February 22 2012 Australian Institute of Food Science & Technology Sensory Food & Wine Evening

I attended a food & wine sensory evening run by the AIFST at the Uni SA Health Sciences Sensory lab in Adelaide on Wednesday. The Sensory Lab is a new addition the school of Agriculture, Food & Science. It is small and the attendees were given a tour of three of the rooms – The Hub where lectures are held and we will be exploring taste, the kitchen/food preparation area which is a small kitchen with the ability to store and produce an array of foods and beverages with hatches lining one of the walls for food to passed through into the Tasting room. The tasting room is long with a number of booths along the wall, each with a hatch, a monitor for displaying and recording findings, and a range of coloured lights to obscure visual recognition of food and beverages.

The attendees tonight are predominately scientists working in the food sciences industry or associated fields. I need to point out that I am not one of these people. I am not a scientist, rather I am a lay person with a interest in science although I spent 15 years working in the Food & Beverage industry and it is from that perspective that I will approach this.

Our speakers this evening are Louisa Rose and Briony Liebich.

Briony opens the evening with the question: What is flavour? Most people would probably think that flavour is just the sense of taste, all in the mouth. Turns out flavour is far more complex than just the sense of taste, it is multi-sensory, incorporating sight, smell, texture, and sometimes hearing. The involvement of these senses on perception also come from the individual persons background – male or female (gender actually changes the perception of taste), industry (complex analysis) or consumer (simpler analysis ), genetic predispositions, history...

To highlight this Briony invites us to partake in an experiment involving three cups of lemon cordial labelled C, X, & Y. Visually the 3 cups look exactly the same. The experiment is as follows: Take a sip of C and take note of how It tastes, then take a sip of X and take note of the variation from C, then sip C again and see if anything has changed from the first sip, followed by Y and finishing with C.

For myself, C initially tasted like a very plain lemon drink, X was sweeter and Y was tart. C actually became blander as we moved through the experiment.

This experiment highlights something very simple when it comes to flavour – the senses can be confused – with flavour actually being suppressed. It is a fascinating way to start the evening.

Louisa steps up next to begin the meat of the evening.

She opens with a little bit of background on the creation of a wine. There are countless websites dedicated to wine and their creation that I won't go into great detail on the subject matter. Basically, each wine comes down to some very specific elements and processes and levels to get the product desired: varieties of grape, yeasts, phenolics, sugars, acids, carbon dioxide.

As all the liquid for wine comes from the grape, and within this liquid are a great many flavour potentials for the wine. Some of the compounds will modify with fermentation and others will remain virgin. Grapes vary in their variety, as well as within their variety by the environmental conditions they are grown in. Each season can subtly adjust the flavour profile of the grape and it is part this variation which allows for two growers to be very close together geographically yet have such differing results among the same grape. This is also the reason why you get variation in the colour of the styles of wine – variation in the grape that modifies the skins and seed and thus the colours of the wines.

Louisa comes across quite passionate when she speaks of building the flavours in wine but at no time more so than when she talks about the language wine makers use to describe their wines and the stories relating to it: Grass and Pepper, citrus and stone-fruits. The language of food and wine is mostly metaphor and as such becomes a dialect unto itself. Louisa tells of visiting an apple orchard and hearing apple growers speak using similar metaphors to describe their products, assigning differing meanings than the one she would have applied. It seems that apples aren't just apples the same way wines aren't just wines.

It is her that we learn of the wines we shall taste this evening. There are 6 selected from the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards.

  1. Pewsey Vale Riesling 2011
  2. Eden Valley Voigner 2010
  3. Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2010
  4. Smith & Hooper Merlot 2009
  5. Patchwork Shiraz 2008
  6. Heggies Botrytis Riesling 2011

It's quite a decent selection of wine and Louisa gives us their descriptions and flavour profiles before introducing us to the plates of food which we will be trying our wines with.

Plate 1: Chicken Terrine, Pork Pie, Sliced Apple & Rocket.

In front of us we have a pairing chart with the foods listed across the top and the wines down the left and this is where the fun begins – taste the 1st food with the 1st wine, take notes, taste the 1st food then the 2nd wine, take notes, and so on and so forth until you have consumed each of the foods with all of the wines.

Why is this the fun part? Besides the eating and drinking? It's fun because this is where things get surreal for your palate, where you taste a range of wines with same food running the gamut of potential from light to heavy, bitter to sweet. You are forced into combinations that you normally would not tread and it's all down to the nature of the experiment.

