Q&A with Neil Perry

Regarded worldwide as a defining contributor to the Modern Australian culinary canon, Neil Perry has maintained a multifaceted career that has spanned over 25 years and 2015 has been quite a big year for this chef who has done it all. With the Burger Project well underway and his daughter, Josephine’s Missy French receiving quite the praise, Neil Perry was honoured with being one of three chefs to showcase Australia on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia,” while releasing his latest cookbook, Spice Temple. Now, the real question is what’s next for Neil and the team?

AGFG was able to sit down and speak with Neil about the Burger Project, chef hat season and the future to come.

AGFG: You’ve had a pretty big year, tell us about the Burger Project and how that came about and whether it’s making the impact you envisioned?

Perry: I noticed that the fast casual food market was growing in America and here in Australia and most importantly I saw that consumers were willing to pay around $10 for a hamburger and in the States around $5-7. That gave me the confidence to think that we could use the quality of products we are used to in the Restaurant Group and while not stepping away from using sustainable and quality ingredients at that price point, so that’s what got us involved in the Burger Project. 

@burgerproject.  

I’ve been really happy with the way we’ve seen people fall in love with the product and understand that the burger is really quite different and it has a handmade nature to it and the fact that it is 100% Cape Grim beef. It’s whole muscle meat cut on the premises, ground on the premises and hand formed into a patty on the premises and that’s where people are tasting the difference.

If you strip our product right back, a burger is essentially beef with seasoning between a bun and then you can take it anywhere from there, so we focused on the beef and made sure that the quality wasn’t a step back from what we would expect to serve in one of the Rockpool Bar & Grill’s or the Rockpool restaurants.

At the moment I think that the Burger Project may get to the point where we can open our own bakery, but for now we make our own pickles, secret sauce, mayonnaise and ice-cream and get our bread from Bread Top. We are working on creating our own flavour, that is our priority and we are still looking at putting more energy into the meat we serve.

AGFG: How many burgers do you turn over in a week?

Perry: World Square is doing about 3500 and we’re doing about 4000 at MLC, so we’re looking at about 7000 customers between the two of them, which will start to grow as we get more and more momentum as a brand. We have 5 more locations to open next year and by the end of the year we feel we will have a nice foot hold in Sydney and Melbourne.

AGFG: Are you going to make your way to Brisbane?

Perry: We will, we most definitely will – I have been looking at some great properties in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but for now we’re focused on home base but look toward the North in 2017/2018.

AGFG: You’ve got a bit of vintage under your belt, the Australian burger used to be an icon and it did go offshore for a bit, and it was a real struggle to find a decent burger, this generation thinks of burgers as chain style food, they don’t think of the old ABC cafe’s that used to sell a decadent handmade burger with a great milkshake and you just can’t find that in too many places in Australia.

Perry: Yeah, so true, you know I used to grow up with the corner store that had freshly grilled burgers and double milk shakes with malt, you know that was the whole experience and one of the other things we need to remember is that in the 50’s we invented the milkshake, so it went from Sydney to around the world and it’s finally come back again. What makes our milkshakes really interesting is that we make all our syrups - vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, dulce de leche, salted caramel and you can taste the quality in it! That’s what we think the market needs and what the younger generation is really interested in – something that tastes real and has a great depth of flavour. 

Northern Style Lamb and Fennel Dumplings, p.35. 

AGFG: You have also released your latest cookbook, Spice Temple, how did you tackle the challenge of condensing a restaurant into a book?

Perry: Well the restaurant has a look, feel and mood and so the flavour of the restaurant really goes through to the food which is dark and sexy and the restaurant was designed that way. Earl, my photographer, who I have worked with on every cookbook since 2000, really understood the moodiness of Spice Temple and he captured that in every single photograph on every page. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

Check out our book review of Spice Temple here.  

AGFG: Speaking about doing new things, Josephine’s Missy French has had some great feedback so far – what do you think about the bistro?

Perry: Josephine is going really well, I couldn’t be more proud of her! She’s only 21 and she’s been incredibly brave in opening this restaurant, braver than I would have been at her age and she’s just like a duck hitting water, she’s been very calm and serene, great at delegating and trusting her staff and helping people grow. [Missy French] is a beautiful restaurant to sit in and Chris [Benedet] used to work for me and he’s cooking some great food. It’s only been open a few months and I feel like it’s already feeling like a neighbourhood restaurant that will be there for a long time to come.

 Chocolate délice at Missy French photo by @chris_benedet

AGFG: She certainly has had the right background for this endeavour.

