Posted tagged ‘Gourmet Getaways’

Fish and Wine, Not Together

September 30, 2019

Since I have a great fondness for both fish markets and wineries, when I came across a tour opportunity that promised both, I had to jump on it. On our way to the Hunter Valley wine region, Chef Jimmy took us to the Sydney Fish Market to get some fish for our lunch later in the day. Pelicans greeted us, getting our visit off to an auspicious start.

All of these are what we didn’t get.

We did get some of these Sydney rock oysters, which are perfectly briny and firm, and just the right size for slurping.

We also got salmon, and these bay bugs, which, like their cousins the crawfish, I find to be more or less tasteless, but picturesque.

Jimmy had picked all 14 of us up before 7:00 a.m., so breakfast was in order. He took us to a peaceful park where he prepared breakfast for us, then had us each use the fish he’d purchased to roll our own sushi, to be put on ice until lunchtime.

These activities were supervised by a bush turkey, which Jimmy told us doesn’t taste good and so has nothing to fear from people,

and a kookaburra, for a truly Australian experience. We then settled in for a two hour drive to the Hunter Valley. At two of the three wineries we visited I dutifully tasted and spat, as if I were still in school, because the wines didn’t tempt me to swallow. I tend to have a cool-climate palate, and these were decidedly hot-climate wines.

However, at the lovely Mount View Estate winery, where they make their highly awarded wines with 100% estate fruit from 40 year old vines, it was a different story.

It’s early spring there, and they’re well into bud break and will soon have flowers. I had to take some of their reserve Shiraz onto the ship with me, since it was one of the best I’ve tasted. I’m not a Shiraz expert, but it was beguilingly well crafted, without the overblown jammy fruit I associate with the Shiraz we normally get imported to the U.S. It was a real pleasure to visit there and try their wines, and if you ever get the chance to visit, take it.

And take Chef Jimmy’s Gourmet Getaways tour, while you’re at it. He cooked his butt off for us all day long, making dishes on the spot to pair with many of the wines we tasted, and all of his food was really nice. My favorite? A kangaroo slider. Plus he does the driving, and is a good tour guide into the bargain. And he made sure that we saw live kangaroos, plenty of them, lounging in the shade, although they were at a distance that my little camera couldn’t manage to see as anything but grey blobby blurs.

All too soon it was time to head back to Sydney, board the Maasdam, and sail away.

Sailing out of Sydney at night is stunning, and we were headed for Eden. What could be better?

Lovely New South Wales

September 29, 2019

Hi ho, it’s off to tour we go! First up, the Blue Mountains. Well, they’re called that, but they’re more like hills, just like the Blue Mountains around Walla Walla. Perhaps there’s something in the name that tends toward mild exaggeration. Not having done my research I had been picturing something rugged, but instead they were pretty in a very tame way. Mostly tame anyway, as we shall see.

I’m endlessly fascinated by aboriginal cultures, so our first stop was at the Waradah Australian Centre in Katoomba, home to a small art gallery and offering a live performance about Australian history. Also, possibly my favorite photo bomb ever.

Unfortunately, much of the history of what happened to the aboriginal peoples after European settlers arrived is quite dark, and although the performance glossed over that, the gallery did not. Called the Stolen Generations, approximately 100,000 aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their parents between about 1905 and 1970. Although the government has since apologized, no reparations have been made, and by most accounts aboriginal culture has never recovered.

Waradah also offers a guide to common symbols used in aboriginal art,

as well as some colorful examples.

Leaving Katoomba my eye was caught by the quirkily-named Hydro Majestic Pavilion and I prevailed upon Jason, my guide, to make a stop. Normally there would have been seven of us in Jason’s van and a set itinerary, but the other six cancelled out at the last minute, and Jason manfully and mercifully decided to go out with just me, and to do what I liked. And what I like is things that are delightfully quirky.

Although, as you can see, Jason is pretty quirky all on his own.

The Hydro Majestic opened in 1891

and in addition to being beautiful can boast of having gotten electricity four days before Sydney itself.

Next we visited the tiny, mostly-a-ghost town of Hartley,

where blacksmith Ron Fitzpatrick makes intricate mirrors, jewelry,

and sculptures at his Talisman Gallery. And then, walking back to the car,

we almost tripped over this brown snake. That’s its name, brown snake. Nothing in that name suggests that it’s Australia’s deadliest snake, but it is. Which is saying a lot, in a country known for deadly snakes and other murderous creatures. Not to mention that it was close to six feet long, and passed right in front of us. I’ll freely admit, after that encounter, which nearly scared the crap out of me, I refused to use an outdoor toilet for the rest of the day, and peered suspiciously into every corner.

For a change of pace, here’s a picture that has no business even being published. Here, under the blazing mid-day Australian sun, is where my little camera failed me. It’s bright there, so bright, too bright. But I was so charmed by the fact that these sheep had their own installation of Tibetan prayer flags that I’m sharing it with you anyway, at the risk of my already-questionable reputation as a photographer.

Jason made me a very green lunch, in a picnic shelter whose premises I inspected thoroughly before entering, then he drove me to the ferry where I would journey down a bit of the Parramatta River back to Sydney.

I nearly missed the boat, because I was entranced by these guys rehearsing Chinese opera on the dock. The guy in the green jacket was the real deal, with a gorgeous baritone and total command of the music. All in all, it was quite a day, between the quirks, snakes both real and imagined, and the flourishing musical finish. Next up, wine touring in the Hunter Valley.