Through The Eyes Of A Local : The Hidden Secrets Tour Melbourne

Melbourne is an interesting city, full of things to see and do at every corner. While it’s great to explore and discover hidden gems on your own, some travellers might prefer having a guide to show them secret spots that only the locals would know.

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Enter Hidden Secrets Tour Melbourne, a walking tour established in 2004 that aims to uncover a side of the city not usually seen beyond the usual tourist hotspots. There are several itineraries to choose from, depending on your areas of interest, and a tour will usually take around two to three hours to complete. Ideal for those who are short on time, or just want a quick glimpse into Melbourne as it is for Melburnians!

I was in town earlier this year for a media trip, and our organisers booked us a tour which was a good mix of coffee, food, arts and culture. Right from the get-go we got a map and a mug (which can be used for coffee along the tour), which I felt was really thoughtful of them (and environmentally-friendly as well!).

LANEWAYS

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Inseparable from the city’s identity is its laneways; narrow streets once used for horses and cargo. They gained a reputation for seediness in the days after the Gold Rush, but are now considered cool, hip places, filled with hole-in-the-wall eateries, bars, indie art galleries, jewellery stores, boutiques and more. There are over 40 laneways in Melbourne. Our tour brought us to AC/DC Lane, named after one of the biggest rock bands to come out of Australia.

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I came here on my own a couple of days ago, but it was nice to come back with a guide. Wouldn’t have noticed otherwise details like these shoes hanging from cables. Apparently since the laneways were known to be slums / shady places, the shoes were used to indicate that drugs were sold at a particular place!

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A short walk away was Strachan Lane, which was marked by a large mural by local artist adnate.

 

Koko Black

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Chocolate lovers will want to stop by Koko Black, which offers premium chocolates in a phenomenal range of flavours: you name them, they’ve got ’em. Started in 2003, you can find Koko Black’s flagship store in the Royal Arcade, as well as in major cities in Australia.

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Aside from nicely packed gift boxes that make for ideal souvenirs, the shop also carries individual pieces, each lovingly handcrafted to sweet perfection.

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Tasting board.

La Belle Miette 

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The sweet adventure didn’t end there, as our guide brought us a few doors down to La Belle Miette (Beautiful crumb in French), which specialises in macarons, bon bons and chocolate drageés. Everything about this cute-looking shop exudes Parisian chic, from the heart-shaped chairs to the cute storefront decor and elegant white counters within.

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Too pretty to be eaten! Expect top notch quality as only premium ingredients are used to make the macarons, such as pure fruit purees, vanilla beans, Girgar butter and chocolate exclusively from French chocolate house Cacao Barry and Belgian Callebaut.

Sensory Lab

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Our next stop was Sensory Lab, which felt like a true hidden gem. Tucked away from the main street, it was nevertheless packed with customers. Got a taste of awesome Melbourne coffee (which is world-famous, by the way!) in our mugs before moving on.

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More beautiful murals. It’s easy to stumble across these while walking around Melbourne – just pop into any alleyway and be surprised.

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The shops here are so picturesque / cool-looking I think I could dedicate an entire photo album just for them.

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This is an interesting one! The Waiter’s Restaurant is a pasta speakeasy that dates back decades; at least to the 1940s. The story goes that Italian, Greek and Spanish waiters would come to the restaurant after their shifts to play cards and drinks, hence the name. Its reputation grew, and soon became a meeting place for people from all walks of life, from politicians and journalists to the local gang members. The Waiters have served generations of Melburnians, and their signatures include ox tail, chicken liver and spaghetti bolognese. This sounds like one of those places I’d gladly queue up for !

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Another classic establishment founded in 1950, Pellegrini‘s reputation is legendary. Started by the Pellegrini brothers, the cafe initially served the Italian migrant community. But the shop’s close proximity to the theatre district meant it was soon pulling an intellectual arts crowd. The cafe was later sold off to another pair of Italian migrants, but the offerings and menu, as well as the decor, have largely remained the same.

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Arts is a big thing in Melbourne, as evidenced by its East End Theatre District, home to no less than six major theatre and production houses, some of which date back over a 100 years. Here, plays and world-class shows are regularly staged. Must be great to be a Melburnian and have such convenient access to all these great art shows!