Perry: She’s opened five restaurants with me, so she’s definitely seen what it takes and she’s been through those experiences at an incredibly young age, so I think for her it wasn’t her first restaurant opening which is pretty unique at 21. There’s a great team around her, but importantly she has a great temperament which has really come from all the time she has spent around the industry, when she got out of hospital at day 4 her mother and I brought her to the Rockpool and she went into the bassinet underneath the bankett while we ate dinner – that’s how her life started, she’s spent more time eating staff dinner with me after school at the restaurants than anywhere else.

AGFG: Yourself and your restaurants have an endless list of awards, as we’re coming into chef hat season, tell us about what awards mean to you, your team and the industry as a whole?

Perry: Awards are a really wonderful pat on the back for the staff and when it goes the other way we can look at it to try and understand what went wrong. For us the really important thing is that every day we try to be our very best and we try for our customers to be the very best we can be and that’s our major focus. I always think with awards that they are an accolade that comes along as a lovely pat on the back, but at the same time they’re always hard earned, so they’re really worth fighting for and the recognition for 3 hats, 2 hats or restaurant of the year, it’s really only the moment that you’re worthy of that, so you always have to remember to continue being worthy of that award. In essence they’re a catalyst for the hard work ahead as much as they’re a pat on the back for the hard work you’ve done.

AGFG: We’ve been watching Restaurant Australia – how were you initially approached and how do you think such a serries will impact Australia’s tourism and our food industry?

Perry: I think the feedback and where we’ve gotten to with that can be seen in the latest incarnation with Rene Redzepi coming down with the support of Tourism Australia; it was a great honour to be one of three chefs working in Australia to be a part of it. If you look at it I was 57, Peter 47 and Ben 37, it’s quite interesting that we were all 10 years apart and I think that was a really nice mirror of where the industry is and where it has been going generationally. It was an amazing honour to be chosen, considering that there are many chefs in Australia doing great things, but I think we really embodied what Australian food is about. The dinner we put on was amazing, those invited were enthused and not once were they bored – we spent 7 hours with these people and they were so blown away by it and taken with it, so the subsequent energy it has driven for Australia has been absolutely fantastic; it was an incredible endeavour to be a part of and it’s great to see Tourism really understanding what the food, wine and hospitality scene delivers in Australia.

Keep up to date with Neil Perry on Facebook.

The Burger Project here.

Restaurant Australia Campaign here, Restaurant Australia Episode 1 here.

Missy French here.

Adventures in Nature: A Day Trip to Tumbulgum

Tumbulgum – where the rivers meet or the meeting place of waters. 

Mount Warning view from Clarrie Hall Dam.  

As the holidays sneak up on us, we’re probably scrambling for ideas to entertain ourselves or the family, for inspiration AGFG took a day trip to Tumbulgum, a historical village in the northern parts of New South Wales, between Kingscliff and Murwillumbah. Tumbulgum runs along the Tweed River and is a part of Australia’s Green Cauldron, an ancient volcanic hotspot, where the best of both worlds’ can be enjoyed: lush World Heritage rainforests, dramatic mountain ranges and rolling green fields unspoiled and untouched. 

Our view of the Mountain Ranges from the Rous River.  

Depending on your interests, whether it be food, river cruising, bush walks or just some scenic driving, this part of the region has it all! We started our day off with an early morning breakfast at Tumbulgum Tavern – historical and classic, it’s everything a pub should be and with an outlook over the banks of the Tweed River, it certainly has the perfect view to start the day on a high note. Character, charm and a welcoming ambiance is what Tumbulgum is known for and this is accentuated inside Tumbulgum Tavern – not to mention their breakfast menu (only on Sundays), will probably have you full for the rest of the day, so we suggest you go easy unless you plan on quite a few bush walks. 

Tumbulgum Village (the oldest village in Tweed) from the Tweed River.  

Just a short walk down Riverside Drive will find you at Birdwing Cafe and Curios, an eclectic mix of cafe, nursery and second-hand store. The secret nursery behind the cafe is an escape from reality, complemented by the many second-hand trinkets for sale, one could certainly get lost for hours – it was hard to pull ourselves away! If reading the morning paper or a magazine over coffee and cake is your medicine, this cafe is the perfect place for you.

Seafood Platter at House of Gabriel.  

