My favourite foodie events are those where I glimpse the passion of the makers. But Christmas in July at Contentious Character Winery last weekend, was so much more.
Packed with passion, the night was the clearly the culmination of a huge effort from Tony, Ross, Ben and Jeremy, the team behind Contentious Character…..
….and Felicity whose Executive Events Solutions, pulled it all together.
The wine flowed generously, matched to three fine courses from the kitchen of Chef Tom Stoneham…
A glass of Pinot Gris 2009 on arrival (my favourite of the night) was followed by..
Entrée: Parsnip and local chestnut soup (delicious) paired Glass of Riesling 2005 or the Whisky cured salmon with chive hollandaise with Chardonnay 2016 or the 2016 Pinot Gris…
Main: Roast Turkey with all the trimmings (and Union 2008), Terrine of local nuts and mushrooms (with 2004 Chardoannay (very nice!) or 2006 Pinot Noir) or Fresh market fish, baked with vegetables and lemon verbena butter, with a glass Chardonnay 2016…
Dessert: Christmas pudding with brandy custard or Classic sherry trifle paired Glass of 2010 Sweet Patch…
…with lovely mulled white of red wine also on hand!
Mike of the Christmas Emporium had decked out the newly refreshed venue….
…. and live entertainment (with carols) roamed the tables.
It was professional and well done, but very personal and relaxed.
Picked up at the door, we were transported to Wamboin but the warm and freindly Kayne, supporting his partner Felicity also delivering her handwritten welcome note and goodie bag.
Most, I enjoyed the conversations and meeting both creators and the partners who support them. Like Kayne, again, who quickly changed from bus driver to wine waiter.
Passionate people have such inspiring stories like Mike’s whose love of Christmas is grounded in deeply meaningful childhood experiences.
And speaking of inspiring stories, Can who is the passion behind Canberra Instagram photo project, The Embassy of Kindness shared his great story and treated me to an Embassy interview! I was very impressed by how a few thoughtful questions and some careful listening can not only discover a complete stranger’s meaningful story but also leave them blessed by a few minutes of self-reflection and self-kindness.
Thanks Can for the photo!
Great to catch up with fellow food bloggers on the So Frank table it was just a very lovely night, well priced at $135 for everything including the door to door service. Perfect on a cold mid-winter Canberra night.
If you missed this opportunity do keep an eye out for other events that Executive Events Solutions or Contentious Character offer, or drop by the Winery for brunch or lunch on the weekends.
A foodie weekend exploring the wineries and produce of the Rutherglen and King Valley regions is right up there on my wishlist! So I’m very excited that those lovely wines and foods are coming to me in Canberra!
Last year’s Taste of Two Regions was brilliant! And this year I am invited again!!
I loved the wines last year, but it was meeting the people behind the wines that was really special! The stories of these passionate families was inspiring. Wendy Killeen and her daughter Natasha (the seventh generation of Stanton & Killeen wine makers) brought along their wonderful range of Muscats….
…. and Tanya from Brown Brothers Wines introduced us to the King Valley Prosecco market leaders in this wine.
This year Taste of Two Regions is promising more than 200 wines and dozens of local foods from more than 25 regional artisans at their expo at Pialligo Estate on Sunday 13th of August. There’s two sessions 10-1pm and 2-5pm. Masterclasses run all day, but these are filling fast.
There’s also a King Valley Prosecco Breakfast, an Italian Family Lunch and Dinner with the wine makers (also very popular).
My favourite wines through life have always come from the Rutherglen of King Valley regions. I can remember the first time I tasted a Durif, from Campbell’s Winery, and a time when my favourite wine was Brown Brothers’ Crouchen Riesling and how I loved All Saints Moscato.
So my expectations are high and I’m looking forward to discovering what my new favourites will be and enjoying a gorgeous relaxed day of fine wine, foods and inspiring wine-makers and producers….a taster for that long awaited foodie weekend!!!
