Food festivals are one of my favourite things.
Not only are they a wonderful way to spend a day, but I love discovering new food and products, especially from small passionate producers. So when I was recently invited to attend the Sample Food Festival, by the festival founder, Remy Tancred, in the beautiful town on Bangalow, I jumped at the opportunity.
Bangalow is a charming town, just off the Pacific Highway, near Byron Bay, and is the perfect backdrop for the festival. Held in the Bangalow showgrounds, and established in 2011, the festival has grown in popularity due to the quality of food and produce available to become the premiere food and produce events in Northern NSW. The focus of the festival is to share and highlight the best produce of the region, which it does well with over 200 exhibitors, including 25 of the regions top restaurants offering tasting plates for $5 and $10, with entry to the festival being free.
The festival kicked off a with a launch lunch on the Friday, before the festival was open to the general public on Saturday. The lunch was an opportunity for exhibitors to network and for some of the best producers of the region to showcase their produce. Freshly shucked oysters were bountiful, decorated with flowers and served with wedges of lemon and lime, along with shaved cured meats, sashimi of local fish, all served with local wines and beers.
The festival opened to the public on the Saturday, and started with the opening of the Farmer’s Markets, which are held on the 4th Sunday of each month. The farmer’s market offer a fantastic array of locally grown produce ranging from gourmet greens through to handmade jams, pickles, chutneys and fruit leathers, which were a hit with children.
The quality and diversity of products available was absolutely wonderful to see, so much so, that if I lived locally I would definitely be a regular. I sampled some beautiful Bangalow Cheese, eyed off their cultured butter, cursing the fact I wouldn’t be able to transport it back to Brisbane without it melting. I also sampled gorgeous homemade chutneys and snacked on a kebab of gigantic chocolate coated strawberries.
My favourite stall was the Duck Creek Macadamia stall, especially when I discovered their chocolate orange coated macadamia’s, aptly named Obsessions. They are absolutely to die for, and also come in a range of flavours including mint, rose, ginger and mocha. Their bbq flavoured macadamia’s were a hit with my husband too, and from the one or two I managed to get my hands on before he ate the whole jar, I thought they were pretty fantastic too.
The best product name of the day was Chai of the Tiger, which is, apparently, the worlds first energy chai drink. A close second was Grumpy’s Ginger Beer. I’m not quite sure if it was Mr Grumpy himself serving it, but it was delicious, and so much better than the ginger beer I remember making in science class in school.
After working up an appetite browsing all of the stalls it was time to hit the restaurant stands before the lunch time rush. Each stand offered a couple of tasting plates with either $5 or $10 price points, with tasting plates ranging from charcuterie (which Troy quickly made a bee-line for), fast food right through to more gourmet offerings. My favourite tasting plate, without doubt, was from Fleurs restaurant. I’d heard several people talking about how good the desserts were that they offered last year, and being a sweet tooth I couldn’t wait to try what they had on offer this year. The salted caramel, apple and chocolate shortbread was so good I had to go back for seconds. In fact it was so good I forgot to photograph them on both occasions. Just trust me, it was amazing! The white chocolate, macadamia and mint panna cotta topped with fairy floss was gorgeous too.
After lunch it was time for some entertainment, with acrobats from the Spaghetti Circus thrilling the crowd with their well honed skills as they flew through the air, sashayed with hoola hoops and juggled.
While the festival is a fantastic day for food lovers, children have been thought of too with stilt walkers in beautiful gowns, balloons, a reptile show, and animal shows from The Macadamia Castle animal park.
The Sample Food Festival is a fantastic event, which I can only see going from strength to strength given the wonderful and extensive range of local produce on offer. Even if you aren’t a local, it’s well worth planning a weekend trip away to attend the festival, and if you are passing through Bangalow on the 4th Sunday of the month be sure to check out the farmer’s markets.
Sample Food Festival
The Sample Food Festival is a 1 day event held in September or October each year. The event is free to attend and showcases the best local produce from the Northern NSW region. Limited accommodation is available in Bangalow, with a greater range of accommodation options being available in nearby Byron Bay, a 15 minute drive away.
I visited Sample Food Festival as a guest of Sample Food Festival. I stayed at Blue Bliss holiday rental courtesy of Blue Bliss.