Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On the road with Gourmet Goddess - South Australia

When I found out recently that I was heading to South Australia for a work purposes, I decided that I would add on a few days of annual leave so that we could take a drive to the famous Barossa Valley wine district and have a mini holiday. The last time I visited Adelaide was over 20 years ago and I was only there a few hours, passing through on the way to somewhere else. South Australia has become a real food and wine hub, and I discovered that South Australians are fiercely proud of their local produce. I consulted many a food guide and magazine to find out what Adelaide and the Barossa had to offer, to be sure we didn't miss out on something fantastic.

Our first dinner stop  in Adelaide was Celsius Restaurant, which had been getting lots of positive press since opening last year. Executive Chef Ayhan Erkoc sources organic vegetables from his family farm in Murray Bridge where his brother and business partner Kasim picks everything fresh daily for the restuarant.  They are able to grow different and interesting vegetables like spiky Indian cucumbers, salsify and heirloom varieties of vegetables. Kasim has also ensured that there are flowers to be picked daily too, which makes the menu fresh, delicious and delicate. We opted for the degustation menu to give us the opportunity to sample a range of dishes and we were blown away by the flavours, the freshness and the beautiful presentation. Here are my 4 favourites.



Kingfish with Artichoke 
& Spring flowers, Nasturtium Leaves

The kingfish course was a standout - so juicy and succulent, strewn with lovely fresh flowers and leaves with a fragrant buerre blanc that worked perfectly with the astringent nature of the artichoke.


Lamb Sweetbreads
with Parsnip and Mushroom

The lamb sweetbreads were rich and unctious, served with a velvety parsnip puree that left you wanting to lick the plate. The mushrooms gave the dish an intense savoury character that made it one of the best dishes of the night.

The cheese course arrived looking so pretty, I was reluctant to destroy it. Impossibly delicate beetroot wafers, chervil, nasturtium flowers and the finest quality French chervre (goat milk cheese). Perfect. This dish was absolutely superb - the cheese firm on the outside but creamy and runny in the middle - swoon! I loved that the cheese course was an actual dish, not just the standard cheese/ lavosh/ quince paste presentation that most restaurants do these days. A bit of thought and creativity goes a long way.


The Cheese Course
Chervre with Beetroot

Dessert was a beautiful melange of middle eastern flavours - sheep milk icecream, rose jelly, a light as air sumac espuma (like a mousse), nutty candied pistachios and a syrup soaked lemon sponge. The fragrances were amazing and the flavours all worked beautifully. A really impressive dessert.


Rose Jelly, Candied Pistachios, Sheep Milk Icecream,
Sumac Espuma & Lemon Sponge


Across the road from our hotel in Adelaide, we noticed a small market setting up and decided to explore. We found a fabulous stall run by a company called Beach Organics, that make a range of salt and spice mixes, as well as selling wild, hand harvested honey and vanilla. At first it was the beautiful presentation of the stall that drew me, but after tasting a range of products, I was won over by their lovely blends.


Beautiful Salt Blends from Beach Organics
at Hindmarsh Square

I came away with a selection of their products, including a pepper blend that contained "long" pepper, which I had seen and tasted in Indonesia but had never been able to get in Australia. As well as providing fantastic products, the company is committed to sustainable and ethical practices - which is just another reason to support them in my book.


Spices and Pepper Blends from Beach Organics
at Hindmarsh Square

If you can't get to the stall at Hindmarsh Square in Adelaide, you can purchase their products online. To find out more, visit the website http://www.beachorganics.com.au/

When we reached the Barossa Valley the beauty of the place was really overwhelming - the open skies and the gorgeous vineyards are exceptional. When I think of the Barossa Valley, it is impossible not to think of one of it's most well known resident Maggie Beer. Maggie is truly one of our culinary treasures - cook, writer, sustainable food advocate and all round delightful woman. We were lucky enough to be staying only a few minutes down the road from her farm, so we dropped in to her farm shop for a glass of wine and mini picnic baskets packed with delicious Maggie Beer produce. It was lovely sitting outside overlooking the dam enjoying our picnic and a lazy afternoon. Maggie's husband Colin is a wine maker and we enjoyed a delicious Barossa Viognier from his vineyard with lunch and took a bottle away with us to drink later.

