It’s no secret that Tasmania produces some mighty fine edibles; whether it’s farmed, caught, grown or made lovingly by hand. They’re a proud lot, these producers, and it goes without saying they’re a bloody hard-working lot as well.
The focus of this trip to Tassie was on the north west, where the combination of rich soil and temperate climate makes for a region that’s an ideal place to grow fine produce. No wonder it’s referred to as the food bowl.
I touched on a couple of producers in a previous post, so let’s take a look at a few more that so happen to be on the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail.
Given the name and all of the products available at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, there’s a little bit more going on at this 12 acre property not all that far out of Launceston. Strawberries and blackberries are grown here as well, shacked-up beneath rows of hoop houses on a hillside overlooking the herb-fringed lake.
Entrance to the farm is via its shop; a bit of a paradise for all things raspberry. Soap, jam, syrups, beer, wine, even socks that celebrate the smells and flavour of this juicy little berry.
Take a few steps in and you’re in a spacious and airy café that opens out over the rear garden, overlooking the lake. Seating continues out on the lawn beneath the trees, and even the little tackers are looked after with their own designated play area.
These guys pride themselves on the unique menu that’s on offer to visitors. Hearty breakfasts, salads, seafood, sandwiches, burgers and desserts. I jump straight onto the morning craving (17.5); a fluffy pancake topped with grilled banana, bacon, fresh raspberries and some crumbled Mersey Valley vintage cheese. There’s also some raspberry jam on the side, but it was the cheese that took it all to flavour nirvana.
Ordering the raspberry farm taste plate (25) seemed the best way to sample some of the menu favourites in one. Smoked salmon, grilled chicken with peach & raspberry chutney, bread, damper, paté, cheese & capsicum stuffed mushrooms, shaved ham, more of that glorious vintage cheese, even a raspberry, beef & cheese sausage. It’s like a ploughman’s lunch gone mad. The only downside was that I had no remaining stomach space for dessert.
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm – 9 Christmas Hills Road, Elizabeth Town
Husband and wife team Willie – Australia’s premier beer writer – and Catherine Stark opened Seven Sheds Brewery in 2008, a micro-producer, meadery and hop garden in the small town of Railton, half way between Launceston and Cradle Mountain. There are no grand entrances, just a gravel driveway that leads straight to the action – the cellar door. And that’s how we like it.
A small range of brews is available, with some tasty little numbers like the Willie Warmer spiced ale, the strong Beligian style Elephant’s Trunk, flagship Kentish Ale and my favourite – a peat-smoked Scotch ale called Smokin’ Bagpipes. Hold on, my other favourite was the Royal Willie – a beautiful drop that’s matured in old whisky casks. Great stuff.
These guys don’t charge for tastings, but for $10 visitors can take a tour of the site. This covers a look around the hop garden and brewery, tastings and a full glass of beer. More than 5000 people drop by every year; most of which taste and buy stuff to take away.
Unlike the lone hop vine Willie tried growing decades ago when living in Sydney’s Paddington, the five varieties of hops growing by the cellar door flourish skyward; clinging to ropes that come down when the time comes for picking. And with these little babies – or the pellet version, a scientific formula and a bit of love, time and know-how, we have a bloody good reason to visit the town of topiaries.
Seven Sheds Brewery – 22 Crockers Road, Railton
The first thing I noticed when dropping into Ashgrove Cheese is that it’s no stranger to national and international awards. Something tells me they’re doing something right, and while I’m no stranger to their products, I couldn’t help but try samples in the shop to remind myself how damn tasty their cheeses are.
For six generations the family has called this piece of farming land home, yet it was in the 80’s that brothers Michael and John Bennett decided to add value to the milk they were producing on the farm; and did that by building a cheese factory.
These guys specialise in the harder English style cheeses and a few other varieties. As if that wasn’t enough, they also started producing their own milk, butter, cream and ice cream about six years ago. The Bennett’s have three more dairy farms – including about 1500 cows – within five kilometres of the main farm. That’s enough milk produced for year-round cheese production.
The flagship of the brand is the shop visitors walk into on arrival to Ashgrove Cheese. Not only are the fridges and freezers stocked with their own products, but there’s a massive selection of gourmet items like chutneys, oils, vinegars, alcohol and gifts. Even a café to kick back with a coffee and a snack.
The cheese making and maturing areas can be viewed past a wall laden with accolades, with a short 5 minute video showing the cheese making process in an information presentation room.
Ashgrove Cheese – 6173 Bass Highway, Elizabeth Town
After meeting owner Ziggy Pyka of 41° South, I could only assume it was his cheeky humour that was behind the signs along Montana Road as you approach his salmon and ginseng farm. Located off the main highway on a bush property near Deloraine, German born Ziggy and his wife Angelika realised the potential of starting the business in Tasmania; moving their family from Western Australia.
And in 2000 the hard work began. Clearing the existing land of non-native trees to make way for salmon feeding ponds and a system of small-scale wetlands. Three years later the time came to improve and expand the salmon farm; including hand-pouring concrete for twenty tanks, clearing more bushland, building a shop, processing facility and creating larger wetlands to act as a natural biofilter.
Salmon and trout fingerlings are grown in the tanks, matured to an average 500 gram weight with about 500 fish per tank. The growth rate is controlled by feeding some fish more than others, otherwise all the fish will be ready to hit the smoker at the same time.
For $10 visitors can take a leisurely walk around the farm, feeding the fish with a given bag of pellets. A bush trail leads past small shrubs of native pepperberry; something that’s used in a delicious ginseng spice mix and a ginseng pepperberry vodka that’s made onsite. At the end of the trail are the Lower Montana Falls. A nice place to stop and take in the rugged Aussie bush.
Coming to 41° South and not sampling the wares would be a crime. So thanks to its shop and café visitors can buy the goods and take it home. Salmon rillettes, ginseng spice or a whole blackwood-smoked salmon that’s cryovaced and ready to go. The café offers coffee, drinks and snacks such as the wetlander (8.5); a sandwich with hot-smoked salmon, lettuce and dill mayo. I went for the 41er salmon burger (8.5); lightly toasted bun, hot-smoked salmon patty, lettuce and your choice of sauce. There’s nothing like trying the food at the farm it was produced. Absolutely delicious.
41° South – Salmon & Ginseng Farm – 323 Montana Road, Deloraine/Red Hills