Backblocks Bakeries and Beyond!

8.47am, Wednesday 3rd February, Murtho Road, Paringa , The Riverland, South Australia

Morning folks, just waiting on a toasted ham, cheese and pineapple sandwich – breakfast of roadtripper champions – at the Paringa Bakery and Cafe, in the heart of Australia’s Riverland……not a mile down the road from the fabulous old iron opening bridge across the Murray River. This place is an oasis of old fashioned great baked cakey things, toasted sandwiches, pies, pasties and ………great old school country service. It’s like going pack in time to where you left the main road because it was worth it! See for yourself….

New Paringa Bakery & Cafe…(the old Bakehouse and happy baker man sign is two doors up)

(Look at that excellent ute parked out front – that’s my ‘Big White’Ford Ranger……travelling well thanks a million)

The old bakehouse…

And besides top toasted sandwiches…’s the cakey things that grab you by your sugar eating eyes…

Beesting – their honey, almond cream and pastry version of the Barossa Valley Bienenstich..

Iced Vanilla slices…..with cream custard centres

And Fingerbuns – either with fruit (no peel….yay!) or without. I got one ‘with’ for rating later on…….along with all those that I wrote up from Monday’s run to Ballarat, and the ones to come from yesterday’s Sunraysia Highway drive from Ballarat to Mildura.

So it’s off to fill up with diesel, and I’m headed to Loxton to catch up with the Barich family, our biodynamic grape growers.

See you when it’s afternoon tea time, and I’ll get stuck in to that fingerbun!

Roadtrip! Fingerbun Run to Ballarat!

6.41am, Monday 1st February, Main Street, Naracoorte, South Australia

Morning folks, and sorry for the extended time ‘off the air’ – been feeling a bit sorry for myself as I recover from a knee replacement! But what better way to come back than with a Roadtrip to Ballarat to do tomorrow morning’s Bis Net Breakfast for Commerce Ballarat………and on the way……in search of The Great Australian Fingerbun!! I’m starting off with the Morris Bakery here in Naracoorte, and things are looking good….the bun is still warm from the oven, they don’t use fruit peel – a big no no as far as I’m concerned – and I’ve got the bun from the outside of the baking ‘mat’. That means a slightly crisp glazed outer ‘shell’ before the warm fluffy bun-ness within! Sweet buttercream icing with stacks of shredded coconut….a star start!

What a fabulous first thing in the morning window…..there’s a complete baking ‘mat’ of  fingerbuns.

Almost looks like a bun-ny rabbit…. 

Thanks Morris Bakery – a star start to the Fingurbun Run to Ballarat! See Ya in Penola, Casterton, Hamilton and Ballarat.
7.47am, SAME DAY,  Main Street, Penola, South Australia

Folks, welcome to the Windara Bakery – home of one of my very favourite cakey treats – the jam and cream log….. 

But today it’s all about fingerbuns, and the Windara example is stellar – no peel, in fact no fruit at all – it’s just a finger of fluffy bun, topped with a very broad brushstroke of sugary vanilla cream, laced with finely shredded coconut…..

And I couldn’t help myself – Windara’s marvellous variation on the finger bun….sultanas added, sliced and stuffed with fresh whipped cream, with a heart of either stewed apricot or Apple ! Technically this makes it a fruit serve for the day, I went with Apricot! 


Trust me when I tell you, it’s worth the drive to this country bakery….whenever you’re down in Coonawarra wine tasting, or going through to see the Blue Lake in Mt Gambier – do not miss the opportunity to drop in and buy up! 

Onwards to the Victorian / South Australian border, and Casterton.

9.30am, SAME DAY, Henty Street, Casterton, Victoria

Devastated! The folks from the legendary Herbert Bakery est 1987 – have gone on their annual two week break! Well, good luck to them…I hope they’re having a top time.

PS If you’re in Casterton, say hello to the gals at Say Grace Cafe – they did the catering at the recent Coonawarra Cabernet Weekend dinner, and did a sensational job. Have a look at the evidence – first the savoury canapés, second the sweet combo dessert. Some of the best edible things are happening off the beaten track Australia! Do the driving and check em out.

OK – seriously sorry I missed Herbert’s Bakery, but everyone deserves a holiday, so It’s on to  Kings Bakery in Hamilton for me.

Signature makes the First Fifteen!

8.09am, Saturday 15th August, Federal Deli, Federal Street, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and we’re making a good start to the day with proper muesli and stewed rhubarb at the Federal Deli….I’ve been swinging between the Fed Deli and sisterstove Depot Eatery next door for three days now…and loving it! They’ve both really looked after us – the HandPicked Shiraz Viognier is on the list at The Fed, and both the Signature and Cigar (Coonawarra Cab) are on at Depot.