Program of Events
Tastes of Two Regions Exhibition
Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate
Alternative Varieties Dinner with Winemakers of Rutherglen (Booked out sadly)
Saturday 12 August, Otis Dining Hall
King Valley Prosecco Breakfast
Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant
King Valley Italian Family Lunch
Saturday 13 August, Yarralumla Woolshed
Tickets $85pp, children play and eat free
Monster Kitchen is Good Food’s number one Canberra restaurant – and it’s not hard to see why.
Quirky and welcoming, the eclectic decor is engaging.
But it’s the food that is the real star.
Our lunch dishes were perfect! Beautiful, well priced and a unique combination of ingredients and textures.
The two of us first shared the:
Fried tofu with pickled shitake, boito soy, spring onion oil and sesame $18
Eggplant, smoked goat’s curd, katsuobushi and sesame $20
Pulled lamb shoulder with pistachio, yogurt, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik $30
I especially liked the pairing of the goat’s curd with the eggplant and the yogurt with the lamb shoulder. Thses gave the dishes a delightful creamy highlight. But I also loved the salty elements of the soy with the tofu and the katsuobushi with the eggplant.
The textured coating on the tofu had a lovely light crunch. I loved the colour and crunch of the pistachios and pomegranate with the lamb’s shoulder and the gorgeous green tinge on the tofu.
We finished with a dessert of Soft chocolate with mandarin, almond and rosemary $20.
This was also a perfect balance of textures and flavours, especially the ice-cream that came with it. The crisp garnish was excellent as was the puree garnish but the fresh mandarin would be better preserved.
Still on my wish list for another time is the Yabby Waffle $20, the Boxgum grazing beef tartare $23 and the Green tea dessert with coconut, raspberry and mille feuille $18.
I also want to try the Monster Light Lunch that offers specials like Spagetti with wagyu tongue, peas, capers, reggiano and chilli $17, Baby beet salad with wild rice, pear, walnut $16, Pork belly banh mi $13 or Boxgum grazing ham, pyengana cheddar and green tomato pickle $15 sered 12-5pm daily.
So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to dinner.
I was not disappointed! No, much more than that, I was surprised and delighted at the generosity of Mercado’s service, approach and prices – something that can be hard to find now in popular, trending restaurants.
Let me tell you how:
Mercado takes bookings at the time you want – not set sitting times.
Mercado lets you order a la carte or from set menus – it’s up to you – no compulsory degustation or tasting menu. (Unless you are a group of 8 or more when you must have the $80 set menu).
Mercado has great service from thoughtful, knowledgeable wait staff who care about their guests and their product. They establish warm, but respectful rapport and anticipate your needs. They provide continuity from start to finish.
Mercado has good value prices – coffees are $4.50 not $8.
Mercado has great food – every dish was a winner.
Mercado offers you a $65 set menu on the house for your birthday (if you subscribe) when you book as a group of 4. (Available lunch or dinner Monday – Thursday).
As we were heading to Vivid, we arrived by 6pm and went for the Pre-Theatre set menu for $55 per person. This turned out to be a great choice.
The Pre-Theatre menu offers:
The Chickpea puree with brown butter was wonderful with great crispy chickpeas and deliciously warm flatbreads.
A selection of cold cuts cured in house – all excellent and perfect with the Mixed pickled vegetables
Turkish ravioli of pumpkin with yoghurt & burnt butter – we loved this.
Chorizo with salsa mojo verde – very good.
Chef’s selection from the rotisserie – we had the wonderfully succulent and flavoursome rotisserie chicken with lemon & aioli and a great house made sauce.
Salad of mixed leaves & herbs.
Dulce de leche ice cream served dramatically with butterscotch & candied bacon – delicious!
$55 per person the Pre-Theatre set menu is available in the evening before 6pm
I estimate it provides the equivalent of $171 of dishes for $110 for two people, so it’s excellent value.
