GUESS WHO CAME TO VISIT ME DOWN UNDER! This past weekend, I enjoyed some time with my two biggest supporters, and now two world travelers: my parents!! They arrived in Melbourne on a Tuesday, explored parts of Australia even I haven’t seen, and then drove along the Great Ocean Road on Sunday to meet me at the Royal Mail! I keep using exclamation marks because I am just so excited that they got to visit! Not going to lie, I had been homesick (a new experience for me) for about two weeks prior to their visit, but I think that’s because I knew I would have a little piece of home coming to Dunkeld very shortly.
After I got off work, I showed them around the kitchen garden and the Myers garden before we headed to dinner.
Table 25. VIPs for the night. The head chef had let me arrange the menu, but I’m pretty sure that went to the wayside about halfway through our meal. All in all we had 14 courses. Just about everything on the menu was sent to our table. And we ate every. single. bite. To begin our meal, we received champagne and “snacks.”
French breakfast radish dipped in salad cream and rolled in bacon dust, tomatoes from the garden with lovage and teff, a shot of “rocket fuel,” the Royal Mail hot dog with chicken parfait, duck prosciutto with chili gel and a bagel with eel cream and shaved abalone.
Next was the first amuse: watercress soup with yuzu gel, saigo, and crispy rice. It was followed closely with the second amuse: periwinkle snails, gazpacho sponge, cucumelons, and cucumber essence. My parents hadn’t tried snails before, but they thought this was delicious!
We moved on to one of my favorite dishes, the beef tartare. It just amazes me how even though it is served raw, the coal oil reminds you of the char from the grill, just as if it were cooked! It is served with nasturtion puree, pickled green tomatoes, and pickle gel.
The lamb neck was next. It is served with yoghurt gel, lamb heart agnalotti, burnt onion compote, compressed figs, and caramelized yoghurt.
At this point we were pretty stuffed, but I assured them, we hadn’t event made it to the mains yet…next was the John Dory. A whitefish with zucchini puree, fried potatoes, and a fried zucchini blossom stuffed with tomato sauce and squid.
This was followed by the squab. The breast is fried in puffed amaranth, with cooked amaranth served alongside it with wilted greens and pequillo pepper gel.
Next was the goat with beetroot puree, beetroot, wilted greens, and dehydrated goat cheese crumbled in leek ash. On top are japanese pepper leaves, and a few drops of pepper oil.
The highlight of the mains was the veal dish. It is normally on the a la carte menu, but they adapted a smaller portion for our degustation menu. It is sous vide veal rump with cabbage puree, cabbage that’s been pressed in butter, salt-baked kohlrabi, kohlrabi air, sunflower seeds, dehydrated bacon, and sunflower petals. Then drops of black garlic oil were put on top tableside.
At this point, all three of us were positive we were moving on to dessert…but then they dropped a few more steak knives at our table, and then they brought out the beef. With chard puree, pickled plums, and a stout reduction. We were stuffed, but that didn’t stop us from eating all of it.
AND THEN, dessert, finally. Our “pre-dessert” was hazelnut cream with diced nashi pears and nashi sorbet, followed by a sour grape trifle with lemon verbena jelly, grape custard, vanilla sponges, tonic sorbet, grape gel, and candied grapes.
The last dish of the evening was one of my favorite desserts. I’m very proud of being able to create every component of this dish, and being one of the first ones to plate it. Buttermilk panna cotta, tarragon water, plum gel, dehydrated plums, anise hyssop sorbet, plum sorbet, plum meringue, and plum sherbet.
And just when you think you’re done, they dump over your flower pot, which is full of chocolate soil and petit fours: a shortbread cookie sandwich with violet cream cheese, tomato friand, chili chocolate fudge, and beetroot jelly. They let me have the honor of dumping over a second pot too, so we got double! Not that we could even eat anything else.
Our beverages for the night included a pinot noir that somehow lasted for the majority of the meal, the champagne at the beginning, and a sweet pinot gris with dessert. The owner of the Royal Mail had just recently decided to buy the winery from wnich the pinot noir came from…not just the wine, but the whole winery.
And that was just the first night.
The next morning I got to eat breakfast with them at the hotel and then we headed out to South Australia (my first time going out of state!) to Mount Gambier. The weather was rainy all morning, but seemed to clear up just as we arrived at the Blue Lake. It’s just as you would imagine it…a blue lake. Except it was extra blue.
So after about five minutes we went searching for the next destination and settled on the Engelbrecht Caves where we met Dave —> and learned about cave diving. Apparently for the level 3 dives that make up these caves, you have to take a psysch test before you’re allowed in the water…I guess not everyone is meant for squeezing through rock formations in dark cold water. After we left Mount Gambier, we continued toward the coast to Port MacDonnell. It was pretty deserted for a windy Monday afternoon, so we drove on Port Fairy, a place I had wanted to visit, and made it to the beach. It was far too cold to swim, as Australia is entering Autumn and beach weather is far behind us, but I still wanted to feel my toes in the sand just the same.
We headed back to Dunkeld after searching for food in Port Fairy, but everything was closed. AND, we had a taco party to go to!!! A couple of people from work were getting together for a festival, and I asked to bring my parents along. So we showed up with my mom’s fabulous black bean salsa and joined the party! Ate tacos, drank margs, and ate agave worms.
And Jon and Brenda enjoyed meeting everyone I’ve been working with. Also, saw a huntsman…and apparently this is still a small one.
On Tuesday, we went into the Grampians, past Hall’s Gap to the Boroka Lookout, Reid’s Lookout and the balconies. My friend Ellie tagged along with us. At the first lookout, My dad could barely breathe as Ellie climbed past the railing to sit on the very edge of a cliff, but by the end of the day, we got them climbing over the rails as well.
We got REALLY far out there at Reid’s lookout. There were no Chilian guys with a guitar this time though.
And then we went to Mackenzie Falls! It was probably the highlight of the trip. There was a short walk to these massive falls, and then a trail that followed for a few Ks along the water. We then drove to Horsham, the next town outside of the Grampians in search of food, but the restaurants in Australia are only open for lunch OR dinner, with this lull in the mid afternoon from like 3pm to 5pm where the only things you can find are quiche and sandwiches from a display case. We walked around to the point of HANGRY and then just settled on something to eat.
We made it back to Dunkeld as the sun was going out, and I found a good spot for my parents to see some roo’s. We saw a whole field of them out by the homestead, where I showed them that garden and our orchards as well.
We also have a woolshed that is still used for shearing sheep, so we got a peek into that process as well! Lots of sheep. Lots of wool. We got a second dinner at Cafe 109, and then parted ways.
Wednesday morning was a bountiful trip to the grocery store, and then a goodbye. I will see them again in just 45 days! I can’t believe my time here is going so by, but I’m so glad that I got my parents got to visit while I was here. This was the biggest trip they’ve ever done! Sadly, Nicole didn’t get to come, but that just means I’ll have to come back and bring her with me!
In addition to this post since I missed last week, here are a few more snapshots from the last week. I went to two wineries, one with a huge underground cellar with bottles of champagne over a hundred years old. I also went foraging for plants along the shore of Killarney Beach with friends, and worked a wedding at the woolshed!
Cheers to good fun and good company.