culinary capers

We had an inkling, when we were planning our trip, that after a day in Rome seeing the sights and battling the throngs we would be ready to escape to the countryside. Consequently, we signed up for a cooking class and did just that. There were only four participants, the others were a lovely young couple from Melbourne, Ash and Mel. We were picked up at 8.30am by multi-talented driver and sous-chef, Roy, and enjoyed a very comfortable 45 minute ride to the medieval village of Mazzano Romano. There, we met our chef, Elisa, who guided us through the process of purchasing our ingredients. Firstly, to the macelleria where vegetarian Mel opted to wait outside.

Next was the green grocers, bursting with colourful, fresh produce.

The last stop was for cheeses and smallgoods, so much choice in one small shop.

12.shop

Sharing the load, we made our way along narrow cobbled streets, climbing higher into the village.

16.Mazzano Romano17.Mazzano Romano

Arriving at the apartment, built around 1300 AD, we wandered around in awe at the beautiful interior and breathtaking views.

29.neighbours

The kitchen awaited us, ready to create our culinary masterpieces

and the essential ingredient was poured.

34.pre-cooking

Michael’s first attempt at tossing salt in a pan was somewhat overzealous but with a little more tuition, he soon mastered the art.

We were shown some handy tips when it came to preparing vegetables, including an easy way to prevent eyes from streaming when chopping onions. Take a mouthful of water and hold it in your mouth while cutting the onion – no tears. I have it on good authority that it also works with a mouthful of beer! Michael was assigned the task of making the dark chocolate lava cake, I’m not sure how Elisa knew he would embrace the challenge with such gusto.

Meanwhile, Elisa shared her grandmother’s recipe for pizza dough using flour and sparkling water. Served with three different toppings – potato & rosemary, red onion and tomatoes with mozzarella – they were deliciously crisp.

Elisa had a great sense of humour and Michael didn’t mind being the fall guy. Presented with a pot of cooked tomatoes, he was asked to separate the skins and seeds and was much relieved to discover Elisa had a handy gizmo to do the job.

We learned how to make three kinds of pasta,

shaping the gnocchi on garganelli boards required a certain technique.

Rolling the pasta through the machine was more than a one person job.

We quickly produced enough pasta to cook

53.ravioli, fettucine & gnocchi

and Elisa impressed us with her presentation of the ricotta & spinach ravioli,

fettucine with tomato based sauce

57.fettucine

and gnocchi with pesto sauce.

58.gnocchi

We had prepared a salad to accompany the veal saltimbocca, savouring all courses with the obligatory bottle of vino.

We had just enough room for the exquisite chocolate lava cake, prepared with enthusiasm and cooked to perfection.

The time had come to wend our way to the car for a much quieter trip back to Rome. I hadn’t noticed this gorgeous little pink house on the way in, I wonder how many centuries it has guarded the village.

63.pink house

The Gorge

We recently crossed another item off the bucket list with a wonderful lunch at The Gorge Restaurant in Launceston. Located in the Cliff Grounds at Cataract Gorge, the building was constructed in 1896 as a tearooms, replacing the white refreshments tent that previously served picnickers.

1.The Gorge Restaurant

In the early 1970s, the Gorge Restaurant opened, being the first licensed alfresco dining area in Australia.

2.The Gorge Restaurant

The Victorian style gardens were showing signs of spring.

2a.Cherry blossom

We opted to dine inside, the relaxing ambience was most welcoming.

3.The Gorge Restaurant4.The Gorge Restaurant

Our window seat afforded lovely views over the garden and tree tops.

5.the view6.rhododendrons7.the view

We settled in with a refreshing Clover Hill sparkling rosé from the Tamar Valley

8.Clover Hill Non Vintage Rosè

while nature provided the entertainment.

9.sparrow

The extensive wine list was narrowed down to a Frogmore Creek 2016 Riesling, sustainably grown in the Coal River Valley. It proved to be the perfect choice.

