That right there is the infamous red dirt of rural Australia. Isn’t it gorgeous?
That’s right folks, it’s the Bundaberg edition of the Sunday Supplement! For my international readers, Bundaberg is a city about 5 hours drive North from Brisbane, the capital city that I live in (in the state of Queensland here in Australia, you with me?), which is a hugely successful agricultural area. Last weekend, myself and a few other Brisbane food lovers were invited up to the area to check it out and celebrate the launch of the Bundaberg Region Food Guide. And MAN, it was a good time. Be sure to pack your extra stomach, and strap yourself in, because this is a long one, with lots of photos. I couldn’t help myself!
The plane ride up was amazing (I never get sick of air travel – blows my mind every time). First stop, as soon as we got off the plane was for coffee – obvs – and then we drove through the beautiful main street of the city to visit Nana’s Pantry. The main street was gorgeous – there was a ton of lovely old-school hand written signs and colonial architecture, it actually reminded me a lot of the Gilmore Girls. And speaking of Gilmore Girls, doesn’t Nana’s Pantry sound like it would fit right in in Stars Hollow?
Well, it definitely would have if Stars Hollow was a hot-spot for locally produced and grown food. Small batch, local fudge from Phat Tony? Yes please. Macadamia nuts from a husband and wife team who’s daughter is working in the store we’re standing in? Don’t mind if I do. Best darn tapenade I’ve ever tasted? More please! And aside from that, they had a range of spices, grains, nuts, and seasonings that would rival the best inner-city deli – who’d have thought?
And the Gelato. Don’t even get me started. There was tiramisu flavour, like 3 different kinds of chocolate, burnt fig (!) that was gorgeous, and a coconut and lime flavour that blew my mind. I may have spent far too long monopolising our lovely host’s time, sampling all the flavours. Couldn’t stop/wouldn’t stop.
Next stop was visiting the charming and roguish Andrew Dowling’s local farm. What this gentleman doesn’t know about growing in the Bundaberg region, could be written on the back of a piece of rocket. And when we tried his rocket? Damn if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted. Intensely peppery, and begging to be piled into a sandwich with some roast beef.
Andrew literally had us eating out of his hand, picking things here and there – like some strawberries he was experimenting with that had been deemed unfit for sale ( THEY WERE DELICIOUS), the aforementioned rocket, and we each went home with a few bulbs of his beautiful Australian garlic.
Just down the road from Andrew’s is this little outpost of charming rural culture. A little farm-gate stall, operating on the good old fashioned honesty system. I can’t help but think of places like this as a sign that the world is a good and wholesome place, and we’re all going to be OK.
This stall was another example of how crazy-fresh everything is in Bundaberg! JEALOUS. There were little baby pumpkins going for 35cents each, the biggest beetroots I’ve ever seen in my life, and more pineapples than I had time to shake a stick at.
This just in: about 85% of Australians live on the coastline. So even in Bundaberg, you’re never that far from the water! And where’s there’s a body of water, there’s good seafood to be had. At Grunske’s they take seafood literally straight off the trawler, one of which they even own, the clean it, fillet it, and sell it directly to the locals. About now is when I actually began to turn green with envy. But that was before they gave us lunch – best scallops I’ve ever had (until later that day), along with some salad, prawns and salt and pepper squid.
This next stop was my absolute favourite. We went to meet the beautiful Emilia Troiani and her handsome husband Gino in their very own home. With typical Italian style they welcomed us so warmly, that I think within about five minutes of getting out of the car, each of us was secretly planning to move in. Emilia and Gino make fresh pasta in their home, and sell it to various local businesses. Why? Because they love it, and they love to share their pasta with their local friends. They were the cutest pair of Italians I have ever seen, and their pasta was incredible.
By this point we had basically been eating non-stop all day, but how could we say no to the beautiful Emilia’s offer of coffee and something sweet? Strong black coffee was brewed in a stove-top espresso machine, and out came no less than two different kinds of cake, two flavours of almond bread (delicious), and meringues that were so light and flavoursome, it was like a freeze-dried marshmallow. These two have magic in their hands, I swear.
Next stop was to meet the lovely Dave Galati at Rosengal Farms. Dave and his family have been farmers for generations and grow green beans, flat beans, butter beans and borlotti beans at their local farm. Yet another local farmer that had us all eating out of his hand (is it just a coincidence that farmer rhymes with charmer? I think not).
As with so much of what I saw when I was in Bundy, I was surprised by the quality and the taste. Meeting Dave had me wanting to start a small bean farm in my backyard, just so I could have them as fresh as his. Somehow I don’t think mine would have turned out so perfectly though. Dave was telling us how he plants rows of sugarcane as windbreakers, so that his beans don’t rub against their leaves, which could result in scarring, and non-straight beans. Talk about perfectionism! Look for the brand Rosengal, you guys. I trust this guy when it comes to beans.
To cap off the trip we had one of the most singularly decadent meals of my ENTIRE LIFE, at local restaurant Indulge. Husband and wife team Amanda and Larry Hinds outdid themselves with six courses and matching wines, with all the food from local sources, and a lot of the wines as well. There was:
- Pea soup with peas from Dave Galate’s Rosengal Farm, with manchego foam, a potato croquette & smoked mackerel pate
- Scallops with duck ham, pomelo hollandaise and umibuto seaweed (MY FAVOURITE DISH – AMAZING)
- Zucchini flowers filled with prawn and tarragon mousse, deep fried and served with Andrew Dowling’s rocket
- Deep fried tofu with locally made XO sauce – stunning
- Slow cooked lamb with chimmichurri, goat’s cheese fondant and crispy herby breadcrumbs, along with one perfect roasted tomato
- Elderflower pannacotta with strawberries, local passion fruit ice cream, macadamia roly poly, and lemon macaron crumbs
In short, I have never been more spoiled in my life. From now on, I will happily talk anyone’s ear off about Bundaberg food, at any time of the day or night, free of charge. Or I shall just refer them to this post. Have a great week!