Culture, Food, Wine

The Hungry Expat Bites into Bulgaria

Back in June, I had the good sense to visit the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show , where the event’s Cheese Alley beckoned my inner (and outer) cheese addict. What’s more, I had the good fortune to meet Elio Litti, a representative for the EU Dairy Daily, a three-year program that aims to promote Bulgarian – yes, Bulgarian – dairy products in both Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Now, the UAE, I could understand. One thinks of camels, not cows, deserts, not dauphinoise, in the land of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But wanting to gain a foothold in Australia, which already boasts 6,700 dairy farmers and a thriving $13 million dairy industry? How were the EU Dairy Daily and the Bulgarian Association of Dairy Processors going to do that? I was keen to learn more.

And learn more I would. A couple of weeks after my fateful meeting with Elio, I received an invitation to be a delegate on the EU Dairy Daily’s next mission, to, you guessed it – Bulgaria! I would join two other Australian bloggers, an Aussie dietitian, and a handful of delegates from the UAE, among them a cheese importer (my new best friend?), an executive chef, and several businessmen.

For five days in September, I would come to learn a great deal about the Bulgarian dairy industry and its prides and joys, from white-brine cheese, to kashkaval, to its famous yoghurt. But so much more than that, I learned about the country’s interesting and challenging history, its people, the remarkable cities of Sofia and Plovdiv, the land’s beautiful countryside, and its food as a whole. In the coming weeks, follow me on my epic and tasty trip (nine airports in 12 days!) to Bulgaria. I also threw in a long weekend in Milan, Italy, for good measure (though not for my waistline!), where it was a continuing festival of food and friendship. I hope you’ll join me.

BulgariaBlog1Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria


Food, Wine

A Wine, A Woman, and Almost a Song

As I mentioned on The Hungry Expat’s Facebook page, yesterday was National Sparkling Red Day here in Australia. I found out about this bubbly day through an industry newsletter but can find very little information about it outside other web forums such as this one. I will simply suspect marketing genius and leave it at that. After all, it’s an excuse to have a glass of wine, right? (As if we need another … )

So yesterday, I set out for my token celebratory glass of sparkling red at Tapavino on Bulletin Street, near Circular Quay in Sydney. Tapavino has only one sparkling red on its wine list, so my decision was an easy one: the NV Vilarnau Brut Rosé from Penendès, Spain. Described on the wine list as “light and clean with raspberry notes and a likable finish,” the drop lived up to its promise. It was a bright wine with a vibrant, beautiful raspberry colour. It had a gentle effervescence that almost had me singing “Tiny Bubbles” (the other patrons were spared), and its indeed likable flavour didn’t linger too long on the tongue.

According to Tapavino’s Frank Dilernia, the wine pairs well with the tapas bar’s jamon dishes and charcuterie. Or try it with the gravlax. Basically, he said to go for the salty, the fatty, the oily. (Twist my arm.)  And avoid the vinegary.

If you want to follow my lead, you can enjoy a glass at Tapavino for $11 or indulge in a bottle for $68. (In the interest of full disclosure, The Hungry Expat’s glass was on the house.)

Did you celebrate Sparkling Red Day? And even if you didn’t, do you have a favourite sparkling red?



Best Classroom Evah!

In my humble quest for greater food-and-wine knowledge, I recently attended a wine-appreciation class through the Sydney Wine Academy (they had me at the name!) at Ryde College. The program came highly recommended from winemaker friend Dan Binet at Ballabourneen in the Hunter Valley. Given how much I enjoyed the class and how much I learned in such a short period, I hope to continue my wine studies there indefinitely. My love of wine is great; my ability to speak (and write!) intelligently about that love … well, there’s always room for editing.

I met my fellow wine appreciators—about 14 in all, an intimate group—in the school’s lounge area, where we were told that the class would be taught in the wine lab. Now, I am a woman of words; science has never been my strong suit. But a wine lab? This was a scientific discipline I could get behind—even excel at! Bring on the experiments!

The lab did not disappoint. Though test tubes, flasks, and safety goggles were still in evidence (and as chill inducing as ever), so, too, were rows upon rows of wine glasses, casks, vineyard soil samples, and corks. And wine! Lots and lots of wine. This was a happy place. In fact, unlike my Year 12 Physics lab, from which I often ran screaming, I was sooo comfortable in the wine lab that I had to be kicked out by the cleaning people 15 minutes after the class had officially concluded.

Taught by French-born Aussie wine lecturer Jean-Claude Ferrier, the first night of class took us through a more in-depth approach to sensory evaluation (flavours, taste, mouthfeel, the influence of the vineyard), the winemaking process, Australian wines and wine regions, varietal characteristics, and finally, a sampling of 10 white wines (again, primarily Australian). (On a side note, though my palate is indeed becoming more discerning with practice, I must admit that I’m baffled by such aroma descriptors as gooseberry and mulberry. I don’t even know what they would smell like on their own, let alone as part of the complexity of a wine.)

The following week, we tackled the reds, as well as wine faults, climatic effects, the impact of oak and barrels, wine maturation, decanting, and cellaring.

I would recommend the class to anyone who wants to learn more about evaluating a nice drop or who wants to take their casual appreciation of wine to the next level.

Now, armed with my TAFE statement in Wine Appreciation and my pre-existing love of the fermented grape, I’m off to do homework in the wine bars of Sydney. Next stop: Tapavino on Bulletin Place to match some Spanish wines with some of the spot’s lovely tapas. Gotta love higher education!