Eat local: Gourmet Delights in Tasmania, Australia (2020)

We spent a very enjoyable day touring Tasmania’s “Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail” with a guide, starting along the coast (we were docked at Burnie) and then exploring inland in the rolling hills farm terrain

We spent a very enjoyable day touring Tasmania’s “Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail” with a guide, starting along the coast (we were docked at Burnie) and then exploring inland in the rolling hills farm terrain

 

A small group of us toured northern Tasmania, Australia, with a hired guide (and large van), to explore some of the local gourmet delights.  But first, we checked out the local fauna.  We began with a drive east alomg the coast from Burnie to Turners Beach, pausing at Penguin to spot several of the famously elusive native platypus (no photographs, as they were mostly underwater).  Our first gourmet delights stop was to enjoy, with some of the locals, morning tea/coffee and delicious fruit-based pastries at The Berry Patch, a popular café and berry farm.  We next drove south from the coast and headed into farm country.  The Bennet family has been raising sheep and dairy cows around Elizabeth Town since the late 1880s. We had a tour of their cheese factory at Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm and sampled some of the hand-crafted cheese.   Our next stop was to enjoy a sampling of the fragrant infused oils and olives at Wattle Hill Olives. Tasmanian enology entered the picture at Ghost Rock Wines.  Following a tasting of their wines, we enjoyed a rustic family-style lunch that featured locally sourced produce, seafood, meats, cheese, pâté, grilled and pickled veggies, and toasted bread from Pigeon Whole Bakers, accompanied by both red and white Ghost Rock wines.

After lunch, we continued our drive and were welcomed by Belgian-born chocolatier Igor Van Gerwen to House of Anvers, the confectionery company he founded in 1989.   We had an extensive tour of the factory and learned about the chocolate making process.  With a cup of coffee or tea, we had the opportunity to enjoy their decadent, chocolatey treats made with the finest cacao and rich Tasmanian butter and cream.  We ended the day with a tasting of bottle-fermented alcoholic beverages at Spreyton Cider Co.  Drawing on their years of experience producing fresh apple juice, Spreyton began brewing hard cider (7.5 – 8% ABV – alcohol by volume) in 2012.

 

We didn’t have time on our tour to do hand berry picking in the berry fields at The Berry Patch, but did enjoy some great pastries (see following photographs) and delicious coffees and teas; Tasmania, Australia

We didn’t have time on our tour to do hand berry picking in the berry fields at The Berry Patch, but did enjoy some great pastries (see following photographs) and delicious coffees and teas; Tasmania, Australia

 

The Berry Patch’s website description: “Just 10 minutes from Devonport in Tasmania’s North West, you can experience both culinary perfection from our cafe menu, and an authentic farm experience.  Dine at our restaurant and then hand-pick your own sweet and delicious berries in our ‘Pick Your Own’ fields. We also have a farm shop where you can purchase pre-picked fruit, and other house made and locally sourced goodies.  Enjoy gourmet pizzas from our authentic wood-fired oven, sit under our covered deck while the kids play on the hay bails, in the sandbox and at the ping pong tables, or enjoy time in the yurt listening to live music during a summer event.” – www.theberrypatch.com.au

 

A pastry from The Berry Patch made with chocolate cake rounds filled with fresh, local whipped cream and berries from the premises; Tasmania, Australia

A pastry from The Berry Patch made with chocolate cake rounds filled with fresh, local whipped cream and berries from the premises; Tasmania, Australia

 

A delicious blueberry muffin made with local ingredients at The Berry Patch, Tasmania, Australia

A delicious blueberry muffin made with local ingredients at The Berry Patch, Tasmania, Australia

 

Pavlova is an Australian creation – meringue topped with fresh fruit (a favorite at end of the year holidays celebrations); Tasmania, Australia

Pavlova is an Australian creation – meringue topped with fresh fruit (a favorite at end of the year holidays celebrations), enjoyed at The Berry Patch; Tasmania, Australia

 

Our intrepid traveler paused beside an Ashgrove Farms Cheese cow before entering the factory for a tour, including an explanation of the cheese-making process and then a tasting of the wide variety of award-winning cheeses; Tasmania, Australia

Our intrepid traveler paused beside an Ashgrove Farms Cheese cow before entering the factory for a tour, including an explanation of the cheese-making process and then a tasting of the wide variety of award-winning cheeses; Tasmania, Australia

 

“The Ashgrove milk and cheese factory is located at Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania.  Several generations of Bennett families have been farming the land surrounding the milk and cheese factory since the 1880’s.  In the late 1980s a decision was made to further develop the dairy operations with the decline in wool prices and the stagnation of the vegetable industry.  John and Michael Bennett’s goal in establishing the cheese factory was to gain independence from the low commodity prices that dominated Tasmanian milk supply and to produce premium quality cheese by on-farm value adding using farm milk.  In preparation a significant investment was made in building a new 50-unit rotary dairy in 1990.  From an initial small factory built in 1993, the factory has grown in size over the years.  The factory store which opened in April 1994 has enabled our valued customers and tourists to learn how our cheese is made.

