Menus from Behind the Gate

Quark Cheesecake, Nettle and Buttermilk Ice Cream, Chef Recipe by Robin Wickens from Royal Mail Hotel.

As we went behind the gate last week to discover the inner workings of Hentley Farm and Royal Mail Hotel (if you missed it, head here), this week we want to take you through the arduous menu creation process. Many restaurants that focus on a complete seasonal, gate to plate philosophy, plan out their menus months ahead, while it is also important to note that numerous restaurants rely on regular updates from local producers which can dictate a daily menu approach. Whether you’re noshing down a black board special or have booked six months ahead for a special occasion at a chef hatted restaurant, take heart in the process behind your plate.

Seasonality isn’t always at the forefront of a consumers mind thanks to importation, but with this process we’re also training our palates to accept old produce that doesn’t allow the ingredient to truly shine. Executive Chef, Cameron Matthews from The Long Apron restaurant strictly believes that ingredients which are in season taste better.

“In season ingredients [in Australia] are usually plentiful and we don’t have to travel far for them, so we’re decreasing the cost while increasing the quality … and when we get a delivery of fruit or vegetables that have just been pulled, they are amazing!” says Matthews.

Cameron goes on to say that Long Apron endeavours to teach their diners to eat within season and as local as possible, as the producers and farmers are the real heroes on his menu.

“There is such an abundance of great, local and seasonal produce in just about every region of Australia, it seems such a shame to eat flaccid, rubbery vegetables that have sat on a boat or plane and lost most of their flavour (not the mention their nutritional value).”

“I’m looking forward to Spring this year [simply for] asparagus, it’s one of those ingredients that are … on every breakfast menu all year because they’re imported from Peru or Mexico [but we get them within season], so they’re fresher, crisper and are amazing raw in their simplest form and there’s no better platform for a great dish,” says Matthews.

Lamb, Sheep's Milk, Pea and Grilled Lettuce, Royal Mail Hotel.  

Of course such an approach to any meal is an educated one and consumers will only learn if given the time and knowledge to make their own choices. Executive Chef, Robin Wickens from the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld acknowledges that having a kitchen garden and sourcing local produce is a large undertaking for any restaurant.

“Kitchen gardens are a massive trend in restaurants at the moment. Most only use the garden as a PR ‘hook’ though, as not many would be able to provide the resources and time needed to do it on the scale we do. You also need to be open to changing the menu a lot as produce is being used up, which is not that common in kitchens,” says Wickens.

Robin goes on to say that creating menus around using the whole animal has really pushed the restaurant in a new direction.

“The entire kitchen staff are excited to be creating menus around the whole animal. Using the entire beast pushes us to be more creative to ensure that no part of the animal goes to waste and encourages us to look beyond just prime cuts,” says Wickens. 

A seasonal approach paired with an organic kitchen and farm certainly has its benefits but it also can leave Royal Mail Hotel behind the pack, especially in Spring.

“In most restaurants, on the first day of Spring a chef has asparagus on the menu, but here we’re a month into Spring before we could use it as we are so driven by the elements since everything is organic,” says Wickens.

An example of a local approach at Homage Restaurant, yabbies.  

While some may be disappointed to not see a seasonal favourite on the menu straight away, eating an ingredient that is in its peak season is well worth the wait. Not only does it make the ingredient special again, it also allows diners to fully appreciate something they’d traditionally take for granted, while giving the restaurant serving the experience a point of difference for diners to return. Head Chef, Lachlan Colwill wholeheartedly endeavours to showcase Hentley Farm Restaurant with this point of difference.

“It should be fairly well known in the industry that the quality of ingredients you source determines the quality of your restaurant, or at least your menu. If you use ingredients in their peak season, you will find you need to do less work to make it sing on the plate, even to the point where sometimes you barely need to touch it at all.”

“I get great joy when a peach is so naturally perfect and ripe that all we do in the restaurant is slice it and encourage people to enjoy it in its peak beauty!” says Colwill.

Creating an entirely new experience for a diner, while educating them to perhaps continue the same thought processes at home will hopefully begin to push Australian consumers in the direction of local produce. Lachlan believes that we can all band together to assist our farmers and consume in a fashion that produces less wastage.

“I think the majority of people appreciate the effort chefs go to these days [to create a seasonally focussed menu], but maybe they don’t fully understand how difficult it can be to source quality produce at certain times of the year, particularly if you’re a city restaurant, [but with] farmers markets and going direct to the farmers themselves to see what they actually need to sell … they’ll be less wastage,” says Colwill.

As Winter draws to a close and restaurants begin to roll out their Spring and Summer menus, endeavour to pick something different, especially if you’re dining at a restaurant with a direct seasonal focus and taste the difference in local, Australian produce; we have a few suggestions below (which are, by no means, a complete list – let us know about more).

