Being a foodie seems to be a bit trendy nowadays, but if you just want to experience good food from proud producers and makers without so much of the pretentiousness, a food festival is a fun place to go!
What’s up with Food Festivals?
Quite simply, a food festival is generally a gathering of local producers wanting to showcase the produce of a particular region. More historically, they celebrate the changing of the seasons or a plentiful harvest.
In Australia, they have grown in popularity in recent years in conjunction with the rise of a “foodie” culture along with the increasing trend towards organic and slow food. Knowing where your food comes from, and choosing local producers for items like honey or eggs has become important to a growing number of people.
What can you expect at a food festival?
Food festivals can be held anywhere, from a farmer’s paddock in a rural community, to a convention centre in a city. Producers, manufacturers and brands generally set up stalls to showcase and sell their wares. Often there are cooking displays showcasing the local produce, and there are the usual accompanying food outlets, musical entertainment and lines for the loo.
Expect to pay for parking – in a country town this can take the form of a donation to the SES who will be helping out – and also pay an entry fee. We recommend taking your own bag or basket because you will no doubt be buying lovely fresh veges, bread or treats.
At a lot of festivals you can also pay extra for your own glass to sample wine.
Food Festival Etiquette
One of the best things about food festivals is the samples. In the city, I’ve found this aspect to be quite competitive, especially with regards to wine and cheese. At the Good Food & Wine Festival, for example, attendees often show up at opening to beat the crowds and secure some good tasting opportunities!
If there are a lot of people, it is sometimes hard to get close to that stall you are eyeing off with the homemade fudge.
Be patient, wait your turn and most of all, don’t push! The fact that you paid an entry fee does not entitle you to an all-you-can-eat sample buffet, so go easy on the cheeses, chocolate, dukkah, olive oil, ice cream, sauces, spreads and liqueurs. It’s not hard to get a stomach ache from eating too much, we can tell you from experience.
And of course, once you’ve sampled a product, consider buying it! At city festivals, many small producers are there with the sole purpose of securing a retail outlet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to make sales to the public too.
How do I find a local Festival?
The best way to find out about local food festivals is to keep an eye on local guides. They may not necessarily have the budget for TV or magazine advertising, but may be using methods like social media to get the word out.
We recently went to Hampton Food Festival, a little town just north of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs. We had been following them both on Facebook and Instagram in the lead-up, and also made sure we RSVP’d to the Facebook Event page. That way, we were reminded often what date it was on, and were aware of the times and also what stallholders would be attending!
This was our second year attending and after a wet day last year, it was lovely to be in the country on an unseasonably hot autumn morning! We strolled around looking at stalls, sampling some wares and trying to make a decision as to what to have for lunch!
We ate macaroons, Greek salt & feta balls, Turkish chicken shish and ice cream with Hampton blueberry coulis! Everything was yum. We watched a cooking demonstration by Masterchef entrant and TV chef Hayden Quinn. In the end, we came away with some flowers and peanuts after a full day of foodie fun.
Food festival feasting after the fact
The problem with being a regular food festival attendee is you tend to get spoilt by the high quality of goods on offer, and you may be compelled to ensure you go back and get some more! Whether it’s a local beekeeper’s honey, artisanal cold-pressed olive oil or fresh free range eggs, it’s possible you may never want to go back to mass-produced supermarket fare again.
Have you been to any good food festivals lately? What do you like most about them?
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