A month or two ago, I got a call from a girl called Debbie, who works on behalf of Tourism Tasmania ~ in particular for their Go behind the Scenes campaign. Debbie asked me if I would like to spend a few days in Tasmania, touring around and experiencing the best of what Hobart and its surrounds has to offer? Let's just say, I totally jumped at the chance as A: I adore travelling for work and B: having never been to Tassie in all my nearly nine years in Aus ~ it’s a place I have always longed to visit. Even though it's always been so close, we never visit the places on our doorstep do we? I lived in Melbourne for 4 years and never did the Great Ocean Road trip... nor have I managed to get round to my much longed-for trip to Uluru and the red centre *shakes head in disbelief*...(!)
The plan in mind was for me to be paired with an Tassie-based blogger who would work with Debbie and Tourism Tasmania, to put together a cool three-day food and drink tour for me, covering three different areas of Tassie in and around Hobart, and visit the people and experiences on offer to visitors to these beautiful parts of Australia. To give me a first hand tour from a 'local in the know' so-to-speak. It all sounded really fun and interesting and I felt chuffed and blessed to be given such a unique experience :)
This local blogger turned out to be the gorgeous Michelle Crawford, writer of the beautiful Tassie blog; Hugo and Elsa. I had read Michelle’s blog from time to time and was aware of her styling skills via various people we mutually know in the photo and food industry, but I had never actually met her in person. So was instantly excited to find out Michelle was to be my guide. BTW ~ wait until you see her house, which I will feature in pics on my 'Day 3' post which will upload next week, I was gob-smacked walking around it and experienced massive house-envy...
Ergo, flights were booked, accommodation sorted by Debbie and I flew out of Sydney at 6pm Tuesday evening, landing in Hobart at 8pm ~ an easy-peasy 2 hour flight which was smooth sailing and really enjoyable. After a quick 20 minute taxi ride from the airport, I arrived in Hobart at the beautiful Henry Jones Art Hotel where I was fantastically upgraded to a suite. Woohoo! Happy days! :)
After off-loading my gear in the room, I heading down to the bar and had a really nice chat with a very cool, hipster-y looking barman who was really accommodating and friendly ~ the same as the blokes were at the check-in desk ~ efficient and friendly. Really attentive but not overly in-your-face and sickly-nice as some hotel staff of this calibre can be at times.
My hotel for the first night of my stay ~ the luxurious Henry James Art Hotel.
After a great night’s sleep and following breakfast on the Wed morning at the Henry Jones, I packed up my gear and headed down to the lobby to meet up with Michelle, who was super warm and friendly and I knew straight away we’d hit it off like a house on fire for our little 3 day adventure.
Kicking things off, we met Mary McNeill who runs a superb little tour company in Hobart called Gourmania Food Tours at a cafe/restaurant called Smolt, which is owned by Kif Weber, Scott McMurray and Scott Heffernan ~ (these guys are going to be opening Frank next month on Franklin Wharf in Hobart). We had a great chat over a coffee and Mary gave me a bit of history of her family and how she came to running the Gourmania Tours.
As we chatted it came to light I really knew very little of Tassie as we discovered I thought (somewhat mortifyingly!) Hobart was up the top end of Tassie ~ where Launceston actually is (the latter which I thought was down the bottom)… *duh!*. Mary kindly whipped out a massive fold out map from her bag and gave me a little one-on-one about the geography of Tasmania and showed me that I was a little more east and just a ‘tad’ more south than I actually thought I was. Mary outlined some of the places we would be visiting on her tour and she told me to hold off having any brekkie as first-up on our itinerary was a stop at a cheese shop (at 9.30am ~ cheese for brekkie = fantastic!) followed by, wait for it… a whiskey tasting session at 10am… Jeepers! A first even for me as a good, whiskey loving Irish woman, but what a fantastic first! Tassie, I thought, I think I am starting to like you a lot :)
Shop manager Tori Keygan ~ a super lovely Welsh girl who was really accommodating and offered us loads of cheese samples.