After finishing the plate and wines you would then discuss your results with others. This is fascinating and goes to show the variance between individuals. What you would find wonderful another might find it horrible. It gives you an appreciation of what must go into the description of commercial foods and wines, their food matching suggestions, and how to arrive at common descriptors that the majority of consumers may find useful.

This experiment reminds me of the best part of my time in the Food & Beverage Industry – exploring new food and drink. Below is a chart of my results. Be aware as you read it that the results are written in my own unique way and thus may offend any critics or professionals who prefer to use the appropriate dialect.


Plate 2: Cheddar Cheese, Blue Cheese, Pecorino, Walnut bread and sliced pear.

The process is the same as the first plate, only the foods are different. Where we were experimenting with a main dish now we are onto desserts. Below are my results.


In conclusion, an evening spent exploring taste and various combinations of food and wine is an excellent opportunity for any foody. It broadens your understanding of the subjective nature of taste. I think anyone who has an appreciation of food, or works in an industry associated with food should attend one. I am very much hoping to see what other gastronomic sensory evenings become available through the AIFST and can only hope for some of them to include some of the more boutique foods and beverages produced in South Australia.

3 March 2012 Soundwave

Soundwave is a music festival that tours Australia at the end of each summer. In Adelaide, it is held at Bonython Park on the city's western edge just before it hits suburbia. It caters to the harder side of Rock through to the various forms of Metal. I have attended the last few and have had the great pleasure of seeing some absolutely brilliant bands including Iron Maiden, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Bloodhound Gang, and many more. It's a festival that I look forward to with exuberance.

This years Soundwave however I greeted with a little less enthusiasm. There were some very cool bands attached but this year was weighted towards the heavier end of the spectrum and there didn't seem enough to warrant the $170 ticket price. It wasn't until the middle of February that I actually went and bought the tickets.

Planning out a day at Soundwave can be quite a challenge. The event runs all day with the first acts taking to stage around 11am and the last act finishing after 10pm. Most the bands are given 30/40 minute sets and on the schedule there are seven stages listed. Seven stages isn't quite right as most of them are split stages so that as one band finishes another can start up. The first two stages are actually one stage split in two but listed separately. So with six stages running 95 acts across 11 hours it could get pretty hectic.

The biggest problem this year was that I didn't care for most of the bands, especially during in the middle of the day. Thankfully this years Soundwave was the best catered that I have seen. Plenty of toilets (clean), plenty of food with good variety, and quite a few stalls.

Rather than cover every second of the day, I'm going to focus on some the best and worst of the day.

Royal RepublicRoyal RepublicFirst off the bat, at 11:20am on Stage 5 was Royal Republic, a Swedish rock group that we discovered late last year doing the youtube search for bands to see. They quickly became a favourite due to their exuberance and upbeat Rock and today proves no exception. They take to the stage to an audience of around 50 people, dressed in black and get straight into it with 'The President's Daughter' and keep it going throughout the entire set. Royal Republic have a great energy and showmanship even though the sun is fierce and they look as though they are melting. I pity these Swedes having their first real taste of what the Aussie sun can bring after a week of touring the eastern states in the rain. Check out their http://ww.royalrepublicband.com for more info and the excellent blog by their drummer.


TurisasTurisasA band that I hadn't intended on checking out but which proved a great surprise were Turisas. They took to Stage 7 at midday. Turisas are a Finnish Folk Metal band, dressed in leathers with their faces painted in black and red stripes. On looking at them it would be easy to write them off as just another metal band, but on listening they are quite catchy with the feel of a Norse Epic Poem being delivered to your ears at 1000W. I guess what really sets them apart is the use of a Violin. This adds a layer of enjoyable harmony to the Guitars and drums. After listening to them I feel that I need to have their album in my collection.

Steel Panther were on at 12:40 on Stage 1 and I just had to have a look and see what all the controversy I'd heard was about. The band looks like it was made up of rejects from 80's glam rock bands such as Motley Crue and Poison. They represent the worst of this style of music, distilled into pure offensive sexist rock. This is a band that has chosen to to be appalling and just entertain in the least PC way possible. It's refreshing, but it doesn't make it any good. I hang around for a few songs such as 'Fat Girls' or 'Dick Won't Work' or some such thing. This band is not really talented and their music isn't anything spectacular or even mediocre but they have found their niche and will probably be incredible successful there. Funny thing is, this is they have one of the biggest crowd's I've seen this early at a Soundwave and that scares me.