 Local beetroot and Goat's Milk, Homage Restaurant.

Vue de Monde (Melbourne)

The Winery Kitchen (Seymour, VIC)

Stamps (Adelaide)

Pickled Pig (Great Ocean Road, VIC)

Harvest (Byron Bay, NSW)

Potager (Carool, NSW)

Ezard @Levantine Hill (Coldstream, VIC)

Forager’s Field Kitchen and Cooking School (Pemberton, WA)

Homage Restaurant (Brisbane)

Attica (Melbourne)

The Peak Restaurant (Maryvale, QLD)

Margan Restaurant (Broke, NSW)

O.MY Restaurant (Beaconsfield, VIC) 

Season Restaurant (Kingscliff, NSW) 

Big Winter Events

Just because it's cold, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do this Winter! We have rounded up a number of big Winter events that will have you so busy that Spring will be here in no time. 

St Kilda Winter Foodie Competition (July 1 – 31)

The ultimate competition for any Melbourne foodie or interstate foodie traveller will see some of St Kilda’s top restaurants battle it out to be crowned St Kilda’s Winter Culinary Champion.

To get involved, simply vote for your favourite dish on Facebook and you will go into the draw to win a dining experience at your voted St Kilda restaurant.

Participating restaurants: Little Peddler, Claypots Seafood Bar, Captain Baxter, United Kitchen Dining & Tapas and many, many more! Check out the St Kilda Melbourne website for more information.  

Winter Reds Weekend, Adelaide (July 29 – 31)

With more than 30 wineries offering events day and night this July, it’s time to warm your Winter soul by a crackling log fire place with a glass of red at Adelaide Hills’ Winter Reds Weekend. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend, so be sure to check out their website for more details.

The Truffle Festival, Canberra Region (June to August 2016)

Seasonally inspired by the black truffle harvest, the Truffle Festival operates as a promotional umbrella for truffle events hosted by a variety of different venues. Not only does the festival represent restaurants, there are also a number of events highlighting truffle growers, accommodation providers, wineries and cooking schools in the region. It’s Winter food culture at its best. For more information, check out their website.

Sculpture at Barangaroo, Sydney (August 6 – 21)

The event is presented in partnership with Sculpture by the Sea, which has been delighting Sydney with its outdoor exhibitions along the Bondi coastal walk for almost 20 years. The outdoor exhibition is free to all and will showcase 12 outdoor artworks by a stellar line-up of 15 Australian artists. Check out the line-up here.

Taste Port Douglas Food and Wine Festival (August 12 - 14)

Taste Port Douglas is Far North Queensland's annual premier food, beverage and restaurant event. A deliciously packed weekend of local produce and producers, celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations, food stalls and more, the aim of Taste Port Douglas is to champion these industry trailblazers to a national and ultimately international stage, against the glorious backdrop of tropical paradise. Experience the North’s Winter food culture here.

Mudgee Wine & Food Festival, Balmoral Beach (August 14)

Balmoral Beach will again transform into Sydney’s much loved pop-up wine destination for the 26th annual Mudgee Wine & Food Festival. Spanning the entire foreshore of Balmoral Beach, locals will have the opportunity to chat with producers from some of the best regional NSW wine and food. To plan out your day, check out their website.  

Sydney Italian + Wine Festival (August 21)

Everything that’s good about eating and drinking in Italy comes together under one roof with the fourth Sydney edition of the Italian Wine + Food Festival. Meet chefs Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater), Federico Zanellato (LuMi), Nino Zoccali (Pendolino), Stefano Manfredi and Gabriele Taddeucci (Balla), and expect food from Otto, Popolo, Aperitivo, Mantecato, Capriccio, Osteria di Russo & Russo and Salts Meats Cheese.

Taste 200 of Italy’s finest wines (including Italian-centric Aussie wines), meet winemakers, importers and sommeliers. Wine masterclasses are hosted by renowned journalist Mike Bennie, sommelier Matt Dunne (Aria restaurant) will be hosting Plumm Italian Wine Workshops and be sure to take a Sommelier Tour with one of Sydney’s finest.  See their website to book your tickets.

Barossa Gourmet Weekend (September 2-4) 

With over 40 events, the Barossa Gourmet Weekend is a complete immersion of food and wine against the scenic backdrop of the beautiful Barossa. There’s three ways to immerse yourself, whether via gourmet discovery, trail or shuttle, just let your palate be the guide. Plan your Gourmet here

Images from The Truffle Festival website and Mudgee Wine Region facebook. 

Be one of the first to Blend Your Own Rum at Bundaberg Rum Distillery

>>> Bookings now open for August 13 and onward. <<< 

There was a time when Bundaberg’s Burnett River ran burgundy gold, not with the rock formations that began the gold rush in the 19th century but with the treacly by-product of refined sugarcane that was bursting the banks in 1885.

