Sourced Grocer in the Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe, is what I imagine my Small Town Chutney cafe/shop would look like, if I had one. Some aspects are a little contrived or perhaps more accurately on the trend (i.e milk crate seating). At the same time the ethos and mission of Sourced Grocer is brilliant. Seasonal produce is available to purchase and features on the Cafe menu. The grocer shelves are packed full of local products. It was wonderful to see the delights and creations of local artisans stocked in a busy Brisbane shop. I had picked Sourced Grocer as the location to meet up with an an old friend to say my farewells (Goodbye for now Karen I will miss you!). I wrote this post while sitting at our camp spot in Mallangangee, New South Wales. My husband and I have decided to reclaim our time and bring back some adventure to our lives. We quit our jobs and are travelling around this beautiful country for a while. It was about time that Small Town Chutney ventured further afield.
Sourced Grocer was a fitting place to say goodbye to Brisbane. As I explored the shop, familiar names, products and places popped back at me. My Small Town Chutney explorations of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, all in the one spot, in my favourite city. The seasonal bounty of this part of the world is made wonderfully accessible to city dwellers. Of course some of the pleasure of pulling in at the farm gates to buy it direct from the farmer is lost but you get to switch this for the uber cool experience of being a Hipster. Walk your dog to the store, pay at the Apple laptop cash registers and pull up a milk crate to enjoy the passing parade of regular fans and visitors.
I moved to Brisbane a little over 10 years ago. At the time I considered it a temporary stop over. I lived in hope my boyfriend (of only a few months) would leave his life in North Queensland and travel with me, perhaps down to Melbourne. I was young and stubborn. I had one bag of possessions and I longed for a life of adventure.
Life very rarely works according to a structured plan (not that I had one back then) but I certainly didn’t plan on spending my entire 20’s in Brisbane either. Brisbane captured my heart. Lucky for me, my boyfriend did join me. He too captured my heart and is now my beautiful husband. I always loved living in Brisbane. The taste, smell and colours of Brisbane will forever be synonymous with my plunge into adulthood.
Today I turn 30. Some things don’t change, I still dream of adventure and throwing caution to the wind. A little over a month ago my husband and I quit our day jobs, sold everything we own, bought a camper van and hit the road. We have no real itinerary and no time frame to work within. This is the start of our new lives. Who knows where the road will lead us. So this is goodbye Brissy and goodbye 20s. I will miss you.
I am proud that we have had the courage to step outside our possessions, careers and mindsets and look for something a bit more. We have an idea of the connected life we want, where each day is our own and we love what we do. I plan to expand Small Town Chutney and fill it with our adventures and all the wonderful culinary experiences we expect to find on the way. Hello adventure, hello 30’s and hello to this big vast country.
Now we are self employed we are choosing not to indulge in so many luxuries we used to, in terms of dining out. That’s okay, I never wanted Small Town Chutney to be about gourmet luxuries of the rich. I want to be an example that living and eating well is in reach for all Australians. It is about making the most of what we buy and selecting food that is value laden. I expect some of my food choices will be modified to accommodate our new budget. Without an oven and only a small fridge, I also expect my cooking style will change. What I can say for sure is that my love and passion for good local food remains strong and I am finding new inspiration in every town we visit.
To stay updated, please subscribe to Small Town Chutney, or check in here regularly to follow our journey. If we are passing through your area and you know of any awesome local producers/artisans or markets, please let us know. We welcome recommendations for places to visit. You can contact us via email or Facebook or simply leave a comment on the blog.
Before I was born, my dad decided to build a house boat. The story goes, that with no experience in boat building, he bought a DIY book and in the hills of Perth, commenced the mammoth project. This took 7 years to complete. The boat was eventually launched in the Indian ocean and my mum, dad and brother lived on it for a few years, until I came along. Last year, the boat was spotted by my cousin down near Rockingham, in Western Australia. With bright yellow paint and unmistakable Chinese junk sails, it is still seaworthy some 30 years later. This attitude of giving anything a go, teaching yourself along the way and going against convention runs strong in my family and is a quality I admire in other people.
