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Rootstock Sydney 2015: beyond the glass

From top: Giorgio De Maria, James Hird and Mike Bennie

From top: Giorgio De Maria, James Hird and Mike Bennie

You've heard of Rootstock, the Sydney festival of artisanal wine that celebrates everything cool and unusual in the glass. And it's always had good food, whether it was the Pinbone kids' stall at the original 2013 event (replete with the in-jokey likes of Radicorn, a mingling of prawns, corn, and wine from Friulano vintner Stanko Radikon), or Pasi Petanen's 2014 raw beef pizza, cardboard box and all.

This November, though, they're stepping it up. Taking the long view of the idea of artisanship, they're making indigenous culinary culture a focal point. The Gurandgi Munjie (or Food of the People) pavilion celebrates the food of the Yuin people, traditional owners of the land of the south coast of New South Wales, and will display aboriginal artefacts alongside a bank of native produce. Bread will be baked with native grains and over the course of the weekend a midden will be made with shells left over from a meal of oysters, pipis, mussels and blood cockles prepared by Yuin cooks.

Bruce Pascoe - writer, editor, indigenous farmer and the author of Dark Emu - has consulted on the program and will be speaking at the event; other guest speakers who aren't winemakers, wine writers or sommeliers include Holy Goat cheesemaker Carla Meurs, brewer Ashley Huntington of Two Metre Tall brewery, and architect Richard Leplastrier.

The local chefs are all collaborating on their dishes with a producer - MoVida with Flinders Island wallaby, for instance, and Mary's with Krinklewood biodynamic beef.

Then there's the latest addition to the line-up: a breakfast at 10am on Saturday 28 November cooked by David Moyle of Hobart hotspot Franklin with the assistance of - gasp - Magnus Nilsson. Nilsson, the chef of Fäviken, the acclaimed ultra-locavore restaurant in the wilds of northern Sweden, is in town promoting his new Nordic Cookbook, and will talk about food traditions from his part of the world. It's $50 a head, or $80 with a copy of the book.

But there's more. So much more. A raw milk and artisan cheese pavilion, a "one-of-a-kind master collaboration" of top baristas, including Noma's coffee guy, Tim Varney, in the coffee pavilion, plus the Laboratorio, where activities will include discussions of mushroom growing, sea salt production, oyster gathering, natural beekeeping and cheesemaking.

Oh, and there'll be some wine there, too.

"Though Rootstock Sydney is generally thought of as a natural wine festival and big wine party, there's a big, broad, wild and wide-ranging food program that's pretty mind-boggling in its scope and scale," says co-founder (and GT contributor) Mike Bennie. "The food program this year almost outscales the insane wine program."

And its impact will be felt beyond the festival weekend: "Rootstock Sydney is assisting with promotion and crowd-funding initiatives to support the Gurandgi Munjie project, which aims to establish lands in NSW to grow traditional food plants of their culture," says Bennie. "It all fits into our overarching theme of exploring produce and sustainability through process and provenance."

Rootstock Sydney 2015, 28-29 November, Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh, NSW. Access to the market and the pavilions is free; tickets for talks and wine tastings start at $20. 

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