As the Ballina Food and Wine Festival celebrated its ninth year last weekend, I attended the festival for the first time, representing the Australian Good Food Guide. The annual festival is hosted by the Ballina on Richmond Rotary Club as their major community fundraiser for the year. Hats off to the many volunteers from the Club who give their time and service to putting on the event each year. No mean feat.
The Ballina Food and Wine Festival opening was the ‘After Dark Gala Dinner’ held at the Ballina RSL Club. Executive Chef Blake Seymour and his kitchen team prepared a four course celebratory dinner with matching beers and wines by festival sponsors Asahi and De Bortoli Wines. The menu included Betel Leaves with Ballina prawns (maybe the tails should have been removed to wrap and eat the leaves with your fingers), a Sri Lankan Duck Curry that had many layers and textures, Roasted Lamb Saddle (feeling full about now!) and a Baked Chocolate pudding. It was nice to see local ingredients used across the dinner where possible. The night included fundraising auctions and raffles as well as music and dance and was well attended by Rotarians and Ballina’s food lovers.
The daytime festival was held at the Ballina Jockey Club, good venue choice with plenty of wet weather options. Central to the festival was the cooking stage with a programme throughout the day of local chefs doing what they do best. The highlight was the session with Gavin Hughes from the Byron at Byron and his good friend and former colleague Blake Seymour. The pair, gently lubricated with beer from obliging audience members, entertained with their banter and jibing, which the crowd lapped up while learning a thing or two about how to make curry and how to confit chicken.
An outdoor marquee provided shelter for festival goers from the chilly southerly. Inside there was plenty of food and drink to indulge. From Haloumi Sliders to octopus with XO, cheeses, Mexican flavours, woodfired pizza and all flavours in between. The People’s Choice Dish of the Day was awarded to the very clever Lucy Ashley from Shuck Oysters for her delicious Smoked Oyster cones. Well deserved, as they were delicious. Lucy creates the best smoked oysters you will taste.
Inside the Jockey Club there was more to sample and plenty of wine to taste as well. There were wines from personal favourites Peterson’s and Vasse Felix, as well as our favourite local distillers Brookie’s and Husk.
There was musical entertainment throughout the day and when special guest Diesel took to the stake at 3pm the food areas were deserted.
The Ballina Food and Wine Festival is small with plenty of room to grow and perhaps it could focus more on the amazing local food industry of Ballina and beyond. Having said that, the festival is designed as a fundraiser and to that end it scores exceptionally. This year’s beneficiary will be the NSW Rural Fire Brigade. Congratulations to the Ballina on Richmond Rotary Club for another successful Ballina Food and Wine Festival.