With Port Macquarie’s Tastings on Hastings food festival coming up on 27-29 October 2017, celebrity chef Matt Golinski takes you behind the scenes of our vibrant coastal region.
Meals, motorcycles and mountains were in abundance as Matt spent three days on a bike meeting the farmers who are gearing up for the biggest culinary and cultural celebration on the NSW North Coast. Matt Golinksi will host a series of foodie events at the festival this month. Here’s an extract from Matt’s motorcycle journey which can be found online:
“In October 2016 and this year I was asked to be a guest chef at the ‘Tastings on Hastings’ food festival, and very quickly fell head over heels in love with the region, its people, and most importantly to me, its diverse and vibrant local food culture.
So when I was asked if I would be available to do a gastronomic motorcycle tour of the Port Macquarie Region and write about my experience, it didn’t take me long to accept. My love of two-wheeled travel being almost on par with my love of food, the idea of spending three days riding around meeting farmers and exploring the countryside was an opportunity too good to pass up.
The small rural town of Wauchope, one of the many jewels in the crown of the region, has recently been declared New South Wale’s most motorcycle friendly town, so it seemed appropriate that the tour should start there. Armed with a brand new, adventure ready Suzuki VStrom 650 loaned to me by Mud ‘n Tar Motorcycles in Wauchope, I did what any self-respecting rev head chef would do on a tour like this – visit a winery as my first stop!
An easy 10-minute ride from Wauchope, the cellar door looks out over the vineyard and beautifully designed Bago Maze, and offers not only tastings of all the wines they produce; a little kiosk also makes great coffee and snacks, and new addition is Baba Lila’s Hand Made Chocolates. Tash Topschij has set up a permanent outlet where she mixes, rolls, dips and wraps thousands of chocolates each week using a generations old family recipe passed down to her from her Russian mother.
Native Catering Co
A quick blat down the Pacific Highway and I arrived in the sleepy fishing village of North Haven just in time to have lunch overlooking the waterways that wind through the area. Marisa and Adam Woods recently travelled from Adelaide to visit friends and, like a lot of people it would seem, decided to stay. Now they serve up fresh, unpretentious food for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week in their relaxed little café. Healthy salads, fresh local fish and inspired burgers and wraps are just some of the dishes on offer.
Roll up to the row of oyster sheds nestled along the Camden Haven estuary and you’ll tell which one belongs to James Woods by the loud music blaring from his workshop, as he toils away producing some of the most flavoursome and clean tasting oysters in Australia. I’d swap every fancy dinner in the world to stand ankle deep in that pure water slurping back his freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters with nothing but the briny water in their shells as a sauce. If oysters are your thing, and you’re around between December and June then dropping in to pick some of these up on your trip is a must.
Lorne Valley Macadamia Farm
Lorne Road meanders through picturesque dairy country, and a couple of kilometres before you hit gravel, Lorne Macadamias’ orchard sits proudly on top of a ridge with views back down the valley. Ray and Joanne Scott have been harvesting and processing macadamias from their 1500 trees for over 20 years. You’ll spot Lorne Valley Macadamias products in shops all around the Port Macquarie region, and if you happen to stumble across a market there’s a fair chance you’ll get to meet new owners John and Angie in person as they sell their wares direct from their stall.
Backtracking a few kilometres along Lorne Road, my first stop on my second day was at Bruce and Barbara Barlin’s Australian native bush foods farm, Barbushco. As I took off my helmet I could smell the unmistakably Aussie aromas of Lemon Myrtle, Aniseed Myrtle and Lemon Scented Tea Tree wafting through the office door. They now make an extensive range of sauces, syrups, jams, dressings, spice mixes and even native bush food flavoured pasta. The food service industry has finally started to embrace these uniquely Australian flavours over the past few years, and begun to use them as everyday spices instead of treating them as a novelty ‘bush tucker’ ingredient.
Ticoba Avocadoes and Blueberries
The tiny town of Comboyne with its rich red soil, high rainfall and an elevation of around 700 metres is lush and fertile, and the place where 15 years ago Ernst and Penny Tideman decided they’d try their hand at growing blueberries and avocadoes. The week before Christmas, after the main flush of the crop has been picked by professionals and sent off to market, the family opens the farm up to the public to ‘pick their own’. A great family day out in a beautiful setting and a good opportunity to gorge yourself on the freshest, juiciest blueberries you’ll ever eat.
I couldn’t have scored a better time of year to get to stay at Ewetopia’s farm stay cabin; it’s the beginning of spring and there are lambs everywhere. In fact, a set of twins had literally just been born as I arrived late in the afternoon. Cheese making is in full swing, and the whole family is involved in rounding up lambs and ushering mums into the stalls for their daily milking. Ian and Jill McKittrick produce yoghurt, labneh, fetta and haloumi from their sheep’s milk, they also have a Jersey cow who produces plenty of milk to sell to their loyal customers in the form of unhomogenised fresh milk and yoghurt.
Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries
Ricardoes is a household name in the Hastings Shire, an incredible success story built on hard work and great vision. Brothers Anthony and Richard Sarks have turned a productive farming venture into a bustling tourist attraction, giving visitors an opportunity to see what’s involved in growing tonnes of perfect hydroponic tomatoes each year through their daily farm tours. Their busy café knocks out hundreds of tomato-based meals every day, and the shop stocks a huge range of produce from other local businesses, as well as about 6 types of tomatoes to take home. Huge sheds of vertically planted, hydroponic strawberries are there for the picking, grown exclusively for visitors to experience the joy of pulling berries straight off the bushes and stuffing them into their mouths.
Port Macquarie’s Tastings on Hastings is on from 27-29 October 2017 and attracts 20,000 people to a series of intimate dinners, seafood feasts, paddock to plate farm tours, winery lunches and the main event with over 100 local chefs, bakers, producers, farmers and artisans.