Christmas in July at Contentious Character – Passionate, warm and personal

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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.

Bringing the Tastes of Two Regions to Canberra! 11-13 August

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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!

King Valley vineyard

Last year’s Taste of Two Regions was brilliant! And this year I am invited again!!

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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….img_1078img_7606

…. and Tanya from Brown Brothers Wines introduced us to the King Valley Prosecco market leaders in this wine.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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For a quick look check the Brochure Tastes of Two Regions 2017. All the details are on the website.

Program of Events

Tastes of Two Regions Exhibition

Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate

Tickets $35pp

Alternative Varieties Dinner with Winemakers of Rutherglen (Booked out sadly)

Saturday 12 August, Otis Dining Hall

Tickets $130pp

King Valley Prosecco Breakfast

Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant

Tickets $55pp

King Valley Italian Family Lunch

Saturday 13 August, Yarralumla Woolshed

Tickets $85pp, children play and eat free

Jugiong – Canberra’s new destination dining spot? 

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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.

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Kim has arrived from Western Australia to open up The Sir George – country charm with style and fun.

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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.

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WARM LOCAL & ITALIAN OLIVES $8

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HOUSE TERRINE $16 & DUCK LIVER PARFAIT $15

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KIM’S CHEESE SELECTION $18

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ANCHOVY BOARD TO SHARE $40 (spanish whites, rizzoli in extra virgin & salsa picante) – as Kim promised, bread dipped in the tin was divine.

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Team this with an excellent bottle of $30 Italian prosseco or some hill tops wine by the glass very reasonably priced from $7.

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Or perhaps choose a main dish like the great looking fish and chips $19.

Enjoy the tables outside ….

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….or one of the gorgeous heritage nooks inside.

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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.

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Browse the giftwares while you’re there.

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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.

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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.

Sir George Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Treated to amazing Pakistani cuisine at Cooking Circles Canberra

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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!

Unpacking the Indian Lunchbox with Cooking Circles Canberra and Joy Indian Restaurant

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This week Cooking Circles Canberra‘s hosted their biggest ever event at Joy Indian RestaurantUnpacking the Indian Lunchbox.

Shafique and his lovely wife Farhana, proud owners of the recently opened Joy Indian Restaurant, generously welcomed over 50 Canberra women and taught and prepared some of the dishes that go into the Indian lunchbox.

Some had come along last year to Shafique’s Cooking Circles Bangladeshi workshop at Taste of Bangladesh in Manuka. Last year it was delicious so Cooking Circles regulars were expecting equally wonderful food from Shafique this time.


But before we started cooking, we needed to know the amazing story of the Indian Lunchbox….


Mumbai has an incredibly efficient and economical lunch delivery system that is over 125 years old.


Six days a week, 5,000 Dabbawallahs collect over 200,000 home cooked meals, deliver them to offices and then return the lunchbox or dabba to the cook at home charging only $10 a month.
It all started in 1890 when Mahadeo, like many others, arrived in Bombay seeking to make his fortune.

Mahadeo quickly realised that those who did have work, found it particularly tricky to eat the kind of home cooked lunch they wanted.

It was hard for the home cook to have the rice, bread and curry ready by 7am when their menfolk left for work and if they did get up super early, it would all be cold by lunch time.
So Mahadeo recruited 100 men and started the now famous Bombay lunch delivery system.
This is how it works. Office workers leave home around around 7 o’clock…

….when their wives, sisters and mothers are busy cooking.


Then the Dabbawallahs start work around 8:30 after a quick road side Chai with their mates.
They are easily recognisable by their white cotton Kurta pyjamas and their Gandhi style cap.
Dabbawallahs are organised into groups of 25 who work together all their working lives.
If someone leaves, they recruit a friend of relative, which means that most Dabbawallahs are from the town of Pune. It also means they are great friends!

About 9 o’clock each Dabba wallah picks up around 30 different lunches from home cooks and then by bike takes them to the nearest train station….

…. where they get coded and sorted by another Dabbawallah who loads them onto the train.
Then they are taken by another Dabbawallah to the end point station.


The lunch delivery system all depends on Mumbais amazing railways, and timing is tight to fit with the train timetable.
There’s about 30 seconds to load or unload at stations.
Needless to say, no Dabbawallah gets to eat his own lunch until well after everyone else.
The lunchboxes are often carried in wooden crates on Dabbawallahs heads.

The coding system uses colours shapes and numbers.
The code identifies the Dabbawallahs at each stage of the process, the collection neighbourhood, office building and floor. The colour of the bag identifies the office worker.
At the end station, a local Dabbawallahs collects the lunchbox and delivers it to the right person in the right office by 12:30. Mistakes are incredibly rare, 1 in 8,000.
The office worker enjoys a lovingly cooked home made meal just the way his wife, mother or sister knows he likes it!

