Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taste of, ah, Tasmania, actually

Last night I was at the opening of the Taste of New Zealand expo in Victoria Park, where a bunch of restaurants are serving up taster menus, chefs like Rick Stein and Annabel Langbein are doing demos and there are lots of foodie stalls. Discover Tasmania invited me, having cleverly snuck in somehow to promote their wines, beer and - who knew? - whisky.

The weather was appalling yesterday, absolutely torrential cold showers with in between cruelly warm and sunny spells that continuously fooled everyone into thinking that all would now be well - not the best conditions for wandering around a grassy arena in heeled boots, with fat raindrops falling off awnings and diluting my wine. But it was pleasant nonetheless, and a great way to showcase over the next few days the excellent food that's available here.

Having said which, by another of those coincidences that I love so much, the tent where we ended up eating was District Dining, a restaurant newly opened in Auckland by someone from Launceston, at whose restaurant, the Black Cow Bistro, I ate in February with the Tourism Tasmania man who had just poured the wine I was drinking - neither of them knowing the other was there. The wine was so good that I can't now remember whether the lamb I ate was roasted for 6 or 12 hours - it was some immensely long time, anyway, which made it superbly tender and succulent, and the cauliflower puree was perfectly matched.

Launceston is a very fattening place: it's in the Tamar Valley in the north of Tasmania, where there are excellent vineyards (Ninth Island a favourite) and lots of specific and enthusiastic producers like the raspberry farm, the cheese factory (wasabi cheddar, anyone?), and the chocolate factory that together made such a wonderful day out that my daughter still drools about it five years later.

Last time I was there I tragically had to forgo the tasting menu at Josef Chromy because I had a long drive ahead of me, but the lunch I did have was just lovely, fresh and tasty, and I really enjoyed sitting outside with a view over the lake and vineyards beyond, with several merry hen-parties going on in the garden below me. If wine and food is your thing (and actually, even if it isn't, particularly) then go and explore the Tamar Valley: you'll be glad you did. Until you stand on the bathroom scales back home, that is.

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