With that, we concluded our Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne! It was certainly an eye opening experience, and we discovered many little gems along the way. Our guide provided plenty of information, although I did get the feeling that we were being rushed despite still being within the stipulated time – perhaps she had another tour to conduct. Anyways, I’d highly recommend booking one of their tours if you’re ever in the city. 🙂

Bookings can be made here.

Uncovering Melbourne’s History @ The Old Treasury Building

 ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ – Winston Churchill

Melburnians are a blessed lot. Not only do they have a vibrant culinary arts scene (one of Australia’s best – plus great coffee!), there are also no shortage of things to do within the city, with a festival of some sort every other week, beautiful parks and nature, seaside and beaches perfect for surfing, as well as museums and art galleries at every corner.

But how did it all come to be?

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A great place to learn about Melbourne’s history and its roots is at the Old Treasury Building along Spring Street. Constructed in the mid-19th century, the Victorian-era structure was once home to the Treasury Department of the Government of Victoria, and now houses a museum chronicling the city’s history.

Melbourne as a city grew exponentially during the Victorian Gold Rush, when settlers flocked to the area in search of gold. As such, the building was originally built not only to act as treasury offices, but also to house the state’s gold vaults.

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The building’s interior exudes an austere Victorian charm, with thick wooden doors, dimly lit corridors and antique chandeliers. The museum’s permanent exhibition, “Melbourne: Foundations of a City” takes visitors through the city’s early days as a settlement by the Yarra River, its heydays in the Gold Rush, and later on during the World War. Most of the exhibits relate to the socio, economic and political development of Melbourne, told through important documents, letters or even decrees preserved to this day.

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Bust of Sir Edward Macarthur, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Australia from 1855.

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An interesting exhibit on criminals, including female felons. There was a display of their mugshots along with their names, and their respective offences recorded in a book. These ranged from petty crime and disorderly conduct, to more serious offences such as murder.

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During World War I, Australians were faced with a choice – on whether their men should be conscripted to fight overseas. A Nation Divided: The Great War and Conscription tells the story of this time in Australian history. Some historians have described the debates resulting from the issue as being the most bitter, divisive and violent to ever consume the nation, splitting up families, communities and political parties.

 

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The exhibition covers material both for and against, showcasing impassioned posters, comics, poetry, speeches and many more. In the end, despite a huge government campaign, Australians voted against conscription – although many Australian soldiers still volunteered to participate in the war.

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What was it like living in 1920s Melbourne? Venture downstairs for an insight into the lives of the Maynard family, who lived in the basement of the Old Treasury Building.

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Mr Maynard was the superintendent of the building, in charge of security, maintenance and the cleaning staff, while Mrs Maynard took care of their eight children, whilst also preparing morning and afternoon tea for the Governor’s meetings upstairs. The family squeezed into five rooms, and you can see items and furniture perfectly preserved as they were in the old days. There’s even one of those old metal bathtubs on display!

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The basement is also where you will find the gold vaults, with real (?) gold bars encased behind glass, and this replica of a real-life giant gold nugget found in the area during the Gold Rush.

The museum is not very large, but it’s great for an hour or two of delving deeper into Melbourne’s history. Entrance is free.

OLD TREASURY BUILDING 

20 Spring St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Open : 10 AM – 4PM (closed Saturdays)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Pontoon @ St Kilda Beach, Melbourne – Best Eggplant Fries Ever!?

Melbourne is widely touted to be one of the world’s most livable cities – and for good reason. Not only does the city play home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, it also has gorgeous nature and sandy beaches just a stone’s throw away from the city centre.

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One of these beautiful spots – also Melbourne’s most popular beach – is St Kilda. A short tram ride away from the CBD, the beach’s deep blue waters are popular with surfers and swimmers, and the beachfront is lined with trendy eateries and chic restaurants. There is, of course, the beach’s iconic pier, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local wildlife like penguins wading around the water at sunset.

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It was late afternoon by the time my friend Stephen and I got to the beach, and many of the shops were closed after lunch service. We ended up at Pontoon, which has an all-day kitchen. Like its namesake (pontoon is a type of small boat), the restaurant boasts a chill ambience with a nautical theme – wooden tables that look like the decks on a boat, hues of blue and yellow, and an outdoor patio where diners can enjoy their food and drink in the sun. Apparently the building where Pontoon is located, which also includes fine dining resto Stokehouse and casual kiosk Paperfish out front, was razed in a fire in 2014 – so the version we’re seeing today is a refreshed design.

