30 April - By Alyssa Mittiga
Tasting Australia has taken off in a blaze of delight, transforming Adelaide’s Victoria Square into a burning cooking pit of culinary wonder. Called the Town Square, its entrance leads to a village of street-food style vendors, housed in kitchens made from shipping containers. Each menu pays homage to the overarching theme of Charred, using wood-smoked, chargrilled and coal-fired cooking techniques.
Behind each counter is a hypnotic array of fiery pits used to demonstrate cooking with coals and flames. Cheong Liew, sporting a green bucket hat, bright blue heat gloves and heavy duty clothing, was the first cook to use the fire pit on Sunday. The necessity of his wardrobe became evident as he started to shovel his Beggars Chicken out from the hot coals.
Walking through the festival site, the air hissed with the sound of crackling timber and the muddled chatter of peckish patrons. Specks of white ash danced through the air like burning snowflakes. Haziness cleared as you entered the open-plan centre of the Town Square site, which is speckled with more food stalls, dining tables, bars, the Glasshouse kitchen and the new living library stall.
Fluorescent flames from Lyndoch Hill Stall’s barbecue – fuelled by local red gum, aged for four years in the Barossa Valley – gave an eye-catching performance among Town Square’s green grass. Head chef Alana Brabin believes the aged wood adds a richer flavour to her beef ribs ($18), and the longevity of its heat makes it a sustainable cooking fuel.
Each vendor has adapted recipes to incorporate charred cooking into their menu. Gelista has been especially creative, devising a flaming way to serving its traditionally ice-cold gelato. Teaming with the festival’s creative director Simon Bryant, Gelista has devised a flaming bombe Alaska ($12) that tantalises the taste buds with a cool citrus start and smoky finish. The Gelista stall will be especially creative on Thursday for an Asian-inspired night featuring a limited black sesame gelato.
Every stall within the Town Square will embark on a new venture inside the realm of charred cooking. Entrance is free and is open until Sunday.