Thursday, 31 March 2011

Indian Tavern Tandoori Restaurant

Indian Tavern Tandoori Restaurant, Wagga Wagga

The Style: Indian Tavern Tandoori Restaurant is like a piece of Bollywood landed in the middle of Wagga Wagga. You will be greeted by stone elephants as you enter the restaurant via the tiled entranceway. The restaurant is decorated with embroidered rugs, gilt-framed paintings and trinkets in all the colours of the rainbow. It comes dangerously close to being gaudy but luckily pulls up short of that…just!

Poppadums with onion and tomato relish

Chicken Pakora

The taste: The restaurant offers up a large menu of Indian classics. The flavours are great and you can choose the level of heat you want in your curries. The butter chicken here is so different and so much better than any other I have tried. The Rogan Josh is also particularly good with the beautiful spice combination really packing a punch. The Indian Tavern is becoming quite well known winning a number of local and regional awards. Most recently, it won the 2010 Restaurant and Catering award for regional Indian/Sub-continental restaurant and was also recognised in the 2010 I ♥ Food awards.

Butter chicken and Lamb Rogan Josh

The service: The service here is always great – the staff are polite, smiling and eager to help. The wait for food is never unreasonable once your order has been placed. The only downside is that you will be unceremoniously turned away if you don’t have a booking on busy nights so always call ahead to be on the safe side.

The price: Meals are reasonably priced with entrees from $5.90 - $18.90, mains from $13.90 - $24.90 and breads abd accompaniments from $3.50 - $5.50. The restaurant is licensed.

The location: The Indian Tavern Tandoori Restaurant is located at
81 Peter Street, Wagga Wagga. It has a sister restaurant at 14-16 Pall Mall in Bendigo.

Indian Tandoori Tavern on Urbanspoon

Cocolatte Chocolatier, Wagga Wagga

Cocolatte Chocolatier, Wagga Wagga

The Style: When this place first opened, it was one of the more stylish cafes in Wagga Wagga. Decorated in a boudoir style with chandeliers lighting the room, the place is decked out in warm browns keeping with the chocolate theme. Unfortunately, as time has passed the glossy finish of the store has deteriorated. That said, the overall feel is still warm and inviting. There is a children’s play area at the rear which means parents can enjoy their hot chocolate in peace while the kids are entertained. The local artworks on the wall are great and all are for sale.

Cocolatte Chocolatier Caramello Hot Chocolate

The taste: Cocolatte Chocolatier has a focus on all things chocolate with drinks, cakes and handmade chocolates the stars of the show. The quality and presentation of the handmade chocolates which went polished and appealing on my first visit to sadly looking very clumsy this time around. Instead of gold leaf decorations and a menu of appealing flavours, there was a shelf of kangaroo shaped chocolates and a giant chocolate freckle, neither of which had a sense of quality or appeal.

Cocolatte Chocolatier has a fair selection of sweets on offer at any given time and a small menu of savoury dishes too. I ordered a caramello hot chocolate and this was delicious. Served with a chocolate shot on the side (basically melted chocolate), the presentation was nice and the taste was gooey and decadent. The chocolate cake was moist and rich and came with a scoop of chocolate ice cream to cap it all off.

Cocolatte Chocolatier chocolate cake

The service: This is what has let the place down time and again. The staff are very young and all look disinterested in both their product and your experience. There are frequent eye-rolls to cap it all off. Definitely NOT service with a smile.

The price: Coffees and hot chocolates range from $3.50 - $6.50

The location: Cocolatte Chocolatier is located at 68  Bayliss Street which is the main dragin Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Sir George Tavern, Jugiong

The Sir George Tavern Jugiong
The Style: The Sir George Tavern in Jugiong is famous as being the oldest family run pub in Australia. Stepping inside is like walking back in time with the sandstone walls, antique photographs, velvet lounges and fireplace. There are some quaint touches like books above the mantelpiece and bowls of local fruit on the bar. The Sir George offers German-style beers brewed in nearby Canberra including their own blend, "Jugiong Black" alongside more traditional favourites. The best place to sip these in summertime is on the verandah at the front of the pub which looks over the Jugiong countryside towards the Murrumbidgee River. In the icy cold, foggy Jugiong winters, the couch near the fireplace is preferred.

The Sir George Tavern, Jugiong

The taste:The menu at the Sir George isn't huge with a focus on pizza but this doesn't let the restaurant down. The pizzas are made on fantastic 'real' dough with topping combinations including rocket pancetta and olives, chicken, spagnola, rocket, fetta and beetroot, Hawaiian and margarita. Everything about the pizzas hits the right note - the dough, the sauce and the toppings are delivered in just the right ratio and the flavour is on a par with anything you would find in a big city. The size of the pizza isn't huge so order one per person to make sure you don't go home hungry.

The price: The boutique beers aren't cheap at $7 per pint. The pizzas range from $12 - $14.

