A food safari to kangaroo Island in South Australia is a trip like no other. You’ll get pure air and fresh produce and the most iconic views of Australia. this is part 2 of the journey.
The Gourmet Food Safari runs Monday through to Saturday midday, completing the fab food fiesta in Adelaide. Two highly recommended restaurant visits are squeezed into Friday and Saturday. The second half of this great journey begins here………………….
Thursday: The sun has managed to pull itself up from the threat of a few clouds this morning. We are heading to Island Pure Dairy ( this is now closed). As we pull up beside the Lamb Hotel a number of sheep come running over crying out in loud bleating voices. Justin greets us saying that these Ewes have been waiting for us to arrive so that they can be milked. Sheep like routine and they are a bit cross that they haven’t been milked or fed.
Dairy Food on KI
The Dairy was first established 11 years ago, but has now closed. Justin has been here for only 6 months. During this time incredible advances have been implimented. It will be the first sheep dairy in Australia ( there are only a handful) to have a complete analytical milking system.
There are impressively huge numbers in terms of how many sheep they can run and how many lambs are on the property. Unfortunately I was too busy trying to get pictures of lambs to give you this information. I do know that he is introducing Middle Eastern breeds as they produce more milk. ( and are very pretty). Sheep are bred for temperament as well as milk. They need to be milked twice a day, producing a total of about a litre each. The lambs are weaned and then go off to the lamb hotel to be fed and cared for. The Dairy is run ‘chemical free’ and recycles everything possible, in their cheese making operation. The current dilema……… what can you do with 1000 litres a week of whey?. Ideas include sending it to Kangaroo Island Spirits to be made into Vodka ( beginning) and making some of it into Sheep ricotta ( started), crafty Kangaroo Island people! If you know anyone that wants Sheep ricotta contact Justin at the dairy. Island Pure Dairy.
The great tradition of Plain Sheep Yoghurt and KI Honey Yoghurt continues with new processes making it creamier and even more delicious. Soon supplies of their Haloumi, Feta and Kefalitiri will be stepped up and fans will be able to get the products again. A Manchego style cheese is going back into production and I tasted a new semi hard cheese, Island Pure are quite excited about ( that’s a secret OK). After buying some cute little sheep gingerbread made locally ( of course), in the shop where his products and lots of other local products are sold, we head off.
Ligurian Bees are protected here
The weather has turned a cloudy grey. This has not dampened our spirits for either eating or looking at local products. We are heading to Island Beehive in Kingscote, where Peter Davis tends the only remaining colony of pure bred Ligurian bees in the world. Introduced to the island from Italy in 1884, they have managed to keep this species isolated by banning the importation of any other bees. Bees cant fly as far out as KI , so they are safe, for now. They produce up to 100 tonnes a year from hives all over the island. There is a huge overseas market, and we see a pallet of 300 kg drums going to Japan to be labelled and sold under local Japanese brands. Did you know that………………………………….
1. A Queen bee lives 4 years
2. Can lay between 1000 to 2000 eggs per day.
3. A good strain of bees can be encouraged to produce up to 12 generations a year, ( this is apparently very good if they are good little honey makers and don’t hang around the hive making a nuisance of themselves), but generally around 6 generations
4. Queens can be artificially inseminated to produce superior family lines that then produce more honey
5. A hive of bees needs to fly about 90,000 km to produce a half a kg of honey
6. 30 gm of honey would be enough fuel for a bee to circumnavigate the earth
7. Bees have 4 wings beating 11,500 times per minute and have 5 eyes
It is drizzling with rain now, and this makes it a bit annoying when we head into town to have a quick look around Kingscote. There is a large deli/ cafe called Rogers and a number of art and jewellery stores, however I get no further than the general store, where I inexplicably manage to find the perfect raspberry coloured leather bag for a friend of mine for Christmas…. who would have thought? I notice that we are parked in front of a Mexican restaurant called Yellow Ash and Chilli. Its an imaginative name and they extol the virtues of preparing organic home grown produce transformed into authentic recipes from Mexico.. sounds good. Remember that this is an Island with a small population of 4500 that don’t drive around much at night. I think the place is attracting some interesting businesses. Outside the next store I am reminded that we are still in the country.
Lunch next stop
Our next stop is Sues little A frame house for lunch. We are hoping that it stops raining after lunch so that we can go and collect Wild Samphire, a green asparagus like sea vegetable, that is crunchy and salty . We bump up Sues long dirt driveway , this takes some long minutes , as the house is high on a hill with water views on each side. She graciously hosts each tour group, so that the inquisitive gourmets can see how a real KI resident lives. Sue has a fully self sustainable house made from wood that’s solar powered with water supplied by the rain.
Lunch is a casual help yourself of stunning Island produce. Thai beef salad, Prawn and noodle salad, Tender Ceviche style Squid, Spinach, feta , strawberry and roasted cashew salad, Beer can chicken wraps, and steamed mussels, white wine, tomato and fresh herbs.
Sue has no ordinary house nor is the view ordinary. One of her pets Coco is also quite a card.
Although it is still drizzling, it seems a shame to miss the experience of picking Samphire. As city folk we have no concept of its apparent worth ( restaurants buy it for up to $100.0 a kg) . Everyone dutifully waddles to the lagoons edge with a bag to try their hand at the harvest. This is short lived as the rain persists and the wind whips up. I leave with Sue while the others jump on the bus to head back to their houses. Sue is off to get some oysters and fresh herbs for tonight’s cocktail party, I want to see ‘Micks’ garden and the Oyster shop at the oddly named American River.