The friendly waiter was very patient while we decided on our meals, there was so much to choose from. We were very happy with the Crispy Spiced Quail, red cabbage & gin slaw, cauliflower puree and maple bacon,

12.Crispy Spiced Quail

Braised Beef Cheek, Paris mash, thyme roasted baby carrots & lager jus

13.Braised Beef Cheek

and Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari, chilli & lime rice vermicelli, coriander & rocket.

14.Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari

We savoured the wine while the chairlift glided past the window, sometimes with a passenger, sometimes uninhabited, before ordering dessert.

15.chairlift

My Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie, candied pecans, ginger crumb & spiced cream had to be seen to be believed.

We shared tastings of the Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie, white chocolate parfait & raspberry coulis

19.Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie

and the Coconut Lime Tart with rhubarb & blue curacao sauce.

20.Coconut Lime Tart

We walked off some of our decadence returning to the car park, pausing on the suspension bridge to take in the stunning landscape.

21.Cataract Gorge upstream22.Cataract Gorge lower basin

It was difficult to focus on this magnificent cormorant enjoying the sunshine, the bridge was swaying not me.

23.cormorant

Central Market

There was one place I simply had to visit on a recent trip to Adelaide. My memories of the seemingly endless stalls of fresh produce, the tantalizing aromas and vibrant atmosphere had me yearning to return. Adelaide Central Market began in 1869 and until redevelopment in 1965 was known as City Market.

1.Central Market Photo courtesy of SA History Hub

Photo courtesy of SA History Hub

With the establishment of Chinatown in the 1980s came traditional Chinese archways guarded by lions, pagoda style roofs and lanterns decorating a street lined with Chinese restaurants and grocery stores.

Central Market has an interesting history but that’s another story. This is about food. Meeting my two accomplices at the southern paifang (Chinese archway), we embarked on our journey of discovery. Join us as we wend our way along each aisle to ensure we miss nothing.

10.fresh produce

The House of Health offers bulk wholefood from grains, lentils, beans, rice, flours, nuts, seeds and dried fruit to Chia, Cacao and Hemp Seeds.

For authentic Latvian and Baltic foods using traditional recipes, the Latvian Lunchroom has a quirky cosiness.

13.The Latvian Lunchroom

The wall opposite presents part of an exhibition entitled, ‘The Market Through Our Eyes’, by Little Picassos Art Studios. 400 artworks fill the walls throughout the market for four weeks, capturing the spirit of Adelaide Central Market through children’s eyes.

14.Little Picassos

A wide selection of nuts, dried fruits and confectionery waited at The Carousel Nut Bar

15.Carousel Nut Bar

and Michael’s fruit & veg…well, it speaks for itself.

Something Wild is Australia’s first indigenous native greens, native game and meat wholesaler.

They have collaborated with Adelaide Hills Distillery to produce the unique Green Ant Gin.

20a.Green Ant Gin

The Green Ants are known for their medicinal benefits and protein content among indigenous societies and are harvested in the Northern Territory by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people. We enquired as to the flavor of the ants and were presented with a sample to taste. The intense citrusy lime flavor was quite unique and not unpleasant, ants are something I had never contemplated eating.

21.green ants

The Olive Tree Food & Wine is the cellar door of the market, stocking South Australian wines, olives, marinated antipasto and extra virgin olive oil.

22.The Olive Tree Food & Wine

The Elephant in the Room couldn’t be ignored. The wines are sourced from the cool climate vineyards of the Limestone Coast region in south eastern South Australia, they are now on my shopping list.

23.Elephant in the Room

We were all smiles at Say Cheese, lingering a while to sample some of their local and imported cheeses.

The range of breads next door at Dough were boggling, I don’t know how we resisted the mouthwatering patisserie delicacies.

Even the simple egg looked enticing at the Happy Little Clucker.

