27 January 2014


Happy New Year!  I thought I'd start out this year with a guided tour of some of the fabulous food and producers that we came across on our trip around Tasmania this summer.

To get us started, the photo above was taken at the Launceston Harvest market, our first stop after arriving in Tasmania.  I've never seen zucchini flowers presented in such generous quantities before, but it was a beautiful sign of the abundance to come on our trip.
The market was one of the best I've ever been to, I'd almost move to Launceston on the strength of it!  One of its advantages is that it's on every Saturday morning, so there was a strong feeling of community there.  Some of the highlights were:
  • Mt Gnomon Farm pork and beef
  • 41 degrees South Salmon Rillettes (we subsequently hunted for these all over Tasmania and devoured them whenever we could get our hands on some!)
  • Elgaar Farm milk and cheese
  • fresh fish; great sourdough bread and chocolate brioche; garlic; new pink-eye potatoes; our first (of many, many kilos!) cherries and raspberries; and beautiful fresh, colourful vegetables.

On the Freycinet Peninsula we had lobster and abalone from the Freycinet Marine Farm; and good wine from Milton Vineyard  (particularly the Pinot Noir and Pinot Rose) and Springvale (Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris).

The Taste of Tasmania was in full swing when we got to Hobart and is the perfect way to spend a day... or I could imagine getting completely lost in it for a week.  So many fabulous producers, who must have been utterly exhausted by the end of it because it was so busy!  Some highlights (among many!) were Clover Hill Sparkling, Mt Gnomon Farm's pulled pork tacos, an amazing seafood platter, Thorpe Farm cheeses, possum confit (yes, possum!), many raspberry desserts, and the start of our love affair with Tasmanian ciders.  I've never been a fan of cider, but Tasmanian ciders actually taste how I've always thought ciders should taste, but never do.  They are fresh and crisp and full of flavour.  At this time of year they sometimes come with added cherry juice and that just makes them even better.  Conveniently (and appropriately) my three favourites come from the Huon Valley, so we had good access to them during our stay ;)  Willie Smiths is without doubt my favourite, and has recently renovated the Apple Shed Museum just outside of Huonville including what looks like a great cafe and bar.  Their range at the Taste included a small-batch double fermented cider which was great.  My other favourites were Pagan Cider from Cygnet (particularly their Apple and Cherry Cider) and Frank's from Franklin.

And speaking of booze, we also called into a couple of the places on the newly established Whisky Trail during our travels.  Much investment is being made in Tasmania by companies distilling their own unique whiskies.  We visited Redlands Estate, an historic farm estate that is developing whisky as one of the keys for future sustainability of the farm; and Hellyers Road, quite a different venture in an industrial area of Burnie but producing a range of apparently (I have to take the word of others, I'm no connoisseur) high quality whiskies (and an apple vodka, which I can appreciate!).

Back in the Huon Valley, the other highlights were the cherries and raspberries.  Both were in the prime of their short seasons when we arrived and we ate literally kilos and kilos of both, going back to the farmgate stalls day after day for more.  The raspberries at the Green Shed were the best I have ever tasted.  And at $15/kilo also the cheapest I think I've ever bought.  In order to preserve some of their amazing flavour for the future I decided to make a couple of batches of jam, so asked the farmer if they had any seconds that I could use as they seemed too perfect for jam.  "They are our seconds" she responded.  I can only imagine how good the firsts would be!!  We then discussed recipes and she recommended Matt Preston's.  I took her advice and although I found the recipe a little unclear the result was brilliant.