Over lunch I hear a it of Attack! Attack! And it's fun to listen to but not special or stand out. It's the same with Four Year Strong and their Surfer/College rock.

One of the major draws for me was to check out Bush. Bush had some hits when I was younger and impressionable and a few of their songs have a place on the soundtrack of my narrative. They take to the main stage and I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. His voice seems to lack the energy that I thought would be present and the lyrics come across dry and weathered. It's a shame really, but it seems that age has diminished the power of his talent or maybe it's because there is over a decade between me and the musician I listened to. It's all well and good to put on a decent show, but I prefer to get something better than the CD at a live performance and Bush just doesn't deliver on that front. Although it did seem that the substantial crowd he had enjoyed the show very much.

Paradise Lost were the next I dropped by on. I didn't know anything about them except that they were apparently a Metallica (before the sucked) style band from the UK. I walked to Stage 7 partway through their performance and was thrown a little by the Angelic backing track. I had to ask myself if this was one of those Christian Metal groups that pop up occasionally. That thought left when I heard the lyric “Raise your hands for Satan!”. Their performance was lacklustre and the audio was terribly distorted.

Another surprise of the day was Limp Bizkit. They were far better than I thought they would be (being I had a reasonably low opinion to begin with) and they had a great interaction with the crowd, the lead singer leaving the stage and performing a few songs from the back of the mosh pit, using the barrier to raise himself up for the crowd. They had excellent energy and maintained my attention throughout which was proving quite rare that day.

After a bit more wandering around, it was Marilyn Manson's time to take the stage. I didn't have much expectation when it came to Manson, I merely wanted to see what he brought to the table. Manson was by far the worst performance I'd seen that day and at any festival. It wasn't the band, just Manson, that made this performance terrible. His voice was garbled and sounded more like a teenage boy whose voice is breaking trying to do an impression of Manson. There was no stagemanship to speak of, and I was pleased to walk away.

Kvertelak are a Norwegian metal band who I'd heard a song or two of and thought I'd check out. Looking at the band on stage it was like a group of World of Warcraft friends had got together to form a band, singing songs of myth and legend. They are enjoyable enough in small doses but after a few songs I'd had enough – it was just too hard to differentiate the songs, even with the pause inbetween.

I wandered more between the stages not really listening to anything of note before returning to the main stage for Slipknot. Slipknot were the equal of their albums but excelled at performance. Dressed as they were as characters from popular horror moving across and through a very active stage with drums raising and lowering, flames bursting and all the things you generally expect of a rock concert. They performed with a great energy and that was a pleasure to watch although I'd have to say that I prefer Stone Sour's show last year to Slipknot.

Then it came time for the head-liners. There were two acts I wanted see that I felt sure would excel: Sisters of Mercy and System of a Down.

System of a Down had 1 ½ hours on the main stage and Sisters started halfway through that.

So, on the main stage, System came out and I was gobsmacked. The band played incredibly well and the mixing was perfect – no distortion, each note coming through crystal clear. Serj Tankian's voice was melodic and entrancing, made even better when the lead guitarist Daron Malakian

added his voice to the mix. I have enjoyed a few System songs on disc but had found some of their material to be too hard for constant listening. Not so tonight, every song is beautiful. What on disc is hard is exotic and gripping. Each song is powerfully presented so that you don't want to look away. System is by far the best performance of the day.

I duck away to Stage 7 to catch Sisters of Mercy, begrudgingly leaving System but I've been told that they open with Temple of Love which is a track I very much want to hear live. At the stage, they are still going through sound checks, testing levels and microphones to ensure a great performance. Finally they begin and the Temple of Love fills my ears. The crowd cheers and then the singer opens up and.... nothing. His voice doesn't come through at all, the microphone they spent so long testing doesn't work. They bring out a replacement and we hear part of a word, a sound here and there above the music but nothing you could call lyric, verse or chorus. To me, part of what makes Sisters enjoyable is the unique voice of the Singer and here we are seeing them and we can't even get something coherent from him. This is by far the most disappointing thing I've experienced at the festival today and in the past. With the sour taste of Sisters in my head I return to System who wash it away within a single track.


All in all it was a great day and I was very pleased with the outcome. True there were disappointments but you can't have everything perfect or you just wouldn't enjoy the good stuff as well.

