It does rain in Australia. Today we’ve got clouds and occasional rain, some of it quite heavy. Still, we are in Victoria’s high country and it is early spring. Michel said he’d distract us with a guided tour.
40 kms west of Stanley, where we are based, is Milawa, the so-called Milawa Gourmet Region. I suspect that it is self-styled. Here, there is a concentration of various gastronomic businesses offering tastings. A tourist can hop from one to another sampling and, of course, buying. 🙂
An enjoyable 30-minute drive through the picturesque countryside in these parts got us to our first port of call, The Milawa Cheese Company. According to Michel, this place is usually heaving. However, on this wet day out of the main tourist season, we were able to enjoy a relaxed cheese tasting, conducted by an attractive young lady, all by ourselves. We were led through goat cheeses and blues, in an order that didn’t confuse the palate, very much like wine tasting. We bought some soft creamy goat, some hard goat with a texture similar to parmesan, and some 3-month matured blue that had a very rounded flavour. Excellent use of money. 😉
Next stop was Milawa Mustards. Here, an ex-Brit from the northeast had about a dozen mustards arranged in a sequence from mild to fierce, that you could help yourself to and taste on cracker fragments. They were pleasant enough and may well have been fine mustards but they were all wholegrain mustards [he couldn’t afford the type of grinder that is required to produce finely ground, smooth mustard, I overheard] which I find a limited use for. Michel bought a jar but we skipped it.
OK, we’ve done various wine tastings before but they are just for wimps. Up next was something that sounded much more interesting for real men. We were off to Hurdle Creek Still where we indulged in a gin tasting. The couple running it were very informative and entertaining. They had apparently considered distilling whisky but that needs maturing for a minimum of two years so there’s a long lead time before any return after ones investment. You can start selling gin much more quickly so there’s much less waiting for any profit. Sensible chaps. I was happy ‘cos I’m not a great whisky fan anyway, preferring clearer, cleaner-tasting spirits. There was a basic gin with an array of botanicals on show (containing a few red herrings to obscure the actual recipe). I skipped the cask strength version – I find that just too much alcohol to be enjoyable. There was a Dutch-style Jeneva, too, along with a cherry gin, similar to a sloe gin, I suppose. There was another but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Gin’ll do that to you. Francine and I enjoyed it, as did Michel but, being the designated driver, he was forced into modest restraint; he did buy a bottle of the regular gin to take home, though.
Back in central Milawa, we popped into Gamze Smokehouse for lunch. It had opened just a week earlier, which is often a good time in a food business’s life to try it. We opted for a sharing platter of smoked tasters washed down with a beer. Australian beer all seems to be designed for warmer weather – crisp, light and refreshing. I’m finding I could do with something a little more chewy. Still, it washes the food down.