Q: What do you get when you combine Sydney, festivals, and food? (Hint: this is *not* a trick question)
A: A very happy Heather.
I haven’t mentioned “City Heather” before, but I kind of like her. When I’m “City Heather”, I’m one of the best versions of myself. I walk with a confident spring in my step, feel energized by my surroundings, and have a sense that I’m keen for new adventures and fun. Sydney at its best brings City Heather out to play.
In addition, one of the best things about living in a major international city is having a plethora of festivals to attend. Whether you are passionate about music, dance, theatre, food, supporting a community, or connecting with another culture, there’s a festival for you. Check out What’s On!
But perhaps more than festivals, and yes, even Sydney, I love food. I love thinking about, smelling, gazing upon, making, and most of all, tasting it. Too bad I didn’t discover the depth of this love earlier in life or I’d probably be a proper foodie. Nevertheless, between missing delicious eats at home, sampling Aussie staples (Vegemite anyone?), and eating my way through pretty much every place I’ve been in Oz so far, it’s fair to say food has been at the center of my time Down Under.
So to recap, Sydney + festivals + food = very happy Heather. You can imagine my delight then when I saw banners for the Crave International Food Festival lining Elizabeth Street in the Sydney CBD. Crave, an entire month boasting over 600 individual events, sounded like the promised land of festivals. I poured over the website, bookmarked events of interest (i.e., that were affordable), and developed a game plan on how to hit as many as possible given my budget and work schedule.
Night Noodle Markets
For two weeks, the gorgeous Hyde Park is made even more spectacular as 40+ stalls appear, each serving up tasty Asian cuisine. With so many options to choose from, I figured I’d visit the noodle markets at least three of the ten nights it was on. Instead, after night one I felt satisfied. Most plates started around $10 and provided plenty of food for one person. Unless you traveled in a group (which I had), sampling different items would cost too much and you’d be too stuffed to fully enjoy it (or at least I would). One Japanese pancake, a couple of veggie dumplings, half a dessert, and $20 later, I’d had my fill!
The Australian Beer Festival
I prefer a cocktail or glass of wine to beer but have given Aussies beers a fair go. After sampling schooners of Tooheys New, Carlton Draught, VB, Coopers Pale Ale, Boags Premium, and XXXX, I was ready to move on to micro-brewers to see what they had to offer.
Enter the Australian Beer Festival at the Australian Heritage Hotel. I hadn’t planned on going to the event, but when Lauren, Matt, and I arrived early for a Tweetup taking place just next door, we figured why not!
For $15 ($10 for a 10-punch card and $5 for a glass), you can sample 10 beers from participating breweries. We entered with less than one hour to go and made a beeline for the first stall. Unfortunately at least half of the companies had stopped pouring by this point, and we only managed three tastings before the event came to a close. Despite not getting my money’s worth, it was nice to try something new.
Summer Hill Grand Food Bazaar
Of all the Crave events I planned to attend, I was most excited about the “community festivals” taking place in the suburbs surrounding my own. The first stop was to the nearby “village” of Summer Hill for Egyptian, Turkish, and Lebanese.
Unlike the noodle markets, the food bazaar offered smaller portions at smaller prices so I could sample several stalls — especially good as I was flying solo at this one.
My lunch (and then some):
$4 braised lamb and brown rice salad from Envy (only a few bites worth…was decent)
$2 coconut juice from Thai Gam (best coconut juice I’ve had to date)
$3 generous portion of pumpkin ravioli at Mancini’s (YUM)
$2 mystery tea (was supposed to be apple but the Egyptian stall had run out and gave me something else that I can’t recall)
$8 for a kebab from somewhere (looked great but pretty ordinary)
As it turns out, the food bazaar earned the coveted (ha) title of “my favorite Crave event” when all was said and done. The event took place in the most limited space but that only gave it a more intimate yet energetic feel. And it totally won on getting the portions right — smaller samples and smaller prices means I’ll stick around longer to keep sampling!
If Summer Hill was my most pleasant surprise, the Marrickville Festival was the biggest disappointment.
I live just on the edge of Marrickville and have walked to Marrickville Road just to take in the atmosphere on several occasions. I had high hopes for the festival, so on a rainy Sunday just after church, I decided to skip Ashfield’s Big Yum Cha so I could devote my time solely to Marrickville.
I’m tempted to blame my disappointment on the rain and how it may have affected the event, but I need to be honest with myself. Despite there being heaps of stalls, nothing really caught my eye. I enjoy craft stalls almost as much as food ones, but nothing seemed all that interesting. Even the food stalls were the same old ones you see at every festival or market I’ve ever visited. Thankfully Viva Goa was one of the last vendors I passed, and their combination of Portuguese and Indian flavors caught my attention. The meat was perfectly blended with spices and coconut, and I stood under a nearby awning while I savored every bite.
Norton Street Italian Festa
The Italian Festa was the community festival I was most looking forward to, as I pass through Norton Street on way to and from work and absolutely adore it. Cafes and restaurants line both sides of the street, and while Leichhardt (or at least Norton Street) is said to be home to the Italian community, many other nationalities are represented as well. It’s a short 20-minute walk from my flat, and I’ve been visiting pretty regularly lately.
The Italian Festa was the largest of all the Crave events I had been to, as a fairly long stretch of Norton Street was dedicated to the day. I wandered about, passing every stall before I made my food selections! With so many options and prices similar to the noodle markets, I knew I’d only be able to try one main. The winner? Prawn and mushroom risotto, served with fresh parmesan and rocket. The portion was massive.
I was tempted to try the Nutella ravioli with Baileys foam out of curiosity but decided not to splurge.
Instead, I watched a dance performance while I waited for the risotto to cool enough to eat!
Satisfy Your Cravings
Before the Crave festival, Sydney was already working on satisfying my inner foodie.
In July, Brooke and I met for the first time at The Rocks Aroma Festival, where we delighted in coffee, chocolate, tea, and spices. For two ladies who love coffee, the festival was a match made in heaven.
During Nicole’s visit just weeks ago, we braved the rain for the Darling Harbour Fiesta, featuring Latin music, dance, and cuisine.
What’s On Next?
My parents arrive tomorrow for a 1-week visit! It will be the first time in Australia for both of them and my mom’s first trip overseas!! I’ve already mapped out some epic foodie stops.
With all that being said, guess it’s time for me to step away from the computer and head out on a jog. My clothes have gone from “loose” to “just fitting” and I have no interest in stopping my food adventures just yet!