TASTE FESTIVAL– Hobart, Tasmania. 28th December- 3rd January
A wonderful week long foodie festival that I was lucky enough to enjoy for the first time, I was there over two crammed days and one night. A festival showcasing some of Tasmania’s delicious locally produced foods, with a dash of music, busker action and children’s area thrown in for good measure.
Why was I there for such a short time and where on earth were my usual entourage of The Monkeys? Back home stepping out with Dadda for the weekend. Mama was having a little ‘me’ time and enjoying the best Christmas present ever from her husband.
So many tastes to linger on… but where to start?
Taste Theatre– Running sessions throughout the day. Presenters talked of what they know and love best. From local chefs, artisan food producers, and wine makers. Tetsuya Wakuda even popped in. I managed to catch two presentations. One with Sally Wise demonstrating how easy it is to make your own preserves and scones. The other, an interesting talk on Slow Food within Tasmania. Both great and well worth the tiny entrance fee ($5 and gold coin donation respectively).
Another great thing to do at the festival was the Red Hat Tours. Run by volunteers, (mine was done by the lovely Peter and Margaret, members of Slow Food). $15 for a guided talk around some of the stall holders, whilst also sampling some of the deliciousness they have to offer.
I did ‘Mad about Cheese’ which covered four local food producers. Two of the stand outs being, Bruny Island Cheese Co. and Tasmanian Highland Cheeses.
Bruny Island Cheese Co. is run by Nick Haddow, artisan cheese maker. He’s taken his back ground of cheese making around Europe, and put in to his Bruny Island business with a Tasmanian touch. These were some seriously delicious cheeses. From day old soft cheeses (O.D.O.) to the rather exciting new Raw Milk C2. This was the first time at the festival, that a raw milk cheese (that had been legally recognised) has been available to the public in Australia. I can only hope that this opens more doors in the raw milk industry as this was a truly wonderful cheese. (You can read more about raw milk within Australia here.)
If only I had an esky and larger hand luggage allowance, I think I would have been coming home with rather a lot of cheese goodies.
Thorpe Farm- Tasmanian Highland Cheeses is a family run business that has seen 7 generations of family members passionate about farming. John Bignell recognised the fact that his family needed to diversify from farming just sheep, and started expanding with wheat, wasabi, horseradish, venison and also on to cheese. Now perfecting their cow, goat and sheep milk range of cheeses, the charismatic Will (his son) was selling at the Festival. Also truly tasty cheeses. Marinated fettas and secret recipe Blue Cheese being amongst the tastings. There was also the aptly named “2 Sexy Twins” goat chevre which was a perfect way to end the day with a cracker or two. (Again, the esky!)
This stall was 50 people deep every time I went by. I still didn’t get to taste them, but judging from the keen crowds, they were good, really good.
If you like your wine, Taste was certainly the place to be. Buy a glass at the start, (or bring along last years one) and off you go. (As a greener option, I loved this. No plastic glasses!) With more stalls then you can shake a wine glass at, there was plenty to choose from.
A stand out wine maker for me was Bream Creek Vineyard. The winery is located on Tasmania’s South East Coast, and produces some excellent cool climate wines. Talking with the lovely Fred Peacock, (it had been a long day/week and he was still more than happy to answer all my questions). He has owned the family run vineyard for the past 20 years. My favourite drop was the rare variety, Schonburger…”rose petal and subtle tropical fruit/lychee characters. The palate is persistent…” (Just like me, I persistently came back the next day to buy a bottle.) All grapes are hand picked and with the offer of a set aside pair of secateurs for me, I say who needs to go to Italy or France for a working holiday?
The over whelming feeling I got from the festival, from the producers and volunteers involved. Was passion, and a whole lot of it. Passion for the area in which they are in, and the world class foods that are coming out of it. I can’t help but feel a little in awe of someone that is willing to put their everything into food and wine they so obviously believe in. From trialing, diversifying, willing to risk and perfecting. I think they are on to some bloody great winners here.
Most of these products I focused on at the festival aren’t readily available on mainland Australia. However there are a few ways and means, and availability in a few selected mainland stockists. This to me just makes it even more special. More of a reason to come down and seek them out. Everyone knows things are enjoyed more if you have to make an effort to get it. If that means a flight, a ferry, a day long car trip, a mail order system or a holiday that factors in a food festival. Well then that’s what it takes. But.. to be honest, I think it’s definitely worth the effort, and your belly, mind and palate will thank you for it.