The Flying Foodie: Bundaberg

Bundaberg: Visit the heart of Australia’s fresh food

Farmers, strawberries and rum, the perfect combination for a gourmet food tour in Bundaberg and Alana Lowes, The Flying Foodie, went to the heart of Australia’s fresh food to sample the best on offer

Culinary tourism is at the heart of Bundaberg and Alana Lowes, The Flying Foodie, ate and drank her way around the region, meeting food producers, restaurateurs and discovered Bundaberg is the heart of Australia’s fresh produce.

It might well have been the cane sugar farming which placed Bundaberg on the food map, but these days, the fertile soil, abundance of sunshine and innovative farmers means Bundaberg is now known for being at the heart of fresh fruit and vegetables in Australia.  I was lucky enough to get up close and personal out on the farms and in the café’s to taste, chat and laugh with the best of Bundaberg’s food personalities.

One of the newest food experiences to bloom in Bundaberg is the Bundy Cooks Tours.  More than just a food tour, owner, Suzie Clarke, has created a true farm gate to plate exploration.  The tour provides a view into the daily life of a producer and an insight into the history of farming families in the region.

Anthony Rehbein, 4th generation farmer on the Hummock in Bundaberg, grows some of the country’s best ginger at Bundaginga Farm.

“Perfect growing conditions and processing within hours after being handpicked in the key to the freshest flavour,” boasts Anthony.

Acknowledging diversification is the key in farming, Anthony has introduced a variety of ginger products.

“Our pickled ginger is made in February when we pick the new season ginger,” Anthony explains.

“This ginger is a milder flavour and is perfect for pickling.”

The pickled ginger is available to purchase along with their ground and sweet ginger bites.  I suggest packing an extra suitcase to take home your Bundy delights, I did!

From ginger to sweet potato, the Bundy Cooks Tour continues.  The next time you purchase a sweet potato it has most likely come from Bundaberg where 80% of Australia’s sweet potatoes are grown.

Linda and Darren Zucker are also 4th generation farmers in Bundaberg with their families being some of the original settlers in the region.  The rich red volcanic soil makes it ideal for growing sweet potatoes, some of the biggest I have ever seen.  Our tour takes us through the washing and packing shed, a vibrant and energetic place, just one part of the food chain in order to get fresh produce to market.  I love to see Linda’s hands and jeans are stained with the colour of the land, reminding us we are standing on top of soil growing some of the country’s best tasting produce.

Tinaberries is our final stop on our Bundy Cooks Tour.  Producer of delicious, rich, ripe strawberries and passionfruit, Tina McPherson, is everything you dream a strawberry farmer is.  Warm, bubbly with a splash of strawberry pink lipstick, Tina is passionate about supplying locals with the very best strawberries in Australia.

“Large supermarkets require strawberries to be picked partly white which means they won’t ever get any sweeter, we pick fully ripe red,” she explains.

“They are perfectly sweet, ripe and juicy,” beams Tina.

Tina is absolutely correct, my first bite into the crimson red flesh results in juicy dribbles down the chin.  The best strawberry I have ever tasted.

Bundaberg has embraced its farming history and premium produce with many of the café’s and food spots around town providing a real paddock to plate experience.

Standing behind the motto, “we know where it came from and how it was made”, Amanda Hinds, co-owner and head chef of Indulge Café, happily obsessively sources and cooks with the best of the in-season local ingredients.  Spoilt for choice, Amanda’s menu lists items such as “Eden Farms raspberry and coconut bread with Brucie’s passionfruit curd” or “crisp Hummock Farms potato cake topped with Simpson Farms Avocado or my breakfast of “Burnett Heads spanner crab, scallops and Tu’s tiger prawn omlette with local XO sauce, lemon and miso butter sauce and Bundaginger pickled baby ginger.

“Our menu is literally farmers on a plate,” she explains,

“We keep foods simple, but with an edge, giving the food a home.”

Speaking of avocados, they will soon be out of season up in Bundaberg and Amanda will for the first time be removing them from the menu the moment she can’t source any local avocados.

“We serve everything in season, as soon as it isn’t available, we take it off the menu,” Amanda claims.

“We have just dropped off the broccoli dish and soon it will be the avocados.”

Trust is the key ingredient explains Amanda, her customers trust her to chop and change her menu with the season and with the produce literally dropped at her back door.

“Farmers are knocking on the back door of the kitchen all the time with boxes of fresh produce straight from the land”, beams Amanda.

“We also make all our own pickles and preserves from local produce,” she says as she places two jars in my lap, preserved tropical peaches and preserved blueberries.  Looks like I’m taking a little piece of Bundy back home with me to enjoy!

At the quiet end of town, Bundy Pies and Patisserie has had a recent makeover and is bringing traditional French sweets to the country.  Newest Bundaberg resident, Adrien Marcinowski, is a French pastry chef creating delicate desserts such as strawberry frasier cake,  eclairs and almond croissants.

Alowishus Delicious delivers superb Italian style gelato to the main street of Bundaberg.  Libby, one of the Gelaticians (yes there is such a thing!) passionately explains to us she has been testing new flavours using local fruits.  She recently acquired a large box of passionfruits and exciting reveals the passionfruit gelato which is creamy, lightly sweetened and tangy, bursting with passionfruit flavour.  Alowishus blends Tinaberries strawberries to a pink hued ice-cream and the salted caramel Bundaberg Rum gelato is an absolute standout.

Speaking of Rum, the iconic Bundaberg Rum Distillery has opened their new visitors centre.  Housed in the recently decommissioned Bonds sheds, the historic buildings tell the tale of a city known for it rum distillery.  Rumbling cane sugar trains, move slowly along the edge of the property and strong scents of molasses make you feel like you are part of the daily production of the golden liquor.

For the ultimate Bundaberg Rum experience, sign up to the one-of-a-kind Blend Your Own Rum tour.  Immerse yourself and see, touch, smell and taste your way through your tour, before spending time with your expert guides teaching you about the art of tasting rum – straight from the barrel.  Pick your favourites and make your perfect blend of the Master Distillers range to take home.

Alana Lowes was a guest of Creative Regions, Bundaberg and Virgin Australia and stay at The Point Resort Bagara.

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