This time last week I was soaking up the glorious sights, smells and sounds of the foodie extravaganza Regional Flavours festival in South Bank. I was beyond excited for Regional Flavours simply because I had such wonderful memories of last years event, which I enjoyed with Mama on one of her visits. Reminiscing how fantastic it was (eating “Pig’s Trotter with Truffle” a la Spencer Patrick and feasting on Camel Sliders at The Hunting Club) last Saturday morning, I was geared up and ready to go – empty stomach and all.
This year, although saddened by the fact Mama couldn’t join me, I had fellow foodie fanatics @daz_zling and @hanmarissa to share the gorge-fest with. Catching the CityCat into South Bank (which provided stunning views of the city against the clear blue sky and resulted in several ahhh Brisbane moments) we arrived just after midday and made our way toward the action, starting at the EAT-SHOW-TELL stage.
After a sneaky snap of Matt Preston signing fans’ cookbooks we marched onward as we had VIP tickets to see Sarah Todd and Alice Zaslavsky cook off in a “Masterchef Mystery Box challenge” later that afternoon. And really one thing was on our mind and grumbling tummies…sampling beautiful home grown Queensland produce!
Once we reached the food tents, the atmosphere was just buzzing. With live music, drinks, food, friends, families and people lavishing in the incredible 23 degree sunshine (as well as adorable sausage dogs named George) it was all you could ask for such a fantastic event on the Brisbane calendar. And when it came to the produce, expectations were exceeded. The quality and freshness was unbelievable! And the variety was mindboggling. It brought this foodie great pleasure seeing just how fantastic our local produce is and how many passionate providores of fine foods Brisbane is fortunate enough to play host to.
The sampling process maaaay have gotten slightly out of hand (but can you really blame me?) so I have broken it down into categories for you. Cheeses, Drinks, Condiments, Fresh Produce and of course Sweet Treats! Alternatively, scroll on down for Food Truck deliciousness, The Hunting Club experience (tasting paddles and South America arepas) and chilling with tunes at Savour at River Quay.
From ashed Camembert from Emmo’s of the Lockyer Valley region and yoghurt cheese from Brisbane based BahBah Foods to creamy triple Brie from Byron Bay Garlic Co., and baked ricotta and marinated fettas from Olympus Cheese, it was just wow, wow and wow. But what really made our tastebuds sing was the freshly fried Haloumi with Fig Jam from the Olympus Cheese stall. I had seen the haloumi and fig combination at Paniyiri (but by that stage didn’t have space to try) and all I can say is what an incredible fusion of flavours in the mouth. The salty, slightly chewy nature of the haloumi acted as the perfect base for the balanced sweetness of the fig jam. Neither taste overpowered the other; rather both intermingled on the tongue – a match made in foodie heaven.
We found ourselves sampling Chai of the Tiger chai syrup made with hot steamed milk from The Alchemy Cordial Company (with active ingredients of Ginseng, Guarana, Star, Black Pepper, Cinnamon and Cardamom, it was everything you’d expect from a chai bit with an extra kick of spice and fragrance) as well as Brisbane family owned Old Cossack Ginger Beer, which was incredibly fresh, smooth and light and not overwhelming spicy like some Ginger Beers can be. Their use of kefir (a natural probiotic) in the brewing process as well as fresh Buderim ginger combined with a 160 year old recipe made it a real treat on a warm day. Finally we sampled the Kombucha drinks from Buchi Kombucha (a highly good for you, gut loving fermented tea drink) and were tantalised by their latest flavour offering of Coffee Kombucha! It was like a fizzy, slightly tangy soda drink with notes of coffee bean and aroma and quite unique.
