Saturday, January 30, 2016

Inaugural Cider and Pork Festival (by invitation)

It was with much anticipation that I arrived at the Inaugural Victorian Cider and Pork Festival of twenty sixteen!  Set in the picturesque Rochford Winery in the Yarra Valley, the event was full of promise for all connoisseurs of pork and cider (that would be me and sidekick MC!).  The drive up from Melbourne and the view to the winery from Maroondah Highway only heightened our level of excitement.  As we drove up, we witnessed throngs of people mingling on the green; marquees and the like dotted the vista; and the blinking lights of fairground rides added to the feeling of carnival! And what’s better than a standard run of the mill carnival than a festival which featured pork and beer? 

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, pig jowl
Pig jowl $15

We arrived around 12.15pm which we timed to be a respectable hour.  The festival was open from 11am – 7pm over the weekend of 23 Jan and 24 Jan 2016.  The festival show cased food trucks which served all manner of pig.  There was slow cooked pork; BBQ pork; pork in meatball form; pork in burger form, etc, etc.  On the cider side of things, there was tasting tents represented by various breweries.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, cider
One could also buy full sized pints (or cups rather!) The popular choice amongst festival go-ers was to purchase a $20 cider tasting card.  This allowed one to taste up to 10 small cupfuls of various ciders.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, cider
The tasting cups were the size of take away espresso cups. For a light weight like myself, this was more than plenty.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, Rochford Winery
Other activities included masterclasses; BBQ competition with seasoned pit masters and fairground activities for the kids.  A live band played in between a DJ set.  It was a fun filled family atmosphere.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, Rochford Winery
Endless queues...

When we first arrived at around noon, MC and I met a lovely festival go-er who mentioned she attended the festival on Saturday also.  She strongly advised for us to go get food as the food trucks ran out of food around 2pm on the first day.  MC and I thought she was perhaps exaggerating but we made it a priority nonetheless to check out what the food trucks had to offer.  Upon surveying the endless queues, we realised that perhaps our friendly advisor may not have been melodramatic.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley, Fancy Hanks

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, Yarra Valley
MC and I first queued at a slow cooked pork truck.  We were determined to sample pulled pork or at least slow cooked pork of some description.  As that’s what it’s all about.  We patiently joined the end of a queue for what we calculated as one of the shorter queues to a slow cooked pork truck.  Thus began a very long wait.  As we inched forward in the line, we and fellow queuers in front and behind us were first dismayed by the diminishing serving sizes as the vendors frantically tried to eke out the food as the lines grew longer.  Then we were further dismayed as one by one, each menu item was struck off the list and a ‘sold out’ sign attached.  By the time I reached the front of the queue, 45 minutes later, all but a piece of pig jowl was left (see first pic).  I was a bit disappointed that the jowl was largely a layer of fat and that it was cold which made the fat difficult to stomach.  In the end, I had to throw out part of the pork which I waited so long for.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, hot dog
Hot dog $5

By then MC had moved onto to join another queue as her desired brisket was sold out very early on in the piece.  She figured that a BBQ sausage vendor would be unlikely to run out of food as the BBQ sausages were cooked on the spot and rate and volume prepared could be adjusted to the crowds compared with the slow cooked pork vendors whose creations were prepared hours prior on a predictive basis.   I joined her in the queue and thus began an hour wait.  Yes, we queued an hour for our pork sausage in a roll.  It was delicious but I was positively famished and tired from queuing at this stage.  We waited in line for our hot chips as we inhaled our sausages.

Victorian Cider and Pork Festival, hot chips
Hot chips $6

MC and I took our hot chips back to the Gold FM VIP tent which the lovely folks at Tyrrell PR had arranged for us.  It was such a relief to sit down!  We enjoyed our hot chips and listened to the music.  Then it was time for cider tasting!  With food in our bellies we could now indulge in a bit of cider without getting blotto.  We sampled a range of ciders from Victoria and overseas.  All the vendors were very much knowledgeable in their craft and were happy to answer questions about their products.


We liked the concept but didn’t like the long queues or pork shortage.

The Cider and Pork Festival is a fabulous concept.  It marries two popular food and drink stuff into a celebratory feast.  The venue was thoughtfully laid out and there was entertainment for young and old.  This being the Inaugural festival, the event did have some teething issues.  I suspect the volume of people may have taken the food vendors by surprise hence the pork short fall.  Some of the vendors started throwing chicken on the BBQ to keep the ‘hangry’ crowds fed.  My advice for festival go-ers who are coming next year is to arrive early and queue early (before noon); bring a bag of snacks in case of long queues and wear comfortable shoes.  

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