When was the last time you had one of those days that was so uplifting and exciting that you fell into bed with a full heart?
We had one of those days on Sunday! This year’s Hampton Festival finally went ahead after being rained out in May. And I gotta say, the weather really redeemed itself. The crisp, clear morning led to a gorgeously warm day, perfect for eating, drinking, and talking about food.
After such an amazing day at Growers on the Green last year, I was emcee once again. While nervous as heck, I was super excited to spend the day learning about and celebrating all the incredible brands we had presenting. We only had one original presenter who couldn’t make it and such a great mix of producers who shared with us.
We started the day out right with coffee. Local boy, Arthur Jones, has returned from the hills of Papua New Guinea, bringing his coffee brand Angco Coffee back with him. He even got a bit controversial, telling us that Aussie-grown coffee just doesn’t have the punch of others because of the lower altitude it is grown at compared to other countries’ beans. So interesting! I’m sure he’d happily tell you more about it if you visited him at the Angco store and roastery in Highfields, in the Monty Brewery estate. While you’re there, grab some of his coffee, you won’t regret it!
You know what goes great with coffee? Blueberries! Did you know Hampton Blue have been coming to the festival since it started?! Talk about local legends! Not only that, but they grow the most delicious blueberries and raspberries, and turn some of them into their incredible jams, sauces, and vinegars. Their raspberry vinegar is one of my favourites for both sweet and savoury dishes. Oh, and the antioxidants in blueberries are also really good for doggos…so my two girls keep reminding me. Personally, I think they just like the treats…
We had a real treat up next, with Chris from Highfields Gourmet Meats demonstrating how to truss a rolled roast perfectly. It was so cool to watch a master at work and know that it’s actually a super simple skill that, with a bit of practice, I can do as well. That said, if you don’t feel like a DIY, Chris and the team will also just do it for you!
Next up was Stephen from Bliss Buzz honey, who talked all about the importance of bees, not only for honey but for the health of the local area. Bees are busy little pollinators who, if we care for them, they will also care for us! He did have a warning though, about the introduction of a virus that has been detected in NSW and which could have dire consequences for our little workers. Stephen also reminded us that honey doesn’t go off. So, just because it’s crystalised doesn’t mean it’s no good, it just needs a little warmth to wake it up. Kinda like me on these cold mornings…
You know what else is great for the cold? Gin! And Ben from Pechey Distilling Co has some really cool local gins to warm both your body and your soul. This year, just like last year, he launched two new gins which were collaborations with local artists to produce the gorgeous bottle below. Now if you know me, you know I love a great collaboration, so this made me so happy….that, and the fact they taste Uh-mazing! Oh, and he might have mentioned another new brew coming later in the year as well. I can’t wait!
Another local producer who is a huge fan of collaborations is Halo Farm. Chip and Jo Saint might seem down to earth, but these guys are angels when it comes to celebrating local. Not only is their produce grown in gorgeous local soil in the best way to ensure it’s producing for many years to come. They shared some great info on finger limes, both how they grow and what to do with them. Jo may have mentioned they taste pretty good in a cocktail…
Now, we have to give a shoutout to Gordon from Emperors Pork, who put aside his public speaking nerves to come chat with us about his free range pigs and how much better nitrate-free bacon is for you. He also let us in on a little-known secret that the best part of the pig is the shoulder butt. And here I was thinking it would be the belly or the actual butt!
Twin Pine Limes were up next, with the wonderful Mark, AKA Tarzan. He wasn’t talking much about limes though. Instead he told us all about how they had to pivot due to market issues and found an even better path–Kombucha! Manifest Kombucha is just as tasty as it is good for you. In fact, it’s so good they’re getting international requests for their buch. Which makes sense when their flavors are so on point that the apple pie seriously tastes like a liquid pie. YUM!
We actually approached Matt from Valknut Meadery for last year’s festival when he was still just starting out, so it was great to see how far he’s come in just the last year. In fact, Matt was telling us that he only started sales in February and expected to have enough mead for many months…but he’d reached his twelve-month goal in just ten weeks! No wonder though, with an award winning mead already under his belt. This Old Norse nut is so passionate about his product he can tell you the history of mead and the cool story behind his very interesting branding. I promise you’ll walk away from a chat with him having learnt at least one new thing…and with a hankering for mead.
Now, the only hankering Sheree from Botanica Rose Farm seemed to have on Sunday was to destroy a rose bush! First she cut it clean of any foliage and then she pulled it out of the ground and stomped on it! And then she gave me the poor, abused shrub and told me I could keep it. I thought maybe she needed to up her gift-giving game, but apparently it will totally still grow! So, I’m accepting the challenge and will update you all on how my rose, which I’ve named Sheree, is growing.
Speaking of insane, Sterling from Mouse Proof Brewery had my mind swirling with the ingenuity and braveness behind their brand. The six boys’ mission is to produce beer that is not only as sustainable and genuinely good for the soil, but also tastes incredible. This means their growth has been slow and steady…a little like the line for their brews on Sunday which, at one point, was at least 50-deep! Proof they’re doing something right. Sterling explained that their goal is to be able to link your individual beer directly back to the farmer who produced the grains that went into it with a simple code on the bottle. Tastes like innovation and eco-consciousness to me.
Cumquat Australia‘s Roslyn dragged herself away from her crowded stall to chat to us about all things cumquat. After explaining the vast difference in cumquat types, she then shared some of the amazing things you can make with these sweet-and-sour fruits…including her incredible range of marmalades, syrups, and shrubs. And then she explained that a shrub is a bit like a vinegar cordial, and is lovely in a cocktail. YUM! I sent her back to her stall with a quiet note to self: must buy a cumquat tree.
Last, but certainly not least, we had Suzanne from 2nd 2 None wines share some of their best sellers. We even had a lady do a double-take before sitting down to listen because she got such a giggle out of their Gee Spot Sparkling Moscato. Suzanne shared with us that it can no longer be called a port, due to PDO (Protected Destination of Origin) regulations from 2013. I’m ashamed to say I had no idea about this, but will happily invite my friends to join me for PJs & Slippers instead of Port.
And that’s exactly what I did after an incredible day at Hampton Festival. I sat with a glass of wine, editing all the amazing images Sonny had taken and reliving an incredible day of talking and learning about food.
Sadly, the one downside to emceeing is that I didn’t get to eat as much as I’d like. But I guess that just gives me an excuse to go visit all our producers and learn more about their amazing brands. It also means you have to tell me what you loved the most! So share your day in the comments and your favourite discoveries from the festival.