Situation Dining x Day’s Walk Farm x Cultivar Fine Wines

 

An invitation to an eight course degustation vegetarian lunch from Situation Dining with quality Chilean wine from Cultivar Fine Wines at Day’s Walk Farm near Keilor just outside Melbourne was just too hard to pass up.  And especially with a designated driver where busses, trains and Uber’s were too difficult to arrange.

Day’s Walk Farm is an organic farm with wonderful fertile soil and views across besutiful farming land.  So an hour and a half down the Calder freeway from Castlemaine we were greeted with a refreshing grappa with lemon and cucumber cocktail and delicious tomato gougeres with fromage frais and sourdough blini with zucchini blossom.  We were welcomed by Paul Miragliotta who showed us over the property and explained the growing method of the organics with his small scale farming.  I think we all had vegetable envy at the healthy plants especially the eggplant which happens to be a favourite of mine.  The tomatoes were perfect too.

Lunch was served outdoors at a lovely long table near beautiful gum trees beside the  Maribyrnong River and was prepared by former The Good Table chef and restaurateur, Alex Perry.  He now operates Situation Dining.  We were treated with:

Raw Zucchini Salad with Shallot Foam, Lemon, Shallot Chips

Tomato Souffle, Black Cherry Vinegar, Fennel Pollen

Rotolo of Pink Fur Apple Potatoes, Mint and Ricotto with Butter, Sage (my favourite.. I think I could have eaten  plate of this)

Lacto Fermented Beetroot, Garlic Puree, Brioche, Green Coriander Seed

Golden  Nugget Pumpkin,  Walnut and Sourdough Crumble, Artichoke Stamen Curd

Layered Eggplant Pie, Buffalo Mozzarella, Purslane Sauce.  Fresh sourdough was a great addition to mop up the juices and sauces.

and finally the amazing

Holy Goat and Clove Blancmange, Mulberry Curd, Anise Biscuit.

The wines were imported from Chile and were produced from vines some of which were over 200 years.  The reds were served slightly chilled which on a very warm day were especially pleasant.  I purchased a bottle of the 2018 Pipeno Pais to take interstate to celebrate the engagement of my eldest son. Need an excuse to visit Chile.  Think I have just found another one!

PS…During the lunch service I was also impressed with the care in which guests with special needs were treated.  Dairy free, gluten free, vegan and even a guest who was allergic to onion were treated with respect.  I take it for granted how fortunate I am that I can eat anything!

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Tuesday Night Cookbook Club

It was just an idea! To combine my monthly bookclub with my wine appreciation course!  Meet with like minded people who enjoy good food and meet once a month to bring a plate of home cooked food to share from a favourite cook book! 

Having moved from Sydney to Castlemaine a few years ago I missed those local cafes serving a variety of cuisines where one can meet up with family and friends any night of the week where one can pick up a bottle of wine at the bottle shop or if you are lucky enough your own personal cellar.

I chose ‘Simple’ from Ottolenghi and I asked around.  No money would change hands.  Bring a bottle of something to enjoy if wanted and I would supply chilled flavoured mineral water.  The only requirement ….the desire to try a new dish…a little out of ones comfort zone to bring and share with five other people.  Bring it warm or room temperature!

Finding five enthusiasts was easy and I chose a Tuesday night.  I checked to see we did not have five cheese cakes or three tomato salads.  We had two desserts and a brilliant array of dishes from ‘Simple’.  They were all vegetarian although this wasn’t a prerequisite and ranged from

  • Roasted baby carrots with harissa and pomegranate;
  • Burrata with grilled red grapes and basil;
  • Cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad;
  • 5 spice peach and raspberry salad;
  • Baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic.
  • There was beet, caraway and goat cheese bread.

Dessert was

  • cake with hazelnut, peach and raspberries
  • and a delightful rhubarb and strawberry custard.

Yes!  All so delicious and I think as I was going to bed that I had eaten too much!

Next month we agreed that the Monday Morning Cooking Club books would be on the table and I am particularly excited as I have been to a cooking demonstration by these women.  They..I think they were six of them started meeting on a ….Monday morning to cook and bake recipes from their relatives to keep the food alive.  Then they started telling stories of how the food evolved all over the world.  So the books…there are now three with a fourth planned not only have recipes but have a history too.  And the fourth one is going to be on sweet things!  Until next month….goodbye from the first Tuesday Night cookbook club.

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Keeping it Simple

After the indulgances of December and baking like a mad woman I decided that for January I was not going to use the oven.  And with soaring temperatures over 40 degrees or 105 in Fahrenheit there was a good reason.  Keep it cool as well as simple.

