GOURMET TRAIL - PINK BITS AND ALL!The horse is now out to pasture, but the lovely old bluestone stables he lived in for many years has a glowing new purpose - dining and wining! Local mover and shaker, Jan Grant converted her stables adjoining Malmsbury's well-established bakery into a pizza joint with a difference, in the central highlands of Victoria.Woodend Visitor's Centre - 03 5427 2033Kyneton Visitor's Centre - 03 5427 2033
The food is not your usual greasy mess of dubious meat and veggies. The pizza's often made with rocket and gourmet cheeses are healthy and delicious. Cook Annie Smithers has further quaint culinary plans for a range of pink chocolate creations aptly named Annie's Pink Bits, which will further enhance the hidden secrets of a tasty gourmet trail, stretching from Sunbury just north of Melbourne to Castlemaine.
Away from the city pressures and exposure culinary experts quietly go about the business of turning out succulent tasty morsels, making the most of the fresh local meat and vegetables produced on the green hillsides.
You can see Mount Macedon from Melbourne as it rises into the clouds. Originally the place for 19th Century 'gentry', the grand gardens and European trees dropping their colourful leaves each Autumn gives the whole area a 'removed' feeling from the rest of the country. Once you arrive among the ferns and trees finding the pockets of interesting restaurants, compulsory afternoon teas, wineries and lush places to stay are easy... and there are plenty of them.
To learn how to create like the experts, try Simone Ivanyi's cooking classes at the 5 star Craiglea. On offer is a different theme in each class and if your partner doesn't feel like getting their hands dirty send them on a winery tour with Victoria Winery
Tours. When you both finish your respective days, there is a mouth-watering dinner to sit down to, created by your own hands. For a special occasion you can go the whole hog and stay at this indulgent place and be served exquisite three course meals in your suite filled with artworks and overlooking misty green hills and valleys. The first people to stay at Craiglea was the governor of Victoria and his wife, so you are following in noble footsteps.
Woodend is the local town at the base of the mountain, where local beers are produced by Holgate's Brewery as well as good pub fare. They make their own beers here including lager and ales as well as selling the commercial variety. There is ghost on the second story of this historic hotel, but there is no way your appetite will be quelled by stories of chains rattling and white coated figures.
Breakfasts at Craig and Stephen's 'Seven Chimneys' or further into the backlots of Woodend to Tina and Moira's Woodbury Cottage, increase the likelihood of never wanting to leave. Both couples planted themselves here to make full use of the beauty and peace of the area, whilst still commuting to Melbourne. Their comfortable abodes have been extended to embrace guests who are cosseted and pampered, breakfasted and watered
as we all deserved to be.
The town shopping strips are sprinkled with local gourmet interests like 'Not Just Fudge' for the sweet-tooths or Maloa Gourmet Delights for a gratifying coffee and picking up that 'local specialty' chutney.
The shining star of ambience and relaxation sits unobtrusively in a quaint little town further west called Kyneton. Here on the edge of the antique shops and cafes, Warren and Ken run the Cottage on Piper. When we turned up, both were red-eyed and hung over from a late night plus a weekend of dramas, including cook chopping her finger tips off and cars crashing into the front fence. But this did not make even a slight dent in the high quality of the international dishes, excellent non-pressured service and the extremely relaxed ambience. We could have just sat there and eaten and drunk all day long
.er, in fact we did!
Southeast is Malmsbury and Annie Smither's pizza's at the converted stables, adjoining the local bakery. The courtyard for both is a regular place for locals to sit amongst the plants and fill up on frothy latte's while watching the country life. The Malmsbury area is a pretty one, its history is steeped in pure gold, being a rich gold-bearing area and there is still treasure to be found - in the form of fulfilling holidays. Guest cottages like Cloud End make use of surrounding green rolling hills to grow Mochiato cherries for the local restaurants. Sit on the deck, eat and drink and forget what is going on in the rest of the world.
It's not just local produce or international dishes on this trail. People come from Melbourne just for the night to sample the authentic Thai food at Thai Isson further east at Trentham. The two guys at Isson have created a haven of Asia with beautiful Thai silks hanging from looms on the walls and the gourmet gifted Chialom slaving away in the kitchen to hand over succulent dishes to the socially gifted Brian to be consumed by expectant patrons. After a dinner of tender beef and salad, the raspberry sorbet smoothed out the fires of a spicy main. Local wines and a well stocked bar complement the dishes. Here also you can take a cooking class or sign up to join them on a culinary tour of Thailand.
Nearby Castlemaine is a rich little town where sweet little gourmets abound. I especially liked the motto at the Bold Café Gallery "Life is too Short to Drink Bad Coffee." History, art and food present themselves on short strolls through the streets full of historic architecture.
Before such gourmet gifts, the entire region was better known for boutique wineries, which take advantage of the mineral laden soils and cool winters. The region's specialties are Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and wine tastings and cellar door sales are enjoyed at wineries like Hanging Rock Winery or Marrawa in nearby Gisborne, where it is no effort to buy a crate of Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir Rose or Semillon respectively. If sampling the vino is the priority, leave the car and join a winery tour with Victoria Winery Tours, who will include a running commentary about the area and the grapes as the little white van takes all the effort out of touring.
Festivals of food are held throughout the year, such as the Sunbury Wine Festival or the World's Longest Lunch at Hanging Rock. Incidentally Hanging Rock has a top little café where you can get a mean salmon fillet dish and fruit pie. After the puffy walk to the top of the rock one just has to sit down and eat to recover.
The pretty countryside wraps up a trip in a perfect package so maybe I will see you indulging out there as has become our habit. This trail wanders through an area that, like it's history, is a gold mine!
- Phoenix Arrien
For further information:
Craiglea Mountain Retreat - 03 5427 0799The Seven Chimneys - 03 5427 1952Woodbury Cottage - 03 5427 1876Cloud End - 03 9513 0806
Cottage on Piper - 03 5422 6944The Stables/Malmsbury Bakery - 03 5423 2369Holgate Brewery - 03 5427 3522Thai Issan - 03 5424 1811Victoria Winery Tours - 03 5428 8500