Mini Picnic Baskets
Maggie Beer's Farm Shop


Our accomodation in the Barossa Valley was the stunning Stonewell Cottages - we chose a seculded farmhouse in the middle of Stonewell Vineyard, set on a lake teeming with water birds. It was total bliss not seeing another soul and just enjoying the peace and quiet. It also helped that the house came with a whole range of creature comforts including a huge spa, gourmet breakfast ingredients and lovely decor. On Sunday we decided to cook lunch on the BBQ in our garden, overlooking the lake. On the menu was delicious South Australian Mallalla lamb, which we butterflied and smeared with herbs and olive oil and served with fresh vegetables. Add a few glasses of Colin Beer's delicious wine and it was a perfect Sunday lunch. 


Sunday Lunch
Local Mullala Lamb cooked on the BBQ,
a bottle of wine and a vineyard to ourselves


The Barossa offers a wide range of dining options, but the top of the heap is Apellation. Named the 2011 Australian Good Food and Travel Guide Top Restaurant in South Australia, it enjoys a reputation for fine dining and one of the best wine lists in the country. There was no question that we had to pay them a visit. Once again, we chose the degustation menu so that we could try a range of dishes. The menu changes daily (always a good sign - it means that the kitchen is on their toes and the selections are based on the best seasonal produce)


Appellation Dining Room 


Head Chef Ryan Edwards offered a well balanced selection of dishes - great flavours and presented in a classic style (no crazy stacks or over the top flourishes here)  The rare roasted breast of pigeon with confit mushroom, semolina gnocci and game glaze was a standout dish for me with the tartlet of lamb's tongue with caramelised onions and caperberries not far behind. The meal was fantastic and I can see why Apellation is rated so highly. To be honest though, for my taste, I preferred the degustation menu we enjoyed at Celsius a lot more - it had the wow factor and that extra sense of creativity that appealed to me. Don't get me wrong, Apellation delivers in every way, food and service wise, but Celsius had that extra spark that would make me return for more.

I love food markets and am forever bemoaning the fact Sydney lacks a high quality, centrally located market. Flemington is a pain to get to, is far from user friendly and in my experience the produce isn't always great. Paddy's Market is awful - cheap plastic shoes and handbags seem to be the focus here, instead of good food. There are some great little farmer's markets around, but they often don't alow you to get the majority of what you want in one place. Previously, I have always rated Melbourne's Victoria Market as the best I have seen in Australia, but sorry Melbourne, you have officially lost your crown - deposed by the fabulous Adelaide Central Market. Wow. What a place.


Organic Food Stall
Adelaide Central Markets

The market boasts a large selection of stalls under one roof, everything from fabulous cheeses and charcuterie items, coffee suppliers, bakeries and specialist butchers, fish mongers, honey, organic and standard fruit and vegetables, patisseries, little cafes where you can stop mid shopping for a restorative pot of tea, plants and flowers and lots more. It was my dream market come true. I'm very jealous of you Adelaide folk who have all of this on your doorstep! I noticed that there was a big focus on local produce too, which was brilliant.

Delicious Produce
Adelaide Central Markets


I had a fabulous time in South Australia and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to sample some of the first class food experiences that it has to offer. It was a food lover's delight really. Special mention should also be made of the amazing roses that we saw growing everywhere we went - the climate must really be perfect for them. Every specimen, from those growing by the vineyards in the Barossa, to those in suburban gardens looked like they belonged in a flower show. Just beautiful. You could also smell them everywhere you went. Pity I couldn't bring any home to Sydney with me.

If you get the chance to visit South Australia, don't forget to enjoy some of that fabulous food - and the wine of course. Highly recommended as a foodie destination, and such lovely countryside too. Good times.

******

2 comments:

  1. Hi Toni,
    Reading this and wishing I had eaten more for breakfast. I'm feeling a bit peckish now. It looks like you had a wonderful few days in South Australia. Always happy when your blog posts pop up in my inbox.

    Fiona

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