The creators of Wild Soul winery in Glen Aplin, Queensland, are such people. It is the only organic and bio-dynamic winery in the area (that we are aware of). It was top of our winery list and our first cellar door visit during our last Granite Belt sojourn. Located up Horans Gorge road in Glen Aplin, the winery is not heavily advertised, but is clearly signed.
We were greeted by Beth Boullier, who had been down in the paddock, tending the raspberry patch. It is a low key cellar door, just the way we like it. Beth told us that with her husband, Andy, they bought the property 25 years ago and originally farmed strawberries and raspberries. In 1995, they planted some vines and after considering the economics of selling the organic grapes to other wineries, Andy Boullier decided to have a crack at wine making. According to Beth, he bought a DIY wine making book and is self taught. It is a small vineyard (1.3 hectares) that produces only dry red wine. At the moment they have Shiraz and Cabernet Merlot.
Growing grapes bio-dynamically has been a challenge but they are completely committed to the process. They believe in minimal interference. The wine is unfiltered and no fining agents are used. Only grapes from the property are used to create a single origin drop, that reflects the particular growing season. This is my favourite thing about wine and why I love wine that is made using grapes from one vineyard.
I love how special characteristics of the environment, soil, climate and rainfall, can be captured in wine. All these factors impact the final flavour and give it a distinctive taste that is unique to that vineyard and vintage. The french term Terroir, which loosely means a sense of place, has been adopted by the wine industry to describe this concept.
Beth and I had a bit of a chat about what it means to run a bio-dynamic vineyard. She made me laugh and echoed my sentiments regarding some bio-dynamic rules, you have to trust that there is essential wisdom to the methods. Sometimes she feels they are only a few steps away from being the crazy farmers that dance around the vines under a full moon. Not that they do this, but bio-dynamic farming does have some unusual methods.
I was curious about the raspberry patch Beth had been tending to on our arrival. I asked to have a quick tour. They still sell raspberries on the side but unfortunately none were packed and ready on our visit.
For the pure, unadulterated taste of the Granite Belt, I highly recommend a bottle or two of Wild Soul.
Wild Soul is located on Horans Gorge Road, Glen Aplin.
The cellar door is open on weekends and public holidays from 10am – 5pm.
Wild Soul wine is available at the Cellar door and by mail order.
I love a bit of DIY and the slightly eccentric that embark on a mission well outside their existing knowledge base. Power to them. I am all for supporting this sort of bravery.
Let me know (in the comment section below) if you have ever picked up a DIY book and taught yourself something wonderful.
As for me, being Friday afternoon, I could do with a nice glass of red.
A little bit of positive feedback goes a long way. I felt a bit warm and fuzzy when I got an email from Garry Fetherston last month, thanking me for my blog post about his sustainable banana farm project. I visited his farm last November, as part of a Food Connect tour. Garry has embarked on a long term project to convert his conventional banana farm, down in Northern New South Wales, into a bio-dynamic farm. It seems my review of the farm tour was well received among Garry’s circle, which is a huge positive for him, and also just the motivation I need to keep going.
Since the farm tour in November, the site is coming along swimmingly. According to Garry it looks spectacularly different. Garry has purposely sown Japanese Millet, Pigeon Pea and Lablab Bean to add biology and build up carbon in the soil before planting bananas next year.
Garry has kindly provided me with a few photos of the site. It is always encouraging to see progress!
A lot of thought, planning and not to mention hard labour, is going into this site. I am looking forward to seeing it full of new banana plants when the time comes.
We spent 10 days staying with family in Stanthorpe over the Christmas period. We lost track of the days, visiting wineries, eating stone fruit, fishing, devouring cheese platters while drinking wine, watching the night sky while drinking wine, wining and dining and generally loving it. It was the festive season after all. In a big move for my husband he started drinking wine (instead of beer). I had 10 years of not visiting wineries together to make up for. There are so many wineries in the Granite Belt. We visited about three each day and still didn’t get to them all.