One of the first stalls we called into was LiraH Vinegar – a premier artisan vinegar maker, their range of caramelised balsamics and wine vinegars was quite remarkable. Owner and Founder of LiraH – Ian Henderson – certainly knew his stuff and talked us through each of the vinegar’s tasting notes like it was wine (in all fairness he was a winemaker by trade!). Starting with the Shiraz vinegar and then moving to the Sweet Cabernet vinegar and you could swear blue it was sweeter but as we were informed by Ian all the vinegars have the same amount of sweetness it’s just the type of grape and how long it has been aged that brings out the various depths of flavour. I also sampled the Caramelised Ginger Balsamic (I couldn’t help myself considering I love vinegar and I love ginger), which had incredibly strong ginger flavours but in the end it was the Sweet Apple vinegar that made it home with me, as apple cider vinegar is my absolute favourite for everyday use.
Moving further down the festival we came across Saltt Trading. I had never heard of smoked salt before but holy moly was my mind blown. Sampling a piece of fluffy white bread sprinkled with a touch of Saltt Trading’s Smoked Natural Himalayan Salt was like being transported back to school camp around the open fire. Fragrantly woody and intensely smoky it was just incredible and something that could elevate just a small cube of bread! But it was their Smoked Whole Garlic (which is cold smoked locally in Noosa over Red gum and Tea Tree chips for a whopping 36 hours!!) that had me intrigued. The intense smokiness and subtle garlic scent was irresistible and I simply had to buy a knob for later. FYI I have since used it in a mushroom risotto and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my purchase.
After vinegars and salts it was time for some olive oil! Fat Hen Farm, a small, family-owned and operated rural property located in South East Queensland had a divine Lemon Myrtle Infused Olive Oil. Fragrantly lemony it was smooth on the palate and had that hint of surprise that made it something worth fussing over and made you pause a moment to savour the nutty, fruity, floral notes.
Filled with dairy and seasoning I was definitely craving something fresh, so when I laid eyes on the My Berries stall (owned by the most adorable couple Stuart and Allison McGruddy) and recalling the epic raspberries I devoured at last year’s Regional Flavours I made a beeline straight for them. Sure enough there sat bowls of the plumpest, fattest, reddest looking raspberries in what looked like clouds of cream. Immediately, I handed my money over and smugly popped them into my mouth one by one. I could have easily polished off the lot but (because I am generous) I shared with the lovely @daz_zling and @hanmarissa who were equally taken by the incredible flavour and sweetness. Stuart’s story is a rather remarkable one and I hear he even names his raspberry bushes!
Moving from fruit to more fruit we came across the Merbye Pines pineapple producer stall, which has been operating out of Wamuran since 1945! These guys were churning out the freshest of pineapple juice and cubes of deliciousness at lightening speed with a production line of people coring, skinning and chopping the luscious Queensland pineapples like a well-oiled machine. I couldn’t say no to the “freshest, juiciest pineapple you will ever taste” and picked up a small punnet to snack on. They weren’t lying when they said juiciest – squirting sweet pineapple juice everywhere on my first bite I learnt to just pop each cube into my mouth and savour the luscious intense pineapple-y flavours. Refreshing and delicious it was the perfect amount of tangy-sweet – not overripe and not too sour and was swiftly demolished by the three of us.
We were also fortunate enough to come across the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre stall after the “Luvya Lockyer” cooks had just made hearty minestrone with their fresh local produce. Sampling the rich tomato based-soup packed with creamy potato cubes, carrot, celery and herbs it was pasta-free, seriously tasty and super healthy. I certainly felt warmed and took a recipe card so I could (try to) replicate it later.
Now of course we couldn’t come to Regional Flavours without over-indulging in the very best of local sweet treats. Starting with Carcamo’s Gourmet Caramel Apples we sampled Apple Pie (their number 1 best seller) which was crispy, tart Granny Smith slivers coated in a hardened shell of sweet, luscious caramel, dipped in white chocolate and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Amazing. A mix of crispy, acidic apple with the layer of intense sugary goodness and it was a winning combo.
