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Farewell lunch ~ Icebergs Dining Room & Bar

28 Mar

Whilst I love the way Melbourne looks inwardly at it’s beautiful buildings, secret laneways and shopping strips, Sydney just flings her arms out wide toward the sea and says “look at me”. How can we not.

Icebergs Dining Room & Bar was the special “Sydney-style” restaurant we chose to share our last meal in Sydney with good friends. It made us happy being there, everything is so sparkly and bright, the prosecco, the beautiful people, especially our prosecco.

First up we shared the antipasti with buffalo mozzarella, artichoke hearts, anchovies and Ligurian olives. The little bottle of oil with a rosemary brush was a nice idea.

Also shared was the Carne Cruda Battuta di Vitello, a dice of raw milk fed veal, beaten until tender, pickled mushrooms, chives, truffled pecorino, toasted crostini with truffle butter.  This dish was one of our favourites. Delicious.

Both ‘fish’ and ‘beef’ had a separate, extensive menu page dedicated to them, highlighting where they are sourced, cooking method, range of sauces, ageing and who their parents were! Impressive.

Given the setting, we indulged in the extensive seafood options. Harvey Bay ‘hand dived’ scallops on the half shell with tomato, green chilli, garlic, radish salad. Simple, fresh, glorious.

The Brewer selected the special, tuna tartare (poor memory for the details) tasted as incredible as it looked.

Service was excellent. The waiters were like elegant ballerinas, gliding around the floor silently in their black dresses, and setting up a table to mix our salad next to us. Theatrical!

This trip really highlighted the things I love about Melbourne.  I wish our city hadn’t quite turned it’s back so much on our amazing beaches, but I do love how everything in Melbourne feels like you are ‘discovering’ it.

Thus ends the series of posts on Sydney. My blog will now resume it’s regular Mornington Peninsula oriented programming.

Hope all my Melbourne readers got a little ‘taste’ of the great things Sydney has.

Kx

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

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Spicy Sydney Stories

27 Mar

Main Entry: Sydney (or sexy)
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: being erotically attractive to another
Synonyms: arousing, come-hither, cuddly, flirtatious, hot, inviting, kissable, libidinous, mature, provocative, provoking, racy, risqué, seductive, sensual, sensuous, slinky, spicy, steamy, suggestive, titillating, voluptuous

I mentioned in another post that visiting Sydney feels a little like you are cheating on your beloved Melbourne. Such a fun place to have a “fling” with, but I would always want to come home to the one I love.

This post is a mix of some highlights of Sydney, they were beautiful, vibrant, or just downright hot. And you wouldn’t find them in Melbourne.

Ms G’s

Sprawled over 5 or 6 levels, cleverly decked out to look like some kind of Asian old-town rickety building, MsG’s is the epitome of all the above. So hot right now, we just loved it here, sitting at shared tables with Sarah & Lachlan Murdoch and all the other beautiful people, hopefully a little rubbed off on us!  Everything about it is clever. The red neon light sign 621 (the ingredient number for MSG), the name, the slushy packaging, fitout, even the fat straws.  It has it’s finger firmly on the pulse of having a good time with food in the neon lit streets of Sydney.

We were ushered up a few flights to the bar where the DJ was playing some cool tunes, I drank limoncello slushies, packed & sealed behind the bar, whilst The Brewer had a few simple Asian lagers.  The stools in the bar were all cases full of beer in various heights of stacking, and during our drinks, twice our bar stool was whipped away to the fridge, very practical storage.  We had planned on pre-dinner drinks and wanted to hang in the bar for an hour or so, so the wait was no problem for us. The uber cool door chicks knew what was happening, it was packed.

Tables were bare, with boxes that held napkins, sauces, cutlery and straws. No setting required. Service was fast, cool & efficient. All our dishes were really enjoyable, best shared with friends and had the fresh, fun appeal of the restaurant itself. Our fave was the Vietnamese steak tartare, it had crispy shallots on it and was served with prawn crackers.

