My answer was always going to be yes. When Tourism Queensland invited me on a weekend tour sampling the local, gourmet delights from boutique producers in my own regional backyard, I did not hesitate in my reply. Who wouldn’t want to meet real producers, sample beautiful food made with love and care, and travel quaint roads past colourful crops and contented cows?
Our food trail began with a gourmet chocolate tasting at Seatonfire Chilli Chocolate at Murphy’s Creek. The chocolatier duo, Lynne and her son Jason, presented elegant platters of their award-winning chocolate with tempting flavours like wild chilli, mild chai, sesame, orange, rosemary with sea salt and my favourite, liquorice and lime. Each bite provoked grateful murmurs from our group.
After a quick coffee stop at the Finch Café in Toowoomba we arrived at The Sauce Kitchen. The former granary has been transformed into a stylish food temple with café, cooking school, gifts and kitchen supplies. Owner Sharyn Donaldson delighted us with a seasonal lunch made with fresh, local ingredients and matched with wine from the not-so-far-away Granite Belt.
Back in the transporter, we headed west out of Toowoomba until we found the sleepy gravel lane that delivered us to Banyard Game Farm near Pittsworth. Owners Clive and Erica spoke with passion and pride about their unique enterprise – the only quail meat operation in Queensland – where care, attention and respect are the hallmarks of their farming philosophy.
By this time, the afternoon sky was blushing pink so we made a beeline for the historic Bull and Barley Inn at Cambooya for our overnight stop, an elegantly refurbished inn with a restaurant famous for its substantial meals that leave no soul hungry.
The next morning the sun and blue sky promised ideal weather for our farm tour and ploughman’s feast. Our local farm hosts greeted us heartily and patiently explained the nuisances of their work, their commitment to producing fresh and wholesome produce, and their pleasure at being part of the Felton district community. It was not that long ago that the area’s prime farming land was under threat from mining. However, the resilient and tenacious community banded together to fight the planned mine and protect the land. Out of that troubled time something brilliant was born – the annual Felton Food Festival, which is held on a picturesque local farm with views across distant sorghum crops, budding cotton and golden grasses.
It was here, amongst a stand of handsome eucalypts, that a stunning outdoor feast had been prepared for us. A few highlights were the prosciutto wrapped figs, butterflied lamb encrusted with garlic and herbs and an exquisite dessert spread, boasting a baked cheesecake with burnt salted caramel peanut brittle and spiced chocolate mousse cake with pomegranate syrup and candied oranges. Each hero ingredient was sourced and provided by local producers and then meticulously prepared by the chefs from Impressions on Scott.
The styling by Poppies for Willow was so beautiful that we wore delirious grins throughout the meal. Local farmers, festival volunteers and Felton neighbours joined us for what I dubbed the Felton Celebration Feast. We arrived as strangers but left as friends; food has a funny way of doing that. I am now looking forward to seeing my new friends, and tasting more of their food, when the Festival comes to Felton on April 10.
See more at Felton Food Festival.
Words and images by Heather Smith