However, the table to us was ordering a la carte and their dishes looked wonderful too. They loved them especially the Foie gras parfait, Braised Octopus and Beef carpaccio – all dishes I would order next time to try. Instagrammers agree.
Foie gras parfait, pickles & toast 26
Escabeche of kingfish, fennel & lemon 29
Soft shell crab bun, harissa & aioli 24
Braised octopus, sobrasada, potato & olive 32
Roasted prawns, chilli oil & romesco 39
Beef carpaccio, ortiz anchovy dressing & caviar 28
Wine by the glass includes a very good 2016 Jauma y Mercado ‘Garnatxa’ Grenache McLaren Vale, SA $14 for a generous (150ml pour).
Located in the cellar of a building off Angel Place, the setting is cozy and inviting.
I’m not taking it off my wish list, but I’ve added it to my Sydney favourites – at the top.
The Southern Highlands is popular for getaways from Canberra. But head west down the Hume instead and you’ll come to Jugiong, a small country town reinventing itself as a boutique foodie day trip destination.
Kim has arrived from Western Australia to open up The Sir George – country charm with style and fun.
Bringing his artisan baking secrets with him, he serves up the most wonderful Bakers Lane sourdough bread that you can team with delicious share plates and tapas.
WARM LOCAL & ITALIAN OLIVES $8
HOUSE TERRINE $16 & DUCK LIVER PARFAIT $15
KIM’S CHEESE SELECTION $18
ANCHOVY BOARD TO SHARE $40 (spanish whites, rizzoli in extra virgin & salsa picante) – as Kim promised, bread dipped in the tin was divine.
Team this with an excellent bottle of $30 Italian prosseco or some hill tops wine by the glass very reasonably priced from $7.
Or perhaps choose a main dish like the great looking fish and chips $19.
Enjoy the tables outside ….
….or one of the gorgeous heritage nooks inside.
Open 10am until late, Sir George is closed Mondays.
Then there’s also the famous Long Track Pantry next door open 8-4 every day except Tuesday and serving an interesting and varied menu.
Browse the giftwares while you’re there.
Or around the corner are a couple of lovely home decorating shops including Tillia’s brand new The Yard full of gorgeous art and flowers.
If you’d like to make a weekend of it there’s some good Airbnb options.
Also, Sir George has exciting plans for boutique accommodation which I can’t wait to see.
I have a feeling Jugiong will just go from strength to strength. It’s a great discovery for those looking for something new which is close enough to Canberra for a spontaneous country lunch or weekend getaway.
Last Sunday Cooking Circles hosted a small in-home lunch when Hina introduced us to her passion for Pakistani cuisine and treated us to a delicious lunch of dishes lovingly and delicately prepared.
Hina is originally from Pakistan where she grew up. She first learned cooking from her mother and now continues to learn from cooking shows, recipe books, the internet and shared recipes from others. Cooking is her passion and her we would say…her gift!
As Hina created and chatted we enjoyed wine and canapés and often jumped in to work along side her.
She started on the Rasmalai dessert as it needed to chill in the fridge. It is a dough of full cream milk powder, ghee and egg rolled and flattened into small discs and poached in milk and sugar reduced and infused with cardamom.
Next Hina started of the Beef Seekh Kabab, roasting and grinding spices and chickpeas to add to the mince, chill and shape for frying.
Lastly the complex dum style Chicken Biryani. Rice boiled with spices is layered with chicken and potatoes (first boiled with spices) cooked in a fragrant spiced yogurt and tomato gravy, along with crisp onion and other flavourings.
It is topped with a special essence and some orange food colour (in lieu of the expensive saffron). Lastly it goes back on the stove with the lid for all the flavours to infuse through.
Wow! What a feast we enjoyed.
And as Hina said “I can’t believe I made that”!
How lucky were we that Cathy introduced her friend Hina to Cooking Ciricles. Can’t wait for Hina to cook for us again!
Many thanks to Ruth Ellison who generously shared her photos!