But what I want to do this morning is tell you about our absolutely fabulous moment yesterday. We were one of three wines poured yesterday at THE big gig in Auckland. Rugby is akin to religion in this country, and families trace their bloodlines according to when they had their last All Black – the national representative team – playing for New Zealand! The fortune and form of the All Blacks is the barometer of how things are travelling in the country, and apparently points fall off their stock exchange when the All Blacks lose…..which in recent years is not very often at all. So at this time of the year, all conversation turns to the Bledisloe Cup – the Trans Tasman trophy that the All Blacks have had bolted to their mantlepiece for 15 years or so……and this year because of the maverick Wallabies (for our international readers – that’s the Australian national team) taking a game from the All Blacks last week in Sydney – the return match at Eden Park here in Auckland this evening… alive! And we’re not traipsing off to the game…..hoping that the best possible situation will be to get beaten by the All Blacks by less than 20 points! We’re actually in with a chance….slim to nil because the All Blacks will grow 4 more inches at their home ground, and Richie McCaw will pick the team up under one arm, the ball under the other…..and charge!! 

So….into this moment…..given that in another few weeks, the Rugby World Cup will be underway in the United Kingdom……we find ourself on the wine list, at the Gala Launch for Sir Graham Henry’s book launch celebrating the victorious World Cup Campaigns by the All Blacks. And yes that would be mostly tangled up with the 2011 win, which makes the All Blacks the current defending champions….and Sir Graham their coach. Serious rugby royalty ladies and gentlemen… a rugby mad country. And here we are, Australians coming to the party with their best old school ‘claret’ Cabernet and shiraz blend…..and sharing it with 600 people in the Great Room at the Langham Hotel, Auckland. In the words of Spandau Ballet……”that is…….GOLD”.

So here’s a bit of a snapshot of the day….

We arrive early to open and prepare 60 magnums of the 2009 Signature Cabernet Shiraz….and the Langham has already set up the room……oh and helping out is the man on the back of the 2009….Clive Weston (the tall boy on the left)

The sound check is underway, lots of stirring video of the 2011 Final pre game haka against France

Besides the book launch, there’s to be a charity auction of extraordinary items – to benefit the fund that provides for rugby players – male and female of all grades – who have been injured playing the game. Here’s the prize item – an All Blacks ‘originals’ the first ever team – Jersey

We’ve sorted the Signature magnums, and out come the table centrepieces – old style rugby balls made completely of chocolate, and the first wine of the day – Nautilus Pinot Gris – also served from magnum

The chefs start putting 600 entrees together – we’re in New Zealand folks, so it’s got to be a magic salmon combo

How good are these folks in the Langham kitchen!

Do you think I might be able to sneak this auction item – the Bollinger Bullet ( hides a magnum in there – only 200 made for the world) – into my suitcase? 

Table 52 – Yalumba hosting their friends from Kiwiland – ready to go!

Happy days! This was just after main course…before the dessert was served with our Signature

This was us…..chocolate football, chocolate mousse…Then we had a chat to the crowd, pleased to report that we won a lot of hearts…..and went home for a big sleep!!

Thank you Sir Graham, thank you Sir Brian – an absolute national kiwi treasure – thank you The Langham…..and thank you Don Hope the publisher for one of the greatest gigs Yalumba has been poured into!! The spirit of ANZAC was alive and well in Auckland yesterday folks…… bring on the game at Eden Park tonight!!

New York Deli – Kiwi style

6.16pm, Wednesday 13th August, Federal Delicatessen, Federal Street, Auckland downtown, North Island, New Zealand

Evening folks, it’s been a crazy couple of days over here in New Zealand, but tonight we get a chance to take a deep breath, get an early night, and prepare for the massive event tomorrow. We are pouring the 2009 Yalumba Signature Cab Shiraz at the launch of legendary All Black (this is rugby folks….big time!) coach Sir Graham Henry’s new book. Our big red is going out with the bitter chocolate rugby ball dessert…..sitting at just the right angle on the plate to ensure it would sail through the sticks for a score! So tonight we’re having early dinner at the Fed Deli, right next door to sister cookhouse Depot Eatery, where we did breakfast this morning. Fed Deli, Depot and Best Ugly Bagel are all top food house brain children of fab Kiwi chef Al Brown. 

Lucky for us we’ve made the wine shelves at Fed Deli – with the Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier, and at Depot with both the Cigar Coonawarra Cab and the Signature. The Fed has caught all the good pickled smoked and preserved bits made famous in those tremendous Jewish delis all over Manhattan….and if you’ve ever been to Katz’s Deli down the bottom of Manhattan – yes, that’s where that Harry Met Sally scene was filmed – you’ll feel completely at home at The Fed. 

Starters? Pea and in house prepared pastrami croquettes with a habanero Mayo…..but I asked if I could try their three ‘Lucky Taco’ sauces. The verdict? The Habanero is just a touch too flamethrower for me, the jalapeño is stingy green and cactussy fresh – nice, but it’s the smoky warm chilli of the Chipotle that’s the winner winner hot sauce dinner for mine. Croquettes? Magic – like molten tasty pea and ham soup snared in a deep fried crispy skin.  Definitely worth crossing the Tasman for – on their own!

