Anybody who knows me will tell you, I’m very patriotic.
I love South Australia.
So, when I was asked to join the Clare Valley Cuisine and Clare Valley Tours food expedition Last week, this gals answer was a resounding… HELLS YEAH!
I’m always super excited about attending any event that brings together my two great loves, food and travel.
However I will admit, even being a proud South Aussie, I hadn’t personally been to Clare in a number of years… That is unless you count all the gorgeous wine I’ve voraciously consumed from the Valley, thus making me somewhat of a local… Right…?
My memories of the Clare Valley exist only from my childhood, when I spent a few school holidays at my friend Linda’s, grandparent’s farm in Farrell Flat.
This tiny little town didn’t have a deli, so we often went to Clare to stock up on lollies (as you do when you’re 10), and the occasional trip to Burra.
Being on the farm was hilarious…
Linda and I were often in trouble for eating her Nan’s freshly cooked Lamb roasts.
She oddly, had a penchant for cooking it the night before and then serving them cold at lunch.
We’d sneak out at midnight and attack the fresh roast like a couple of Hyena’s, devouring whole chunks then later blaming the poor dog.
It drove her Nan berserk and, being the little bastards we were, we thought it was hysterical… Ahhh such good times.
I also remember their Oranges.
They were the good ones. The tangy, delicious type that gives you cramps, because you can’t stop eating them.
I spent a number of hours in a citrus induced, groaning fetal position on that farm…
Anyhoo, given the opportunity to rediscover this South Australian food trail gem, I was excited, and when I received the itinerary and saw what we had in store for us, I seriously couldn’t wait to get on that bus!
On our trip, we had Dave our host and driver, three of my fellow food bloggers, Dougal McFuzzlebutt, Camellia and Jo.
We had the amazing local chefs Tze Khaw and Patrick Cheong, as well as two other industry professionals Tomas and Leon, the brilliant food photographer John Kruger and then lastly, me, the newbie of the group.
Myself, and a couple others, were being collected by Dave at 9:30am, he would be waiting at the Entertainment Centre.
How embarrassing I thought, should I arrive for the bus and be the last one on, I made a firm mental promise not to be late.
Of course, I was the last one to arrive and everyone was already waiting on the bus… Damn it!
But, they were gracious… “Oh no Bree, we weren’t waiting long…”
Note to self: DO NOT be the last person on the bus again, no-one likes a diva.
So, off we set.
The drive into the Valley is gorgeously scenic, once you leave the city highways behind and make your way onto the rural roads.
Passing through sweet little towns, many with stories that our knowing guide Dave, would happily share.
Driving past acres of land, with all manner of crops. This time of year the Canola is starting to flower, and there’s nothing prettier to me than a large expanse of bright yellow in a field. Like a happy sea of sunshine, you can’t help but smile.
Our first stop on this foodie crawl was Rohde’s Free Range Egg farm.
I am a huge advocate for free-range and humane products, so to visit a true free range egg producer, and see the hens in their home, was a real treat for me.
We were greeted upon arrival by John and Angela Rohde, with a platter of Frittata made by a talented local chef using their gorgeous eggs, which immediately had me salivating.
Rohde’s is a local, family run farm, and has been in the Rohde family for more than 50 years.
They are R.S.P.C.A. accredited, which means that unlike some ‘Free-Range’ farms (who aren’t actually as kind to the animals as we consumers may believe), they run their hens on a system of no more than 1500 animals per hectare (which equates to 6.5m² of personal space per lady).
And, after meeting the girls myself, I can attest, they are certainly, happy little fowls.
They have large areas to roam and forage as nature intended.
Camellia and I were in fits, over the hens frolicking cutely together in the tall grass and the ridiculous lady who was hanging out by herself in a tree.
They have large sheds to lay their daily eggs in and, which also offer them protection.
Hens are not that unlike us. They feel the cold and don’t want to sit out in the rain.
They like roosting indoors at night, away from predators and the cold Valley winds.
But, these little ladies can come and go as they please, they live a life of freedom, and that freedom is evident in the quality of their eggs.
After the Rohde’s egg farm, we set our course for Pangkarra Foods.
Another family operated farm. Anama Park is a 3000 acre farm on the outskirts of Clare, which has been in the Maitland family since 1866, and is now run by David, Margot, their son Jim and his lovely wife Katherine.
They use sustainable practices and all of the durum wheat they produce for the Pangkarra Foods range of flour, dried pasta and lavosh is traditionally stone milled, meaning that the goodness isn’t extracted and it retains its healthy qualities, and deliciously nutty flavour.
We were shown the silos and the wheat crop, then taken back to David and Margot’s home for a delicious lunch.
A truly delicious lunch!
We started with a Garlic Flatbread.
The smells emanating from the plate, and the soft, warm salty bread were a divine start for the pasta that was soon to follow.
Look, I will admit, I am a lover of whole wheat, but I’m also a sucker for refined carbs…
This pasta was delicious and soft enough to change even the most steadfast lover of white flour pasta’s mind.
We were treated to a plate of Pangkarra Penne with a Pancetta, Zucchini, Basil and Cream sauce.
Totally delicious. I inhaled mine in record speed.
Then dessert… the sheer size of the Triple Cream Brie that made its way onto our table was enough to induce a collective moan around the table.
Combining this feast with local wines and beers, and open fires to warm our cockles, we were a lucky bunch and this was certainly a meal to remember.
Full to our gizzards but, needing to carry on, we set off for the Clare Country Club.
A really lovely, and centrally located 4* Resort.
The perfect place to rest your weary feet (and wine weary head) after a day of exploring the Valley, if B&B’s aren’t your thing.
We were running behind after our fun-filled lunch, so I dropped my bags and gave myself an English shower.
After rejoining the group, we quickly made our way to the the next port of call, another local farm called Warrick Grove, right before dinner at the celebrated local restaurant, Terroir in Auburn (but, more about that next week…).
Phil and Grier Warrick manage a 10 acre olive grove at Watervale.
The absolutely delicious, Extra Virgin Olive Oil they produce, is multiple award winning (Gold, Silver and Bronze), is exclusively used in many restaurants and wineries, stocked in many gourmet shops and greengrocers, and is now making its way onto Coles supermarket shelves around the country.
A gorgeous South Australian product and a fabulous success story.
Our first day was shaping up to be quite a treasure, so much so that I have created the following dish for your pleasure, in honour of these three amazing producers and their spectacular products…
My Whole Wheat Carbonara… with a twist.
Is it breakfast… or is it lunch… or dinner? I don’t know, you decide.
In any case, it’s a delight…
Seeya Next week for Part II of my Clare Valley odyssey…
Until Friday xxx