The real test for Ballina Beach Village was when the 150 people attending the course got there. Cooking for that many people is not easy (been there), specially when you had agreed to deal with various dietary requirements. All meals included gluten-free and vegetarian options. Other dietary requirements (no nightshades) were individually addressed, while others (no garlic/onions) were not.
Foods were presented canteen-style. I think the kitchen did a good job but some things escaped from their control, for example: it was difficult to keep gluten eaters from eating the gluten-free options that they found appealing. Same with omnivores and vegetarian options.
I found breakfasts and dinners to be the best meals, because there was a lot more variety. Breakfasts included the usual suspects (bread, porridge, milk, yoghurt) but also eggs, bacon, etc.
Lunches were on the simple side, and often not very good for the paleo eaters (but we had planned ahead and brought canned wild salmon, tuna, jerky, nuts, etc.) I could have skipped lunch because meals were not very far apart, but sadly that didn’t work very well with my task of making brunch for the lama and his team, and I had to skip breakfast more often than lunch.
Another (IMO) tricky thing that was hard for the kitchen to manage was to know how much of each thing is enough. For example, one afternoon they made Mexican-style food. Alvaro and I arrived late and found mountains of iceberg lettuce (the other veggies were gone), a bit of chicken, heaps of sour cream and beans and no guacamole. There were no tortillas left either, but that didn’t affect us.
Most nights there were gluten-free dessert options. That was a problem for us because we were very tempted to have dessert every night rather than once in a while.
In general, food was great in taste and variety. There’s some room for improvement, of course, but this was the best catering I’ve had in Buddhist courses in the past few years (in case you’re wondering, the best was in Colombia in 2009).
Ballina Beach Village
440 S Ballina Beach Rd
Ballina NSW 2478
(02) 6686 3347