Laughs and Leeches at O'Reilly's

By Julie Fison

“If you find a fallen tree on the path, don’t try to climb over it,” the guide at O’Reilly’s on the Queensland/NSW border tells us earnestly. “I’ve seen those things shoot down the hill. You don’t want to be on one, when that happens.”

No. I definitely don’t want to fly down a gully clinging to the mossy bark of an Arctic Beech and have to wait to be rescued at the bottom with a broken ankle (and that’s a best case scenario). I won’t be climbing over any fallen trees. In fact I’m wondering if I should leave the comfort of the lodge at all. Perhaps a day in the library with a cup of tea might be a good option. The spa also looks inviting.

I’m on a walking weekend with my book group, but a wave of thunderstorms have hit the Lamington National Park leaving countless hazards in its wake. We’ve had to cancel our planned 23 km walk along the Main Border Track and we’re looking at alternatives. The resort guide is keen to make sure we understand the risks before we set off anywhere. She advises us to take warm clothes and food in case we get stuck in the bush. OK. Now I’m getting nervous.

We download an emergency app, sort out a packed lunch and plenty of water and bravely head off for the Box Circuit – a track on the more protected side of the mountain that should be a reasonably safe option.

The route isn’t really important. For me, walking is all about the journey. The chance to enjoy the rainforest, catch up with friends, find out what’s really going on behind the happy-family snapshots on Facebook. Maybe even talk about books.

It’s a foggy morning and light drizzle is falling, but once we’re on the track, the towering Booyongs protect us from the rain. Light filters through the fog, hanging among the fern trees as we wind our way down to Canungra Creek. It’s damp and there must be a thousand leeches per square metre, but the rainforest couldn’t be more beautiful. It feels so pre-historic that I wouldn’t be surprised if a dinosaur strolled out of the mist. A hobbit wouldn’t be out of place either. But I get a nasty shock when a snake decides to join us on the track. 

“Watch out for the red-belly black,” one of my fellow walkers calls calmly. “It’s much more scared of you, than you are of it.” That, I doubt.

I’ve only just recovered from the snake encounter when an enormous blue crayfish gives me the shock of my life, snapping its pincers menacingly from the side of the track. You don’t see that every day. Luckily.

We eat lunch standing on a wet boulder at Picnic Rock to minimize our interaction with leeches. It’s not entirely successful, the little buggers don’t just jump off the track, they also launch themselves from the trees. Someone finds a leech in her belly button. Not cool.

We make it back to our gorgeous villa without having to resort to the emergency app. I’ve transported a sock full of leeches on our 20km walk and my feet are aching. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Walking with friends is therapy for the body and the mind, no matter where the track leads.

Festivale 2016

Launceston City Park, Tasmania Friday 12 – Sunday 14 February 2016. 

Whether stopping by for just a day, or spending all three inside Tasmania’s Festivale 2016, you’re bound to have a merry time! Head to all of your favourite stalls, get involved with classes and activities and soak up the lively atmosphere, surrounded by some of Tasmania’s world class produce.

On Saturday and Sunday, Tamar Valley Wine Route Experiences are on offer inviting festival-goers to indulge in a palate pleasing array of Tasmanian wine, beer, spirits and produce. Engage with some of Tasmania’s most inspirational food and beverage producers and check out our six suggestions for making the most out of Festivale.

Learn something on Saturday:

Two very popular wines – Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Is the only difference French and Italian?

This is just one of the Tamar Valley Wine Route Experiences to enjoy over the weekend. Join Penny Jones from Bay of Fires Wines and Stewart Burns, Josef Chromy Wines as they taste and explore different wines from these intriguing grape varieties. This class runs from 1:00pm – 1:45pm. 

Attend the awards:

Each year Festivale recognises the outstanding efforts of stallholders in all categories including food, wine and cider with a number of classes under each awarded category. Be sure to attend the awards and show your support for local businesses.

Eat your weight in a day:

In between events and activities, spend the time to wander around the site to food stalls like the Clover Hill Sparkling Wine Oyster Seafood Bar for succulent seafood starters. If hunger pains are really starting to hit, head over to Flamecake to satisfy your stomach with European style flammkuchen, served hot off the wood fire. This is a traditional Bavarian and French dish similar to the pizza, but made with a sourdough base and crème fraiche sauce. It’s a great way to warm up on cool days or an easy option to share with friends and family as you explore.

