Tasmania, Day One.
I'm not quite sure how to start this post, there's so much I want to tell you. About this trip, this land I visited and all I saw. Heidi Apples, visiting the Apple Isle for the very first time. It was so perfect and without a hint of cheesiness the previous sentence may imply. Though I did eat a lot of cheese over the course of my visit... I suppose I'll start at the beginning.
When asked if I wanted to pack my bags, head to Tasmania and document my finds along the North-West region, I quite literally jumped at the opportunity. Four days winding through the countryside, visiting producers and finding "hidden gems" as the generous brief encouraged. Oh, yes, I could manage that.
My mum joined me on this jaunt. As well as being one of my most favourite people, she has excellent taste in the realm of food and hidden gems. And so early one late September Thursday morning, we boarded a flight to Launceston.
My first vision of Tasmania was green. Green like I had not encountered since touring the English countryside with mum in 2003. Tasmania feels like a slice of Europe in that sense, and I intend that in the most complimentary way. It is stunning. As much as I appreciate my home state, Victoria, Tasmania really excels at the whole "rolling pastures" thing. I adore green, it's my favourite colour, and I found myself entranced by the intense shades all around me. And not just green, but browns and oranges and reds. From the soil to the hills, the contours and mounds, all of it was so lush, so fertile, so breathtakingly beautiful.
I had hired a car as my way to get around and I found this to be a very easy, efficient and cost effective mode of transportation. I cannot really imagine doing it another way and being able to gain such excellent access to all of Tassie's corners.
Elizabeth Town Antiques
Our first stop for the day was Elizabeth Town, where we stumbled upon an antique shop and small history museum. Always a sucker for antiques, mum and I snagged a few gems (including an old jug) and debated our ability to take a vintage 30kg pudding/crayfish boiler home on the plane. We left without the boiler. This store, casually known as "Elizabeth Town Collectables", is located on the Bass Highway, very near Ashgrove Cheese. If you like antiques and a bit of history, it is definitely worth a visit.
Our bellies hungry for a bite, we scooted to Ashgrove Cheese, where I met with Richard Bennett and learnt about the history of the company and how they make their fabulous cheese. As well as observing how the dairy goods are made, we got to taste our fair share of cheese (there are lots of yummy samples for hungry visitors). We also tried their cultured butter (oh my), so naturally we had a great time at this friendly spot.
Ashgrove Cheese is a family run business. They have three dairy farms surrounding the cheese factory, where they create their award winning cheese. Ashgrove Chesse also make milk, cream (100% cream with no thickeners!) and hand-cut butter. My family was familiar with Ashgrove as we buy their butter back home, and adore it, but visiting the factory and sampling some of their other bites was a real treat. Ashgrove Cheese produce really delicious goods. Their cheese is honest, rennet-free and crafted from the very best, local ingredients. When you start with well nurtured produce, you get a stellar product. It really is that simple.
Ashgrove are particularly famous for their cloth matured cheddar (photographed above), but I was personally taken with their wild wasabi and lavender varieties, which are crafted using local plants. Normally I'm not one for flavoured cheese, but these were delicious with just the right hint of true wasabi and lavender flavour. I bought 4 packets to take home...You can find Ashgrove Cheese goods outside of Tasmania or you can order online.
For the drive I bought an iced-coffee made using their beautiful, creamy milk. You know when you have a milkshake craving and nothing else will do? That. It totally hit the spot.
For cheese lovers, I was also informed that Meander Valley Dairy is another great place to visit. Alas, we were off in another direction...
41 Degrees South Salmon and Ginseng Farm
Upon encouragement from a lovely lady in Elizabeth Town, we left our cheese-fest and meandered off the highway towards 41 Degrees South Salmon and Ginseng Farm for tastes of the most incredible hot smoked salmon and zesty salmon rillets.
This sustainable salmon farm is an ace place to visit. You can try their goods and take a tour around the property for a small fee. You can also try to avoid leaving with 100 packets of salmon (go on, try). But if you do fall short it's ok, you can find 41 South's delicious salmon in delis and cafes all around the region (and in some locations outside of Tasmania, too).
For lunch, mum and I took our hot pack of hot smoked salmon and Ashgrove Cheese goodies and had a delightful little picnic.
While dining we contemplated our next move. Though watching two ladies tuck into scoops of honey ice-cream from the nearby honey factory did not really leave us with much choice...
R. Stephens Honey
First on our honey agenda was the R. Stephens honey factory at Mole Creek, where we sampled sweet spoonfuls of their famous leatherwood honey. Leatherwood honey is a glorious product, unique to the region and boasting a very distinct flavour. This factory is completely unpretentious, with a strong sense of history. The company clearly has a real passion for honey, their website contains a whole document filled with honey recipes! Mum and I bought some creamed leatherwood honey for my dad then buzzed away (sorry) for some more honey goodness...