Then at 5pm it all happens in reverse. And the dabba or Lunchbox gets safely delivered back to the home cook.

The dabba wallahs also have started a system where any uneaten food can be identified by a sticker and taken to feed those in need, all at no cost to the client. This is a service to the community by the Dabbawallahs.
Dabbawallahs consider their work to be worthy and noble. They are serving God by delivering healthy, nourishing food and will be blessed.
And to it was to Shafique who told us more about the foods that go into the Dabba!


We tried our hand at rolling roti and learnt to cook it in our home frypan.


We also learnt to cook lentil vegetable rice….


….and Chicken Kadai all typical dishes that might be found in many an Indian lunchbox!

And finally we all sat down to enjoy a fabulous meal together.


We all left a great evening with new friendships, new recipes and new experiences!
Many thanks to Kirsty Young for her photos.

Check out this 3-minute video that explains everything about these amazing lunch boxes

Catch ‘The Lunchbox’ movie free to watch on SBS On Demand.

Photo sources http://sonyclassics.com/thelunchbox/dates/ and 

Joy Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Paella at Pod Food, Pialligo – a treat for Cooking Circles Canberra

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Fine Eating was back again at Pod Food this week with the very lovely company of Cooking Circles Canberra!

The generous and immensely hospitable team at Pod hosted a fabulous evening of all things Paella!

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John, Jack and Sam – our hosts

Pod Food is of course the perfect garden venue for sharing paella with new friends. I always love how many new people I meet at Cooking Circles and it’s great to catch up again with those I’ve met before.

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As we arrived, we introduced ourselves and took up Sam’s very welcome offer of a glass of Canberra wine.

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We settled in as John unpacked the secrets of a successful paella!

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John explained how to create the perfect stock base…

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…what and when to add the oil, onions, spicy and smokey paprikas, Spanish onion and chorizo, beautifully coloured capsicums….

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….stock, seafood and chicken.

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We appreciated the importance of the crackle and the crust as the delicious aromas filled the garden.

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John and Sam even shared their favourites ways with leftover Paella – add and egg and Pialligo bacon for a brekkie paella, soy sauce and peas for fried rice – paella freezes and reheats beautifully.

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So relaxing after a busy day, to sit and enjoy conversations about creating and sharing food.

But their was a surprise left for us. No eating paella off our laps from a disposable plate for us!

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John, Jack and Sam had created a beautiful space for us to enjoy each other’s company and that very, very fine paella.

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If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Paella at Pod Food, don’t miss another wonderful event coming up. All woman are welcome to come along to Cooking Circles.

Join us in April as we unpack the iconic Indian lunchbox with Shafique at Joy Indian Restaurant and create roti, lentil and vegetable rice and chicken kadai together.

Do grab a ticket or two before they all go!

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Poacher’s Pantry – a perfect Country Lunch for a very special day out!

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Poacher’s Pantry, just out of Canberra, on the Nanima Road is looking very beautiful after her recent makeover.

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With extended opening hours for the Christmas season and a special tasting menu, I was very impressed by how well they have created a very relaxed and gorgeous lunch experience.

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Whether you choose to go for one of the shared platters, or the full $59 four course menu I’d really recommend taking the lovely opportunity to meet Sarah, Cellar Door Manager, who will help you choose your Wily Trout Vineyard Wine.

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We were very impressed with the locally grown (as in just down the road) wines and bagged several to take home.

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Wily Trout Premium Pinot Chardonnay 2013 $35 , Blanc de Blanc NV, Wily Trout Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $25, Wily Trout Chardonnay 2014 $25, Wily Trout Rosé 2016 $24, Wily Trout Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $25, Wily Trout Pinot Noir 2015 $28, Wily Trout Shiraz 2014 $27

Our absolute favourites were the vintage pinot chardonnay, rose and pinot noir.

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However, the rose was the perfect match for our Christmas Tasting Menu…

$59 per person

Carrot & ginger gazpacho, seared yellow fin tuna, passionfruit

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Pissaladière bread, green asparagus, wild rocket leaves, tallegio cheese, Poachers classic prosciutto

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Ocean trout, tomato chilli jam, smoked garlic aioli, eggplant, oven dried tomatoes

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OR

Poachers smoked chicken breast, cos, pear, cottage cheese

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Baked chocolate mousse, strawberries, coriander, cream, cherry sorbet

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All amazing dishes!

Wine pairing is also available at $25per person

Trading Hours

Smokehouse Restaurant

Brunch Sat & Sun 9:30 – 11:30am

Lunch Fri – Sun 12:00 – 3:00pm

Christmas season only

Lunch Monday 19th – Thursday 22nd 12:00 – 3:00pm

Lunch Monday 27th – Thursday 29th 12:00 – 3:00pm

Closed

Boxing Day, 1st – 3rd January 2017

Poachers Pantry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato