Tag Archives: Victoria

A Lazy Long Lunch

17 Nov

Just for fun, a girlfriend and I decided to go out for a spontaneous lunch. No husbands, kids, friends, or time constraints.  I had been wanting to do this at Foxeys Hangout for nearly 2 years!

My Lunch

There was much excitement in cellar door, as less than 12 hours before, brothers Michael & Tony had returned from the Royal Melbourne Wine Show where their 2009 shiraz had just snaffled the Premiers Trophy for best victorian red wine. A shiraz! From the Peninsula! A big coup. To say they were happy would be an understatement. Usually fairly reserved fellows, they were like kids on a sugar high.

The award

We sat down, and ordered….. coffee! Anyone who reads Tony’s columns in Epicure about running a winery, would remember one particularly notorious article about his aversion to serving people a coffee unless they were in for the wine. Don’t tell anyone, but they were good.

Coffee!!!

We then did what they do best, which was sit back, and get fed. No decisions, no interruptions to conversation. The plates just kept arriving, with 2 of everything until we had done them all. Everything is simple, fresh and just perfect for a slow moving lunch.  Here they are….

The asaparagus with blood orange was exceptionally pretty

My personal favourite was the tuna bresaola with radicchio & pear.

We loved the spicy meatballs

then tomatoes, quail & avocado….

Of course we had wine… most of them in fact, Rose, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the award winning shiraz. Everything except the sparkling wines, and I don’t know why we skipped them.  Lastly we went dessert, like a vanilla icecream maxibon, with chocolate sauce that oozed all over it.  Tony plonked a bottle of late harvest pinot gris on the table to try with it. It is a gorgeous wine.  It is quite unique for wineries on the Peninsula to have a sticky style wine, more should.

We caught an hour or two of sunshine which was a pretty rare sighting over the last few months. There is a spacious deck outside, which has no furniture, but is a lovely place to sit and ponder the view.  The little boxes along the edges are perfect for some nibbles & a glass of wine. Idyllic.  Whilst taking it all in, the two happy & tired brothers took a moment to do the same.  This is one of my favourite places on the Peninsula, I think because they are completely hands on and passionate about what they do.  Also, they do not try to please everyone and are not apologetic about this. They have their vision, they stick to it, and it works.  I was lucky to get the chance to completely indulge in their experience, with a good friend and it worked. Thanks.

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Afternoon Delight

12 Oct

When you’re a happily married mother of small children and busy running a successful business, it is cause for a fair bit of guilt to sneak away on not one, but two, work afternoons to engage in activities that seem a little bit naughty and very pleasurable.  I was able to alleviate any guilt I was feeling as I was with The Brewer, it involved food and both occasions could be justified as ‘business’!

The lake and terrace at Stillwater at Crittenden

The occasion was not one, but two lovely soirees at Crittenden Estate Winery.  The first at Stillwater at Crittenden restaurant.  We caught up with our friends from Mordialloc Cellar Door to talk “business”.  Stillwater is one of the loveliest spots on the Peninsula, overlooking a gorgeous lake, with old vines, beautiful gardens and consistently good food that features quality produce.  Add to that professional and friendly staff (all too rare on the Peninsula sometimes) and every visit here is a delight.

The Brewer chose well, the duck 3 ways – rillette, cigar & parfait, it was beautifully presented.  I chose a braised rabbit pasta with pecorino which was delicious.  With our entrees we had a bottle of the Zumma Chardonnay. Zumma is the single vineyard, estate range, a pinot and a chardonnay, both very refined wines.

Duck 3 ways at Stillwater

This Black Angus aged eye fillet, with the cross section of marrow on the side and creamy mash was highly photogenic and  just looking at it again makes me hungry. The Brewer did well again.

Steak with marrow bone

My turn for duck now, a gorgeous little pot of cassoulet, featured confit duck leg & all manner of tasty morsels including, I think, garlic sausage, speck, pork belly and white beans topped with brioche crumbs!

Duck cassoulet

The steak presented sliced on the board looked amazing, Rangers Valley wagyu sirloin.  With it’s little condiments, fresh salad and smashed potatoes, it too was a winner.  Note, evidence of work meeting in background!

Steak with smashed potatoes

With our mains, we chose the Los Hermanos Homenaje a Cataluna, a tempranillo, mataro & grenache blend. I am such a fan of the Los Hermanos wines, created by siblings Zoe & Rollo, not only are they lovely wines, they are such fun to drink! I always seem to have fun when I drink them.

Boys hard at it over work lunch

The second Afternoon Delight was the Crittenden Wines annual garden party at the vineyard for Mornington Peninsula customers.  Under the shade of the beautiful big oak trees, surrounded by some of the oldest vines on the Peninsula, an abundance of wines are laid out for our enjoyment.

Crittenden Wines Garden Party

Gathering around the old oak trees

The wines were accompanied by a gourmet bbq / shared platter style of relaxed food, perfect for the occassion.  Stringers of Sorrento did a fine job with the catering.

