My mother and I share many personality qualities and when we spend time together it often feels like there is an overlap of our mother-daughter relationship with that of two best friends. When we are together we laugh a lot, often and easily, sometimes to the point of tears at things that others may not perceive as being quite that funny. Back when I was still at school, she was the “cool” mum that everyone else wanted as their mum. Now decades later we are separated by thousands of kilometres meaning our times spent with each other are more precious than ever before. Earlier this year the Boy and I headed back to Adelaide to visit her for a short weekender break. Mum is as much of a foodie as I am and so she organised to take us on a day trip into the McLaren Vale wine region. McLaren Vale is a short 45 minute drive from Adelaide’s city centre and is easy to visit on a day trip.
With my stepdad at the wheel we spent the day cruising from winery to winery carefully choosing just enough wine to fit into our luggage home. Our first stop was Hardy’s Tintara, a picturesque old winery bought by Hardy’s founder Thomas Hardy in 1876. Many of the old historical buildings still remain. The cellar door staff were welcoming and friendly insisting we work our way through as many of their wines as possible. There was no charge for tasting.
We spent a lot longer than we realised at Tintara chatting to the lovely staff and sipping away on a variety of their luscious reds. By the time we all jumped in the car I felt a bit light headed and keen for a bite to eat. Mum had booked us a table at The Currant Shed as she already knew they were gluten free friendly.
The Currant Shed are very focused on using local produce and being situated on the Fleurieu Peninsula they have an abundance of choice available. Their head chef prides himself on cultivating close relationships with the food producers and our waitress proudly explained to us that they make everything in house from scratch. The pickled octopus is one of their specialities and it was so tender soft you almost wouldn’t believe it was octopus.
The menu has a number of creative dishes many of which are suitable for dietary requirements including gluten free and vegetarian options. The Boy and I shared the vegetarian entrée which was a selection of baby beetroots with whipped goat’s curd, toasted pepitas and pumpkin oil.
Such a simple array of colourful ingredients decorated our plate elegantly and every mouthful was a burst of flavours and soft textures.
We had already all gone out to Bar 9 for a late breakfast so after eating our pretty entrées none of us were exceedingly hungry. Mum and my stepdad wanted to share a main so our waitress recommended that they order the smoked kangaroo loin as it was a reasonable sized serve to divide between two people. It was served with a rye pilaf, green strawberries and a pepper berry reduction. Being accustomed to Perth restaurant prices I was astonished at what a generous serve it was for just $33.
The Boy was ecstatic when he saw his vegetarian plate of amazingness arrive. Using locally sourced, seasonal vegetables such as zucchini and capsicums his plate was as beautiful as our entrée. Who said vegetarian food was boring?
On his plate were cheesy wedges of zucchini parmigiana, orzo stuffed peppers with feta and fresh tomatoes filled with black rice and peas. Scattered about his plate lay a multitude of fresh herbs, caperberries and edible flowers.
I ordered the fish of the day; two chunks of crispy skinned snapper with a macadamia nut crust in a tomato sugo broth with Goolwa cockles and thick cut chunks of pumpkin. The tomato sugo was a little watery and not as flavoursome as I would have preferred but with the saltiness of the cockles and lemony acidity of the caperberries the dish was still balanced well.
Sadly despite The Currant Shed having a very delightful looking dessert menu none of us had the room left in our bellies to squeeze in any sweets. Rolling onward and outward we piled back into the car to hit one more winery. We arrived at D’arenberg where we learnt the meaning of the wonderful word cenosilicaphobic: “the fear of an empty glass”. This is certainly something I suffer from at time to time.
The cellar door is situated overlooking the rolling hills of McLaren Vale and would have been another pretty spot to stop for lunch. Their restaurant d’Arrys Verandah is a little more formal compared to The Currant Shed and offers a full degustation menu. I noted they are also gluten free friendly and glimpses of the food heading out to the tables definitely looked like they were worth returning for.
After a few more wine tastings and a stroll around D’Arenberg’s grassy grounds we were nearly ready to head back home. It was late in the afternoon so unfortunately for us the first two venues that we dropped into for some dessert had already closed their kitchen. After nearly giving up, we found a gourmet café called Blessed Cheese that was still open in the town centre.
They had a couple of gluten free cake options and a massive selection of cheese and other local gourmet goods. We chose the gluten free sticky toffee muffin to share which was served warm with a caramel sauce drizzled over the top. It was not my usual type of dessert these days but it successfully satisfied my sweet tooth.