“By 2001, the cheese operation had grown sufficiently to enable the business to be separated from the Ashgrove Farms farming operation.  The Ashgrove Cheese company was established in 2001 by Michael and John Bennett and their respective wives Maureen and Connie.  Ashgrove Farms continues to be the main supplier of milk to the Ashgrove Cheese factory.  In 2012 Ashgrove Farm Milk won a number of awards including best Farm Light Milk at the Dairy Industry Association of Australia awards.” — www.ashgrovecheese.com.au/

 

The cheese aging room at the Ashgrove Farms Cheese factory in Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania, Australia

The cheese aging room at the Ashgrove Farms Cheese factory in Elizabeth Town, in the heart of the dairying and cropping region in Northern Tasmania, Australia

 

Olive trees at Wattle Hill Olives, an award-winning producer of extra virgin olive oil in Tasmania, Australia

Olive trees at Wattle Hill Olives, an award-winning producer of extra virgin olive oil in Tasmania, Australia

 

“Wattle Hill Olives produces award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wattle Hill has 2,000 trees with Spanish and French varieties.  The Tables Olives are nearing maturity and will be available in the next few years.  Wattle Hill also produces balsamic olive oil salad dressing/dipping sauces which are irresistible.  George and Veronica enjoy going to the markets and meeting people and giving them a taste of their oil.  The Oil can also be purchased at most Tasmanian IGA Stores, some restaurants and fruit markets.” — www.foodandbeveragetasmania.com/

 

In addition to plain extra virgin olive oil, Wattle Hill Olives produces a number of flavored oils, most of which we had a chance to sample and enjoy at their facility; Tasmania, Australia

In addition to plain extra virgin olive oil, Wattle Hill Olives produces a number of flavored oils, most of which we had a chance to sample and enjoy at their facility; Tasmania, Australia

 

The entrance to Ghost Rock Winery facility and tasting room and restaurant, across from some of their vineyards, has several large “ghost rocks”; Tasmania, Australia

The entrance to Ghost Rock Winery facility and tasting room and restaurant, across from some of their vineyards, has several large “ghost rocks”; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Nestled among the rolling patchwork fields of the beautiful coastline of Northern Tasmania, you’ll find Ghost Rock among some of god’s best country.  Just 10 minutes from where the Spirit of Tasmania docks and one hour from Cradle Mountain or Launceston, this is a must visit destination when exploring the central North coast of Tasmania or more fondly known as the Cradle Coast Region.  The modern and vibrant Cellar Door & Eatery – twice crowned Tourism Tasmania’s ‘Best Cellar Door’ – offers wine tastings of Ghost Rock’s entire range and a lunch/grazing menu featuring local artisan produce.  With striking views over its vineyards, rolling countryside and Bass Strait, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular hangout.  One of the coolest wine regions in the State (and most probably Australia), it’s one of the State’s most unique wine experiences.  We love living where we do and would love to share this part of the world with you. We look forward to welcoming you soon. — Ghost Rock Team” — www.ghostrock.com.au

 

Vineyards at Ghost Rock Winery overlooking (to the north) the ocean and, beyond that, mainland Australia; Tasmania, Australia

Vineyards at Ghost Rock Winery overlooking (to the north) the ocean and, beyond that, mainland Australia; Tasmania, Australia

 

At our wine tasting at Ghost Rock Winery (before lunch) we had the opportunity to taste some of their rose, white and red wines; Tasmania, Australia

At our wine tasting at Ghost Rock Winery (before lunch) we had the opportunity to taste some of their rose, white and red wines; Tasmania, Australia

 

The tasting room at Anvers Confectionery where we had the opportunity to taste the broad range of chocolates and confections made in the factory, across the parking lot; Tasmania, Australia

The tasting room at Anvers Confectionery where we had the opportunity to taste the broad range of chocolates and confections made in the factory, across the parking lot; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Anvers Confectionery was established as a cottage industry in November 1989, by Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium.  During his six years as a student at the Institute of Foodstuffs in Antwerp, Belgium, and by working for some of the finest patisseries in the Flemish and Walloon regions, Igor learnt, amongst other culinary skills, the art of handling chocolate.  He was trained by Roger Geerts, world renowned confectioner and author of “Belgian Pralines”.  To guarantee the quality of his products, Igor not only has to painstakingly train his staff in the art of manipulating chocolate, but also to continuously source the finest ingredients.  Not only does he use fresh Tasmanian cream, pure butter, exquisite liquors and natural flavours, but also the world’s finest chocolate… Igor has found the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in flavour of any in the world, ideally suited for truffles and fudge. He believes the reason for this is that the pastures in Tasmania’s pure environment stay green almost all year round, eliminating the need to feed the dairy cows on grains.” – www.anvers-chocolate.com.au/

 

We enjoyed a tour of the Anvers Confectionary factory given by its founder and chocolatier, Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium decades ago, and enjoyed some hot chocolate and house-made pastries; Tasmania, Australia

We enjoyed a tour of the Anvers Confectionary factory given by its founder and chocolatier, Igor Van Gerwen, who came to Australia from Belgium decades ago, and enjoyed some hot chocolate and house-made pastries; Tasmania, Australia

 

Apples growing in one of many orchards at the Spreyton Cider Company’s manufacturing facility (and tasting room) for their award-winning Tasmanian ciders; Tasmania, Australia

