When I went out to meet an Old Friend a few weeks ago, I had no idea what delights I was in for (well, other than the delights of catching up with her). Upon meeting her at Town Hall, she suggested that we go and meet up with another friend of ours, who was visiting the Aroma Festival in The Rocks. She said that basically it was a festival of coffee, chocolate and spices, anything that smells good. As soon as she said the word chocolate, I was in 🙂 So the Old Friend and I wandered up to The Rocks, the main street of which was absolutely packed. And she hadn’t been kidding- there was a delicious aroma in the air, a mix of coffee and spices and sweetness. I hadn’t had lunch, but with that smell I felt like I could simply eat the air. I ended up having a gozleme for lunch, which if you haven’t had one before is a kind of gigantic savoury pancake/crepe thing, with fillings like cheese, spinach and mince or chicken, served with a wedge of lemon. Gozleme is one of my favourite festival foods- nearly every event you go to in Sydney seems to have at least one stand selling them. It’s great to watch the production line of women rolling out the dough, spreading them with filling and cooking them on hot plates before they’re chopped into pieces and thrown on a plate for you. They’re delicious, just simple flavours, and one of the things I like best about them is they aren’t greasy. They’re oily, yes, but they don’t leave you with the feeling that you’ve pressed your face into a vat of grease when you’re done. Anyway, one urge fulfilled, we moved on to explore the festival.
Being something of a chocoholic, I was absolutely delighted to see so many chocolate fountains. There is nothing quite like watching melted chocolate overflowing from one tier to another, filling the air with its warm, rich scent. It’s a good thing there was a glass cage between me and the fountain, or I wouldn’t have been able to resist just plunging face first into that liquid chocolate. There were skewers of strawberries, marshmallows and banana, which would be held under the fountain until they were dripping chocolate, then served to you on a paper plate. Absolutely to die for, particularly because the stalls were almost all specialist chocolate makers so the chocolate was divine. The Old Friend and I both had a chocolate shot- basically a paper shot glass full of milk or dark chocolate. Soooo gooood! We got milk chocolate shots from the Adora Chocolate stall, and they were rich, creamy and absolutely smooth. Fortunately they gave you a spoon, so you could scrape the maximum amount of chocolate from the sides of the cup. Unfortunately not even my tongue was long enough to lick all the chocolate from the insides, but I can tell you now I wanted to!
Another delight on the chocolate front was the Flower Fruits stall. They specialised in strawberries coated in chocolate and decorated in the most beautiful patterns, it was utterly amazing. You could buy them singly, as a box of three, or a box of six. We tried one of them, and it was spectacularly delicious, the strawberry flavour perfectly balancing the sweetness of the chocolate. Perhaps the most impressive though was the bouquet they had on display.
It was stunning. Imagine giving that to someone as a gift. Hell, imagine RECEIVING it as a gift! Wow. Just wow.
Another big focus of the festival, other than chocolate, was the coffee. Now I freely admit I am not a coffee person. I find it rather disgusting, in all its forms. It smells rather tasty sometimes (usually when it smells less like coffee and more like chocolate) but I’d really rather not drink it. Still, the rest of the population seems to love it, and there were sure a million stalls of every boutique kind of coffee you can imagine. Organic and free trade were very much in evidence. Of more interest to me, but less common, were the tea stalls. Tea is my brew of choice, and there were certainly a wide variety of unusual flavours as well as the normal ones. We stopped at the Chamellia Tea and Tisane stall to have a look at their selection. They had teabags out so you could smell the different flavours, which certainly helped to make a decision. I bought a box of loose leaf lemongrass and ginger tisane, which I have since had the opportunity to brew and try, and I can say now it’s delicious. It’s a very fresh, energising taste, more strongly lemongrassy at first but with a delightful ginger after taste. It also tastes fantastic cold, so each time I make a pot I refill it once I’ve made all the cups and let it cool, and then refrigerate it- a nice refreshing drink after a walk! The friend we met at the festival also quite likes tea, but had mostly just had ordinary black tea, so she was looking to try something a little bit different but not too adventurous. We eventually settled on Earl Grey, a fairly common flavour but the bergamot flavouring makes it quite distinctive. She messaged me later that night to say she’d tried it, it was deliciously smooth and she was glad she’d picked it, which is always a good result when you try something new!
Also available on the tea front were many different kinds of chai. I’m not a chai expert by any stretch of the imagination, and I was absolutely amazed at the different varieties. The Rainbow Chai stall had tiny pots of the different chais as well as some pots on the boil. I didn’t know this, but apparently there is both chai you brew in a pot like leaf tea, and chai that you boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or so. With the stuff you simmer, you can apparently add other teas as a base for the flavour. Amazing! What was even more stunning were the differences between the actual chai mixes. Some were fine and powdery, but some were made with whole cloves, pieces of cinnamon bark and cardamom pods. Usually, the chunkier it was the more it smelled- the chunkiest one had a scent strong enough to knock you sideways and leave a burning sensation in the back of your nose if you sniffed to hard. The lady at the stall was very helpful, discussing how to brew it and what went well with each flavour, and offering us different kinds to smell. In the end the friend bought a box of one of the spicier ones and also a box of Rainbow Chai which is a bit milder and their most popular blend, apparently.
Finally, the Old Friend and my other friend shared a Red Velvet cup cake. The stall had many different and interesting ones, all beautifully decorated- the red velvet was probably the simplest looking on there. In fact, they had a cake-size cupcake covered in fluted icing, it was beautiful. However, the Red Velvet contained the surprise that it was, in fact, red inside. Absolutely bright red, it was amazing, and I have it on good authority that it was very tasty. We also had miniature pavlovas, which were a bit lighter than I like (I like my pavlovas on the slightly chewy side) but were covered in delicious berry sauce or mango and passionfruit juice.
All this delicious food and drink was accompanied by various live bands. The whole experience was a smorgasboard for the senses with delicious aromas in the air, amazing looking food being prepared and presented on every side and the wonderful views of Circular Quay and The Rocks all around. Many thanks to the Old Friend for dragging me along!