Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'll toast the coast!

This weekend, The Bellarine, Surf Coast, and Moorabool Valley wine regions have opened their doors to showcase their fine wines along with local produce, music, and entertainment. Yesterday, we spent the day driving through the countryside and visiting some of our favorite wineries in this region. Here are some highlights from this beautiful, relaxing, spring day....

We started the day off at Pettavel Winery on the Surf Coast. They had great live music, food, and had even invited 6 local boutique wineries to offer tastings. Most wineries were offering tastings of their most recent vintages. A couple of our favorites:
  • Wayawu Estate Harry's Shiraz 2008 - a relatively young wine but made from very old vines which gives it a nice complexity; aged in French oak for 9 months, this wine is a full bodied wine with soft tannins
  • Barrgowan Vineyard Simonsens Shiraz 2008 - another boutique winery with hand-pruned vines and hand picked grapes, this shiraz is also aged in French oak and is not quite as full bodied as the Wayawu. Although this wine is ready to drink now, it would make an excellent addition to your cellar as it has years ahead of it and is expected to be one of their best vintages.
Our next stop was Bellarine Estate on the Bellarine Peninsula. In addition to the winery, a few local vendors attended the event offering samples of spices, cheeses, olive oil, and local produce.
After picking up a few goodies from Screaming Seeds and Manzanillo Grove, we relaxed in the vineyard listening to the tunes of one of the region's local musicians.
Our favorite wine here:
  • Bellarine Estate Cellar Reserve Shiraz Viognier 2007 - unlike many of their wines, this one didn't have a catchy name but certainly caught our attention. This very fragrant wine is typical of a cool climate shiraz with dark berry and spice flavours, but complemented by the viognier that gives it that extra lift!

Heading home, we made our last stop at Leura Park just in time for the annual Great Wine Spit Challenge. Yes... you read that right, wine SPIT challenge. Unfortunately, I've had the pleasure of witnessing John's skills in this area so he had no choice but to enter. We didn't go home with a case of wine, but it was hilarious watching him make his way to one of the top contenders.
Our last purchase of the day:
  • Leura Park Estate Block 1, Reserve Hand Picked Chardonnay 2008 - This beautiful wine was aged in French oak for 12 months which has given it an elegant and lengthy finish. This wine would be fabulous paired with some buttery lobster!
Overall, a great day and we came out of it with some good food and wine! Now I'm left to plan some great meals to do these wines justice...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." Federico Fellini

Spoken like a true Italian! This quote takes on a whole new meaning after my recent visit to Italy. Honestly, I never really appreciated pasta; it was just something to fill me up that went along with the sauce. However, I now realize that the pasta should be the base of the dish and with the addition of just a few fresh ingredients and some good quality olive oil, you can have a mouth watering result.

A typicaly italian meal will consist of L'antipasto, Il Primo, Il Secondo, and Il Dolce, possibly complemented by a choice or two from Il Contorno. Needless to say, this is a LOT of food, and I can prove it by the extra squeeze in my jeans!

Most items in Il Primo, 'the first course', are pasta dishes. This is one of my favorites from Da Vincenzo in Positano. Simply made with some homemade rigatoni, sauteed eggplant and tomatoes, and topped off with goat's cheese and fresh basil. The ridges in the perfectly cooked pasta soaked up the delicious combination of tomato sauce and local olive.

Since returning to Australia, I've been obsessing over the idea of making pasta scratch. I still need to pick up a few items to make this task possible, but it will happen! Since there is a bit more work involved for this dish, I feel the need to hold off until my audience is a bit larger. Not that my fiance (feels very strange to type that) isn't worth the extra work!

Has anyone ever tried making pasta from scratch? Any tips?

Fresh, local, delicious... welcome to Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market!

I'll never forget the first time I experienced Queen Victoria Market, and it's definitely an experience!

"Dolla, Dolla, Dolla!!" " Lovely bananas!" "Beautiful Queensland Strawberries!"

I couldn't stop looking around in awe of all of the fresh food (and the prices!). This lasted about 15 seconds before I was being shoved along into the sea of busy shoppers. These open air markets are a way of life for Melburnians. Before arriving, I was sure that I was going to drop quite a few Aussie dollars doing my shopping at a fresh, local farmers market, but was pleasantly surprised when everything was a mere fraction of what you would spend at a commercial shopping market.

How fabulous! And how very different to what I was used to at the farmer's markets in the States. You can eat fresh, local, healthy, and cheap! Since my discovery, a visit to Queen Victoria Market has now become a regular Saturday routine. I come home loaded up with fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and delicacies for the upcoming week. Nothing compares to meals cooked up with these fresh, local ingredients!

Over time, I've come to realize my 'preferred vendors', from local farmers to seafood mongers to bakers....

It's a great feeling to confidently purchase the best fresh seafood based on "Where have you been lately?! You gotta try the snapper fillets today" with a friendly wink ;), knowing you are going to end up with an amazing meal that night.

After visiting the produce aisles and the Meat Hall, I hit my guilty pleasure... the Delicatessen, which features delicious treats from all over globe. The vendors are happy to give you a taste as they all take pride in their goods. There's nothing like an afternoon mezze plate featuring all of your finds from the deli and of course, complemented by a glass of Australian shiraz!

And no trip to the market would be complete without a little treat for the way home....

Thanks for reading and welcome to The Recipe Diva Blog! I will be blogging daily on food, cooking, recipes found, recipes created, and whatever strikes me! I look forward to hearing your comments!


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