The service: Service at the Sir George is friendly without beingover the top. In quiter times, the staff are happy to have a chat and make you feel welcome.

The crowd: The Sir George Hotel's location just off the Hume Highway halfway between Sydney and Melbourne guarantees an ecclectic mix of passers by as well as locals.

The location: Jugiong is located just off the Hume Highway 40 minutes from Yass.The Sir George Hotel can't be missed at the end of the main road.

Sir George on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Stockinbingal Village Fair

The Stockinbingal Village Fair is held annually on the third Sunday in March. This year marked the 29th anniversary of the Fair which is held at the showground in the small town of Stockinbingal. Stockinbingal has a population of a little over two hundred people but this doesn't mean the fair is small - it attracts visitors from surrounding districts and interstate.

Stockinbingal Village Fair

A drawcard at the Stockinbingal Village Fair is the second stage of the Tour de Riverina, the 37km Stock Fair race. In 2011, over 70 riders including some interstate entries pushed the pedals battling windy conditions along the course. The race which starts the day’s proceedings is hosted by the Cootamundra Cycle Club.

Other events which entertain the crowd at the fair include foot races, the sheaf toss (pictured below) and tug-o-war as well as some unique country ‘sports’ including the gumboot toss and broom throwing. If you feel like chancing your luck at any of these, entry in these events is on the day so get practising for 2012!

Sheaf toss - Stockinbingal Village Fair 
This year’s fair saw over thirty market stalls selling a huge variety of arts, crafts, plants, food, local fruit and veges and everything in between.

In addition, the Stockinbingal Village Fair offers activities for children including face painting, jumping castles, sumo wrestling and camel rides. For the horsemen and women, there is a half day gymkhana encompassing ridden classes, flags, bending and a cross country course.

The Stockinbingal Village Fair showed the community spirit and friendliness of country people in bucket loads so keep it in mind for 2012.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Charles Sturt University Winery

Grapes, Charles Sturt University Winery, Wagga Wagga
Charles Sturt University Winery is located on McKeown drive on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga in NSW. The Charles Sturt University Winery forms part of the Eunony Valley Trail along with Harefied Ridge Winery, Eunonyhareenyah Winery and Wollundry Grove Olives. A map of the Eunony Valley Trail is available here.

The cellar door offers tastings and sales of wine, cheese and olive oil. I recently made the trip primarily to taste the cheeses on offer so I was quite disappointed to find that there was an unexplainable absence of cheese on that particular day. This news was passed on with no apology which made for a bad start to the experience. The oil and wines thankfully were available for tasting so the trip wasn't entirely wasted. I tried reds only and they were all quite pleasant with the Shiraz coming out on top.

Cellar door - Charles Sturt University Winery

Charles Sturt University Winery vineyard, Wagga Wagga

The cellar door was decorated in light wood and had a large window overlooking surrounding vineyards and the wine science school. Although the service could have been warmer, it was still enjoyable to hear about the history of the school and the winery with an outlook that gave a true wine-country feel to the experience.The profit from wine sales goes into research and development so a visit to the winery is a great way to support the Australian wine industry. Just make sure yoou phone ahead if you want to try cheese!

Charles Sturt University Winery - award winning Shiraz

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Boorowa Show n Shine

Country towns all seem to have an annual festival or event of some sort to look forward to. March 12th saw the second annual Boorowa Show n Shine take place. The Boorowa Lions Club runs the event and there were over 130 vehicles entered in various categories this year. The standard of entrants was great with many travelling to be part of the event. In addition to the cars, local emergency services, schools and community groups were also invited to take part. The event kicked off with a procession of the vehicles through the town followed by a static display. A simulated road accident rescue added some drama to the day.

Boorowa Show n Shine

The Boorowa Show n Shine aims to increase safety on country roads and there was a great vibe at the event. Locals and visitors alike came to admire the cars on show. The event nearly doubled in size this year and has the potential to be bigger and better again in 2012.

Boorowa Show n Shine
The Boorowa Show n Shine is held annually at The Rec Ground on Pudman Street in Boorowa.

(Boorowa is around 320 km south-west of Sydney and 114 km north-west of Canberra.)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fresh fruit is best!

Over the past week, I have been given the most delicious assortment of apples, zucchini and figs grown by friends. To look at, they are far from perfect but take a bite and they are truly beautiful.

Fresh Apples and Zuchinni

As I munched my tart, tasty apple, I got to wondering why it was full of flavour while the ones I got from the supermarket tasted like nothing. The answer was not too hard to find - supermarkets are using all sorts of tricks to preserve the 'fresh' fruit and vegetables we are buying including the addition of chemicals which slow mould growth and ripening but also block compounds which lead to the development of flavour. CHOICE has more details on how our fruit, vegetables and meat are being manipulated here.