It was time for us to meet up with Michael Simmons, long-time local and Owner/Operator of Mount Warning Tours for our river cruise through the rainforest and along Rous River. Unfortunately, we had chosen the only day out of the week where the skies decided a lightning show was more important than bird watching - no matter though as our boat was fully enclosed and the scenery truly shone in the rain, we’d dare say it was more enjoyable! Why don’t you be the judge and check out the cruise here? Mount Warning Tours offer a great mix of experiences for anyone that wants to get to know the area, you can choose from a half day coastal hike, bike and kayak package, a full day tour to Byron Bay or a 4WD off-road excursion in the Green Cauldron. Simply name an activity and Michael will be able to help. As part of the cruise (running for two-hours) we were treated to some wine on board before coming back to shore and delving into a delicious seafood platter across from the jetty at House of Gabriel.

House of Gabriel is a one-hundred-year old building that mixes a fairy garden setting with a unique gift shop and boutique menu without the price tag, think Vietnamese salad with Asian slaw, coriander, mint, roasted cashews, sweet chilli dressing and crispy salt and pepper squid to light sharing options such as arancini, chicken tenders, sticky pork and cheese. We were guests to a fresh seafood platter featuring tiger prawns, spanner crab, Tasmanian oysters and smoked salmon as well as Moreton Bay Bug. It was the perfect end to a relaxing day and we complemented it with a House Gabriel dessert – pavlova with fresh berries, fruit compote and cream Chantilly. 

Pavlova at House of Gabriel.  

Photography and words by the AGFG Foodies. AGFG was a guest of Mount Warning Tours. 

Fast Facts about Lebanon

Many of us enjoy the delicious Lebanese foods, from baba ghanoush to baklava, tender quail and kebabs, but how much do you know about Lebanon itself? In recognising Lebanon's Independence Day on the 22nd of November, we have accumulated a few of the quick facts to pique your interest and provide a little background to the foods we know and love. 

 Pigeon Rocks in Beirut, Lebanon. 

Lebanese Independence Day: This occurred on 22 November in 1943 when the French mandate over Lebanon ended after 23 years of colonial rule. This day is now a national holiday and celebrated every year. After gaining independence, Lebanon later became a member of the Arab League, a member of the United Nations and also formed an unwritten agreement between the two most prominent Christian and Muslim leaders, called the National Pact, to help in ruling the country.

Location: Lebanon is part of the Asian continent, bordered by Syria and Israel in the Middle East. It also boasts a beautiful coastline about 225 kilometres long beside the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

Terrain and Climate: Everything from snow-capped mountains with ski resorts to balmy Mediterranean warmth and glittering seaside towns. Cedars are the national tree, featured on the centre of the flag and despite structural developments, large nature reserves of cedars still exist. Winters are short, cold and rainy, sometimes with snow in low lying places while summers are generally long with dry heat.

Religions and Languages: The most common religion is Muslim, followed by Christianity and the most common spoken languages include Lebanese Arabic, French and English.

Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut, Lebanon.

Attractions:

World heritage listed archaeological sites are a big drawcard for Lebanon. The history of the Roman Empire can be experienced wandering around the crumbling ruins of Roman columns. Lebanon also contains the site of one of the most important Roman temples ever built – the Temple of Jupiter.

Pigeon Rocks in Beirut includes an impressive collection of rock formations and natural arches along the coastline, making for postcard-worthy photos.  These can be explored on foot and by small boats in summer months for a small fee.

Overlooking the bay of Jounieh, the statue Our Lady of Lebanon can be visited via gondola from the city and remains popular both with tourists and locals returning to pay their respects.

Jeita Grotto, Lebanon. 

Jeita Grotto is made up of two interconnected limestone caves that span nearly 9 kilometres and are a mesmerising sight. The upper cave galleries are home to the world’s largest known stalactite and contain a series of walkways for tourists. The lower cave can only be accessed by boast as it channels the underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than one million Lebanese residents.

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque or the Blue Mosque is located in Beirut and is a Sunni mosque constructed from a donation of late Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. The blue dome is 48 metres high while the minarets reach 65 metres, making it a dominant feature of the Beirut City Centre skyline. 

Warning: At the time this article was produced, Lebanon was considered a high risk factor for travellers. If you are considering visiting Lebanon, please first seek risk and safety advice. This can be found from a number of websites including smarttraveller.gov.au and your travel agent. 

By Julie Johnson. 

Straddie's Whale Highway

By Julie Fison, get to know more about Julie on her website.

They call the waters off North Stradbroke Island the ‘Humpback Highway,’ which sounds a lot like a marketing gimmick until you go there. I’m spending a week at Point Lookout over the September school holidays, and I quickly discover that ‘Straddie,’ as everyone calls it, really is an amazing place to see whales. Virtually every time I go for a walk I spot one – lazing around off Main Beach, breaching off Frenchman’s and waving at me as I do the North Gorge walk. 