Apples growing in one of many orchards at the Spreyton Cider Company’s manufacturing facility (and tasting room) for their award-winning Tasmanian ciders; Tasmania, Australia

 

“Spreyton has been home to our families since the mid 1800’s, and since 1908 we have been growing apples in this picturesque valley. For four generations we have grown the highest quality fruit for the people of Tasmania and the world.  When Spreyton Fresh – the parent of Spreyton Cider Co, was established in 1998 to begin making fresh apple juice, Spreyton also became synonymous with fantastic real apple juice that tasted like apples!  In 2011 it was time for the next step and Spreyton Fresh began experimenting with their first cider ferments and on the strength of those early experiments the Spreyton Cider Co. was launched.  The company made the decision to keep the entire cider production process in house as that was the only way to ensure that our products would be made with the quality and integrity that is central to everything we do.  So in 2012 we began construction of our cider manufacturing facility and cellar door, and employed a full-time cider maker.  Since inception, Spreyton Cider Company has won numerous awards for our cider in competitions all over Australia.  We have continued to develop the craft cider category by growing “cider specific” varieties of apples that will further improve the traditional ciders that we produce.  At Spreyton we are serious about real cider made from real apples and use both traditional and more contemporary techniques to ensure the quality of what we produce.  Spreyton is now not only home to great Tasmanian Apples and Fresh Apple juice it is also home for one of the few true tree-to-bottle cider producers in Australia.” — www.spreytonciderco.com.au

 

At our tasting at the Spreyton Cider Company, we had the opportunity to taste not only their delicious apple juice, but also their ciders and ginger beer – a nice ending to a full day of exploration and tastings; Tasmania, Australia

At our tasting at the Spreyton Cider Company, we had the opportunity to taste not only their delicious apple juice, but also their ciders and ginger beer – a nice ending to a full day of exploration and tastings; Tasmania, Australia

This blog post wraps up our two month journey aboard our ship from Hong Kong on New Years Day through our Raja Ampat expedition and then a semi-circumnavigation of Australia, from Darwin, through the Great Barrier Reef on to Sydney, and wrapping up in Tasmania.  Fortunately we flew back from Melbourne, Australia, just before the coronavirus pandemic shelter-in-place orders were mandated in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live.  Until we catch up again, stay safe and stay healthy…

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Eat local: Yuan Yuan Restaurant, Shanghai, China

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff and ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai

 

Following our walking tour of the Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” — 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession [see our previous blog post, “Shop local: Guangyuan Lu [‘wet’] Market, French Concession, Shanghai, China (2019)”, our guide from Context Travel tours walked us through the neighborhood, ending up at one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, where she knew the owner and staff.   With some input from our small group, she ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai.  It was an excellent meal and opened out eyes to the diversity of ingredients and flavors in the local cuisine.

 

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Hiroshima, Japan’s culinary profile attracts foodies from around the globe.  Birthplace of Japan’s famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), the city’s version of the dish is a must-try for gastronomes.  Piled inside a thin crepe are layers of shredded cabbage, meat or seafood, fried noodles, and an egg; all topped with sauce, seaweed flakes and, optionally cheese or sliced green onions (scallions).  From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura, an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal.  We read brief English language descriptions of the various restaurants and liked the descriptions of those on the second floor, where we headed.  Only about half were open, so we chose one in the front corner of the building filled with Japanese customers.  Luckily, they had an English-language menu so we were able to order two different okonomiyaki for lunch with a draft beer.  We sat at the counter, watching with great interest the construction and cooking of our made-to-order okonomiyaki on a hot griddle.  They were quite delicious and very filling.  No desert needed!

 

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands (Føroyar)

Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, focuses on offering the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer -- the menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables

Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, focuses on offering the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer — the menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables

 

We had a nice introduction to some Faroese cuisine with a small family dinner at Frumbiti Restaurant in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.  The two-month old restaurant on the ground floor of a hotel in the center of the city focuses on offering “the bounty that the Faroese nature has to offer.  The menu features both classic and seasonally inspired dishes from locally sourced meats, fish and vegetables.”  Their philosophy is the same as the concepts behind so-called “California Cuisine” inaugurated by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse (restaurant) in Berkeley, California, USA, in the early 1970s.  We all enjoyed the really fresh cuisine and appreciated the introduction to Faroese dining – with our small group sharing the dishes.

 

A first course of a cold salad of local haddock, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A first course of a cold smoked salad of local haddock, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A first course of a yellow and green zucchini salad with herbs and orange slices, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A first course of a yellow and green zucchini salad with herbs and orange slices, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A first course of local salmon tartar with a delicious homemade mayonnaise topped with lemon peel and pepper, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; this was our favorite starter

A first course of local salmon tartar with a delicious homemade mayonnaise topped with lemon zest and pepper, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; this was our favorite starter

 

A side dish of sliced cucumber and green apple salad with fresh herbs, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A side dish of sliced cucumber and green apple salad with fresh herbs, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

A side dish of pan roasted local potatoes, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands – really delicious, with a crusty skin and soft insides

A side dish of pan roasted local potatoes, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands – really delicious, with a crusty skin and soft insides

 

A main course of pan sautéed shredded local lamb with vegetables, Frumbiti Rest., Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; our favorite main, with excellent flavors and a nice contrast between the crunchy top of the lamb and the juicy shredded lamb below

