I was beyond excited when I won tickets to the Byron Food Fest (thank you AGFG), and even more so when we had the offer of an overnight babysitter. Date daaaay (and night) – woo hoo!
After dropping off our beloved children (love you, buh-bye! Seriously though, we did miss them) Sime and I headed down to Byron. Just like the old days, BC (before children), not a care in the world and ready to eat and drink and make merry.
Despite visiting Byron a lot over the years, I had never driven down past the Industrial area to the festival location – Elements of Byron Bay (well, a field next to it).
And before I go on, can I just gush a bit about Elements? I had to use the bathroom before we went into the festival, so decided to have a sneaky pop into the hotel rather than use the obligatory port-a-loo (*shudder* – too many bad music festival port-a-loo memories from younger days).
Anyway, I’m a bit of a hotel nerd. I spent years in hospitality and worked in a few 5 star hotels including being on the pre-opening team for one of them (and just loved hanging out in great restaurants with great chefs). So I kind of like checking them out.
This one is just divine. Attentive, warm, friendly staff, horizon pool, sunken fire pit, modern yet warm looking public areas. I want to go back there! Check it out next time you’re in Byron – it’s worth the drive down the street where the BP (petrol station) is to check it out. In fact, I wish I’d booked in for the night. But more on that later.
Okay, so on to the festival. Being old with children now, we were there quite early. But there was still a crowd that kept growing as the morning moved on.
What does one do at a food and wine festival? One drinks and eats of course. So thank you to my gorgeous husband who offered to drive. After all, I had to do a blog post, right? (right!?).
First stop was Sean Connolly‘s market stall (TV Chef, Byron Balcony Bar owner amongst a number of other restaurants) as the Soup n Chips caught Sime’s eye. For $12 he received an Oyster and Mussel Chowder over duck fat chips. He said it was tasty and really enjoyed it.
Next – Gin. Brookies Byron Dry Gin where I sampled the ‘Take it Slow’: Davidson Plum Slow (Sloe?) Gin with Capi Dry Tonic, Soda, Strawberry and Mint $8. It was a refreshing way to start my day.
Side note – I have to say at this point that my absolute favourite Gin is Four Pillars from the Yarra Valley. Served with tonic and a slice or orange (yep, orange). If you haven’t tried it, you must. Yes I said must.
Back to the Festival where we entered the food tent to taste some cheese and smallgoods. I loved White Gold Creamery’s Crème Quartet, a quadruple cream brie ($20), and the Halloumi ($15). We had every intention of going back there to purchase cheese but got distracted.
Then on to Salumi Smallgoods where we tasted some delicious salamis, then found their Sobrasada. This is a spreadable smallgood that took both of our tastebuds straight back to Mexico, where our friend made us home made tortillas with Chorizo. Their chorizo there can be removed from the sausage and spread into a tortilla. Sold! We are yet to use it at home but I keep eyeing it off for when we have time to make tortillas from scratch to do it justice.
After that we perused the wine section, where I chose a Voyager Estate Chardonnay. We visited Margaret River years ago where I learned to love Chardonnay again after that bad 80s (or 90s?) chardonnay hangover everyone seems to have. I have to say the service wasn’t very friendly but the wine was as good as ever.
Next I was still peckish, and a pork belly sandwich had caught my eye earlier. We visited Luca Ciano’s stall where I ordered the 24 hour slow cooked Pork Belly Panino, Tuscan Kale, Provolone Cheese, Lemon Chilli Mayo ($10). This was amazing, a perfect flavour combination served in a little piece of paper which made it feel like an Italian worker’s take away lunch. Fresh roll, soft thinly sliced pork belly, the spike of cheese, creamy mayonnaise. Bellissimo!
Lastly, why not finish up with another Gin? The dark purpley blue colour of Ink Gin caught my eye. This is another local producer (Tumbulgum based) who use the Australian Butterfly Pea to colour their gin. The cool bit is that when you add tonic it turns from blue to pink. Oh yeah, guess I should mention that it tastes great (by this time I may have been just a wee bit tipsy…).
So for us two old married folk with small children, that’s where we signed off. At this point I realised we should’ve booked a night at Elements, returned to our hotel for a nap, then come back to the festival later that afternoon / evening. Also wish I would’ve made time for some of the masterclasses. Next time…
Overall the atmosphere of the festival was great, a cool crowd, with passionate local producers and chefs showcasing their wares. It did get a bit toasty in the Winter Sun, so bring a hat (yes muuum). I’ll be visiting again next year, but with my hotel booked and my masterclass schedule planned!