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If you’re into drinks, Pontoon offers a wide selection of wines, beers and cocktails. I believe this was a Negroni of some sort – not a big fan of alcohol tbh gasp.

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Stephen’s order of Lamb sausage with fennel compote, charred capsicum sauce and herb salad. Huge and juicy, with a slight char on the outside – what more can one ask for?

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We were there on Steak Wednesday, so I got the 300gm Porterhouse with Chimichurri sauce (20AUD). Good, affordable steak is hard to find in Malaysia, and its even harder to find a place that does it rare just right (they’re either raw or overcooked), so I was glad to be able to enjoy this in Melbourne!

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Perfect degree of doneness, and the chimichurri’s salty, garlicky flavours really helped to accentuate the taste of the meat.

 

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The highlight of the meal was the Chips De Berenjena – eggplant chips and pomegranate molasses served with aioli dip – which Stephen ordered as a snack. I ended up filching most of it. Eggplant chips are easy to make but notoriously difficult to perfect, as they absorb oil and get soggy, but the ones served here were top notch. Crisp on the outside thanks to the light batter, whilst still being moist and soft on the inside. Possibly the best eggplant chips that I’ve ever tasted anywhere!

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Pontoon is located next to Paper Fish, facing the beach front at St Kilda’s Beach.

PONTOON 

30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda VIC 3182, Australia

Opening hours: 12 PM – 11PM (Mons – Thurs), 12 PM – 12AM (Fri – Sun)

Reservations can be made on pontoonstkildabeach.com.au

Fresh Goods and Hearty Homemade Meals @ Mansfield Produce Store, Mansfield Victoria, Australia

Hey guys! So this is my last entry for the Victoria, Australia blog series. Sorry it took so long in between posts; I kind of forgot this was still lying in drafts. ._.

My last stop on the Victoria Food and Wine Trail across parts of southeastern Australia was to a quaint little tourist town called Mansfield, about 180km from Melbourne. Like many settlements across Aus, it was founded in the 1800s and was named after an English town of the same name. Formerly dependent on farming and logging, it now acts as the support town for the popular ski resort, Mount Buller.

One of the town’s main ‘attractions’ is the Mansfield Regional Produce Store – or simply the Produce Store as it is known to locals. Built in 1895, the place retains a charming, vintage vine with high rafters and wooden beams. Decor is given a modern touch with paintings by local artists adorning its walls. The owner, Dean, is very supportive of the local arts and culture scene. Aside from the paintings, which are for sale, there are various knickknacks, local handicrafts and items such as handmade soap at the back of the store, and the outlet also hosts events like open mic /jam sessions on weekends.

Visitors will be greeted by a warm and cosy scene (a little cluttered, but charming all the same) once they enter the shop. One side is lined with shelves of local produce and goods, from sauces and nuts to candy and snacks. Staff bustle about behind the counter, where the day’s specials are written on blackboard menus. Chairs and tables don’t match; there are some old looking cupboards and a mishmash of deco that includes lanterns and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. The vibe is more eclectic-home-space than an actual store.

Paintings for sale, done by local artists.

Was very tempted to get this lol.

More shelves of neatly packed goods  – perfect as gifts or souvenirs.

Further back is where they stock a variety of wines from the King Valley region, including some brands that we tried on the Food and Wine Trail, namely Pizzini Wines and the Ladies who Shoot Their Lunch series.

Foodstuff isn’t the only thing they have in store: there are also quirky little items like bags, shawls, accessories, handmade soaps and the like.

The less explored back of the store, filled with vintage treasures. Fancy a feathered lamp?

Bought some soap and scented candles to take home as souvenirs.

It was high time for brunch, so I ordered a dish of sausages with a slice of baguette and perfectly poached eggs, served with a tomato relish. The sausages were really juicy and flavourful, while the eggs were perfectly done and the relish gave the dish a tangy, appetisingly sweet/sour kick. Everything was fresh and tasty – no frozen food stuff here.

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 8/10 (be prepared to wait on busy days like weekends)

MANSFIELD PRODUCE STORE 

68 High St, Mansfield VIC 3722, Australia

Business hours: 8.30AM – 5 PM

 

Tasting the Best Beef in Australia @ Blackmore Wagyu Farm, Alexandra, Victoria

David Blackmore knows a thing or two about beef.