Bundaberg Rum Distillery's current "shop," which may be turned into a function space in the future as the contents will be moved to the new Visitors Centre this August. 

The love for molasses only extended so far with the locals and while sugarcane was and still is the industry backbone for Bundaberg, something needed to be done with this liquid gold. Thanks to seven Queenslanders that realised the potential uses for molasses and with an initial production team of only five men, Bundaberg Distillery was born in 1888 to rival the rum brought over by the First Fleet. It wasn’t until 1953 that Bundaberg Distillery began to bottle and label the rum they distilled, this was also about the same time that Sam McMahon was given the job of selling the bottled rum to colder states down south – enter Bundy’s most iconic feature, the Polar Bear with the slogan: “a nip of Bundy will ward off the cold of Winter.”

Bundaberg Rum Distillery's Blendatorium.  

Now that we’ve caught up on over a century's worth of history – how does Bundaberg Rum Distillery go about teaching this knowledge to Bundaberg locals and tourists? By pouring $8.5 million into upgrading and launching their brand new Visitors Centre that encompasses not only a ‘Be Shown Around’ tour (don’t drop your sunglasses into the molasses), but also a ‘Show Yourself Around’ museum tour with futuristic technology and interactive panels as well as a first of its kind experience, the Blend Your Own Rum (BYOR) tour in Bundaberg Rum Distillery’s brand new Blendatorium.

These experiences will allow all visitors to journey deep into the rich and golden heart of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery to discover a sea of molasses (holding 5 million litres freshly delivered daily), as well as fermentation and distilling, and finished off with a walk through the Grand Barrel House where you’ll learn all about the ageing and maturation process from bourbon to whiskey barrels. It’s the first time that Bundaberg Rum Distillery is truly opening their doors and welcoming rum connoisseurs to share in blending mastery.

AGFG was given a sneak peek into the new interactive experience by Duncan Littler, Senior Brand Manager for Bundaberg Rum with 6 years of personal experience and passion with the Bundaberg Rum Distillery site.

“We already attract over 60,000 people a year … we already think what we’re doing here is good but we’re very excited about doing something great and world class.”

“The Distillery is home to the Spirit of Bundaberg festival, which we host every October, it’s Australia’s largest rum and food festival and it’s already a great experience; it was actually voted The World’s Best Distillery Event at The Distillery Experience Awards in London in 2015,” says Littler.

Not only is the current experience world class, but over 500 years of collective experience came together this year when the Bundaberg Blenders Edition (2015) from the Master Distillers’ Collection was crowned the ‘World’s Best Rum’ and the ‘World’s Best Dark Rum’ at the global World Rum Awards in London. Going from strength to strength, later this year the Spirit of Bundaberg festival will be hosted alongside the new Visitors Centre, adding yet another attraction for punters. 

Blend Your Own Rum Experience - your very own chemistry set. Featured rums (left to right): Bourbon Barrel, Sherry Barrel, Port Barrel, Heavy Charred American Oak Barrel, Scotch Barrel.

AGFG’s Blend Your Own Rum experience was hosted by Duncan alongside food and flavour guru, Matt Preston and paired with food from EAT at Dan & Steph’s Hervey Bay Cafe, winner of My Kitchen Rules in 2013 to really paint the picture for the future of the experience. 

Matt Preston helping us blend our own rums.   

While we can’t promise you that you’ll be blending rum alongside Matt, we can promise that you will be taken care of by two expert blenders, teaching you the art of tasting rum straight from the barrel with a selection of Bundaberg’s most premium rums, aged in small barrels that have already matured such as Port, Sherry, Heavy Charred American Oak, Whiskey and Bourbon. Blending your own rum is personalised perfection, so be sure to take your time and design a blend that you can happily call your own. 

Rum food pairings. 

The Blend Your Own Rum experience will have you taking home two of your very own bottles, labelled with your name as well as an ingredient list left on file for when you run out. This experience, alongside the new Visitors Centre is launching on Saturday August 13, so be sure to check out Bundaberg Rum’s booking page to secure your tour  (UPDATE: Saturday August 13 is already sold out) and be one of the first people in Australia to blend your very own, personalised bottle of rum. 

Duncan Littler and Matt Preston at the Blendatorium, image supplied. 

6 Seasonally Inspired Desserts

From down to earth hearty recipes to their sweet counterparts, delve into our delectable seasonally inspired desserts, from lemon to rhubarb. 

Baked Lemon and Rhubarb Tart from Cherie Bevan and Tass Tauroa’s book, The Cook & Baker.

From MasterChef 2014’s runner-up Laura Cassai, Chestnut Forest - A Modern Tiramisu from her book My Italian Kitchen.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pomegranate Tarts from Wild Sugar Desserts by Skye Craig and Lyndel Miller.