Mini banh mi also were delicious as were the egg noodles with XO sauce,
braised duck and soft poached egg, we also had the grilled prawns with sambal. We came out of there with barely a dint in our wallet, pretty good value for a fun night out. And we asked the waiter would they mind if we took a handful of the fat colourful straws home for our kids, they didn’t, the kids were thrilled.

(02) 9240 3000
155 Victoria Street
Potts Point

And my note on the beers; plenty of clean, crisp, big brewery, asian lagers, boxes of them everywhere, they make great barstools. Maybe 1 or 2 other fuller flavoured ales available also.
Ms G's on Urbanspoon

After Ms G’s we fancied a post dinner treat, so went for a peaceful (Hells no, not in this town on a Sat night) stroll from Potts Point, through the Cross to Surry Hills & into Bentley Bar for a few single malts.

Kings Cross

Hookers, strip joints, bucks nights, girls passed out on footpath, ambulances, backpackers, touts, tattoos, clubs, pubs, Xrated, heaving. Only in Sydney.

A morning walk to clear the cobwebs took in the following sights…

City of Bride’s as Muriel Heslop would say

More stairs. These ones, the Butler stairs, are quite famous, connecting the slums of Woolloomooloo to the posh folk in Potts Point. It was a big walk. Now you wouldn’t see that in Melbourne.

We had walked past the warehouse of Toby’s Estate Coffee, and our Melbourne noses sniffed a decent coffee.  Then discovered their cafe just at the top of these stairs. Great coffee, a real Melbourne hole-in-the-wall packed to the brim with people brunching, getting takeaways, anything goes. Food was really delicious. So how was it different to Melbourne, loud disco music throbbing, think Donna Summer, Pointer Sisters, and people were wearing loud colours. One stylish girl in bright canary yellow, top to toe. Bit glary for me over coffee. But great coffee, food and bustling, efficient service.

(02) 8356 9264
81 Macleay St
Potts Point
Toby's Estate Potts Point on Urbanspoon

Paddington Markets

I fell big time for these tactile, sensuous ceramics by Amorelita Designs. They were beautiful to hold and lovely colourings.  Maybe not the best to pack in a suitcase, but couldn’t resist, I bought 10 cups and a bowl. Love the coffee cups with the splash of blackboard. I use it every day.  I am waiting for the future Brewers to write sweet messages on them when they bring them to me in bed filled with coffee on the weekends. Waiting. Waiting.

A great day at the markets, lots of lovely clothing, original jewellery, textiles and vintage finds. And it’s right in the middle of a fantastic shopping strip.  Where do we have this in Melbourne?

One more post of Sydney to come, a very special lunch.

Four In Hand – A fleeting fling in Sin City

25 Feb

6 years is all it took to get away from the kids for a weekend.  The Brewer & I flitted up to Sydney, travelling oh so light.  We had a packed agenda and absolutely loved every second of it. So much so we were really quite seduced by Sydney and felt as though we were cheating on our beloved hometown.

First destination was the Four in Hand, it has 2 Chefs Hats.  It is in a beautiful old corner pub in Paddington, my kind of place.  A very steep corner…. from inside, the cars strangley look like they are driving vertically.

The front bar is a real ‘pub’ pub. Rowdy, crowded and beery with patrons noshing on burgers & chips. The dining room on the other hand, is cosy, intimate, quiet, elegant and classy.  We were seated right next to the glass separating the two, and I loved the background vibe of the pub.

It was impossible to choose between the dishes on the menu, so we both had the degustation, I got one amendment to mine so as to try a pork dish on the menu which looked irresistible.  The Chef, Colin Fassnidge, really seems to like his pork.  I had been following him on Twitter for awhile and there was a LOT of twalk about pork. I had high expectations.

We chose the matched wines, as there was an eclectic selection of wines offered by the glass with each course, and there just wouldn’t have been 1, or even 2 wines to go across this whole experience.

First up was the lime cured kingfish with avocado snow and vanilla matched to 2008 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro from Portugal.

Did I say it was dim? Pics do not do food justice, but this dish was beautifully presented, and the flavours very fresh and delicate, it was also very textural with the avocado snow.  If I remember, the cucumber was slightly pickly too.

