The Sample Food Festival in Bangalow is a highlight of my foodie year. Besides Christmas Day, it is the only other day on the calendar when I say calories officially don’t count. For I am an unapologetic Sample Food Festival glutton and last Saturday’s festival was no exception. How can you stop at just one or two dishes? But it’s all in the name of delicious food and drink and showing support for our incredible local food industry, so that’s okay, right?
Local food industry advocate Remy Tancred launched the Sample Food Festival six years ago to showcase the vibrant and flourishing food industry the exists here in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. The annual Festival is held on a September Saturday in the leafy Bangalow Showgrounds. Bounded by shady camphor laurels and looming gum trees, the central showground ring is the perfect place to pull up a piece of grass or lay a picnic rug and enjoy a lingering feast.
The festival’s main attraction takes place in the centre ring where local Chefs cook $5 and $10 tasting or sample plates from 8am – 4pm for the thousands of locals and travellers who descend on Bangalow for the day. I heard there were around 17,000 through the gates this year! Cafés, restaurants, caterers, farmers, growers, producers and a selection of local creatives make up the 200 stallholders at Sample every year. In addition to the sample plates other festival stalls sell locally grown, produced and manufactured food such as cheeses, macadamia nut products, chopping boards, smallgoods and arts and crafts.
In previous years I have usually made my way to the festival around lunchtime and spent the afternoon loitering and nibbling and celebrating with a few refreshments. This year I headed down at the start of the day for a different perspective and to join in an Instameet organised by Australian Macadamias, one of the festival’s longtime sponsors. The early start meant I simply had to indulge in an infamous Bacon and Egg Butty from the hard working crew at 100 Mile Table as I hashtagged and chatted with lovely food industry friends and fellow Instagrammers including chefs, marketers, manufacturers and food tragics like me.
In addition to the eating and drinking at Sample there is a full day of programmed events including a cooking stage with demonstrations organised in conjunction with local food industry group Northern Rivers Food. There’s a music stage that has a host of entertainers throughout the day as well. At last Saturday’s festival I also indulged in a Veuve Clicquot Masterclass, which was great, of course. There was more than enough going on to fill the day.
An adjunct to the Sample Food Festival each year is a warm up lunch on the Friday afternoon prepared by a collaboration of chefs. This year’s lunch had a foraged food theme and was held in the Showgrounds under a central marquee. Local chefs including Sarah Swan (100 Mile Table), Katrina Kanetani (Town) Bret Cameron (Harvest) Monique Guterres (Seaweed Cuisine) and Clayton Donovan (Jaaning Tree) fed 200 diners a grazing style menu across the afternoon. I didn’t get myself a ticket this year – they sell out fast – but from all accounts from the chefs who took part and the punters who were lucky enough to be there. It was another great success. I’ll be there next year for sure!
Here is a little photo essay the Sample Food Festival 2016. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to snap “Hemsy” and his rather good-looking tribe as they walked by, but I did get some photos of some fine looking food and other crowd action. Enjoy!