Humpback whales pass here on their annual migration to Hervey Bay and return with their calves in spring, enroute to the Antarctic. According to a local tally more than 2000 whales have been spotted off the coast by September! 

However, it’s not just whales that make Straddie special – pods of dolphins surf the waves, turtles bob around the rocky headlands and if you’re lucky you might even spot a manta ray. Then there are the beautiful protected beaches, wild stretches of coastline, superb walks and laid-back restaurants. 

Our favourite local eatery is Fishes. It looks like a fish ’n’ chip shop, but it serves a good range of fantastic food at great prices. The outdoor tables can be pretty chilly when the wind gets up - which it often does at Point Lookout, but the food is worth it. Our other favourite is Baz’s Beach Bar and Grill for fantastic ribs and pizzas, while the Stradbroke Island Hotel, at Cylinder Beach, is a great spot for a sun downer. 

We stay in an apartment at Whalewatch, overlooking Main Beach, a stunning 32 kilometre stretch of coastline. There’s the chance of spotting a whale from the balcony, as the name would suggest, but it’s mostly too windy during our stay to make the most of the outdoor area. 

There are numerous accommodation options around Point Lookout as well as extensive camping grounds along the relatively protected northern stretch of beaches. Houses on Tramican Street have the best of the views, but it’s a long hike home from the beach! 

Getting to Straddie means either a 45 minute car ferry ride or a 25 minute water taxi from Cleveland (on Brisbane’s bayside) to Dunwich (on the western side of Straddie). From there, Point Lookout is a 20 minute drive or there is a bus service from the water taxi terminal.  

Ferries along with everything else get heavily booked over the holidays, which means planning is essential, but by far the most difficult part of the journey is getting on the barge for the trip back to Brisbane and leaving Straddie behind.

Chef Chase Kojima excites at new venue Kiyomi

An AGFG experience. 

As soon as we stepped into Jupiters Gold Coast’s latest restaurant addition, Kiyomi, we felt a great energy, an atmosphere reminiscent of a traditional Japanese restaurant with modern features not over complicated with flare, but rather with maturity and creativity.

Kiyomi Dining Room.  

Headed by Executive Head Chef Chase Kojima, of international fame from a background in leading Nobu kitchens, Kiyomi is Kojima’s brain child which he named after his mother; where personally designed plates and a traditional family logo show an abundance of love and dedication. 

Our experience was anything but ordinary when AGFG spoke to Kojima and dined at Kiyomi, the detail of plating as well as the artistic presentation was some of the best our resident chef, Shawn Sheather, has ever seen. Kiyomi has raised the bar of Gold Coast restaurants as well as guest expectations, simply put; Kojima has bottled Sydney culinary innovation and released it into his restaurant in a way that sees him leading the race to perfection.  

Executive Head Chef Chase Kojima.  

“It’s great to be here on the Gold Coast – there are different clientele here than at my other restaurants, with a local and international client base we need to get it right and the feedback so far has been really positive – so we are all very happy,” Kojima mentioned.

“We have built a great relationship with some of the region’s best food producers; I believe it’s important to have a close relationship with suppliers, not only to provide the best produce, but to train my chefs on the importance of such relationships.”

Hiramasa Kingfish, miso ceviche and crispy potato

Such relationships are evident on the modern but Japanese influenced menu with a 7-course Omakase style degustation paying homage to Kojima’s upbringing in his father’s traditional Japanese restaurant in America. We were lucky enough to experience this culinary journey of tradition meets imagination in the likes of Hiramasa Kingfish with miso ceviche and crispy potato as well as the Moreton Bay bug with grapefruit, sambal mayo and vinegar. Kojima’s heart shone during the sixth course in the form of the Kyoto “uji” matcha: a green tea fondant with strawberry miso ice cream, which was the dish of our evening, a truly masterful masterpiece.  

 Kyoto “uji” matcha: a green tea fondant with strawberry miso ice cream - Photo: Shawn Sheather. 

Although Kiyomi has just recently opened, it has already garnered a lot of attention and awards which humbles Kojima.

“We are lucky to have received the recognition we have in such a short time, but my focus is continuing to adjust and deliver to our guests. I hope more awards will come naturally,” said Kojima. 

Gold Coast locals can enjoy Kojima’s specially designed menu at Kiyomi for dinner Monday to Saturday and for those that are elsewhere in Australia, we are giving you the chance to win an all inclusive trip to Jupiters Gold Coast to experience this culinary mastery all for yourself, simply enter HERE.

