From food, back to paddock.
We tasted the food, we visited the market, is time for us to visit the farmers. We left Launceston and headed North West to Stanley, a town I'd never been before. But we will also make many stops along the way, there will be salmons, pigs, cows, organics vegetables, seafood, and more pigs. Tasmania is inevitably the place that produces some of the best quality products in this country. And the only way to find out what makes this place the prime location for agriculture is to knock on their doors and get up close and personal.
41° South Tasmania
A 45 minutes drive west of Launceston, we found ourselves at 41° South Tasmania, an inland salmon farm tucked away inside a tranquil bushland in Deloraine. Owned and developed by German born Ziggy and Angelika Pyka, this family run business is more than just a salmon farm - within the 36 acres property, there are also a ginseng farm, a wetland, and the cascading waterfall - it is also the water source that powers the whole salmon farm.
Ziggy is obviously quite a handy man himself, with a master degree in electrician and also by trade for many years, Ziggy turned this whole property infested with willow and gorse into one of the most environmentally friendly inland salmon farm in Australia.
The most impressive architecture of this fish farm is, it is actually run on gravity without using electricity. Crystal clear spring water from the Montana Falls flows through the water pipe and fill the tanks, creates swirls in the tanks so the fish will naturally swim against the current - this is important as the fish needs to exercise to build muscles which yield a nice texture as a better quality produce. The water is then continues down to the wetland which acts as a 100% natural water filtration before the water flows back to the Western Creek Rivulet. In 2005, the farm is finally open to visitors, a small cafe is built with free tastings of some of their products, and of course, you can also book for guided tours and Ziggy will show you around the farm.
They don't breed salmon here at 41° South, but buying from Petuna Seafoods at around 10,000-15,000 salmon fingerlings a year. Each 10,000 fish will be split into 2 tanks, every 4 to 6 weeks, they will be grade the fish into same size then put 500 fish per tank and let them grow. The growth of the fish depends on the products they make and how much food they feed them. All the fish will grow for 12-18 months then harvested at around 45cm in length, then smoked whole, fillet, turned into rillettes or even salmon pattie, their newest invention.
From my Chinese background, I was captivated by the ginseng growing here at 41° South. Ginseng are high-priced, slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots that typically take 15 years to grow to a decent size before harvesting. Ginseng is popular in Asia countries because of its myriad of medicinal properties, but its bitterness can be off-putting.
They have no intentions of selling dried or fresh ginseng here simply because they can't compete with the Korean market where they grow in large quantity and sell at a lot lower price. The "man-root" (ginseng in Chinese) soaked and stored in jars inside the cafe are priceless, I tried to convince them to consider selling their ginseng in fresh root form, that's how Chinese like it. But they won't budge. "Ginger in this jar took 15 years to grow, say it took $500/year spent to grow, would you pay $7500 for a root like this?" Ziggy asked.
Okay, okay, I got the point.
They have been constantly developing ginseng based products including vodka, honey, spice mix, tea and also ginseng essence. As mentioned earlier, its bitterness is not easy to incorporate ginger into cooking, usually my mum would use it to make ginseng and chicken soup, that's all I could think of. But I took some of the products home and looking forward to come up with new recipes.
41° south Tasmania 323 Montana Road(C164)
Deloraine / Red Hills, TAS 7304
P:(03) 6362 4130
Black Ridge Farm
High on the hill is not just a lonely goat herd, but the Thomson family also has sheep, cows, chooks and pigs! Wessex Saddlebacks to be exact. Both Keryn and Don have agriculture background and ran a sheep farm back in Victoria for 15 years, a little sea change in 2007 and found themselves with their four children landed in north-western Tasmania and now the proud owner of Black Ridge Farm.
These rare breed Wessex Saddlebacks with their distinctive white saddle band on black bodies are slow maturing pigs and usually lot smaller in size in comparison to normal white pigs. Thanks to the movie Snatch; I couldn’t help but feeling nervous whenever a fully grown pig walked towards me thinking they going to bite. No fret, these saddlebacks are lot tamer and friendlier, they sniffed and the occasional nudges with their snouts and back to their foraging on the field. And boy, do they forage or what?!
They keep the pigs in smaller groups or families of up to 11 weaners per 1-acre paddock. The pigs will forage through the paddock with their powerful snouts, digging the ground up and turn the whole paddock upside down. Clever little buggers!
