Portarlington Mussel Festival
Boasting more than 300 events held in multiple locations across the state, Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival (MFWF, March 31 – April 9) may be the state’s premier food and wine event but there are plenty of other food festivals held throughout the year. From hedonistic celebrations in honour of gin cocktails to country festivals celebrating the humble potato, the state of Victoria is awash with unusual events dedicated to food, wine and spirits. With new festivals being added to the culinary calendar each year, Melbourne and regional Victoria is fast becoming known as a must-visit for any discerning foodie. Here’s a list of Victoria’s out-of-the-ordinary food festivals that offer much more than the typical food festival experience.
Big Chicken Festival
The northern suburb of Preston is fast becoming a foodie enclave with bars, restaurants and coffee shops springing up at a rapid rate. Preston’s Food Truck Park is well-known for hosting quirky and themed food festivals throughout the year with the Big Chicken Festival set to run from April 7-9. Attendees can expect fried chicken, burgers and more thanks to a cavalcade of local food trucks scheduled to be serving on the day.
Meats and beats merge at this music and food festival held at the Melbourne Showgrounds from April 22-23. Featuring eats from barbecue legends Fancy Hanks and Burn City Smokers, brews from Six String Brewing Company and fully-loaded hot dogs courtesy of Chrissy’s Cuts sausages, this event is strictly for meat lovers. Rock, bluegrass, indie and folk live acts add a side of aural pleasure to the affair.
Melbourne’s longest running all-you-can-eat oyster fest returns to seaside St Kilda on April 27. Giving seafood lovers a chance feast on Australian oysters, mussels and seafood canapes (washed down with sparkling wine, cider and beer) this popular event regularly sells out.
Wandiligong Nut Festival
The only nut festival of its kind in Australia, the Wandiligong Nut Festival celebrates the end of harvest season for High Country growers. Held on April 29, this low-key festival gives visitors a chance to go nuts trying locally-grown hazelnuts, walnuts and roasted chestnuts in a welcoming, small town environment. Cooking demonstrations from local chefs showcase the variety of ways nuts can be incorporated into meals and wine tasting opportunities provides a chance to meet winemakers working in the region.
The Great Trentham Spudfest
Held on May 7, this little community festival in the up-and-coming hamlet of Trentham recognises the town’s potato-growing heritage. Attracting thousands of locals and visitors, the festival gives attendees a chance to buy a wide range of well-known and hard-to-find potato varieties straight from the grower. Potato stalls selling everything from hot chips to mashed potato meals give carb lovers an opportunity to indulge. Fun activities like potato arts and crafts for the little ones and wine tasting for the grown-ups make this event appropriate for the whole family.
Wicked Chocolate Festival
It’s a chocoholics dream come true. A whole festival dedicated to the sweet stuff will be held at the Prahran Market on May 7. The program features a Weiss chocolate eating competition (back by popular demand), a pop-up caravan bar serving a decadent selection of chocolate cocktails, cooking demonstrations by Omega & Neil Perry Kitchen and a cooking class with Pierre Roelofs. Some of Melbourne’s favourites will also be there, including Adriano Zumbo Dessert Bar and Doughboys Doughnuts.
Good Beer Week
Running from May 12-21, Melbourne’s Good Beer Week features an astounding range of off-the-wall, brew-related events. From a five course degustation dinner featuring ramen made with beer, to a New York-style block party in honour of craft ales and a vegan food and beer matching dinner, Good Beer Week continually pushes the beer boundaries.
Melbourne Tea Festival
Victoria’s capital may be known for its world-leading coffee culture but Melbourne also has a thing for artisanal tea. Held on May 20, the Melbourne Tea Festival celebrates speciality loose leaf tea with tea ceremonies, workshops, tastings, talks and more. The ever-popular tea market boasts dozens of stallholders offering tastings and samples, as well as tea wares and paraphernalia to buy from local ceramists and makers. While there is plenty to do and see here, tea purveyors will love chilling out in the brew lounge with a cup of tea to sip and dreamy tunes to listen to.
Game of Rhones
Responding to the call of ‘Wine is Coming’ attendees at this one-day event will kick up their heels in support of the grape varieties of the Rhone Valley. Held at Melbourne’s Meat Market on June 10, this event will see the best wine producers in Australia, New Zealand and beyond compete for the affections of attendees who taste their way around the world in order to crown a favourite drop.
Truffle Melbourne Festival
Held at Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market (and other select locations around Victoria) on June 17-18, the Truffle Melbourne Festival hones in on one of the world’s most sought-after food items – the black winter truffle. A symbol of luxury and decadence, the truffle is celebrated with truffle feasts, chef demonstrations and tastings. Rural locations associated with this event hold truffle hunts, masterclasses and long lunches dedicated to showcasing the versatility of this food item that captivates people from far and wide.
Regional Tastes of Eynesbury
The close-knit township of Eynesbury hosts a relaxed, picnic-style festival dedicated to showcasing the best local food, beer and wines. Held on the sprawling grounds of a homestead on September 24, this micro-festival features wine tasting, sustainability talks and cooking demonstrations from local chefs promoting paddock-to-plate eating. While some festivals feature crowded stages and queues, this small-scale event is all about keeping things comfortable and casual.
London’s famous Junipalooza gin celebration recently branched out, choosing Melbourne as the first city outside of London to host the event. Bringing together talented distillers from Australia and beyond, this gin-soaked party features tastings, cocktail making classes and the chance to learn the gin making process from the ginsmiths themselves. With 2017’s event slated to be held in Melbourne on October 21-22, this is one event gin fans won’t want to miss.
