To make our time in Noosa zoom by, we had the pleasure of driving the new Audi TT Coupe Roadster. The tomato-red car was a head-turner everywhere we travelled. Our first night, we started with cocktails at Robert Oatley Vineyards, with food by Martin Boetz of New South Wales’s and Victoria’s Longrain. Stand-outs included the riesling and the skewers of pork.
In a flash, we were gone, heading to the opening event: The Cook, The Chef, and The Orchestra Gala Concert and Dinner. The gala featured Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant with the Queensland Arts Orchestra. Aside from an awkward moment of ducking when it came to audience participation, the night was fun and a true kick off, with hilarious conductor Guy Noble leading the charge. Jane Rutter, queen of the flute, added her signature sparkle. The place smelled great as the food was being prepared, and the music was eclectic. The audience loved it – one member even jumped up to perform the cancan, only to nearly knock herself out in the process. As the crowd mobbed Beer and Bryant, a smattering of MasterChef contestants and chefs floated by. Dinner of local cuisine and more wine were soon served – most enjoyable!
The next day, we had breakfast at Bistro C on the shores of Noosa beach; as the water shone and the delicious dishes arrived, it was hard not to be seduced by Noosa. I made my usual comment: “I could live here.” Michelle replied, “Nothing new there.”
We drove to the Asian Food Trail at Garnisha Spice Farms on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, where Tim Warren gave us a private tour of the grounds as we sampled different spices, rubbing leaves together and marvelling at the smell and beautiful surroundings. The entertaining Matt Preston was the master of ceremonies; rumour had it he had arrived back in Australia from Italy only that morning. He was his usual professional and fun self and left the audience loving him and wanting more. The event was sponsored by Delicious magazine, and it was great to catch up with editor Danielle Oppermann, food director Valli Little, and team – a talented bunch indeed.
The real stars, however, were the chefs and their creations, including Boetz’s oysters with red chilli nahn jim, sashimi of kingfish, and cashew nut nahm jim. He also brought out an entree of grilled octopus and crispy pork belly with watermelon roast chilli and black vinegar. Cheong Liew, of Victoria’s Botanical restaurant, cooked up Pahang-style freshwater fish with durian sauce and chilli tamarind sambal and trader’s rice. David Thompson of Nahm restaurant in the UK showcased his chicken braised in rice with turmeric and spices – a sensational dish. The surprise came from Poh Ling Yeow of MasterChef fame for her dessert: pandan coconut crepes with salty coconut custard. We all wanted.
Racing back to Noosa, our super-sporty bright red chariot seemed to go from zero to fast in only seconds. We visit the festival grounds, where stands now await guests. W chat with Michelle’s hero, Stephanie Alexander, who shares the great news that the government is adding an extra three years of funding to her wonderful school kitchen-garden foundation. Wouldn’t it be great if all schools had this program as part of their curriculum?
Dinner that night was a stand-up affair of guest chefs at Sunshine Coast restaurants. We attended Ms. G’s (NSW) at Season Restaurant, featuring chefs Daniel Hong and Andrew Tomlin. Pork-belly burgers and an unusual but enjoyable cheeseburger in a spring roll were served with lots of other street-food fare.
Michelle and I enjoyed ice-cream cones at Massimo’s Gelateria, sitting outside on the street, discussing the evening, and reminiscing about how we brought the kids here years ago. We were returning home the following morning, but the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival was really only just beginning. As we left Noosa’s main drag, Hastings Street, it was already full of celebrity chefs and former MasterChef contestants heading to their next gigs.