The Thomsons love their pigs, they even gave their sows and boars with cheeky banes like Vanessa Hamarossi, Norah Bones, Amy Swinehouse, Missy Piggins, Brittany Sears and one of the biggest and fattest boars is called Matthew, as in Matthew Evans.
The stock will grow for up to 5 to 6 months before sending them to abattoir. Not any abattoir, but their own. The decision to run their own abattoir is to close a key gap in their supply chain, so they can keep on top of their products, allowing them to take full control from conception to consumption, straight to the consumers.
Spending a mere few hours at the farm, it made me feel very humbled and so 'real'. This is genuine people making a living in a farm and loving what they doing. The kids don't get Nintendo DS or mobile phones for birthdays, they got chook barn and bee hive and they have to look after them. The younger son Hamish was so excited about the chook barn, he even spent the night on his birthday sleeping in it. These are the most memorable childhood that not many children will ever experience.
Even myself couldn't help but feel like adopting a piggeh!
Thank you the Thomson family for showing us around at Black Ridge Farm.
Black Ridge Farm 829 Myalla Road Milabena
Sisters Creek, Tasmania 7325
P: 03 6445 4317
If you would like to try their products, they will be at ‘Harvest Market’ in Launceston on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. For interstate, you can order online and they will ship it to you.
Renaessance - Penguin
All this piggy talk is making me hungry! Lunch was served at Renaessance in Penguin. No, we didn't eat penguin... Penguin is a town!
Owner Tania has set up a dainty little cafe decked out in immaculate shades of whites, not far from the main beach in Penguin. The cafe still relatively new (just over a year?), it mainly offers coffee, cakes and a very limited lunch menu of sandwiches and salads.
We sat at the back in a glasshouse dining area that offers glimpse of sea view. Whilst some of the ladies having a cup of tea, chitchatting away; we happily munched down ham cheese tomato sandwich and a healthy chicken and avocado salad. They were simple food, but the fresh produce spoke for themselves, the cherry tomatoes popped in the mouth like candies, incredibly sweet and full of umami.
And thank you so much for the caramel slice for the road trip, perfect treats to keep us going for the rest of the afternoon!
Renaessance 95 Main Road, Penguin,
P: 0409 723 771
Kindred Organics Farm
We had a quick stopover at Kindred Organics farm, Lauran and Henriette Damen were busy harvesting a late sunflower crop, so we didn't get much time to really have a proper chat with them. Also during this time of year most of their crops including oats, linseed, azuki beans and quinoa had already been harvested so there weren't much for them to show us. But they do believe they are the first to have commercial quantities of organic Quinoa in Australia.
Kindred Organics 15 Graingers Rd
Kindred TAS 7310
Mount Gnomon Farm
More Wessex Saddleback pigs!
This time we met Guy Robertson and Eliza Wood, a young couple who are happily raising 200 odd pigs on a 90 odd acres of farm land at Mount Gnomon Farm in Dial Range. They've been running the farm lot longer than the Thomson at Black Ridge and Eliza, who also recently resigned from her job as a rural ABC reporter and happily imprinted "pig farmer" on her business card. Together, they are producing good quality ethically-raised pork with minimal impact on the environment. We had a walk around of the farm, and the pigs were pretty much roam free.
They don't just grow pigs, they also like to educate people about what they are doing at the farm, how they raise their pigs, and learn about their products. Hence, they decided to set up a Rare Day Out to invite everyone to the farm for a big day out, and surprisingly 650 people walked through the farm gate to find out more about this rare breed.
Along with pigs, they also have rare breeds of chooks and ducks, traditional dairy shorthorn cattle, shropshire sheep and these cute fluffy highland cattle. Don't know, suddenly feel like wearing kilt and playing bagpipe as the cows gingerly walking past us.
Mount Gnomon Farm 886 Ironcliffe Road,
Penguin, Tasmania 7316
P: 0499 698 999
T.O.P. Fish - Stanley
Our food trail in Tasmania almost came to an end and but we still had one last town to visit. We headed further north west to Stanley, one of the most northern tips in Tasmania. Stanley is famous for its fishing and tourism industry, so we had a quick drop by at T.O.P. Fish factory and said hi to a few octopus and also the crayfish.
T.O.P. Fish (Tasmanian Octopus Products) specialises in catching Tasmanian Octopus "Pallidus", mostly in Bass Strait. The wild caught octopuses are put into a tumbler that looks like a washing machine to be tenderised, then dissect into different cuts and used for different products. They even keep the mouth beak for fishermen because they found the beaks are the best hooks for shark fishing.