Beetroot, Coffee and Cocoa from Owner and Chef of Restaurant Amuse, Hadleigh Troy.

A classic winter dish with a Milan twist, Apple Pie by Alessandro Pavoni and Roberta Muir from their book A Lombardian Cookbook.

From Australia’s favourite cook, Maggie Beer’s Lemon Tart from the book, Maggie Beer’s Winter Harvest.

Go Nuts for Australian Macadamias

Delve into these delicious home grown Winter warmers. It’s prime time for macadamias and what better way to embrace seasonal fare than to add a little crunch to your day. 

Begin your week with a macadamia quinoa porridge with baked rhubarb, a twist on the traditional porridge.

Look forward to a lunch bursting with down to earth flavours from a roasted beetroot soup with soured macadamia cream. 

If those 3pm sweet cravings come knocking, conquer them with a sweet spiced cacao and warm macadamia milk drink. 

Must-have-dessert-after-dinner (or perhaps before the meal) types, don’t despair as a chocolate and macadamia affogato is on the cards. 

Feasting and Hiking at Spicers Peak Lodge

By Julie Fison www.juliefison.com

It’s a perfect Winter day on Queensland’s Scenic Rim as we pop the cork on a bottle of Veuve and unpack our lunch – a selection of charcuterie, cheese, figs, freshly baked sourdough and pistachio muffins. We’re eating alfresco at a sunny table overlooking the World-Heritage listed Main Range National Park. Bell birds are calling in the gully, a few wallabies spy on us from further up the track, and a  couple of Scottish Highland bulls graze on the other side of the ridge, but apart from that we have this tranquil mountaintop to ourselves. Spicers Peak Lodge knows how to put on a picnic (see The Peak Restaurant at Spicers Peak Lodge).

It’s all about gourmet indulgences here at Australia’s highest non-alpine lodge. And of course the view. The retreat is 1100 metres above sea level, set on a massive swathe of farmland and wilderness in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. It’s home to red-necked wallabies, grey kangaroos, lyrebirds and glossy black cockatoos. And with accommodation for just 26 people, it’s not likely you’ll have to fight for a picnic table here. The lodge is a little under two hours from Brisbane, but by the time you get to the top of the steep, windy, dirt road, the city feels like a world away.

After polishing off our picnic we set off for a stroll along the ridge. It turns out to be a serious hike to Ryan’s Lookout - up and down seven hills. It’s a hard slog in places but the view from the lookout is amazing and we definitely need the exercise. In a couple of hours it will be time for canapés in the lodge, maybe a game of billiards and then we’ll be sitting down for dinner. We need to work up an appetite!  

The sun is slipping behind the range as we take up a vantage point at the lodge. The main building is an understated architectural masterpiece of cedar, bluestone and towering glass windows to take in the view. A handful of guests are gathered in the comfy sofas by the grand fireplace, others are braving the cold on the terrace like us. (It might be Queensland, but it’s chilly up here on the mountaintop.) Dusk brings out the wallabies. They graze in the clearing as we sip our drinks and try to capture the ultimate sunset snap.

When the sky darkens we retreat to the warmth of the indoors, then follow the smell of smoky gum leaves into the dining room and begin another gourmet journey. This one is a seven-course degustation menu with matching Antipodean wines. An unforgettable feast. 

The following day we set off in search of wildlife. Our chosen track takes us to a creek at the bottom of the gully. The lyrebirds I was hoping to encounter remain elusive, but one thing is clear: the only way back to the lodge is up. It’s a butt-burning gradient that we’ve got ahead of us, but at least we can justify our next meal!

The weather has closed in by the time we get back to the lodge. It’s overcast and cold, but I can’t resist another picnic. The staff couldn’t be more obliging. We arrive at our scenic picnic spot and find an open fire already roaring. Our chicken salads, cheese board and sweets are set out on the table. All we have to do is enjoy the food and warm our hands over the flames. I could definitely get used to this treatment. 

There’s time after lunch to inspect the mysteriously out-of-place red phone box that stands in the clearing not far from the fire-pit, and to investigate a flock of black cockatoos that are screeching in the nearby bush, then I’m off for a massage. When I float out of the spa, an hour or so later, it’s that time again. I need to spruce up.  It’s nearly sunset, and that means drinks and more food!   

I’ve read the research: spending time in nature reduces stress, enhances creativity, improves intelligence and even makes you a kinder person. After three days of stomping through muddy gullies, clambering up steep slopes, I’m ready to take on anything. I can’t say what impact eating large amounts of fine food while enjoying the bush might have, but it certainly is a delicious combination.

Great Wines out of Howls of Scorn

By David Ellis from Vintnews.  