At this really cute little cheese shop, slap-bang in a little quaint arcade area of the (gorgeous) Salamanca area of Hobart, the charming shop manager: Tori, talked myself, Mary and Michelle through all the cheeses on offer, all of which were really subtle in flavour and really very tasty. As a total cheese fanatic, it was great to sample such a wonderful, locally-produced range, my fave in particular was a washed-rind one, called OEN (from the word oenology). It is a true labour of love; a washed-rind, cow's milk cheese, washed in Pinot Noir before being wrapped in vine leaves to be carefully matured. The vine leaves protect the cheese and create a moist surface which encourages the flavour development. When mature, the OEN's rind becomes pungent and the texture becomes soft and fudgey. I am not a massive fan of washed-rind cheeses, opting more-so-than-not for harder cheddars, but this one was really quite fab and Michelle decided to buy a piece for us both to share that evening for our little cheese and meat picnic we accumulated over the day at our cosy accommodation in the hills about an hour south of Hobart.
After taking a few snaps and perusing all the gorgeous cookbooks which were laid out for people to view outside the cheese shop on a beautiful old tinder bench, it was a super quick 2 second walk to a little shop across the arcade to...
OK. This store was totally GORGEOUS... I adored it from the second I saw it through the windows standing outside. I joked "Oh God, Mary don't bring me in here ~ I'll want to buy utterly everything!". It was full of the most beautiful clothes and home-wares all crafted in stunningly beautiful natural linens and cottons and natural fibres. Most with a Japanese edge and influence ~ especially so with the clothes on offer. There were simple yet striking silver and gold jewellery; stuffed toys; purses; wallets; bags; children's clothes and gifts; cushions; throws; ceramics; and so much more. I felt like a child in a sweetshop but as I knew I was pushed for time and after taking some shots in the shop, I book-marked it for a definite return visit on the Saturday when I had a little more time to peruse the store in a more leisurely manner.
The Maker is owned by Leonie Struthers who makes her LJ Struthers label in her studio in the Salamanca Art Centre building upstairs. Leonie is the wife of Nick Haddow who owns the aforementioned Bruny Island Cheese store in the same Salamanca lane way.
Also stayed tuned for my Tassie Day 2 post next week, when I will be featuring more pics from a brilliant tour of Nick's cheese farm on Bruny Island.
So, materialistic gorgeousness ticked off the list, next we were off to... *hic*
Woohoo! It's always 12pm somewhere in the world right? So time for a Tassie Whisky tasting experience...
At Lark we met Bill Lark, who revolutionised distilling in Australia - I had no iota the whisky industry was so prevalent in Tassie. Bill had a wonderful set-up laid out for us on our arrival in his cosy tasting room. Complete with four different whiskeys to try, ranging from 43% to 58% proof (!) and a sumptuous cheese platter to accompany ~ and all at 10am in the morning, I thought "Hello ~ welcome to Tasmania and its great, chilled out attitude to all things food and drink". I thought it was brilliant and realised again, how fortunate I was to be able to experience all this town had to offer from a foodie perspective.
Bill Lark realised that that everything you need for a world-class whisky was in Tasmania - rich fields of barley, an abundance of wonderfully pure soft water, highland peat bogs, and the perfect climate to bring all the ingredients together in a marriage of science, art and passion. The vision of producing Tasmanian malt whisky was born on a trout fishing trip in the highlands of Tasmania. Bill's told us how is father in-law Max produced a wonderful bottle of single malt, and as they enjoyed a drink in the park at Bothwell, surrounded by Georgian buildings, barley fields and the gentle flowing of the Clyde River, Bill remarked to Max, "I wonder why there isn't anyone making malt whisky in Tasmania". Note ~ in Tassie they spell it minus the 'e' in the Scottish manner, the opposite as is done with Irish Whisk'e'y,
Lark Distillery is a family affair. Lyn and Kristy Lark (Bill's wife and daughter, respectively) have played an integral part in growing the business. When Kristy joined the team as head distiller, she was one of the world's youngest female distillers. Women are known for their ability to distinguish flavours better than men and this superior talent in both Lyn and Kristy has given Lark products a notable edge.
