Feasting on local harvest
Foodies will be inspired by the fabulous variety produced in this fertile area of northern NSW, writes Fiona Donnelly
YOU’D expect a hotel called Peppers, located at a resort named Salt, to be food-focused – especially when the on-site restaurant is called Season.
Peppers at Salt Resort, Kingscliff, in northern NSW, doesn’t disappoint.
Executive chef Reuben Radonich grew up locally and pioneered an idea here that has stretched into a gourmet program now running at 23 Peppers retreats and resorts around Australia.
When he took over, Radonich, born in Byron Bay, says his aim was simply to support local businesses.
‘‘ I wanted to get as much local produce as possible on the menu,’’ he says. ‘‘ The food trail evolved from that.’’
Local producers now star on menus at all Peppers properties involved in the company’s gourmet food trail program. Events are ongoing and range from food-centred weekends to tastings, tours and more, depending on location.
Peppers at Salt is beachside, tucked alongside the stunning dune-fringed South Kingscliff beach.
The surrounding area, with its rolling hills and flat, rippling fields of sugar cane, is a patchwork of fertile volcanic soils and broad rivers.
It’s impossible for a food lover to venture out and not come back inspired.
Locally, you’ll find everything from artisan smallgoods from acclaimed maker Salumi, to sustainable seafood, award-winning beef and some of the world’s rarest fruits.
‘‘ You can’t help being filled with enthusiasm – because it doesn’t get any fresher than being able to buy from the producers,’’ Radonich says.
Our mini food trail starts at Tweed Marina on River Tce.
We’re not here for the crabcatching cruise, which departs daily at 9am. The muddies are safe. We’re on a mission to pick up prawns.
Radonich’s mother-in-law lives nearby and can spy the trawlers from her balcony as they return to shore. Prices are keen – verging on wholesale – and the boats moored are Food Saferegistered to sell to the public.
At $20-$25/kg for beauties – both cooked and green – that have been swimming just hours before, it’s best to hit the dock early.
As we scope out the baskets that a crew member of Sundown Karina displays, skipper Kevin Solway catches us eyeing the bream darting about beneath the boat.
‘‘ They are some of the best-fed fish on the coast – and used to dodging hooks,’’ he laughs.
‘‘ Some of them would be 30 years old.’’
His crew is trialling new gear that in the future he hopes will enable them to have zero bycatch.
The aim is to ditch flathead and Eastern school whiting and specialise in bugs and prawns.
‘‘ We’re giving up a lot of income – but it’s the way we have to go to guarantee the future,’’ Solway says.
The glossy pink cooked numbers we peel and crunch beside the boat are prime specimens – not too salty and sea-redolent.
Next stop is Jack Spratt’s Meats in Tweed Heads South.
From the outside it looks like a regular neighbourhood butcher. Spend five minutes chatting to owner Paul Newson, ex-operations manager for Vic’s Meats (Australia’s largest meat wholesaler) in Sydney and that notion is dispelled.
Newson made a sea change for family reasons and his shiny black and white shop is one of the few places you can pick up proper Bangalow pork.
You’ll also find Gooralie free-range pork plus goat and specialty pork from John Singh at Byron Bay Pork. Newson specialises in dry-ageing beef and the coldroom is stacked with hunks of meat at various stages of maturation.
‘‘ We like to dip our fingers into the best,’’ says Newson, who supplies restaurants as well as locals.
Each weekend you’ll find him hosting a ‘‘ Saturday market day’’, where he offers restaurant-quality meat at wholesale prices.
Newson’s dry-aged rib fillet, sliced from Oakley Ranch Casino Beef, reared in the Northern Rivers, stars on Season’s dinner menu.
The beef is teamed with root vegetables from local growers sourced through Tweed Fruit Exchange at Murwillumbah, a high-street store run by Paul Pouloudis, who is a thirdgeneration greengrocer.
Local Byron Bay pekin duck from specialist supplier AJ – Alexander