It doesn’t matter if you’re a connoisseur, a professional or someone who enjoys food generally, food festivals around the country are renowned for bringing food and its lovers together for sampling and sharing.
Food lovers of Queensland unite. When the central theme of an event is good food (and sometimes good wine) throngs of people come together to celebrate. It is perhaps a pastime that goes back hundreds of years, when farmers and communities would give thanks for a plentiful harvest season.
Australians love their food and we happen to be a very fortunate country in that we produce lots of fresh gourmet produce and world-class wines, so it makes sense that across the country — and in almost every month — there are numerous food festivals to indulge in.
The last weekend of this month presents an opportunity to embrace the harvest celebrations of days gone by at Felton in Queensland’s south-east. The Felton Food Festival (April 27) is a fantastic opportunity to connect with local farmers and support them by purchasing the food they produce. It will be the third time this event is held and an impressive food-loving crowd from around the region is expected. The ABC’s Costa Georgiadis (the bushy-bearded and cheeky host of Gardening Australia) will team with Brisbane-based celebrity chef Alistair McLeod to delight in the garden and kitchen. There will also be coffee appreciation courses and beer tasting along with the long list of food — local beef and lamb, produce, breads, cheeses, pasta, pickles and preserves — to tantalise taste buds.
In May, one of the country’s top food and wine events, Noosa International Food and Wine Festival (May 15-18) is taking place. A premier line-up of more than 200 leading international and national chefs, winemakers, restaurateurs and food lovers descend on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to taste, talk and debate all things food and wine over four days. The long lunches, wine tasting, degustation menus and guest chef dinners can be a bit ‘lah-de-dah’, but there are also produce markets and food trail adventures to enjoy.
Further south at Hampton, approximately 32km north of Toowoomba, is the Hampton High Country Food & Arts Festival (May 18). This hamlet is highly regarded for its abundance of fresh produce and cottage providores and the festival is a celebration of all the area has to offer. Former Ready Steady Cook television chef, Matt Golinksi headlines this year’s cooking demonstrations together with Brisbane food identity and celebrity caterer Sally Lynch. In a similar spirit to Felton’s festival, talks with farmers about their local produce is sure to be a highlight at the Hampton festival.
As part of Australia’s largest food festival, Brisbane will celebrate Good Food Month in July. The month-long celebration is expected to showcase the best Brisbane and regional restaurateurs, cafes, bars and producers with its venue-based events. This festival caters for all tastes with fine dining dinners to free, family-friendly outdoor gatherings. Already popular in Sydney and Melbourne, this year the Night Noodle Markets will make its way to South Bank for the festival, showcasing some of Brisbane’s favourite eateries and serving up charcoal-grilled yakitori sticks to gyoza, Vietnamese pho and ramen, as well as Asian-inspired deserts. It’s definitely on my list of ‘must dos for foodies’.
The Sunshine Coast delights food lovers again with the Real Food Festival (September 13-14). Held at the Maleny Showgrounds there will be stalls, demonstrations, discussions, hands-on events and activities for the family that support the Sunshine Coast’s regional food producers. Not only is it an opportunity to share and sample some fine local fare, but you can also pick the brains of the local growers, manufacturers and retailers on food-related issues.
Other Queensland food festivals for your calendar:
Head to Broadbeach, Gold Coast in January for the Food and Wine Expo. Taking place over three days, this event showcases the best gourmet food, exquisite wine, and provides a host of new recipe ideas and the latest in cooking products.
In north Queensland, the premier tropical food event would have to be Feast of the Senses held at Innisfail (March-April). North Queensland is renowned for its exotic and ultra-tropical fruit and produce growers, and this festival is all about showcasing and marketing the produce grown along the Cassowary Coast.
If you like cheese as much as I do, you’ll want to head to Kenilworth in April for the annual Cheese, Wine and Food Fest. Here you’ll sample the best of the Mary Valley, and there are gourmet cooking demonstrations, food and produce stalls, and of course a cheese rolling contest (though it saddens me to think good quality cheese is being used in this way).
What about the rest of Australia?
On my ‘must do for foodies’ list:
Tasting Australia in Adelaide, South Australia (April-May). It is one of the country’s most influential and best-attended culinary festivals, attracting around 50,000 people biennially. Festival-goers include casual foodies like myself rubbing shoulders with industry leaders (think Maggie Beer who is the TA patron) in savouring modern Australian food and wine.
Savour Tasmania (May) is one foodie event that looks well worth attending. I have heard endlessly about Tassie’s abundance of world-class produce and beverages, and as I have never been to the island, so this festival would surely deliver a sublime eating experience.
Margaret River has a reputation for its wine (growing and making) and its Margaret River Gourmet Escape (November) is building its esteem for bringing chefs, vitners and foodies together for three days of beach barbecues, long lunches, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and food forums. Add the stunning surrounds, and there’s not much I don’t like the sound of here.