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Yendon Truss TomatoesAward winning Yendon tomatoes

I knew we were going to have a wonderful time at Taste Ballarat at the Rural Lifestyle Expo the moment I walked into the giant marquee. In a setting made for celebrations, we gathered together our regions finest quality producers to share a day filled with food, food and more food. Who could not have a good time in a big white marquee filled with beautiful light, lots of smiling faces and AMAZING produce?

Sultana ClustersSultana Girl gourmet sultana clusters

Suzi Pork Demo
Suzi Fitzpatrick shows us how to prepare Tarna Valley pork

The Taste Ballarat Marquee was emcee’d by wonder-chef duo Suzi Fitzpatrick and Simon Beaton with special guest The Weekly Times’ Jeremy Vincent. Suzi and Simon are true supporters of the real food movement in Ballarat. They focus on quality food, ethical and sustainable practices and they strengthen the community by supporting our local producers. They shared with us their extensive knowledge regarding the quality aspects of the food in our region and how to prepare it.

Taste Ballarat
Jeremy Vincent, Daniel Armeni and Simon Beaton

The guys responsible for some of the best meat in our region were on hand to share with us their mad skills and passion for real food. Tarna Valley’s Daniel Armeni on the knives breaking down a carcass, Brooklands Free Range Farm’s Jono and Salt Kitchen’s Mick Nunn on the mic giving us the lowdown on all things meat and Sebastian Jurcan at the BBQ sizzling his freshly made sausages lured locals into the marquee in record numbers.

Carcass Breakdown
Jeremy Vincent, Simon Beaton, Mick Nunn, Jono, Sebastian Jurcan and Daniel Armeni (in the foreground) 

Following the meat frenzy it was time to hone our techniques as we were shown how to make a tasty tomato passata and truly great gnocchi by some of our best chefs and most experienced Italian cooks from the Italian Society. The winner of the Gnocchi Off competition was announced, Liam Downes from Craig’s Hotel took out the prize, although it was not an easy task for the judges to decide with so many tasty contenders. The Junior Tomato competition was awarded to the Madden sisters with their pork passata submission.

Passata Demo

Gnocchi Judging
Judging the gnocchi

To complete one of the tastiest days in recent memory we announced our Artisan Pantry and Paddock to Plate Awards. So without further ado here are the winners for 2016.

Artisan Pantry Award:  Basilio Sourdough

Artisan Pantry Award 01
Pauline Basilio from Basilio Sourdough accepting the 2016 Artisan Pantry Award

Paddock to Plate Awards Business over 2 years: 1st Yendon Tomatoes 

P2P John Yendon TomatoesJohn Elford from Yendon Tomatoes accepting the Paddock to Plate Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo 

Paddock to Plate Awards Business over 2 years: 2nd  Country Style Smallgoods

P2P Sebastian CSSSebastian Jurcan from Country Style Smallgoods accepting the Paddock to Plate Second Place Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo

Paddock to Plate Awards Business over 2 years: 3rd  Basilio Sourdough bread

P2P Pauline BasilioPauline Basilio from Basilio Sourdough accepting the Paddock to Plate Third Place Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo

Paddock to Plate Awards Business under 2 years:  1st Tarna Valley Farm

P2P Brian Daniel Tarna ValleyDaniel Armeni from Tarna Valley Pork accepting the Paddock to Plate Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo

Paddock to Plate Awards Business over 2 years: 2nd Sultana Girl

P2P Erin Sultana Girl 01Erin Jonasson THE Sultana Girl accepting the Paddock to Plate Second Place Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo

Paddock to Plate Awards Business over 2 years: 3rd  Harmony Garlic

P2P Brian Harmony Garlic
Brian Woodstock accepting the Paddock to Plate Award from Graham Wilkie from Natures Cargo

Congratulations to everyone who submitted the their produce for this year’s event. It was all of such fantastic quality. It thrills us to see how quickly the Ballarat region has become renowned for it's exceptional produce.

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ballaratfood suzi fitzpatrick

The Rural life style expo is on again this weekend, I do believe it’s the 5th year for this Ag-stravaganza! For Ballarat Food it’s the third year and we are looking forward to presenting to Ballarat a snapshot of exceptional produce in our region and quite an incredible selection of tasty treats just outside the Taste of Ballarat Marquee.

Friday morning Simon Beaton of Mr Beaton’s Cookery and the Executive chef of the Ballarat North Sports Club, Graham Willkie managing director and owner of Nature’s Cargo and Jodie Kaine and myself of will gather in the ‘Ladies’ room at the showgrounds for a cup of lovely tea and three hours of tasting the best of the region’s produce. Thanks to all the farmers, producers and foodies who have entered the Paddock to Plate and the Artisian Pantry awards this year. For those of you whom are planning to join us in the food Marquee you are in for a treat.

