Monthly Archives: May 2011

Gidget days at Noosa Heads

1.39pm, Monday 30th May, Hastings Street internet kiosk, Noosa heads, QLD, Australia
Just pulled up at the Noosa Heads Surf Club, where we’ll be doing our local trade afternoon tasting with Jamie and Janey. The sun’s out after a big tropical lightning storm last night, and the waves are rolling in set by set – making the locals and imports very happy. No wonder they flock here for winter! I will catch us up when I can get my head out of ‘island time’ and get cracking!

See ya later when that happens!

Goodbye Tropical North QLD, Hello Sunshine Coast

4.56am, Sunday 29th May, Gate 20, Cairns Airport, FNQ, Australia
I must be getting old because these 6am flights are definitely getting harder! As I left the hotel this morning for the airport, there was still a long line of people to get into the Gilligan’s poolside disco across the road. There was a lass in a nurse’s uniform – more or less, because there wasn’t actually very much of it – coming in the door as I was going out, and that’s when you realise you’re too old for the after-dark-in-Cairns action!

But just before I leave town – big thanks to Stuart & Janelle and all the folks out at the Yorkey’s Knob Boat Club – where we had dinner last night. They’ve been hugely staunch supporters of ours forever, and there’s a good reason why the place is going gandbusters these days. It’s the $10 dozen oysters, the view out to the ocean, the marina, the fisherfolk characters perched on most barstools, the beaches around Yorkey’s Knob, the drop dead gorgeous staff – gals, guys and even the chef!- yep – pick a reason – any reason! And .you absolutely have to love people who are cool enough to celebrate everything about the area each June with their own “Festival of the Knob”! Yes folks, it is a real event, and I for one can’t wait to attend. June 2012 could very well find me with the locals getting right behind everything that’s great about “The Knob”.

See ya later when I’m a good deal farther south and working with the scary good sales unit – the one and only Janey Halls.

PS Thanks yet again FNQ for a great run – and how good are those North Qld Cowboys out of Townsville now that we’re sponsoring them! Go Jonathan Thurston you good half back thing – my favourite player in league!

Up Crocodile Creek in Cairns

2.39pm, Saturday 28th May, Esplanade Internet, Cairns, FNQ, Australia

Watch out for those floating logs.

OK folks, now I can honestly add ‘adventurer’ to my CV! It’s my day off today and I’ve been out into the creeks and mangrove havens fancied by the Estuarine Crocodile in and around the Cairns waterways today on the good ship “Crocodile Explorer”. This is one time you don’t want to do a Gilligan’s Island and get shipwrecked – there’s no paradise point to take shelter on out there! We saw some crocs sunbaking on the mud flats, then we  went out to the farm to learn all about these big scary snappy critters. There’s a good reason for the no fishing sign on this harmless and peaceful looking river – it’s full of floating logs that aren’t logs – and are just waiting for the odd unwary fisherman to drop by for dinner! Their dinner! Thanks very much to Stuart from Yorkey’s Knob for arranging the trip – had a ball, and felt like a fully fledged tourist.

Meanwhile … still back in Mackay

6.31pm, Spence Street internet, Cairns, FNQ, Australia
That’s the jobs for FNQ finished folks, first up on the local radio station 4CA with John Mackenzie this morning for Wazza (from Cellebrations in two Cairns locations!) and his wine of the week. We squeezed in two wines actually – the Y Riesling and the 2009 Cigar from Coonawarra.

***And we were on Pt Douglas radio 101.7 FM on Tuesday with Kim Hurley somewhere between Townsville and Bowen when we talked about the Yalumba lunch at Salsa – thanks Kim – especially as you’re all up to your ears in the ‘Carnivale’ celebrations up there right now.

The other job was a consumer tasting in the Salthouse private dining room – very sharp best of Australia and the world’s wines around the walls, with a spectacular view straight out past the bar to the wide open ocean. They did a series of canapes with our all star Rare & Fine wine cast, and we had a verry happy group of local folk on our hands when I left around 5.30pm! Thanks for the support Salthouse, and Happy 2nd Birthday for this weekend.

But yes – back in MACKAY – seems like forever ago, but it was only TUESDAY 24th MAY – Consumer Dinner at BURP restaurant.

Back in Mackay for our second dinner with the Connors clan at Burp. I’m not going to drag out a dish-by-dish review folks – even though I should. This restaurant could be picked up complete and winged anywhere in the world and they would hold their own on all fronts – and it still tickles me to find it firing on all 8 cylinders in its own cool corner of Mackay. But I am going to mention two of things that Beau sent out.

THE PRESSED DUCK! It was sensational, with a fibrous crust topped with fresh berries and surrounded by big forest mushrooms. It was a really neat alternative to a lot of the pork belly dishes that we’re seeing, and not a morsel went back into the kitchen on those plates.

THE SPECK WRAPPED RABBIT! Another really creative and flavourburst winter dish on a bed of tasty fresh veges. Looked good, tasted good, and was really good for you!

