By Leigh O'Connor.
>>WIN TICKETS TO THE MAIN FESTIVAL DAY ON SUNDAY JULY 1, here.<<
Showcasing a fusion of the best produce, products,
restaurants and culinary expertise the region has to offer, the Ballina Food
& Wine Festival celebrates its ninth year when events kick off
on Friday, June 29.
Featuring two different events run over the weekend at
various locations, expect to sample premium wines, craft beer, cider and
spirits from around Australia and abroad, while each year festival proceeds are
donated to worthy causes both locally and internationally. This year the NSW
Rural Fire Service will be the recipient, helping brigades from Alstonville,
Lennox Head, Meerschaum Vale, Newrybar and Wardell.
Enjoy all the Northern Rivers has to offer, along with live
entertainment at the Asahi
After Dark Gala four-course dinner on June 29, designed and prepared
by Ballina RSL Executive Chef Blake Seymour, including a complimentary glass of champagne or
boutique beer on arrival. Stunning wines and craft beers from De Bortoli Winesand Asahi
Premium Beverages have been specially selected to match each course,
created from some of the region’s freshest produce.
Sunday July 1 is the main
festival day at Ballina Jockey Club, featuring exhibitors,
information sessions and demonstrations from cottage industries displaying
their products; while local restaurants will cook signature dishes for guests
to sample, with tasting plates available for purchase. Winemakers and brewers
are on hand to share their knowledge throughout the day, creating a unique
opportunity to interact with experts and sip the best rich reds, elegant whites
and boutique beers on offer.
Watch Chefs in action, such as Terase Davidson from Taste Byron Bay,
Sean Connolly from Balcony
Bar & Oyster Co, Peruvian Chefs Franco and Andres from A Chef’s
Pocket, and The
Byron at Byron Restaurant – Head Chef Gavin
Hughes. This restaurant nestled in Byron at Byron Resort and Spa,
is where locals and tourists from afar head to spoil themselves with culinary
indulgences in tropical surrounds, as foldaway glass walls and lush gardens make
every guest feel at peace and balmy breezes drift through an earthy interior
Under Gavin’s guidance, the restaurant ensures a paddock to
plate philosophy with a selection of light Mediterranean fare, alongside local
and international wines. Depending on seasonal produce, expect plates such as
roasted blue eye and charred octopus with sauce romesco, nduja bull horn
peppers, orange and almonds; or perhaps share a pot roasted shoulder of New
England lamb for two, zucchini, saltbush leaves, frekkah, mint and lemon.
Fresh from a stint on MasterChef, Scottish-born Gavin cooked
against contestant Sashi Cheliah with hands-on advice from legendary Chef
Gordon Ramsay - at one point during the show, Gordon gave his Byron colleague a
lift up to reach a colander on a high shelf.
Take time to stop by the many food
exhibitors, such as Spice
Pirate BBQ and Chile Banditos Condiments from Lismore - the brain child
of pirate and local identity Aaron Hargreaves, whose passion for chillies has
led him down the path of low and slow cooking on a Mad Max inspired handcrafted
barbeque. The venture also sells a range of sauces and condiments, such as
gourmet chilli flakes, smoked salts and barbeque spice rubs along with branded
Chow down on a Mexican pulled pork wrap, served in a fresh
tortilla with kale slaw, lime aioli and a choice of extras; or say ahoy to a
chilli boat with smoked mild chilli halves filled with secret herbs and cheese;
before picking up a bottle of hot sauce to take home. Team a bite to eat with a
tipple of choice from the 16 beer
and wine exhibitors, ranging from Brookie’s Byron Bay Ginto Hillbilly
Cider and Byron Bay Brewery craft
From gourmet outfitters to coffee estates and an authentic
fromagerie, the list of cottage
industry exhibitors is a celebration of the Northern Rivers laid
back coastal lifestyle – delve into the likes of artisan chocolate, Nimbin Valley
Dairy goats cheese and yoghurt and a range of exotic brews from Truly Tea Byron Bay.
Tickets for the
Gala Dinner are $95, while Sunday’s entry is just $25 per person and includes
multi-talented entertainers and musicians during the afternoon, such as Diesel,
Jed Zard and Blake Tailor. Buses will run from various locations around the
region with tickets $5 return, check out the schedule here.