With the car boot clinking with a variety of bottles of wines that I had bought for our collection, I left the Vale knowing that I made the most of my trip. Thank goodness we scored a business class upgrade for our flight home otherwise our wallets would be burned with excess luggage charges!Hardy’s Tintara 202 Main Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171 | (08) 8329 4124 | hardyswines.com/au/wines/ranges/tintara D’Arenberg Osborn Road, McLaren Vale SA 5171 | (08) 8329 4848 | www.darenberg.com.au www.currantshed.com.au www.blessedcheese.com.au
I consider myself a Perth girl and love our city in so many ways but I wasn’t actually born here. I was born in Manly and my moved to Adelaide in my childhood years. I went on to spend most of my teenage years in Adelaide before moving to the other side of Australia on my own at the impressionable age of seventeen. Whilst my loyalties will always lie with Perth, I cannot deny that Adelaide holds a very sweet place in my heart and returning feels like coming home despite leaving so many years ago. One of the big attractions to return to Adelaide for is my Mum. Mum and I have always been best friends and being physically separated by thousands of kilometres makes our times together even more precious. After letting all the madness of Christmas die down, the Boy and I made a weekender trip to see her for the first time since our wedding. Being a total foodie herself, Mum had planned a busy weekend of feasting starting off with a hearty breakfast at a gorgeous restaurant called Bar 9.
As I looked at the forecast back home in Perth where it was predicted to hit 42°C I was thankful to be away for the weekend as Adelaide was blessed with the most perfect weather. Bar 9 was packed full and we had to wait around fifteen minutes for a table. It was bustling, noisy and full of life which is just the way I like to start my morning but I could see both the Boy and my step dad cringe a little at the decibels.
Bar 9 take their coffee quite seriously and purchase 5 Senses coffee roasted to order and then blended and aged on site. My short macchiato was richly flavoured with a complexity I wasn’t expecting and ending on a smooth aftertaste with hints of caramel. I was truly impressed by the quality of their coffee.
The menus were hidden inside Golden Books like they are back home at Mrs S and my menu was coincidentally inside one called “I love you, Mommy!”. Bless.
For a slim, tiny framed person my Mum can put away a decent amount of food despite retorts to the contrary. Sound familiar at all? I guess what they say about the apple falling from the tree has some merit. Mum ordered the charred asparagus spears on toast with poached eggs, slivered almonds and finely grated grana prado.
The Boy didn’t hold back and went straight for the ultimate decadence; creamy truffled mushroom ragu. Rich, meaty mushrooms were stewed into tender slippery morsels and drizzled with truffled honey.
My stepdad looked on with mild bemusement as I stopped the Boy mid-way through slicing into his poached eggs to catch the wonderful moment on camera. Being much more accustomed to such moments my Mum chuckled at my strangeness and explained to him what it was all about.
I ordered the house cured ocean trout with some initial regrets as I looked over at the Boys truffiliciousness. My jealousy was short lived as my dish provided more than just satisfaction from hunger relief. The gluten free bread came in small post-stamp sized pieces but this was made up for by providing three pieces. Each piece was adorned with vibrantly coloured trout which was as soft as velvet on the tongue.
My dish didn’t come with any eggs so not wanting to miss out I ordered one poached egg on the side. Once again I got the privilege off seeing it gently pop before oozing out golden perfection. Don’t you love how those simple things in life can often be some of the best?
You always know that the food is good when everyone across the table suddenly goes silent and for a brief few minutes we all sat in comfortable silence enjoying our breakfasts. Fueled and ready for a big day we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, into the car and headed off for a day in the McLaren Vale wine region.Bar 9 96 Glen Osmond Road, Parkside SA 5063 | (08) 8373 1108 | bar9.com.au/wp Price: $$ (Breakfast $11-18) Food: 4/5 (polished breakfast grub with a slightly fancier twist) Service: 3.5/5 (quippy and quick) Ambience: 3/5 (noisy and action packed) Drinks: 4.5/5 (go even just for the coffee) Total: 15/20
Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
It was an early start the following morning after the Eat Drink Blog conference dinner at the Hilton Adelaide with many of us nursing hangovers from all the excesses of food and drink. The organising committee had planned things well with baristers on the ready handing out freshly brewed coffee to bleary eyed delegates. A massive breakfast spread was provided by Red Door Bakery and The Yoghurt Shop and included a moist gluten free frittata for me to enjoy.