  

One night at a dinner with colleagues in Victoria back in the mid-1990s, Queensland businessman Terry Morris mentioned how he’d recently enjoyed a great wine from Queensland’s Granite Belt – and was almost laughed out of the room amid cries of there being “no such thing as a great wine from Queensland.”  

 

It was the proverbial red rag, and on returning home, the entrepreneurial Terry immediately searched that Granite Belt, bought a substantial parcel of land, and established vineyards and a winery that are today not just among the most successful in Queensland, but indeed in Australia. 

 

Terry named his venture Sirromet Wines and in 2000 launched his first reds and whites out of this cool-climate region in high country three hours south-west of Brisbane. The rest, as they say, is history… and guess who’s laughing now? 

 

Particularly rewarding is his 2013 Sirromet Signature Collection Chardonnay, a must-have for Chardy buffs that’s beautifully rich-bodied with creamy green apple and pear flavours, suggestions of cashew paste and ripe rock-melon, and a finishing touch of lime acidity. 

 

At $35 it’s a perfect pairing with steamed or grilled fish, or a Winter’s chicken pot pie. 

 

One to note: it’s been over half a century now since winemakers in the Clare Valley started putting together a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Malbec, one that as the Valley’s Tim Adams says has come to represent for many serious wine lovers the “Holy Grail” of Clare red wine production.  

 

Indeed some of the greater vintages have seen the style attain almost mythical status, with Tim Adams’ own just-released 2012 blend an absolute ripper. Tim’s Cabernet Sauvignon can always be counted on as an outstanding wine, and the addition of Malbec to the 2012 has given texture and richness to a resultantly wonderful, full-bodied drop. At $26 it’s a perfect match with grilled chorizo sausages.

 

Go Behind the Gate

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Kitchen Garden. 

In a fast paced world with high consumerism and an immediate mindset, it’s seldom that we sit back during a meal and investigate what’s on our plate. While it’s been big foodie news that fine-dining stalwarts such as Rockpool Est. 1989, Marque, Movida and Sepia (within the next two years) are moving out of the fine-dining sphere, we need not worry about our next meal as more and more restaurants are opening with a gate to plate (farm to plate, paddock to plate) philosophy. Whether these restaurants have their own kitchen gardens, are located directly on farms or produce culinary art with produce direct from a freshly farmed supplier, we can take heart that Australian cuisine is being sowed in the right direction of less food wastage and more educated diners. 

Hentley Farm Restaurant Head Chef, Lachlan Colwill.  

Take Hentley Farm Restaurant for example, situated on 150 acres of rich red-brown soils of the western Barossa Valley, Head Chef Lachlan Colwill is taking every opportunity to showcase the fresh produce from not only their own farm but from the region.

“Chefs often influence how people cook and eat at home, so it’s vital the chef represents the farmers’ interests first and foremost. There should be no middle man … in between the chef and the farmer. The farmer should be able to say directly to chefs what he needs to sell to continue producing and the chef should [be able] to adapt their cooking to support that system,” says Colwill.

Lachlan goes on to say that serving produce at its peak would provide a better restaurant experience for the farmers, chefs and diners.

“If all restaurants didn’t have to show a menu, instead just guaranteed people each dish you serve will be at its seasonal peak and delicious (which is generally easy if your produce is on point) there would be close to no food wastage!” says Colwill.

Barossa Birds, free-range chickens around their mobile coop. 

When Lachlan needs to go outside the capabilities of Hentley Farm, he seeks out Barossa Birds, a sustainable, efficient and animal friendly farm that has mobile tractors (coops) for their chickens, which they can move around the pasture. These coops not only provide shelter for the chickens when they come in to rest and for water, but it also heats them during winter and provides ventilation and air condition during summer, all in all this treatment allows the chickens to have the most comfortable life possible.

Hentley Farm Restaurant isn’t alone in this mindset, we’ve seen it in a multitude of restaurants recently and to name just a few: Harvest in Byron Bay, Potager in Carool, Ezard @Levantine Hill in Coldstream, Dragoncello in Surry Hills, Forager’s Field Kitchen and Cooking School in Pemberton, Homage Restaurant in Brisbane, Attica in Melbourne, The Peak Restaurant in Maryvale, Margan Restaurant in Broke, O.MY Restaurant in Beaconsfield and Season Restaurant in Kingscliff, all have a fresh, seasonal and farming approach to their menus.

In particular, Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld is a foodie tourists’ dream – a destination that truly embraces nature in the majestic location of Grampians National Park. Each day, chefs from the restaurant harvest produce from the kitchen garden, orchards, olive groves as well as eggs from their free range hens that will then go on to inspire that day’s menu.

Executive Chef, Robin Wickens has always had a small kitchen garden at home, growing basic herbs and vegetables, but Royal Mail Hotel is his first experience growing organically.

“Now that I’m seeing everything across the whole life of the garden, rather than produce just turning up at the kitchen door, I have started to see the benefits of not using fertilisers and chemicals … growing organically means our produce has much more flavour.”