I'm not sure about you, I was craving crayfish after watching Masterchef last night. Crayfish or lobster? Well in Australia,we also sometimes call crayfish, the Southern rock lobster. All the crayfish caught in Tasmania has to be registered and tagged to make sure they meet the standard and stop unethical fishing. I know what I'd be having for dinner in Stanley that night and very much looking forward to it.
T.O.P Fish (Tasmanian Octopus Products) 9-11 Marine Esplanade
Stanley, TAS 7331
Check out that big NUT!
One thing you must do while in Stanley is to climb The Nut, a sheer-side bluff which is an ancient volcanic plug. You can either climb to the summit, or take the chairlift. On the summit will offer a spectacular view across Bass Strait and bird's eye view of Stanley township.
It was actually my first visit to this part of Tasmania and so glad I did it. Stanley is a beautiful historic village with a modest population of 458 according to the 2006 census. Old cottages, art deco buildings and Georgian houses are converted to gift shops, cafes and art galleries along the main street in Stanley. And of course, the Stanley Hotel where the Masterchef challenge took place, is an institution in Stanley, the meeting place for locals since the early 1840s.
We checked into our hotel before dinner and Tasmania never stops to amaze me. On this tiny little island called Tasmania and on this tiny little town called Stanley lies a hotel that has been awarded by Australia Travel and Leisure Magazine - the Top 100 best travel discoveries in the World.
Proudly owned by David Johnson and his partner Jason, this 1843 bluestone warehouse that was once a storage facility for the Van Diemen's Land Co, has been transformed by celebrated architect John Lee Archer into a unique luxury boutique hotel.
Only two suites in the hotel, it was absolutely gorgeous inside with a modern European feel to it. We noticed there is a canine theme going on throughout the whole hotel, and only then realised that David and Jason also run the Brown Dog gift shop on Church Street in town.
We stayed inside the King Loft Apartment, the word 'apartment' was misleading, it was a luxurious King Lair! Split into two levels, modern furniture with well though-out design blended with the original charm of old stone walls impeccably. I think we might have to steal some ideas for our own holiday apartment up here in Central Coast. :P
I couldn't wait to try out the comfy king size bed but dinner first!
@VDL Stanley 16 Wharf Road,
Stanley, Tasmania 7331
[p] 03 6458 2032 or [m] 0437 070 222
Old Cable Station Colonial Retreat
"Watch out!" I yelled out and our car stopped. A cute little penguin was standing right in the middle of the gravel road, finding its way home back into the burrow. Then we spotted a few more penguins waddled clumsily to cross the road and disappeared into the bushland. It was a nice surprise as we were on our way to Old Cable Station Colonial Retreat for our dinner.
The old cable station is a significant building that brought telephone communication from the mainland to Tasmania by laying the longest cable across Bass Strait back in 1936. The Cable Station has went through many renovations and now it is an award winning restaurant and accommodation hideaway.
We started our dinner with pumpkin soup and share plate entree of cured fallow deer and pan seared trevalla. The soup was a perfect winter warmer to open up our appetite, I found myself loving the cured fallow deer, rich dark meat that not too gamey at all with a little spice heat from Tasmania pepper berry and juniper lifted the flavour of the meat marvelously. The trevalla was cooked to perfection, soft flakes of white flesh that was so sweet, nicely balanced with egg cream that was silky smooth.
The dish I most looked forward to. The crayfish was ordered prior to our arrival in Tasmania and were bought live from T.O.P. Fish that same morning. Half a crayfish each, it was prepared the simplest way, grilled in a wood-fired oven right in front of us, the sweetness of its flesh was enhanced with a sprinkle of lemon zest and a quick splash of olive oil.
Crab crackers and a bowl of lemon water to wash hands with were ready, we dived in with both hands in gusto. Boy, was it worth it or what?
This is the kind of dessert that I'm talking about! Hot chocolate fondant cake that let me swam in a chocolate river flow innards, sweetened with caramel ice cream whilst specks of Three Hummock Island salt was the perfect agent to make our night a whole lot more sweeter.
I think we did pretty well in Tasmania, ended the tour with a meal that summed up what the produce in this region is all about. From Hobart to Launceston, to Stanley, we found our way through food, we definitely have tapped into the heart of this Apple Isle and took a piece home with us - of course, the delicious piece.
Old Cable Station Colonial Retreat West Beach Road,
Stanley, Tasmania 7331