~~Be sure to check out Chase Kojima's instagram here. All photos to be credited to "Remco." 

Escape: To Shoalhaven

An AGFG Foodie Road Trip. 

From where you'd rather be: Mollymook Beach.  

A few members from AGFG took an early morning flight to Sydney, jumped in a sleek looking hire car and went on a road trip down the South East Coast of Australia and what a beautiful piece of the country it is to explore! The final destination was Mollymook in the Shoalhaven region; however, sticking on the main highway, driving as the crow flies was near impossible for the curious crew. 

A quick turn off down the Grand Pacific Drive and the adventurers cruised the curves of this picturesque coastline almost the whole way down to Mollymook. Some sights along the way included Wollongong’s Sports and Entertainment Centre and Win Stadium, the Port Kembla Steelworks with billowing clouds of steam and the Kiama blowhole with its deep rumblings and puffs of white foam.

A guest's view from the pool at Rick Stein at Bannisters Accommodation.  

A complete change of culture from city living is what road tripping will show you. Lush green paddocks and rolling hillsides, livestock of all kinds and townships that know the secrets of a life lived in fresh air, surrounded by space, the beauty of nature and an admiration for cultivated landscape. 

The food trip roadies visited Coolangatta Estate Winery for a tasting of some of their most popular wines, sneaking around the guests of a stunning wedding party to slip into the cellar door and have a quick chat with the friendly staff and of course a few tastings. Be sure to take a wander around the grounds and discover the charm of old buildings, stopping in cool shade under the tall pines and tread carefully over damp grass. 

A sneaky find, just a few steps down off the car park at Rick Stein at Bannisters.  

The AGFG crew arrived in Mollymook to be delighted by a wide stretch of beach, to the crashing of steady waves and pristine sands. Though small itself, Mollymook was a great base for exploring the Shoalhaven region, particularly if you enjoy a round of golf or two! For those who enjoy the sport, there are around 40 courses to choose from between Helensburgh and Eden, including both championship style courses and classic country clubhouses. 

An appetising entree at Rick Stein at Bannisters of grilled scallops in the shell with toasted hazelnut and coriander butter, delicious!   

A weekend of food inspired adventure began at Rick Stein at Bannisters with a menu focused on showcasing the best of the regions’ fresh seafood, paired with wines recommended by the knowledgeable staff, both kind and professional. Scallops in the shell and prawns with Rick’s chutney for entrees, lobster served in the shell and a seafood mix linguine for mains, paired with Spanish Sauvignon Blanc made for a delectable evening. The AGFG crew dined at night, however curiosity won out again and Bannisters was visited the following day. The view out North over the rugged coast is probably best enjoyed from the very edge of the pool that seems to drop away to nothing, or just grab a table in the poolside bar and relax with a drink.   

Rick Stein at Bannisters is not just about seafood, their desserts are pretty spectacular as well! Vanilla cheesecake encased in chocolate with berry compote and blood orange sorbet + dust. 

After a long trip from an early flight, the team were excited to finally get to bed (midnight by the time the excitement settled) and Mollymook Aquarius Apartments was certainly the place to be. Rustic, old world charm is what you will find in these apartments, with a fully-equipped kitchen for families and multiple heaters for those cold nights, it was a more than comfortable stay. 

The crew visited a number of other places along their three-day adventure, check out all the foodie fun HERE and be sure to delve into the world of Shoalhaven tourism over at the Visitor Centre (now in a handy, downloadable PDF's here). 

Words by Annabel Rainsford, photography by AGFG and experiences by the AGFG Foodies. AGFG was a guest of Shoalhaven Tourism.

Escape: To Foodie Shoalhaven

An AGFG Foodie Road Trip. 

Continuing the AGFG Foodie road trip, from a delicious evening at Rick Stein at Bannisters, the team headed to Tallwood for breakfast - the best start to a very busy day. You can read about the start of our trip here. 

Breakfast Tallwood: banana bread, almonds, honey and poached figs. Local mushrooms, goat curd and pea smash with sprouts on sourdough. 

Tallwood, the local café of choice for breakfast is co-owned and run by two close friends who ensure the menu is kept interesting and on-trend. The AGFG foodies’ mouths were watering just walking up to the café’s front as the tantalising smell of freshly baked banana bread greeted them meters down the path. It had to be ordered, shared with breakfasts of smashed peas with feta cheese and a medley of mushrooms on thick slices of sourdough and a warm quinoa porridge, bedazzled with edible flowers.  

Dessert at Tallwood: Chocolate textures, mandarin, dulce ice cream and frangelico jelly. 

