Things are heating up again. We stopped defrosting our windscreens with bottles of warm water in the morning and as spring arrives, the days get longer and we dream of balmy nights outside again.

Creative cooks Trotski & Ash are channelling an outdoor spring feast, and so they’ve given us a slippery spring recipe for their herby octopus salad to get things started this issue.

Later in spring (November to be precise), we’ll see the arrival of the biggest exhibition in the NGV’s history. Our contributing editor Dan Rule had a chat to new director Tony Ellwood back in January about his plans to expand the vision of the gallery, shift its gaze and engage with the community, and so unfolds Melbourne Now, the showpiece of the summer program (showing from November 2013 to March 2014), which will play out under the guiding hand of the gallery’s senior curator of contemporary art Max Delany and host of 30 further curators. Spanning various mediums and contexts (from art and architecture to cake decoration, music, philosophy and fashion) Melbourne Now brings together a swathe of contemporary Melbourne artists and designers for what the NGV has dubbed the most ambitious exhibition in its 152-year history. For our cover story, Dan chats to both Ellwood and Delany, and a handful of the 130 or so artists involved.

We’ve put together a great guide to Footscray with the author of the Footscray Food Blog, Lauren Wambach. As a local, Lauren is an expert on the suburb and even takes tours of the area, so she certainly knows where to get the cheapest avocados, the best egg noodles and the sweetest cannoli. She chats to some of her neighbours about this nerve centre of the western suburbs.

On the other side of the city, James Cameron drops in to visit Nick Garnham of Australian furniture manufacturer Jardan, as they open up their previously industry-only showrooms to the public in Melbourne and Sydney this September. Fifteen years in business and Jardan has gone from a little-known furniture maker with six staff to a poster boy for the green set with over 100 employees and a global sales reach, all the while maintaining their environmental credentials.

A little further afield, we visit London for our regular Dispatch column, but not before checking in on the Setouchi Art Triennale in Japan at Fukuda Elementary School (on an island in the Seto Inland Sea), where Melbourne-raised artist Jackson Slattery was working alongside chef Andrew McConnell.

We also check in on our local dairy at St David Street in Fitzroy. Urban milkman Ben Evans is processing more than 6000 litres of raw dairy milk each week (and delivering it himself to cafes and restaurants) for us to enjoy in our lattes. So we wanted to find out a bit more about the process of how milk gets from country cow to city coffee cup.

Spring equals picnics, right? So as the weather warms up, we’re making the most of it by having lunch outside. We’ve found four parks and four local purveyors around the CBD who can provide the perfect picnic lunch at a moment’s notice.

Don’t forget to pack this paper in your basket.