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Monday, August 29, 2016

Pandan Creme Brulee Tart Recipe - Super Delicious

I totally hate Winter. Some people enjoy the cold, but for me, the weather is awful. Given the usual terrible weather outside, one thing that I like to do indoors is to bake. I'm constantly trying to come up with new baking items as I love experimenting. So it was a perfect match when I was challenged by CSR Sugar to create a baked good for Winter. Given it's Winter, my mind instantly went to rich indulgent things like a creme brulee, which is an absolute favourite of mine. But to give it a twist, I decided to combine it with my favourite flavour, pandan, and to give it another textural (as they always say you need to do in Masterchef) in the form of a tart. I searched online and can you believe no such recipe exists, so I developed my own using the CSR Sugar products.

And here I present to you my one of a kind Pandan Creme Brulee Tart in all it's green glory. This tart may make you think of the Hulk, Green Lantern, aliens or even the musical Wicked, but trust me, it tastes so sensational and unlike anything else you'll ever taste. The creme brulee element is so smooth and creamy, with the intoxicating fragrance of the pandan. Then the pastry gives that rich buttery flavour with some crunch, finally topped off by the burnt sugar top which cracks in your mouth and gives this caramelised smokey flavour. With the sugar brulee top, this tart just would not be as good as it is now.

Some tips and tricks for achieving the perfect pandan creme brulee tart
- Bake the shortcrust pastry until it's really golden to ensure it's leak proof for the filling
- Make sure you strain the creme brulee filling with a fine sieve so you get the smoothest consistency
- Put the baked tart shell in the oven and then pour in the filling because it's very hard to move a full tart shell with the filling sloshing about
- Don't overbake the tart as you want the filling to still wobble and be soft and not curdle
- Don't be afraid to really torch the brulee top as you want a good crisp sugar crack but also to have the burnt bits that really add flavour.

Pandan Creme Brulee Tart Recipe

I used two recipes that I adapted for my recipe. The shortcrust pastry was from Belinda Jeffery and the creme brulee filling from Epicurious.

Shortcrust Pastry
Makes enough pastry for one 26-28cm tart shell

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup (60ml) iced water

1. Combine the flour and salt into a food processor and mix them together.
2. Add the butter and pulse everything until the mixture resembles medium-fine breadcrumbs.
3. With the processor running, pour in the iced water and process only until the dough forms a ball.
4. Tip the dough out onto a board and shape it into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and wrap it tightly in cling film.
5. Chill the dough for about 20-30 minutes or until the pastry is firm, but soft enough to roll.

Custard Filling

2 teaspoon pandan extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
1/2 cup CSR caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Add pandan extract to saucepan with cream and milk. Heat over medium heat until hot, then let steep off heat 30 minutes.
2. Whisk together yolks, whole egg, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
3. Add cream mixture into the eggs mixture and whisk until smooth.
4. Strain custard filling through a fine-mesh sieve into measuring cup.

Bake Pandan Creme Brulee Tart
2 tablespoon CSR caster sugar

1. Put tart shell (in tart tin) in a 4-sided tray.
2. Put tray in oven and pour custard into shell.
3. Bake tart until just set but still slightly wobbly in center, 30 to 35 minutes (custard will continue to set as it cools).
4. Remove tart from tray and cool on a rack 30 minutes. Remove tart tin and cool to room temperature for an hour more.
5. Just before serving, sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar evenly over top of tart. Move blowtorch flame evenly back and forth just above top of tart, avoiding crust, until sugar is caramelized and slightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

John West Fiery Tuna Rigatoni with Sun-Dried Tomatoes Recipe

Canned tuna is a staple item that I have in my pantry at all times. It is super versatile and easy to prepare to eat. You can literally open the can and just dig in with a fork. Put it in between some bread, on crackers, or in a salad and there's an instant meal. You can also add it into many other dishes to make a fancier meal. Whichever way you use it, it is sure to be tasty. I normally buy the John West tuna in olive oil and mix in whatever other flavours I want. Well, recently John West have introduced their Fiery Tuna range of products and I'm so excited. I love love love spicy foods and these fiery flavours are right up my alley. I've tried all four flavours and they're all delicious. I decided to create a recipe with the Inferno as I love a super spicy kick and think it works well with pasta.

