Coming to Geelong for 31 mouth-watering day throughout July is the annual ‘Tastes of Central Geelong’ festival, celebrating all things delicious in the region. A real favourite on the foodie festival calendar, as per usual, you can make your way into Central Geelong to sample gourmet food and drink and participate in food-themed activities and offers from restaurants and cafes who need your support.
While the festival is known for its celebrations in the heart of the city, this year also allows you to enjoy Tastes from the comfort of your own home and learn tricks of the trade from local chefs, try exclusive recipes, dine at home or build your own menu items.
With tonnes of activities on offer, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned foodie or a new-found food lover, young or young at heart, we can guarantee that there will be something new and enticing for you to devour, and this year, it’s more important than ever to support local restaurants and cafes.
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit by the lockdown measures enforced months ago to slow the spread of COVID-19, with consumers across the country ordered to stay home and pubs, restaurants and cafes told to shut their doors or adapt their business to the best of their abilities.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the thriving foodie scene in Geelong has a long road to recovery – and the Tastes of Central Geelong is giving it a push with a program aimed at helping Central Geelong eateries get back on their feet.
“It’s a return to what we enjoy doing, traditional regional cuisine,” Amanda Rimmer, Owner of Caruggi Italian Restaurant, says of this year’s Tastes of Central Geelong festival. “It’s a reminder or glimpse of normality in a landscape that keeps moving the boundary.”
Providing Geelong with delicious Northern Italian Cuisine, Caruggi has long being the perfect place to sit back in a relaxed atmosphere and immerse yourself in all that is Italian, with pasta so good it will rival your nonna’s.
However, even with spaghetti Bolognese or pappardelle al sugo del giorno as good as theirs, Caruggi weren’t immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“During the lockdown we did many things, some were successful others not so,” Amanda explains. “We started trading as an Enoteca and pasta fresca. There was pick-up to heat-later meals in a cabinet as well as the pasta and sauces. Our wine was all available retail and still is. We did hot pick-up all day and delivery on weekends. We had a panini window open using Massi’s (head chef) homemade focaccia bread which was very popular with the few office workers that were left.
“Now that we can have people on seats it’s much better, even with only 20 we are a restaurant, we need people and food on plates,” she continues. “In saying that, the pasta fresca and retail element will remain as an add on to what we do.”
This year, Caruggi will again take part in the festival with three very special events that will have you salivating.
First up there’s ‘A Night In Parma – The Capital of Emilia Romagna Food Traditions’ on Thursday July 16, which sees Caruggi taking guests to Parma with a four-course banquet style menu, immersing them in Italian culture paired with stunning regional wine.
As for flavours to expect, Amanda says: “Think Parma, Modena, Bologna and Verona. The homes of Parma Ham, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Ragu, amaretti biscuits, gnoccho fritto and Sangiovese based wines.” Twist my arm…
Their second event, ‘A Wine Journey Through Italy’ is all about discovering Italy’s indigenous grape varieties with matching snacks. The experts at Caruggi will take guests through a range of wines, while sipping and enjoy a lovely Sunday afternoon on July 26.
“Italian wine has an amazing diversity with the most varieties grown of any wine producing nation,” she explains. “Italy has many indigenous varieties that are grown in tiny micro climates and have evolved over years to become their own bio-type. I love that you can have a glass of wine from a variety that the Romans may have also drunk.”
Their last event is more of a gift for fans of Italian foods (definitely us), with their Pasta Fresca Box, allowing you to make their own pasta sensations. Using the three pastas and four sauces provided in the box (all lovingly housemade), you can mix and match to build your own delicious pasta. If you’re looking for a way to take the effort out of a mid-week meal, but don’t want to skimp on quality and taste, this is for you.
“I love that Central Geelong comes together in winter to celebrate great food offerings,” Amanda adds. “This is our fifth year now and both Central Geelong and Tastes have grown at an incredible pace.
“The festival celebrates the diversity of offerings available and brings together people in the middle of winter. We have people travel in from the Bellarine and further afield for the banquets, it promotes Geelong as the food capital of a food producing region.”
Alongside the Italian goodness from Caruggi, there is so much more to do, see and taste at Geelong’s Tastes of Central Geelong festival, including ‘Pick and Mix Tastings’ where you can customise your own self-guided tasting experience to explore and sample some of Central Geelong’s eateries; a ‘Cook the Dish & Win’ competition which encourages home bakers to take on recipes from ALMA Restaurant, Cakesmith, Twisted Dessert Bar and Westend; and of course dinner events, high teas and tasting experiences held in some of Central Geelong’s establishments.
Restaurants and cafes will also be battling it out to be crowned Geelong’s favourite dessert in the Central Geelong Dessert Wars, and there will be a variety of kids’ activities including the Central Geelong Kids Treat Hunt, donut decorating and more.
For those preferring to play at home, foodies can also indulge in online food and drink lessons including cooking classes and tea workshops; a variety of dinner, lunch and afternoon tea packages to dine at home with; or if you’re feeling inspired, home chefs can experiment with a range of DIY kits or build your own menu items including make your own pizza or pasta and a DIY Southern Breakfast.
There’s also a tonne of limited time, special offers available during the festival so you can support local without breaking the bank!
Quite simply, our local restaurants and cafes need your help to recover as they start to open their doors. There are lots of ways you can show your support – from participating in a Tastes event or offer, to booking ahead at your favourite eatery.
The festival runs from July 1 – July 31. For the full Tastes of Central Geelong program, to book into Tastes activities and for more information visit www.centralgeelong.com.au/tastes