A main course of pan sautéed shredded local lamb with vegetables, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; our favorite main course, with excellent flavors and a nice contrast between the crunchy top of the lamb and the juicy shredded lamb below

 

A main course of seafood chowder with a slice of homemade bread, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; a nice array of local fish and shellfish in an excellent broth

A main course of seafood chowder with a slice of homemade bread, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands; a nice array of local fish and shellfish in an excellent broth

 

A main course of Reydsprøka, the local fish in a delicious sauce and a garbanzo bean salad underneath, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

A main course of Reydsprøka, the local fish in a delicious sauce and a garbanzo bean salad underneath, Frumbiti Restaurant, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

 

As we walked back from the center of town to catch a ride at the ferry terminal, back to our ship in port about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north, we passed the harbor with reflections of the harbor buildings and beautiful twilight sky colors

As we walked back from the center of town to catch a ride at the ferry terminal, back to our ship in port about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north, we passed the harbor with reflections of the harbor buildings and beautiful twilight sky colors

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Exterior of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, that occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Exterior of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, that occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

One evening in Dublin we had the pleasure of joining a group from the ship for a tour of the Merrion Hotel, one of the leading hotels in Europe, followed by cocktails and a private dinner at Ireland’s only Michelin two-star restaurants (on the one night a week the restaurant is normally closed).  We were very fortunate to have had three leading Irish officials join the group and make presentations after dinner – offering very insightful perspectives on the current Irish political and economic situation, particularly with respect to the upcoming decisions in the United Kingdom regarding Brexit.

“The Merrion Hotel occupies one of the finest, most beautifully restored and best located Georgian buildings in Dublin City Center.  Our reputation is rooted in a happy marriage of effortless style and unparalleled service, making us one of the finest 5 star hotels Ireland has to offer.  Our 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colours selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel… During the spring and summer months, guests can enjoy the tranquillity of the Garden Terrace, while the Drawing Rooms, with their open log fires,  are perfect for Afternoon Tea at any time of the year.  The Tethra Spa’s calming interiors make it an ideal place to unwind, and to restore and invigorate both body and mind.  Whether on a business or a leisure trip why not unwind in our infinity swimming pool and steam room.  The Merrion is home to two bars and two restaurants, including Ireland’s only 2 star-Michelin Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.” – http://www.merrionhotel.com

 

Georgian Drawing Rooms, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Georgian Drawing Rooms, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Merrion Hotel’s 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colors selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Merrion Hotel’s 123 guest rooms and 19 suites are light and airy, decorated in colors selected from a subtle palette inspired by one of Paul Henry’s Irish landscape paintings which hangs in the Front Hall of the Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Merrion Gardens, The Merrion Hotel – “As a city centre hotel, The Merrion is uniquely privileged to have two period gardens, designed by Jim Reynolds, the noted Irish landscape artist”, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Merrion Gardens, The Merrion Hotel – “As a city centre hotel, The Merrion is uniquely privileged to have two period gardens, designed by Jim Reynolds, the noted Irish landscape artist”, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

The Cellar Bar offers a casual gastro-pub menu in the basement of The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Cellar Bar offers a casual gastro-pub menu in the basement of The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Painting in the Merrion Hotel, “The Battle of The Boyne 1690” by Jan Van Huchtenbburg 1647 – 1733. King Janes II was defeated by William of Orange. After the Battle, James fled first to Dublin and then to France

Painting in the Merrion Hotel, “The Battle of The Boyne 1690” by Jan Van Huchtenbburg 1647 – 1733. King Janes II was defeated by William of Orange. After the Battle, James fled first to Dublin and then to France. William, King of England, Scotland & Ireland reigned until his death in 1702. The battle is remembered in Northern Ireland every year on July 12th. Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland- “A truly sumptuous restaurant in an elegant Georgian house; Patrick Guilbaud has run it for over 35 years

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland: “A truly sumptuous restaurant in an elegant Georgian house; Patrick Guilbaud has run it for over 35 years. Accomplished, original cooking uses luxurious ingredients and mixes classical French cooking with modern techniques. Dishes are well-crafted and visually stunning with a superb balance of textures and flavours” — The Michelin Guide, http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/Dublin-D2-Patrick_Guilbaud-35n13bv

 

“Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud holds two Michelin stars, in addition to virtually all top national and international restaurant awards.  This bright, elegant restaurant, situated in an 18th Century Georgian townhouse, adjoins the five-star Merrion Hotel.  Patrick  Guilbaud created his restaurant in 1981, now established as a centre of fine dining for over thirty years… the cuisine is contemporary Irish with classical roots.  Patrick Guilbaud’s pursuit of excellence can be seen in the delicious, immaculately presented dishes, prepared from the finest Irish produce in season.  Service is equally meticulous, combining efficient French decorum with discreet Irish charm, ensuring the delivery of an impeccable dining experience.  Everything is made on the premises, from the wonderful selection of breads to the petit fours… signature dishes include lobster ravioli, roast challans duck for two and assiette gourmande au chocolat… Patrick Guilbauds has an extensive wine list, which includes many fine wines, to delight the most fastidious and discerning connoisseur.” — http://www.ireland.com/what-is-available/food-and-drink/restaurants/