Below is my John West Fiery Tuna Rigatoni with Sun-Dried Tomatoes recipe. The dish was so easy to make and definitely fell into the "anyone can make this" category. It was also really delicious and the spicy kick from the Inferno tuna added so much to this dish. This dish is a perfect quick meal for one, or a massive gathering for ten. If you want it less spicy, just use the jalapeno tuna and it works great as well.

Tuna Rigatoni with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Recipe adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny website.
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients
190g (2 x cans) John West Fiery Inferno tuna
250g rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and chopped
1/2 chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced

Instructions

1) Boil pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2) Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
3) Stir in tuna, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon juice, cooking for an additional 3 minutes until tomatoes are tender.
4) Add pasta, half of the parsley and half of the cheese to the pan, tossing gently.
5) To serve, divide pasta among plates and sprinkle each with remaining parsley and cheese.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Exploring Attractions And Foods of Bendigo From The BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park

I've driven past Bendigo a few times and had a quick look at the town, but haven't ever got a chance to really explore it. My friend used to live in Bendigo and was always saying to come visit but I just never found the chance. Well, I finally visited Bendigo with Angie, Ron and Brandon on a road trip. Having now experienced all the wonderful things that the town and area has to offer, I will definitely be back again to see even more of it. At the time of my visit, the Bendigo Art Gallery had a Marilyn Monroe exhibition one, which explains the huge Marilyn statue that you see in the photo below.

This post will look at the activities, eats, drinks and stay we had. Parts of it will be written by myself and other parts have been written by my co-contributor Angie, who has written the part for the food fossicking tour, tramcar ride, Marilyn exhibition and the BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park. The post is written in chronological order (except for the wineries at the end which are grouped from across the two days) so you could follow this itinerary exactly if you were planning a weekend trip.


Bendigo Tourism
51-67 Pall Mall
Bendigo VIC 3550

For everything you need to know about Bendigo, you can go to the Bendigo Tourism website, or if you're already in the area, visit the building.

Bendigo is a fairly large regional town, but at the same time has that small town feel where everything is relaxed and welcoming. The hustle and bustle of city life doesn't seem to be apparent. The cars drive slower and there's no honking too. The city is a mix of old and new. There are beautiful classical buildings that can house a restaurant or a post office, and then there are the newer building such as the Bendigo Bank Head Offices (the multi-coloured building in the photos below) and funky laneways with an eclectic mix of shops and eateries.

The temporary Marilyn statue dominates the area near Alexandra Fountain, Rosalind Park, Bendigo Art Gallery and the first Myer ever. A large statue is definitely a magnet for people and everyone just walked over to take a look and take photos. The surrounding Rosalind Park is so lush and beautiful and there was picturesque views all around. The little green house in the park was also an oasis of calm and beauty.

There were lots of shops and eateries all around and we took a wander around various places. There was lots of interesting things to see and try and we saw a lot of it during the Food Fossicking Tour so I'd highly recommend doing that (more details below). Climbing the oil tower behind the art gallery also gave a great 360 degree vantage of the whole town, along with some great photo opportunities.


BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park
1449 Calder Hwy
Marong VIC 3515

The BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park is located in Marong, a small town that is a convenient 15 minute drive from Bendigo city centre. It's location means you get to experience the sounds of the bush and appreciate the native flora and fauna. When I entered the cabin, the first thing I thought was how different it was to the accommodation I used to experience at caravan parks as a child. The cabin was spacious with a small kitchen and dining table as well as a master bedroom and a second bedroom with bunk beds. The interior was clean, modern and comfortable with all the basic amenities provided. After a long day exploring Bendigo, it was a great place to return to and get a quiet night's rest. In the morning, a walk around the park showed how family friendly it was with a giant chess set, jumping pillow and peddle go karts which would easily entertain children (and adults!)