Today the Lark Distillery is one of Australia's leading distilleries, producing high quality, premium spirits using traditional time honored methods. The Distillery runs a 1800 litre copper pot still along with a 500 litre spirit still, and produces ten to twelve 100 litre barrels per month. The range of distilled products includes the flagship Single Malt Whisky, Premium Vodka, Gin, and and TASI aromatica bush Liqueur.
So with a fairly decent, and somewhat merry spring in our step, it was time for some sweet stuff to counteract the 60% booze, we were off to...
Pigeon Whole Bakery is run by owner/baker Jay Patey who was a really sweet and incredibly friendly and welcoming guy. Jay met with us at this new, spotless and very impressive bakery where he and his wife Emma are fast making a very distinctive name for themselves in the Hobart food scene. This brand new site open only a few weeks and they are famed for their sourdough apple doughnuts which were a delight to sample along with all the wonderful baked goodies Jay produced for us tree to try. (P.S. I LOVED their really cool logo and graphics).
So next up, a few more sweet delights at coffee house and lunch house...
... where you can experience amazing salads and healthy brunch/lunch options as well as some incredible rocky road dessert... housed in a gorgeous building and which featured an brilliant shop at the front selling some great books, homewares and gourmet goodies.
Ethos Eat Drink, is a restaurant which is attached to the back of Providore. I was blown away at the decor and feel to the place. The oldest part of the building was constructed around 1820 and served as the stable yard and carriageway of The Old Hobart Hotel. Originally intact is Tasmania's oldest plumbed toilet (that dates to 1900) and a hand sawed 1820's weatherboard wall. After the Old Hobart Hotel was demolished in 1830 a new building that now faces Elizabeth street was erected and served as Ash Chemist and Druggist. One of the most striking features to this restaurant was the really funky old vintage glass bottle chandeliers which I was really taken with.
Ethos Eat Drink do a 'surprise menu'. Offering set menus from Tue – Sat for dinner. Their dedicated team will take you through a progressive meal comprising and showcasing the best of the seasonal, small batch offerings that arrived at Ethos the same day. Upon arrival you will be given a simple list of ingredients. The only decision you need to make is whether you’d like six or eight courses and whether you’d like them to match wine to your courses or you may select from their wine/drinks list. They will do the rest.
Owners Iain Todd and Chloe Proud work with their team cooking, growing, picking, tasting, talking and learning so that their diners can access the produce and its provenance on a similar, informed and appreciative level. Ethos Eat Drink believe food tastes so much better when you know the lengths taken to get it to your plate.
They also offer a wine match featuring local, artisan and imported products. Sommelier Alice Chung artfully tastes each course and matches a wine to the flavours and textures. Go for the match and Alice will present you with a small pour of wine before each course as she lovingly explains the provenance of the bottle and the reason it pairs well with the dish.
After all that sweet stuff, we were off for a well-needed really good coffee so Mary dutifully walked us a few blocks over to ECRU where I met the really affable and incredibly enthusiastic owner Richard Schramm who also owns Villino a few steps away. Ecru is a tiny take-away coffee bar. Richard Schramm's passion for coffee was crazy evident as he talked to us with much gusto and enthusiasm about his coffee beans and attitude to great coffee.
Here we met Kelly Cloake, part owner with partner Aedan Howlett ~ Aedan is an artist (he can also brew beer and make whisky!). Aedan designed the label on the Seven Sheds beer we tasted ~ the Black Inca - made by Willie Simpson in Railton with organic oats and toasted quinoa from Kindred Organics as well as a good dose of Peruvian chocolate. I am not a massive fan of stout-style beer (blasphemy I know as an Irish woman) but I actually found this brew a little to my tastes as after sipping it and savouring the flavour I could detect an odd and pleasantly good cherry flavour. The Alabama hotel is s super funky, really trendy little hotel, beautifully decorated and fitted out in as kitsch and cool a manner as you can imagine. A real hidden gem in Hobart for visitors searching for a cheap, inviting, clean and friendly place to stay. Rooms are all decorated superbly with uber cool cushions and retro decor. Bathrooms are communal but are very clean and very well presented. The vibe is laid-back and funky and I know next time I visit Hobart, this will be my choice of accommodation. I can only imagine the fun to be had in the bar and adjoining balcony later on at night.
