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Event Spotlight: Extravaganza Eat Drink Discover

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Event Spotlight: Extravaganza Eat Drink Discover

Last weekend Geelong’s Cunningham Pier played host to the inaugural Geelong Extravaganza, an epic celebration of the diverse food and wine culture pouring out of the 100km radius that is the Greater Geelong region.

The festivities began on Saturday night, with a dinner held at Bavaris, local stalwart of Geelong fine dining, on Cunningham Pier overlooking the stormy harbour. The evening’s meal was the collaboration of four chefs from the region: Andy Pye, Robin Wickens, Darius Sarkis and Sue Dixon, each bringing something of their personal background and regional base to the richly nuanced feast. Local Geelong dignitaries, including City of Greater Geelong Major, Councilor Keith Fagg and Geelong Otway Tourism Executive Director, Roger Grant, were in attendance, proud to be the punters of local enterprise.

The main event on the Sunday - open to passers-by as well as pre-booked enthusiasts - brought food and wine producers from Timboon to Torquay together in the same room, reeling with one another to show-off their finest tastes and tipples.

Cunningham Pier was transformed into a fanfare of the gourmet, with over 60 stallholders, purveying everything from Brillat Savarin Style triple-cream cheese (L’Artisan Cheese, Timboon) to locally farmed oysters and mussels (Sea Bounty, Bellarine Peninsula) to a skeptical-sounding but undeniably tasty marinated pickled fennel (Spread, Port Campbell).

Twenty-five beer, wine and cider producers made sure the complementary Govino glass distributed upon arrival was never left empty. Hopsy India black ale, by Prickly Moses from the Otway Estate, shocked palettes into chocolatey, burnt-caramel reveries, while novice Cider Company Flying Brick from the Bellarine, had no difficulty convincing beer and wine purists that their naturally brewed nips bore no resemblance to the sickly sweet “glorified ready-to-drinks” overshadowing boutique cider culture.

Even the most devout wine connoisseur was not left disappointed by Sunday’s offerings. The bounty of small, artisan producers, who self-confessedly admit, they “could rabbit on for hours about wine” laid rest to the gross misconception that great Victorian wines reside in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula alone.

Geelong Extravaganza event director, Penny Whitehead, said that despite the overall cooler climates in Geelong, there is a great disparity between the coastal aspects of the wineries down on the Surf Coast versus those on the Bellarine Peninsula and the Moorabool Valley, where more volcanic soil prevails.

“There’s a real diversity of wine producers coming out of Geelong,” she told Eventfinda.

Sweet-tooths were generously catered for, with a date-appropriate Christmas in July Pudding fudge (Fudgealicious) and white choc chip and cranberry cookies (from Bake with Faith) encouraging queues of young and old alike lining up to get their sugar fix. Torquay’s popular La Madre bakery had mouth-watering sweet treats on offer, holding their own alongside a prestigious collection of spelt, sourdough and focaccia, which blotted with a little of their house olive oil, afforded indulgence enough for the more savory-natured.

Reaching the end of this tantalising foodie trail, folks put their decanters aside and threw away their toothpicks to nestle in with Poh Ling Yeow, their MC at the Kitchen Corner Stage, for some real-time epicurean education. Live pro demonstrations and discussions took place all throughout the day, from delightful host Poh to the region’s most-respected chefs and personalities; Andy Pye from Kooringa Estate, demonstrated how to cook with mussels, Ayan Tung, a Sudanese refugee living in Geelong, enlightened on the many virtues of saffron, and Nathan Johnston, of Cartel Roasters, overwhelmed audiences with coffee know-hows, including the fact that espresso has over 1200 different flavor compounds, to which bacon rind is not immune!

The education did not stop there. Five different master classes operated throughout the day, dishing out the information on Pinot, seafood and coffee roasting. Little Creatures Brewery, who are now operating out of Geelong’s heritage-listed, red brick old wool mills concluded the seminars with insight into their brewing techniques and future plans for the brand from their new Geelong base.

A small hawker market provided some more substantial snack options for those in for the long haul – paella (Paella Pan Catering), chocolate and churros (Churros Yummy Donuts) and dumplings (Wun Hung Lo Dumplings Co) were just some of the gastro-grub being whipped up in mini kitchens, their aromas sent wafting along the Geelong foreshore.

Penny Whitehead said she hopes the event will eventually become a tourism opportunity to promote Geelong and all its food and wine producers.

“But it’s also very much about showing locals what’s on their door step because I think we’re all guilty of thinking, ‘oh that winery’s fifteen minutes away – I’ll just do that next weekend.”

The brainchild of a committee of four, including Penny, all with backgrounds in wine, tourism and hospitality, Geelong Extravaganza was inspired by a strong sense of pride in the region.

“We really want to bring to everyone’s attention to how special Geelong is.”


-  Alice Bradley