We had a chance to speak to the owner, Brett, who informed us that they had bought the park in 2013 and had set about updating the cabins and upgrading the holiday park facilities. They are obviously very involved in how the caravan park runs and I always appreciate a family owned business, where the owners are obviously proud of what they've achieved. The caravan park is easy to find, just on the Calder Highway and would be a great home base when exploring Bendigo and the surrounding regions.


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Food Fossicking Tours Bendigo
51-67 Pall Mall
Bendigo VIC 3550

The stops on the Food Fossicking Tour are:
Bendigo Wholefoods
The Epicurean Deli
The Good Loaf Sourdough Bakery and Cafe
Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates
Mason's of Bendigo

The Food Fossickers tour runs every Saturday morning, departing from the Bendigo Visitor Centre promptly at 10am. In an intimate group of 8, you're taken around the city centre for approximately 2.5 hours to get a taste of the food culture in Bendigo. Our tour guide that morning was Sharyn, who as a local was very passionate about the quality of produce and food in the region. Sharyn was great at sharing facts about the history of food in Bendigo as well pointing out significant buildings in the city centre.

Our first stop was at Bendigo Wholefoods where we were treated to a great sample of breads, pickles, relishes and cheeses - the store has a cafe on one side and a nursery on the other. The second stop was for a hot drink at The Epicurean Delicatessen where we nibbled on freshly made zeppoles, which are an Italian styled doughnut. We next made our way to The Good Loaf where we were taken behind the counter into the actual bakery and given a short talk about the basics of sour dough and were able to try a variety of the breads. Our fourth stop was at Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates where Hayley walked us through the retail shop to get a whiff of the chocolates before making our way to the workshop where the chocolates are handmade. In the workshop we were able to satisfy our sweet tooths and admire the constant running streams of chocolate. The final stop was at Masons of Bendigo, a restaurant run by a husband and wife team, who focus on highlighting the ingredients which are sourced from the local area. We were treated to a drink and a light lunch which featured two items from the menu.

The tour was a great introduction to the Bendigo city centre and you're provided with goodies to take away from each stop. You'll come away with a new appreciation for the quality of food in Bendigo and an enthusiasm for eating local - I really enjoyed listening to each of the owners speak about their businesses and the connections they have with the community and the region.




Masons of Bendigo
25 Queen St
Bendigo VIC 3550

Masons of Bendigo is probably the most popular restaurant in Bendigo as from everyone we asked, they all named this as their go to place. I can see why as the food was absolutely sensation. Husband and wife team Sonia and Nick Anthony definitely know what they are doing in terms of food and service. Having both worked overseas at Michelin restaurants and Nick having worked a long time at the super amazing Ezard, their food and service exudes class whilst still keeping it casual. That's a hard mix to carry off, but they succeed in doing it.

The restaurant has a nice fitout with touches of industrial elements. There is a good vibe in the restaurant without it getting so loud that you can't hear your dining companions, which is a pet peeve of mine. The service was excellent and all the waiters, and especially the sommelier, were really knowledgeable, friendly and efficient.

The food was simply sensational, one of the best meals I've eaten this year. There were so many highlights, from a carpaccio that was so flavoursome, to two pork dishes where there was fatty pork belly grilled on a skewer and pork knuckle shredded and reshaped and given the most addictive sweet/sour sauce. A stuffed zucchini flower was so smooth and fragrant. Mains dishes of pheasant terrine, an assortment of lamb, and an assortment of pork creatively cooked and paired with different items is some of the best food you can hope to try in Melbourne, let alone a regional town. Every dish was also beautifully presented and like works of art. The dessert plate was also really beautiful and while still being very tasty, did not reach the heights that the savoury dishes had, which elicited so many sounds from all of us of pure joy. If you stop by Bendigo, you must visit Masons of Bendigo or risk missing out in some of the most delicious food in Melbourne.