Alongside a team of savvy staff, the exciting interior design is also something to note, with a long open window giving an insight through to the kitchen, a suspended floating ceiling and of course the signature pieces, two pieces of tall wood standing confidently in a room of warm hues. The AGFG foodies were also lucky enough to visit Tallwood for dinner that same evening, treated by the chef with the last of the truffle season’s harvests in a gnocchi dish as well as a table of interesting share plates. Think taro chips with chipotle aioli, crispy prawn taro dumplings with a spicy African chutney, sesame crusted raw tuna with chilli and coriander, tender de-boned quail with crumbled feta and roasted cherry tomatoes and mixed roasted vegetables with labneh.  

Grilled octopus, lemon and garlic aioli as an entrée at St Isidore. 

Another stop for the flavour seekers was St Isidores, set among the vibrant farming lands of Milton with enough acreage to grow vegetables in large raised beds, to have a flourishing orchards of lime, Meyer lemon and orange trees hanging heavy with ripe fruits and still space for the quiet scratching and pecking of chickens with their own plot of land, complete with a timber hut for roosting. 

Looking out to the farmlands really set the scene for what was on offer for lunch at St Isidores. Beets and carrots, leafy greens and pitted orange slices were all freshly picked, while main meats were melt-in-the-mouth for tenderness and desserts were to die for. Imagine a tart with crust that began to dissolve the second it hit your tongue, slightly sweet, immediately giving way to an entrancingly bitter chocolate filling. Now add a cool layer of house made peanut butter ice-cream, smooth and oozing with a caramel sauce broken by the crunch of peanuts, or if crème brulee is your go-to, picture the first satisfying crack of the surface revealing an irresistibly creamy, light yellow layer below. It was decided then and there that the AGFG foodies are dessert lovers. Growing ingredients to consume straight away in farm to fork style is certainly one of St Isidore’s most attractive characteristics, just be sure to leave room for dessert. 

Dessert at St Isidore: coconut and pandan pudding, banana, lime, palm sugar and mandarin sorbet.  

Milk Haus was another breakfast stop for the foodies on the move, as suggested to them over dinner at Tallwood by the host, happy to support other local businesses and who was in fact hosting the owners of Milk Haus for dinner that very night. Community spirit is prevalent in Shoalhaven’s regional towns and good food that gives back to the region is a shared subject of mutual respect and passion for locals. Milk Haus café is hosted by Woodstock’s 19th Century cheese making factory, now converted to the whole foods café and veggie patch. The space inside is lofty, charming guests with timber décor, big thick rugs to keep you warm in winter and vases filled with colourful flowers. 

Breakfast at Milk Haus: creamed eggs, pesto and fresh leaves on sourdough. French toast with ginger and rosemary roasted ruby grapefruit, cashew cream and honey. 

The crew was chilly this early morning and chose to sit as close to the fire as they could, stealing its warmth and ordering coffees straight up to warm their insides. If you like a big breakfast, Milk Haus is the place to go. The AGFG foodies were near on shocked with liberal portions of delicious breakfast items; a spoonful of cold, creamed eggs with handfuls of wild looking leaves picked fresh from the garden on thick sourdough with a lathering of house made pesto and French toast with ginger and rosemary roasted ruby grapefruit and more than a drizzling of cashew cream. The generosity of Milk Haus’ dishes is evident of the nature of those who own and operate the café.  

Granite Falls, just days after heavy rain and flooding - no signs up here!

Trying to work up an appetite between breakfast and lunch, the crew went on a trip out to Granite Falls in Morton National Park. With luck on their side, the AGFG explorers didn’t run into any trouble with thick mud or deep ruts made from the recent rain when driving for 6kms of dirt along Twelve Mile Road to reach a short walking track through dense scrub. The path through native plants was strewn with delicate blooming wildflowers welcoming the spring season and after just a few minutes, thick flora gave way to open space, an awesome view over mountains, deep valleys and the sound of rushing water could be heard.  

The AGFG explorers stepped out into the sunshine and followed the last few steps down to a platform suspended out above the valley. Though the water could have been flowing more heavily, it was a trip worthwhile to see layers of vibrantly coloured rock, smoothed from the rush of water over hundreds of years now shimmering in the morning sunlight. Overcoming nerves to hang out over the edge of the viewing platform rewarded the crew with some great photo opportunities, and after a few more minutes absorbing the breathtaking view, the crew headed back to the car, making a quick dash back to Cupitt's Winery in time for lunch. 

Lunch at Cupitt's Estate Restaurant: roast Venison, red cabbage and pan fried knödel paired with a 2014 Cupitt Nebbiolo.  