“[When we have go outside of our garden] I like the idea of people dedicated to doing one thing well, rather than the big suppliers who cover everything, normally with more generic produce. I think the kitchen garden is a continuation of this,” says Wickens.

Greenvale Farm, photo credit: Richard Cornish, photo supplied. 

Royal Mail Hotel has expanded its garden in recent years and also provides their own lamb and beef, but when they need to go beyond their own farm they look to Greenvale Farm (pork) in Western Victoria.

Greenvale Farm is dedicated to a future where Australia has sustainable agriculture; set on 1150 acres of scenic red gum pasture, Greenvale’s free-range rare breed pigs are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics and are fed a grain based diet that comes directly from the pasture as well as supplementary grain feeding. Greenvale is also working towards a future where the farm will generate all the feed that the pigs require for a bio-dynamic diet, while being as close to organic as they can possibly be.

While restaurants take great care in developing and maintaining their direct relationships with farmers it’s also important to note that the farmers are reciprocating with the way they produce their products. A recent event in Brisbane for the launch of Bundaberg’s Winterfeast showcased the utter excitement and enthusiasm from farmers when they see their company/family/brand name on a restaurant menu. It’s a way for restaurants to give back to the farmers and educate diners on where their plate came from as well as being the ultimate flattery for the industry.

In a naturally bountiful country like Australia, it’s likely we’ll see this approach continue not only in our restaurants but also from overseas investors and consumers, which can be seen in the strength of Australian beef prices as well as the development of Australia tapping into the fruit export market. Challenge yourself this July and go behind the gate with what’s on your plate.

The Cowboys - Tourism Tasmania from Go Behind The Scenery on Vimeo.

If you’re a cheese lover, be sure to go behind the scenery in this video documenting the beginning and legacy of Ashgrove Cheese (1:30), the product of Michael and John Bennett who hail from five generations of dairy farmers.

Watch out for part two of Behind the Gate. 

AGFG Road Trip: 3 Days at Bundaberg's Winterfeast

Follow AGFG as we spend 3 days in the bountiful region of Bundaberg for their inaugural 10 day food festival, Winterfeast. We'll be taking you direct to the farmers and producers behind the produce we eat at numerous events throughout our culinary journey. We'll be posting as regularly as possible, more can be seen on our instagram and facebook. For now, check out our article on Winterfeast's launch at MODA Brisbane.

Can't wait? Then check out Winterfeast's event list at: www.winterfeast.com.au 

FUN FACT: Did you know 25% of Australia's food comes straight from Bundaberg?

Friday 2:00pm:

First stop on our whirlwind foodie journey is Bargara Brewing Company, one of the few breweries using rainwater caught straight from their tanks, this 9-month old craft brewery has blossomed into a drive to keep beer profits in Australia. Co-owner and agronomist Jack Milbank is taking the opportunity to teach all who listen that 86% of Australia's beer market goes straight into the pockets of Japanese brewer Kirin and British-South-African company SABMiller, which in Jack's words "just doesn't make sense." Currently, independent craft breweries like Bargara Brewing Co only own 3% of the market. 

"We got to see that change, we should keep it Aussie, regional using regional produce so that the money stays in our communities and goes back into employing staff in our communities," said Jack. 

There's a lot of chemistry that goes into brewing beer, right now Jack and his team are working on identifying individual strains of yeast from local macadamia farms so they aren't under the crippling monopoly if yeast strains from Belgian producers (who, mind you have been taking care of some of their strains since the creation of beer). This may take three to four years to form a usable product, but it will then separate Bargara Brewing Co from the rest of the craft beer market and give drinkers and dabblers more insight into not only the process but the way yeast can transform the taste of their beer.

Bargara Brewing Company line up: blueberry beer (using local producers), sweet potato beer (using local producers), convict English IPA, Black Tail, Drunk Fish (pale ale), Thirsty Turtle (a favourite of Pete Murray's) and pineapple cider. Check out their stockists near you. 

Friday 7pm:

From brewing to Parisian Chic, AGFG is off to Indulge Cafe's 'Midnight in Paris' event at Fairymead House. Tantalising guests with Pissaladiere, goose and croque monsieur to the largest zucchini flowers you've ever seen, no expense was spared by Amanda and Larry Hinds in creating a one off night to remember - much like the movie with the same name. If we could remain in the utter indulgence and frivolity of the night we would have - but alas back to The Point Resort for a good nights rest before a full on day at the farms tomorrow. 

     

Zucchini flowers grown by Brent and Julie Attard, battered with Bargara Brewing Company beer, filled with a Bundaberg black Tiger prawn mousse and a Bill's Beauties amoroso tomato ragu. 