And that meant salads and simple pasta and rice dishes.  Mostly vegetarian but with some small additions of bacon or anchovies to ramp up the flavour.  Some cheese of course..where would life be without cheese and lots of fresh herbs.  Fortunately my garden provides abundant herbs….parsley, mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage.  If only I had a lemon tree I would be in heaven though fortunately cat sitting for my next door neighbour provides a supply from their profolic tree in the city.

The first one was a simple carrot salad from one of my Christmas gift cook books which came from ‘The little Swedish Kitchen’ from Rachel Khoo.  She has recently moved to Sweden after marrying a Swede.  I spent many months in Sweden in my more youthful days and was familiar with most of her ingredients.  The addition of dill …a firm favourite herb in Sweden and capers with a pickled red onion gave it a really nice kick.  I grated the carrot instead of making matchsticks.  This also keeps well and has a addition of feta or as I used goats cheese.  I have also made this with beetroot.  A marriage made in heaven with the dill and I have to say this keeps well and is quite filling and one feels so virtusous eating a large dose of colourful vegetables. I am looking forward to trying more of the salad recipes too Poached chicken with quickly picked strawberry salad’ sounds interesting and a more substantial one of Midsummer salad sounds heavenly.

This recipe came from The Age Good Food section of the Tuesday paper more recently.  Again simple and delicious.  It was actually in an article about cooking something really nice when you are on holiday or in an airbnb with limited cooking equipment.  Large handfuls of freshly cooked green beans with currants…I added some pomegranate molasses.  Ricotta salata or salted and preserved lemon finely chopped added flavour.

I borrowed a recipe from Lorraine Elliott’s blog (@notquitenigella) for a pasta recipe with canned tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, capers, olives, chilli.  Simple but delicious.  Freeze leftovers and serve with parmesan using whatever dried pasta you prefer.  Thank you Lorraine.  One could ramp it up with some chopped up chorizo and leftover sausuage pork and fennel sausage

Zucchini and ricotta is a great match especially with lemon rind, garlic and some chilli or spice and makes a healthy pasta dish.  Leftovers on toasted sourdough is delicious.

Some organic beetroot….both orange and the more traditional colour when grated makes a delicious addition to risotto especially with a dollop of creme fraise or ricotta. Perfect to take to work the next day for lunch too.  I like to use leek instead of onion in a risotto as it has a more delicate flavour and a generous glug of dry white leftover from the weekend.

I am slowly working through my way through some of the recipes from my newest cook book from Christmas ‘ Simple’ from Yotam Ottolenghi.  I could not believe how delicious how his hot roasted tomatoes with lemon flavoured chilled Greek yogurt could be.  Simply delicious.  And speaking of tomatoes as we are in the middle of summer I made the Tomatoes with sumac onions and pinenuts from Simple.  So  tasty and with my haul from the Castlemaine Farmers Market at the weekend I made a Courgette, thyme and walnut salad.

Recently I read that Ottolenghi would take lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper if he went to a desert island or simply staples!  A lemon actually is on the cover of his latest book.  I wonder what ingredients you would take to a desert island!

 

And so the salads of summer contnues….

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Masala Foodie Trail

When a friend and fellow traveller and food enthusiast mentioned catching up at a foodie trail tour I could not refuse.

The Masala Foodie Trail consisted of a visit to restaurants and  one tiny grocery store all with the CBD of Melbourne.

We met our guide and other participants (making a total of five plus our guide) at the appointed time and headed off to the first venue.  Our guide spoke very good english and was a friendly, delightful and knowledgeable of Indian food.  She was in Australia to do her Masters degree in….what else but tourism.

A short walk and we were at our first restaurant.  Whilst we waited for chai and a small brunch she provided us with a map of India and gave us a brief history of the different areas of India and the differing food in various states.  It was interesting we all noted that we had all passed this particular restaurant in the past though had never been inside.  It is located near a very busy railway station.  It will definitely be on our to do visit when we are looking for delicious food as it looked very appetising and freshly prepared.

Next up was a visit to a shop which sold a huge range of products and spices for Indian cooking.  It was very tiny so we all just fitted in but there was an abundance of herbs and spices.  I puchased a packet of cummin seeds and another of black mustard seeds as my supply at home was low.

Lunch was next up and again another restaurant that had been overlooked by a couple who work a few hundred meters away.  We started with cummin pappadoms accompanied with a mildly spicy yogurt dipping sauce.  I think that it would have been lovely to be served with a cold lassi drink at this stage though two of the group ordered beer which as it had been very hot would have hit the spot.  But water was fine too.

The goat currie was particularly delicious and along side there was dahl, a cucumber raita, paneer and spinach, basmati rice and roti.  This was served communally.  Quite small servings for six people but very authentic.  We had expected a third restaurant for dessert but it was served here and was two of my favourite Indian sweets which sadly we had to share.  They were of course kulfi and gulab jamun!  As someone who has a sweet tooth I was a disappointed as my friend with the quantity though not the quality.