After all, the award-winning farmer is considered a pioneer in bringing wagyu cattle to Australia, and now owns a 150-hectare farm in the Victoria region, where his beef is very much sought after both locally and abroad, despite its hefty AUD$450/kilo price tag.

Prior to the 1970s, wagyu was exclusive to Japan – a national treasure that was jealously guarded, carefully selected and bred to maintain the purest blood lines. In 1988, David discovered two purebred females on loan from the Japanese government while visiting research facilities in the US – but it wasn’t until four years later that he was able to secure a large number of embryos and semen to bring into Australia. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the farm boasts a herd of 3,000 animals from three of Japan’s most famous black Wagyu bloodlines, namely Itozakura and Kikumidoi, Kikutsuru from the Hyogo prefecture, and Okudoi, from the 100% purebred Tajima cow family. There is also the exclusive Mishima, known as Japan’s native wagyu, born by mating Angus and Wagyu females with a Mishima bull.

I was extremely fortunate (a big thank you to Visit Victoria for putting together the trip) to be able to visit the Blackmore farm in Alexandra, where fellow journalists and I spoke to David and his family to find out more about the history of the business and their farming practices.

We were taken on a tour through the farm grounds in a truck. Instead of being cooped up in sheds, the wide open fields, gentle rolling hills and lush greenery make for a relaxing and sustainable environment for the cattle. Calves are raised naturally on mother’s milk and pasture, before transitioning to irrigation pasture and non-grain rations. The entire process of raising the cows until they are ready for the market takes three years. 

Two of David’s oldest cows. They have their own special paddock.

An interesting tidbit David shared – the cows should be in a relaxed state, so it’s good to see them lounging around rather than standing, because this ensures more marbling/fat, which ultimately creates high quality meat.

So what’s the deal with Wagyu and what makes it so expensive? 

Aside from the long and extensive farming process, the beef produced also has a high percentage of marbling to muscle ratio, which gives it a melt in the mouth texture, tenderness and great flavour that is hard to achieve with any other beef variant.

The meat looked absolutely gorgeous – look at that marbling! Blackmore has the highest grade rated by the Australian Wagyu Association, which is grade 9.

Enough talking though – the proof lies in the pudding (or in this case, the beef!) – so we adjourned to David’s homestead, where we got to try the award-winning beef, prepared by the lovely Mrs Blackmore. No fancy cooking or extra seasoning, just simple pan frying in its own juices.

Amazing is an understatement. 

I’ve tried Wagyu once (blog link here), and even though that was really good, it doesn’t come close to the meaty flavour and marbling from Blackmore. Almost no chewing was required as the beef literally melted on my tongue, it was that soft and tender. Despite the high percentage of fat, it did not feel greasy or cloying at all. I understand why their beef is so sought after in high-end restaurants around Australia and around the world – you do get what you are paying for, and David and his family are so passionate about rearing cattle and producing the best product possible while adhering to sustainable practices.

Delicious home cooked food to go with our meaty meal.

For a full list of places where you can get Blackmore Wagyu, visit blackmorewagyu.com/purchase/purchase-wagyu/

Best Butter in Australia: Myrtleford Butter @ King Valley Dairy, Victoria Australia

Hey guys! It’s been awhile since I last posted about my Australian adventure – got caught up with work/writing about other stuff – but here I am again! 🙂 

Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of milk – so you’d think it’d be easy to find good artisan butter, right?

Wrong.

At least, according to Naomi Ingleton, a third generation chef turned butter maker. Ingleton, who previously ran a cafe, decided to make the career switch after realising how difficult it was to get a good local substitute for the French artisan butter she was using at her cafe.

“It was just a shame because we have such good quality milk here,” Ingleton shares when we visited her at King Valley Diary in Mohyu, which is now one of the biggest makers of artisanal or cultured butter – churning out 8 tonnes of butter a week. This is shipped to gourmet food stores, groceries and cafes all over Australia as Myrtleford Butter.

King Valley Dairy in Mohyu

Four years ago was when Ingleton and her partner David Taylor took the leap of faith to close down the cafe and focus solely on making butter. They bought a small butter factory which was empty at the time, gutted the whole place and rebuilt it from the ground up. It was a big risk – even with her chef background, Ingleton knew close to nothing about butter making, and had to learn everything from scratch. Today, the factory offers a range of products, from salted and unsalted butter in various flavours such as wild thyme, smoked salt and black truffle, to their signature buttermilk, ghee, ricotta and more.