Short rib beef from Burnett beef, with Rosengal beans, Hummock potatoes, beetroot and a buttermilk reduction, beautifully plated in a true representation of the Bundaberg region.

Saturday 9am:

We began our day at Saskia's, a cafe nestled in behind a gift and homewares shop - it's a one stop shop for coffee, fashion and food for Bundaberg's locals and on a Saturday morning, there was barely enough room for all the excited patrons. We filled up on a hearty breakfast before hitting the road to Windhum Farms, where Darren, Linda and Ethan Zunker proudly grow Bundaberg Gold sweet potatoes. Bundaberg Gold's sweet potatoes aren't cured like most on the market, they're delivered fresh to the consumer and hold up well in all methods of cooking - check out their site for a number of recipes from salads to carbonara.

FUN FACT: Did you know that Bundaberg is Australia's largest producer of Sweet Potato?

  

All hands on in the warehouse on a Saturday morning - trying to get as much fresh produce out to consumers before the rain in the region begins to affect the quality of the sweet potatoes.  

Linda Zunker holding a sliced "purple-white" sweet potato. 

11am:

   

Hummock Produce.  

From sweet potatoes to Bunda Ginga, we meet with Anthony and Kate Rehbein who also own Hummock Produce. Anthony is a fourth-generation farmer that traditionally produced watermelons, pumpkins, potatoes and sugarcane before he decided to embark on a trial plot of ginger in the early 2000's. Anthony has been the President of the Ginger Association of Australia for the past three years and earlier this year he stepped into the role of Chairman of Research and Development.

   

Bunda Ginga: ginger, pickled ginger and ginger cookies with ginger bites. 

Bunda Ginga asks all Australians to taste the difference of home grown ginger in comparison to the numerous imports coming into the country, as they are hand grown, hand picked, hand packed and hand crafted right in the rich, fertile soils of the Bundaberg region. The Rehbein's have been so successful in their pioneering of the Bunda Ginga brand that they've been able to pursue it full time with the recent sale of their farm. Anthony is seeking the path of cultivating his ginger in a nursery so he can fully control the quality of Bunda Ginga as well as pursue alternative routes of production with products such as pickled ginger, ginger bites and ground ginger. Check out Anthony and Kate's story here and be sure to seek out Bunda Ginga for your next ginger fix. 

  

Gleneden Organic Farm. 

Then from ginger to Gleneden Organic Farm and The Gleneden Bullock Team for an organic farm tour and a working bullock team display - matched with cooked on site dampers flavoured with local Boyne River Pecans and spread with Lava Valley Fig Jam from Ban Ban Springs. Nestled in the picturesque valley near Gayndah, Gleneden Organic Farm was started by brother William Valentine and Ernest James Morris over 100 years ago and four generations on, Rohan, Fiona, Eden and Jethro Morris are still practicing family-friendly, multi-generational, multi-species, locally focussed ethical farming on the same land. Valuing traditions of farming heritage Gleneden incorporates innovative sustainable and regenerative methods with the latest modern technologies as they grow, value add and direct market a wide variety of high quality food and fibre.  

As the name states, the farm is chemical free and ethically produced with a gate to plate and farmer to consumer philosophy in mind. Not only do they produce nutritious food from well cared for and healthy animals, their food has a story and is directly available to the local and regional community. Focussing on quality rather than quantity of produce has allowed the Morris family to develop a sustainable farming model, regenerating the fertility and beauty in their rural landscape and ensuring that future generations will be able to work the land productively and with reward. 

Re-establishing connections between urban consumers and rural producers is an important part of daily life at Gleneden Organic Farm. The property hosts family campers, grey nomads, tour groups, backpackers, schools and clubs for organic farm tours, working bullock team and bush skills displays, farm and kitchen craft workshops, bush adventures and on farm produce sales. Gleneden Organic Farm is open daily for camping, farm tours and group bookings for displays. The farm hosts a Working Bullock Team Display and Organic Farm Tour with Camp Oven Damper and Billy Tea on each 2nd and 4th Saturday afternoon from Easter until the end of October. Check out their website for more information and bookings. 

Tinaberries.   

The Roll 'N' Banks Bar.  

Straight from the farm into Tinaberries’ packing shed for Women of Winterfeast, a celebration of the women behind the produce presented at numerous events across Winterfeast’s 10 days. From strawberries, to dragon fruit, to limes, avocados, macadamias and sweet potatoes, caterer Tracey from local café Alowishus Delicious incorporated everything the region has to offer into a light lunch paired with Hill of Promise Winery's sparkling wine from local entrepreneurs Belinda and Cortney, who transformed a mobile vintage caravan into a bar on wheels. 

 

Produce on display from Linda Zunker, Windhum Farms, Linda Vickers from Bundy Limes, Anthony Rehbein from Bunda Ginga, dragon fruit from Bruce and Carol’s Prickle Patch, strawberries and passionfruit from Tina McPherson from Tinaberries and one of the best XO sauces you’ve ever tasted from Bundaberg Prawn farm.   

