Regional flavours visit the big city
Eat, drink and be amazed by the produce on Brisbane’s doorstep
RIPPLING waves reflected the golden light of the sun’s last rays as it ducked behind clouds inching ever closer to the horizon.
Lush blades of green grass tickled my ankles as I sat on the perfectly manicured lawn of River Quay and gazed across the Brisbane River towards the imposing buildings of the city’s CBD.
Scents of rich tomato pasta and salty fresh fish hung in the air.
The chinking of glasses punctuated the chatter that flowed down to the foreshore and disappeared across the water.
Soon a neat line of crisp white tents will be assembled along that very shoreline, acting as hubs of culinary production to add another dimension to the oasis.
On this evening, I got a small taste of what will be in store next month when the pop-up restaurants fill the space for the Regional Flavours festival.
The menu read classics but these beloved Australian dishes were given some unexpected creative flair.
A slider from The Jetty sandwiched chipotle Darling Downs beef brisket between two fluffy, buttery brioche buns.
There was just enough heat to leave my lips tingling, soothed by the fresh carrot and cabbage slaw that attempted to escape from each side.
Queensland fish and chips from River Quay Fish was next to be passed around.
The smell of the turmeric and cumin-infused batter hit my nose before my tastebuds, making them yearn for more.
Turning popular recipes on their heads to showcase top quality ingredients in new lights is a theme that runs throughout the festival.
A free two-day event, Regional Flavours started as a humble street market and has grown to a foodie extravaganza featuring celebrity chefs and the best of Queensland’s regional produce.
Over the coming days I weaved my way around the outskirts and inner sanctum of Brisbane, sampling the produce to be celebrated and being consistently excited by the way old flavours could be shown new tricks.
Rising early from a luxurious night at the Brisbane Marriott, we made our way to our first out-of-town destination – the Lockyer Valley.
About 45 minutes after we left the CBD each side of the freeway boasted noticeably more greenery.
We were heading towards 9Dorf farm, an innovative establishment striving to maximise production and minimise environmental impact.
The hot sun bore down on us as we wandered through fields of clucky chickens using caravans as homes and laying stations.
Following a “beyond organic” mantra, the farm recycles water from fish tanks on fields and allows chickens to grow outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
Wild Canary executive chef Glen Barratt is the advocate for the valley at the festival.
Paying a visit to the restaurant after seeing the beauty of the valley firsthand allowed me to taste the results when produce from the paddock hits the plate.
“We try to do as little as possible to the vegetables,” Glen said.
“It’s such a shame when you see people peeling carrots.” Carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets and pumpkin were served up to us roasted skins and all for lunch, in a close replication of the vegetarian salad the chef will be preparing during Regional Flavours.
Silence fell as we gathered the vegetables on a fork and dragged them through a generous smear of goat’s yogurt to tie all the sweet caramelisation together.
Dessert was a mixed plate of sweet treats including a panacotta made with camel’s milk, Lockyer Valley figs and a generous scoop of macadamia and ginger ice cream from Maleny.
Glen said sourcing local ingredients costs about the same amount as if they were purchased from afar, so why go past high quality produce that’s right on your doorstep?
Of course, what is a great meal without something to wash it down?
Later that evening we paid a visit to The Charming Squire to meet Matt Kirkegaard, a man whose eyes light up when asked about ale.
“There’s a siege mentality among beer makers that’s taking it to a wider audience,” he said.
Matt will be presenting beers from four local brewers and The Charming Squire at The Hunting Club over the festival weekend, a space where craft beer lovers go on a quest to find new flavours. “Who’s a fan of dark beer?” Matt asked our group. When a few were a bit hesitant to raise a hand he could see a challenge was afoot.
A quick whisper to a mate behind the bar and next thing we knew trays with two glasses were placed in front of us – one filled with stout and the other with a scoop of ice cream. “Stout affogato!” he said with glee.
Clearly two words none of us had heard together before. But lo and behold, it was a vision.
The chocolate, coffee notes made a creamy concoction with the ice cream, a little like an adults-only version of a spider.
The experience topped off an evening where we had tasted the new Rascals Raspberry wheat beer and the Oaked and Smoked oatmeal stout.
Hunting wasn’t really necessary to find those flavours, The Charming Squire knows how to pack a punch.
After retiring to the Marriott with a full belly, I awoke with a spring in my step wondering how my ideas of food would be challenged on that day’s trip to Moreton Bay.
Scuttling across the sand upon our arrival were miniature crabs, making it appear as though they were crawling right up the bank and onto our plates.
Accompanying us on the journey to Sandstone Point Hotel was Paul West, a lovable larrikin who will be the face of the bay at Regional Flavours.
A banquet of fresh seafood was laid before us on a blue-tiled table that looked directly out to the ocean.
We peeled prawns, cracked crab claws and scooped the flesh of the Bay’s famous bugs directly from their shells as we watched the waves lap gently at the shore.
I had the feeling that my food experience had come full circle, starting by the water and ending there again.
If all roads lead back home then the waterways must do too, which will ensure regional producers are always given direct passage to the city.
Regional Flavours will give a taste of the glorious goods on offer a stone’s throw from Brisbane, hopefully planting the idea that fine local fare can be found not only during the festival but at any time of year.
◗ Six pop-up restaurants will be set up along River Quay for the Regional Flavours festival.
◗ Wild Canary executive chef Glen Barratt will be the Lockyer Valley advocate at Regional Flavours.
◗ Matt Kirkegaard from BeerMatt at the Newstead Brewing Co.
◗ Wild Canary dessert platter of camelcotta (panacotta made of camel's milk), Lockyer Valley fig, raw cheesecake and a generous scoop of macadamia and ginger ice cream.
◗ The chipotle braised Darling Downs beef brisket slider will be served by The Jetty pop-up restaurant at River Quay for Regional Flavours.
A glorious day to enjoy a seafood lunch at Moreton Bay.