 new Australians between 1947 and 1971. It had its faults but it was still Club Med to present-day Manus or Nauru. Head to the original camp kitchen for Sausage: A Multicultural Journey. This snag workshop is hosted by ex-resident Lutz Peters, a master butcher who can answer all the questions about sheep's intestines you could ever think to ask. It's near Wodonga.

Sunday March 15, 10am and 1pm; $80. Bonegilla Road, Bonegilla.

Three Winemakers and a Gin Man TarraWarra doesn't normally open at night-time so the opportunity to spend a sunset at one of the most beautiful winery restaurants in Victoria is very alluring. Three Winemakers and a Gin Man includes a cocktail demo and a four-course dinner that employs wine and gin in the food, as well as matching glasses of the stuff with each dish. Smashing.

Saturday February 28, 6.30pm; $120 (return bus departs Federation Square 5pm; $40). TarraWarra Estate, 311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Yarra Glen.

Simon Rogan English chef Simon Rogan cooking at Dunkeld's Royal Mail Hotel is a big deal. Rogan's flagship restaurant L'Enclume is consistently named one of the best in the UK (and it featured in The Trip) and he has the privilege of cooking from large kitchen gardens, as does his host chef Robin Wickens. It's a splurge, but it might just be worth it.

Saturday March 14, 7pm; $295. Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld.

How to Drink All this time, you've been doing it wrong. Learn How to Drink with committed imbibers Michael Harden and Tim Baxter. The bar writer and the booze hound will share tips, tricks and insider knowledge about liquid refreshments from aperitif to digestive. There'll be six courses of food to keep it nice.

Sunday March 15, 12-4pm; $125. The Dispensary Enoteca, 9 Chancery Lane, Bendigo.

Just feed me

#Melbournefromabove offers a great opportunity to eat the view from Melbourne's highest restaurant. Tasting plates are inspired by foodie neighbourhoods visible from sky level; expect a taste of Lygon Street, Victoria Street and Sydney Road, but with a contemporary edge.

Saturday February 28, 1pm-4pm, 6pm-9pm; Sunday March 1, 1pm-4pm. Eureka 89, Level 89, Eureka Tower, 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank; $25 (includes grazing plate and drink)

Day Tripping St Hotel becomes a swank hawker market host for mod Asian restaurants Hanoi Hannah, Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina and Ba Noi and your Day Tripping ticket entitles you to snacks such as kingfish with wasabi and apple, and a southern Thai lamb curry.

Saturday March 7, noon-5pm; $40. St Hotel, 54 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

Rocking Ribs and Sizzling Sliders is a nighttime lakeside party in the Royal Botanic Gardens, complete with cocktails, tacos, ribs, burgers and music to get you moving. It sounds like fun and it's a good opportunity to enjoy after hours access to one of Melbourne's premier locations.

Friday March 13, 6.30pm; $120. Dog Flat Lawn, Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra

Saint Crispin St Kilda Pop Up A two-hatted Collingwood restaurant decamps to St Kilda. Saint Crispin St Kilda Pop Up is a one-day Fat Duck-style relocation, featuring a five-course degustation at the bowlo with the added pleasures of desserts from pastry gun Pierre Roelofs and, of course, lawn bowls.

Friday March 6, noon-5pm and 6pm-11pm; $160. St Kilda Bowling Club, 66 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

Afternoon tea showcase Pastry chef Janice Wong runs the much-swooned-over 2AM dessert bar in Singapore and she's interpreted some of her dishes for a series of afternoon tea showcases. Expect desserts that incorporate Asian flavours and sweet dishes that veer towards the savoury. She will appear in person on March 6.

Weekdays, March 2-13; 10.30am-4.30pm; $69. The Langham, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Restaurant Express It's an oldie but a goldie: each year Restaurant Express lures diners to restaurants all over town to try special menus at a keen price. Good options include Hare and Grace, No 8, Builders Arms Hotel, Merricote and Bellota.

February 27-March 15; $40 (2 courses + beverage)