Friday, 15 June 2012

"I’m not a glutton – I am an explorer of food” – King Valley Part Uno

Erma Bombeck was on the right track when she coined the phrase ”I’m not a glutton – I am an explorer of food”. Over the June long weekend the Husband and I journeyed to the King Valley and the Milawa regions to explore the copious offerings of food and wine.

What an opulent, uncommercialised food bowl it is. The Milawa area was subject to pastoral leases as early as 1838. The area then grew throughout the 1850’s as weary travelers journeyed through on their way to the new found gold deposits.  Now the rolling hills and large gums shade crops, dairy cows, beef cattle and lambs. Bees, mustard seeds, saffron all flourish in the fertile soil. During our visit the crisp nights iced up the paddocks, giving way to clear sunny days.

Currently, 80% of every dollar spent on general groceries and 60% of every dollar spent on fruit and vegetables is spent at Coles or Woolworths, yet we’re reading stories like this one , regarding the use of gasses to ripen produce and other such nasties.  Every Australian should be visiting farmers markets or one step further - visiting the producers on their home turf. I was surprised that some Melbournians I’ve spoken to were previously not aware of the King Valley region!

My favourite producers
·    Myrtleford Butter Factory – 15 Myrtle Street, Great Alpine Road, Myrtleford

Set in picturesque Myrtleford, this little dairy is producing some fabulous cultured butters, pure buttermilk and buttermilk ricotta. The Mother and Daughter team, Naomi and Bronwyn Ingleton are producing the only pure buttermilk in Australia. They source their cream from local high country cows, and then blend it in a European style manner. Mount Zero pink lake salts are added to the salted butter range. Also onsite is a lovely little café with a very delicious looking breakfast and lunch menu. Buy their butters throughout the Eastern seaboard, or online here. You can also join their Butter Club for opportunities to buy seasonal specials such as Truffle butter and Saffron butter. Butter up now!

Watch them making their butter :

·    Milawa Cheese Company – 17 Milawa-Bobinawarrah Rd, Milawa
Originally set up to emulate Gorgonzola Dolce, a mild creamy blue cheese, David and Anne Brown have been producing their handmade cheeses since 1988. Their range of goats and cows milk cheese includes fresh cheeses (curd, chevres), white mould cheeses (Ceridwen, Brie, Camembert), hard cheeses (Capricornia, Tomme), washed rind cheese and blues. Their award winning cheeses are stocked far and wide across Australia (Simon Johnson, Bottega Rotolo (SA), ‘Say Cheese’ (SA)) and there is also a second Milawa Cheese shop in Carlton North.

My dairy purchases... Lucky we have guests this coming weekend!

Unfortunately we didn’t get to their property due to time constraints, but found their products at the Milawa Cheese Company. The ice creams are produced at their historic 1840’s dairy, using the milk of their Holstein cows herd. Their range includes flavours such as Liquorice, Ironbark Honey, Ginger, Golden Syrup and Muscat. You can find their ice creams in most Australian states (bar SA & NT – sorry!).

I have already informed the Husband another trip to the King Valley that captures a visit to their property is a non-negotiable.

Gundowring Lemon Curd...
It only survived one evening in the Epicurean Household!

·    Walkabout Apairies - 1531 Snow Road, Milawa

Jenny and Rod Whitehead have been beekeepers for the past 36 years. Jenny’s passion for, and knowledge of, the bees is clearly evident. We visited their property for a tasting of their delicious honey range which includes Red Gum, Mudgegonga Stringybark, Mountain Harvest and a very delicious Creamed Honey. There is a noticeable difference in depth and intensity of their types of honey which is really interesting. Due to the wintery Victorian weather, the bees had all been transported to their warmer winter houses on the NSW south coast!  As you are buying direct from the producer, the range is really well priced for such a high quality product.

More purchases!
Learn more about Walkabout Honey from this You Tube clip.

·    Murray Breweries
– 29 Last Street, Beechworth

Murray Brewery first opened in 1865, at the height of the gold rush, producing beer. In the 1920’s temperance groups shut down the alcohol production (except for Stout oddly enough) and Murray Breweries focused on producing cordials with the aid of the nearby natural spring water. Today they still produce flavoured cordials such as Mint Julep, St Clements, Peppermint and Chilli Punch. Perfect for adding to cocktails, a Gatsby style-prohibition themed party anyone?

Already partially consumed!

·    The Olive Shop – Snow Road, Milawa

This store stocks one of the most extensive range olive oil and olive related products I’ve ever come across. Kalamata, Manzanillo’s, green olives and black olives are all present and come in multiple flavoured varieties (eg. Chilli, herbs, garlic etc). There are at least nine different local brands of olive oil, plus a range of imported oils. We visited at a good time as we were able to try the most recent season’s new pressings which were really fresh and the quality of the oil was clearly evident. The shop also stocks a range of olive related accessories, such as implements to cure your own olives.

·    Milawa Mustard Store – 1597 Glenrowan-Myrtleford Road, Milawa VIC 3678
Jim and Kirsty Mellor make 18 different varieties of mustards, and grow their own mustard seeds in paddocks off of nearby Snow Road. Legend has it that Ned Kelly once hid in the cellars of the shop premises, which was a pub in its early days. Now, bushrangers long gone, their delightful little store is home to their mustard range plus 20 other varieties of sauces, chutneys and jams.  My favorites: ginger and orange mustard, balsamic mustard and lemon and dill mustard.

Would I venture to the region again? A resounding yes, even if just for the quality of their dairy products. I’d like to see a Maggie Beer type figurehead of the area emerge, such as Maggie has done in the Barossa Valley, in order to bring well-deserved recognition to the area. This might be the key to increasing the average Victorian’s knowledge of the area.
We also wined and dined at a number of the wineries, particularly Brown Brothers. Stay tuned for the update.


Naomi said...

Thanks for the post, glad you love our products. We can also mail order if you can't get up to see us again for a while.

The Epicurean Wife said...

Thank you so much Naomi - I'll definitely be putting a mail order in.

Congratulations on be named as a finalist in the 2012 delicious Produce Awards. Good luck!