Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mudgee Magic - Part the First

Two weekends ago I had the privilege of going on a Girl's Weekend Away with my closest girlfriends Kaz, LouLou, M1, Ali and Doodah, all of whom are also part of my beloved circle of guinea pigs (ie those who are un/lucky enough for me to try my experimental cooking out on). Our chosen destination was Mudgee, selected for its proximity to Sydney, because the travelling route is via the Blue Mountains and because of its growing reputation as a food and wine destination.

We hired a Tarago (very sexy I know) so we could all travel together and as LouLou is preggers with #2, we'd be able to conduct a self-drive winery tour over the weekend.

We departed Sydney by 11am and arrived at our lunch pit stop, Leura, around 12.30pm greeted by beautifully crisp mountain air (ie it was freezing). A brief amble up the road and we made our way into Leura Gourmet for lunch. This place is great, it has a large deli counter with all sorts of goodies such as cheeses, meats and salads for takeaway purchase, plus a large range of local produce as well - the rocky road and nougat caught our attention. Lunch was delicious and hearty. I had the lasagne, which had a very rich-looking and tasty pomodoro sauce. LouLou had the eggplant parmigiana which also featured the tomato sauce, Kaz let me try her corn fritters, very tasty and served with a yoghurt sauce and salad, M1 and Ali could be heard groaning their way through their steak sandwiches and Doodah was more than happy with her pumpkin soup. Meals average the $17-20 mark - a tad more than you'd expect to pay in your average Sydney cafe, but this is the Mountains, the food was obvoiously made in-house and the servings were generous. The amazing view from the back of the cafe through the floor to ceiling window is worth the few extra dollars alone. The only thing that really let this place down was the indifference of the wait staff. Perfectly efficient, but purely perfunctionary. After coffees and hot chocolate (I selflessly tried the chili and cinnamon hot chocolate - gives a nice bit of heat on the back of your tongue and I loved the cinnamon flavour in with the hot choc) we hit the streets for a bit of a browse. After an obligatory purchase from the lolly shop, and grabbing a cherry crumble from Bakehouse on Wentworth for later, it was back in the Tarago and off to Mudgee.

Our accommodation for the weekend was Protea Farm, specifically the Grevillea Cottage. We were all more than happy with this choice - open plan living area with kitchen/living room/dining table, three queen sized bedrooms (beds very comfortable incidentally) and two bathrooms. A lovely woodfire to keep us all warm (and for toasting marshmallows), pay tv and a DVD player. All the comforts of home really.

Saturday dawned and over breakfast we marked out our plan of attack. It went something like this:

The Olive Nest: one of a few olive and oil producers in the Mudgee region. They produce extra virgin olive oil and lime, lemon and garlic infused varieties. You can also get jars of olives, dressings and tapenades. I picked up a bottle of the lemon infused oil ($35 for 500ml) and black olive tapenade ($13 from memory) which I prefer over green as I love the saltiness however their green tapenade is one of the nicest I've tasted. You can also taste 1838 wines here.

Pieter van Gent: Entering through big wooden double doors you walk on a dirt floor past massive casks to get to the tasting counter. The girls behind the desk were just lovely and the wines were quite impressive, particularly the 'sticky' and dessert styles. PvG are probably best known for their Mudgee White Port, which a few of us bought to take home. I also bought a couple of bottles of their gorgeous 'Flowers of Florence' rose, quite unlike any other I've had with a surprising butterscotch-like taste. Yum!

Frog Rock: You've probably heard of this winery as it is available through bottle shops in 'the big smoke'. A nice cellar door with some food tastings as well as wine.

Blue Wren: This was our lunch stop, a large space housed in a big blue shed kept nice and warm with wood fires. The meals were priced in the $18-$25 range, food was hearty and servings were generous. We all shared some tasty garlic bread and then I opted for the pork and sage sausages with a potato, fennel and parsley salad and caramelised onion. The sausages were on the smaller side, but were tasty and accompanied by a generous amount of the salad which was just creamy enough and although I am not a huge fennel fan it provded a nice crunchy contrast against the soft potatoes and sausage. It was definitely a comforting and filling meal. The other popular dish at our table was a lemon roasted chicken which came with a chickpea salad. The chicken was served with the wing bone in, which sparked some lively table discussion about whether it should have been called a breast of chicken or a supreme of chicken. We washed all this down with a bottle of Blue Wren's Semillion Sauvignon Blanc which was one of the nicer whites we tried on the day.

After lunch time was ticking away and as the cellar doors and shops close at 4pm we had two stops to squeeze in before heading back to our cottage and a night of DVDs and consuming an alarmingly large Lindt bunny...

But I'll continue that in a separate post before this becomes War and Peace....

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a gorgeous weekend! I'm going to keep these two posts in mind for when I plan a trip to Mudgee-thankyou! :)