2011 Noosa Food & Wine Festival

The Noosa Food and Wine Festival was held this weekend, and what a great weekend it was! Recognised as Australia’s leading food and wine event and now in its 8th year, the festival promised us an all-star line-up of celebrities, passionate chefs, fabulous food and wine and great entertainment. And I can confirm that it well and truly delivered.   

With Matt Preston

With an amazing array of guest chefs and cooks, both Australian and international, and a diversity of cooking demonstrations and lively foodie discussions, it was enough to impress the most discerning foodie! To put the icing on the cake, Noosa put on its sparkling best for the occasion, with picture perfect weather. 

Masterchef cast (minus George)

On Friday I was fortunate enough to have tickets for the “Our Barossa Valley with Maggie and Saskia Beer” lunch. Maggie and Saskia demonstrated (and cooked us!) a beautiful 3-course lunch made using Barossa produce, and spoke about their passions – food and the Barossa Valley. On the menu was:   

 Mushroom, Prosciutto & Walnut Tart with Micro Salad
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Barossa Chook Poached in Buttermilk
Warm Nolan’s Road Organic Lentil Salad
Celery, Avocado
Roasted Vinao Cotto Beetroot
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Macadamia Meringue with Passionfruit Ice Cream 

Maggie and her daughter kept us entertained with their antics and anecdotes, and Maggie circulated the room to meet as many people as she could. I was thrilled to meet and have my photo taken with such an inspirational foodie!  

With Maggie Beer

Friday evening was the official Opening Party Concert and Welcome Party, and we were entertained by The Australian Michael Jackson Tribute Show, which was a lot of fun. There was food and wine available, so a good evening was assured. 

Saturday was a huge day, with numerous cooking demonstrations and panel discussions – too many to choose from! After much deliberation earlier in the week, I managed to narrow it down (whilst allowing ample time to sample the wonderful array of food and wine on offer!). The day started with Kitchen Chemistry, presented by Ryan Squires (Brisbane) and Brent Savage (Bentley Restaurant, NSW). Some interesting techniques around cooking duck were demonstrated, as well as the best way to kill a live fish. Yes, it was demonstrated and frankly I could have done without that so early in the morning but it was interesting to understand how the way a fish is killed makes a big difference in the taste and texture in the eating. 

Brent Savage preparing duck

After catching the tail-end of the “Masterchef Phenomenon” session, the next session I attended was “International Food Trends”. MC’d by Matt Preston (of Masterchef fame) and with a panel of 7 high profile international chefs including our very own Tetsuya Wakuda, the discussion was about future food trends, and what will be their influencing factors. Interestingly, environment, ethics and sustainability were mentioned by most – good to hear in my opinion. Other factors mentioned were food in its natural state, simplicity, eating for health, and cooking at home.  Tetsuya made the very valid point that food is not just about the eating, but the produce and the technique used. The discussion moved on to politics and restaurants, and topics such as the humane treatment of animals and supporting local producers (even if it’s more expensive) came up. It was fairly unanimous that it is the ultimate responsibility of the restaurant owner and chef to ensure these issues are addressed.  To conclude the session, the conversation moved to a lighter note, with opinion sought about the credibility of Michelin Star vs San Pellegrino restaurant ratings. After much debate, the conclusion was that San Pellegrino is fun and cutting edge, whilst Michelin takes a more traditional approach.    

The line-up of world renowned chefs

The next session I attended was “Good Taste, Produce and Value” and the panel of 5 included Stephanie Alexander (food writer and educator, a big inspiration for me) and Martin Boetz (Longrain Restaurant, Sydney). The conversation was predominantly around eating well (ie slow food as opposed to fast food), a subject close to my heart. Stephanie Alexander’s take on the subject was (not surprisingly) that it’s all about education, and that we have an obligation to educate. She feels that many people are anxious about cooking, and that it should be a compulsory subject in the education system. She also stated that we should support small farmers and that there is no excuse not to cook.  Martin Boetz felt that fresh produce drives food and that Australia lends itself to growing a diverse range of produce. In summation, it was generally agreed that we can all afford (money and time-wise) to eat well, and that there is no reason to live off fast food.      

With Stephanie Alexander

After all the serious foodie talk, it was time to relax and enjoy some of the food and wine on offer. There were numerous dishes available and included those in the running for the People’s Choice Award which critiques the food critics. I tasted Mathew Evans delicious chicken dish, Matt Preston’s Sante Fe-style pork dish as well as a divine barramundi in banana leaves (sorry, can’t recall who did this one!). 

Mathew Evans cooking up a storm

There were numerous wines on offer from many Australian wine regions. I enjoyed a full wine tasting experience from Symphony Hill Wines of Stanthorpe. I’m constantly in awe at how good Queensland wines are becoming.  

Wine Tasting at Symphony Hill Wines

In the Produce Marquee, there were many products on offer for tasting – who could go past Fromart cheeses and Noosa Spanner Crabs

Spanner Crabs Noosa

After tasting my way through a plethora of goodies, renewing my delicious magazine subscription and buying a gorgeous bottle of raspberry vinegar and some lovely marinated feta, it was time to kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy the afternoon’s entertainment. We were treated to a performance by Noosa’s very own Alex Lawson, followed by the sensational Rhonda Birchmore who really knows how to belt out a song.  A fitting way to conclude a fabulous foodie couple of days.  

Rhonda Birchmore belting out a song

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