Snapshot: Berry, NSW

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I had no idea how restorative a weekend in the country would be and I think Berry was the perfect place for it. Australia is known for its sweeping sandy beaches and alluring coastline but there are some great getaways to be had if you meander inland. The Hunter Valley (wine country for the uninitiated), for example is unmissable if you're into that sort of thing. 

The spread put on by the Berry Tea Shop. A big EY-O!

Berry has its merits in creating a brilliant + jovial atmosphere on its main drag, Queen Street. Wandering down the street, ducking into cafés and boutiques at the ready you're reminded that you are officially on holiday (praise be!). You have definitely escaped the big smoke! I don't mind old-fashioned country hospitality and those never-ending winter blue skies either!

Berry Tea Shop

Shop 1, 66 Albert Street

If you're looking for the very definition of girly-girl, you need only step through these French doors. In a haven of bunting, china teacups and fruit scones (darling) this specialist boutique is all about image. And it works because I most certainly did NOT leave empty handed. I bought a spectacular Moroccan Mint Tea, no thanks to the glass 'smell jars' for you to sniff those gorgeous tea blends. If you've got the minutes, sit yourself down and enjoy a slice of Berry's finest cakes and an aromatic cuppa. So. Happy.

Milkwood Bakery

109 Queen Street

This place is basically unavoidable and a must visit. It's pretty difficult to ignore with the queue spilling out the bloody door. What's all the ruckus about? A subsidiary of the Berry Sourdough Café (23 Prince Alfred St), this place is going gangbusters with one thing only. Carbs. Whether it be breakfast or lunch when you're needing a hit, this place is ALL over it. Seriously. The fresh juices are pretty good to if you need to detox like we did post Xmas in July Feasting.

Pies up: cauliflower & pecorino, steak & caramelised onion and chicken & mushroom. The first pie was a complete stand out, such a delicious combination (unexpectedly so). We actually went back the next day for seconds but they were sold out. Drats

For the sweet-toothed (you know who you are), the lamingtons and giant chocolate macarons aren't too shabby 

Emporium Food Co.

127B Queen Street

I couldn't make a cheese collage better if I tried

Emporium Food Co. is like a foodie paradise in the delicious form of a deli/café hybrid. If you're into cheese like me, you will be caught right off guard with the amazing + international selection of cheeses there for the taking. Manchego, perhaps? Sí por favor! Guilty as charged, we walked out of there with the makings of a killer cheese/meat board. Yes, items are rather pricey but you only purchase a smidgen ;)

Couldn't pass up a shot of the cured meats display either

Some other addresses just for luck:

South on Albany
3/65 Queen Street, cnr Albany Street

Say hello to Berry's latest neighbourhood eatery. South on Albany is a bistro style restaurant serving up the region's freshest and seasonal produce. Their dining philosophy ticks all the right boxes as far as I'm concerned. If only I had the chance to try it (if it weren't for the trail blazed through our own kitchen)... Broadsheet Sydney recently reviewed the restaurant over here.

The façade in all it's symmetrically proportioned goodness. I can't help but laugh at myself sometimes Source: Broadsheet Sydney

Scullys and Co.
108 Queen Street

The quintessential country gift shop, Scullys & Co. has made a mark on Berry despite only opening last year. The decor is gorgeous and homely perfect for displaying its lavender themed trinkets. Whether it be linens, food stuffs (lavender honey anyone?) or bath products (you can never have too many soaps right?), there will definitely be something here that catches your eye.

Stop and smell the roses lavender. Source: Scullys and Co Facebook

Sew and Tell
Shop 2, 133 Queen Street

I have a rather guilty confession to make. I spent an absurd amount of time in the handicrafts/wool shop, Sew and Tell (you have to give it to them for the witty title). It was completely nuts. Admiring all the knitwear and embroidery, it was like discovering another universe. I have not made anything remotely crafty in my life - that's why I fall on photography to save myself! Check it:

It's a cracking read...

Okay I had no idea this would turn into such a monster post. Apologies (no, not really) :P

Thanks for reading!

Black Diamonds

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

This could quite possibly be the world's most expensive breakfast. There's no other ingredient around that is as prized as the truffle and now 'tis the season. Presenting, a truffled omelette [emph-A-sis on the truffle part ;)] cooked with a bit too much butter and crowned with slithers of fresh black truffle, the eggs still a bit runny of course. It's a once a year occurrence and a culinary splurge, for sure. Miam-miam! 

Omelette with fresh black truffle: it's a deadly simple recipe to really show-off the flavour of the truffle. Now I know what it really tastes like!

Costing a very pretty penny (for a black diamond!), truffles can be found at our local farmer's markets for a strictly limited season. The truffles (or should I say truffle chunk) that we got our hands on were from Lowes Mount Truffles in Oberon, NSW. Another more famous Australian truffière (or whatever they are called, 'cultivators') is Manjimup Truffles from WA. Black truffles or Tuber melanosporum really are such beautiful things, organically formed and speckled white but etched inside.

Hai ya! This photograph is just pure indulgence. Photo credit: Fx Cuisine

'They say' that truffles taste differently to each individual, they are perhaps an acquired taste. They're earthiness and texture really is something entirely unique. A true gem in the foodie world. And it's no wonder, because they only grow amongst specific trees - hazelnut and oak for example and found only by trained dogs or pigs (although the latter tend to scoff them, unabashedly). Finally, we have started to grow them on our shores, Australia being the largest producer outside of the EU. These days there's even the annual Truffle Festival with truffle hunts and cooking classes held in the Canberra region. We can definitely hold our own!