So, to pig. First up, Braised pigs talk with corn and lobster chowder matched to a 2008 Denis Pommier Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France.

This dish was the main reason we had to have the the degustation, as it wasn’t on the regular menu.  This little piggies tail was deboned and caramelised, a succulent, sticky little sliver in the most intensely flavoured broth.

Next up, lamb; two ways with baby fennel, courgette puree, pickled vegetables with a 2005 Pegasus By Merlot Cabernet, Waipara, NZ

This was in fact lamb 3 ways, in addition to the cutlet and the sticky square of shoulder (I think) there was a slice of tongue. The presentation of this dish was deliciously artistic. OK, I am kinda getting full now. Everything tastes so good, trust me, these plates were pretty well white when they cleared them.

The Brewer had the next course which was the orange braised beef brisket with poached veal and pearl barley with a 2008 Michael Hall Syrah, Eden Vally, SA. I remember it was incredibly tender. This was where I deviated. The roast suckling pig was on the regular menu and I had asked if I could swap the beef brisket for a taste of this dish……

but wait, there’s more, it came in 2 parts…..

This little piggy…. who me? Yes me. Another tail, plus 3 other cuts, all incredible, plus celeriac remoulade and colcannan (I think – food coma descending), I also had a lovely glass of sangiovese with this course. Seriously, just this dish alone could have fed both us little piggies.  It was amazing. Totally indulgent.

Whilst our main courses were happening, the background entertainment was the whole roast suckling pig, carted out to a nearby table, where the waitress adroitly dismembered it and served it to the table of 10 nearby. More pork!

So at this point you think I probably called it quits and rolled out into a cab and passed out. But no. Still to come, the ‘4s’ chocolate snickers, which I believe they are quite well known for.  Matched to a Pedro Ximinez. I ate it all.

There was only one thing left to do. Have a soothing whisky, they had an impressive array of single malt whiskies, four from Islay.  We indulged in the Ardberg Supernova, which we had never seen before and is apparently quite rare, also the Cadenhead.

I thought everything was pretty great value, 5 courses, $85, matched wines, $50 / $135 each. The mains alone were $36.  That represents pretty good value these days.  For this standard of food, service and included wines, it was exceptional. The service was outstanding. They had a lot of guests in rooms upstairs, so were running up and down these stairs all night.  It was busy. We were never forgotten nor were they ever flustered. If the measure of service is how many times they fold your linen napkin when you step away from the table, then they get 10/10 because they did not miss a single opportunity.

Thank god for these stairs, there are long, narrow staircases everywhere in Sydney. This one at the Four In Hand was treacherous for me as the steps were made for people who had smaller feet 150 years ago, my whole foot didn’t fit on them, so every trip to the toilet was pretty precarious, but maybe the trip worked off one morsel of pork.

If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, then I have been a very bad girl, I blame Sydney, the city of seduction which will forever be known to me as Sin City.

A comment on the beer list.  Overall, Sydney was pretty devoid of great beer. It is a long way behind Melbourne. From what we could see, in the bar at the Four In Hand, were taps of pretty generic beers. Coopers or Carlsberg the highlight.  There were more options in bottles, the pick of which was a Lord Nelson 3 sheets (local), then the no-so-crafties from the big boys, Little Creatures, Squires, White Rabbit plus they had most of the fake imported lagers. Which is good for a Sydney pub.  The dining room sets a high benchmark for the gastropub in every other way, it would be great if there were some genuine craft beers on tap and a wider variety in the styles of beers on offer.  As it does with it’s wine list.

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Dish of my Year – Bentley Bar

25 Feb

Smoked eel parfait with white soy, kombu & seaweed at the Bentley Bar.  Like some kind of exotic underwater sea creature with delicate, fluttering, diaphanous wings. How beautiful. Just on visual appeal, this is my dish of the year.

