Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Festivus for the rest of us

Food and wine festivals. They sound great, but are they? Before purchasing your ticket, it's worth doing a quick calculation to work out exactly what it is that you're getting for your money. The Auckland Seafood Festival cost me $17 or something last year, and what did I get in return? The privilege of queuing to pay for food slightly worse in quality than if I'd got it at the local fish and chip shop. Who is that festival for anyway? Is there anyone in New Zealand who hasn't tried prawns before?

The Waiheke Food and Wine Festival had a ticket price of $60 excluding transport costs, which was pushing it I thought. But on the bright side the wine was spectacular and incredibly well priced. I bought a glass of Passage Rock Reserve Syrah for $8, which according to my calculations would have cost around $25 in a restaurant. So I bought another. And another. And soon I'd made my $60 back and was even starting to enjoy the Beat Girls.

It was hard to make any money back on the food, which was being sold at full retail with few samples to speak of. The girlfriend twice tottered off to get something substantial but got put off by queues and returned each time with a measly whitebait fritter – magic beans having apparently all sold out by the time she arrived.

The good news is that if you had the patience to wait a few minutes, most of the food was varied and tasty. The dosas were delicious, the whitebait fritters were surprisingly whitebaitful, and pictured is my favourite of the day: Hungarian fried bready thing with a choice of toppings. All of the options looked pretty good, but on the proprietor's recommendation we went with the off-menu “jalapeno harissa topped with tomato and feta”.

You can try these Hungarian things for yourself at next year's event, or by going to the (free) Oratia Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings, where they have a regular weekly stall. Tough luck if you're hoping to try battered squid rings for the first time though - Auckland's next Seafood Festival isn't for another 12 months.