RECIPE - it's a cinch
Truffled Omelette from Andrew McConnell's Cumulus Inc.
Serves 1 (greedy guts)

Oh, this is making me hungry. The foaming butter just tops it all off, not to mention those truffles!

2 eggs (choose free range or organic, you know the deal)
1 tbsp milk
pinch of salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of chives, chopped
1 tsp parmesan, finely grated
10g sliced fresh truffle (go nuts, i say)
1 tsp crème fraîche
pinch freshly ground white pepper

1. Whisk eggs, milk and salt together at high speed for 2 mins
2. Melt butter with oil in pain over medium heat
3. Once butter is foaming, add egg and stir before reducing the heat to low
4. Sprinkle over chives and parmesan, then scatter truffle slices evenly on top
5. Dollop over crème fraîche and sprinkle over pepper, then cook for ~30 seconds
6. When underside of omelette is golden, and the egg is almost set, fold omelette in half and cook for another 30 secs before turning out

To appease my obsessive-compulsive streak I have collated a number of truffle/egg recipes from the interwebs. Choose your poison...
French Food Safari with Guillaume Brahimi (video) Scrambled Egg with Truffle
Gourmet Traveller's Truffle Omelette

Oh mercy. Katie Quinn Davies' Black Truffle Fried Egg, with the addition of blue cheese and mushies. Source: What Katie Ate

From the lauded truffle shops in Paris to the humblest jar of truffle honey, everyone can savour the flavour of truffles. The magic of this ingredient is that you only need a few grams to really transform a dish, a light dusting over egg pasta or risotto is all that required. Bellissimo.

Sniff it out! Why have a truffle dog when you can have a truffle pig? Infinitely cooler. Photo credit: The Times UK

Thanks for reading!

Xmas in July (the Mini-Break)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

I wish I could re-capture the feeling. That of sheer bliss, watching the morning mist drift over the rolling hills and linger in the valley in front of me. Cradling my cup of coffee and nibbling on breakfast fruit cake. It can't be beat. In this post I'll be chronicling a jaunt in country New South Wales mit meinen Freunden.

The genius of Nigella's Christmas Cake with the inclusion of cocoa powder adds that extra richness that none of us need but are happy to indulge in, just this once...

Stoked that I captured this! My little Ricoh can do a decent macro shot ;)

The gang and I had (finally) gotten our act together and decided to up stumps and go away for a weekend in July. The aim of course was to put on a Christmas in July to rival all Winter Christmases in the Northern hemisphere. We've traded snow fall for sunshine and morning fog.

The number one order of the day: coffee. One of the morning afters, brekkie to fuel a day of wandering the town and shop for Xmas pressies (yes, we totally did Kris Kringle)

Surprisingly it didn't take long for the ball to get rolling. It is just too easy to spend hours trolling on to find 'the perfect place'. We made a shortlist of the top ten and did a vote - the winner being a hill top house in Berry NSW about 2 hours from Sydney. Aye.

Nibblies to start the big cook: parmesan sable biscuits (don't even think about the butter content okay) and Hendrick's Cucumber G&T's, so smooth - if only it were about 10 degrees warmer outside!

Half the fun (well, almost) was the planning and preparation. Brainstorming ideas about what to cook, what to drink and the places to see (to be honest we didn't get very far!). The anticipation in the days leading up to our escape was immense! Packing your tiniest weekender bag, ugg boots and PJs are essential. At the end of the work week, we were out in a flash and hitting the road.

Sunset over the property dam, and B&W makes it damn near perfect

 As the sun went down we worked like busy bees in the kitchen, spreading ourselves across every countertop, and the perfect playlist playing in the background with lots of Macklemore, Matt Corby and Gotye as well as a bit of 90s R&B (the golden era!)

There's no better time to whip out Brussel Sprouts than Xmas, right? With honey glazed Dutch carrots and the beginnings of Yotam Ottolenghi's signature dish - roasted eggplant

Failing to find a whole turkey at 5pm on a Friday night we resigned ourselves to roasting an organic chook instead. We made Neil Perry's Thyme, Oregano and Citrus chicken, it's easy peasey. Marinade for maximum effect. On the right is a homemade Bombe Alaska, not the flaming kind but still delicious. And made without a blow torch!

Two of my most favouritest things ever: mulled wine which was absolutely to-die-for (use the best red you can afford, okay) and roasting marshmallows over an open fire = BONKERS

By the end of our feasting we had pretty much left a trail of destruction in the kitchen, but it was all worth it. Sharing a meal with friends, be it as extravagant and on such a ridiculous scale as this or not, we had so much to be thankful for: the company, the food and surrounds. And thank god for the dish washer, so NOT kidding there ;)

We were pleasantly surprised to find huge mandarin and lemon trees, which smelt divine! On the right, some cows and lavender for good measure ;)

I couldn't resist not to include this Christmas cake once again. This time with the recipe, thanks to Nigella (if you're known on first name basis, you've pretty much made it, right?). Being sticklers for tradition, the coffee liqueur was traded back for brandy. Granny always knows best

We finished our weekend pretty much as we started, lapping up that view to stay burned in our collective memory. Good times were had. Many toasts later and with bellies filled to bursting we tottered back to the big smoke leaving those greener pastures...until next time!

 The morning valley view *sigh* + those passive-aggressive cows can really stare you down...eep. Smell ya later Berry!

Thanks for reading!


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