‘Le Festival’ is the annual celebration of all things French in Brisbane and is hosted at South Bank around Bastille Day.
I decided to get into the spirit for the Brisbane French Festival, donning stripes, red scarf and beret. Apparently I was the only one with the time or inclination to do this. I lamented to one nodding stall holder that it was a shame more people didn’t get the memo…said conversation then progressed to discussion that perhaps French people didn’t appreciate the clichéd representation of their culture… but perhaps we were overthinking it, and I’m fine with admitting I love a bit of dress-up.
(Did you know the white stripey Breton shirt was originally introduced by the French navy in Brittany, with 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories. Later the tops became fashionable among the working class.)
I met my lovely friend Jenny at the festival who wanted to get into the Euro vibe ahead of her upcoming trip to Paris, England and Italy (the thought crossing her mind that she could buy her souvenirs now and save carting them back from Paris).
Entry was free and we did a lap of the food stalls before going around the second time for a progressive dinner that started with Duck à l’orange and ended with salted caramel macaroons.
There was a lovely offering of all the usual things that come to mind when you think of French food, especially for those (like me) with a sweet tooth.
My croque monsieur was outrageous. A piping hot combination of toasted bread, cheese sauce, melted cheese and ham, toasted to golden perfection. I made Jenny help me eat it to feel a little less guilty at such wanton feasting.
Olives, moldy cheese, and a fine selection of cured meats were proudly on show, alongside decadent chocolate tarts, pain au chocolate and fruit pastries (don’t you just love saying tarte tatin).
There were crêpes, of course. We wanted one so badly we were prepared to endure a 25 min wait to get one, wandering around to fill the time as the Crepe Master dee-jayed his decks.
I discovered Cannelès – a small French pastry with a soft custardy centre and a glossy chewy caramelised crust. I’d never heard of them before so I looked them up… they’re a specialty of the Bordeaux region and are traditionally made in special copper molds. The story goes they were first baked by nuns in a convent many centuries ago. The nuns made cakes using egg yolks that were donated by local winemakers who needed the egg whites to clarify their wines. I tried 3 flavours; chocolate, vanilla and orange pistachio. Nice mouth-sized morsels, sweet, and they go perfectly with a nice cup of tea 🙂
Jenny and I finished the evening with a glass of bubbly while sitting by the river. And though the lack of French costumes was playing on my mind, I had to admit Brisbane looked rather chic in red, white and bleu.
The festival has two more days to run, so if you fancy a bit of French feasting grab your costume and head down to South Bank.
Le Festival – Brisbane French Festival:
8, 9, 10 July 2016
South Bank, Brisbane
Follow @BrisbaneFrenchFestival #lefestival #brisbanefrenchfestival
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