 

A first course of Annagassan Blue Lobster Boudin with Green Apple Jus accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A first course of Annagassan Blue Lobster Boudin with Green Apple Jus accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A first course of Aubergine Baked with Mellow Spices, Cepe Biscuit, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A first course of Aubergine Baked with Mellow Spices, Cepe Biscuit, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, accompanied by 2017 Chablis, Domain Servin, Vielles Vignes, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Your blogger in the bar between courses at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Your blogger in the bar between courses at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of Truffled Chicken “Tourte” with Foie Gras, Port, Périgord Truffle(a specialty of the chef, not on the regular menu) accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

A main course of Truffled Chicken “Tourte” with Foie Gras, Port, Périgord Truffle (a specialty of the chef, not on the regular menu) accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of Grilled Wild Halibut, Violet Artichoke Fricassé, Roasted Bone Jus, accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of Grilled Wild Halibut, Violet Artichoke Fricassé, Roasted Bone Jus, accompanied by 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune “Ez Connardises”, Domaine Françoise Andre , Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Drink local: Slane Distillery, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

The Slane Distillery was opened in 2017 by the family owners of Slane Castle in a joint partnership with Brown-Forman Beverages and Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA, in the River Boyne region

The Slane Distillery was opened in 2017 by the family owners of Slane Castle in a joint partnership with Brown-Forman Beverages and Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA, in the River Boyne Valley that has a rich heritage of Irish whiskey distilleries, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

Situated about an hour north of Dublin alongside the River Boyne, Slane Castle has been home to the Conyngham family since 1703.  Surrounded by parklands designed by landscape architect Capability Brown, the four-story, crenelated castle was reconstructed in 1785 with the guidance of three leading architects: James Wyatt, James Gandon, and Francis Johnston.  Music lovers may know it as the setting for one-day annual summer concerts by U2, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.  We began our visit at the distillery with cocktail made from Slane Irish Whiskey, accompanied by some canapes.  Our tour began outside in the 250 year-old Georgian stables, converted to the distillery which opened in 2017.  Over the course of the tour we learned about the distinct steps that are involved in turning barley into Irish Whiskey.  Using estate grown barley and water from the River Boyne, Slane Distillery produces a distinctive Irish whiskey, triple-aged in virgin American oak casks, Tennessee whiskey casks, and Oloroso sherry casks.  Slane Irish Whiskey takes many of its complex and smooth qualities from the cask aging, after which the whiskeys are blended to create the complex but smooth final whiskey – we enjoyed some neat at the end of the tour, and then were surprised how the addition of just a few drops of water changed its character and made for a fine, even smoother, silkier drink.

 

Slane Castle, a four-story, crenelated castle was reconstructed in 1785, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

Slane Castle, a four-story, crenelated castle was reconstructed in 1785, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

The distillery was carefully built in the landmark status stable buildings of Slane Caste, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

The distillery was carefully built in the landmark status stable buildings of Slane Caste, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

A flow chart from Slane Distillery showing the many steps involved in turning barley into Slane Irish Whiskey, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

A flow chart from Slane Distillery showing the many steps involved in turning barley into Slane Irish Whiskey, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

Brewing at Slane Distillery takes place in the Lauter Tun and Mash Tun, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

Brewing at Slane Distillery takes place in the Lauter Tun and Mash Tun, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

The distillation columns at Slane Distillery, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

The distillation columns at Slane Distillery, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

These old barrels were shown as examples of the three types of barrels that the whiskey at Slane Distillery is aged in before blending to create the complex but smooth final Slane Irish Whiskey, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

These old barrels were shown as examples of the three types of barrels that the whiskey at Slane Distillery is aged in before blending to create the complex but smooth final Slane Irish Whiskey, Slane, County Meath, Republic of Ireland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s and is named after the Yeats poem and in honor of its winding staircase (from the ground floor bookshop to the upstairs restaurant)

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s and is named after the Yeats poem and in honor of its winding staircase (from the ground floor bookshop to the upstairs restaurant)

 

On our first night in Dublin, before attending a performance at the nearby iconic Irish Theatre, The Abbey Theatre, we dined early at The Winding Stair, highly recommended by an American friend (now living in Norway) who has had many business trips to Dublin where he was introduced to many local favorite restaurants.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, with a friend from the ship, and regret that we missed dessert and after dinner drinks due to our appointment at the theatre.

“The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970s and 1980s.  Named after the Yeats poem, and in honour of its winding staircase, it is perfectly located, overlooking the river Liffey, with an iconic view of the Ha’penny bridge.  As a popular meeting place for writers, musicians and artists, it was a well known hub for debate and creativity with many poems written, novels penned and movies shot within its walls.  When its closure was announced in 2005, there were mutterings about the end of an era, but in 2006, Elaine Murphy brought this much-loved spot back to life as a restaurant, championing seasonal, Irish produce.  The bookshop, located on the ground floor, was retained, as were many of the old bookshelves, photos and memories.  The room retains its timeless charm with stripped wood tables and floors, and Bentwood café chairs.  The old girders give a nod to its past as a tweed loom and the view remains as quintessentially Dublin as ever.