I highly recommend Stanthorpe as a location for Christmas celebrations. During our stay it was a pleasant 25 degrees and mostly sunny with low humidity. Just perfect. The locals are genuinely friendly and the town is not over crowded with tourists. Most of the wineries and tourist attractions are open on the public holidays too. Plus it is only 2.5 hours drive from Brisbane.
The granite belt region is blessed with a year round harvest of produce. In summer, stone fruit, berries and cherries are a plenty. My favourite places to stock up on local stuff; Vincenzos at the big apple in Thulimbah, The Summit Fruit (Sam’s Fruit Shop) at The Summit and also the highway stalls down in Glen Aplin. There are plenty of other roadside stalls and farm gates around to pick from.
The Summit Fruit is on Granite Belt Drive at The Summit, just off the main highway. It stocks locally grown produce, fresh eggs and other local products. You can buy seasonal fruit by the box. I was in there on Christmas Eve, getting last minute supplies, and there was a steady stream of customers popping in to say Merry Christmas to the owner Sam. It’s a cute little shop.
Past Stanthorpe, heading down towards Ballandean, we ditched the tourist map and drove around on a whim. There are so many quaint country roads with wineries right up the end. Often in places you least expect. Most roads eventually loop back around to the highway and the wineries are clearly signed.
We stopped in at Yestergear, an antique shop on the highway at Glen Aplin. It is a rabbit warren of stuff. We had a good poke around and lost track of time.
We visited Pyramids Road winery, which is on the way out to Girraween National Park. It is a 2 hectare vineyard with a small scale winery that hand crafts wine on the premises. We loved all the wines we tried and left with a few bottles. For $4 I bought a bag of Santa Rosa plums. Picked fresh off a big old tree on the property that had been left to nature and hardly pruned or maintained for years. It had produced a bumper crop of plums. Dripping off the tree apparently.
I ate a heap of plums in a row and popped a few in my handbag for later. They ended up juicy squishy balls because I forgot about them. But I was on holidays so I didn’t care too much about that sort of thing.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Years. It has been a very busy few months for me. Lots of change and progress. My passion for knowing where my food comes from has not dwindled and 2012 is set to be a brilliant year for STC.
The weekend of the 5th & 6th of November was busy and full of food. On Saturday, I went to the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show (pics to come later). Then on the Sunday, I joined up with a Food Connect farm tour down in northern New South Wales. I have mentioned Food Connect before. It is the community supported agriculture program that I subscribe to. Every week I pick up a box of fruit and vegetables from a local ‘city cousin.’ I love it. The produce comes from within a short radius of Brisbane. For me this takes out the work out of trying to find local options at the markets. All of the produce is chemical spray free and a good portion comes from organic and biodynamic growers.
Food Connect runs farm tours for its subscribers every season. I joined up with the tour group at Garry Fetherson’s banana farm, not far from Crystal Castle, up in the hills, overlooking Mullumbimby.
Garry is in the process of converting his property from a conventional farm to a biodynamic farm. He is two and a half years in to what he believes will be a 10 year plus project. Years of spraying, neglect and mismanagement of the property means Garry has his work cut out for him.
We stood at the entrance to the farm overlooking a large area where Garry ripped out existing banana trees and bulldozed the site. To me the patch looked like an ordinary bit of dirt but to Garry this was the dawn of a new era for the farm.
Bananas are well suited to growing on the side of hills. They are usually planted on north east facing slopes, to take full advantage of the winter sun and avoid the valley frost.
Growing on slopes has serious drawbacks. Rainfall and water run off can cause errosion issues and access to the plants is difficult. To combat some of these problems, Garry has had to think outside the box and is going to apply a technique known as benching. This involves excavating flat terraces sloping slightly into the hillside with a small contour, which is different to the normal approach of growing the plants straight up the hill.
The farm currently has 7 hectares under production. One thing that is really apparent to me when looking at farm operations, is how closely farmers have to work with nature. You time and plan out the season, but at the end of the day, it is always natures timing that is law.