Our cheese adoration came to the fore at The Smelly Cheese Shop,

the creamy Maison de la Truffe won my heart and my tastebuds. The Brie de Meaux style cheese is layered with fresh truffle pieces and tastes like heaven. I hope I can find it here in Tasmania.

38.The Smelly Cheese Shop

Jamface by Poh (some may remember Poh’s Kitchen on the TV) is an eclectic structure of reclaimed timber and mismatched windows. A popular stop for coffee or lunch in a relaxed atmosphere.

There was a huge variety to choose from at The Mettwurst Shop, all naturally smoked, nothing artificial and you can try before you buy.

We could have stayed at the market for hours, something new to discover at each stall.

Unfortunately, my baggage allowance and border control prevented me from purchasing goodies but I did get a little something from The Mushroom Man. After tasting mushrooms cooked in butter and tossed in Truffle and Black Garlic Salt, I couldn’t resist.

52.Truffle & Black Garlic Salt

I will return to Central Market one day, soon I hope.

monochrome Melbourne

In 1973, Paul Simon released the song, ‘Kodachrome’ and I distinctly remember his notion that “…everything looks worse in black and white.” I decided to put this to the test on a recent trip to Melbourne. I have always found something fascinatingly enigmatic about monochrome photographs, perhaps it’s the invitation to look closer to discern images less obvious. The London plane tree below our apartment window does seem to lack something without the verdancy,

1.London plane tree

and the food looks a little less enticing.

2.ale & pork crackle

We wandered along Southbank, the late afternoon sunlight glinting off the water. The bar on Ponyfish Island seems to be perpetually crowded.

3.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge & Ponyfish Island4.Ponyfish Island5.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

It was a perfect evening to be out on the Yarra

6.rowers

or to sit with a beverage and just observe.

7.wine

Friends, lovers and loners were enjoying the ambience,

as the sinking sun danced on the leaves of the plane trees.

The next morning, we crossed the pedestrian bridge

13.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

pausing halfway to capture the view upstream.

14.Yarra River, Princes Bridge

The buildings are just as impressive without colour

15.Eureka Tower16.Melbourne skyline

and the reflections mesmerising

17.Southbank18.Southbank19.Southbank

as we strolled along Flinders Walk.

20.Flinders Walk

We passed Sandridge Bridge, The Travellers sculptures telling stories of past immigrants to Australia.

23.rowers24.Sandridge Bridge & skyline

Someone had kindly left birdseed for our feathered friends.

25.birds

The rowers were being pursued by a lone gull – or so it seemed.

26.rowers

I wonder if this cormorant could smell the fish at the Sea Life Aquarium across the river. He looks like a statue against the abstract motion of the water.

28.cormorant27.Sealife

Not far past Seafarers Bridge

29.Seafarers Bridge

we reached our destination – DFO, South Wharf.

30. DFO South Wharf

Interestingly, when Paul Simon recorded his concerts in Central Park in 1982 and 1991, he changed the lyrics to “…everything looks better in black and white.” You can decide for yourself.

Arimia

We had worked up an appetite with a morning walk along the spectacular Meelup Trail and lunch at Arimia had come highly recommended. Australia’s most westerly commercial vineyard, the unusual name is a blending of the owner’s daughters, Ariann and Mia. The cellar door and restaurant were airy and welcoming.

1.cellar door & restaurant2.restaurant3.restaurant

We chose a table on the sunny deck

4.alfresco

amid the relaxing atmosphere of the peaceful bushland setting.

5.garden

Accompanied by winery dog, Bess,

6.Bess

we took a pre prandial stroll around the immaculate grounds.

7.garden8.garden9.veggie patch10.garden11.garden12.garden13.alfresco

We enjoyed our delicious meals and superb wine

14.meal

under the watchful eye of Bess.

15.Bess

A perfect way to end our wonderful Margaret River experience before travelling back to Perth, a back seat snooze inevitable.