Turned out I did the trip on my own thanks to the perfidious tummy bug which invaded the house. (I dodged the bullet, which makes it twice in the past month for me that I've got off with a pass).
Drove up in the Swedish tank, with a few tunes balring at max volume. It's a much nicer drive to the north than the south coast, even with the inevitable delays for road works around Morayfield. Once you clear them you're pretty much free of the northern edge of the city and it's all rolling paddocks and pine plantations until you pass that subtle climate gradient and pass from temperate into true subtropical. All of a sudden the pines disappear, the hills started ridging up towards ancient volcanic plugs, and their slopes are denser and darker with rainforest.
A great drive, as I said. Had Cooroy plugged into the iPhone's GPS and made it to the venue with an hour and a half to spare, and with nary a false turn along the way. I was hungry though, having done a long treadmill run and a sesh of the hundred push ups program in the morning. (A nice light workout for me these days).
Cooroy was still pumping, which isn't always the case with country towns by late lunch time on Saturday and I hazarded the main strip for a feed with some trepidation. I've done a lot work in the country and in my experience country-cookin', at least in Australia, is a wretched greasy-battered, deep fried affair best avoided.
Wrong in this case.
There's a bistro in Cooroy called, a little worryingly, Bistro Bistro, but it looked a lot more inviting from the steet than the bakery or caf across the road. The menu board propped up against an outside wall was promising and although the cake cabinet inside looked like a chilly prison, at least the contents seemed to have been made on site.
On a whim, a possibly dngerous whim, I ordered the duck risotto. I almost never do this, because I know of only a few places who cook their risotto the way it should be done, from scratch. Most cook it part of the way, refrigerate, and the reheat on demand.
Not Bistro Bistro (damn that name). A perfectly balanced and freshly prepared duck, mushhrom and spinach risotto arrived after about twenty or so minutes. Given the lack of crowds (it was sometime after the lunch rush) I had to ask ... and yes, said the waiter, the chef does do the dish properly.
God shit fuck damn why can't city fucking restaurants learn that lesson. This dish was simple and just about perfect. Even the seasoning was balanced just so - another trap for risotto fans. The pinot noir came with the option a cellar-like chill and my espresso afterwards was creamy smooth and just he right temperature.
Obsessing much, JB? Yes I am, because you rarely get such simple mastery in commercial food preparation, and certainly not in country or hinterland towns. For anyone passing through the north coast, in need of a feed, I can recommend this place as a worthy detour.
Fed well, it was onto the Butter Factory for the gig. There I found Beeso and his mate Simon waiting for me, and we were soon joined by Hughsey's man Geoffrey with a rather nice paper bag full of hot chips which he shared around. Beeso unveiled some cold smoked bacon he'd brought up and we chatted for a bit before Annabell Crabb and George Megalogenis arrived. I'm a big fan of both their work (although apparently not as big a fan as Abe, who had sent through a long series of questions he wanted me to ask).
We had a full house and taking my chair on the little stage I looked down the back and saw someone who could only be Lord Bob of Nowhere. Despite never having actually met him in Real Life, his lordly bearing and baronial airs were impossible to miss. Both Beeso and NBob have dropped comments on the thread below providing details of the panels so I wont repeat their performance.
We repaired to the courtyard afterwards for a barbecue, expertly cooked by Geoffrey. There was plenty of wine, although I had to pace myself with a lot of mineral water because I still had to drive out to the farm. Had big chats with everyone and was struck again by what a weird thing the old interwebby is, creating friendships and familiar bonds across great distances between people who've never met.
Crashed at the G-Man and Hughesy's farm overnight and drove down to Noosa in the morning for breakfast with Mega-George and Annabel and her fam. Didn't realise the Noosa traithlon was on and got caught in road closure hell for a while. Then had to pull out every sneaky fucking trick I knew to locate a park anywhere near the village centre. Luckily I know Noosa very well so was able to pull that one off, because I didn't have time to walk in from the far side of the national park. We breakfasted at Bistro C, which looks out over a booming view of the bay and coastline. It's also one of the most reliable dining spots I know of on the north coast, with consistently good food and very friendly, welcoming vibe for kids.
From memory I had potato and leek pie in basil cream with crispy bacon and an artichoke salad. I ate up so I could head off right after my second panel, which started at eleven. I arive with one minte to spare having driven like the good Doctor Thompson from the coast back up into the hinterland. Sunday's sesh was focussed on Aboriginal/Australian history and I was pleased to see Lord Bob had ridden down from his estates again. We had a quite fascinating discussion in which I learned a few things from my panelists Prof Anita Heiss and Bruce Pascoe and picked up an idea for a brilliant feature article I might soon write.
Then, it was time to saddle up and head home.
Another long but pleasant drive and a freshly cooked chocolate and banana cake waiting for me at the end.