Monday, August 20, 2012

Food, Glorious Food!

(this is Harvest Cafe - image from here)

There hasn't been a lot of cooking going on around here of late, but we have still been doing plenty, plenty, of eating.

My husband and I have been away, six days child free! We stayed in the hills just outside of beautiful Bangalow in Northern New South Wales. We enjoyed quirky shops and country drives, but most of all, we feasted like kings. It was four years ago when we last visited this area and yes, I remember it as pretty much the same.

Some of the best food I have eaten.

I'll tell you about it, shall I?

I think the highlight of our trip was our lunch at Harvest. We had been there a few times before but only for breakfast or coffee. This lunch blew us away. Not only was the food amazing, but the whole experience was great. The log fire was roaring and the place was abuzz, packed with people, we had a wonderful waitress that knew all about each dish on the menu and spoke knowingly about the wines. This kind of service I find is very rare, at least where I eat out. Her happy service certainly made our lunch all the more enjoyable.

My husband ate the daily special, a delicious duck curry, filled overflowing with melt in your mouth duck pieces (yes, I did taste just a little bit) the bright yellow curry was bursting with flavour and freshness. I had twice cooked caramel pork belly to die for, sticky and flavoursome. Served with fragrant rice and a Asian salad (julienned carrot, capsicum and cucumber, coriander, ginger). The meals where huge and I think value for money. Washed down with a glass of white wine, the only option for the afternoon was a siesta back at our little cottage.

I am really sorry that I did not take a photo of this meal, but we had left the camera in the car.

The newly converted old Possum Creek School, Liliana's was the place for another amazing lunch.

We had been driving past the restaurant all week and wanted to go there for lunch on our last day. After spending the morning shopping, we arrived at 1:30pm. It was a Thursday. 'Did we have a booking?' (no) We were seated up on some bar stools at a bench down one end of the verandah. We were happy with that. Once again there was a lovely vibe to the renovated restaurant, similar to Harvest. Out of the wind and in the sun, we shared a 'tasting plate' and some homemade chunky chips. Totally unexpected, the tasting plate was huge and we did not need the chips (but yes, we did eat it all!) No wine on this day, we were driving on to Brisbane, but I did have a Nana nap in the car. I am not used to eating such big meals.

Our tasting plate above: marinated olives, prosciutto, arancini, goats cheese labneh, roasted peppers, pesto, white anchovies, grilled asparagus, caper berries and house made sourdough. Not in the picture was a huge bowl of chunky chips with a bowl of aioli.

We stayed at the beautiful, beautiful, Coco's. The owner Kevin, cooks the most delicious food. Last time we stayed here, we ate way too much, so this time we choose only to have one breakfast and one three course dinner cooked for us.

We requested breakfast at 8:30. I woke (oh, glorious sleep in) at 8:29, a minute later there was a tiny knock at our door, our host, Janice was there, holding two glasses of freshly squeezed juice: orange, tangelo and grapefruit.

Our breakfast was a tasting plate. Homemade sourdough, local bacon, amazing slow roasted mushrooms and tomatoes (I'll just let you know, I hate roasted tomatoes - I could not get enough of these) avocado and a delicious layered tortilla filled with thinly sliced vegetables and so much flavour. Pure genius.

Our three course meal did not disappoint either.

I'll set the scene: (this may show my age, when I say this is the perfect night)

After a long day of shopping and exploring we sat by the fire with a glass of wine and a Scrabble game under way. Each course was delivered to our door at the ready. Our first course was a bowl of Yamba prawns and snapper tossed in a rich, but light sauce. I am going to try and reproduce this: capers, preserved lemon, finely diced tomato, finely diced leeks, butter, perhaps a little stock? - Oh soooo yummy. Served on the side with local prosciutto wrapped around asparagus and marinated olives.

Back to our Scrabble game while we waited for our second course.  A perfectly cooked sirloin steak, sweet roasted pumpkin, beetroot, onions and garlic, steamed snow peas from the garden and grilled polenta. All drizzled with an amazing red wine jus. Another huge serving, lucky for us, we enjoyed most of our meal, but were able to put some aside for the following morning's breakfast. Straight into the fridge and again, back to our game.

To end, Janice delivered a giant piece of tiramisu and bid us goodnight. We left the tiramisu sit while we recovered from what we had just eaten. Our Scrabble game finished, I admitted defeat and we tidied up the dishes. We made some espresso's and settled onto the couch by the fire. Tiramisu and a movie. Perfect. It was the yummiest tiramisu I have ever tasted.

With four farmers markets a week in their local area, Janice and Kevin source their produce locally and define there menu by what's available. When I booked our accommodation, I told them that we will eat anything except offal, and left the rest up to them. Not only was it a good rest from cooking each day, but it was also great not to have to decide what to eat. 

And what else did we eat on our travels, you ask?

• The biggest and one of the best hamburgers ever, served with yummy chunky chips at the Tumbulgum Tavern. Quiet on a weekday, we sat and looked out over the beautiful Tweed River.

• A lighter burger the next day, a fish burger with a flavour-filled Asian salad and chunky chips at Fish Heads in Bangalow.

• We were stopped in the street by the amazing smells coming from this 'hole in the wall' Balinese restaurant. We decided it was lunch time and shared a fantastic Balinese chicken curry and yummy gago gado. $20.00 for two people! I was so full I could hardly walk out of the restaurant.

• We ate brownies and coffee everywhere, here and here, but we particularly loved our coffee stop at The Bank Cafe in Lismore. It was late and we were the only customers. We drank more than one coffee and shared a deliciously gooey brownie, while reading vintage magazines (they were the only reading material on the tables) What a laugh. "What does marriage mean to men?" in 1960! Italian cuisine in 1983. Home decorating in 1979 and the best fun, "Dear Abbey!"

Tomorrow, I will tell you about what we have been eating since leaving the Northern Rivers area - yes, more eating out!

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