The best eggs in Australia
On our way back we stop at Fryars Kangaroo Island eggs, because I sell them in Sydney and I am hoping to meet Tom and Fiona Fryar. The farm is 4000 acres, with up to 50,000 little brown hens roaming free. They have movable sheds, to lay their eggs and rest in at night, when the grass gets low, the shed is moved. . Each hen house has its own pair of Maremma dogs, who love their little chicken charges, and protect them from Eagles and feral cats. We watched as they lay amongst the chickens some sitting on top of them, some pecking at their ears. When we pulled up, the chickens ran away in a panic, but as we stood and talked they slowly krept towards us , until we were surrounded by singing happy chickens. It really puts a smile on your face. Tom says that they have had to breed their own stock, even though this is work they would rather not do, because they can’t buy chicks that have beaks still on. This horrible thing is done to all chickens as soon as they hatch. This means that they can’t feed themselves out in the fields. You try catching a worm without a beak….. Yes, I know, you would have trouble.
Picture courtesy of Fryars KI eggs website
Tom says ” The chickens are funny, they wander every where. If you stop the car they will even get in. They have a terrible habit of climbing up into the wheel hubs. They can hang on at speeds of up to 100 km an hour.”. He says that once they were the laughing stock when they arrived at a camp sight and settled in, someone came knocking and asked them if they had brought a chicken, because it was strutting around the campsite. Embarrassingly, a chicken had hitched a ride with them .
I suggested their website should include a sound track of the beautiful smile inducing chicken song you hear in the fields. This made them laugh, but said they had considered this. They produce up to 12,000 orange yolked eggs a week, that are graded, washed and chilled quickly before being distributed to Adelaide ,Melbourne , NSW and Queensland
Back in the 4 x4 we’re off to ‘Beaches’. Food is to be packed up and taken to the next stop on the tour, a cocktail party at Kangaroo Island Spirits the only boutique distillery in Australia, owned by Jon and Sarah Lark. They started the business 8 years ago, and opened the cellar door 3 1/2 years ago. They make their own gin, perfecting it over a 5 year period with wild native juniper . Vodka is triple distilled and charcoal filtered and is also made in flavours chilli and Samphire. There is also a range of 6 liqueurs. They give the gourmets a bit of a run down on how the distillery operates before making every one little sample cocktails. They have organised a clever program to showcase their drinks. First they begin with a little ‘Pink Lily’ a small glass of sparkling wine and Strawberry liqueur made from fresh strawberries and vanilla. This is followed by the attention grabbing Gin so juniper and pungent. They are justifiably proud of their Anise (made with Micks fennel seeds) and the Ligurian Honey and Walnut Liqueurs. After trying the Zenzerino, a Ginger and Orange Liqueur, the glass washed with this , then topped up with vodka and tonic, I am convinced that they are the masters of the distillery world. Like all of the producers here they are using local ingredients as much as possible , with an emphasis on organic or chemical free. Every one is offered a cocktail from the list which include interesting concoctions such as Pom Pom- coriander syrup, two shots of gin and lemon juice in a Martini glass.
Sue has popped in and set up in the kitchen at the distillery and is producing some canapes. I decide to go out to help, as staying in the distillery could be bad news for me. I want to try everything…..
There are tiny potato cakes on spoons with smoked salmon and sour cream, Freshly shucked oysters, baked polenta with sweet onion chutney, scallops on cauliflower puree , Green Lip Abalone and other things but that POM Pom has hit the spot….. After tiny raspberry muffins with double cream and honey… it’s time to leave.
Friday There will be an early start today as we catch the ferry back to the mainland and stop at Primo Estate for lunch. You may know Primo Estate predominately for their ‘Joseph’ Olive oil, but the wines they produce are just as prised. They are one of the most recognisable Artisan Oil producers in Australia, thanks to Neil Perry choosing to use them in his restaurants, 20 years ago. The wines they produce are just as well regarded and the restaurant at the ultra modern Cellar door is the place that we will have lunch. We are greeted by Richard one of the managers who leads us into a private dinning room, after Primo Seco ( 2011 new release sparkling) and slices of Wood fired Pizza with Prosciutto and Taleggio in the courtyard. . He tells stories of where the grapes are grown ( all around the area ) to how they are harvested to produce very Italian style wines that Australians love.
The lunch starts with Arancini balls, filled with braised Wagyu served with La Biondina Colombard, followed by Gin and Orange cured Salmon with artichokes , potato and celeriac, and a platter of flash fried Squid and Octopus with wedges of lemon and Joseph Pino Grigio .
Next Braised Pork Belly with shredded apple , de Puy lentils and asparagus and Lamb cutlets with blood pudding, rosemary, broccoli and zucchini matched with Angel Gully Shiraz 2009 from the Mclaren Vale highlands. We also try the NV Joseph sparkling red. This is very special, made like champagne, using samples of older reds ( up to 30 years old) and blended with reds from other estates that is fermented in the bottle for 18 months and hand disgorged , liqueured and fortified, after all that the taste is incredibly layered and darkly opulent. This is the end to our beautiful lunch with views over the vineyards. We will head on to Adelaide now a drive of a further hour or so. It is a Friday afternoon in the city and as everyone rushes towards the weekend , all of the people on this tour are heading to a lovely hotel and dinner at Urban bistro. This one of the highlights of this tour , according to all the feedback. Urban is a husband and wife team wit Bethany Finn as the chef, producing modern exciting dishes. I however have to go to the airport. I have to deliver a cake for a big birthday party tomorrow morning. ( so sad to leave). Peter our driver, drops me at the terminal and I wave to all of my fellow foodies, sad that they will get to eat Bethanys Finns food ……. and I wont!
The group will be delivered to the Adelaide markets tomorrow morning with maps and ideas on the best places to visit, again cutting through any time it may take to get to the best produce……………………………….
Kangaroo Island resident ambling dangerously across the road
Tania travelled as a guest of Gourmet Safaris