The Margaret River Gourmet Escape

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I’d been looking forward to the Margaret River Gourmet Escape ever since the first adverts came out. First of all I love Leeuwin Estate (so beautiful) and secondly despite my widening girth, I couldn’t wait for heaps of Margs celebrated food and wine to be in one place – and ripe for the tasting. Oh bliss!

So last weekend  loads of culinery creatives, wine buffs, and the general hungry hordes descended upon the small south west town of Margaret River to attend the annual Gourmet Escape, an event that celebrates Margaret River’s increasingly renowned pedigree as an internationally acclaimed food and wine destination.

It’s getting better known by the day.

Goggle eyed gourmands, eager beavers from Asia, internationals from all over, city slickers from Perth, and blissed out locals swelled, like one of Margaret River’s famous surf breaks, into the grounds of Leeuwin Estate and the tents of the Gourmet Village to enjoy not one but three days of food, beer and wine revelry.

Of course chef Heston Blumenthal was a big draw card.

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But those of us in the know realize that Margaret River is a gourmet experience all year round, choc-a-bloc full with fine dining and wining experiences, and although the world class food has been a little slower to follow the world class wine, it’s  snowballing as more and more small time organic farmers and food producers set up shop in the region, supplying not only the farmer’s markets but also the restaurants with locally grown low carbon footprint products.

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There’s growing rumour that many food producers knock on restaurant doors to sell eggs, herbs, veggies, meat, fish or cheese to the well known chefs of the region. So even if restaurants don’t have their own veggie patch (many do), you can bet your bottom dollar that the food is likely to be fresh.

The myth of the region as a gourmet escape, is fast becoming a reality, and it’s previous reputation as a back packer-surfie-hippie haven is caught in an undertow.

Expats from the East who yearn for the laid-back Aussie lifestyle, and ordinary folk from the suburbs bypass city life for the lure of a tree change to the south west.

Read about it in the papers, it’s happening.

And why not? Margaret River is a cosmopolitan enclave, a foodie’s paradise, a wine lover’s playground and a beach bum’s utopia.

Margaret River Gourmet Escape 2013

The Margaret River Gourmet Escape is a festival with benefits held in November each year. There’s the gourmet village itself, but there are also satellite events with world renowned celebrity chefs doing their thing. You can learn a lot about wine and food, and sniff, slurp or taste a fabulous selection of produce, wine and beer from around the region.

Oh and have a bit of fun too … the Cocktail Lab was very popular!

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At the Gourmet Village we were taken on a culinary expedition with cooking demos, and tasters from the best Western Australia has to offer.

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There were acclaimed chefs from around the world; Heston Blumenthal, Neil Perry, Rick Stein, Poh Ling Yeow, Alex Atala and 40 other local and international food and wine experts strutted their foodophile stuff, while those of us without tickets to the main events rubber necked some of them  from a distance.

I was chuffed to see one of my heroes, Rick Stein in action at Catch of the Day.

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How much did a ticket cost?

Some locals complained that the festival was expensive and not geared for local residents and their families.

But I beg to differ. Our tickets cost $64  each which included $28 worth of GEMS (the Margaret River Gourmet Escape festival currency – 1 gem equaling $7). On top of all the free wine and beer tastings, and the complimentary cordon bleu tidbits from nearly every foodie stall, I purchased two glasses of wine and two mini gastronomic entrees with my four Gems for a lunchtime picnic. At the end of the day I was elegantly stuffed with food, and couldn’t have sipped another dram of wine.

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For lunch we particularly enjoyed the Vasse Felix: duck and pork rillette, rhubarb, baguette, rocket and the St Margaret Vineyard & Grained fed Beef, palm sugar and soy seared beef fillet on wild rocket salad.

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Margaret River has a definite magnetism. Something finally clicked within me today, and for the first time I felt that I would like to buy a house down here. The wine, the galleries, the restaurants, the art, the concerts, the beaches, the rugged coastal walks, the caves, the scenery – gosh, what’s not to love?

Next week I’ll be writing about our favourite wine estate restaurants in Margaret River …. watch this space.

Do you have a favourite place in Margaret River. If you’ve never been, where’s your favourite foodie spot in the world?

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Comments

  1. I’m a foodie! The most beautiful photo in your post, Johanna, is the one of you standing by the icy barrel of oysters on the half shell. I’ve had the extreme pleasure of tasting many varieties from the coastal regions of the US. Each a unique flavor, shape, and texture, and heir exquisite subtle flavor is a favorite of mine.

