It’s hard to imagine a more enticing road trip than a five-day culinary jaunt down the Sapphire Coast, but who has the time to research all the best places to visit?
EAT on Tour – a gastronomic grab bag of seafood and craft beers, picnics, tastings and gourmet dinners all in one perfectly planned itinerary – has solved this problem for time-poor holiday planners.
Some of the best providores, restaurants, cafes, fishers and farmers along the NSW South Coast have joined forces to create a tasty tour that will wind its way from Cobargo to Eden from 4 to 8 March.
Intrepid food fans can book in for cheese and wine tastings, coffee and brewing workshops, oyster shucking classes and a craft beer festival, plus lunches, dinners and picnics featuring local produce and drinks along the way.
To be held over the ACT Canberra Day and Victoria Labour Day long weekend, the event is the annual EAT Festival reimagined in the wake of COVID-19 and snap border closures.
Instead of having up to 4,000 foodies converge on the foreshore of Merimbula Lake to try dishes from up to 30 food stalls as they have for the past seven years, EAT on Tour will see gastronomic tourists hit the road to visit providers in their own venues.
“[Not holding the event on Merimbula Lake] was a hard decision to come to, but turning the festival into an EAT trail was a way of keeping it alive,” says the owner of South Coast business Free Range Catering and festival committee member Dave Arens.
“It’s a long weekend, and a lot of people had already booked a stay in the region thinking there would be something on, so we came up with the idea of a food trail where people can still experience festival favourites, and try local produce.”
Dave has teamed up with Anthony Daly and Brett Kryskow to present one of the event’s highlights, a Three Chefs’ Dinner at Merimbula’s Wharf Restaurant, which will have a keen focus on the area’s famous seafood, including lobsters, mussels and oysters, as well as local figs and honey.
In Bermagui, cafe and patisserie Neighbourhood and restaurants Il Passagio and Eurolicious will collaborate on a Mediterranean-style long table dinner using local produce, and in Pambula ‘The Gin Din’ will see chefs from Toast Cafe design a four-course menu including and accompanied by gins from nearby North of Eden Gin.
A sunset seafood cruise out of Twofold Bay in Eden on board 16-metre catamaran Cat Balou will showcase Wonboyn oysters, Disaster Bay chillies and Eden smokehouse products. Wine and cheese pairing sessions will be held at Blend Providore in Tathra.
Along the gourmet trail, local restaurants and cafes will serve EAT-themed dishes that can be enjoyed in-house, or taken away. Dine-in on salmon gravlax bruschetta at Sprout cafe in Eden perhaps, or pick up a picnic box to enjoy in the garden of Via Luna in Cobargo.
Broadwater Oysters in Pambula will offer hampers pairing their famous Sydney rocks with cheeses from Tilba Real Dairy, Wild Rye panini, olive paste and either a local Breakfast Creek Wine or Longstocking Beer. Or visitors to the tiny oyster shack beside tranquil Pambula Lake can simply enjoy a plate of freshly shucked bivalves with a complimentary glass of beer or wine by the water.
“The aim is to bring the EAT festival to the whole of the Sapphire Coast, encouraging our fans to travel between towns and villages to enjoy bespoke foodie experiences, featuring our local chefs, local producers and local produce,” a festival spokesperson said.
“It’s an exciting twist on the traditional event, with foodies now able to drop into restaurants and cafes from Cobargo to Eden.”
Dave Arens says the trail has had such a great response from local operators that there may simply be too many places to visit over one long weekend, but that shouldn’t stop people returning to the South Coast in their own time.
“For a long time, we’ve tried to encourage more satellite events around the festival itself [and now it has happened]. Eat on Tour will give people a great idea of what’s out here in our region,” he says.
“There are some really exciting chefs and restaurants putting together some interesting offerings along the Sapphire Coast … lots of fresh ideas, as well as the stalwarts who continue to do great things.”
For the full Eat on Tour event list, visit EAT Festival. Bookings should be made directly with individual providers.