Thursday, 30 June 2011

Coolamine Homestead, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park

The Cheese Hut and Coolamine Homestead, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park

Coolamine Homestead, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park

Alpine Huts are a part of the history of the Australian High Country and many of them can be accessed relatively easily. Coolamine Homestead is located off Long Plain Road in the Kosciuszko National Park between Cooma and Tumut in New South Wales. Coolamine Homestead dates back to the late 1800s and was restored in the 1980s after falling into disrepair. The surrounding buildings including the Cheese Hut give a real glimpse into the hard life of the High Country pioneers. You can access Coolamine Homestead and the Cheese hut but be prepared for a little disappointment - whilst the buildings and surrounds are so picturesque from outside, they have been vandalised and graffitied inside which is such a shame.

Nonetheless, Coolamine Homestead and it's nearby companions provide a great backdrop for some photos or a picnic. Information boards provide some interesting information on the history and biology of the area which adds another element to the experience.

The Cheese Hut, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park
Hut, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park

The Homestead is located near Blue Water Holes and there are camping and BBQ facilities dotted throughout the area which are free to use. There are also basic toilet facilities at some campgrounds. The dirt road to the homestead and Blue Water Holes is a little rough at times and I would suggest that if you can access a four wheel drive, that would be preferable, particularly if you are planning to explore side trails.

Snow Gum, Kosciuszko National Park

First snow, Long Plain, Kosciuszko National Park
Kosciuszko National Park

While you are exploring Coolamine Homestead, Long Plain Road and the Koscisuszko National Park in general, keep your eyes peeled for another taste of Australia's High Country heritage - think the wild bush horses referred to in Banjo Patterson classic 'The Man from Snowy River.' A glimpse of the brumbies in their natural habitat is a real thrill - they have a self assured beauty and power which can be mesmerising to take in. The brumbies have been the subject of recent controversy with debate on whether they should be culled or cherished. For more information on Australian Brumbies, click here.

Brumby, Kosciuszko National Park
Brumby, Kosciuszko National Park

If you are visiting the Kosciuszko National Park, this trip is a nice side trip, especially if you like camping, four wheel driving or experiencing Autsralia's pioneer history first hand.  Plain Road is accessed via the Snowy Mountains Highway in the Kosciuszko National Park and the road is subject to closure between the June and October long weekends. Long Plain Road may also be closed during adverse weather conditions so if you are travelling a long way to visit the area, it is best to check the conditions ahead. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Cootamundra Olives - The Good Oil!

Cootamundra Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I am lucky enough to have some very clever friends in Cootamundra who have just pressed their first batch of olive oil under the Cootamundra Olives banner. The oil has been certified as extra virgin and is made from the Frantoio and Corregiola olives which they grow on their Cootamundra property. The oil is vibrant, fragrant and really packs a punch in the flavour department. 

Cootamundra Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cootamundra Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Seeing celebrity chefs get so excited about good olive oil suddenly makes sense once you have tried the real deal. The Cootamundra Olives extra virgin oil is crushed within hours of harvest and the peppery, fruity taste is delicious. I heard someone say that in a good wine, you can taste the seasons, rains and earthy countryside which combine to produce each wine's unique flavour. I think the same may be said about olive oil - you can almost taste the hot Cootamundra summers and fresh country air as you mop up the oil on some crusty bread. 

Cootamundra Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil

If you have never tried oil which has come from a small farm where it is harvested, crushed and bottled by the grower, give it a shot and you will never buy the mass produced oils again! If you are visiting the Cootamundra area, Cootamundra Olives oil is available for purchase now. If you would like information on either the Cootamundra Olives products or how to purchase their olive oil they can be contacted at

Cootamnundra Olives

Monday, 13 June 2011

Henry Lawson Festival, Grenfell, NSW

Big Henry Lawson Head, Henry Lawson Festival, Grenfell

Grenfell. A town of 2000 people located 364 kilometres west of Sydney on the western plains in New South Wales and famous for gold, bushrangers and being the birthplace of poet Henry Lawson. Each June Long Weekend, the township of Grenfell celebrates the Henry Lawson Festival which honours the Australian poet who was born on the Grenfell Goldfields 1867. The influence of Henry Lawson is seen in many of the activities including Poetry on the Boards, the Poetry Slam and the ubiquitous Henry Lawson moustaches which are worn and also used to decorate shops and signage over the Festival weekend. Another Australian tradition, 'Big Things' see a brief addition to their ranks over the course of the Festival with the 'Big Henry Lawson Head' taking pride of place on the Main Street roundabout.

Crowds at the Henry Lawson Festival on historic Main Street, Grenfell

Procession, Henry Lawson Festival, Grenfell

Procession, Henry Lawson Festival, Grenfell

The Henry Lawson Festival offers activities for all ages including jumping castles, rides and clowns for the kids, art and photography exhibitions for the adults and a myriad of street stalls selling local produce, craft, furniture, wool products, clothing and food. The Henry Lawson Festival has a wood chop competition, fashion parades and a procession down Main Street, Grenfell. This year's theme was 'mateship' and this sums up the festival atmosphere too - locals provide a warm welcome to visitors there to enjoy the fun. 

Events run Friday to Monday every June Long Weekend so for anybody wanting to experience a real country festival, why not pencil in the June Long Weekend next year, come to Grenfell and experience the Henry Lawson Festival for yourself.