Cupitt's Estate Winery, perched up on a hillside and looking out over farmlands made for a relaxing weekend lunch. Should you visit, take time to sip wine slowly, perhaps jump up and dance to a band rocking outside or ask for a tour around the brewery. Soon to cover all aspects of a seasonal menu and beverage list, Cupitts’ space hosts a winery, brewery, cheese making facilities, farmlands and garden all either in direct sight or within close surroundings. The AGFG foodies were lucky enough to have a beer tasting of three beers brewed on site, wines housed in an underground cellar for temperature stability and aging and even a preview tasting of five cheeses now crafted on site, soon to be available for public tastings and purchase. For lunch, the foodies enjoyed fresh harvests from the garden and vegetable beds and meats the host informed them were farmed from the herd of livestock seen wandering around in the paddocks in view from restaurant tables. Slow food is Cupitt’s motto and their impressive, all encompassing grounds are close to being self-sustainable in anything and everything you could want to enjoy a leisurely Sunday of wining, dining and dancing.

Silos Estate, dating back to 1870 and now restored, was included in the itinerary, with wine tastings, a stroll around the vineyards and the delightful addition of feeding the alpacas. Though the AGFG foodies had to hit the road with a drive back to Sydney airport, offering no leeway to stop and enjoy Silos, the Estate offers boutique accommodation for those looking to unwind and a fantastic location for holding weddings and special events, enjoying a meal in the restaurant and wine tastings in the cellar door. The AGFG crew is sure to visit when next in the region.  

All in all, Shoalhaven is a picturesque destination for those looking to escape busy city rushing or looking for a seaside location to holiday. Whether for a quick weekend away, a golfing tour down a length of the coast, slowing down for caravanning, camping and four wheel driving, truly experiencing wild scrub lands or even looking for a permanent lifestyle change, a visit to the Shoalhaven region can include as little as you need for a stress-free break or as much as you want for an exciting adventure. Taste the region’s fresh produce, straight off the farms you see when driving through, harvested from orchards on restaurant acreage and picked fresh from thriving gardens and be sure to keep any eye out for initiatives evolving from the Southern Coast Food Alliance, the keepers of all things flourishing in Shoalhaven. 

Words by Annabel Rainsford, photography by AGFG and experiences by the AGFG Foodies. AGFG was a guest of Shoalhaven Tourism.

Broaden your horizons: Visa Wellington on a Plate

Wellington on a Plate runs from August 14 – 30. 

AGFG had the pleasure of exploring Wellington in 2014 and discover everything Wellington on a Plate had to offer. The 17-day festival is back this year, bigger and better than ever before with over 300 eateries, producers and suppliers taking part in a programme with more than 125 events.

This tasty selection is served to by multi-award winning eatery and bar, Hummingbird, est 2000.

Imagine Taste of Melbourne, Taste of Sydney and Good Food Month all packed into 17-days, it’s the definition of FOODIE HEAVEN. With two main events running alongside pop-up events, DINE Wellington and Burger Wellington capture the most attention with more than 100 of Wellington region’s eateries participating in DINE Wellington and over 80 eateries joining in the annual battle of the burger for Burger Wellington. However, this year, Wellington on a Plate has gone and added one more to the mix, the Capital Cocktail, a clash of the cocktails where 30 restaurants and bars will go head to head and offer you a delicious selection of cocktail creations paired with tapas treats.

For more information on DINE Wellington we suggest you see here.

To see what burgers you’ll be devouring check out Burger Wellington here.

For those of you who will never pass up a good cocktail, check out Capital Cocktail here.

We’re sure you’re thinking, Wellington on a Plate can’t possibly involve anything else, it’s just all too much! Well think again, Wellington on a Plate’s programme is 72 pages long, encompassing 130 events on top of  DINE Wellington, Burger Wellington and Capital Cocktail – if it was ever a time to visit Wellington it would be during August.

See all the events Wellington on a Plate has to offer here and get in fast as tickets to these events sell out fast and we mean super fast (as in the day they are released)! 

Oh and if you’re still not convinced, check out our adventures from last year here

Port Douglas Carnivale

May 22 – 31, 2015 the best place to be in Autumn.

Stepping off the plane in Cairns from the sunny Gold Coast really shouldn’t be such a shock, but that blatant wall of warm humid air certainly clears your senses and sets you up for a great adventure where the word cold is rarely uttered.

Sea Temple Resort and Spa - Hotel Pullman Port Douglas.