Have some fun – for yourself and the kids:

Visit international buskers by Vjam Avenue as they perform acrobatics, body contortions and other exciting acts while the kids enjoy some fun themselves in Kid’s Kingdom with face painting, ballooning and temporary tattoos. Tailrace Communities will be offering children’s activities every day, like circus school, Taiko drumming workshops, dance workshops and interactive music lessons so parents can sit back, relax and enjoy a long weekend off.

Test your new-found knowledge:

Do your best to pair a wine or cider from one of the many stalls with a spicy curry from Indian Empire or a meal with more Mexican flavours from Tio Rico, then treat yourself to another round with decadent desserts or a platter of cheese. 

Feast like a King:

For a tasting experience to remember, purchase tickets now to Festivale Lunch with Greg Malouf. Held at Stillwater on Friday 12th of February, Greg Malouf will share his passion for cooking, his knowledge and experience as he works with Head Chef Craig Wills to showcase Middle Eastern cuisine and incorporating Tasmanian produce.   

For more information on Festivale 2016, head to the official Festivale website. Those travelling from elsewhere can find accommodation options for Tasmania on our website, simply follow the link for suggestions.  

Our Favourite Tasmanian Producers

Are you visiting Tasmania and want to know more about where the best produce comes from as you explore? Keep a look out for the producers that supply some of our chef-hatted restaurants with high quality goods, like Stillwater Restaurant, Me Wah Hobart, Geronimo Aperitivo Bar and Restaurant, Monty’s on Montpelier and Mud Bar and Restaurant. Space permitting, we would name and fame all the dedicated and passionate suppliers across Tasmania, however, we do our best by offering you a snippet of six suppliers. Get a taste for what Tasmania’s lush, fertile lands can produce with our few mentions below. 

 

Kate’s Berry Farm

Located in Swansea, Kate’s Berry Farm produces cool climate berries, picked at the peak of ripeness. Berries like raspberries and strawberries contain no fungicides, pesticides or harmful chemicals, grown using only organic foliar fertilisers. 

Robbins Island Wagyu

Run by fourth generation cattle farmers, this farm has bred wagyu beef on Robbins Island since the early 1990s. Featuring Beef Marble Scores of 4-6 and 7+, the signature taste is a specific combination of genetics, regional pastures and pristine environment. 

Nutpatch Nougat

Situated in iconic Kettering, Nutpatch Nougat is ideally located 2km drive away from a hazelnut orchard, with further production in Kettering. They also specialise in handmade fine chocolates with a range that grows every year. 

Scottsdale Pork

Fostering a culture of continuous improvement ensures Scottsdale Pork pigs are nurtured through the highest standards to produce a tasty, juicy, natural pork with a superb eating experience. Naturally juicy, pigs are left to roam free-range, with no extra additives, it's just 100% natural pork.

Evandale Estate

Evandale Estate olive grove in the northern midlands of Tasmania consists of 3500 trees planted in 1999, alongside figs, chestnut and hazelnut trees. The main olive varieties include Frantoio, Correggiola, Leccino, Picual, Nevadillo Bianco, Manzanillo, Verdale and Barnea, producing award winning cool-climate cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil entirely pressed and bottled onsite.

Gillespie’s Ginger Beer

Crafted on the south-east coast of Tasmania in the coastal Hamlet of Bream Creek, Gillespie’s Ginger Beer is free from preservatives and additives. Premium ingredients include natural filtered rainwater, organic fresh ginger, Tahitian lime, lemon, native Tasmanian pepper berry leaf and sugar. 

To complement a meal full of fresh, vibrant Tasmanian produce, it would only be right to drink wine and ciders from Tasmanian companies. Check out some of our featured companies below:

Two Metre Tall Farmhouse Ale and Cider

Nestled on the banks of the Derwent River, Two Metre Tall Farmhouse Ale and Cider is the perfect location to soak up Tasmania’s breathtaking natural wilderness and enjoy unique farmhouse-style beers and ciders. Two Metre Tall’s entire selection of beverages can be purchased at the farm bar, as can its farm-raised ‘beer-fed’ beef.

