Tasting Australia and the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market Print
Written by Linda Hayes   
Tasting AustraliaI'm sitting at my desk in Colorado, flipping through my iPhone and drooling over photos I took during Tasting Australia, a weeklong, world-class culinary event that's held just every other year in Adelaide, the delightfully food-centric capital of South Australia.

This year, Tasting Australia took place in late April, which, while it may have been early spring in the Northern Hemisphere, was early fall Down Under. How odd (and slightly disorienting at first) it seemed, to be munching on things like chilli peppers and beetroot when, at home, asparagus and cherries were just showing up at market stands and on the pages of food magazines. Odd, but delicious.

But back to the event. In addition to a full schedule of media-oriented dinners, tours and visits to surrounding wine country, Tasting Australia included the BankSA Feast for the Senses presented by the LifeStyle FOOD Channel, a weekend celebration that's open to the public. Set at the edge of the meandering River Torrens, the Feast featured tastes of the region's bounty offered by friendly vendors set up in dozens of peaked white tents, while sailboats and rowers floated lazily by (above left).

Chips on a stickOver the two days, as many as 30,000 attendees queued up for paper cones filled with salt-and-pepper calamari, crisp curlicue potatoes on a stick (right), jams and chutneys made from local fruits and veggies, and sardines hot off the griddle. Naturally, there was plenty of local wine and beer around with which to wash it all down.

Along the way, I discovered that there's a wild side to South Australia cuisine, too, namely indigenous ingredients such as wattleseed, red quandong, kangaroo and witjuti grubs (yes, grubs). Originally known as Bush Tucker and now referred to as the far more appetizing Australian Native Foods, these ingredients date back thousands of years and were mainstays of Aboriginal cooking. Today, world-wise chefs around Australia are morphing them into sophisticated, palate-pleasing dishes.

At Feast For the Senses, tastes of some of these ingredients were offered at an Australian Native Food Industries booth in the form of seasonings, baked goods, grilled meats and dried fruits - and I enjoyed them all. But, curious cook and foodie that I am, I just had to get a little closer to the source. And that led me to visit the hugely popular Adelaide Showground Farmers Market, an every Sunday affair that showcases fresh, regional and seasonal produce, supports small local farmers and is just plain fun.

Aussie ice creamMy first stop, breakfast actually, was at the Bush Tucker Ice Cream stall (left), where I licked up a delicious wattleseed and mallee honey double-dip cone. After that, I strolled, stopping here and there to ogle just-picked Barossa cherries, plucky free-range eggs, rabbit schnitzels, wild scallops and fresh-baked Flour Power breads. I tasted locally made Woodside goat cheese, pepperoni sticks at Steiny's and organic wine from Wilke Estate. I wished that I could have picked up a massive Angus beef dog bone to bring home to Vino, my black Lab at home in Colorado. I did not encounter any grubs.

Altogether, it was a very fine time. Tasting Australia and the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market, not to mention the endless nibbles and sips I enjoyed in and around Adelaide at too-numerous-to-mention restaurants and cellar doors, added up to memories that will not soon be forgotten. I'm hoping that, before long, they'll lead me back Down Under for another taste.