Pick your own Strawberries at Tinaberries during September.  

6pm: 

We arrived at Grunske’s by the River for a Taste of the Bundaberg Coast with six courses highlighting the fresh seafood caught off of the Coast of Bundaberg, on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Grunske’s pride themselves in using the whole fish with as minimal wastage as possible and boasts that 98% of their stock is from local fisherman, while they do step outside of the region to seek out a few products such as mussels. 

Local grilled Dijon Mustard whole bug on mustard leaves with a fresh avocado salsa, red cargo rice, bottarga and tomalley. 

Ranging from the delicate flavours of mud crab and oyster mushrooms as well as whole shell scallops with white wine mornay and puff pastry through to the robust character of iron bark hot smoked Coral Trout and fresh squid ink seafood lasagne; there was something for all tastes and appetites during the evening.  

Sunday 11am: 

(Top to bottom, left to right): Louis Roederer, Cristal 2007. River prawn quenelle with prawn shell bisque. Truffle toastie (appetiser). "Beetroot" from Darren Pratt with Bundy Chop Shop speck and Boyne River pecans. "Berries" filled with Hestron Hydroponics (Bill's beauties) strawberries, Perfection Fresh blueberries, Tinaberries' passionfruit and topped with two-year-old black honey from Darren Pratt and a green poppy seed snap. 

A leisurely sleep in was had before venturing back to Fairymead House for Indulge Café and Bistro’s Sunday Soiree – the premiere event of Winterfeast. Owner/Chef Amanda Hinds presented a five course menu showcasing local produce alongside Louis Roederer champagne and words cannot describe the utter luxe and decadence of the day. Visionary of the Winterfeast festival, Amanda truly incorporated local producers not only in the culinary creations that were served but also through testimony between courses; AGFG happened to sit next to the Galati family who own the Rosengal label and specialise in handpicked beans and peas whose produce was served during course four and matched with a handmade duck pie. We were not alone however, with many locals and guests sitting among producers, speaking first hand between courses about life on the farm and the dedication that goes into producing fresh, quality produce. 

It’s likely that those who attended Sunday Soiree will leave the Bundaberg region with new-found rejuvenation and commitment to locally farmed and owned produce and Winterfeast will be the catalyst for a growing trend of educated diners. 

Monday 7am:

Late season ginger from Bunda Ginga.   

Mortimer's Sweet Potato. 

Our last morning was spent on Suzie Clarke’s Bundaberg Cooks Tour where we visited local producers, businesses and big-brand farmers in the area. It was Suzie’s inaugural tour and it garnered a lot of attention from locals and tourists alike who were interested in meeting the farmers and to sight see the Bundaberg region. The gate to plate tour encompassed the businesses listed below and was a wonderful send off to our whirlwind tour of the Bundaberg region. Keep Winterfeast in mind for your 2017 travels! 

Bundaberg Cooks Tour:

Bundy Chop Shop.

Tender Sprouted Meats.

Mortimer’s Sweet Potatoes.

Bunda Ginga & Hummock Farm.

Tinaberries Strawberry Farm.

Bruce & Carol’s Prickle Patch Dragon Fruit Farm.

Macadamias Australia.

Water Street Kitchen (run by ex-BSKT chef Alex Cameron). 

Check out our recommended restaurants in the area. 

Experiences by the AGFG Foodies. Photography by AGFG. AGFG was a guest of Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism. 

7 Down to Earth Recipes

Fresh is best, especially if you can get the produce direct from the farm gate (whether this be via farmer’s market or local grocer). We wholeheartedly believe that if you have access to fresh produce it’s the best direction to take with your at-home cooking, while we also appreciate access to such ingredients can be very limited in some areas. This week, challenge yourself with seven of our down to earth recipes and do your best to incorporate local, Australian grown (and farmed) produce. 

Lentils with Chard, Dill and Feta from Whole Food, Slow Cooked by Olivia Andrews.

Flank Steak with Mushrooms and Sweet Potato Chips from Margaret and Me by Kate Gibbs.

Veal and Pork Meatballs with Polenta and Mushroom from Meatballs, The Ultimate Guide by Matteo Bruno.

Garden Peas, Cauliflower, Almonds and Lemon from Greek by George Calombaris.

Honey Filo Parcels with Blue Hills Manuka Honey from Tasmania’s Cradle Coast Pantry by Philip Kuruvita and John T. Bailey.

Black Pepper Kangaroo from Ben’s Meat Bible by Ben O’Donoghue. 

Roasted Venison Medallions with Beetroot, Horseradish Mash and Velo Caramel Sauce from Tamar Valley Pantry by Philip Kuruvita and John T. Bailey.

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