Goaty Hill Wines

Offering panoramic views of rocky hillside and rolling greens, Goaty Hill Wines in Kayena encapsulates the essence of Tasmania. Complement a gourmet platter of local produce with a bottle of Goaty Hill’s latest release – perhaps an elegant 2014 Riesling bursting with honey and green apple flavours or the 2014 Pinot Gris laced with floral notes, best paired with smoked cheese.

Bay of Fire Wines

Extensive green gardens and sweeping vineyard views make up this Tamar Valley winery, alluring and distinctively Tasmanian. There is sure to be a wine for all tastes from the spicy, citrus and stone fruit Chardonnay to multi award-winning Pinot Noir in all its graceful strawberry aromas.

Clover Hill Vineyard 

Situated in Tasmania’s Pipers River, Clover Hill effortlessly combines classic French methodology and vivacious Tasmanian style to produce a stunning collection of Cuvée wines. 

Quick mentions: 

Keep an eye out for these brands and you know you’re in safe hands for quality and fresh produce. 

Wild Clover Lamb

Lost Pippin Cider

Black Ridge Farm

McHenry Distillery

Bruny Island Cheese

Bay of Fires Cheese

Mount Gnomon Farm

Flinders Island Meat 

Compiled by Julie Johnson. 

Book Review: From the Menu - Launceston

From the Menu – Launceston is the unofficial guide to dining out in Launceston, bringing together recipes from 28 restaurants around the city, all complemented with eye-catchingly beautiful photography by Philip Kuruvita. From the Menu is book number five in Philip’s collection and he shows no signs of slowing down as From the Menu – Hobart is in production to be published by December 2016. (Want to get involved? Let us know at pr@agfg.com.au).  

 Enter here to win your very own copy! 

Leaning on the universal appeal of cookbooks, From the Menu showcases some of Launceston’s best restaurants and from them come some of their finest recipes designed for the at-home-cook. A winning combination of innovative menus and world class produce alongside a pristine location truly makes Launceston a foodie’s dream destination and with this, From the Menu makes the perfect souvenir and travel companion. 

Launceston’s most famous sights captured by awe-inspiring landscape photography, lead you on a journey to discover the heart of the city where each restaurant is showcased in six-glossy pages, from interior décor to the kitchen, along with quotes from Head Chefs and Owners. We’re first led to Hallam’s Waterfront, operating since 1996 by owners of the same namesake Sally and Stewart Hallam, it’s a Launceston stalwart just recently taken over by their son, Salisbury Hallam and specialises in the freshest seafood from the Tasman coast. 

Rossy Roasted Loin of Fallow Venison, Brisbane Street Bistro, p. 58. 

From page to page, hard work and passion seeps through from the likes of Josef Chromy Restaurant, Larceny Restaurant, Le Café on St George and Star Bar Café to Stonesthrow Launceston where love for Tasmania and its local producers is evident in each recipe. “Why go elsewhere?” is echoed on each page and between locally grown fresh produce, hormone free, grass fed animals, fresh water from Cape Grim and award winning local vignerons, it’s no wonder the restaurants have no need to. 

AGFG Readers’ Choice Winner for the region as well as AGFG Chef Hat Winner, Pierre’s, can be found within the pages. Boasting a history from 1956, it’s a truly iconic brasserie, wine and whiskey bar in the very heart of Launceston’s CBD that flies a significant history flag of being Tasmania’s first coffee house (second oldest in Australia), so if you’re a coffee lover, best pay Pierre’s a visit before delving into French classics of Escargot in their shell with garlic, champagne, shallot and parsley butter. 

Steamed Blue Eye Trevalla with Mussel Cream, Kombu and White Soy Broth, p. 176.  

Launceston can be best embodied in local talent, Stillwater, located in the historic Ritchie’s Mill at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge it glows with the authentic warmth only an 1830’s timber building can offer. A philosophy of “local wine, local food, local talent…” resonates in recipes such as Textures of Beetroot with Smoked Goat’s Curd as well as Steamed Blue Eye Trevalla with Mussel Cream, Kombu and White Soy Broth.