The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion
25 Sandhurst Town Rd
Myers Flat VIC 3556

The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is a sacred Buddhist monument being constructed right near Bendigo. It will be the largest Buddhist monument in the Western world, sitting at 50 metres high and wide. The external view of the Stupa is already really impressive, as it sits on land owned by Ian and Judy Green. Once you stop inside, it is a vast space, with teaching rooms, temple, library and soon to be many shrine rooms. The walls are still being built on those shrine rooms.

It's a nice place to visit and when completed will allow for meditation and other activities. For now, it's a great look at something really big, and who doesn't like looking at big objects right? Australia is full of giant somethings, from bananas to pineapples. Now we also have a big Stupa for purifying the mind.



Bendigo Tramways
Alexander Fountain, View St Exit
Bendigo VIC 3550

When we arrived at the Charing Cross tram stop for the Sentimental Journey tram ride we were greeted by a fully uniformed driver at the door. The interior of the tram was designed with a quirky vintage feel and the atmosphere was set by the many guests on the tram ride who were dressed up for the occasion. Once we were seated, a waitress came up to take our orders for a welcome drink and it wasn't long before the tram ride started. A brief introduction to Ella Fitzgerald and her friendship with Marilyn Monroe was played before the tram was filled with the smooth sounds of Ella Fitzgerald's music. In the centre of the tram, there was a table filled with platters of finger food, cheese and antipasto, which everybody could help themselves too. The ride lasted for one hour as we rode along the streets of Bendigo and experienced the city at night. It's a great way to start a night out with friends or your partner as once you return to the the tram stop there are many restaurants within walking distance.



Marong Family Hotel
26 High St
Marong VIC 3515

Dinner was eaten at the Marong Family Hotel, a pub and restaurant. At the hotel, they serve simple homely meals, but don't let that fool you. Food can be simple but still delicious. They farm their own lambs so specialise in lamb dishes. And the lamb dishes did not disappoint. A lamb shank with mash and lamb salad were so delicious. The seared lamb was perfect, with so much flavour. A chicken parma was beautifully crumbed and a round of simple desserts rounded out the meal. The butterscotch lattice basket with ice cream was really good.

The ambiance in the hotel is really jovial and relaxed. Great for a drink or a more substantial sit down meal. The owner told us that prior to them buying the place, it was really run down. But now it looks very nice and very welcoming.



Bendigo Corner Store Cafe
305 View St
Bendigo VIC 3550

Breakfast on the second day was at the Bendigo Corner Store Cafe. We got there at 9:30am and it was still pretty quiet. But within 30 minutes, all the tables were filled. I can see why as the fitout is really nice and the food was excellent. A big breakfast and smoked trout dish both delivered on flavour and were good. But the crumpets dish with ice cream and the tomato and quinoa fritters were the highlight. The crumpets had peaches, Persian fairy floss, a delicious ice cream and really soft fluffy crumpets. The tomato and quinoa fritters with the pickled onions and haloumi was such a wonderful dish. The fritters were super crispy on the outside and the pickled onions really offset the flavours well. The coffee was also really good and it felt so relaxing sitting outside in the sun on a Sunday.





Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View St
Bendigo VIC 3550

Before visiting the Marilyn Monroe exhibition, we were already introduced to her in the form of the large "Forever Marilyn" statue in prime position at Charing Cross. I don't think anybody can visit Bendigo and walk away without a photo of the super sized Marilyn. The exhibition itself is held at the Bendigo Art Gallery and is curated in a way that whether you're a fan or a novice when it comes to Marilyn, you'll leave with a little more insight into her life. On display is a wide range of film costumes, personal clothing and artefacts as well many photographs that highlighted her star quality as well as gave a glimpse into her private identity. A variety of her films are played throughout the exhibition and it's quite easy to become engrossed in them - we saw many people seated in the darkened rooms, oblivious to the buzz from the rest of the exhibit. I enjoyed looking at cover pages of the gossip magazines which showed that regardless of what Marilyn did, she made a good headline. You leave the exhibit with a general knowledge of Marilyn's life but like all celebrities who die at a young age, there's a certain mystery that prevails. The Marilyn Monroe exhibition runs till 10th July 2016.