The Honey Farm
At The Honey Farm in Chudleigh you can try a large array of spiked honey, from orange to ginger to red chili. Their gift shop is well stocked for all your honey gifting needs but I preferred to bypass the hand creams, heading straight for the ice-cream counter. My scoop of Leatherwood honey ice-cream had a lovely balance of creaminess and sweetness, and was wonderfully full of that strong leatherwood flavour. It was a little golden mound of joy.
Our sweet scoops left us with energy to expend, so we headed to the rainforest for a little nature walk...
I feel most happy when I'm in the woods on a hike. And having heard great things about the beauty of Tasmania and the potential for nature walks, I was terribly excited to plan a few good hikes for mum and I to complete as a bit of respite from all the food touring. Liffey Falls, a simple and pretty 40 minute walk amongst the ferns, satisfied my nature needs on day one. Just take a look for yourself...
After our walk we headed to Glencoe Rural Retreat in Barrington, our home for the evening. And what a home...
Glencoe Rural Retreat
Upon arriving at Glencoe we were greeted by Ginette, the lady of the house. Ginette is very warm and welcoming, and her property and house are just beautiful. Remi, Ginette's husband, was at their Hobart restaurant so we did not get to meet him, but we had some lovely talks with Ginette about their house and family, good food and cooking, gardening, travel, of course. Glencoe is the type of place you hope and wish to have when booking a country getaway. It's indulgent yet homely, spacious yet cozy...there's nature and comfort and delicious French country-style food. Oh, did we eat some delicious food. But first, a look at the grounds, complete with chickens and Ginette's vast vegetable garden, with Mount Roland in the background.
Mum and I had dinner by the fireplace. In the Summer months Glencoe is busier, with a cafe and more visitors taking advantage of the fabulous cooking on offer. But tonight, we had the place to ourselves. A glass of red wine and a gorgeous three course meal was glorious after a day of travel. The meal was fantastic, with local produce and skilled hands working together to create some of the best food of our entire trip. First was a lovely onion and goats cheese tart with garden greens. This was followed by a dish of twice cooked lamb (one method being sous vide) that was just melting, served on a bed of mashed potatoes with broccolini and jus. For dessert we were given a honey and spiced poached pear with a rich chocolate sauce, pistachio crumble and homemade vanilla bean ice-cream. It was all just fabulous. I'm still dreaming of that lamb and pear... Needless to say we slept very well that night.
In the morning, after waking with the sun and enjoying a spot of reading on the sill, we had our breakfast.
Ginette served homemade croissants with her own preserved fruits, as well as fresh bread and cereals, yoghurt, juice and coffee. What a gorgeous spread it was. I'm a true croissant snob, after being spoilt with such brilliant bites in Paris and the USA. I just cannot find croissants at home I adore equally (though perhaps some more research is required...but that's another post). Ginette's croissants were truly wonderful. I could have cried. But I didn't, that would have be awkward. I just love croissants so much...
Alongside our fresh croissants were an array of homemade jams, including a blood orange beauty. Now when I say the words "orange" and "jam", you may believe me to be speaking of marmalade, however this spread was quite sweet and so I'm taking the liberty of calling it a jam - if for no other reason than to lure in those who may run at the mention of the word "marmalade". Don't be afraid, this preserve is most certainly not bitter. Though be sure to use the best quality blood oranges you can find. Here, delicious chunks of rind marry wonderfully with a complex jelly.
Mum and I fell hard for this jam and bought eight jars between us to take home. Eight. Ginette accepted our love and praise for her recipe and, as she is so very lovely, has allowed me to share it with you today.
Marmalade d Oranges Sanguines (Blood Orange Jam)
Recipe by Ginette and Remi Bancal
5kg of blood oranges
5 kg of sugar
1g of saffron
4 aniseed stars
1. Cover the oranges with water and cook til a knife can go through.
2. Strain and let them cool down, then chop them into chunky quarters.
3. Cook the oranges in the sugar and aniseed till translucent. Add the saffron to the pot 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
4. Bottled when still hot.
Thank you, Ginette and Remi. I've been enjoying spoonfuls of your jam with tart Greek yoghurt, dolloped on top of crêpes and French toast. As the label on your preserves so eloquently states, it is all about "Harmonie. Simple pleasures, perfectly balanced. The French recipe for living well." Indeed.
We had a marvellous first day in Tasmania, ending superbly at Glencoe Rural Retreat. I truly did not want to leave Ginette, her beautifully sprawling and bumble-bee decorated vegetable garden or her haughty rooster the following morning. But Cradle Mountain was calling...
Stay tuned for Tasmania, Day Two.
* Disclaimer: although I traveled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania, my opinions and recommendations are most sincerely my own.