If you’ve always wanted to take the plunge and jet up north, autumn is definitely the time to fulfil your dreams. Leave your parker at the back of your wardrobe and bring out that beach towel, hat and bikini for a holiday of sun, surf and food.

Other than the fantastic beaches, heart-warming sun and the Great Barrier Reef which is synonymous with Port Douglas, there are a number of other tropical activities that can’t be missed. Discover the Daintree Forest through Daintree Discovery Tours and take a cooling dip in Cassowary Falls, a chance of a lifetime as it is only accessible by Discovery Tours.

Cassowary Falls - A Hidden Paradise.

If you’ve always wanted to see a crocodile up close and personal the solar whisper by Wildlife Cruises will find you a few crocodiles along the Daintree River as well as number of other beautiful birds and neon green tree snakes.

Along with adventure comes culinary adventure, discover the taste of the Tropical North with Port Douglas Carnivale. Celebrating 21 years as North Queensland’s largest cultural and food festival, Carnivale showcases the best of Tropical North Queensland’s food, wine and musicians.

A 10 day celebration offering all those that attend an experience not to be forgotten with celebrity chef events, food demonstrations, samples of local produce as well as family friendly events devoted to art, sports and fun.

Delicious, Delicious Food.

To kick off Carnivale, the Longest Lunch on Friday May 22 will be celebrating its 14th year with an emphasis on fresh, locally inspired produce. Highlights of the menu include mouth watering coffee cured Atlantic salmon as well as sous vide herb rolled Lamb back strap and for those that like fresh seafood the crispy skin Barramundi with a cucumber and prawn roulade is sure to be a delicious crowd pleaser.  We also highly suggest the gold topped macha green tea tiramisu for all the sweet tooths out there. 

Palates of Port Set-Up on Sugar Wharf. 

Be a part of world class dining experiences at the Masquerade Ball, Palates of Port, held in the historic Port Douglas Sugar Wharf where local restaurants such as Harrisons, Nautilus and Salsa’s will be showcasing their creative talents. Dance the night away under the stars at Rex Smeal Park as it’s transformed into a tropical wonderland known as Club Tropicana that celebrates Port Douglas’ enviable tropical lifestyle.

Along with these signature events there will be a number of family-friendly events running throughout such as Carnivale’s backyard games which features giant jenga, tug o’ war and the mini World Esky Championship (esky racing).

To book your tickets to any of Carnivale’s events see here. 

To plan your next holiday and the amazing discoveries Port Douglas has to offer head over here.

Orange

Embark on a weekend foodie adventure. 

A thriving arts and foodie community, Orange is fast becoming one of Australia's premier destinations for gourmands with a healthy appetite for fine food and wine. Located a 3.5-hour drive west of Sydney, this town of just over 39,000 people is famous for its restaurants and wineries in addition to farms that grow fruits such as apples, pears and peaches. Despite its name, however, oranges are not grown in this region due to its temperate climate.

On the flip side, Orange's year-round cool and dry weather – and fertile soil – makes it perfect for wine production. There are many wineries in the region that produce cool-weather wines such as sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Don’t know where to start? Head to Ferment the Orange Wine Centre where you can sample a medley of wines from all over central New South Wales.

For those who enjoy the great outdoors, Mount Canobolas (just 13km southwest of Orange city) is worth exploring. At 1395 metres above sea level, this extinct volcano is the highest peak between the Indian Ocean and Blue Mountains; its magnificent snow gum forests and rugged rock faces makes it a popular trek for day hikers. Not only that, Mount Canobolas boasts breathtaking 360-degree views of Orange city and the surrounding rolling countryside, with the peaks of the Blue Mountains in the distance.

All that hiking and imbibing is sure to get you hungry, so why not take to one of Orange’s many eateries for a well-deserved feed. Emma’s Table offers traditional European-style dining with dishes made for sharing, while those wanting to tuck into classic dishes with modern twists may take to Zest Restaurant and Beer Garden. A selection of gourmet sandwiches, burgers, cakes and slices await at Bissys Café while Highland Heritage Estate, a restaurant, winery and function centre in one, is the ideal spot for leisurely lunches and weddings. If you also happen to be in Orange on the second Saturday of the month, be sure to check out the Orange Regional Farmers Market to sample the region’s fresh local produce.

Looking to stay a night or two? Orange boasts a large range of accommodation options such as the tranquil Lakeview Luxury Cabins, a beautiful self-contained getaway overlooking the waters of Lake Canobolas. 

For those wanting to experience everything Orange has to offer in one concise festival, you’re in luck as Orange F.O.O.D Week is on April 10 -19, check out our festival blog!

Tag cloud