Manna from heaven emerges out of the wilder­ness

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Ju­dith Elen

LAST year fresh food pro­duc­ers in Tas­ma­nia’s north­west formed a con­sor­tium aptly named Pro­duce of Heaven, in­clud­ing un­der this over­ar­ch­ing um­brella veg­eta­bles and fruit such as ap­ples and rasp­ber­ries; King Is­land and Mersey val­leys cheeses; wagyu beef; Pe­tuna Seafoods; Hel­ly­ers Road Dis­tillery (whisky and vodka); Ghost Rock Vine­yard; even rain­wa­ter from King Is­land ( King Is­land Cloud Juice): about 55 busi­nesses and 200 farm­ers all up.

So far the pro­duc­ers have been able to get the prices they’re look­ing for only by air-freight­ing their gourmet spe­cial­ties to five-star ho­tels and high-end delis in Hong Kong and else­where.

But a fresh Pro­duce of Heaven launch in Devon­port next week aims to make the lo­cal prod­ucts more eas­ily avail­able on home ground. Or­gan­iser Mark Baker tells FoodDe­tec­tive that the in­dus­try tour is the first step to show­cas­ing lo­cal farm gates in a re­gion that has so much to of­fer tourists and food lovers.

The Tarkine, Tas­ma­nia’s largest un­pro­tected wilder­ness and rain­for­est area, forms the back­drop for this heav­enly pro­duce. The con­sor­tium’s web­site will be live from May 19 (www.poh.com.au). Oth­ers are: www.tas­fresh.com.au; www.helly­er­sroad­dis­tillery.com.au; www.pe­tuna.com; www.dis­cover­tas­ma­nia.com. ■ BARIS­TAS on the boil: Last week­end the func­tion rooms at BCM Bar in Melbourne’s Dock­lands hissed with the heat of com­pe­ti­tion at the Aus­tralAsian Spe­cialty Cof­fee As­so­ci­a­tion’s Na­tional Barista Cham­pi­onships. The na­tional latte art and cup­ping cham­pi­onships made up the hat­trick. (Cup­ping in­volves iden­ti­fy­ing a cof­fee’s ori­gin, out of sets of three cups, some­times from dif­fer­ent grow­ing al­ti­tudes in the same coun­try.)

Cham­pion 2006 barista David Makin— work­ing a shiny red La Mar­zocca es­presso ma­chine, hand­made in Florence and look­ing like a small sports car — came up trumps for 2008, against eight other state fi­nal­ists watched by seven judges. Makin works for Melbourne cof­fee roaster Veneziano. As­so­ci­a­tion vice-chair­man Ben Bick­nell tells FoodDe­tec­tive that, af­ter set­ting up, the baris­tas had 15 min­utes to make four es­pres­sos, four cap­puc­ci­nos and four cups of a sig­na­ture espres­sobased drink of their own de­vis­ing.

The newly crowned latte art champ is NSW fi­nal­ist Habib Maar­bani, from Mor­gans Kitchen, Liver­pool, NSW, and cham­pion taster is Catherine Fer­rari of Perth roaster Euro­pean Foods.

The three win­ners will com­pete at the world barista cham­pi­onship in Copen­hagen in June. www.aasca.com. ■ SKYE Gyn­gell, for­mer Syd­neysider, now head chef at Peter­sham Nurs­eries in Sur­rey, Eng­land, in a re­cent edi­tion of The In­de­pen­dent , writes in a paean to the po­tent brew: ‘‘ I grew up in Syd­ney, which has a fan­tas­tic cof­fee cul­ture thanks to the huge num­ber of Ital­ians and Greeks who im­mi­grated there af­ter the war. Al­most ev­ery­where you go you can ex­pect a good cup that’s in­tense, thick and smooth.’’ ■ MEAN­WHILE, the Bri­tish press is mulling over the re­cently pub­lished S. Pel­le­grino World’s 50 Best Restau­rants list ( Food De­tec­tive , April 26-27), and lament­ing a mere six Brit in­clu­sions in 2008, down from 14 in 2005.

The truth is, things have been a bit grim for Bri­tain in the past three lists, with only six in­clu­sions in 2006, seven in 2007 and six again this year. TheIn­de­pen­dent says the in­ter­na­tional panel of judges was im­pressed by ‘‘ newer ar­rivals’’ and ‘‘ ex­per­i­men­tal cook­ing’’.

Aus­tralia’s two listed restau­rants are Tet­suya’s and Rock­pool (Fish). www.the­world­s50best.com. ■ MUCH angst in Bri­tish restau­rant cir­cles, as well, over the ban­ish­ment of The River Cafe from the top 50, com­ing af­ter a blaze at the restau­rant early last month that be­gan in the kitchens as cus­tomers were ar­riv­ing for din­ner and spread to the ground floor, clos­ing the restau­rant for what was orig­i­nally ex­pected to be two weeks. When De­tec­tive called to con­firm a re­open­ing date, she learned re­pairs were much more ex­ten­sive than at first thought and the restau­rant will now be closed un­til Au­gust. The River Cafe is tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to do a com­plete re­furb: ‘‘ It’s go­ing to be fab­u­lous,’’ De­tec­tive ’ s in­for­mant tells her.

A wall will be re­moved and the par­tial open kitchen ex­tended so the en­tire work area will be on view and ‘‘ ev­ery chef will be part of the din­ing room’’.