We had a comedian – Robert – come up from Byron Bay and do a 45-minute set after the wine combos were all done. The highlight had to be his version of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical’ – only with a heavy duty Byron twist “Let’s Get Metaphysical” with sitar accompaniment. Yep – I said sitar. Never a dull moment at the “Yalumba visits Burp” night in Mackay! Good to see Graeme back from recording the new album in Sydney, and thanks to Lyn, Adrian and Jules for organising everything; Craig for sorting the wine side out, and Damo for coming up from Brisbane for it. It’s a big family affair up there folks, and we love ’em!

PS Thanks Mackay Reef – Jane – for taking a table two years in a row. If you need fish, prawns or crabs, folks, they’re the people to see. Not just any old prawns either – tiger, king, banana, coral and endeavour swimmers! And for local reef fish they’ve got them all – Red Emperor, 3 line rock cod and all 3 Snappers – Saddle tail, Goldband and Crimson. We’ll have to take our rods out and try our luck next trip.

See ya then! And thanks Mackay again!

Meanwhile, back in Mackay … an Indian moment

9.31am, Spence Street internet cafe, cairns, FNQ
Now I want to scoot back down to MACKAY and last TUESDAY 24th MAY.

We actually had the whole day and evening in town this trip, so we got around and visited a lot more of our Yalumba supporters in and around Mackay. I want to give a special mention to “Spice n Flavor – exotic Indian cuisine” that has opened recently. Besides having the BEST butter chicken I’ve had in the country, they do two other dishes that love our 2008 Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz (little brother to our Signature from 2008)

First up is one of the “to begin” plates – ‘Masala lamb chops’ – thinly sliced lamb loin chops marinated in yoghurt with cumin, cardomom and lime juice, then grilled in the tandoor and served with a yoghurt cumin paste.

Masala lamb chops

The other one you need to try with this cruiserweight (I’m so into the boxing now, but the terms are so appropriate – cruiserweight is taller, leaner and the best balanced of the boxing classes) fruit basket is one of the main courses – ‘Chicken Chettinad’ – an authentic South Indian pepper chicken fillet tossed in gravy with fresh curry leaves, mustard, coconut milk and crushed black pepper.

See! The boys make it easy at Spice n Flavor by filling the main wall of the restaurant with photos of all the spices used in their cooking with descriptions of their resultant aromas and flavours – plus the medicinal benefits of each. If you’re in Mackay – you should definitely drop in.

OK – where does the time go! I have to head off to talk to local well-informed wine man Wazza on the radio, then we have a private tasting over at Salthouse – so I’ll pick this up this evening.

Cairns fruit market breakfast – #1 way to start another perfect day!

8.04am, Friday 27th May, Spence Street internet cafe, Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia
OK folks – I’m completely won over! Now I understand why people come north for the winter. Cool mornings and evenings and clear warm days without any humidity at all. It’s just wonderful, and this morning I’ve just wandered across the road to the Friday morning fruit and veg market – in a T-shirt, shorts and thongs mind you – because if you’re up here in the tropics, you should really have a fresh tropical fruit breakfast if it’s laid on like this. Here we go:

Where am I if you can buy pineapples off the pallett for $2.50 each?

I must be in ...

These are a relation to lychees – you peel the brown husk and eat them like sweet gelatinous grapes that taste of perfume as well – that’s the tropics.

Like sweet gelatinous grapes

This is dragonfruit – kind of like prickly pears and from a climbing cactus. It’s supposed to taste like a cross between strawberries and kiwifruit. I’ll let you know.

What does dragonfruit taste like?

And the bargain of the day: 5 local passionfruit the size of small oranges for $2. They’re in the fridge for later – right now I’m just ploughing through a ripe ladyfinger banana for 45 cents! You just cannot go wrong!

I have to get another intercard, then I’ll be back with the Mackay and Cairns catchups – and yesterday’s day in the sun up at Salsa – Port Douglas. Hang on!

Queenslanders Win!

8.07am, Thursday May 26th, Rydges foyer, Spence Street, Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia

Battered and bruised ...

Got into Cairns yesterday and the old suitcase may very well be on its last legs. The tape’s given way, handle won’t slide, and it’s got more smacks and bruises than the bloke who went a couple rounds with Joel ‘2 Gunz’ Casey the other night in Townsville! Here we are arriving in town. What a friendly city, and the new airport bits are fab!

The big event during the day yesterday was our tasting – more later – but the massive event across the complete state of Queensland last night was the first rugby league State Of origin game. Thank goodness that local Cairns boy Billy Slater – full back for Queensland – did the special stuff and scored a late try to give Queensland the game and the first wine in the 3 game series. As you can see, he’s all over the local front pages this morning.

Local hero

Ben, Damien and I are about to jump in the car and head for our ‘fortress in paradise’ – Salsa Bar & Grill in Port Douglas – to do our annual Rare & Fine foodie winey magic moment. So with any luck later on tonight I’ll get a chance to catch up Mackay and yesterday’s trade lunch – both with some interesting moments. See ya then!