The Margaret River Gourmet Escape took place at the Leeuwin Estate Winery over the weekend, the first of its kind in the area and I would have to say that it was a truly fantastic day and not too expensive with tickets starting from $37.00. In addition to the event there were a number of festivities in the region which included gourmet Beach BBQ’s with guest chefs, exclusive dinners at the prestigious Voyager Estate Winery and Leeuwin Estate Winery, wine tours, Paella for the People, long lunch and a brunch. Over 20 international chefs were present for the event, giving an opportunity to meet and engage with your favourite cooks.
We were not really sure what to expect when we arrived on Saturday but we were pleasantly surprised as we passed through the entry and saw the beautiful grounds of the Leeuwin Estate Winery transformed into a micro village, a Gourmet Village. We were given free copies of the magazine Gourmet Traveller and a Spiegelau wine tasting glass (made in the EU and not plastic, fabulous!). For those who have never been to The Leeuwin Estate, the winery has a natural amphitheatre bordered by beautiful sky reaching Karri Trees and every year The Leeuwin Estate hosts concert series drawing local, national and international crowds to its grounds for a musical evening under the stars.
The Silvana Coffee Marquee was the first stop for us, we ordered a few barista made coffees and sampled some of the complimentary orange chocolate sticks. The people from Scoop Magazine were handing out some tourist maps of the South West and as they were free, we grabbed one of course.
Our group seemed to split up as we tried to purchase our Gems (the currency for the day however afterwards we noticed many stalls accepting cash as well as Gems)– the line was full of people eager to get on down into the village and start tasting food! Myself, Dk and T-Roy wandered around before we spotted the Rekorderlig Cider Marquee at the top of the amphitheatre, we sat down on the bean bags and without a doubt had the best view looking down into the village.
The Rekorderlig Cider Marquee became our base camp for the day, we took turns out of our group of six to venture down into the village. It worked perfectly as the Rekorderlig Cider Marquee served icey cold drinks all day long and next door was The Blackwood Valley Beef Company were consistently cooking up its mouth watering beef including serving their Aged Blackwood Smoked Bresaola which is a beef version of prosciutto. It was perfect we were still located next to food and drinks, plus we had an entertaining view of the Jenga feat offs and the various film crews covering the event. In between shows on the centre stage we would catch a glimpse of celebrity Chefs walking past our little area.
Over 100 exhibitors were on display in the Gourmet Village, the majority offering free tastings or tastings in exchange for a Gem ($7.00). Of course, you could purchase a glass of wine or bottle with cash.
Bahen & Co Chocolate
It was good to see there was a diverse range of products and not just wine and cheese. I sampled the crocodile sausages from Bush Tucker Tours and Coco Crepes from the Malay dessert place Delicious Bites. There were a few chocolate makers including Gabriels Chocolate and Bahen & Co as well as some great Breweries such as Bootleg Brewery, Matso’s Brewery, Eagle Bay Brewery, Duckstein Brewery, and Cheeky Monkey’s Brewery. It was impossible to get to the front of the Simmo’s icecream stand and the Always Fresh stand was pumping out little dip and cracker cups through the day.
The Delicious Bites Stall
All exhibitors were engaging and generous, the owner of Bahen & Co got out from behind the store and met with us and everyone around, we tried his delicious chocolate as well as the raw cacao beans used to produce the Chocolate.
Interestingly there were a few small family run beef exhibitors such as The Leeuwin Grass Fed Beef, Dandaragan Organic Beef and Blackwood Valley Beef, all producing 100% grass fed, hormone free meat! In fact The Leeuwin Grass Fed Beef even deliver to Perth for a charge of $30.00.
A few exhibitors from Perth were present such as The Little Creatures, Always Fresh, Snags and Sons and Maison Saint-Honore. The French Macaron and cupcakes are popular in Perth at the moment and sure enough there was a presence of these two delicious sweets around the village.
There were 15 gourmet dishes from the restaurant pop up stands available to purchase for 1 GEM. I tried the 12 hour braised Margaret River pork, house made tortillas with condiments and the steak tartare with pickled mushrooms and toasts. To be honest, although very tasty the portions were tiny. I would say that the gourmet dishes were more like sampling dishes. Afterwards I found there was a lot more substantial food on offer in the village like the gumball and paella.
A few firsts for me included eating a funnel cake from Ragin Cajun Louisiana Comfort Food which is basically a cake fried in oil and topped with sugar, totally indulgent. The funnel cake is popular in North America. I also ate hazelnuts in Truffle Honey from the Wine & Truffle Co.
There were a number of activities running during the day which included masterclasses cooking demonstrations from the region’s top chefs of Vasse Felix, Bunker Bay Cafe, Leeuwin Estate and Cape Lodge.
By about midday it was well and truly warm, I walked past the Yahava Koffee Works stand and saw a sign 2 Ice Koffees for 1 Gem, sold! The ice coffee was a blend of blend of natural extracts, Indian chicory and Yahava’s Indian Tiger Mountain Robusta Koffee extract, plus it was made by a barista using their coffee machine.
Silk Worms make an appearance at the Margaret River Silk Worm stall
Purchases of the Day
One of the advantages of attending a food festival is the discoveries of locally made products that are not always available in supermarkets! I left the village with some fairly unique purchases.
The Margaret River Silk Road store sold Australian silk products made from their very own silk worms who were also visiting at the Village. After sampling their teas I purchased a green tea pack made from their Mulberry trees.
Vasse Virgin Margaret River specialises in olive oil and skin care products. I purchased a trio of soap -Rose geranium, Lemon grass and Aqua after hearing from friends that their soap really leaves your skin silky smooth.
Bushtucker Tours had this rather unique and yummy chutney called, Wild Sambal made of wild limes, jackfruit, balyoongar, wild honey and spices. After trying some on a piece of bread I instantly realised it would be perfect in homemade burgers. So for $5.00 I took home a jar!
I am a lover of Champagne and I found a very small winery sharing a stand with another winery and offering one product for tasting, it was sharing a stand with another winery. I consider myself lucky to have stumbled on this one – The Frazer Woods Pinot Chardonnay. Frazer Woods use the traditional product method of Champagne known as ‘Methode Champenoise’.
Unfortunately there was a bit that I missed over the weekend such as the The Gourmet Traveller Wine Theatre sessions held in a mini theatre with several top wine makers and sommeliers enjoying a carefully selected session of wine tasting with expert advice and wine tasting notes. There was also the late night Supper Club at Winos in Margaret River of Tonics and tapas from 11:00pm – 2:00am. I have some unfinished business and will be returning next year!
No food festival is complete without attending with a group of people that have the same level of love for food as you do! It is definitely a group effort to meander through the stalls, hold a valuable spot in front and pass out the food samples and of course have someone manning the base camp!