Heathcote Harvest
32 Tuscan Court
Heathcote VIC 3523

Last food stop of the weekend was at Heathcote Harvest, run by Lyndal and Steve. They wanted a "sea change", away from the sea where they used to live to in-land regional countryside. Going from their previous professional jobs, they started a self sustaining farm for themselves, but were finding friends were enjoying their produce so much that they thought they could turn it into their work as well. And they've done just that, selling lots of delicious items such as eggs, jams, chutneys etc from the restaurant/store, as well as serving some simple foods from items made from their produce.

We tried the terrine board, the charcuterie board, a schnitzel and sausages. The cured meats were so good, made from their animals by a local producer. The sausages again were so full of flavour with a real chilli kick. The schnitzel was a massive hit, with a crumb so crunchy you could hear it crunching away in someone else mouth. Turns out Steve has some German heritage and hence the amazing schnitzel. It was a great lunch in a very relaxed environment, as you look out onto the farm and can even go look at the piggies and chickens.




Wineries

There are actually a lot of wineries in the Bendigo/Marong/Heathcote area. We visited the four below, each with it's signature wine. There are a lot of Italian varieties, as well as some unique blends only made in the region. My favourite was Sandhurst Winery, where Paul (pictured below) explained to us all about the wine types, how they're made and took us on a tour of the winery. I would highly recommend visiting some wineries when you're in the area as they produce really good wines.


Flynn Wines
29 Lewis Road
Heathcote VIC 3523, Australia

Downing Estate
19 Drummonds Ln
Heathcote VIC 3523

Sandhurst Ridge Winery
Forest Dr
Marong VIC 3515

Balgownie Estate
46 Hermitage Rd
Maiden Gully VIC 3551


And that, sums up the jam packed weekend in Bendigo and staying at the BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park. It was so much fun and I can highly recommend staying at the holiday park as the launch pad for visiting Bendigo and the surrounding areas. There's so much to see, do and most importantly for me, eat and drink. Thanks to my traveling companions, Angie, Ron and Brandon for making it such a fun trip and to all the staff/suppliers/producers/restaurateurs and owners we met along the way for being so generous with their time. So what are you waiting for, get researching and book a trip to Bendigo.



Disclaimer: I attended this trip courtesy of Bendigo Tourism and BIG4 Bendigo Marong Holiday Park.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Wangaratta & King Valley 2016 - High Country Harvest, Food, Wine, Fun, Sun, Laughs

Disclaimer: I attend both trips courtesy of the Rural City of Wangaratta.

Recently, I got to experience even more than the Rural City of Wangaratta and King Valley has to offer. I'm forever amazed by how good the food and wine in the region is, how beautiful the scenery is, how wonderful the people are, and just the variety of things you can do. I actually went on two different trips but I'll splice them together and group them into some semi cohesive post. As I've mentioned in the past, the region is about a 3 hour drive from Melbourne so may be pushed for a day trip. But you can most definitely do a weekend trip up there (as I did on both occasions) and get to sample a bit that the region has to offer.
Beautiful view from the Chrismont Winery outdoor balcony dining area.

First off, go check out the Visit Wangaratta, Visit King Valley and Visit Glenrowan sites for any info, activities and to gawk at the beautiful things on offer.
Visit Wangaratta Website
Visit Wangaratta Facebook Account
Visit Wangaratta Instagram Account
Visit Wangaratta Twitter Account

Visit King Valley Website
Visit Glenrowan Website

Next up, you can also check out my previous posts on the region, which provide even more ideas for what you can do up there.
Packing Prosecco and Good Food
Cow Mustering, Fly Fishing
Brown Brothers Winery
Pizzini Winery
Politini Winery
Lindenwarrah Hotel
North East Victoria Wineries and Food

Accommodation
Let me start with accommodation, a word I commonly misspell (I also misspell "misspell" as mispell all the time) using only one m and not two. Thank goodness for spell check right? So when I go somewhere, I normally start by seeing what accommodation options are available, booking that and working my way from there. On the last two trips, I stayed at the Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta and Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation. Both places were stunning and I would highly recommend both.

Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta
29‐37 Ryley St
Wangaratta VIC 3677

At the Quality Hotel Gateway Wangaratta, I actually stayed in the townhouses, which were so beautifully decked out and incredibly comfortable. There was everything you need, including a fully fitted kitchen, comfortable furniture, central heating/cooling and a nice little backyard area to chill. We even blasted music over the iphone speaker and busted out some tunes.

Casa Luna Gourmet Accommodation
Gwenda Canty and David Byles
1569 Boggy Creek Road
Myrrhee VIC 3732

At Casa Luna, the accommodations may be a bit smaller, but you get the most amazing view, and the use of the dining/lounge area, outdoor area and I think there may even be a spa for warmer days. Don't quote me on that part. You also get greeted, and get to talk to if you want, Gwenda and David, who have immense knowledge of food and travel. The only thing you may struggle with is wifi, which is patchy and slow, but that may be a good thing for a digital detox. You definitely will struggle with the food...choosing which amazing things you want to eat. You can choose to dine at Casa Luna for dinner and breakfast. I highly recommend you do as Gwenda's cooking is sensational. I've not eaten so well at any B&B before.

Activities
So once you've got your accommodation sorted, next you will want to know what to do. Check out some of my other posts above for a tonne of activities, from fly fishing, to cow mustering, to a prosecco horse ride. On this trip I did yet another new thing, meat butchering, followed by sausage making.

Gamze Smokehouse
Felix Gamze
147 Vincent Rd,
Wangaratta 3677 VIC

At Gamze Smokehouse, experienced butcher Felix Gamze makes butchering a whole pig look like child's play. I can tell you it's not as easy as he makes it look. He carved around the shoulder bone of the pig without looking. I hacked away at the meat of the animal. Luckily the parts we ruined were used for sausages, and Felix and his team took care of the prime cuts to ensure they stayed hole. From the ground meat, we got to mix up whatever sausage flavours we wanted (you can bring your own spices) and then had so much fun and laughs making sausages. I can tell you that using the hydraulic machine can be scary as exploding sausages carry some force. People came from far and wide to take the class. Some wanting to learn for themselves, while some were butchers who wanted to improve. Whatever the reason, everyone had fun and bonded over sausage making. Lunch was also a delicious spread of some of the many products that Gamze Smokehouse smoke. A highly recommended fun activity.

Walkabout Apiaries
Greg Whitehead
1531 Snow Road
Milawa VIC 3678

Walkabout Apiaries is your go to place for all things honey. There's lots of different honeys to try and buy, honey mead (honey wine basically) to sip, honey candles to smell and a lot of knowledge to be learned about the art of making honey and the different varieties. Our guide, Greg Whitehead, is helping to take over his father's business and is full of knowledge about how the bees gather the honey and the different processes used to treat the honey. You have to try the raw honey, so full of flavour.

Moyhu Hotel
Melissa and Glen Merkel
18/16 Byrne St
Moyhu VIC 3732

The Moyhu Hotel is the go to place to catch the locals and have a drink or three. We were there for the Village Bonfire event that invited people to gather around a bonfire and try lots of different foods and drinks. It's so beautiful there and I kept thinking it felt like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. I'm sure some of you watch Gilmore Girls right? Anyway.....it's a good place to mix with the locals for some drinks.

Food and Drinks

Cafe The Prevue
Ali Alexander
66‐68 Faithfull Street
Wangaratta VIC 3677

Cafe the Prevue is the hip and happening place to go for all your breakfast and lunch needs. Perfectly situation along the river, it has a great fitout and excellent food. The owner and host Ali Alexander is also a bundle of fun and laughs (she calls me a funny guy so that already gets her in my good books). Enjoyed various regular dishes off the menu or go for the Scrambled Chilli Eggs like I did, which was so good. The shredded potato fritters though are the bomb, so get onto that.