The eating did not disappoint. The eel parfait inside was soft and light.  Around the outside, (kombu I presume) had a slippery savouriness, the white soy presented as mayonnaise on the plate and the seaweeds were the most incredible edibles worthy of a spot in Mrs Pamplemousse’s shop.  A most amazing combination of flavour, texture and visual appeal. I am still dreaming of it.

This Kingfish ceviche was also incredible, not at all what I was expecting.  It was in thin ribbons, like tagliatelli, as was the pickled diakon with the artistic little dollops of yuzu mayonnaise on the side.

It sounded pretty simple, poached egg with chickpea, preserved lemon and harissa, but once again, amazingly textural. We grilled our waiter on the suitability of this dish for sharing, he explained the egg was cooked at 60deg for 110 minutes. Pushing the boundaries of the slow cooked egg! But it mixed in with the chickpeas and made a lovely gooey dip that we piled onto crusty bread and it was outstanding.

Our final dish was this soft shell crab with green chilli salsa. Perfect, and the intensity of the green sauce… you can tell by its colour, which I thought used a lot of parsley, not completely chilli thank god, it was a cracker condiment for  the crunchy crab.

There is a lot more to love about Bentley Bar.  Dee & I had spent the morning at Paddington markets, we were exhausted and in need of major refreshment. The boys were drinking in a German bar somewhere, we hightailed it to the nearest & best bar we could find to wedgie in some sustenance.

The beverages list (not just “wine” list) were amazingly curated. Pretty much everything on their lists I had rarely, if ever seen.

The staff were very polished and knowledgeable, they didn’t hold back from suggestions by the glass for lunch. They are very passionate about their Rieslings, and despite my dislike of the variety, they were able to persuade me into enjoying a few different glasses, also, quite generously, providing me with multiple tastings of various styles and types in their attempts to get me under their sway. Worked.  Dee also experienced some unique sake until she drank it all and they ran out!

But this is what really got my attention. Have you ever seen a whisky list like this one. I guess there is a special person in Sydney (;-)) who assists with their selections and sourcing, but wow.

Us two girls were pretty well done, and as The Brewer is a HUGE single malt lover, after our dinner at MsGs we cabbed it back to Bentley Bar to have our digestif. Again, ably assisted by an expert waiter, we tried the Bunnahabhain and Ardberg, both incredibly different. Discussing our love of the peat, he also gave a little try of a tequila that was so peaty it tasted like whisky.

Unfortunately a drunk mob staggered through the door looking for drinks or a nightclub or sex, who knows. Idiots. Bar. Closed. Ruined our chances of trying the Springbank 1998 Cask Strength which is what I was working up to all day.

My little note on the beerlist, like all their other beverages, exceptionally thoughtful. Probably one of the best I’ve seen in a restaurant. Some interesting craft beers from around Australia including our own Mountain Goat, McLaren Vale Ave and White Rabbit, plus Trumer Pils on tap. Nice.

(02) 9332 2344
320 Crown St
Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

A Flood and a Feast………… How I ate the Northeast

4 Sep

Part 2!  We left Mount Hotham on Friday, just as major storm warnings were being predicted for the following day in the Wangaratta/Beechworth region. Bingo! Straight to Bridge Road Brewers Beechworth.  We are big fans of the brews being produced here, a true-blue Vic microbrewery, the crew here are totally hands on with everything and they are putting out some of the best and most interesting brews of any microbrewery in Victoria.  We were fortunate enough to be there when the B2 Bomber was on tap, a black Belgian IPA, 8.5%. A great beer, dangerously easy.  Good beery food here too, pizzas are really good, as was a beef, porter & mushroom pie with an interesting crunchy salad.  As well as the pizzas, they have all sorts of beer bread and pretzels made in-house too.

Pizza & a Pie at Bridge Rd

After checking into the well-located, shabby & not-so-chic Mrs Doigs Cottage, all 9 of us rocked into the front bar at the historic Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel in the main street.  It has familial ties to the Bridge Road Brewers, all their beers are on tap, the front bar was chocka-block full and the fire was roaring.  With no booking & 5 kids, we were graciously shown a table.  Our meals were fantastic, generous in size and all the staff were friendly.  It had an interesting wine list too, we had a bottle of William Fevre Chablis at a very reasonable price.  This is a classic old pub, with country hospitality.  Having excellent locally brewed beers on tap it definitely adds to the experience.  Exactly as it should be. Take note all other country pubs!

