Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Chocolate Festival at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum. This was the first in a series of events by North South Feast West taking place this summer and autumn. Since arriving in Melbourne three months ago, I have yet to visit one of the many museums as I’m not really a museum type of gal, but chocolate was a good excuse to visit somewhere new. I took along beer geek and fellow foodie Brent from HaveBeer as we also had passes to the Belgian Beer and Chocolate Workshop which you could attend for an extra ten bucks. More on that later….
Food before booze, I suggested we grab lunch at the festival as I had read there was a selection of food stalls serving up traditional cuisine from the home town of the cocoa bean. The selection was somewhat smaller than I imagined with just two Melbourne-based restaurants; La Tortilleria and Los Amates serving up a handful of Mexican plates.
We decided to split and get one thing from each of the two stalls as trying new things is all part of the fun eh? Unintentionally, we both arrived back with tamales, a first try for us both. La Tortilleria’s chicken and jalapeno cheese tamales had more flavour, but the filling somewhat scarce with just a couple of shreds of chicken visible. What Los Amates made up for in substance, it was the flavour of the chicken in mole sauce which seemed to have gone amiss. Whilst glad we tried something new and cocoa-related we agreed that we would not be having tamales again.
Lunch was washed down with a beautiful Chocolate Hops beer from Mildura Brewery which was certainly to my taste with hints of vanilla and cocoa.
After a slightly disappointing lunch, we headed upstairs to the tasting rooms to get our sticky fingers on some free chocolate. Nearly all of the chocolate on offer was raw and organic which seems to be the in-thing in Melbourne and across the world. Gone are the days when a packet of Rolos were cool, it’s all about heath and sustainability now (personally there’s nothing I love better than devouring a huge bar of a fat-enriched, calorific Reece’s peanut butter cup).
Great minds think alike and we both agreed that friendly Pana’s unique softer chocolate and family-run Tonantzin’s inventive flavours were the best in class. I may even pick up some for my mother for when she comes to visit in seven weeks (!) – if she’s lucky 😉
Now on a sugar high, it was time to attend the Belgian Beer and Chocolate workshop hosted by Geert Hendrix from Palm Australia. Brent got his geek on and I eyed up the chocolate while Greet explained all about the history of Belgian beer. Surprisingly, I found the whole thing rather interesting and even liked most of the six beers we got to sample. The 90 minute session was definitely the highlight of the show and well worth the extra money.
In true Melbourne-style, what started out as a gloomy day turned into glorious sunshine so we took the opportunity to indulge in one of Mörk’s iced drinking chocolate with rum whilst watching the live acts that appeared on stage. Nor particularly old or boring I did find the volume slightly too loud for a relaxing Sunday arvo, especially when the museum’s courtyard was filled with families of all ages. I can’t imagine my grandparents getting down with some beats from DJ CC:DISCO, even if we were in hipster territory.
Compared with some of the other chocolate festivals I have attended in London, namely the Salon Du Chocolat and Chocolate Unwrapped, this was a fairly low-key event but no doubt a success for North South Feast West. There’s some room for improvement like a greater selection of food and drink stalls, but the day was an enjoyable one and we left with enough sugar inside us to last us a lifetime (or at least a couple of hours for me).
I’d like to check out North South Feast West’s Chilli Festival in April and Coffee Festival in June, both being held at the Immigration Museum and also their Whisky Tasting session in celebration of Burns Night later this month. You can find out more about upcoming North South Feast West events at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum on their Facebook page. Now it’s time for a lie down!
Living life, loving chocolate,