Buyin Time
Kelly Adamo
21 Muntz St
Wangaratta VIC 3677

Buyin Time is a casual eats place with a super eclectic fitout and menu. You can find all types of things on the menu such as burgers, pizzas, ribs, gravy fries, burritos etc. The decor out in the back courtyard is equally random, but the mood is great out there, with a strong communal vibe.

Sam Miranda
Sam Miranda and Michael White (head chef)
1019 Snow Rd
Oxley VIC 3678

Sam Miranda is a stunning winery that serves up lots of their wines as well as some stunning food with chef Michael White now at the helm. We sat in the courtyard area and the trees swaying with the filtered sunlight gave the most amazing atmosphere. We sampled lots of yummy food such as cured salmon, scallops, oricchetti with duck porcini ragu and smoked trout. For me, the scotch fillet steak with salsa verde and the chocolate tart dessert were the standout. The steak was so juicy and flavoursome and the salted caramel ice cream served with the tart blew my mind, my favourite salted caramel ice cream I've tasted. You can easily spend a whole day here in the relaxing atmosphere so make sure you schedule in enough time.

Chrismont Winery
Arnie and Jo Pizzini
251 Upper King River Road
Cheshunt Victoria 3678

Chrismont Winery is the bees knees of winery. I'd rank it up there with some of my favourites in Melbourne. The fitout is stunning, the staff and owners Arnie and Jo are knowledgeable and friendly (shoutout to my new friend Johnny), the view is sensational and oh my goodness, the food, wow wow wow. Classic recipes are improved upon, with the kitchen headed by my other new friend, Andy Pye. Simple things like roasted and pickled chilli are so delightful, with garlic prawns being so good, terrine, oxtail and my favourite, sardines. Previously I had the sardines grilled and that was fantastic. This time, the sardines were made into little balls, fried and slathered in the most wonderful sauce. That was my highlight savoury dish. Dessert once again was so great, with a amaretto custard, an apple cake and my favourite, the marsala baked cheesecake that Andy refuses to give me the recipe too. Guess I'll just need to go there to eat this.

A big cheers to my fellow travelers I-Hua and Aaron, Cherrie, Brandon and Val who made the last trip so much fun. Here they all are enjoying themselves at Chrismont.

Brown Brothers
Ross Brown and Caroline Brown
239 Milawa Bobinawarrah Road
Milawa VIC 3678

Last up, but by no means least, is the indomitable Brown Brothers. It's the biggest and shiniest jewel in the area, and for good reasons. Brown Brothers know how to delight. From their Epicurean Centre where you can eat some delicious food, to the gardens around the area where you can relax on their famous bean bags, to their barn that housed the perfect High Country Harvest dinner. The barn was decked out so beautifully and felt like I was in a movie. Unfortunately my photos of the food on the night was shocking (I blame all the wines I drank at Chrismont during lunch) so you'll have to read that the food created by head chef Douglas Elder was so full of flavour and delicious. Using local sourced ingredients, there were so many highlights. From teh friend chicken wings with walnut and apple agrodolce, to the chestnut and pumpkin seed macarons, to the stunning pulled goat, which was my favourite of the night. Then we got to eat lots of tasty cakes such as a persimmon cake which I've never had before. It tastes so good. Milawa Cheeses rounded out a great event, with Brown Brothers wines making sure we were lubricated all night. Then as a special treat, our hosts Ross Brown and his daughter Caroline Brown took us into their private cellar, to drink some of their family cellared wines and look at the treasure trove of wines they had down there. What an experience and privilege. You have to make a stop at Brown Brothers when you're in the area. You won't be disappointed.

So as you can see, there are great places to stay in Wangaratta and King Valley, loads of activities to keep you occupied and so much good food and wine that you'll never want to leave. There's always different festivals and events happening all year round so make sure to check out the Visit Wangaratta Website to keep up with all the news. A huge thanks to the amazing Emma and Kylee who helped organise the trips as well as being the best drinking hosts and made the trips so much fun. Now go forth and explore the region.