The countdown to Newcastle Food Month has well and truly begun, and one of the highlights looks like being the Newcastle Seafood Festival.
It's being held over two days in April, in and around the Commercial Fisherman's Co-operative at Wickham.
Organisers Throsby Basin Business Chamber are working with City of Newcastle "to bring both business and community together in a celebration of one of Newcastle's great institutions, commercial fishing, and also as a nod to the city's maritime history".
Chamber president Lynne Hopson hopes the festival will become a major tourism event for Newcastle.
"When Newcastle Events approached the Chamber about Newcastle Food Month, it was clear we shared the same passion about our events working together," she said. "We felt there was a great deal of alignment and synergies in our objectives to promote Newcastle as a destination through its vast array of amazing food outlets and venues."
There is a lot planned for the weekend of April 10 and 11.
You can explore the marina; meet local fishermen and women and view their boats; go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Co-op; buy some seafood to enjoy with a picnic along the foreshore; and learn how to prepare and cook delicious seafood dishes.
But wait, there's more.
NorEast chef Tony Harrison will host a Moving Seafood Masterclass; Marine Services are throwing a Fish Burger BBQ for a gold coin donation; and there will be facepainting and showbags for the kids as well as a range of food trucks, market stalls and live entertainment.
There's even an onboard sailing degustation planned.
"Newcastle's Inaugural Prawn Peeling competition is already gaining a lot of attention and is sure to be a lot of fun," Hopson said.
"Fishing is an excellent family activity so join us for our Snag & Snap family fishing competition over the weekend (everyone who registers receives a free Penn rod and reel). Snag a fish around the area, snap a photo and upload it to us for a chance to win some great prizes by our sponsors.
"There's also the all-ages, sea-themed art competition."
Also, food outlets will be putting their best fish forward for the Best Seafood Dish Competition over the weekend, as voted by customers.
"Customers will vote for their favourite dish via our app and enter the draw to win a luxury five-star weekend in Sydney staying at the historic Sofitel Harbour Rocks Hotel, a private tour and cooking class at the Sydney Markets, and dinner at a luxury Sydney restaurant valued at more than $2500," Hopson said.
"There will be a host of other prizes on offer too."
Importantly, the Newcastle Seafood Festival will give locals and visitors alike the chance to discover what goes on in the Throsby Basin.
"The Throsby Basin is quite unique in Newcastle in that we are a microcosm of heavy industry, hospitality, retail, professional service businesses and a burgeoning residential community, all as cohabiting neighbours," Hopson explained.
"We liken the five villages of the Throsby Basin - Wickham, Maryville, Carrington, Islington and Tighes Hill - to Italy's Cinque Terre. Five villages bounded by the waterways of a stunning working harbour where industry meets residential.
"The Throsby Basin Business Chamber supports the area by driving awareness and economic development of an area in transformation, close to the CBD, that is a great place to live, work and play, all adjacent to one of the world's most active harbours. The event will showcase all that is happening in the area, which is anchored by a world-class marina, great venues and one of the oldest seafood markets outside of Sydney."
For more details visit newcastleseafoodfestival.com.au.
Cafe changes hands
Evviva Cafe & Bar on Stockton Street at Nelson Bay has changed hands and is now called Cafe Kin. If you haven't visited, do. The courtyard is a great place to be on a sunny day.
Pokolbin egg hunt
Leisure Inn Pokolbin Hill's first ever Easter egg hunt is on April 4. It's open to everyone, not just guests of the hotel, with 75 eggs containing great prizes hidden at various locations around Pokolbin. There's also an egg and spoon race in the afternoon and a fancy dress competition. For more information visit leisureinnpokolbinhill.com.au. Sounds like a lot of fun.
Ultimate mash up
Sherwood Coffee Bar (Parry Street, Newcastle) has branched out to New Lambton, joining the good folk of Black Circle Cafe on Alma Road. They have called it "the ultimate mash up" with "the same great taste in music, everyone's fave head barista James, same house blend". Business is booming in the 'burbs, especially New Lambton.
Food Fight returns
Hunter Culinary Association has secured dates and venues for two of its most popular annual events. The Autumn Seasonal Lunch will take place at MEET Restaurant on April 20, and the Food Fight at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley on June 28. Welcome back. And congratulations to apprentices Matthew Mirosevich (Signal Box), Jayden Dann (EXP. restaurant) and Samuel McKinnon (Muse Restaurant) who made it to the final of this year's Brett Graham Scholarship cook-off held at TAFE NSW Hamilton. Mirosevich is this year's recipient of the scholarship.
Freebie of the week
Sunshine Coast cafe VanillaFood is a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike, and last December a cookbook of the same name was launched by chef and owner Nilla Tomkins. Her recipes are simple, wholesome and organic, and nourish both the body and the mind.
"I set out to share a collection of recipes that are simple and easy to create and have really enjoyed including some interesting snippets about what inspired these recipes, and how to get the best out of seasonal ingredients," Tomkins said.
VanillaFood The Cookbook is out now, RRP $49.95. Food & Wine has a copy to give away.
To enter, send the word "VanillaFood" with your name, address and number to email@example.com. Entries close on Monday at 9am.