Australians are renowned for their love of good food and wine, and with such a vast country with such varied conditions, they are able to produce outstanding produce and stunning wines. Nearly all cities within Australia are host to a food and wine festival at sometime during the year, but the smaller regional festivals should not be overlooked with their friendly small town hospitality and fresh regional produce. Most of the fresh food we eat comes from these country areas along with Australia’s internationally renowned wines and stickies.
The Orange F.O.O.D Week is a highlight of the Australian food calendar with many events selling out within hours of them being announced. The festival runs over a week in the middle of April and boasts several major events along with an almost unlimited number of smaller events run by local eateries and wineries. The festival highlights this year include ‘Forage’, a gentle 3.5km meander through vineyards, along sheep tracks and through cattle country, stopping every 500m or so to sample local produce and hear informative talks about the local growing conditions and their effect on regional produce. Tickets to this are limited and include bus to the walk, food and wine. The 100-Mile Dinner is another highlight and offers a unique outdoor dining experience showcasing the local produce from within a 100 mile radius. The dinner is a 7 course degustation served at communal tables, each course supplied by one of the participating towns within the region. The Night Market is also not to be missed and features 40 stalls spruiking the best food and wine from the region, along with the chance to meet the producers, chefs and cooks. The F.O.O.D Train from Sydney is the ideal way to enjoy the festival and departs and returns to Central Station in Sydney. The Train included breakfast with ‘bubbles’, two night’s accommodation in Orange, tickets to Forage and most meals. Other events are too numerous to list but include pop up cellar doors, gourmet BBQs in the park, Fiesta in the Courtyard, cheese tastings, apple tastings and much much more. The festival is hugely popular so Orange accommodation needs to be booked early or you may miss out.
Although, nowhere near the scale of Orange F.O.O.D Week, the one day Collector Village Pumpkin Festival near Goulburn, now in its 10th year, is gaining a reputation of being a fun-filled, not to be missed family festival. The festival, at the beginning of May, is focused around the local production of pumpkins with its main event being a giant pumpkin growing competition. There are over 80 stalls to explore, offering all things pumpkin (scones, soup etc.), local produce, local arts and activities. Vintage farm machinery, classic cars and rural demonstrations, live music and entertainment and the biggest display of giant pumpkins in the country complete the day’s activities. The event culminates in a supper dance where the locals and visitors get to kick up their heels and share some homemade country delights. All proceeds from the supper dance go back to the local community. There are some accommodation options in Collector but nearby Goulburn accommodation is more plentiful and varied.
Moree on a Plate, held in the small northern New South Wales town of Moree in May, is another small family orientated festival that packs a lot into a small time. The one day event focuses on the locally grown produce and features cooking demonstrations, guest chefs, TV personalities, cooking challenges and tastings. There is also a fun range of activities for the kids. The BBQ Challenge is a festival highlight which incorporates three rounds of preparation, barbecuing and judging with the winner being crowned ‘Moree on a Plate BBQ Challenge Winner’. There is also a gala evening, local art exhibition and live music. Moree accommodation is limited so plan ahead and book your room early.
There are so many food and wine events throughout New South Wales and Australia, some big, some small. Real foodies will enjoy the smaller festivals just as much as the larger ones, as the small town community and country hospitality offer not only a taste of county style food but an insight into the way the rural community live and function.