Lunch

Lunch Menu

Even the ladybirds were impressed.  We were all covered in them, a sign of a healthy vineyard I am sure.  Ladybirds are natures way of keeping lots of little mites off grapevines.  They also can’t be too abundant if there is excessive use of pesticides, so they are a very welcome sign of a healthy ecosystem and hopefully will bring us all good luck.

Lucky Ladybirds

They certainly seem to have bought Rollo good luck recently, having recently been awarded the highly prestigious Young Gun of Wine Australia, they sure like him. Must be the secret to his success. Loved by Ladybirds!

Rollo

Rollo Crittenden... The secret of my success.... A healthy vineyard

The vineyard had a crew of workers tending the vines during the lunch.  Notice the size of the vines, it’s a pretty rare thing on the Mornington Peninsula to see them this established.  There were also crops planted in the rows, presumably providing agricultural diversity and to put back nutrients into the soil.

The beautiful vineyard

The days proceedings were watched over by the Sage, Garry Crittenden.  Keeping an eye here on two young bucks having a bit of a banter, making sure things didn’t get too out of hand!  Garry & Margaret must be very proud to look around at the vineyard they started in 1982 (worth a look at some old pics here) and to see the continued success & evolution of the business with the involvement of the next generation.

Garry Crittenden sees all!

Afternoon delight. Sure was.

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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”

The Really Long Lunch

20 Jun

I have been thinking about writing a blog for some time, recently we had the most amazing experience that inspired me to write it now, it’s taking me a while to get the first one down, but off & running now. A long weekend away with friends, at  Laharum Grove organic olive grove with the Grampians as the stage for the weekend, where the food, wine, beer, conversation & even dancing rolled on for days

Pizza night in the Grampians

On arrival it was pizza night. Our hosts have an awesome pizza oven so it was DIY pizzas, perfectly thin dough, a range of homegrown toppings, and a constant stream of woodfired pizzas.  We sat around a beautiful firepit (which we loved so much we had to get one for our backyard!).  A large mob of kids sat around the pit toasting marshmellows for awhile, thankfully they were lost in the grove most of the time and we hardly noticed they were there!

On Saturday morning we walked through the property.  Set in 300 acres at the base of the dramatic and historic Mt Difficult, the grove was planted by Italian workers around the 1940’s.  It has a remarkable 9 metre grid planting.  Across such a large property, it is incredible to think that every single tree has been so perfectly spaced.  Kangaroos were flitting through olive-laden trees and the backdrop of Mt Difficult made for the most stunning outlook.

Laden olive trees in the grove, Grampians as the backdrop

We arrived at the house which is a relocated Uniting Church. And as such, has nearly no benches or cupboards.  An eclectic collection of kitchen dressers, tables, meat safes provided workspace & storage for a highly covetable collection of  kitchen pots, pans & gadgets.  At 11am lunch prep was in full swing.

I was begging to help out! Eventually I was entrusted to peel the incredibly beautiful & delicate home grown quail eggs.  In the meantime, labne was being rolled and baby beets were roasting that had to be peeled & pureed, so the quail eggs could be dyed pink, so when they were cut open they would look very pretty! The pressure! I didn’t do too badly but smaller fingers would have been good.

Peeling the still warm from the quail eggs

Meantime, the table was being set…

The very long table

All this for the gorgeous appetiser of cured salmon, on a small herbed potato salad with beet stained quail eggs. Pics did not do it justice.

Cured salmon, herbed potatoes & beet stained quail eggs

One of the guests was a cray fisherman from Apollo Bay, so another appetiser was fresh crayfish, seved in lettuce cups, thai flavous.

Things started to really heat up in the kitchen then. Plating up 18 dishes required clearing a lot of space! It was a military operation.  Main course was couscous, with bbq’d lamb & roast vegetables cooked in their spicy Marmelatta,served with labne.  Somewhere inbetween peeling & staining quail eggs, eating, drinking, talking & laughing. I also made my first italian style meringue. I had been drizzling syrup into a cake for hours every time I passed, then whisked up the meringue and just fell in love with the texture of it when the hot sugar syrup was added.

The Kitchen, Plate Up!

At about 9pm at night, dessert was served and the dancing began!

Such a beautiful day in stunning surrounds and a group of people who were fun, passionate about food, and incredibly generous.

The following day it was back for yet another superb, albeit more casual, lunch (which thankfully ended by about 7pm) with the sunset over the Grampians

Another beautiful lunch into the sunset

Finally, all our little kids decided to set up their own restaurant to serve us dinner. Two little boys were pot washers, we had a couple of lovely waitresses, a bar person whipping up icy cocktails, and the tables were beautifully presented with menus!

The Kids Cafe, Table Presentation Excellent!

They were just too gorgeous.

What a weekend, I hope you enjoyed reading this and that I was able to capture some of the magic of that weekend.