Feb 25 2012 - O'Live 2012

On Saturday night O'Live 2012 occurred at the Adelaide Uni Bar. On the lineup were four acts:

Tim Fitz

The Medics



The Adelaide Uni Bar used to be an icon. Located on the 5th floor of Union House at the Northern side of the campus, I can remember coming here to see a number of bands throughout the nineties and a few in the naughties. The place was a hub of drunken revelry, local bands, with students packed to overflowing, and O'week events were the pinnacle party of the year.

Somewhere along the way, things changed.

The bar is still the same as it was, maybe it's had a coat of paint or two, possibly the carpet was replaced, but the layout is still the same. It's basically two rooms, the first containing a couple of pool tables, some lounges, and tables with the longer stretch of bar, the other room has a few booths and lounges but is mostly open for the stage at the eastern end. There is also the balcony which is accessed via the stage room and overlooks a small quad. What amazes me is that they still haven't installed airconditioning in the bar and are relying on

Tonight, the bar is nearly empty. There are maybe one hundred people scattered through both rooms and the balcony. It's really quite surreal to step foot into a place you remember as being one thing and finding it's morphed into something else.

We didn't make it for the first two acts but we did see Tracer and Stonefield.

The biggest issues with commenting on this performance are: I can't play an instrument to save my life and thus only know what I like to listen to and what I don't, and the equipment that the bands had to deal with at the Uni Bar were substandard, different amps often times shutting down in the middle of song making it appear that the person doing the audio-mixing has no idea what they are doing.

Tracer are three piece rock/grunge band, Michael Brown (Vocals and guitar), Leigh Brown (Vocals and Bass), and Andre Wise (drummer), formed in 2004 that attained a small amount of local success in 2008/9 with their second mini-album before achieving a modicum of success in Europe with their first overseas tour lasting 3 ½ months. Since then, the band released their first full album 'Spaces in Between' in October 2011 and toured Europe supporting Royal Republic.

Tonight is their first show of the year before playing at the Clipsal 500 in March and touring the UK in April.

Tracer are good and energetic when they start, although the Michael & Leigh, the two guitarists, look a little serious and their brows are furrowed in concentration, while Andre, on drums, seems to be riding a wave of ecstasy. They move through their rock-grunge playlist and you cannot help but marvel at the beats they are pumping out, technically they are hitting all the right notes in the right order, and the music entertains and builds. Vocally though, it seems to fall short. Note I didn't say lyrically, it's the vocals and this may come down to the equipment failures of the night, but Michael's voice seems to struggle to rise out of the music, and when it does seems to lack the grunt to match the chords he's playing. Leigh sings for one song and once again it's the same in that it's hard to hear the voice above the music but when you do it's deep and bluesy.

The best part of Tracer's set though is their final song – Walk Alone. Everything is perfect as they ride in hard, rock pounding the audience, the levels and technology in synch and without distortion. Michael's voice was above the music, clear and harmonised with the music. It is in this song they perform one of the Rock & Roll clichés, playing guitar behind their head. The difference with this is that all three of them do it and that is something to see.

The band is enjoyable and I would very much like to see them play in a better environment with equipment that's not going to drop out on them.

Stonefield is four piece rock band made up of four sisters from regional Victoria. They won Triple J's unearthed in 2010 and since then have toured throughout Australia and to the Glastonbury Festival, UK.

When the girls take the stage I can't help but think that Jim Henson's Gelflings have escaped into our world. They are small, elvish girls and their instruments are as big or bigger than they are. I did not however allow this image to colour my perceptions of the music or the show they were going to put on.

Initially I felt the girls were all a bit serious, but as they went along they relaxed and their performance was better for it. Their music is inspired by the late 60's early 70's rock that I fed myself a steady diet of in my teens and their appreciation for those came before seems evident in the construction of their songs.

The lead vocalist, Amy, belts out the lyrics from behind her drum kit, her sisters providing backup. Her tone, pitch and pace are far from what you would expect for someone so slight of stature, there's an aridness that cuts through the music.

Technically, Stonefield are not anything remarkable, but with their youth they have a flair and passion that does set them apart. At no point do you feel that they are calling in their performance which is very rare indeed and makes for a great set.

All in all, despite the technical difficulties of the night, I got my $30 worth and look forward to the opportunity to see both these bands again in the future.

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