Saturday involved a babysitter. All day and night. We were committed to a marathon sitting. First stop the beautiful Wardens. Having been there many times, we were excited about returning and it was to be a highlight of our trip. We were ushered in a side door to a side room, there was a short bar/snacks menu and 2 house wines (apart from the 4 fancy wines in the Enomatic system).  We embarassingly left.  We could hear staff in the restaurant, with Bon Jovi or something blaring through their trannie.  I don’t know if it’s a cost-cutting measure, but it is definitely did not live up to the Chefs Hat experience we were expecting.

Luckily for us, the recently opened Green Shed Bistro was open.  Located in a gorgeous historic old printing press, Nathan & Megan (previously of Gigi’s of Beechworth) have done a little makeover and launched their own restaurant with a bit of an asian twist on their bistro style food.  We had a table right by the fire (fascinated by the crooked chimney) and settled in for the duration.  By now the locals were loading their animals into their arks and we watched the rain absolutely pour down outside through the steamy windows.

Crooked fireplace, Green Shed Bistro

Green Shed Bistro

Our meals were completely enjoyable. It was a lovely thing. Didn’t require a lot of thinking, each one a surprise, and all delicious and beautifully presented. Marc Bredif Vouvray accompanied the entrees, crispy quail & watermelon salad & cute little fried balls of labneh, a deconstructed lamb souvlaki, smoked lemongrass salmon with asian herbs & chilli and I chose this pork mince on lettuce (san choi bow in other words)

Chinese style pork mince

Our host & chef Nathan popped by, lovely fellow, recommended the Greenstone Shiraz, which we had with mains & told us about the winery’s hard to find Sangiovese.

Our mains, again, were interesting, fresh and delicious if a little quackky.  The Brewer had a big steaming bowl of  broth full of duck and asian veg & herbs, mine was the duck pie, on a bed of beetroot. Gorgeous.

Duck Pie

We even had a couple of desserts which again, were beautiful. Bread & Butter pudding with a fruit & pistaschio compote, and a creme brulee.  Not much time left until dinner. Time to walk or sleep it off before the main event. I had already cruised the streets and taken this pic of the menu at Provenance which we were all looking forward to.

My Dinner

The week before we arrived, they had just been awarded their 2nd Chefs Hat and the regional wine list award.  Lucky I booked months earlier!  With a severe case of indecision, we ordered most dishes on the menu. I chose the sauteed cauliflower with chickpea puree & polenta crumbs plus the chestnut tagliatelle with hazelnuts & sage butter as my entrees. I am a sucker for any dish with sage cooked in butter. They were both just beautiful.   I also had a case of agonising food envy over the confit artichoke and cured tuna dish, which was hands down, the prettiest dish of the night.

We also had the carrot, chorizo & prawns.  It had a gorgeous little froth of bisque on top.  It is a very dim & romantic restaurant, and I really struggled to get any good pics. This is the best I could do, just the one of that dish.

Prawn, chorizo, carrot, Provenance

For mains I picked the rabbit.  I think I had an epiphany over that rabbit.  I am salivating right now writing about the flavours in this dish. Braised wild rabbit, peas & orzo. It was wet. With the most intense flavour. I would seriously drive there just to eat that. We were happy to see the previously recommended and hard-to-get Greenstone Sangiovese on the list and matched to my rabbit, dined & gone to heaven.  The brewer had the Angus/Hereford Scotch (which was a cross breed, not a slice of each!) and it was perfect.  If you want to see some much better pics of Provenance, checkout Tristan Kenney’s Flickr set.  His photo’s are beautiful, does the food justice. They visited just a week after us and also blogged their trip on Eat, Drink, Stagger.

One problem in Beechworth was the lack of a decent coffee, after trying a few spots, we were pretty desparate by Sunday! Given it was my birthday and 2x Fathers Days, we reeeeally needed a goodie.  Knowing from his Twittering that chef Michael Ryan was somewhat of a coffee afficiondo, I did what I had to ie begged! He graciously let us drop by the garden and fuel up, which was greatly appreciated and needed.

Next stop… The Stanley Pub.  This is a divine little country pub with a cosy feel, real pub vibe and spacious beer garden.  Having Bridge Road’s Chestnut Pilsner on tap was a good thing too.  It was pretty crazy there, being Fathers Day, plus they had been closed for a month or more up until that week and a new chef had just started!  Eventually they got the menus folded and we were off.

Goats Cheese Tart

Blue Eye at Stanley Pub

Pictured is the Milawa goats cheese & caramelised onion tart and the Blue-eye.  The food was all lovely.  It’s like pub grub that’s really gussied up.  Not sure it quite hits the ‘gastropub’ mark, but a little bit fancy… yes! Checkout what they did to the pie!

Our Fancy Pie at the Stanley Pub

We also had some very nice oysters served with bread made in-house and nice butter.  All the food was good, service was pretty harried, but we were a mad group.  After lunch we were grateful for the outdoor beer garden to stretch some legs whilst we finished our wine……

Who's watching the children? My fave pic of holiday!

Final stop of the holiday was one last visit to Bridge Road Brewers for Sunday night pizza night.  It was a packed house, the pizzas were awesome, and we were very pleased to get a few more of the B2 Bombers in before we left town.

The roads were all closed out of town due to flooding, we had to detour to Wangaratta to get onto the Hume.  I have never really seen floods before, but it was pretty incredible, driving past miles of paddocks, all underwater.  We had such a great time in Beechworth, it really would not have been such a bad thing to have been stranded there just a little longer… maybe just a couple more places we could have feasted!

Wangaratta Flooding

And it just went on and on….

Fences underwater, cows seek higher ground

First I Ate Mount Hotham

3 Sep

On top of Mt Hotham - A spectacular week's skiing

On Wednesday 25th August the snow poured from the sky onto Mount Hotham. For two days. More snow than had ever been seen before. So much snow that the roads were closed. Until 1200 on Friday 27th August when the road opened, the sky cleared, and we were blessed with the best snow ever seen and blue sky days.  We were holidaying with good friends who also had kids, we were 9 in total.  The skiing was just beautiful, the kids were all in ski school (every day) which was awesome not just for us, but they had a great time & learnt to ski.  Something I wish I had done from age 3!  Here they are …

The gang on top of Big D

We stayed at Dinner Plain, Panorama Chalet, which for families was a great option. Beautiful big house, plenty of safe snow play for kids, small ski & toboggan runs nearby and plenty of facilities.

Panorama Chalet

Dinner Plain toboggan run

Most importantly for us, the best dining options were also located in Dinner Plain. So with the help of a babysitter from ski school, and having earned our dinner, we hit them up. First stop Cilantro.  This bar had a very urban feel, yet cosy with a little fire going & dim lighting. Much smarter than your average shabby ski resort options.  Tapas is pretty ubiquitous for many a bar these days, but this one was a cut well above most. I would say it is not exactly ‘tapas’ but more of a ‘share menu’. Call it what you will, we called it yum.  The highlight for us all was the smoked eel croquettes with a fairy floss like  mound of translucent leeks piled on top.  Also great was the besara (broad been dip), and these wagyu meatballs

Wagyu meatballs at Cilantro

Also impressive was our chicken with chorizo and the palm heart salad and they had a small, but interesting wine list.

Chicken w Chorizo at Cilantro

Palm Heart Salad at Cilantro

Next night was Tsubo, which we were really looking forward to as it was recommended by many.  A short & interesting beverages list had quite a few Japanese beers & sakes plus a few of Bridge Road Brewery’s beers, this was good to see, getting a good beer on the mountain was nigh on impossible.  Loved the sake as an aperitif. This dish was definitely the prettiest on the mountain, a squid salad, with fennel, squid ink, some pickled tentacles & citrus segments. It was as divine to eat as it looked

Tsubo Squid Salad

The most-ogled dish was hubby’s. This perfectly cooked lamb was decorated with something translucent. Couldn’t pick what it was, but they were just the most diaphanous, gorgeous things ever. No photo I ever took could do them justice, but I had a fair few goes at it anyway….