Finally, what do we need after all that cheese, whisky, pastries, rocky road, coffee and more coffee... yep, you guessed it... lunch...
Ok I'll be honest, I was fit to burst at this stage and resigned myself to the fact I might skip any more food seeing it was still before 1pm, however when we got to our final location of the tour, I found it hard not to change my mind and think "Bugger it, I'm only here once, lap it up and go all out, the diet can start next week..."
So this brings us to a place called Pilgrim, and ironically possibly my favourite foodie find of the day and of my entire trip...
... why? because of the really cool venue, amazing coffee, incredibly nice staff.. and the fact I ate alpaca. Yes, that's correct. Alpaca. Who would have thought...!?!
Seemingly some people won't eat alpaca as they think they are "fluffy and cute" but I say they are the same as sheep aka lamb, which I love and when slow roasted in Peruvian style spices for the 12 hours which Pilgrim do, they taste bloody amazing! Soft, tender, fall off the bone crazy good. All served with quinoa, beetroot puree and a sheep's milk feta cheese which was incredibly creamy and subtle.
This was the highlight dish of my trip. And at the weekend I went back for seconds for lunch (Pilgrim are not as yet open for dinner service but soon will be and will be extending their offerings to include beer and wine as of Oct 1st). I also tried their Tasmanian Mushrooms with Soft Polenta, Gremolata, Buckwheat, Hazelnut and Rye which was finished off with two Slow Eggs... sublime. And as an additional treat our waiter Matt presented us with a dish consisting of Honey Glazed Pear with touted Brioche, Walnuts and Seeds, which is loved and which made me walk away feeling really inspired. So in true WKA form, on my return to Sydney I worked up a recipe which was inspired by this dessert at Pilgrim, and which incorporates all/some the flavours I enjoyed on day 1 and following time during my Tassie trip... I will have 2 more recipes to follow also, which are inspired by day two and three. All these 3 recipes will be featured in full as part of my final Tassie Day 3 post which will upload late next week.
The above-mentioned recipe inspired from my first day in Tassie:
NUTTY HONEY AND CIDER POACHED APPLE WITH NATURAL YOGHURT, PINE NUTS AND CHIA SEEDS ~ Recipe Here.
After lunch Michelle and I said a fond farewell to Mary and made our way down to the ferry port where we grabbed the super slick and crazy cool ferry to Mona. A museum I knew little of other than all the rave reviews so many people have told me about in Sydney. So I was really looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about.
Let's just say I was totally. blow. away.
From the minute we stepped onto the ferry I knew this was going to be an experience to remember. Amazingly fitted out in a very fun, graphic and eccentric manner ~ in a good way, there is a VIP area you can access for a few more $'s, which gives you free drinks and a plush lounge to chill out in, en-route to the museum. But other parts of the ferry are just as cool and offer the same views on your approach. Once you arrive at MONA be warned, you will have to clamber up 99 steps - yes, 99 to be precise, not 100, 99. Inside you will be blown away. I, nor Michelle were allowed to take any shots within the museum due to artist copyright laws but I can only attest, if you go to Hobart, you simply MUST vista MONA. It was the total highlight of my trip. And, like Pilgrim, I returned again on the Saturday for a second helping, when I had some free time to myself.
The exhibitions are fun, forward-thinking, graphic, mind-boggling, thought-provoking and crazy fun and interesting. MONA is without a doubt the best art gallery I have been to to-date, be it here in AUS or overseas. I won't say much more, as you have to experience it for yourself first hand, without and preconceived notions or ideas. But prepared to go with and open mind and be ready to be blown away both visually and mentally.
Next post will be up early next week when I return from Melbourne, along with details of my Sydney workshop at end of November as mentioned on my WKA Facebook page.
Next post ~ Tasmania - Day 2.
Stay tuned xx