From the Menu – Launceston is a true accomplishment for everyone involved, so take the time to peruse the stunning photography as you make your way to the kitchen to prepare some of Launceston’s finest recipes.   

Recipes from the book From the Menu - Launceston by Philip Kuruvita published by Philip Kuruvita Photography.

More delicious recipes: 

Salad of Octopus with Wasabi Mayonnaise.

Book Review: Tasmania's Cradle Coast Pantry

Born from a collaboration between one of Tasmania’s most respected chef’s, John T. Bailey and award-winning, internationally recognised photographer, Philip Kuruvita, comes Cradle Coast Pantry, a book dedicated to celebrating and sharing the knowledge of Tasmania’s fertile land and fresh produce with the world.

 Enter here to win your very own copy!

Cradle Coast Pantry is the second in a series after Tamar Valley Pantry, that together, throw Tasmania’s incredible produce into the spotlight and the devoted producers who nurture and aim to perfect their part of this wildly flourishing state.

Find yourself enchanted by beautiful dishes, awe-inspiring landscape photography and the passion that drives small businesses on the North West coast. As illuminated by this thoughtful book, Tasmania receives some of the purest wind and rain on the planet, having first passed uninterrupted across the ocean from South America. In acknowledging their good fortune to live in such a place, those who appear in the book share a little of what they do in their cultivations.

The nut from Cowrie Point.  

Not only that, Cradle Coast Pantry also lends itself as a comfort to those who enjoy quality cuts of meat. It gives permission to rest assured knowing any animals sacrificed from Tasmanian farms surely lived in some of the best conditions in the world, grazing on fertile lands stress-free. For seafood fanatics, the creatures harvested off Tasmanian shores were given time to grow in full and thrive in some of the planet’s most pristine waters.

A peek inside the cover reveals the history and stories of Tasmania’s small production companies, the hard work and persistence of those who own much-loved names, from The Cherry Shed to Blue Hills Honey, Ashgrove Cheese and Ghost Rock Vineyard. Mouth-watering information, like that of Anvers Confectionery by Igor Van Gerwen will have you researching the price of a flight to Tasmania, if to only try some of the world’s most decadent treats. The holistic farming methods and passion for environmental sustainability of Black Ridge Farm can be supported with an online order for tender meat. 

Honey Filo Parcels with Blue Hills Manuka Honey p. 58.

Incorporate this book into your kitchen routine and if you haven’t already, join in the movement for buying and eating locally, supporting surrounding communities and giving back to the farmers around you. Perhaps dabble a little with John’s inviting recipes, take a moment to marvel at Philip’s photography and treat yourself to the exceptional quality of Cradle Coast’s produce. 

By Julie Johnson. 

Recipes from the book Tasmania's Cradle Coast Pantry by Philip Kuruvita and John T. Bailey, published by Philip Kuruvita Photography. Get your own copy here.

More delicious recipes: 

Char Grilled Octopus with John's Special Marinade. 

Homemade Oatcakes and Grilled Figs with Blue Cheese and Honey. 

Book Review: Tamar Valley Pantry

Both highly esteemed in their respective fields, Photographer Philip Kuruvita and Chef John T. Bailey have combined their extensive knowledge and spellbinding passion to create Tamar Valley Pantry, the first in a series that rejoices in the abundance and quality of Tasmanian produce.   

 Enter here to win your very own copy!  

John T. Bailey has experienced a well-rounded career, travelling and creating food that excels on an international scale, working at world-renowned venues and incorporating the planet’s best produce into his dishes. He inevitably makes his permanent home where he can be surrounded by the high quality produce he loves and is so passionate about, in Australia’s state of Tasmania.

Internationally recognised and renowned as a leader of contemporary photography, Philip Kuruvita shares his talents in Tamar Valley Pantry. Much acclaimed, Philip has been awarded Tasmanian Professional Photographer of the Year five times over, is Tasmania’s only Grand Master of Photography and among other accolades, has served on the Board of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography for a many number of years.

Batman Bridge on the Tamar.  

