Thursday, April 29, 2010

come with me to australia

The next morning, the “coach” let us off at the Willunga Farmers Market right in front of Fino, the restaurant where we'd eaten the night before. And who do you think the first person was that we saw? Sharon, our new best friend , who owned the restaurant. She poked her head out of the Fino window to greet us as she steamed milk and made cappuccino and café latte for the locals. By now, we were locals!

I tried to rally the troops to walk together around the market but off they went on their own. This always seems to happen at every market no matter where we are, - Strada in Chianti or Isles sur la Sorgue. Within minutes, they were back by my side. They’d “done” the market and were ready for another wine tasting (can you believe it?) and lunch.

Coriole is not to be missed. This charming, quaint, little hillside vineyard was bustling. My Ozzie friend, Warren, met us at the door and took us to a big, long table he'd set looking out at the vineyards. “Sit down,” he said! We spent the afternoon tasting their Woodside cheeses, pungent, peppery olive oil and lightly oaked wines, and sharing big platters of food including smoked kangaroo. Was this the closest we were going to get to kangaroo they all wondered as they pushed it around on their plates?

Then back to The Retreat, which meant a rest for some of us and a walk for others. Keith, Louise, Rebecca, Craig and I walked up on the very top of the hill in the vineyards. And suddenly out from behind a vine hopped a huge kangaroo. There were lots of screeches and camera's snapping. There you have it… Our first real kangaroo sighting, at last! And then a little later, we saw a mother kangaroo and a baby joey in the vineyards just a few yards away. Yup, we’re in Australia!

I guess you could say I took the night off as Rebecca Stubbs taught a hands-on cooking class at The Retreat. 'Calm' is probably not a word often associated with chefs at work in a hot, busy kitchen, but this is how I would describe Rebecca. It was a very fun night and the food was really good! I think the best part was watching all the men in class who joined together as a team to master panna cotta and Florentine cookies.

The next day was a rainy Sunday. We packed the “coach” and said our goodbyes to Chapel Hill Gourmet Retreat in McLaren Vale and headed 2 hours north to the Barossa Valley. One rule I always seem to forget when I’m taking groups around is to make sure I know where the next bathroom stop is. Everyone was antsy so when we finally reached our destination, everyone made a mad dash in search of a bathroom. John Angus, our host for the afternoon, pointed in the direction of an outhouse. Startled is the word I’d use! Men ran for the nearest tree as the women stood in line and did what looked like the cha-cha as they waited in line for their turn. They were relieved (lol) when they finally got inside the outhouse to see that there was actually a flush toilet.

I hadn’t told them a thing about Hutton Vale except that John and Jan Angus were our hosts for the day and that we’d have lunch and a wine tasting with them.

I can’t remember who, maybe Craig, walked up to me and said, “What are we doing here? I don't get this place.”

I could see his point. We were standing in the midst of a paddock surrounded by a thousand sheep looking at an old mid-19th century barn about to fall.

“Are you sure we’re in the right spot?” he asked.

“Go inside! Trust me!” I said.

It was just as rustic on the inside as it was on the outside but with flair and refinement. The aroma of the bread baked in clay and the flatbread was intoxicating as they were being taken from the wood-fired oven. An old wooden chopping block dominated the center of the kitchen and a whole side of Tasmanian smoked salmon and house made pâté played centerpiece. We washed everything down with John’s fresh, crisp Riesling. And that was just the beginning. A little later, we sat down to a typical Ozzie Sunday lunch of their own Hutton Vale roast baby lamb and some fabulous lush and jammy Shiraz. We finished with a tasting of some of John and Jan's older vintages from their cellar and lots of stories and laughs.

With a good buzz and full bellies, we headed out late that afternoon towards The Louise, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, and our home for the remainder of the trip. Everyone conferred; Hutton Vale was the unanimous favorite!

In the lap of luxury at The Louise, I gave everyone, including myself, the “night off” to get some rest and be ready for our last full day together.

See you in the morning!

No comments: