Noosa Food and Wine Festival finishes today for another year, but there are still plenty of ways to eat your 2way around the Sunshine Coast, writes Linda Thompson.
Icecream for breakfast? Why not? It's about 32C, the sun is shining - it's always shining on the Sunshine Coast.
I'm at Thomas Corner Eatery, Noosa, where they serve local food seven days a week. And their breakfast waffle comes with icecream (and fruit, so it's healthy). I need to pace myself, because there's more food to come today.
By 9am I'm at The Cooking School, Noosa, with my black apron on, ready to learn contemporary Japanese cooking with seven other enthusiastic home cooks.
This class, and ones that cover classic French cooking and modern Southeast Asian food, are run by The Wasabi Group, a top-notch Japanese restaurant near Noosa's centre. It also runs workshops on French patisserie, artisan bread making, preserving and pickling and tea appreciation.
Ingredients come from their own farm at Honeysuckle Hill, Pomona, and daily-caught local fish. The farm has its own natural spring and uses compost from the restaurant's scraps using the Japanese Bokashi method, which retains all nutrients, organic material and microbes.
Nothing is wasted in our prep work. Bearded chef instructor Zeb Gilbert is not Japanese, but he knows his stuff. I'm paired with Denise, a pharmacist, and we get to work making beef tataki, using the scarily sharp knives to prepare our massive slab of beef, rolling it and creating the ponzu sauce from tamari, lemon, ruby grapefruit, rice vinegar and mirin.
I make ginger chips - simple but they need to be watched to ensure they don't burn.
There's plenty of happy chatter and questions as we make buckwheat noodles. From scratch. We even grind the flour. The kitchen is superbly appointed and Zeb provides advice and guidance.
Next, we make shichimi (seven-spice chilli), Japanese pickles, furikake, grating the bonito and smoking nori over a wood fire, yosenabe - a seafood hotpot using Mooloolaba king prawns, dumplings, ameboshi dressing, binchotan vegetables and vanilla icecream, also made from scratch with sansho pepper, yuzu curd, sake-marinated strawberries, sake jelly and mandarin meringues.
Best of all, we get to eat it all.
The Sunshine Coast is a foodie's paradise. A perfect climate for growing food, the sea on the doorstep for the best and freshest seafood - those enormous prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and superb fish.
I have a barramundi lunch at the Sandbar Cafe on Caloundra's waterfront. Owner John Ktenidis is a Christchurch refugee, losing his city restaurant in the second quake. Their food is fresh and beautifully served, with a perfect view of Bribie Island off the coast.
It's not hard to polish off a slice of fig and pistachio cheesecake for dessert. It would be rude not to.
That night I meet old friends, one a Kiwi, for dinner upstairs at Tides. We scoff a tasting platter of intriguing, moreish little pieces, more seafood and an even more intriguing tasting platter of desserts, accompanied by Australian wine.
The next day, after strolling around hinterland towns Maleny and Montville, I drive up to the Flame Hill Vineyard, 30 minutes from the coast, for lunch in a cool spot outdoors with a glorious view over farmland and vines.
Chef Adam Lugg whips up Taste of The Sea for me, a tasting platter of sea-sourced spanner crab, salmon, fennel salad, tian with crostini, Mooloolaba prawns in a prawn bisque, truffle aioli scallop, kondilla butter-poached Moreton bug, all served to the sound of roaring cicadas.
Dessert was The Orchard - lemon macaron with lemon curd, vanilla panna cotta with decadence gelee. It's simple and pretty - you'll need to photograph your lunch! The vineyard also holds an annual grape stomp festival.
That night local chef and wine merchant Damien Ringrose arrives with everything to present an outstanding dinner for four. Damien launched his Goodtime Grapes in-house dining recently, working with sustainable Shambhala Farm ingredients. Wine merchant by day, he loves to cook at nights and weekends.
He grew to hate churning out 150 meals a night as a chef. And he noticed there was a gap between "wine wankers" and those who enjoyed wine but were too shy to ask questions.
After teaching sommeliers in Cairns, he returned to the coast last year and now books three or four dinners a month in homes.
Damien is knowledgeable, great company and brings everything with him - cutlery, crockery and glassware, and takes it all away (no dishes). And the food is breathtaking.
He tells you the genesis of each wine paired with each course. Suddenly all that wine talk of "notes of pear and cinnamon" make sense.
Reef fish ceviche with pineapple and coriander, lime and coconut, prawns, rack of Sunny Coast Farms Dorper lamb with sweet potato, feta and almond salad, white chocolate and peanut butter icecream with peanut brittle . . . Can I take him home?
Later at Noosa, I people-watch and sample the food at Sails Beach restaurant. Busy, happy customers and with views to die for of the Main Beach and Laguna Bay.
My neighbour at home told me I must sample the espresso martinis at Noosa's Bistro C.
Sitting on the beach in the breeze, I do. She's right. And the food is glorious too. Nice casual atmosphere, friendly wait staff and chatty locals who ask a Kiwi if there's really a place called Weld (from TV's 800 Words) in NZ.
But the final food surprise is Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club. In Australia, all the clubs are prime spots for great, inexpensive dining. They're known for feeding hundreds a day with great variety, fresh food and a casual atmosphere. Something for our clubs to try?
Now where are my stretchy pants?
Air New Zealand flies a seasonal direct service from Auckland to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast between July and October. One-way Seat fares start from $240.
Further information: queensland.com