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The Best Things to Eat, See and Do at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2016

Celebrate the city's culinary culture with laneway parties, bacon tributes and lots and lots of dairy.
By Kayla Larson
February 18, 2016
By Kayla Larson
February 18, 2016


Celebrate the city's culinary culture with laneway parties, bacon tributes and lots and lots of dairy.

Gather the troops — and your stretchiest clothing — for a solid ten days of sipping and sampling. It's March, and that means the dinner plates are out for the city's biggest excuse for eating and drinking itself silly: the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

Running from March 4-13, there are over 290 events on offer over the ten-day festival, so whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just looking for something new to learn, do or taste, there’s a smorgasbord of events to try. This year's festival hub is all about dairy products (read: the best products) and the events cover everything from bacon to cheese to mussels to locally-brewed beer. We’ve chosen two hands-worth that are not only exceptionally hunger-inducing, but that you can actually still get tickets to.

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    Crawl 'n' Bite

    Undoubtedly some of the best fun (and best value) events of the festival, the Crawl ‘n’ Bite nights have been a highlight in previous years. And the good news is, they’ve upped the ante this year with more crawls than ever — so there’s still some tickets left. While the whisky bar and oriental crawls sold out quick sticks, you can still book in for one of eight crawls.

    Go on a tour of northside’s “hippest” hotspots, which will see you scoff your gob with snacks from Huxtaburger, Biggie Smalls and Belle’s Hot Chicken. Or perhaps you’d rather bar hop between the CBD’s rooftop bars? At the Rooftop Cocktails crawl you’ll sip — you guessed it — cocktails above the city at Bomba, Loop Roof and Madame Brussels. See the full list of crawls happening here. And the best part? You don’t even have to get on your hands and knees to take part.

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    The Urban Dairy MFWF Festival Hub

    Last year it was a bakery, and this year the MFWF festival hub is an Urban Dairy. Setting up shop at Queensbridge Square once again, the hub will gather a feast of cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream makers from both around the corner and across the globe to produce their signature creamy delights. Home and homage to all things dairy, the likes of Big Gay Ice Cream, Gelato Messina and Gontran Cherrier will make an appearance, as well as world-leading experts who’ll be leading dairy workshops. 

    As well as being a place to pop in for a drink throughout the ten-day festival, the hub will host a range of events. The King Island Blues Night will be a cracker as blues are played to accompany your blue cheese, while the Cheese Toastie Invitational will impress with chefs showing you just what they can do with a sandwich press. 

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    HEAT's Homeless Lunch

    Prepared by Hospitality Education and Training (HEAT) students, this fine dining lunch will host over 230 people who are currently homeless or have been in the past at the mouth of Luna Park. This dining experience, designed by HEAT patron Guy Grossi, gives Melbourne’s homeless community the chance to come together and be treated to a rare three-course lunch while also raising awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness and disadvantage.

    You can’t actually attend this lunch, but by making a ticket donation, you can assist disadvantaged youth in developing self-esteem and gain accredited training qualifications — and give someone the gift of a hot lunch. And that’s the most fulfilling event we’ve heard of yet.

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    Mussel Mouth

    Put some mussel where your mouth is and join The Rochester Hotel’s Miss Katie’s Crab Shack for a perfect pairing and party of Bellarine Peninsula’s finest mussels, beer and wine. Aligning with Miss Katie’s strong focus on sustainable and ethically sourced produce, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival dinner will showcase sustainably farmed mussels from Portarlington supplier, Mighty Mussel. Delicious morsels will be paired with local beverages from craft brewers Beers By The Bay, and wines from renowned Scotchmans Hill winery. To top it off, you can grill your hosts about their produce and practices while you mussel, beer, wine, repeat.

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    Fromage a Trois: Cheese and Cider Festival 2016

    After everyone went nuts over the Cheese Please Festival, it’s pretty clear that Melburnians love some rare, stinky cheese. Add some delicious cider to the table and you’ve got one heck of an afternoon. Setting up shop at the magnificent Werribee Mansion, Fromage a Trois will showcase Australian boutique cider producers and artisan cheesemakers, who’ll be displaying their tasty wares for you to sample and inevitably take home by the wheel-load.

    For those particularly interested in the process behind the practice, there’ll be a demonstration stage where you can get educated on cheese appreciation, as well as some more intimate masterclasses on offer. If you want to get the best tips for your own cider or cheesemaking adventures, we recommend having a chat to the stallholders — they’ll undoubtedly talk your ear off about the good stuff.

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    Brewed Locally, Built by Locals

    Spend some time at Two Birds Brewing, who have feathered their Nest (that is, their Spotswood tasting room) for the launch of their “west-side beer”. Made using all-Australian malt and hops, Two Birds will launch this one-off batch while showcasing the artwork, furniture and timber of local artists and craftsman who worked on building The Nest.

    The brewery itself is in an ex-tooling and machinery factory which, amongst other things, built equipment to fabricate and fill beer cans. Now it’s home to Australia’s first female-owned and operated breweryTheir house chef will create something special with the grain and wort from the beer, so sit back and relax to tunes from local DJ Larrabee.

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    The Baconing

    Ever wished your Manhattan would come with a hint of bacon and walnut bitters? Well, now you do. And you’ll get the chance to try one with all-Americana joint The B.East mixing up Big Mama Thorntons for this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival: a crispy, bacon-infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon bastardised take on the classic cocktail. With the help of Istra Smallgoods, they’ve also created three smokey courses of bacony glory. We’re talking maple bacon donuts with free-range pork crackling, bacon and sage-stuffed pork belly with bacon bone gravy, and a decadent bacon and dulce de leche ice-cream. 

    PBS Radio Funk and Soul DJs will be spinning tunes with live bands keeping the party rolling from late. The menu will be available all day on Saturday, March 5. You can just rock up or buy a ticket beforehand for $53, which will get you all three courses of bacon goodness and a beer or cider.

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    Fiction in the Kitchen

    Our relationship between food and fiction runs deep. From Alice’s poetic musings in Alice in Wonderland, to those surprisingly dark songs of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s Oompa Loompas, our relationship with food is evident on the page — as anyone who felt hungry while reading Life of Pi can attest. Pay homage to this rich tradition by pairing it with a soul-warming feast of local produce and biodynamic wine. Held over two nights, it will be a sensory treat for the brain and palate with readings from the world’s best food fiction, a lamb feast from local ethical farmers, biodynamic wines from Delatite, and a chat with winemaker David Ritchie.

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    Tokyo Laneway Festival

    Be transported to a neo-Tokyo laneway, complete with street food vendors, yakitori BBQ, Harajuku girls, live graffiti art and a pop-up bar featuring craft beer and Japanese cocktails. The izakaya-inspired menu, put together by Sake‘s executive chef for the festival, will feature Victorian produce prepared using modern Japanese cooking techniques, reminiscent of street food vendors in Tokyo. Cocktails will be shaken and stirred at the laneway bar, where you can garnish Japanese creations with locally-grown herbs, flowers and leaves. It’s the very best of Tokyo’s street food and craft beer scene. Kampai!

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