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.
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
“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/
“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/
“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
“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/
“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
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…
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