Three hours west of Port Macquarie and we find ourselves in Pokolbin, the heart of the Hunter Valley wine region. We’re staying right in the middle of Pokolbin Village so have the luxury of shops and a restaurant within walking distance. After one and a half days of driving, we plonked ourselves down at Vittorio’s Cafe restaurant and had a late and long lunch in the sun with a couple of glasses of wine and a view of the vineyards. Can you hear us relaxing as I type?
This is us leaving Queensland and crossing the border into New South Wales on our road trip! After mere weeks of planning, we decided a realistic route for ten days would be the below:
My little sister turned 30 on Thursday (wow, we’re getting up there in the age department), so to help her celebrate I flew up to Townsville (and my parents drove up from Mackay) to visit, have dinner, play with the cat and generally get in the way by having four grown adults in a tiny two bedroom townhouse. It was squishy and my sister and I found ourselves sharing a room for the first time since I was 12.
Because I’m still on leave and jazzed on this food buzz I seem to be on at the moment, I decided to jump in the car and head to Esk for the Food Tales session run by the State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Writers Centre, two organisations close to my heart.
Each regional centre session was hosted by a food writer and basically created a lovely discussion about the group’s experience with food. I did not realise before attending, that each of us would have to share a food tale. Nervous as I was, I had a lovely time with the ladies (and one gentleman, who make himself scares after the scones and before the tale sharing portion of the event) of Esk. Some of their stories were funny and vivid and I got some great recipes I can’t wait to try!
The point of Food Tales is for people to logon to the website and share their food story and the website becomes a collaboration of recipes and stories and an experience for those who have a soft spot in their heart for food and cooking.
I spent two weekends two weeks apart up in Mackay visiting my folks, and my brother and sister who were there for one of those weekends. It was pretty exciting since my brother was over from Perth and we hadn’t seen him in a number of years.
My parents were also in the midst of packing up the family home they’d had for more than 20 years. They’ve finally sold it and are moving into their much loved beach house only 40 minutes outside of town.
Every time I’m at Grasstree, I take a walk along the beach at first light (my parents house is right on the beach). So here’s some photos:
View more of my photos of Mackay on my Flickr page.
But I’m now on the bus and already the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds hinting at the possibility of a beautiful day. As expected, the bus is full of chefs and media pros and I can’t help but feel a little out of place. But when Sally from Taste Trekkers jumps on the bus she immediately looks for me and provides a friendly welcome and a chat. The bus is only half full so everyone seems content to have a seat to themselves. It might be anti-social, but I’m glad I can just sit and watch the scenery roll passed.
I’m writing this on my iPhone using Notes – the first time I’ve ‘written’ using my phone. I must say it means I get less weird looks than pulling out a pen and paper.
After a brief stop in Kilcoy, we move on to head up the range and the scenery opens up to rolling autumn coloured hills and farmland laced with grape vines.
It is a good three hours on the bus, but when we made it to Clovely Estate we were treated to a quick tour of the olive oil ‘refinery’ – I use the term loosely since there is very little processing or refining in the olive oil process.
The harvested olives are pressed, left to settle and then bottled almost immediately – there are more steps to the process, but basically olive oil has very little process to it’s creation.
The olive oil we use in our kitchens (at least the producers who play be the rules) does not have any preservatives or additions to it’s silky yellow shine. In fact it comes out quite cloudy on first press, it’s not until the sediment settles naturally that the clear light oil we use every day becomes like those bought on supermarket shelves.
Although, experts tell us that not all olive oil is good and large quantity of those that make it to supermarket shelves are not as advertised – mostly international products that are blended oils or promote themselves as extra virgin olive oil when they’re not.We’re also told not to be fooled by the idea of ‘light’ olive oil, ‘light’ simply means it’s a light colour, not that it’s low fat – commonly associated with food products in today’s weight-conscious society.
The rest of the afternoon we were treated to lunch, cooked on the open fire by Michael from Fino Foods and supplied with delicious wine by Clovely Estate. I wasn’t expecting a lot of a Queensland wine producer, we are relatively new to the wine making business, but I am pleasantly surprised by the quality and have since visited their cellar door in Red Hill to purchase a few bottles. Highly recommended if you get the chance.
Some facts about olives and olive oil:
- All olives are green.
- They’re picked at 10% colour change.
- Extra virgin olive oil is 100% olives and extracted naturally, there’s no salt or preservatives added and has less than 0.8% fatty acids.
- Olive oil should be stored in a cool dark location and in small containers – it has a short shelf life.
- Olive oil is settled, but not filtered.
- The leaves of the olive trees also contain oil, but it’s not a high quality.
- While olive trees will technically ‘grow anywhere’ they will not always bare fruit. The trees must be pruned and grown in the right way to produce a good olive.
Want to know more about oil? The ABC has a great article that breaks it down for you.
View more of my photos from the field trip on my Flickr page.
Well, it wasn’t so much an adventure as me being at the Gold Coast for a work conference on a Thursday and Friday. Considering it was the weekend I asked my man if he wanted to meet me down there on Friday afternoon and we’d make a weekend of it.
Our weekend turned out to be of eating and relaxation – exactly what we were looking for. 🙂
Great places to eat while on the Gold Coast:
- Onyx Restaurant
- The Red Frog Cafe – awesome breakfast, we tried to go back but they get super busy; for a good reason.
- We Love Alfresco – this place is run by friends of my Maltese grandparents. We grew up always going out to eat at their restaurant – I just knew it has Tony and SIlvana’s place! If you really want authentic Italian food, here’s the place. It’s also cheap, just like real Italian food should be. They’re full of personality and when the bill arrived it came with a side of two shots of Kahlua, they look after their guests! Even if said guest had already had wine and a lemon-cello.
- The Pantry – another great breakfast place!