Main course? ‘House pastrami – smoked brisket with pickles and mustard’, with some of the Feds own creamy slaw (a fraction Asian style with peanuts) and the Fried Cauliflower salad – laced with kalamata olives and pickled lemon. Yep – that would be Deli style, Manhattan with a North Island NZ twist. And it’s just sensational! That pastrami is so tender there’s no need for a knife, and the smoky pepper combo is just twangy enough to be a flavour all its own. If you live within a day’s ride of Auckland – do not miss the Pastrami plate! But get in early, the place fills up and stays chockers for hours at a time.


Not even 24 hours in Christchurch NZ

8.52am, Gate 18 Christchurch Airport, South Island, New Zealand

Weather check – overcast and 3 degrees C – better than the -6 degrees C yesterday as we walked across the Tarmac at the Invercargill airport to catch our baby plane to Christchurch.

Well Christchurch, it was fab being in town, even though it wasn’t even technically for a whole day! It was still long enough to catch up with our folks who look after us so well on the Canterbury Plains – Ju Mannering and Bruce Smith – have lunch with some of the local trade at the brand spanking new and awarded only the night before last ‘Best new establishment in Christchurch’ – Boo Radley’s. Yes – that would be the speakeasy style bar and food above Tequila Mockingbird. The Deep American South style feel, food and liquor shelf at Boo Radley’s is no accident, considering that one of the owners – Hollis Giddens  – is a Mississippi native now living and working with husband Brett in Christchurch…….and it was just the spot for us to slide into town with our new releases and show them off with some fabulous ‘down home kiwi style’ cooking.

Check out that magic collection of whiskey, bourbon & rye – I did, whilst decanting our big reds for lunch.

The boys in the engine room where all the deep fried and slow cooked magic happens….Paul and Noel

And what’s that on the tray? That my friends is their home made bacon marmalade, just the thing to top the steaks ear marked to go with our Signature Cabernet Shiraz

But I’m getting ahead of myself….first it was a stand up look at 6 of our new releases, including the 2012 Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier – velvet smooth and elegant, and dare I say it – our ‘metro sexual pretty’ shiraz from the cooler Eden Valley high country, in contrast to the ‘burlier’ more robust richer Shirazes from the Barossa Valley floor

Then out came the 2013 Roussanne and the 2012 Virgilius viognier – with Boos ‘maple & moonshine cured Akaroa salmon’ and deep fried ‘crab hush puppies’,

I’ll just leave it there folks, as they’re about to load the jet for Auckland – see you again when I finish this later on tonight in the harbour city.

Good Morning Invercargill NZ

8.09am, Monday 10th August, Ascot Park Hotel, Tay Street, Invercargill, South Island, New Zeland

**weather check – clear as a bell, sun’s out (true!), -2 degrees C

Morning folks, just a quick foodie catch up before we start getting set up for our ‘Yalumba visits the South Island’ events today. Here’s my tips for excellent kiwi sweets to pack in your take home bag……Afghans and Chocolate Fish!


Invercargill NZ – home of the “World’s Fastest Indian” 

10.03pm, Sunday 9th August, Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, South Island, New Zealand

**weather check – occasional sleet, drizzle, 3 degrees C

Evening folks – a quick one before lights out for the motorbike fans, the film buffs, and people who like to see the underdog get up. Enter Burt Munro, one of Invercargill’s favourite sons…..immortalised on film not so long ago by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Here’s a fabulous story about an ordinary bloke with an extraordinary passion for mechanical stuff, motorbikes, and going really rally fast. He takes a seriously self modified 1920 Indian Scout from his Invercargill home garage to the Bonneville salt flats in Utah in 1967….and sets a world speed records for motorcycles under 1000cc that still stands today! And guess what? You can see the real thing, that exact same motorcycle…..on display with a stack of the bits and pieces that Burt modified over the years… the middle of the E. Hayes & Son Hardware Store, 168 Dee Street, Invercargill.

Now what’s the World’s Fastest Indian doing in a hardware store? Turns out that Norman Hayes of the hardware store owning family was a friend of Burts, and raced and mucked about with modifying motorbikes in the same small town at the same time. So…..when Burt gave it away…..the Hayes family bought the bike so that it wouldn’t leave the town. There’s a huge number of motorcycles and cars on display through the store, not forgetting the old tool showcases, or the old scientific approach to horse shoeing! There’s also one of the 1920 Indian Scout replicas made for the movie, and for a donation to the local hospice, you can get your photo taken in (it’s a pretty tight space!) or with “The World’s Fastest Indian”! Has to go close to the best souveneir you can take home from Invercargill! I chose the T shirt!

Hey! I bet you thought I was joking about the scientific approach to horseshoeing! Nope!

So thanks a huge amount to E Hayes & Son Hardware……it’s there on display every day, no entry fee… Dee Street, Invercargill.Thats a really magic thing, and a top reminder that actually………great things come in parcels of all shapes and sizes from very interesting corners of the globe! Don’t miss this if you’re ever in the area….and its got to be the best hardware store I’ve seen as well!

See you when it’s Monday, and we’re talking wine in Invercargill.