Last weekend could not have been more perfect for two of the region’s best-loved festivals, writes Victoria Cosford. Sample 2014 was the biggest and best yet, and up the road at Currumbin, the scupture festival was – well, just Swell…
Conditions for the fourth annual Sample Food Festival could not have been better. Sunshine tempered with a little light wind ensured the 10,000-plus visitors to the Bangalow Showgrounds maximum comfort with which to abandon themselves to the many food stalls, the live entertainment and the cooking demonstrations. By midday the queues stretched long and wide as punters waited cheerfully for the $5 and $10 tasting plates – peppered figs with grilled kefalograviera from Meraki; pulled pork with sweet chilli salad on a soft bun from 100 Mile Table; potato gnocchi with cavolo nero and pinenuts from the Nomadic Kitchen; steamed pork buns from Hungry Like The Wolf: the culinary choices dazzled, although, as was the case last year, it was J & R Smokehouse and their smoky brisket and pork which stole the crowd honours.
The Chandon tent was a new addition, enabling those who enjoy their bubbles, to settle under umbrellas or on the grass with their flutes. Golden Fork winner for the $5 plate was Town restaurant with its exquisite Japanese-style cheesecake with Davidson plum, quandong and almond crumb, almost too pretty to eat, while the $10 plate award went to Sarah Wheeler’s Puremelt tasting plate of three chocolates, all gluten, sugar and dairy-free.
According to Sample founder and director Remy Tancred, this was her biggest festival yet. The previous day, as a sort of amuse-gueule to the big event, two lunches were offered: a three-course Clean Living one and an Italian Feast. The latter sold out, with 150 diners tucking into a superb four-course menu which included mackerel, white polenta, buffalo mozzarella and tiramisu cooked by local and guest chefs, with guests raving over the deceptively wicked but ultimately wholesome – raw, paleo – bill of fare.
And the best bit? Prevailing throughout both days was a sense almost palpable of sheer joy at a community event attracting all ages and demographic groups and totally devoid of aggression or even bad manners. It seems that food really does have the power to bring people together in harmony.
Meanwhile, an hour north was a different sort of festival, one to nourish the mind and the soul, rather than the body. Currumbin’s annual Swell Sculpture Festival drew huge crowds to a glorious beachfront amble from one artwork to another. The sun blazing down and the backdrop of sheer blue ocean makes this a fabulous feast for the senses. Above the surf club swayed and billowed a vast green octopus, while other highlights included a magnificent 250 centimeter-high horse made of bent and welded steel rods, an ominous group of hooded fiberglass ghosts and the winner, a vast firearm made of recycled steel entitled ‘Keeping Up With the Kalashnikovs’.