2012 MFWF Wrap-Up…

Phew…!  It’s all over for another year – and what a year it was.  Over 700 sessions, over 250 different types of events, 20 days of food and wine, and lots of potential to overindulge! What a whirlwind.  Every year, it gets harder and harder to choose which events to go to… so I thought I’d share my take on my experiences…

This year I was incredibly selective when choosing events to attend for the MFWF.  Having been burned a little in the past by events that just didn’t live up to the hype, I am now a strong believer in attending events by trusted restaurants, and events that I’ve been to before that have proven to be fabulous nights out.  This approach stood me in good stead this year – and I really enjoyed most of the events I attended.

Best value night out – Gingerboy’s Take the Experience Home

Seven courses, two cocktails, and a $70 cookbook for $140 – such great value.  Especially from a restaurant with the pedigree and quality of Gingerboy.  Each course was outstanding – and the cocktails are amazing!!  There was nothing we would not order again (and we plan to soon) – all this and I got to sit next to Teage and Tina Ezard!!!

Best food of the MFWF – Ezard’s Sibling Rivalry Dinner

Sure – it cost $175 – but the food was sublime, amazing, and phenomenal.  All helped along by the great atmosphere, the company of six close girlfriends, and being at my favourite restaurant.  Perhaps I’m a little biased… but this I consider this to be my never to be missed event of the festival every year!

Best celebrity spotting event – René Redzepi Lunch at Rockpool.

The most expensive of my events at $250 per head.  I have to say, in my humble opinion, the food was probably more intellectually stimulating and avant garde than delicious and mind blowing.  Some of the dishes and food combinations were beautiful, some of them less so.  Ironically, at the end of the day it was a Rockpool course we thought was the dish of the day.  So, perhaps true culinary genius is closer to home than we appreciate.  Nonetheless, what the event lacked in terms of mouthwatering food, it more than made up for in its audience of famous Australian and international chefs.  I couldn’t believe my luck and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of my heroes!  In summary, I consider the event to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have food from the renowned #1 restaurant in the world – Noma.  Would I go again…?   Probably not.

Biggest surprise event – Babies Taste Better Lunch at La Luna

I really enjoyed this event because of the provocative nature of its name – having 6 great friends join me was also a clincher.  I’m a firm believer that the company we keep makes a huge difference to our enjoyment of food!!  I’ve classed it as the biggest surprise event because we ate a variety of baby animals – including a quail embryo done scotch egg style! An even bigger surprise – my usually over-cautious and food conservative husband ate 3 of them!  It also helped that they served my favourite wine, pinot noir, throughout.  From all reports, and this experience, the La Luna events tend to be very generous, fun-loving affairs.  Would I go again? … To a La Luna event definitely – but maybe the suckling pig event next time.  This event cost $145.

Biggest night of debauchery for a good cause – StreetSmart Front of House All Stars Annual Dinner

This night of nights cost $160 to attend, and then a great deal more if you drank too much and bid outrageously during the fundraising auction!  However, it is an amazing night – and a must do event on my calendar every year!  You get seven courses by seven of Melbourne’s best loved restaurants – and all proceedings go to support StreetSmart Australia.  All the staff from the different restaurants donate their time to the event – which contributes to a fantastic atmosphere.  The irrepressible stylings of Erez Gordon when MC’ing and running the auction, also add to an hilarious and enjoyable evening.  Another must-do-event for my foodie calendar every year!

Overall, I think my strategy worked this year.  So, my recommendations would be:

  1. Stick to events at your favourite restaurants – they’re tried and true and you can trust that their events will be something special.
  2. Don’t go to restaurants that have had mixed or mediocre reviews – you can’t expect miraculous improvements just because they’re doing something for the MFWF.
  3. Rather than taking a scattergun approach – which is easy because of the sheer number of events – carefully consider which events you’re really going to enjoy, make a list and then shorten it! I reckon about 6 events is the maximum you should aim for, and 3-5 is the sweet spot.
  4. If money’s an issue – you’re probably better off pooling your resources for one of the more expensive events, and then going to some of the free ones. Better this than going to three or four mediocre events.
  5. Express lunches are really popular – and great value.  I didn’t attend any this year, but after reading the reviews by other bloggers (see below), I’m definitetly putting them on the calendar for next year.
  6. And finally, remember that there are always food events happening around Melbourne all throughout the year – these 20 days are not the only time restaurants put on great wine dinners, special events, farm gates and cellar doors.  Pace yourself!

Other reviews of MFWF events can be found here:

Sharking for Chips and Drinks did a great review on the XXL BBQ event at Campari House – but lamented the lack of quality.

Jetsetting Joyce of Mel: Hot or Not did a fantastic review of the Masterclasses she attended by Dan HunterRosio Sanchez, and Corey Lee,  as well as the Mr Mason France vs Australia Dinner, the Sweets Exhibition at the Immigration Museum, AND her express lunch at La Luna Bistro.  Major effort Joyce!

Claire from Melbourne Gastronome attended a number of events (including Joost, Food Trucks Unite, and the BBQ Battle at Newmarket) and summed them all up in her Fortnightly Round Up post.  And was also called upon to judge the cornucopia of cakes that were entered into a competition at the BikeFest Village Picnic at Abbotsford Convent.  A review of the picnic was done by Squeaky Wheel and can be found here.

Sofia from Poppet’s Window did a review of the first Saturday of the festival in various locations along the Yarra – she should get points for enduring the weather which was rainy, and not at all conducive to a fun day gallivanting around an outdoor festival! But she managed to enjoy herself anyway.  She also attended a number of Masterclasses which she reviewed here.

Essjay wrote a great post about the philosophy behind the Greenhouse by Joost, and enjoyed lunch there, while the Hedonista had a completely different viewpoint that might prove controversial!  And then there’s also Ms I-Hua’s take on it as well here.

Iron Chef Shellie wrote about her impressive Vintage High Tea at Werribee Mansion which was put on as part of the MFWF.

Fatboo reviews a selection of Express Lunches on his blog “Let’s get fat together” after finding that many of the MFWF events were beyond his price point – he provides an interesting perspective on using the lunches as an opportunity to scope out restaurants for future dinners.   Similarly, the duo that are Brunch Addict wrote about their Express Lunch at Pearl. Further Natalie from “Let Me Feed You” also gave a run down on Express Lunches at Red Spice Road, Libertine and Grossi Florentino, as well as a run down on the Taco Truck and Beatbox Kitchen.

Express lunches seems to be the way a lot of people have gone, with Kat from Spatula, Spoon and Saturday taking in classy establishments such as Bistro Vue and Embrasse.

Talking of the Truck Jam, Gerard and Marg from “Two Munch” give their rundown on it, plus their thoughts on Joost!

Steve and Minda give a good run down of their activities on their Barley Blog, which included the wet and rainy Riverside Opening Saturday and the Gala Dinner.

For something a bit different, Thanh from “I Eat therefore I Am” gave his perspective on the St Kilda Brew Event at Veludo.  And, “Almost Always Ravenous” gave a great review on the IGA Longest Lunch Event.

I’m sure I’ve missed a range of blogger’s reports – so please feel free to add yours into the comments below.  Especially if you attended a special MFWF event….  I think it’s great that we can provide our own perspective on our experiences – you never know – you could discover your own “must-do” events based upon someone’s review.

And of course, don’t forget to check out the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Facebook page for further photos and stories.

Looking forward to 2013 – when the MFWF turns 21!  In the meantime… the Comedy Festival’s just around the corner… that should keep us amused for awhile (excuse the pun!).