See you at Rural Lifestyle Exp2016

This Saturday the 2nd of April the festivities will kick off at 9.30. Entry to the show grounds in $10 for adults and $5 for children. Good value family tickets are also available and there are many farmy things to check out. The food component is only one section. Get ready for Big tractors, 50 breeds of live farm animals, a kid’s shed full of activities, food, fibre and fashion, gardening and guestspeakers, U Beaute country folk like the Expo’s Ambassador Gorgi Coghlan.

The Taste Ballarat Marquee will have its own agenda. MCs for the day are the usual suspects, Simon Beaton and I will be joined by celebrity chef Jeremy Vincent, food writer and food contributor at The Weekly Times.

Bring your shopping trolley as Jiggety-Jig Farmers Market stall holders will also be there to sell and share their food story. Ballarat loves our meat and you can meet four superstar butchers and watch them break down a pork and lamb carcass and learn all the tips and tricks; where your favourite cuts come from, how they may be cooked, seasoned and aged.

ballaratfood sebastian and daniel

Sebastian Jurcan of Country Style Smallgoods, Daniel Armeni of Tarna Valley Pork, Mick Nunn of Salt Kitchen and Jono from Brookland Freerange Farm will be working the BBQ and Mel Davies from the Preservers pot will be there with her incredible locally foraged preserves, jams, curds and tomato sauce.

Janet from Cheeselink is one of my favourite festival characters at The Rural Lifestyle Expo and in the past Janet has made feta and ricotta fresh on the stage before our eyes. If it’s something to go with your cheese you are after we have Sultana Girl a local Victorian organic farmer. Erin who is immensely popular at our local farmers markets with her incredible organic oranges that she brings from tree to market. Erin will be showcasing her newest product, Clusters, sultanas that are dried on the vine and are the perfect foil with a good cheddar, an oozy brie and a sexy smelly blue. Erin will also have her sheet dried and vine ripened sultanas available by the kilogram or smaller for the kid’s lunch packs.

Harmony garlic were one of the winners of last year’s Paddock to Plate awards and have come back this year with an amazing range of value added products. Pantry staples like Garlic salt, garlic infused oils, smoked and comfit garlic. The range of locally grown varieties is amazing, anyone who has a bit of a garlic addiction could spend hours with the lovely Brian and Helen just talking about the nuances of each country’s garlic from the Italian whites to the purple Spanish varietys and our own Aussie cloves too.

Pink Muesli makes a super food exploding brekkie mix that is soaked in beetroot juice and then roasted till crisp and nutty in flavour. I love this product as it has no sugar added and the milk goes bright pink when poured over the muesli. The kids think it so very cool. And guess what? It’s really good for them. It’s so yummy it also makes a great health snack or teamed with seasonal fruit and good yoghurt it’s a meal when you are strapped for time and still want to tick the healthy box.

4 Season Juice is an incredible local food adventure, Alicia is my official go to girl for health, her cold pressed juices are packed with vitamin, minerals and healing properties, the fibre is still present and the taste is incredible the nutrients stay activated for 72 hours once sealed in her glass bottles. Turmeric are new exhibitors that I’m looking forward to learning more about especially when considering the health giving nature and anti-bacterial properties of this vibrant yellow rhizome.

Basillio Sourdough,Yendon Tomatoes,Gorae Organics, Ballarat Mushroom Farm and Camilo Olives will tantalise your taste buds and then there’s the eating exhibition. Watch us, gather and consume at least one treat from these mobile food dudes; Esther’s Eats, Bean Me Up Coffee, Knife Fork Spoon, Alia Lebanese, The Charcoal Pit Spit Roaster, Finesse Catering with old school lemonade, Timboon Ice cream, Luigi’s Gelati, The Forge, Zed and Co Porky yummos, Red Duck Beer and Ned Kelly Winery.

We’ll be judging the awesome entries of the Gnocchi Off and the Junior Tomato Sauce Competition. It’s great to see the kids creating some excellent dishes and embracing a whole food ethos. Here’s one of the Junior Tomato entries that melted out hearts.

Tomato Entry

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Ballarat Food is super pleased to annouce that the Australian documentary Fair Food will be screening this Saturday April 11 at midday and at 2pm in the Food Pavillion at the Weekly Times Rural Lifestyle Festival at the Ballarat Showgrounds, on the corner of Creswick Road and Howitt Street Wendouree. For anybody curious about our food system in Australia and the issues impacting it, you really must see Fair Food. A Q&A discussion panel will follow the 2pm screening.

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The Taste of the Region Festival was held last Saturday 5th of April as a part of the Rural Lifestyle Expo held at the Ballarat showgrounds. After quite a dark and wet week the weather in Ballarat was spectacular for the event. We had been working hard behind the scenes to ensure the day was filled with tasty offerings and foodie entertainment from the Ballarat region and our local Ballarat Food network did not disappoint.

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