The lecture content over the day provided me with many useful take home tips ranging from food photography, food styling, ethics, working with PRs, SEO and some legal advice. As many of my fellow bloggers have already posted extensive wrap ups of the lecture content, in order to prevent saturating the web with repeat content I suggest you head over to the Eat Drink Blog website for the links.
No food blogging conference is complete without copious amounts of food. Although we may have been fed and watered very well the previous night at the conference dinner and then again that morning; nothing prepared us for the vibrant pop up lunch downstairs in the Adelaide Central Markets.
All produce on offer was proudly South Australian and included the most enormous pan of aromatic paella, gluten free cured meats, freshly cooked ham, local cheeses and artisan breads.
There was even a freshly baked loaf of gluten free Laucke bread accompanied by its own, non-contaminated cutting board and knife. It was a spongy fluffy loaf with the consistency of real bread!
The onslaught of delectable food continued well into the afternoon. Natasha from Playing House had kindly stayed up all hours the night before busily baking our afternoon tea spread. Cake pops, chocolate mousse and some adorable little mini cakes which surprisingly vanished quickly even though I’m sure most of us were at maximal stomach capacity!
The flourless orange cake was moist and zesty and although my expanded belly was starting to give the impression I was with child, I actually had to stop myself from going back for seconds.
Sadly all good things must always come to an end and coming down off my sugar rush my emotions ran high. In an out of character moment I swear I felt a tear prick in my eye as it dawned on me that this fantasy weekend was truly over. Many of the delegates had planes to catch, families to return to and lots of fresh new motivation to blog. After a flurry of farewells, hugs and promises to eat together once again we all departed to return back to our real lives.
Thanks once again to the Eat Drink Blog 2012 committee:
Thanks also to all the generous sponsors. Without your help this free conference would never have happened.
Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
After spending the afternoon with Dianne Jacob at her food writing workshop, I whizzed back to my Mum’s house, whipped on a frock and headed back out to the Eat Drink Blog Conference dinner at the Hilton Adelaide. I was joined by the rest of the WA “Team”; Ai-Ling from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse, Michelle from Foodie Cravings and Moni from Gastromony along with some interstate blogging friends.
The Hilton’s Executive Chef Dennis Leslie themed the evening based on a South American fiesta with the idea of making the meal “fun”. It was set out on the terraced pool deck in the open air up high amongst the sky scrapers (well, they are more like just tall buildings in Adelaide!). It was a warm and humid night and the deck was lit up like a Christmas tree with fairy lights.
Feeling like superstars, we were ushered out onto the terrace where we watched views of the sun setting sun over the Adelaide Hills. A whole lamb slowly rotated around on a spit and the mouth-watering smell of barbequed meats filled with air. As lamb sliders were passed around and devoured rapidly by all, our waiter informed me that a gluten free option was on its way for me. After what felt like hours, he returned with a massive gluten free bun filled like slippery wedges of freshly carved meat.
In my hunger and eagerness to devour my gluten free adaptation, I shoved a large door stop of lamb into my mouth imagining that it would be easy enough to chew. I seemingly underestimated the size of this chunk of flesh and was unable to open my mouth wide enough to chew it. Not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, I proceeded to try to swallow the piece whole. It plugged my gullet like sock in a drain and I couldn’t breathe. Gasping as discretely as possible, I quickly grappled for my wine and chugged down a couple of mouthfuls but to no avail.
By this point I’m sure I must have been turning a shade of blue and shamefully turned away from the table to dramatically hoik up the elongated piece in a most inelegant manner. Oh my god, how embarrassing. Thank goodness I was surrounded by friends. From then on forth, I was very particular to cut my food into tiny, mouse sized pieces for the remainder of the evening.
Although by this point we did feel a little ripped at the seams, the sight of yet another chocolate fountain had lost some of its original appeal earlier that day and we started to yearn for something a bit more interesting. After receiving a tip off from a local regarding the whereabouts of a late night dessert bar; the four of us were dead set on fitting just one more course in. Everyone can always find room for dessert. We all jumped into a cab and headed across town to Devour Dessert Bar.
The burnt milk pannacotta had an exquisite blackberry gel centre that exploded out like goo when I plunged my spoon into its wobbliness. It was served on a bed of peanut butter crunch which gave a wonderful texture contrast to the jiggling pannacotta. I am not normally a fan of peanuts but the crunch reminded me of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes which in my pre-gluten free days I use to adore. I could have eaten of whole bowl of that peanut butter crunch.
