With the full weight of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival program about to land, it's a good time to be decisive. This year MFWF turns 25 and the 10-day celebration includes more than 200 events, dinners, classes, tastings, shindigs and talks across Victoria. The program and website are easier to navigate than ever before but that's still a lot of information to process, so we've done the hard yards for you. Here's a guide to some of the stuff we reckon you shouldn't miss.
In past years the Festival Hub has been a pop-up by the Yarra, but this time around it's moving to a laneway off Little Lonsdale Street and is called the House of Food and Wine. It should also be a House of Fun, what with a bar that's open from noon every day highlighting Victorian booze and snacks and a line-up of events that includes Italo Disco and Dining Club, an Italian street party being thrown by Melbourne-born Sydneysiders Maurice Terzini (Icebergs) and Giovanni Paradiso (Fratelli Paradiso, 10 William St), the Melbourne debut of Rootstock, Sydney's excellent celebration of the raw, the natural and the indigenous, and Fire 2.0 that will see pits, coals and barbecues put to good use by a line-up of chefs including Neil Perry, Lennox Hastie and Dave Verheul.
The House of Food and Wine will also house a gallery where Gourmet Traveller's Anna Vu will be exhibiting the humorous, idiosyncratic drawings of food that have made her Instagram account Good Food Crap Drawing a cult hit. The exhibition will include drawings inspired by Melbourne's dining culture over the last 25 years, plus a new drawing each day, inspired by dishes Vu eats during the festival.
Eagle-eyed observers will have noticed that MFWF is being held about a month later than normal. This is to coincide with the announcement of The World's 50 Best Restaurants at the Royal Exhibition Building in early April. To emphasise this meeting of events, 2017's MasterClass has been organised as a celebration of and tribute to the 50 Best with each of the eight sessions featuring chefs who are or have been on the list. (Here's a full rundown of the MasterClass program; it's a cracker.)
Another long-running festival favourite, the World's Longest Lunch this year pays tribute to Australia's best-known Little Italy with a 600-metre-long table running down Lygon Street in Carlton. The table will seat 1,600 guests, with a menu designed by Italian celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio, inspired by his latest book, Vegetables. Trigger warning: there will be street performers.
The World's Longest Lunch
Longest Lunches will also be held throughout regional Victoria, including one lakeside in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne, an Argentine feast at a railway station frequented by Puffing Billy in Gembrook, under the olive trees at Mount Zero Olives estate in the Grampians, and on the lounge deck of the ferry that runs between Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula and Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Fans of Stephanie Alexander and her Kitchen Garden Foundation won't want to miss the lunch at Stonefields, the beautiful property owned by renowned garden designer Paul Bangay, near Daylesford. Chef Annie Smithers and her team from nearby Du Fermier will be cooking dishes from Alexander's latest book, A Cook's Table, with all profits going to the Kitchen Garden Foundation.
Back in town, South Melbourne restaurant Lûmé is hosting a dinner called Art versus Science: The Future of Food, for which Professor Hans Edelmen from Prague's Institute of Culinary Technology will team up with chef Shaun Quade for "an immersive dining event" that includes the participation of theatre and music groups.
Those interested in modern Turkish food should keep an eye out for Young Turks, a Sunday lunch cooked by Somer Sivrioglu (Sydney's Efendy and Anason), Coskun Uysal (Melbourne's Tulum) and Kemal Barut (Lezzet in Melbourne) with Turkish wines selected by sommelier Tan Sumer.
It's going to be a busy Festival, particularly with the influx of international chefs and media that arrive with the announcement of The World's 50 Best Restaurant list. Bookings open on 25 November. Time to get organised.
The 25 Melbourne Food and Wine festival runs from 31 March, 2017 to 9 April 2017. Information and bookings at mfwf.com.au
Gourmet Traveller is the proud media partner of The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.