Henry Lawson bust, Grenfell

Henry Lawson Festival, Grenfell

Friday, 10 June 2011

Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre, Cootamundra Railway Station

Update: April 2013 -The visitor's centre is in the process of re-locating to the Cootamundra Arts Centre.
Cootamundra Railway Station
The Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre is located on Hovell Street within the Cootamundra Railway Station complex which dates back to 1877.  The Centre has recently been given a facelift and I am pleased to say it was a good one! It was looking tired and drab a few months back but is now brimming with goodies sourced from our local farmers, artists and craftspeople. Chris Wheatley and Wendy Wilson are the ladies responsible for turning the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre around. They, like me, have a passion for promoting the great produce of Cootamundra and the surrounding region and they display a huge variety of food, art and craft so there is something for everyone.

Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

There are pre-made hampers which provide a sample of local treats and they can be custom-made for people who have specific favourites. In addition, there are displays throughout the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre which highlight different products. Photos of the farms where produce has been sourced really help to paint a picture of the beauty and diversity of the Cootamundra region for visitors. Products which are currently available include offerings from Yandilla Mustard Seed Oil, Junee Liquorice, Billabong Jerky, The Long Track Pantry, Kaybundah Lavender, Wobbler Downs, Harefield Pistachios, Ballinaclash and Bremrok Jewellery. There are more products on the way including oil from the first harvest of the new kid on the olive oil block, Cootamundra Olives. As well as this, there are plans to expand the displays of local art and craft which has been made by hand in Cootamundra. 

Kaybundah Lavender Display, Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Yandilla Mustard Seed Oil Display - Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Billabong Jerky Display - Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Junee Licorice Display - Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

The Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre provides an opportunity to relax and recharge your batteries with an onsite cafe. There are sandwiches, tea and coffee and for the sweet tooths, there is a wide selection of scones, slices, cakes and biscuits. 

Cafe at the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Cafe at the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Fresh made scones at the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

If you need maps, information brochures, accommodation information or postcards, these are also available at the Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre.

Information Display - Cootamundra Visitor Information Centre

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Style: The Chairman and Yip mixes lush drapes of fabric with paintings, floral displays and mercifully comfortable chairs to create an atmosphere you just want to stay in. For a restaurant with such a reputation, there is nothing pompous about the Chairman and Yip.

The Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Taste: Lunch at the Chairman and Yip is a banquet only menu. There are two to choose from with six courses for $45 or eight for $59. The first three items were entree-style offerings, the remaining three were mains served with fluffy steamed rice. The duck pancake which was the first item to role out was absolutely delicious and set a high standard. There was a great mix of food with duck, chicken, ocean trout, chicken and beef dishes all included on the menu.

Roasted duck pancake with shiitake mushroom, The Chairman and Yip

Grilled field mushroom with cashew and herb pesto, the Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Chairman and Yip's food is so far removed from the oily, fluorescent coloured mush which so many Chinese restaurants sadly dish up in this part of the world. The meats and vegetables were cooked to perfection in all of their natural glory - nothing processed, nothing canned and nothing coated in thick, bland sauces. The flavours were rich and tasty, some with a fresh zing, others with a peppery bite but all yummy.

Kurobuta pork cake with red wine vinaigrette, the Chairman and Yip, Canberra

Sesame crusted ocean trout with cinnamon infused soy, the Chairman and Yip, Canberra

Slow cooked wagyu beef in pombal sauce, the Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Service: Having arrived without a booking and seeing how busy the place was, I thought we might be turned away. The staff did some quick reshuffling of furniture and managed to squeeze us in. Our order was taken quickly and the first three courses came out in (very) quick succession. I was still eating my pancake when a mushroom was popped onto my plate next to it. There was a break of about thirty minutes between the first three courses and the last which meant the whole meal stretched over nearly two hours. That said, it was two hours well spent.

The Crowd: The Chairman and Yip was packed. There were suits, romantic couples and shoppers taking time out.

The price: The lunch menu is made up of banquets at either $45 or $59 depending on your choice. For full menus, go to the Chairman and Yip's website here.

The Chairman and Yip, Canberra

The Chairman and Yip on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young, NSW

Marble Lions, Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young

The town of Young (formerly known as Lambing Flat) is located on the south west slopes of New South Wales. It has a colourful history and the gold rush of the 1860s and and the associated anti-Chinese riots played a big part in shaping the future of the town. Development of the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden began in 1992 and the garden today is a surprisingly lush, beautiful monument to the contribution of the Chinese people to Young. The Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Gardens incorporate bronze and marble sculptures, winding paths, a water mill, rock formations and a beautiful selection of plants which change with the seasons. 
Bronze Galloping Horse, Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young

Pool of Tranquility, Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young
Whilst you wouldn't set aside an entire day to see the gardens, if you have an hour or two to spare when visiting Young, they provide a relaxing atmosphere to wander and reflect on the excitement, tragedy and intrigue which unfolded in Young during the gold rush.  Although the gardens are fairly small, the Chinaman's Dam Reserve area also offers picnic and BBQ facilities. I have even spotted an intrepid fisherman trying his luck in the nearby Chinaman's Dam. 

Pool of Tranquility, Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young

The Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden is located on Pitstone Avenue about four kilometres from the main shopping district in Young. There are signposts guiding visitors from Campbell Street, Young, which is the main road into town from the south.

Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden, Young, NSW