Having a drink afterwards we discussed the pricing and the way the offer of a free ticket if you invited a friend along.  I did not have anyone who could make it (and I live 1.5 hours out of the city) but my friend did.  I ended up paying the full amount of $125 which I did think was expensive.  My friend (and her friend) paid $62.50 which I would consider an appropriate amount for the tour.

I do however have two new Indian restauants when next in the city to experience again and know of a well appointed grocery store selling spices.  Maybe after next weekend and after an eight course vegetarian meal with quality wine for $10 more than this I will know what is value for money.  In the meantime I will dream of kulfi in this heatwave we are experiencing in country Victoria.

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Possum Gully Road Studio Gallery

With a name like Possum Gully Road  I felt I had to visit.  A friend recommended the gallery and I was on the lookout for a new place to visit as one of my New Year Resolutions to visit more of rural Victoria where I moved to a few years ago from the North Shore of Sydney.

The trip from Castlemaine to Maryborough is a pleasant one with sheep, cattle and crops which reminds me of my childhood on the Darling Downs in Queensland though different at the same time.  This area has a history of gold mining and I love to see the ruins of times past and I wish that I knew more about the purposes of these buildings.  If only they could talk.

Possum Gully Road is about a four kilometers on the other side of Maryborough on the road to Avoca but it is very well signposted.  Probably just as well too as perhaps it is not where one would expect a gallery on a country road with farms on both sides of the road.

The Gallery is a purpose build mud brick building close to the owners personal residence.  It is in a beautiful garden which forms a natural background for garden sculpture.  The gallery  has been operating for over twenty years and is open on weekends and public holidays.  Exhibitons are held from time to time and unfortunately I was too late for the latest one through there was ample art to admire and appreciate together with some lovely gift cards.

I had missed the previous  exhibition last year called ‘A cat among pigeons’ though there were a few unsold art works still on sale.  It was an exhibition featuring cats and birds that are free, feral or domesticated in landscape, interiors gardens and captivity.  Sounded exciting!  I will look forward to the next exhibition.

 

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Maryborough Railway Station

The first time I visited Maryborough I was very surprised when I first glimpsed the stunning railway station.  It would have looked more at home I thought in a European city or at least in a large city rather than a small country town in rural Victoria  It certainly was very grand.  It was built in 1890 – 1891 in the Queen Victoria style with an extensive platform and a spectular veranda.  There was a formal dining room which is now a lovely cafe.  Recently I attended a book release and vowed that I would return to enjoy a meal at the cafe.

Mark Twain  visited Maryborough in 1895 and reportedly said Maryborough was a railway with a town attached.  Stories abound of the reason of this magnificent station.  There was one that it was supposedly for Maryborough in Queensland and another due to the gold discoveries in the area of the Goldfields area.  Other rumours abound which make the history of of town more interesting.

I loved the carved Ticket office box window and the timber used in the ceiling supposedly elaborate Oak or Australian Mountain Ash and the tessellated floor.  The clock is quite amazing too.

If you are heading to Maryborough or passing through take time out to stop and take a look at the beautiful Railway Station.  It will be a memorable experience to look at times past in this lovely town.

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MooovingArt in Shepparton Victoria

I don’t make New Years Resolutions as I tend not to keep them.  I mean have I never lost weight or done more exercise.  I have not learnt another language though I have tried and I know better than most I have not been  more kind or tolerant of people that maybe I should have done!  So it is better that I have more positive outcomes….travel to more challenging countries, read more and enjoy life! and take day trips from where I now live.  In country Victoria …a whole new state to explore.

Already I have been to visit the Maryborough Railway Station….blog coming up on that but more recently it was a trip to Shepparton – a two hour road trip from Castlemaine.  My trusty companion SusieQ was in  her usual seat in the car on her comfortable bedding.  If you have not heard about her previously she is my rescue and retired greyhound.  Never do I hear ‘Are we there yet?’ or ‘I am thirsty or hungry or bored’.  She simply curls up in the back seat and nods off.  Even no comments on the music.

It had been my intention to visit the renowned art gallery but on the way into town we stopped off for a coffee and it was there I saw some ‘cows’.  These are not the normal cows but are brightly coloured fibreglass ones and are spread all over town.  I think there must be almost one hundred of them though we only managed to find about twenty.

Called Moooving Arts these brightly coloured ‘cows’ are 3D life sized works of art and are unique in Australia with local and international artists responsible.

I have been a fan of the  Australia Silo Trail but this is quite charming and colourful.  Do I have a favourite? No it is like having a favourite child but they certainly bring a smile to your face and probably even more important attract tourists passing through town to stop, take a photo or two and have a cup of coffee or lunch before heading off remembering that place with the cows.

And if you are wondering why cows were chosen Shepparton is renouned for its dairy industry and well as fruit and vegetables.

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