Then of course we couldn’t go past Noosa Chocolate Factory and managed to score a slice of their iconic Rocky Road from the mountain of it that sat ready and waiting to be sold. The big chunks of jelly, nuts and marshmallow covered in creamy milk chocolate was divine.
Moving further up the festival and we came across brilliantly attired gentlemen at Ilias the GREEK who were handed over slivers of their homemade Halva (a tahini based dessert) to hoards of eager tasters. Incredible in texture – almost sand-like – it melted on the tongue and was sweet and nutty and very rich. You couldn’t have more than a thin sliver.
The Eumundi based Australian Nougat Company was next on the hit list. Sampling their amazingly creamy, melt-in-the-mouth nougat delciousness – all made with buttery Queensland macadamia nuts – I tried their Macadamia and Ginger (sweet, zingy and full of nutty crunch), Macadamia and Cranberry (a very different flavour for nougat with a slight tartness from the Cranberry) and Coffee. I think we all agreed Coffee was the hands down winner with wonderful espresso notes mixed in with the sugary confectionary and filled with the luscious macadamias.
Finally, we finished at the end of the producer stall with Seatonfire Chilli Chocolate, where “mother and son” owners Lynne Seaton-Anderson and Jason L. O’Connor use their organically farm-grown chilli in all their products. I had had their Wild Chilli Chocolate and their Wild Rosemary and Sea Salt Chilli Chocolate before, so I was keen to trying their newest flavour of Liquorice and Lime Chilli Chocolate. An explosion of flavours there was spice, zest and cacao with notes of aniseed all wrapped into one! I also couldn’t help but walk away with a few of their healthy Chocolate Truffles for the three of us to share – made with their Seatonfire Drinking Fondue, sultanas, dates, coconut, nuts and vanilla, they were deliciously fruity with the perfect amount of heat. It was like a slightly naughtier version of a bliss ball!
Eat Fleet Food Trucks
Hop-corn Chicken from Tomahawk Bar (which I was told tasted like salted caramel popcorn chicken!), pulled pork burgers and giant snags from Superbutcher and Polenta Parmesan Bites from Next Door Kitchen and Bar there was just so much to choose from when it came to the Eat Fleet Food Trucks! In the end though it was the adorable French-ness of Denim Co. that won us over with their pretty as a picture Italian Peaches (a sugar dusted sponge soaked in galliano with a creamy custard centre) on display…well that and the fact they were serving up breakfast delights of Bircher Muesli jars, Buttermilk Pancakes with Peanut Butter, Caramelised Banana and Crunchy Bacon, thick Peanut Butter Brownies and something called a “Hot Knickers”. As soon as I saw the words “hot chocolate with peanut butter” I had to have one. And far out brussel sprout it was ahh-mazing! Easily what I would call decadence in a jar, it was rich oozing piping hot chocolate syrup mixed with nutty smooth peanut butter. It tasted part Snickers bar, part Nesquick and part Coles chocolate topping (which is ace FYI, just ask my dad) and left us all in a state of chocolately-peanut-buttery bliss.
The Hunting Club
Leaving behind the bustling producer stalls, we entered The Hunting Club where I couldn’t wait to hand over my VIP pass (many thanks again to the South Bank Surf Club and The Press Garage for that one!) to enjoy my tasting paddle of local made beers and ciders and a meal of meat in the sunshine.
Entering a white picket fenced world of potted cacti, ivy walls and climbing vines the atmosphere was buzzing, with plates of pulled meat, ribs and paddles of beer covering almost every table. Lucky for me, I also managed to catch the end of Annabel Langbein’s cooking demo at The Hunting Club Stage, where she prepared and presented a Steak Caesar salad with smoked chilli Caesar dressing. I could see as she plated the perfectly pink medium rare beef with the freshest of salad underneath. It looked so tender and juicy and a quick, easy and healthy modern beef dish.