The factory has a quaint cafe-cum-store area where visitors can browse through products. The bright and airy looking space combines rustic woods with natural lighting and contemporary charm. Aside from dairy products, they also carry a small selection of fresh produce (jams, deli meats, vegetables) from the surrounding region and items such as soap.

Perfect gifts/souvenirs for friends and family if you’re stopping by while on Victoria’s Food and Wine Trail.

We tried a sample of the different flavours, some creme fraiche and buttermilk ‘shots’, served with home made bread. The buttermilk left a tangy, tart taste in the mouth (in a good way, of course!), while the creme fraiche was creamy and smooth – perfect as a spread. It was hard to pick a favourite flavour, but I’d have to go for the confit garlic (one of their bestsellers!) and black truffle butter. Both are good ingredients to pair with butter, and the flavours really shone through. Other varieties available include Wild Thyme, Smoked Salt and the innovative Chocolate Butter.

The factory area where guests can watch the #ChurnGang in action and understand more about the butter making process.

  

Naomi Ingleton at her shop.

Myrtleford has one of the best butters I’ve ever tasted, and I hope they get to expand soon so they can export some to Malaysia! If you’re ever in Aus, look out for the brand – you won’t regret your purchase. 🙂

KING VALLEY DAIRY 

107 Moyhu-Meadow Creek Rd, Moyhu VIC 3732, Australia

Open daily 10AM – 4PM

facebook.com/KingValleyDairy/

 

Experiencing Australia’s Prosecco Road: Chrismont Cellar Door, Pizzini Wines & A Tavola ! Cooking School

The initial plan for my third day on the Victoria High Country Food and Wine Trail was to go on a hot air balloon ride over the King Valley wine region. Unfortunately, the weather did not permit (cries) and I had to be content with a tour on solid ground instead. I was a tad disappointed, but quickly perked up when we visited Australia’s very own Prosecco Road, where five prominent winemakers have set up their vineyards. Some of these are run by second or third generation Italian immigrant families, and a few of the owners of separate vineyards are  related.

We stopped by for a quick wine tasting at Chrismont Cellar Door, a modern building perched on top of a hill with beautiful architecture and gorgeous views of their vineyards. First established in 1996, Chrismont carries four brands, namely the Chrismont, La Zona, Riserva and Casa, each with their unique wines.

We tried the classic European varietals from the Chrismont range,which included well-loved favourites like Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their La Zona (Italian for the zone) range, on the other hand, carried the signature Prosecco NV, along with Mediterranean varietals such as Nebbiolo and Moscato. Riserva are for the older vintages dating back to 2005-06, while Casa offers the cheaper blends.

CHRISMONT 

251 Upper King River Road, Cheshunt

Operating hours: 10am-5pm

chrismont.com.au

Next we came to Pizzini Wines, which also houses the A Tavola! Cooking School, where we had a cooking class scheduled. The school was located in a long, low building with a few tobacco drying sheds and flowers lining a pretty little creek. Very picturesque, like a scenery you’d find on a postcard.

There was still some time, so the friendly manager at Pizzini’s took us up to the vineyards in his car. It was quite the ride as the car bumped and jolted through uneven paths. The lane was just wide enough for us to pass, and at times grape vines would brush against the vehicle.

After a 10 minute ride, we parked at the top of the hill to look down onto the scenic valley, flanked by rings of mountains as far as the eye could see. Large swathes of land were covered in vineyards, or were kept as pastures for cattle and sheep. The air was fresh and clean, and we leaned back against the hood of the car while sipping on a few glasses of Pizzini wines (how am I not drunk yet? It’s 11 in the morning).

It was early autumn during our visit, so the grapes had not been harvested. They looked plump and juicy.

The taste of wine depends a lot on the weather and climate, which affect how well the grapes grow. Certain conditions can cause the grapes to be sour/sweeter/have more acidity/etc. It’s not easy being a winemaker !

Time to head into the kitchen! We were met by the friendly proprietress, Katrina Pizzini, who learnt the art of making Italian food when she married her husband, Fred, and joined the Pizzini family. Her hands-on classes are small and intimate, with an emphasis on hearty local/Italian fare that uses fresh ingredients.