 

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café dining room on the floor above the bookshop overlooks the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café dining room on the floor above the bookshop overlooks the River Liffey and the Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A shared first course was a huge platter of many local smoked fish with Irish bread and butter – delicious!, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A shared first course was a huge platter of many local smoked fish with Irish bread and butter – delicious!, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Another first course (also shared) was an excellent potted crab served with toasted Irish bread, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Another first course (also shared) was an excellent potted crab served with toasted Irish bread, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

“The food is good, old-fashioned home cooking, with produce sourced from artisans within the island.  The beer list focuses on local and international micro breweries with an emphasis on good food, matched beers and ales.  The wine list is extensive and also aims to showcase some of the new and emerging stellar boutique wine makers from the new and old worlds.  We aim to be a restaurant devoid of bells and whistles, with food cooked by chefs devoid of ego and served by warm, friendly professionals with a passion for their business.  We hope we have succeeded! “ — https://winding-stair.com

 

A main course of pork belly, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of pork belly, The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

A main course of fresh, local salmon with roe and zucchini and mashed potatoes

A main course of fresh, local salmon with roe and zucchini and mashed potatoes

 

A main course of a pot of steamed local mussels, clams and crab meat served with chips (called French Fries in the US), The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

A main course of a pot of steamed local mussels, clams and crab meat served with chips (called French Fries in the US), The Winding Stair, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Drink local: Holy Vale Winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Holy Vale Winery's vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 by local resident and hotelier Robert Francis who wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Holy Vale Winery’s vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 by local resident and hotelier Robert Francis who wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

In the afternoon on St. Mary’s Island we joined a small group for a visit, tour and tasting at the Islands’ only winery, Holy Vale Winery.  The winery and local vineyards are a project of local hotelier (and chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly) Robert Francis, who knows wines from around the world and wanted to pioneer the production of good quality wines on the Isles of Scilly.  Because production of local wines is so difficult and there is very limited availability, the winery’s second goal is to select some fine wines from around the world and introduce them to winery visitors (in lieu of tasting only local wines).  The winery’s website notes: “Holy Vale Wines is a British family owned and run company, created to bring you a very special collection of some of the most exciting, delicious wines from around the world, featuring California [from the Francis Ford Coppola Family Winery, and others]. Our selection is driven by our passion for great wine that is ready to drink, offering exceptional value and quality.

“Holy Vale Vineyard was planted in the spring of 2009 after a couple of years trying to beg, borrow or steal redundant farm land on St Mary’s.  With co-operation from the Duchy of Cornwall and local farmers we were able to set about obtaining the land we had found that suited the planting of the vines, mostly sloping and facing south, to aid water drainage and aspect to the sun.  These parcels of land are situated in Holy Vale, Maypole, Silver Carn and Helvear.  It was not possible to obtain all the land together in one parcel, but that in some respects is an advantage because it will give diversity and different character to the wines.

 

The winery has several parcels of vineyards across St. Mary’s Island on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom; these are located at the winery where we visited and had a tour and tasting

The winery has several parcels of vineyards across St. Mary’s Island on the Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom; these are located at the winery where we visited and had a tour and tasting

 

“We carefully selected nurseries in Burgundy and Luxemburg to nurture the vines of our grape varieties grafted on to our rootstock. 7,000 vines were ordered of our selection, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  These were chosen instead of the normal, mostly German varieties that have traditionally been grown in the UK mainly for climatic reasons. Our choice reflected the commitment and quality that we wish to achieve, rather than quantity. Our resolve is to produce the most special wines, even though working with Pinot Noir is especially difficult.

“We are now producing, bottling and selling Holy Vale Wines, 2014 was our very first vintage. We offer tours of the vineyard and tastings of wines at the vineyard…”– http://www.holyvalewines.co.uk

 

The first vintage of Holy Vale Pinot Noir was 5 years after the vines were planted, in 2014; there was no wine made in the subsequent four years due to weather and loss of grapes to predators, so there are no tastings of recent vintages

The first vintage of Holy Vale Pinot Noir was 5 years after the vines were planted, in 2014; there was no wine made in the subsequent four years due to weather and loss of grapes to predators, so there are no tastings of recent vintages

 

Some of the wine making equipment at the Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Some of the wine making equipment at the Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

The wines from around the world that we tasted with winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

The wines from around the world that we tasted with winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom. Note that Robert was very gracious and generous and pulled a couple of bottles of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir from the winery’s “library” to taste with us; at 11.5% ABV (alcohol) – due to the cool weather on the island — the Holy Vale Pinot Noir was lighter that we are used to on the West Coast of the United State, but refreshing with good acidity and fruit.