Returning back to the paddle and food queue, we handed over our passes and were kindly accommodated when we requested a ‘bespoke tasting paddle’ (none of us are huge beer drinkers). The result was a sample of the local brewers 4 Pines alcoholic Ginger Beer, Newstead Brewing Co.‘s Johnno Cider from and a fruitier style of beer from Feral Brewing, their Hop Hog American IPA. The ginger beer was incredible and by the far the standout. Rich in ginger flavour it was just like a Bundaberg Ginger Beer only slightly more mild. The apple cider was equally good with a mild apple flavour and not too sweet.
Moving onto the food and we opted to use our passes on a serve of the Arepas with slow cooked beef brisket, salsa criolla and cheese and the BBQ asado whole lamb w/ chimichurri, salsa criolla or dulche de tomate dressing, which we could see roasting on the spit in the back corner! The South American inspired menu this year was a great twist and showcased wonderful Queensland meats, working perfectly with the theme. The Arepas (a Colombian style flat bread made from cornmeal) were delcious – polenta-like in taste with crispy bits on the outside from the frying process they sandwiched the tender pulled beef, fresh and crispy pieces of capscium and red onion in the salsa criolla and shavings of cheese. For me, it was a bit on the dry side so I slathered it in the sweet dulche de tomate dressing from the lamb Asado plate, which resulted in serious yum factor. The lamb Asado itself was equally good, cooked slowly over hot coals until tender (as we witnessed!) it was dressed with salt, pepper, dried oregano and lemon juice. The lamb was amazing and full of meaty flavour – tearing away smaller pieces from the serve I dipped my fork to cover it in a fragrant and flavoursome deep green Chimichurri. Parsley sauce and lamb? You can’t go wrong really! All of this was enjoyed as we basked in the sunshine on the lawns, lapping up the atmosphere and sipping at our paddles – another fantastic experience at The Hunting Club!
We then made mad dash from one end of the festival to the other to get to our VIP seats at the EAT-SHOW-TELL stage where we watched the Chef Cookoff between Sarah Todd (the model/MasterChef contestant from this year) and fellow former MasterChef contestant from 2012 Alice Zaslavsky (now host of Kitchen Whiz TV) in “Mastering the Mystery Box”. It was an incredibly entertaining cook, with hilarious commentary from Alice and Miguel Maestre who was MC (and whose accident is adorable!), which resulted in a very fun 45 minutes. In the end it was deemed a draw, as judged by the auditorium’s smallest attendees – and I must say I was very impressed to see children trying and eating Sarah’s Scallops and Watercress Puree and Alice’s Seared Tuna with a fresh salad of tomato and snow peas!
Savour at River Quay
Finally we decided to head down toward the far southern end of South Bank to check out Savour at River Quay, where we lavished in a slightly less crowded laid-back vibe. The precincts entire strip of fine dining restaurants had set up pop-up stalls along the riverfront, all cordoned off by a white picket fence. As well as a feast for the stomach this end of the festival was most definitely a feast for the eyes and ears as well. With a gorgeous outlook and awesome jazz-rock beats by Cheap Fakes (music I am still enjoying after I purchased their CD – do yourself a favour and listen to “Clumsy As” and “Sand on the Beach” stat.) and the slowly setting sun in the background turning everything golden, it was a picture perfect way to end the day.
Of course we couldn’t walk all that way and not sample something delicious from the likes of Aquitaine, Popolo, Cove Bar + Dining and The Jetty South Bank…so in the end we settled on a Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich from Stokehouse. Yes you read correctly. This little slice of paradise was cold, creamy and the perfect balance of salty-sweet. The salted caramel ice cream wasn’t too intense and had a nice neutral milky flavour to it, which allowed the thick, tacky and thoroughly scrumptious caramel sauce to shine. The chocolate biscuit layer was dense and just crumbly enough to dissolve in the mouth with the ice cream. And on that sweet note our South Bank Regional Flavours experience was done and dusted for another year.
What was your favourite at Regional Flavours this year?