Harvesting is done selectively. Not all fruit will be ready to pick at the same time. Garry scouts the farm each day to locate patches that are ripe for picking.
The farm currently only grows lady finger bananas. This variety of bananas produce half the yield of cavendish and require twice the work. I guess this explains why there is such a significant price difference between the two.
Garry shared with us the problems he is facing with the spread of a disease called Panama. Parts of the farm have already been ruined by Panama disease. This is a fungal disease that can wipe out entire plantations. Measures can be put in place to slow the rate of infection but shoes, machinery, irrigation, water run off, and wind all contribute to its spread. The disease is dispersed via spores in infected soil and can remain for years. Once an area is infected it is unlikely to produce a crop again.
In this picture you can see many of the banana plants have already died or are in the process of wilting. This is an area of the property badly damaged by Panama disease.
The first symptom is yellowing of the leaves, starting from the older leaves and progressing to the younger leaves. The leaves then wilt and hang down like a skirt around the plant stem before dying. Panama disease is a constant battle and Garry is planning to plant Cavendish on his new plot as these are resistant to the disease. Apparently Panama disease threatens to wipe out Lady Finger varieties in Australia. That’s a bit surreal!
Garry remains positive about the future of his farm. He has a goal to increase the soil life and biodiversity and move to a system that uses natural nutrient cycling and ground covers. Our ecosystems are fragile and conventional farming is destructive. Restoring damaged farm land is a mammoth undertaking. I am glad Garry is so passionate about creating a banana farm that will last into the future.
I love bananas. They are a little meal in themselves. Farming them looks like hard work. Farmers amaze me with their dedication and perseverance. It is definitely not my calling. Thanks Food Connect for organising the tour. Being a city dweller it is lovely to be connected with the farmers that provide me with produce every week. Putting a name, a face, a bit of land and a lot of hard work to the bananas I munch on, keeps the whole process real. You can see the value in the prices you pay for fresh produce.
Being a part of this tour has highlighted to me the importance of supporting sustainable farming. It is worth the extra cost because the real cost of supporting conventional farming is likely to come much later and once it is too late.
Yesterday was my first foray into the world of celebrity foodies. I was kindly invited to come and watch the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show pop-up celebrity breakfast restaurant. The restaurant was set up in The Green Space within the Redeveloped Boardwalk Area at Southbank. The restaurant opened for an exclusive group of guests including, competition winners, QLD show exhibitors, Anna Bligh, and celebrity chefs. (George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Matt Moran, Alastair McLeod,Toby Puttock and Manu Feildel.)
I thought I would be envious of the seated patrons that enjoyed the three plate menu. It turned out that being back stage behind the scenes was not only interesting and fun, it gave me an insight into high end hospitality.
The menu was designed by George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Matt Moran and Alastair McLeod. It was prepared by a group of talented chefs, Andrew Ballard, Jayson Smith and Rebecca Woodcock.
The menu featured only Queensland produce, much of it from businesses seriously affected by the January floods and cyclone.
Alastair McLeod had a bit to say about using local produce. He made a comment that the average trolley of groceries from the supermarket has clocked up more miles than Jessica Watson. In his view this was offensive when we have so much great produce on offer in Queensland. He talked about knowing his suppliers favourite colour, and the name of their children. He believes you can taste the fervor and zeal of their labour in every bite.
Matt Moran was asked about his experience with the Brisbane floods and his riverside restaurant. He was out of the country at the time when he received a phone call advising that ARIA would be 1.5m underwater by the end of the day. ARIA had a lucky escape as the water stopped 23cm below entry point. The flow on effect of the flood was not just the downtime of trade and produce. Even produce sourced from NSW had issues getting through due to the shortage of delivery trucks and closure of the Rocklea markets.
Toby Puttock then dropped a few hints as to what I can expect at his celebrity theatre event at the show. He will share ideas that are easy to replicate at home. He has been doing a lot of work with mangoes, free range chicken cooked in milk, lemon and sage and is a bit mad for quinoa.