 

Winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery in the vineyard with a bottle of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

Winemaker Robert Francis at Holy Vale Vineyard winery in the vineyard with a bottle of his 2014 Holy Vale Pinot Noir, St. Mary’s Island, Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

London, England (2019)

Carnaby Street is a pedestrianised shopping street in Soho in the City of Westminster, Central London, England, that is home to fashion and lifestyle retailers, including a large number of independent fashion boutiques

Carnaby Street is a pedestrianised shopping street in Soho in the City of Westminster, Central London, England, that is home to fashion and lifestyle retailers, including a large number of independent fashion boutiques

 

“A tireless innovator of art and culture, London is a city of ideas and the imagination.  Londoners have always been fiercely independent thinkers (and critics), but until not so long ago people were suspicious of anything they considered avant-garde.  That’s in the past now, and the city’s creative milieu is streaked with left-field attitude, whether it’s theatrical innovation, contemporary art, pioneering music, writing, poetry, architecture or design.  Food is another creative arena that has become a tireless obsession in certain circles.  This city is deeply multicultural, with one in three Londoners foreign-born, representing 270 nationalities and 300 tongues.  The UK may have voted for Brexit (although the majority of Londoners didn’t), but for now London remains one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and diversity infuses daily life, food, music and fashion.” – http://www.lonelyplanet.com

 

Kingly Court (off Kingly Street in Soho), City of Westminster, London, England

Kingly Court (off Kingly Street in Soho), City of Westminster, London, England

 

Delicious sandwiches for lunch at the Bread Ahead Cafe in Kingly Court, Soho, City of Westminster, London, England

Delicious sandwiches for lunch at the Bread Ahead Cafe in Kingly Court, Soho, City of Westminster, London, England

 

We were very impressed by how contemporary London has become, from its diversity to the broad range of lifestyle options and a big focus on sustainability -- taking care of the city and the environment

We were very impressed by how contemporary London has become, from its diversity to the broad range of lifestyle options and a big focus on sustainability — taking care of the city and the environment

 

Liberty of London department store, Soho (off Regent Street), City of Westminster, London, England

Liberty of London department store, Soho (off Regent Street), City of Westminster, London, England

 

All Souls Church of Langham Place, London is a 19th-century, working evangelical church, designed by John Nash, with an ornate galleried hall

All Souls Church of Langham Place, London is a 19th-century, working evangelical church, designed by John Nash, with an ornate galleried hall

 

A residential building beautifully adorned with flowers in Soho, City of Westminster, London, England

A residential building beautifully adorned with flowers in Soho, City of Westminster, London, England

 

Wimpole Street, Marylebone, City of Westminster, London, England

Wimpole Street, Marylebone, City of Westminster, London, England

 

“The most famous resident [of Wimpole Street] was the poet Elizabeth Barrett, who lived at 50 Wimpole Street with her family from 1838 until 1846 when she eloped with Robert Browning.  The street became famous from the play based on their courtship, The Barretts of Wimpole Street…  Virginia Woolf memorably describes Wimpole Street in Flush: A Biography, beginning: “It is the most august of London streets, the most impersonal.  Indeed, when the world seems tumbling to ruin, and civilisation rocks on its foundations, one has only to go to Wimpole Street…”.  The street was also given as the address of Henry Higgins by Bernard Shaw in his play Pygmalion and in the musical adaptation My Fair Lady, 27a is given as the address.  22a Wimpole Street is referenced in the Monty Python sketch ‘Secret Service Dentists’. — Wikipedia

 

The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London, England, whose large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden"

The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London, England, whose large building is often referred to as simply “Covent Garden”, after a previous use of the site of the opera house’s original construction in 1732

 

A pianist playing as background for the afternoon (cream) tea and high tea served at the Savoy Hotel, London, England

A pianist playing as background for the afternoon (cream) tea and high tea served at the Savoy Hotel, London, England

 

“Afternoon Tea at The Savoy is an enduring custom that has been a feature of the hotel since it opened in 1889.  The restaurant terrace was a popular venue, as it combined The Savoy’s usual impeccable service with a panoramic view of the Thames.  English weather being what it was, the terrace was soon glazed in and incorporated into the body of the main restaurant, where fashionable couples enjoyed mid-afternoon refreshments.  By the 1920s, Afternoon Tea was a firm tradition at The Savoy.  Surviving menus show that today’s sandwiches, followed by patisserie were then established parts of Afternoon Tea; other offerings included toast, English muffins, ice cream, fruit salad, and boxes of chocolates.  Hot gaufres (a thin sweet waffle) were made to order if requested.  Tea itself might have even be substituted by coffee or hot chocolate.  Such sweet indulgence was offset by a little gentle exercise: The Savoy offered thés dansant, where the house dance bands provided a background of popular tunes, and professional dancers demonstrated the latest steps and danced with the guests.” – www.thesavoylondon.com

 

Afternoon tea at The Savoy with a range of JING teas, finger sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream and jam, and a range of delicate and imaginative pastries and signature cakes, London, England

Afternoon tea at The Savoy with a range of JING teas, finger sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream and jam, and a range of delicate and imaginative pastries and signature cakes, London, England

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Stellenbosch Winelands (near Cape Town), South Africa (2018)

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosc

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosch wine region), South Africa

 

Thanks to the expert guidance of our ship’s Head Sommelier, we planned a one day outing from the ship’s dock in the V&A Harbour in Cape Town, South Africa, to the Stellenbosch wine country – an area we have visited several times on previous trips, and always a joy to return to.  Madeline Puckette, a certified sommelier and writer (e.g., Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine) posted an excellent description of the area:

“Many of the photos we see of South African vineyards – positioned in front of striking granite mountains – are from the Stellenbosch area.  It contains the most developed winelands; it is home to an important wine University (University of Stellenbosch); and it is the center of wine tourism.  In short, Stellenbosch is to South African wine much like Napa is to Californian wine [emphasis added].  Of course, finding good wine from Stellenbosch can be challenging because there are so many producers.  However, there is a secret to exploring the area.  The highest rated wines tend come from vineyards that are on alluvial fans of the granite mountains.  The wines from these locations are often described as having a subtle mineral note which many believe is from the decomposed granite soils.  The granite mountains are approximately 600 million years old, over 3 times as old as the soil in Napa.” – http://www.winefolly.com/review/wines-south-africas-stellenbosch-district

Our first stop was at the Vergelegen Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch wine subregion of Somerset West.  “Vergelegen, meaning ‘situated far away’ [in Dutch], was granted to the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, in 1700.  Since then, the estate has been crafted by some of the world’s greatest explorers and visionaries, who each in their own way, have helped shape Vergelegen to what it is today: a world-class Estate.  Vergelegen has been owned by the Anglo American plc group since 1987.

 

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

 

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

“Vergelegen has twice won the coveted Château Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande Trophy for the best red blend and continues to achieve critical acclaim for its success in maintaining the delicate balance between wine production, the conservation of its rich heritage and the environment…  The philosophy of our award-winning gardens is to reflect the best from all of the historical periods of the past 300 years.  There are 17 unique gardens to explore and wander through, ranging from the only Camellia Garden of Excellence in South Africa, to the splendid Octagonal Garden.” — Vergelegen Wine Estate brochure

 

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel b

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel between 1700 and 1706 and were proclaimed a South African National Monument in 1942; Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa – note that commercial camphor is extracted from the camphor tree wood

 

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

A short drive away, on a parcel of land that was originally part of the old Vergelegen land grant, was Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate.  Breaking up our morning of wine tasting, we decided to just do an olive oil tasting – some of the finest in South Africa, with all of the olive trees having been imported from Italy over the years by the estate owner Giulio Bertrand.  “Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate in Somerset West, 35 minutes from Cape Town, is at the gateway to the Western Cape wine-growing region.  It is a thriving olive and wine farm dating back to 1711, producing internationally acclaimed Bordeaux-style wines and extra virgin olive oil of astounding quality.   The Morning Star within a scallop shell as depicted on the front gable of Morgenster’s beautiful manor house, the private home of owner Giulio Bertrand, is the Estate’s signature and features on the labels of its fine wines and olive products.  Visitors to the Estate’s stylish Revel Fox designed tasting room, which is set against the Schaapenberg and overlooks a reed lined dam and the Helderberg, can enjoy a wine tasting experience unique in South Africa.  The Estate’s philosophy is to release its red Bordeaux style blends only when they have developed and aged to potential and the cellar therefore houses highly awarded earlier vintages under its Morgenster and Lourens River Valley labels. ”www.morgenster.co.za   We enjoyed the olive oils in the tasting so much that we bought several bottles to take back to our kitchen aboard the ship – the award winning extra virgin olive oil and the lemon enhanced extra virgin olive oil.

 

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Heading north up towards the town of Stellenbosch, we then went a little to the west to our final winery visit of the morning, DeMorgenzon, founded in 1699.  “All wine estates in the Western Cape are beautiful and all have unique terroir.  However, we believe that DeMorgenzon is the most extraordinary of them all.  Our slopes rise from about 200 meters (656 feet) to nearly 400 meters (1,312 feet) above sea level and our vistas embrace Cape Town, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape Hangklip, the Hottentots Holland mountains, Helderberg and Simonsberg with the ocean as a backdrop.  While we could call ourselves ‘mountain vineyards’ we prefer to be known as ‘garden vineyards’.  In Spring specially chosen wildflowers flourish between our vines.  We have no doubt that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes and the beauty of our gardens is captured in every bottle of our wine…  DeMorgenzon, ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the sun because of its high altitude and aspects.  We cover the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop, overlooking the pinnacle of Kanonkop from where a cannon was fired to alert the farms in the region that a ship had put into Table Bay.  The first road from Cape Town to Stellenbosch ran through the Stellenbosch Kloof.” — www.demorgenzon.com

 

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartm

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartment on the ship, along with several other varietals from DeMorgenzon

 

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira_s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent installation art by Marco Cianfanelli,

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira’s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent private commission of installation art by Marco Cianfanelli, The Mind’s Vine, encapsulates the narrative of the creation of TOKARA and reflects the winery’s origins as a superlative wine growing environment — Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

For a late afternoon luncheon and wine tasting with the meal, we headed back to Stellenbosch and then drove east up towards the pass in the Simonsberg Mountains towards Paarl and Franschhoek.  Near the summit we pulled into Tokara Wine Estate for a mid-afternoon repast at the Tokara Restaurant.  We had an excellent multi-course South African cuisine meal with excellent wines from the estate.  We were very disappointed to learn that the delicious, off-menu 2015 Tokara Pinotage was sold out at the winery store.

A note about Pinotage — it is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety, originally bred there in 1925 as a cross between the French varietals Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

 

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

In 1994 GT Ferreira purchased the Tokara farm for residential purposes.  But that was until the wine-making potential of this land was discovered.  The cool air makes for great wine and soon classic varietals were planted along the slopes of the Helshoogte Pass.  From the estate, visitors are able to catch a glimpse of Idas Valley, False Bay and the Simonsberg Mountains.

 

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.