The country's first fermenting festival speaks to the growing sophistication of Australia's palate. From kimchi and kombucha to cheese and charcuterie, the four-day festival was a unique insight into a collective who will no doubt be among tomorrow's biggest producers, writes Emma Markezic.
Give Kris Lloyd an inch and she will probably try to ferment it. She's the festival director of Ferment - Australia's inaugural festival dedicated to all things fermented. Kris also happens to be head cheesemaker at Woodside Cheese Wrights and the brains behind Adelaide's CheeseFest that ran from 2005 to 2015. So why the switch from brie to bacteria?
"It just suddenly dawned on me that all these wonderful things could be put under the same umbrella," Kris says. "If we start unpacking fermentation and looking at the foods and beverages we love, at the very core of all of those is fermentation. We're talking about cheese, chocolate, coffee, tea, sourdough bread, yoghurt, gin, cider, beer - they're all made using the process of fermentation."
Coconut pancake, buffalo curd, fermented radish and broad beans
The festival kicked off with Ferment The Dinner - a nine-course feast celebrating the best fermented foods this country has to offer, and the chefs who nurtured them into being. Current GT chef of the year Mat Lindsay from Ester presented what was probably the most popular dish of the night: baby goat cooked in whey and served with a smoked kefir whey and butter sauce. Festival patron Jock Zonfrillo of Adelaide's Orana preceded it with a Spencer Gulf prawn roti with fermented chilli sauce. There was also a DIY miso soup with wallaby tail and bull kelp dashi from Adam James of Rough Rice, a koji cured fish from Oliver Edwards of Aristologist and several more. All were paired with natural and biodynamic wines from the likes of Small Fry Wines, Gentle Folk and Ochota Barrels.
Smoked Kinkawooka mussel remoulade with mussel custard, fennel and squid ink
The remainder of the festival revolved around a strong emphasis on being well fed and watered. From kimchi burgers to quince mead to green ant goat's cheese, there was plenty of gastronomic excitement doing the rounds as each morsel was unearthed. Stallholders were largely small-batch producers meaning meeting your maker was more likely than not.
But the real pit at the centre of this olive was an educational one. Master classes in butter making, whisky pairing and mozzarella stretching proved the collective hunger for knowledge more than matched that of charcuterie. There's a genuine desire for information about food processes and ingredients this festival acknowledges in a way others have not. We've come a long way since the cheese cubes and pickled onions of the '80s and it's a cumulative improvement worth celebrating. If Ferment The Festival is anything to go by, we're only just getting started.
If this all sounds like it would whet your whistle, you might be wondering if there's any chance similar fermented merriment might make its way to a capital city near you? "There's already been some interest," says Kris. "It's definitely not off the cards."
Ferment The Festival was held October 19-22, fermentthefestival.com.au