Part 1 of a series about this world class event held in Adelaide, South Australia.
The event was almost forkloric to me: a bi-annual gathering of food luminaries, producers, celebrities and chefs that convened in Southern Australia, touring and tasting for a weeklong festival of fine foods on one of my favorite continents. Add to this a disbelief that I would be attending the 2012 Tasting Australia Festival and you might get an idea of how thrilled I was to experience it first hand.
Getting a solid grasp on Australia’s culinary scene and history was a bit daunting for me. First, it’s far away from my home. Second, it’s full of creative people doing creative things. Third, it’s such a deep blend of distinct cultures, both new and old world. And lastly, to paint Australia’s food scene with one broad brush would be like trying to do that with American food. It’d be not only impossible but short-sighted.
But I did know that the foods I’d be tasting during the event in this part of Australia would have a singularity that I could easily put my finger on: quality. It was there in adundance as I sipped wine, ate seafood, sampled honey and cheeses, and ate my way through South Australia. I do have a sneaking suspicion that everything actually tasted better because it was enjoyed in the company of Australians, and I’m pretty sure you know how I feel about them.
I arrived in Adelaide via Alice Springs, taken aback by the instant change of scenery: rocks and fields were replaced by parks and sparkling buildings, gone was the outback and in was a modern, beautiful city.
I had only a few hours to explore Adelaide before jumping into all things delicious that South Australia has to offer.
First Stop: Fleurieu Peninsula
Located south of Adelaide, the sprawling spaces and clear skies of Fleurieu Peninsula make it a must-visit. The peninsula is home to McLaren Vale, one of South Australia’s wine making regions. While the area grows many types of grapes, it’s noted for shiraz and yes, I helped myself to quite a few glasses.
There’s this thing that Australia does so well, perhaps like no other place on earth, and it’s where rustic and modern intersect with fluidity, creating a perfect aesthetic that’s rugged, worn, beautiful and unique. This blend could be seen in action at No 58 Cellar Door & Gallery where we stopped for lunch. Platters of fresh cheeses, tapenades, chutney, salumi and bread were washed down with wine from the region. After lunch we did a little bit of shopping among the gallery’s selection of ceramics, painting and textiles.
After lunch we made our way to the coast to join Renee and Ashley Newman of Kangaroo Island Sailing for a few hours of sightseeing from the luxurious Lady Eugenie, a 21-meter long, 5-meter wide ketch rigged yacht. More glasses of chilled wine were enjoyed, along with nibbles from the yacht’s own chef. The Lady Eugenie is available for private trips, and has everything on board you could need. Quite a spectacular way to enjoy the Fleurieu Peninsula, if you ask me.
About the only way to close out this amazing first day on the peninsula would be by having an amazing meal with a gorgeous sunset. Enter Port Willunga’s Star Of Greece restaurant, which incidentally is named after a shipwreck and not because of Greek cuisine. First, let’s talk about this sunset.
You must allow Australia to spoil you when it comes to sunsets. And if by chance you can admire these sunsets with a sparkling glass of bubbles then well, you’ve died and gone to heaven. Or Australia, rather.
The cliffside Star Of Greece overlooks Port Willunga Beach, allowing magnificent views while enjoying the food — definitely Australian with touches of Asian and Mediterranean influences. I would have been happy snacking on the salt and pepper squid, caught locally, and nothing more. But of course the entire meal and company was nothing short of magnificent.
Full and happy, I boarded a bus back to Adelaide for the evening before heading out to The Willunga Farmers’ Market. More about that tomorrow!