In between Christmas and New Year we had escaped to Bruny Island for a few days.  I predict (wish/hope!!) that one day this blog will change its name to City Garden Country Garden Island Garden.  I am so completely in love with Bruny Island.  I've visited briefly a small part of it in the past and stayed in its beautiful sheltered bays when sailing, but this time we stayed on the Island in a beautiful sustainable cottage (complete with composting toilet and wood-fired hot water service - my permaculture friends would be so impressed!!) and had time to fully explore Bruny.  The island is always completely connected for me with Bruny Island Cheese.  I know I've raved about my love for their Tom cheese before, and going to their cheesery to try a range of cheeses and fresh sourdough cooked in a wood-fired oven is my idea of heaven.  Tom is still my favourite, followed closely by C2, the only raw-milk cheese produced commercially in Australia I understand.  Almost next door is Get Shucked, a new outlet for an established oyster farm.  I can't eat them, but M reliably informed me that they were bloody good.
The view toward Cape Bruny Lighthouse
The view from our cottage after a wild stormy night
In the New Year we headed up to the north-west of Tasmania to explore a region that we hadn't been to before.  We spent time in the Tarkine Wilderness, which is an area of huge environmental significance and includes one of the largest temperate rainforest areas in the world with remnant huon pines and other massive trees that are hundreds of years old.  It is staggeringly beautiful and wild, but also being devastated by past and current logging and mining and in serious future peril with approvals and plans in place for many more mines and ongoing logging.  At its southern boundary is the remains of an old gold-mining town called Corinna, which has been converted into lovely accommodation.  We included this area of Tasmania on our itinerary because we'd heard about Corinna and wanted to stay there.  Ironically in what is one of the most remote places on the island, we discovered that the chef in the restaurant there is from Scotland and had previously worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant.  We expected basic, frozen/deep-fried food at best.  We got delicious, fresh local cuisine, even including local non-homogenised milk in a glass bottle in our room, when it would have been so easy for long-life plastic milk to be supplied.  It was a wonderful place to stay.  But acknowledging that we could stay in this amazing place only because of the history of mining and logging undertaken there is a difficult and uncomfortable admission.  In truth we shouldn't have been there at all, no-one should.  I can say that at least we now have a deeper understanding of the dangerous potential for total devastation of this unique place, but I'm not sure that really stacks up. 
The Pieman River in the Tarkine

Before heading home we had a few more days in the Huon Valley with time for sailing on the Huon River, a bit of foraging and a special treat.  We anchored up in a little sheltered bay near Cygnet for lunch and threw two handlines in.  Literally before my bait had reached the bottom I had a large flathead on the line!  In fact it was so quick that I hadn't had time to think about what to do if I caught something or even get a bucket ready.  So I faffed around for a bit, yelling for back-up, and in the process the fish wriggled free.  But shortly afterwards M caught his first-ever fish, another flathead.  After lunch the wind got up and we decided it was time to sail on, so we didn't manage to catch enough  for dinner, but it was great to have some success.  Walking along the riverbank later I noticed that there was some samphire, so after googling it to make sure it really was samphire (and googling "are there any poisonous plants that look like samphire?"!) I decided it was safe to pick some that we had as a garnish for dinner.  It's very salty when raw so I blanched it for a minute to reduce the saltiness.  It's known as sea-asparagus and has a similar but crispy (and saltier!) taste to asparagus.  Great in small quantities and apparently very healthy.
And finally (well done if you're still with me after such a long post!) before leaving the Huon Valley I was determined to try the famous sushi from Masaaki at Geeveston.  It has such a great reputation but has never been open when I've been there before.  This time we were lucky, with it reopening just before we left.  So I arrived on their doorstep at 6pm, only to be greeted by Masaaki himself who regretted to tell us that he had sold out for the day but would be open the next day.  Could we come for dinner the next night I asked?  No sorry he would be sold out before dinner again.  Could I order some for lunch then?  Yes that would be fine, so we put in a big order, and arrived at 1pm to pick it up.  Our order was there, but anyone else would be disappointed, after opening at 11am, he was sold out by 1pm!  Now we were really intrigued, what was so good about this sushi?  And then we opened the wrapping.  It was a selection (his choice of whatever was the freshest that day) of the most beautiful, delicate and utterly delicious sushi I have ever seen or eaten.  

Masaaki is a great example of the many people that we discover each time we travel to Tasmania who are working hard and creatively toward a sustainable future for the island, and who all contribute to its uniqueness and sense of abundance.

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