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Finalists for Regional Restaurant of the Year 2018
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These three restaurants - Fleet, Brae and Igni - might not be in capital cities, but their food is all the more satisfying for the time it takes to travel there.

Living off the land in winter
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The life of a farmer revolves around the seasons. Come winter, a certain thriftiness is needed in the kitchen to make the most of meagre produce, writes Paulette Whitney.

Why breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day in Italy
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Melbourne Tomato Festival 2015

Guy Grossi, Melbourne Tomato Festival

Guy Grossi, Melbourne Tomato Festival

Hey, Melbourne - there's a festival heading your way this March offering a taste of Italy's annual tomato harvest Down Under.

The Melbourne Tomato Festival is pegged as the key event in Victoria's Melbournese Movement - an initiative launched by the Grossi family (of Grossi Florentino) to preserve authentic Italian cooking and customs.

Traditionally, Italian families grow tomatoes in summer and turn the excess from each season into passata to use through the winter months. The festival, Guy Grossi tells us, draws inspiration from his childhood memories of this.

"Dad grew a crop of tomatoes in the backyard. Every year we would have the passata-making day," he says. "It's something I took for granted at the time because it was normal practice. As I grew up I realised the importance of this day. This was a celebration of our harvest".

The day-long event will celebrate the humble red fruit through with passata-making workshops, cooking demonstrations from the likes of MoVida's Frank Camorra and Rosa Mitchell of Rosa's Kitchen, as well as talks on produce, seasonality and permaculture from local experts. There will also be plenty for your palate's perusal, with some of Melbourne's favourite Italian wine bars and restaurants (Elyros, Enoteca Sileno and 400 Gradi, among them) taking part in a Italian-inspired market, offering meals, fresh produce and take-home treats.

Grossi's got his money on the international talent. "Fabrizia Lanza will be flying in from Sicily," he says, "to share her manifesto on the traditions of Sicilian cooking."

And he assures us the star fruit will be treated with the utmost respect. "Every tomato is saved - eaten or squashed for winter," he says. "No tomatoes will be harmed in the making of this festival."

The Melbourne Tomato Festival takes place on Sunday 1 March at Farm Vigano, 10 Bushmans Way, South Morang, Vic. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $10 for children from six to 13 years and can be purchased by visiting the festival's website. Children aged five and under can enter free of charge.

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