“It’s not about flowers” my mum said to my brother; “It’s about food and family”. And after my first time visiting the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (TCOF) I can say, that about sums it up!
It was a fairly spontaneous decision to visit Toowoomba for their annual Carnival of Flowers, but it was also a perfect excuse to catch up with family. My brother and I made the 2 hour trip from Brisbane to meet Mum, who had made a 4 hour journey from New South Wales, and we caught up among the food tents within the Ergon Energy Food & Wine Festival held in Queens Park. It is easy to forget just how close Brisbane is to Toowoomba, making it a perfect place for a weekend away.
Lucky for us, some family generosity made our spontaneous trip possible as we were able to stay in their spare room, because I can tell you, last minute accommodation in Toowoomba during the festival is near impossible! However if you do book early and get somewhere central, most of the action will be within walking distance and you won’t have to worry about the battle for parking spaces!
Having to work on the Friday, we opted to arrive on Saturday morning and spend the day eating and drinking within the Food & Wine Festival. Unfortunately this means we missed some amazing live music on the Friday night, like Montaigne and Birds Of Tokyo. Who knew the flower festival attracted this kind of music?! Next year I will definitely be more organised and check out the line-up prior to booking tickets.
The Food & Wine Festival is a celebration of the local area, showcasing regional produce that makes you want to sample everything! We started our Saturday morning with the latest from Burleigh Brewing Co, Twisted Palm, which is a tropical pale ale, including flavours of mango, orange, and papaya. I must admit I was a bit sceptical at first but I also love to try new things and it turned out to be perfectly refreshing for the warm day! This washed down the first of many samples from the food vendors – some sweet potato wedges with a herb mayo, because is there actually anything better??
I couldn’t get past how incredible the range of food & wine stalls was! Lining the edge of the fence were tents alternating between a local winery and food stalls offering such a vast range of different cuisines, including Japanese, Indian, American, Vietnamese, Hungarian & Italian! There was something for every taste and it was the perfect setting to share around a few different plates. Next up for us was some taste testing of olive oils and then liqueurs, again all from local businesses.
After polishing off a coffee rubbed brisket street taco with slaw & maple bacon jam that has made me want to return specifically to eat more food from Tapestry (yes, it was as amazing as it sounds), it was time to walk off some of the food and check out some of the gardens on display throughout Queens Park.
Rows and rows of garden beds in full bloom in every single colour imaginable covered the area. They certainly do not call it the Festival of Flowers for nothing! We spent a little while wandering through the flowers, taking photos and admiring the colour, before the sun got too warm and we decided it was time for another drink.
After a big day at the food and wine festival, there really wasn’t much else left to do but find a place for dinner and a drink! Whenever I am faced with the decision on where to eat in a new place, I always think it is interesting to turn to the internet and see what is popular. I love stumbling across little places in side streets that not many people have heard of, however sometimes it is interesting to check out the places that people flock to. The Meringandan Hotel is just that. Ranked best pub in Toowoomba according to a website that appeared in my search results (I really wasn’t paying much attention as to which website), it happened to be close to our accommodation so we decided to try it out and judge for ourselves. We managed to grab the last table in the bar as the place was packed – apparently it is all the time, and we placed our order. The menu is what you would expect from a country pub. The food ended up being pretty good, but what stands out the most was the size of the meal that was placed in front of me. It was HUGE! The biggest meal I have ever received and it could very well have been split between 2 people. There were enough chips left on all three of our plates to feed a family at the beach without worrying if a seagull steals a few…
When I decided to go to the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, I was expecting food, wine, and flowers of course. What I wasn’t expecting was such a range of events for every age group and personality. If you missed the festivities this year, don’t worry, it will be back next year and I encourage you to go and check it out. I will be back myself for sure!