The peanut butter and jelly macaron was too chewy and lacked the familiar “poof” sensation when I bit into the outer shell. I presumed they may not have been very fresh or alternatively refrigerated for too long. Although I felt the macaron wasn’t up to scratch, the rest of my dessert was so good that despite being the least keen person to visit Devour, I was one of the only ones who finished everything on my plate! Overloaded, overindulged and very satisfied we all headed home to get some sleep in preparation for a big day of conference the next morning.
Eat Drink Blog 2012: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
As much as I would love to be spending more of my time eating and blogging like most food bloggers I have a day job. I am a veterinarian who is as passionate about my career as I am about food. In order to stay abreast of this ever evolving field I regularly attend veterinary conferences and congresses. Forever thirsty for new information and ways to better practice medicine, these conferences are often quite intense for me and I have been known to go through a whole biro pen from furiously scribbling down extra notes in the margins of our proceedings.
While I have been a vet for over ten years I have only been blogging for just over a year and my abilities to write and take photos still have a long way to go before I would consider myself “good”. Keen to improve my skills as an amateur I was over the moon to be invited to join 80 fellow bloggers to attend the third annual Eat Drink Blog Conference (EDB) this year. Better still the conference was to be held in Adelaide, the city I grew up in and where my darling mother still lives.
Vets are not unsociable folk by any means; however the extroverts are few and far between meaning at a conference I would be lucky if I managed to network with a small handful of colleagues each time. In stark contrast, the energy and excitement amongst the Eat Drink Blog delegates was infectious. Being more isolated in Perth, there were many bloggers that I had never met. Yet over the past twelve months together we have shared life’s ups and downs via our blogs and social media. Such a warm and welcoming bunch of people filled the room and I sensed a strong sense of community amongst us from the outset.
This year was to be the first year that the conference spanned over two days and I cannot sing enough praise to the dedicated team of people responsible for making Eat Drink Blog such a successful weekend.
I spent much of my adolescent years in Adelaide and the Adelaide Central Markets holds a very dear place in my heart. In the early stages of coping with a broken home, my Mum and I always found solace visiting the markets together. Not only did our scant food budget thrive on the cheaper produce, the atmosphere and buzz was always enough for us to temporarily forget our pains and absorb the vitality. Returning to the markets some twenty years later conjured up a mix of emotions as this was one of the highlights of one of the darker times of my younger years.
Our tour included visits to a number of South Australian owned businesses and many of these were family run having been in the Central Markets for generations.
After the market tour, delegates had the option of joining a winery tour in the Barossa or McLaren Vale, or to participate in a food writing workshop by acclaimed writer Dianne Jacob. As much as the imagery of a road trip with a bunch of food obsessed bloggers sounded like a dream come true, I genuinely want to improve my writing abilities and thus opted for the workshop.
Coming over from wet weather and storms in Perth I wasn’t prepared for the stifling hot day in Adelaide and prickled with sweat as I peeled off my layers walking in the sunshine. Killing time before the workshop we fortunately stumbled upon Dessert Story; a Taiwanese dessert restaurant. Desperate for something refreshing I ordered the Kiwifruit crushed ice. To my surprise out came a towering pyramid of syrupy bright green ice with chunks of kiwifruit tumbling down the sides like cartoon lava. I was unable to finish it partly due to its gargantuan size and partly due to its sickening sweetness.
For anyone interested in becoming a food writer, be it a professional journalist or an unschooled blogger, I can highly recommend attending one of Dianne Jacob’s food writing workshops or at least reading her book “Will Write for Food”. She made us all reflect critically on our writing styles and gave us lots of techniques to improve our style and find our “voice”. Throughout her three hour workshop, she made us all participate in exercises which although hard to do on the spot were effective at illustrating her points.
This is my description of eating a sweet potato chip using adjectives, simile and some emotional significance. Bear in mind this had to be written on the spot!
“The crown of my tooth nearly shatters like glass under the impact of the snap. I start to salivate as I anticipate a piquant brininess only to be left underwhelmed by the subtlety, wimpy aftermath. I breathe a deep sigh of relief as memories of my recurrent nightmares of rotting teeth fade back to the distant cobwebs of my mind. “
The other big take home point for me was the fact that gushing is boring. It’s easy to write a review about a fantastic meal and a terrible one. But most meals are neither of these and fit into somewhat of a grey area. What distinguishes the more talented writers is their ability to write about these grey areas and still manage to capture their readers.
I have my new challenge. Mark my words; there will be no more “delicious”, “yummy” or “cooked to perfection” on Chompchomp from here forth!