The River Cafe-trained chefs in­clude Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall as well as a host of Aussies and im­ports, in­clud­ing To­bie Put­tock, Dar­ren Simp­son, Ash­ley Hughes and Tom Kime. www.river­cafe.co.uk. ■ STILL in Bri­tain, this year’s awards for ex­cel­lence from tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion En­joy Eng­land, an­nounced at a lav­ish evening in Liver­pool at the end of last month, named The Salty Monk as B & B of the year. The 16th-cen­tury restau­rant with rooms in Sid­mouth, Devon, won on the qual­ity of its con­tem­po­rary English cui­sine, as well as its ac­com­mo­da­tion.

In the restau­rant cat­e­gory, Fif­teen Corn­wall in Water­gate Bay took top spot. It of­fers sea­sonal, lo­cal pro­duce and trains dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple, with all prof­its go­ing to char­ity. TheTimes’s Jill Dupleix was im­pressed on a re­cent visit. www.salty­monk.co.uk; www.fif­teen­corn­wall.co.uk. ■ EX­CEL­LENCE at home: Rare treats at (A)Lure Din­ing Room at Perth’s Bur­swood En­ter­tain­ment Com­plex at the end of the month when celeb chef Cheong Liew, of Ade­laide’s Grange restau­rant, pre­sides over two din­ners and a cook­ery demon­stra­tion. Liew tells De­tec­tive he hasn’t been to Perth for a long time; he’s look­ing for­ward to it and plans to trans­port a few of his favourite dishes.

The Four Dances of the Sea has been re­quested, from the Grange menu. And there’ll be quail filled with shi­itake mush­rooms, chicken liver, pork belly and duck mince, served in bam­boo leaf, in a ■ LIEW’S cook­ing demon­stra­tion will fea­ture the quail dish, ocean trout with black olives, black beans and ‘‘ a very heavy salad of pick­led paw­paw and dill’’, and the in­trigu­ing Peru­vian dessert. May 29, 12pm-3pm. ■ BRIS­BANE chef Philip John­son, of E’cco Bistro fame (New Zealand-born, he has worked along­side Antony Wor­rall Thompson at Lon­don bistro Dell’Ugo, and is an­other River Cafe grad­u­ate), will of­fer a five-course din­ner for the Syd­ney launch of his book of desserts, Deca­dence, at Liq­uid­ity Wa­ter­front Restau­rant, Rozelle. May 28, $135. www.liq­uid­ity.com.au. broth of duck bones and pig’s tail, with bit­ter al­mond milk; creamy and very white, Liew says.

And if you thought you knew ev­ery­thing about desserts, try this: a Peru­vian baba, not au rhum, but au tequila syrup, and made of yolk with no flour, served with fresh ber­ries and mas­car­pone. May 28 and 29, $190 a head, in­cludes food and drinks. (08) 9362 7551; www.bur­swood.com.au. ■ WEB­SITE to watch: Dayles­ford dy­namo Alla Wolf-Tasker, of Vic­to­ria’s Lake House, is a mov­ing force be­hind the Dayles­ford Mace­don Pro­duce group (their logo is a farm gate).

DMP links a long list of lo­cal pro­duc­ers and grow­ers (from veg­eta­bles to rare-breed pork) with lo­cal chefs and oth­ers, mak­ing sure the bounty of the re­gion is avail­able at home, a log­i­cal state of af­fairs that is largely sab­o­taged by the big su­per­mar­ket con­glom­er­ates. The group’s just-launched web­site lists use­ful in­for­ma­tion for vis­i­tors to Dayles­ford-Mace­don (fes­ti­vals, farm­ers mar­kets, din­ners) but there are also plans down the track to of­fer de­lec­ta­ble fresh and sea­sonal pro­duce be­yond the bound­aries of the re­gion. www.dm­pro­duce.com; www.lake­house.com.au. ■ MEAN­WHILE, Manch­ester Univer­sity re­searchers have found that eat­ing pizza topped with tomato paste can help pre­vent sun­burn and wrin­kles, with the po­ten­tial to pro­tect against skin can­cer and age­ing. Over a mere 12 weeks, tomato-pas­teeat­ing test sub­jects had 33 per cent bet­ter pro­tec­tion against sun­light than those not eat­ing the paste. Re­searchers think an an­tiox­i­dant, ly­copene, which gives toma­toes their colour, neu­tralises harm­ful mol­e­cules in skin ex­posed to ul­tra-vi­o­let rays. Cooked toma­toes con­tain higher lev­els of ly­copene than raw. Pre­sum­ably the pizza could be dis­pensed with. ■ FIND of the week: Au­tum­nal Ital­ian treats. Ele­menti pap­pardelle, made in Pied­mont of 100 per cent du­rum wheat flour and slow-dried to pro­duce a ro­bust­flavoured pasta, $4.75 a 250g pack. And for dessert, Pied­mon­tese whole baby pears poached in red wine with lemon zest and a sug­ges­tion of cin­na­mon, in jars un­der the Si­mon John­son la­bel, $27.75, 550g. Si­mon John­son stores na­tion­ally, www.si­mon­john­son.com. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loves: Food grow­ers work­ing with chefs in their own re­gion to show­case what’s fresh and lo­cal, so it isn’t all shipped out to some­where else. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: Cold, tiled floors in restau­rants, with win­ter com­ing on and noise lev­els ris­ing.

Best in the west: Cheong Liew

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