A number of exhibitors were present in the restaurant, including the Kingaroy Peanut Van, Tomarata Orchard, Barambah Organics and Broken Nose Vanilla. Rob Patch from the Peanut Van shared with us the affect the floods had on his business. While Kingaroy was still up and running, it was not able to get the usual tourist trade, so customers just dried up. To survive financially they had to start a new market circuit for a while. Rob raved about his peanuts. Apparently peanuts grow on sunlight and Queensland offers the best conditions for the little nut.
All of the food was prepared off site in an approved commercial kitchen and was brought to the pop-up restaurant to be plated up.
I had an informative chat to the director of Bellissimo Coffee, Mark Bignell. Most of the coffee they roast is international green beans. They do try to have some Australian beans available. The blend that day was called Emporio. It won the top award at the 2010 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show. It is a blend of Latin America beans and has a sweet chocolate nut taste. It was interesting talking about the differences in beans from various countries. Mark put it nicely when he said the art of roasting is being able to find a way to optimise the character of the bean, and bring out the flavours unique to that beans origin.
The Bellissimo roasterie/cafe/retail store is located at 30 Wandoo Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. I have added them to my list of places to visit soon.
I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with the celebrity chef action. It was interesting seeing this event from a back stage perspective. What a nice start to the Brisbane Good Food and Wine show. I am proud that our own Queensland produce got such a centre stage. It is good when the message of reducing food miles by choosing local options is broadcast by people of influence.
Thank you very much Sarah and Dean for thinking of me. I am very appreciative I got this experience and opportunity.
I am off to visit the Good Food and Wine show this afternoon. It is open today and Sunday. You can find more details on their website.
We are on a protein based weight loss diet at the moment and munching through more eggs than normal. The other day we ran out and had to restock with supermarket eggs. In our carton of EcoEggs, my mother-in-law spotted a little ad for ChookCam. This is not an endorsement for this product but I think it is a neat idea worth sharing.
From the Chookcam on the Ecoeggs website, you can watch a live camera streaming of the chooks on the farm.
I was initially surprised at how many chooks there are even though the chook density of the farm is pretty good by commercial standards. You can join the waiting queue to have control of the live stream camera to pan around and zoom in or out.
Seeing the chooks that laid your eggs run around a yard, probably doesn’t give the consumer much useful information but it says something about that company. It is a bold move to open your farm practices up for public scrutiny. I like businesses that offer transparency around their products.
This is not a brand I often buy, as the Ecoegg farms are down near Port Stephens in NSW. I prefer to find local eggs. I would have my own chooks if it was possible in an above ground unit!
Still, I thought the chook cam idea is nifty and fits with the STC moto of knowing the provenance of your food.
* Update – the free ticket giveaway has now closed and the winners were drawn on 25 October 2011.
Yesterday I announced my blog giveaway. So that it is easy to find and not buried at the end of a post, here are all the details.
Win one of two double passes to the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show
They are general admission tickets (valued at $23.50 each) that can be used on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday (4-6 November 2011). The Show is held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and runs from 10-6pm on Friday and Saturday, and 10-5pm on Sunday.
Details of what to expect at the show this year, theatre events and exhibitor lists can be found on the Good Food and Wine Show website.
How to Enter
This giveaway is open to anyone in Australia but please bear in mind the tickets are for the Brisbane show only.
There are two ways you can enter, you are welcome to put an entry in both ways to increase your chances:-
Option 1 : Leave a comment below or on my previous post telling me about your favourite Queensland food experience; or
Option 2 : Like my Small Town Chutney facebook page.
If you already like my Small Town Chutney page – put an entry in via my blog (option one) and you will automatically get a second entry under this category.
Entries close at 8pm (Queensland time) on Tuesday 25 October 2011.
Drawing the Winners
Two winners will be drawn at random (each winner gets a double pass) and will be notified by email. It will also be announced here and on my Small Town Chutney facebook page.
The tickets will be posted to the winners via express post.