Life Eat & Drink Must-dos at the Melbourne Food and Wine Fest
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Must-dos at the Melbourne Food and Wine Fest

Daniel Mahon
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While you were busy being overwhelmed by Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s program, signature events sold out. It’s a tough reality to face, but there are still plenty of culinary opportunities to be seized. This year’s theme is water, an element that grows, transports and transforms everything we eat and drink.

Here are some not-to-be-missed festival highlights.

TOP VALUE

The Immersery | Free, Feb 28 – Mar 16| Queensbridge Square, Southbank

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The organisers of MFWF refer to The Immersery as a meeting place, but it’s less about meeting and more about eating—top local chefs including Daniel Wilson (Huxtable, Huxtaburger) and Jesse Gerner (Añada & Bomba) put together the menu. Learn how to make the most of rainwater to grow plants and food by day, and enjoy a Seppelt cocktail (an ode to water in its three forms: liquid, solid and gas) by night when The Immersery transforms into a riverside bar.

Nha Trang Yacht Club | $35, Mar 2 | Harbour Room, St. Kilda

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The team from Hanoi Hannah and Saigon Sally are replicating Vietnam’s infamous Nha Trang Yacht Club, Melbourne-style. That means on a rooftop, with Vietnamese mint, ginger and chilli mojitos, soft shell crab rice paper rolls and a sea breeze. Expect food stalls and live music to boot.

Dehydrate, Simmer & Boil | $55, Mar 8-11 | Mr. Nice Guy, CBD
When your name translates to ‘fish’ in English you know a thing or two about cooking it. Pla, owner of Thai favourite Mr. Nice Guy, is putting on a three-course dinner for authentic of Thai cooking without the airfare.

INTERNATIONAL CRED

Langham Melbourne MasterClasses |$320 full day or $595.00 weekend, Mar 8 – 9 | The Langham, Southbank

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The MasterClasses are always a draw card at MFWF and with good reason. Alongside Melbourne’s favourite chefs, international stars walk guests through recipes, personal stories, kitchen creations and then close with a taste of their craft in an intimate setting. This year’s global greats include Rodolfo Guzmán from Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants #8 restaurant Boragó; Johnny Iuzzini from New York’s Sugar Fuelled, armed with the ability to redefine dessert; Mauro Uliassi from two Michelin starred Risotrante Uliassi in Senigallia with his whimsical seafood techniques; and many more.

Nobu Matushisa | $250, Mar 5 | Nobu, Southbank

This one-off dinner event is an incredibly rare opportunity to meet world-famous Japanese chef, Nobu Matushisa. The water-inspired, eight-course menu—prepared alongside prodigy chef Christopher Shane Chan Yai Ching—will showcase the best of Nobu’s 25 restaurants across the globe. Go easy on the matched sake so you can remember dishes such as Umamijime toothfish with truffle soy for years to come.

FOR THE FAMILY

Ice Cream Party | Free entry, Mar 15 – 16 | Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, Yarra Glen

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Use the kids as an excuse to indulge in limited edition ice cream flavours surrounded by the stunning 40-acre orchard, wetlands and landscaped grounds of the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. With over 20 flavours on offer, the festival flight of five inspired by local produce and bush tucker is the way to go. There will also be a limited edition ice cream sundae menu, best enjoyed from the café terrace with a side of free chocolate samples.

Little Foodies Corner | Free, Mar 1 – 2 | Queensbridge Square, Southbank

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Forget Junior MasterChef; bring the kids to the Little Foodies Corner for interactive workshops. Budding chefs will cook up a storm while appreciating Victoria’s diverse culinary culture. Let them choose between becoming a sushi maestro, assembling Greek dolmades like a Greek god(dess), or learning how to make Vietnamese rice paper rolls for the family. Suitable for ages three to eleven. 

FOODIES ONLY

On Water: Eight Speakers, Eight Stories | $20 ($12 concession), Mar 11 | The Athenaeum, CBD
Sit back and spend an evening with eight extraordinary MFWF guests as they share their thoughts and stories on this year’s theme. Presented by MFWF and The Wheeler Centre, each speaker will reflect on the personal, political, scientific and culinary relevance of water.

Sous-Vide, Sake & Science | $80 ($60 Melbourne University alumni), Mar 2 | Tsubu, Carlton

There are certainly worse ways to spend a night than with sous-vide and sake. Join sous-vide specialist Sam Bate, Izakaya Den sake masters Takashi Omi and Simon Denton, and scientist Rackel San Nicolas and discover the best way to learn about sous-vide and sake: by eating, drinking and doing.

BLOW OUT BUT WORTH IT

Water Masterclass | $825 (really), Mar 15 | Bellarine Peninsula

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The crème de la crème of MFWF comes with a price tag to match, but if you can afford a once in a lifetime experience spending a day learning about and indulging in seafood with Peter Gilmore (award-winning chef of Sydney’s Quay restaurant), Michelin-starred UK seafood chef Nathan Outlaw and Aaron Turner (ex-Loam, Drysdale) on the Bellarine Peninsula, then you’re in for a treat. You’ll be driven to Portarlingon for insights from a seafood farmer, try your hand at fly fishing, smoke fish, eat an unforgettable four-course lunch with matched wines at Campbell Point House and gain access to some of the world’s best culinary minds.

Per-Anders Jörgensen Photography Workshop | $325, Mar 11 | The Essential Ingredient, South Yarra

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In a global first, Fool Magazine founder, photographer and co-editor Per-Anders Jörgensen is taking a hands-on workshop to share his understanding of what makes the perfect photograph. Aside from “knowledge, passion and understanding,” he will share tips, tricks and insights that have led to him becoming one of the most remarkable photographers in the food world. 

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival runs from February 28 – March 16.

Sofia Levin is a Melbourne-based writer and food blogger.