Five Foodie Finds: The NSW Mid-North Coast

Jackie McMillan
11th May 2024

The Artisan Farmer

If you hate eating fast food on long drives north, you’re going to like The Artisan Farmer in Nabiac (well as long as you eat beef). It’s a large-scale paddock-to-plate initiative by Peter Doyle of Wallamba River Wagyu set on the very property he raises his full-blood Japanese cattle. By cutting out middle people and providing a finished product directly to the customer, Doyle is able to produce “honest food at a reasonable price on the side of the highway.” 

When I walked in the door I was a bit put off by the scale of the operation. “Artisan” to me is usually synonymous with small, however here being “big” means they’re able to use the whole animal in a very productive way. The menu is cleverly designed to use the prime cuts from the front end of the animal, with the master butcher and bakery converting the rest of the carcass into beef jerky, pastrami, chorizo and wagyu sausage rolls. With an ordering queue going all the way back to the front door, I wasn’t convinced the kitchen would do a good job on hot dishes, so I ordered The Artisan Farmer charcuterie platter ($38) to share. More fool me: the food coming out of the busy kitchen actually looked well-presented and very consistent. My resulting collection of rare roast wagyu beef, free-range smoked ham, pastrami, house-made chorizo, brie, Cheddar cheese, hummus, cornichons, lavosh and sliced sourdough with butter on a huge wooden board was also delicious, prompting me to purchase meat to take home from their onsite butcher-deli. A tasty cup of beef jus ($3) is a worthy dipping addition to any menu selection. 

With the take-home wagyu burger patties I selected, I was impressed with the way the flavoursome intramuscular fat (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) rendered on the grill. The marbling is produced by feeding the cattle a morning grain supplement. As grain can upset their tummies, Doyle balances it with seaweed (a natural antacid) and probiotics. With transport stressful to cattle it also impressed me to see a business utilising the whole carcass grown on the very property I was eating it. The Artisan Farmer’s product store also offers many items from makers on the NSW Mid-North Coast. By keeping an eye on labelling we can reinforce that buying local is what visitors to the region are craving. 


Mentges Master Meats

While generally the Taree bypass is a good thing, Mentges Master Meats makes the best kransky I’ve ever tried. So I have been making the detour from the highway to Rudi Mentges’ continental butchery every year for the last seven or eight years. While Rudi produces more than forty different continental meat products on site, the two that bring me back time and time again are the chilli cheese kransky and the cured and smoked pork kassler steaks. The quaintly decorated factory butchery is open to the public three days per week (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays), and if you’re lucky, you’ll find Rudi in the courtyard cooking up continental snags at his roadside barbeque for you to enjoy onsite.



Wauchope Farmers’ Market

Timing is everything with farmers’ markets, so this one will only work if you align your Mid-North Coast adventure to the fourth Saturday of the month. In the picturesque town of Wauchope, originally famous for timber production, you’ll find a quaint little farmers’ market running from 8am to midday. I picked up lovely oyster mushrooms ($10/tray), Russian garlic and tried a tasty Swiss cheese tart ($4.50). The small collection of stalls also included other vegetables (lots of home-grown pumpkins), wine, fudge, honey, goat milk soaps and wood carvings plus bric-à-brac. Stallholders serving up ready-to-eat foods and drinks had made extra effort with tablecloths to create inviting eating areas where locals were sitting to catch up.


Squeaky Gate Farm Shop

The sleepy little town of Kew is home to the Squeaky Gate Farm Shop. With an inviting display of homewares and food products in bottles and jars, this former petrol station is worth a look. You can also pull up at a table and enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry while you’re here. Products run from fresh eggs to black garlic truffled mustard and black garlic Worcestershire sauce. If you’re looking for gifts, chilli jam and tomato relish might fit the brief. 


Ricardoes Strawberries and Tomatoes

Living in the city can make you feel quite distant from food production, so there’s something rather satisfying about getting handed a bucket and a pair of tiny scissors and selecting your own strawberries at Port Macquarie’s hydroponic strawberry farm. Ricardoes also grow tomatoes: I was impressed with their new “wasino” cocktail tomatoes ($6.99/bag). As well as the farm itself, this spot boasts a busy cafe where they celebrate their own products. If you like what you eat, browse the surrounding shelves to locate their house-made tangy tomato relish, tomato pasta sauce, and strawberry conserve to take home with you, alongside a range of locally grown and produced vegetables and other products.