Tsubo diaphanous lamb

Turns out they were just humble ol spuds. Yep, a bit like those Sea Salt Crisps. But way better.

After blue sky skiing for 5+ days, we were done in. It had clouded over & we were wet. Deserved a long lunch obviously.  Final destination was The White Room Where strangely everything is black. Except what’s outside. Also featuring ‘tapas’, this is the newest of Mount Hothams eating options, which isn’t saying much, cause the others are all exactly as I remember them 20+ years ago. So with kids in ski school, we settled into a long lunch. The pick was yet again, Hubby’s. Food envy, melt in the mouth beef cheek with naughty mash

Beef cheek at the White Room

Just look at that mash! I think I had a confit duck salad that was not memorable.  But the lunch was.

Final mentions went to Zirky’s, that hasn’t changed a bit. The burger was so huge it was enough for 2 men.  And, the Summit Bar at the Snowbird. Which has reassuringly not changed one iota since I danced on the tables there, not even the tables.  The food was great. Lots of reasonably priced, fresh, interesting, dishes. We had 3 vegetarians in our group, and given we went there for lunch 5 times, they still hadn’t worked through all the things they wanted to eat. The haloumi burgers and felafals were big hits. A refreshing option both for quality & price on the Mountain.

Our fridge

The biggest disappointment was the lack of beer choices.  It is really a beer desert, which is pretty diabolical. Hope the brewers in the North East get some of their good gear up there soon.

I am pretty sure we ate most of Mount Hotham, definitely all the bits that are worth eating. But this journey went on down the mountain.  To be continued…..

Return to the Grampians – The Harvest

10 Jul

So for the second time this year, we were lucky to be invited to the Grampians, this time for an olive picking weekend and Christmas in July dinner at Laharum Grove, our friends’ grove at the foot of Mount Difficult in the Grampians.  The crop this year was abundant to say the least.  Given their manpower and available tank space, only something like 25% of the entire grove was picked.  Picking had finished for the season, and the day we picked was the last one, the press at Toscana was stopping on that day at 2pm!

It was quite anxiety inducing to be walking through the grove and see so many trees so laden with olives that from tomorrow, will be rotting on the ground. We were their last hope.

We were blessed with a beautiful day, and so we began.  First step is to lay out nets under the trees. They are very big and heavy and hard to drag around.

Olive picking, laying out the nets

Then everyone gets a very big stick and starts whacking the trees. It is reeeeeally hard.  But quite amazing how many olives rain down on your head whilst you are doing it. Even the kids could do it.

Big sticks! Knocking olives off the trees

When we walked further out into the grove it was spectacularly beautiful with the Grampians right there.

Grampians backdrop, whacking olives

Then gather all the nets up and start piffing out all the sticky/leafy stuff

Gathering up the olives - removing leaf stuff

Then you end up with a lovely big heap of juicy olives. How good do these look? When you squeeze them, they squirt oil, heaps of it. And they stain!

A pile of olives just picked

We picked about 15 bins of about 20kg each, so between 4 adults, we shared 300kg of olives. We only did a few hours picking, as the kids were getting involved which slowed us down, but apparently we could have easily picked a tonne, and some of their best workers can do that solo in a day!

The press at Toscana

We then took them to the neighbouring Toscana Grove where they have a substantial press. Our 300kg yielded a 20litre drum of oil each.  Liquid Gold.

At the Olive Press, the finished product

After all that picking, the Christmas in July dinner was looking great. 30 adults seated, about 5 courses and Santa! Awesome. I made tomato soup which went down a treat, topped with some Main Ridge Dairy chevre. And a few cases of Christmas Ale went down a treat.

Another special visit, shared with fantastic people to this amazing place.

“urbanspoon rocks”