Sample Food Festival, Bangalow, NSW

Last weekend the Bangalow Showgrounds welcomed back the Sample Food Festival after the success of last year. The Northern Rivers is home to a large food community who produce fruit and vegetables to home-made relishes, bread and beers. The festival is held on the first Saturday of October.

Each food stall was from the area; Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore, Murwillumbah and Bangalow. The stalls had to put forward two tasting plates to be judged.

Roy and I had a mission to find our favourite tasting plates. There are two categories one for $5 and another at $10. Starting early, our first stop was breakfast and coffee. The heat was setting in and there is only so much you can eat on a 30+ degree day.

Smoke House Barbeque

Pork shoulder slow cooked and hand pulled served on a roll, topped with Carolina BBQ sauce & tangy coleslaw served with potato salad – $10

Angus beef brisket slow smoked & sliced with Texan BBQ sauce, onion & dill pickles on the side – $5

JR’s smokehouse was the first place we stumbled upon, it was also the last one we tried. The back of the stall had the smoker, the queue was long. Smoked meat wafted as you drew closer to the stall.

Roy has not eaten beef brisket this good since he was in America many years ago. The beef brisket was subtly infused with smoke and the Texan BBQ sauce was sour not sweet with a bit of tang. The perfect tasting plate small enough but packed with 120% flavour. I have never had beef this good ever! Next time I am down in the Northern Rivers area I will be wanting to hunt these guys down.

I also have to say that their signage also drew us in as if they knew we had a soft spot for any kind of pork.

Joel – 0415 954 743


Coffee Lush

Coffee growing is slowly taking off in Australia. I like to think about supporting local producers who grow, roast and grind coffee. Lucky I had Roy behind me ordering a Coffee Lush flat white. I love the smell of freshly roast beans yet these days I am happy sipping my green tea.

Craig and Tamara who grow the coffee on their property in the Hogarth Range 80kms west of Byron Bay wanted to see the process from growing, harvesting, drying, roasting and grinding. With their passion they have created a premium product at an affordable price. You can buy the coffee direct from the Coffee Lush website.

Yes, Roy thought it was a pretty damn good coffee, better than any coffee he has drunk in the city (Brisbane) lately.

0422 100 170

Hungry Like the Wolf

Spice battered onion rings with yoghurt, chimichurri and chili – $5 and sticky slow baked Bangalow sweet pork ribs with sesame salad – $5

The slow cooked ribs were tender and juicy with the meat falling off the bone.  The sesame salad had a dressing that complemented the sweetness from the marinade along with a crunch of the sesame seeds. Yet the onion rings are always a favourite for us, the addition of chimichurri was not expected but added a good flavour. In the end though the pork still won us over here.

Escaping the heat with another dish in our hands we took time out to peruse the farmers market under the trees. Locals selling produce from their farms with bananas, lettuce, kale, home-made pesto, lemonade and first of avocados.

Ballina RSL Boardwalk Restaurant

Sticky duck shanks, orange, garlic & chili caramel served with fragrant rice – $5

This dish was value for money, three duck shanks sitting on a bed of rice. I am not sure where else I could find duck that cheap. The marinate was subtle, one of the shanks was a little overcooked while the others were perfect and moist and tender. I have to commend them on doing this dish.

(02)  6686 2544
240 River Street, Ballina

All of the stalls were dressed to impress, the tables covered with flowers, chalk boards displaying menus, fresh produce, plates and lanterns. Each stall was visually appealing and drew me in to take a closer look at what was going on.

The Byron at Byron

Fresh baguette with slow-roasted lamb & Byron and Byron piccalilli – $5

The fresh baguettes were sprawled out to tease me into buying one of these lamb sandwiches. The baguette was crisp on the outside and super soft on the inside, the lamb melted in your mouth. The piccalilli had a slight tang to even out the richness of the lamb.

The Byron at Byron is headed by head chef Gavin Hughes a restaurant that showcases the regions foods and makes use of the local farmers markets for produce.

(02) 6639 2111
77 – 97 Broken Head Road, Byron Bay 


La Baracca

Twice-cooked master stock braised pork belly, with seared Queensland scallops, caramalised red cabbage & a lemon beurre blanc – $5

This dish won me over as my favourite for the day, how can a girl go wrong with pork belly topped off with scallops? You cant. After all my years in kitchens this dish was decadent to the max which is not a bad thing. The pork had been nurtured in a stock holding on to the flavour, then crisped on the outside to give it a little crunch. The scallops were plump and melted in your mouth. Plus they were also from Queensland.

An addition of red cabbage was good, even though I wanted more of it to help unclog my arteries. I licked my plate clean to get the last drops of beauue blac off my plate which was hinted with just enough lemon. This dish still makes my mouth water. mmmmmmmmmmmmm pork

I plan on visiting this restaurant next time I am down in the area, you should see their menu – its good.

(02) 6622 7980
29 Keen St, Lismore


Fleurs Restaurant

Portuguese custard tart, hazelnut cannoli, honey & rosemary pannacotta, macadamia & pistachio chocolate silken tart – $10

These plates of sweets from Fleurs Restaurant were seen all over the festival I even saw one being carted to a car as we were leaving. They were doing a roaring trade, folks queued to fix their sweet tooth cravings. The desserts are from a crafted menu by Adam Smith inspired by simplicity and sharing the love of food and friends.

Fleurs Restaurant
(02) 6681 1699
301 River Street, Ballina


Before I got to eating I spotted these beautiful hand-crafted pottery bowls. Made by Survira a passionate pottery wizz. I bought two plates on leaving the festival from him which are now sitting on my dinner table. They are still empty because they are just so nice I don’t know what to put in them. I think a food photography day might be in order.

Survira also makes sculptures along with the ceramic work that you can see above.

(02) 6684 9194


The winners of the best tasting plates according to the judges:

The Byron at Byron – $10 winner – Balinese pork curry with radish & herb salad

Alphadale 561 – $5 – winner – Angus beef cheek cornette, creamed celeriac & lentil ju
Roy and I decided that the crowd favourites were the Smokehouse – pork roll – $10 & Fleurs Restaurant tasting plate – $10. The crowd surrounding both of these stalls was dense, both plates were spotted around the festival in unusual locations and in high numbers.
Did you go to Sample Food Festival? What was your favourite or what would you like to have eaten?





  1. What a fantastic experience for a food lover. I’ve done the coffee plantation visit on the plateau years ago. Nothing smells better than coffee roasting I don’t think. Maybe a newborn baby but that’s it. 🙂

  2. Wow, what a great time you must have had! Pork belly and scallops? Sign me up! Fun post – thanks.

  3. What a great day this was. I had the pork and scallops and the Fleurs tasting plate and really enjoyed them both. On the way out I got a pizza roll to take home for dinner and that was also yummy. Congratulations to the organizers and participants.