Now I’m not much of a cook (I prefer eating lol), but Katrina has a very patient, motherly vibe to her and the classes were easy enough to follow, even for beginners. Our first dish? A classic vegetable stew, with ripe and juicy chopped tomatoes, eggplants and peppers tossed into a huge pot and left to simmer on low heat.

Katrina showing us the ropes.

We prepared the apple strudel before our main course, as this had to be baked for some time. The recipe was handed down by the Pizzini family’s matriarch, Nonna, who learnt it from an Austrian chef.

We kneaded and rolled the pastry into sheets. The filling was made up of thick, sweet slices of apple, as well as raisins and currants that was then sprinkled over with cinnamon and cloves before it was rolled up into a fat, log shape. Then, it was the basting process for aroma and shine. In it went into the oven!

For our mains, we prepared gnocchi(a chewy potato/dough dumpling) and hand-made pasta. It was quite an experience making my own pasta – I’m so used to buying ready made ones that you can just chuck into the water – so to actually make the mix, blend and knead the dough, roll it out and shape it made me realise why ‘hand-made’ food tastes better: you’re in control of the whole process. Also, it’s a ‘labour of love’. 😀

A quick salad was drenched in liberal amounts of olive oil and tossed.

We had lunch on the verandah overlooking the field and nearby creek, complete with a chequered table cloth ! Katrina had put together our pasta with some simple dressing and garlic. The dish was smooth and fragrant, and the noodles had an al-dente texture. Amazing what a little guidance in the kitchen can turn up 😛

The gnocchi was chewy, cooked in a thick and rich tomato-base sauce. Although the shape was a little off (some were bigger or smaller), it turned out well overall, especially when sprinkled over with some cheese. The apple strudel that we made was a perfect sweet ending to the satisfying meal: flaky, rich and chock full of apples and currants.

We had a visitor at the table! Although Katrina asked us not to feed him…. He made puppy eyes throughout lunch.

It was a great experience at A Tavola ! Cooking School, and I recommend it to anyone doing the food and wine trail in the King Valley. Classes are available for booking online.

A Tavola! Cooking School (inside Pizzini Wines) 

175 King Valley Rd, Whitfield VIC 3733, Australia
Phone: +61 3 5729 8030
pizzini.com.au

 

Country Style Boutique Accommodation at Lindenwarrah, Milawa

Visitors on the food and wine trail across Victoria High Country in Australia will likely want to make a pitstop at Milawa, a small produce and craft centre surrounded by vineyards and low lying hills and pastures. It’s  also where our boutique accommodation for the night, Lindenwarrah, is located at. Just steps away from the popular Brown Brothers produce store/winery/cafe, the two-storey country house exudes an elegant yet rustic charm.

credit: booking.com

One of the entrances, flanked by shady trees on a sandy lawn. Sorry, didn’t manage to take pictures of the property on my camera because we were so tired at the end of the day all we wanted was to get up to our rooms. 😀

credit: lancemore.com.au

They’re still pretty old school so doors still use keys instead of electronic slots. I got to my Sunset View room on the second floor and was greeted by a spacious room with a wonderfully calming blue colour scheme, a large (and extremely fluffy!) bed, sheer white curtains framing double glass/wooden screen doors and a beautiful view of the vineyards surrounding the property. 

Bench to chill on in the room. There was also a large TV with a limited number of channels (we’re out in the country after all), a cupboard full of liquor and snacks, as well as tea making facilities.

View from room. Mountains, cattle grazing on pasture, vineyards and a beautiful sunset.

Walked out onto the verandah, which was basically one long balcony with lazy chairs; connected to all the other rooms. Not very good for privacy, since anyone can just walk past my room and peek inside if I don’t have the curtains drawn. There was a nice water feature on the ground floor and a well kept lawn though.

More scenic views. Apparently this is also where they have balloon flights but because of bad weather the next morning we had to give it a miss.

Popping back inside to check out the bathroom, I was super happy to find a wide range of bath products from Appelles, with unique ingredients such as Australian sandalwood and Kakadu Plum. No tub but there’s a spacious shower with temperature control.

Dinner that night with my companions was at the hotel’s in-house Restaurant Merlot, where we enjoyed a four-course meal that included this succulent medium rare thick cut steaks with potato gratin. The food was hearty and delicious.

Other facilities at the accommodation include a swimming pool, guest lounges, a terrace and most importantly, free Wi-Fi so you can still stay connected to the outside world.

For bookings, visit lancemore.com.au.