Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gourmets and games

I ordered an ostrich burger, wondering how they found a bun big enough to fit around an ostrich.

Yes, regular readers will guess that I was at the Taste Of Tasmania, the post-Christmas food fair that kicks off the Hobart Summer Festival.

There were 70 food and wine stalls – including 12 new ones – set up in the cavernous building on Princes Wharf that the locals call (with vast understatement) "the shed". I can't say that my sister and I got around all 70, but we sampled a good selection of them.

I don't remember in detail which ones we visited but we got to at least
  • Tas Game & Gourmet
  • Pogo Ice Cream
  • Rosti Chalet
  • Wine & Oyster Bar
  • Sweet Sensations
  • Tasmanian Wines

We tried the wallaby cabana, the ostrich burger, the venison burger, bacon gruyere rosti, mushroom goat-cheese rosti, and olie bolen pastries. Julie sampled the wooded Chardonnay and the oyster shooters while I stayed with the coffee and mineral water.

There was more live entertainment than you could shake a stick at. We caught the end of the lively performance by musical group Shemozzle on the Festival Café stage, and Tony Voglino was doing some spirited Elvis songs on the Shed One Stage.

I haven't seen Shemozzle since they appeared at the Moonah Arts Centre and there was quite a difference between hearing them in that intimate venue and listening to them try to make an impression on a barn full of people eating and talking. It's a tribute to them that at times they could still get the toes tapping and the head bobbing in time to the music (well, at my table anyway)

Outside, a big crowd gathered in the buskers' area to watch Mr Fish, who rode around on a ten-foot unicycle while juggling knives and kicking a plastic fish into the goldfish bowl he was wearing on his head. Obviously the result of years of practice.

We called in at the Salamanca greengrocer then drove home and made a cup of tea. While we were resting and sipping our drinks the phone rang.

"Hello, Michael, aren't you supposed to be somewhere?"

Hell, it's Tuesday! We were supposed to be around at Ivan & Edith's for dinner twenty minutes ago!

That's the trouble with public holidays, they completely disorient your weekly routine. I knew what the date was and what the time was, but I'd lost all sensation of what day of the week it was.

We flew round there and sat down to a big dinner that looked suspiciously like one way of getting rid of all those Christmas leftovers, then they brought out a very unusual board game.

Sjoelen (pronounced something like a slurred "schooling") is a Dutch game played on a long wooden board. You have 28 wooden discs and you try to slide them through four openings at the other end of the board.

As usual, a brief description makes the game sound simple and uncomplicated. Actually playing it you discover things you should and shouldn't do if you want to get a good score. We divided into two teams of three – Ivan & Edith, Julie & I and the other two guests George & Judy.

Not surprisingly, Ivan & Edith came in with the highest score at the end. It was getting a bit late for another full game, but Julie played a few practice shots before Edith showed her this logic game that they'd been playing at Strahan recently.

Julie whizzed through game #1 easily, then Edith showed her game #36 which she said was the hardest one in the book. It was sort of like Rubik's cube in two dimensions. Characteristically she sat down and glowered at the board until she worked out the solution. "I'm very impressed," said Ivan from his armchair; "that's a very difficult one."

I was impressed too -- because it meant we could go home at last. Well, after we fed Julie's animals that is.

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