Melbourne Salami Festa
Bursting onto the scene in 2012, this meaty festival is usually held in October. Each year, Melbourne’s best salami makers bring their greatest creations to this fun event in the hope of taking out the title of best salami in Melbourne. But it’s not all about competition at this Italian-style festa. Tasting stations, salami making demonstrations and pop up stores hosted by local restaurants give participants a chance to live, breathe and taste salami for the day.
Jamaican Food and Music Festival
While located more than 16,000 kilometres from the Caribbean, Williamstown’s Seaworks Maritime Precinct is set to host a celebration filled with the chilled vibe of Jamaica. Scheduled to be held on November 12, the Jamaican Food and Music Festival is infused with the beats and flavours of Jamaica. Several stages will host emerging and established reggae, dub and dancehall artists and DJs while a wide range of food stalls will provide festivalgoers with the best cuisine of the region such as juicy jerk chicken, fragrant goat curry and moreish fried plantains.
Paris to Provence
Melbourne’s annual celebration of all things French brings croissants, baguettes and other Gallic gourmet bites to the masses via a pop-up village located in the heritage-filled Como House and Garden. Known as Paris to Provence, this oh so French festival features flutes of Champagne, soft cheese, conserves and chocolate from some of France’s most prestigious producers, as well as French-inspired, locally-produced fare. Roving performers dressed at famous figures from France’s history books, French music and markets selling everything from French antiques to imported soaps from Provence, makes this one hearty celebration of France’s food and culture.
World Vegan Day
With a goal of promoting and expanding awareness of the ethical, and environmental benefits of a vegan diet, World Vegan Day has something to offer everyone. This one-day event, held in Melbourne, is the perfect opportunity to learn about, and celebrate vegan culture. With everything from food, to body care, to clothing on offer, doing some ethical retail therapy has never been easier.
Kilcunda Lobster Festival
Scheduled to run on January 18 next year, this annual community-minded festival held on the Kilcunda foreshore is a family-friendly event that raises money to fund important community projects and services. Attendees can try to win a Southern rock lobster by buying a ticket to the popular lobster wheel. Live music, rides and other amusements make this a top festival for kids, while fresh lobster meals put smiles on the faces of parents and children alike.
Portarlington Mussel Festival
The 12th annual Portarlington Mussel Festival will be held on January 13 2018, boasting a day of family fun for an entry fee of just $2. While the festival was conceived of to support the town’s mussel industry, its program has now expanded to include musical acts, art shows, cooking demonstrations, entertainment and local beer and wine tasting. Of course the mussels still play a key role in the festival and in 2017, more than 10 ton of mussels were sold.
Lonsdale Street Greek Festival
Home to one of the biggest Greek communities outside of Greece, it makes sense for Melbourne to host an annual festival celebrating Greek cuisine and culture. Running for more than 30 years, the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival is typically held in February each year. The legendary cuisine of Greece is unsurprisingly a big drawcard for festivalgoers with everything from fried halloumi to loukoumades (deep fried honey balls) available from the street food vendors hawking traditional Greek and Cypriot fare amidst roving performers and dancers dressed in traditional garb.
Meeniyan Garlic Festival
Attracting 6000 people in 2017, the Meeniyan Garlic Festival is Gippsland’s celebration of the small bulb that is able to take dishes from bland to unforgettable. With guests including internationally recognised chefs, food writers and industry experts, the program includes cooking demonstrations and informative talks interspersed with musical performances. A variety of stalls and gourmet food providers give attendees to opportunity to connect with local garlic growers and talented foodies who turn their garlic into gourmet goods. With the chance to try everything from garlic-infused olive oil to garlic ice cream, this festival proves that garlic is a versatile and much-loved food worth celebrating.
Thorpdale Potato Festival
The fertile soils of Gippsland’s Thorpdale district have a long history of producing potatoes and this is noted annually at the Thorpdale Potato Festival. An old-school festival big on country charm, events include potato picking, peeling and eating competitions, potato sack races and ‘Hessians on the Field’ – a fashion show where contestants don creative outfits made from potato sacks. Of course, a festival dedicated to one of the world’s favourite food staples wouldn’t be complete without food stalls and at this festival attendees can eat potatoes cooked in all their forms – roasted, fried, mashed and more.
Held in the picturesque apple-producing region of Harcourt, this festival is well known for its carnival atmosphere. Cider lovers will enjoy sampling craft ciders from the region while kids will love tucking into fresh apple pies and fritters made from local fruit. The hotly contested apple pie baking competition is one of the festival’s main events, closely followed by the equally hotly contested apple pie eating competition.
Melbourne Tomato Festival
Nothing defines Italian Culture in Melbourne more than the backyard tomato harvests, and the suburban garage sauce making. Since its inauguration in 2015, the Melbourne Tomato Festival has connected people thorough their love of food, while provoking conversations surrounding multiculturalism, and preservation of cultures. Created by the Grossi family, this festival is fun for people of all ages, but be sure to leave your white shirts at home.
Adam’s Farms, located in the stunning Yarra Valley, open their gates to visitors who want to experience farm life, and learn about the harvesting of Brussels Sprouts. Celebrating the birthday of Arthur Sprout, the giant Brussels Sprout greeting visitors upon arrival, the festival is perfect for families with petting zoos, tractor rides, and more on offer.