From page to page, Tamar Valley Pantry explores the region’s most favourable qualities. Nestled in fertile valley terrain beside the Tamar River, Launceston and the surrounding regions are home to some of the most exceptional artisan food producers in the country, and perhaps even the world. Lush farmlands are accentuated by tantalizing cool climate wines and distinctive craft beers. The Tamar Valley has more than earned its commended reputation as a gourmet haven, a place worth visiting for not only the picturesque views and clean air, but the fresh fish, decadently creamy cheese, sought-after truffles, infused oils and all the fruits primary producers can harvest from rich soil. 

In this mesmerising collation of recipes and tales of Tasmania’s flourishing small business owners, readers are spoiled with the imagery, recipes and stories of small businesses and producers who count themselves lucky enough to belong to such a thriving land.

Roasted Venison Medallions with Beetroot, Horseradish Mash and Velo Caramel Sauce p. 196.

Fall in love with every turn of the page, from soft winter landscapes as the mist rolls in between the trees, casting a panorama in calming grey, to the fiery red sunsets pitching colours through the clouds and reflecting back up into the sky off the surface of still waters.

From orchards to vineyards, rows of flourishing lavender and jars of sweet honey, these images create a nostalgia for residents of the Valley and those that have visited before, and inspire those who haven’t been to clear their schedule to go.   

Leave this book out on the coffee table, or tuck it under your arm as you head into the kitchen and draw from the techniques and mouth-watering recipes within. Foodies, wine buffs and travel bugs are sure to be enraptured by the beauty, the potential and the wildness of Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.  

By Julie Johnson.  

Recipes from the book Tamar Valley Pantry by Philip Kuruvita and John T. Bailey, published by Philip Kuruvita Photography. Get your own copy here

More delicious recipes:

Pulled Lamb Noisette with Dutch Cream Potato Rosti and Savoy Cabbage Lamb Broth.

Tomato and Fennel Tart with Basil Mascarpone.

Aussie Fun Facts

Did you know that each week, 70 tourists overstay their visas and cannot be found by Australian immigration departments? We don’t blame them, Australia is a stunning country with world-class beaches, top quality produce, space to move around as we please and so much more. Learn a little more about the country we, and apparently the rest of the world, love so much with these quirky food facts below.

We love fish and are completely spoiled for choice: Australia has nearly 600 varieties of fish, both ocean and freshwater.

We love our bush tucker: we are one of the few countries in the world that eat their national animal and it’s as easy as buying a kangaroo steak from the local supermarket. We also eat creepy crawlies like witchetty grubs and ants.

We love to drink:

  • Nearly 500 million litres of wine is sold per year within Australia and there are 60 designated wine areas in Australia, mostly in cooler parts of the country.
  • In 2013, Australia had 75,863 litres of beer available for consumption.  

We’re a little nuts: macadamia nuts are native to Australia.

We like to roam: the world’s largest working cattle station belongs to South Australia. Anna Creek Station is roughly 6,000,000 acres.

We are a nation of chocolate lovers:

  • The cherry ripe is Australia’s oldest chocolate bar, and was first produced in 1924.
  • On average, we eat 45 million packets of Tim Tams a year.
  • Freddo Frogs were almost produced as chocolate mice.
  • The Caramello Koala’s name is George.
  • Bertie Beetles were invented to use up leftover honeycomb from producing Violet Crumble.  

We waste too much: Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, an average of $1,036 worth of food a year per household and 4,000,000 tonnes each year for the nation.

We love fruit: the most commonly consumed fruits are apples, bananas, mandarins, oranges and berries and on average, females eat more fruits than males.

We don’t like vegetables: only 6% of Australians eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables. The most popular vegetables (in 2013) were potatoes, carrots and broccoli followed by cauliflower, celery, capsicums, white onion, cabbage and zucchini.

We like easy options: the average Australian orders fast food once a week, with McDonald’s leading in popularity, followed by Subway, KFC, Hungry Jack’s and Dominos.

We love eggs: there are about 301 commercial egg farmers in Australia. 

We buy what can be free: Australians spent more than $500 million on bottled water in 2014.

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.

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.

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