Two weeks ago saw the Araluen Chilli Festival roll into town and as one of the perks of working locally, I managed to score two free tickets to go and have a looksee. The festival is a foodies paradise, full of local vendors and producers ready to show off their wares with one little hot and spicy twist – everything is centred around chilli. Now, pre-India this would have horrified me, however since leaving I increasingly see myself adding spice to pretty much everything (either my tastebuds have died or everything is just that little bit more bland than it used to be), so the idea of a meal with a kick really is becoming pretty much the norm for me. I therefore didn’t back away from the chilli-ness of it all (one inventive company naming it’s different hot sauces along the lines of ‘Pussy’ right up to ‘Maniac’ – only in Australia right?) but got ready to get stuck in – Chilli Beer to hand of course!
WA really is chocca with some amazing food and breweries and festivals like this show them off perfectly. All locally grown and cultivated into the lovely little products we see on the shelves and stalls, you can see why the Aussie Tourism board made the WA Dream Job category ‘Taste Master’. From the wineries of Margaret River, to the olive oil producers, beekeepers, brewers, farmers and even fishermen of WA, you wouldn’t be too far off to assume that WA’s agricultural offerings aren’t unlike that of any Mediterranean paradise – but with a load more quality lamb and beef! Working currently so closely to the Agricultural industry as I am, I can safely say the WA agribusiness sector is enormous. Admittedly, the farmers have come upon increasingly tough times of late, but all the hard work is evident in the end product – the proof is in the pudding as they say! Or the paella, or preserves, or pinot grigio, or Periperi sauce… Need I go on?
Anyway, Si and I had a great time tasting all the little titbits on offer. One personal favourite had to be the Argentinian Steakhouse stall however I did also manage to win a free frisbee from Nandos too (what kind of hot and spicy fest would it be without Nandos?!) whilst Simon picked up a yo-yo. Lots of stalls also brought along their not-so-spicy efforts too, with many honey companies bringing ‘chilli honey’ but also a number of other yummy concoctions – including full chunks of fresh honeycomb to try. The first time I ever had baklava was at a Trinity’s White Tie Ball in Oxford in 2011 and I remember it tasting so good that I had to go get a piece once I spied some at the festival. It didn’t let me down! Yum!
However this is a chilli festival, so of course we did bump into one little mishap along the way – signalling our swift exit towards cool water and less challenging foodie fares. In the centre of the festival was a food demonstration, cooking up beef and lamb with a chilli twist. I’m sure every human is psychologically wired to see free food and think ‘it’s free and therefore I must have some in order to get my invisible money’s worth’ so off we went to go and grab some for ourselves. Yet having only been in our mouths for a total of 2 seconds it felt like a tasty-terrorist bomb had gone off aimed at our tonsils. Mouth open and tears streaming we dashed for the nearest water fountain (if you thought we were going to queue up for some Chilli beer at this point you would be seriously mistaken), watching all romantic notions dive out the window in a burning fireball as Simon and I physically elbowed one another out of the way for a little H20. We must have been at the water fountain for at least 20 minutes, no joke! The people who I had laughed at earlier for carrying around pints of milk now suddenly seemed so well prepared for the inevitable burning sensation we were now experiencing and we decided maybe now was the best time to go. We only made it across the road to the harbour before having to stop and have an ice cream to try and put out the flames once more. I really enjoyed the festival, but in true chilli style, it turns out there was only so much we could take!
Over and out Amigos,
Entry to the Chilli Fest cost $15 and the next festival will be held in March next year at Fremantle Esplanade.