    Taste is one of God’s most generous gifts, so dear heart, get some bigger britches and you and your honey explore. <3
    Mary Martin recently posted..Choosing a Turkey to Roast…My Profile

  2. Neva Fels
    Twitter:
    says:

    Amazing pictures and the one with your head on a platter made you quite the dish. So funny. I’ve never been anywhere that has that much to offer. Love all the beautiful food.
    Neva Fels recently posted..Our Love of Trains Never EndsMy Profile

  3. Thanks Neva! Yes it was an awesome event, and you’re right, we’re so lucky to have a region in WA that has SO much to offer. It is amazing. I know, that was a wonderful billboard they had up for photos ;)

  4. Oh Mary, I love it – yes, I think I’ll ask Santa this year for some bigger britches! The subtle taste and oh so luxurious sensation of fresh oysters straight from the sea is definitely a gift from God.

  5. Sounds like an awesome festival, Jo. The Margaret River region certainly knows how to showcase the beautiful food and beverages they have on offer. What a great way to spend a day out.

    Thanks for sharing your amazing photos of the day.
    Carolyn recently posted..6 reasons to take a Hop On Hop Off bus tourMy Profile

  6. It, as in Margaret River, certainly does know how to put on a good show, Carolyn! Thanks for popping by today :)

  7. Catherine says:

    This sounds like it was a fabulous event! We must make a note to book in for next year. I remember Margaret River when it was a sleepy little town where not very much happened. We would drive through there on our way to Augusta, where we had our annual holidays. The biggest excitement in those days (1970′s and 1980′s) was that the Rajneesh (not sure of spelling) sect, or the “Orange People” would party for hours out the front of one of the pubs on the main road. We were fascinated by their eccentric looking attire. It has been very interesting to see Margaret River become one of Australia’s busiest and most popular tourist destinations. Thanks for another great post!

  8. How wonderful to hear your memories of the ‘old’ Margaret River Catherine! It must have changed so much since the 70′s and 80′s. I would have loved to witness those changes, but even in the time we’ve been here you can see the difference. Yes, it’s certainly on the tourist map both locally and internationally these days. Thanks for your interesting comments :)

  9. Yes Margaret River is a wonderful place and like Catherine, I remember when it was a sleepy little place with the odd winery (odd as in occasional, not strange). And I agree the Gourmet Escape is good value, with the grazing and gourmet delights throughout the day .

  10. Ahh I would love to have seen it when it was a tiny place too Ingrid!

  11. What a great way to spend an afternoon. I’ve never heard of a cocktail lab and it sounds so interesting. Love the one of you in a dish :) I’m not much of a cook but love taste testing.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Swimming with the Fishes: Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay OahuMy Profile

  12. Ha Ha, thanks Mary – yes that billboard proved a popular place for a photo! The cocktail lab was indeed the place to grab an interesting ‘brew’!

  13. Wanda says:

    A great post Jo which really captures the spirit of the event. With regards to my favourite eatery, there isn’t really one. But, I do remember a pivotal experience about one year ago. Husband and I were participating in the Cape to Cape which is a four-day mountain bike epic of strenuous proportions. After finishing one day’s ride near Margaret River, we stumbled into the pub (sorry, no name) on the main street of Margaret River and ordered some grub. What struck me at the time was that the food was really very good. I was amazed that we had walked into an ordinary looking pub without giving it any consideration, and the food was of a very high standard. That doesn’t happen everywhere. Well done Margs!

  14. Thanks Wanda, I could have gone on and on, so I’m glad you felt that I’d captured the spirit of things. I’m so impressed with you and your bike riding expeditions, the Cape to Cape is a monster ride I believe. I wonder which pub you stumbled into … great to hear such a glowing report. As you say, “Well done Margs!”

  15. I think I might have to close up and go to this next year. Sounds wonderful!
    We’ve just returned from 3 days in the Margaret River area. It’s nearly as nice as the Ferguson Valley. I’m glad we were there mid-week as the town was choc-a-block. If we hadn’t pre-booked restaurants we would have had to take pot luck.
    Our best experience was at Muster. We loved it so much we even went back for breakfast – YUM!! Great food and good service. It used to be a more formal affair when it was Must. We think it’s better as it is.
    Other rewarding meals were at Arc of Iris and Morrie’s Anytime. Morrie’s was overflowing with diners. Their tapas were great but they needed more folk serving. I think they weren’t expecting to be so busy on a Tuesday night.
    Between breakfast and dinner we didn’t have the capacity to do lunch. However, from past experience, Leeuwin Estate is hard to beat. Will’s Domain is great too. So is Voyager Estate. So is….

  16. Wow, thanks for sharing Denise! What some awesome tips. I’m definitely putting some of those places on my ‘to do’ list, and your tip about booking in advance is such a good one – especially on high days and holidays. Margaret River is no longer just a sleepy little town.

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