Local Apples

Of course, it is not always possible to get things straight from the tree or ground but the moral to the story is where you can, choose fresh, local produce which is in season. By doing this you get more taste, more nutritional benefit and support local growers. There are Farmers and Growers Markets springing up everywhere - the Australian Farmers Market Association has a list on their website. Give them a try and taste the difference!

Fresh lemons from my tree

Funny Lemon

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Destination: COOTAMUNDRA

Cootamundra. A tiny town on the south west slopes of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales. Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of it. It is now my home and the start point in my hunt for good food, local produce and any other thing animal, vegetable or mineral which might spark interest.

Sunset - Cootamundra

Storm, Cootamundra
 Cootamundra is not particularly well represented in the online world - the Tourism NSW website lists a "must do" attraction as dining alfresco while watching street performers. Don't be put off if this sounds terrible - I can assure the world that I have not once seen a street performer anywhere near Cootamundra. What Cootamundra does offer is a quaint town with buildings dating back to the 1800s. The town has been visited by gold fever and bushrangers in times past but these days, it has a slow, relaxed pace of life. For information on Cootamundra's faciities, services and events, visit the Cooamundra Shire Council website.

Cootamundra Wattle, Cootamundra

The Cootamundra Shire is home to many primary producers and the Visitors Information Centre which is located at the Railway Station on Hovell Street, Cootamundra, has a small range of produce for sale. Sadly, the range is limited considering how much is available if you take the time to look but it is still worth a visit. The local IGA does stock some local items too including honey, chutney, sauce and wine if you can hunt them out from amongst the mass produced stuff. I hope to feature some of these local products in the months to come so watch this space!

Cootamundra, NSW
Canola fields, Cootamundra NSW

In terms of attractions, if you come to Cootamundra, you had better like cricket. Donald Bradman was born here and the Bradman Birthplace Museum now occupies the house at 89 Adams Street, Cootamundra where Bradman was born. Staffed by volunteers, the Bradman Museum has a lot of history packed into a small space. If you are a cricket fan, it is worth a visit. This forms part of the Bradman Trail which also includes locations in Adelaide and Bowral.

Bradman Museum, Cootamundra

Jubillee Park in Cootamundra is home the the "Captains Walk" and is the next stop on any cricket fan's itinerary. Bronze scupltures of Ausralia's cricket captains past and present can be found here. The "Captains Walk" takes only a few minutes to see but again, for fans of cricket, it is an interesting spot. 

Ricky Ponting - Captains Walk, Cootamundra
 Like any good Australian town, Cootamundra is also home to a 'big thing,' in this case, the big cricket stumps. Maybe not a feat of great engineering but someone like Donald Bradman isn't born in Cootamundra everyday so who can blame us for making the most of it!?

Big Cricket Stumps, Cootamundra
Cootamundra is a small town with a big character surrounded by farms producing so much of the yummy stuff we all eat everyday - here is hoping you can share a happy and fruitful food journey around this area with me - Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Backyard chickens - getting started.

Precious the chicken

Having your own chickens clucking around the yard is strangely hypnotic and not something that needs to be limited to country life. While the treechange inspired me to get my flock, they live happily in an average backyard (but remember to check with your local council for any regulations.) The chickens have become such a part of our family that one in particular, the greedy and outgoing Precious, even inspired the name of this blog!

Curious chickens
The pleasant thing about backyard chickens is they are cheap and easy to care for once you outlay the initial cost for the coop. Pre-made flat pack coops with a run attached are available at Bunnings and Petbarn but aren’t cheap with a five chicken coop retailing between $200 and $400. There are also coops available online but again, the cost isn’t easy on the pocket. If you have the skills, a do-it-yourself chicken coop allows you to tailor the size to your yard and flock.
The Backyard Poultry Forum has helpful information on how to build a coop and also links to coops for sale.

Chickens themselves sell for around $10-$15 for a layer chicken (there are different meat breeds and egg breeds). Our flock of five is made up of Isa Browns and Highlines which are hardy and lay for the majority of the year. While purists say you should give them the chop when egg production slows, ours have become pets so eggs or not, they are here to stay!

Esmerelda the chicken
Straw for the coop is about $10 a bale at produce stores and also available at Petbarn stores but at an inflated price. Layer pellets and scratch mix are much cheaper at produce stores too but also available at pet stores and some supermarkets.

Your chickens will love any vegetable scraps you send their way and treats like cracked corn supplement their diet and make for super-bright yolks.

It is so pleasing to eat fresh eggs from happy chickens – you can really see and taste the difference! Its incredibly satisfying to share your eggs with family and friends, too.

Backyard Chickens Checklist

Coop ($100 - $400)
Chickens ($10-15 each)
Straw (about $10 per bale)
Feed containers (about $20 each)
Pellets ($15 for 25 kilos)
Lice powder and worm medicine

    Fresh eggs!
    Backyard chickens are so easy to care for and an entertaining and intelligent pet so if you have been thinking about growing your own fruit or vegetables, why not add some chickens into the mix!