When I was invited to a luncheon hosted by Tourism Australia to learn more about the fabulous foods, wines, and culture the country offers, the first things to pop into my mind were Outback Steakhouse, Yellow Tail wine, and Crocodile Dundee. Little did I know that the cuisine and vino of Australia’s many different regions reaches far beyond the Bloomin Onion and cheap Chardonnay…and the antics of sticking one’s head in a crocodile’s mouth, for that matter.
The lunch took place at the Australian restaurant The Sunburnt Calf on the Upper West Side. A myriad of Aussie apps came out first, my very favorite being the Stuffed Mushrooms, complete with a wild mushroom mousse, olive tapenade, and Manchego.
The main course I chose was a delightful Moroccan Vegetable Tagine with roasted almond and mint couscous. It was bursting with flavor yet light enough that I didn’t feel like I needed a midday nap afterward.
Dessert was Pavlova with a sticky meringue, fresh cream, kiwi, mango, and passion fruit sauce and a Peach Melba with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. I could sure get used to eating the Aussie cuisine!
I was delighted to have a seat at the table across from Chef Michael Moore, a leader and innovator in the Australian culinary scene. He spoke so eloquently about his country and its food. Rid yourself of images of shrimp on the barbie and replace it with a bucket of prawns, a bucket of lemons…dining that is truly plant to plate, bush to bowl. Moore describes Australian food as “an attitude, a state of mind, sophisticated, and connected.”
Food and wine aside, I learned of a few brilliant cultural adventures that will be added to my travel bucket list: a three-day Bruny Island guided food, wine and walking tour in Tasmania; savoring black truffles at the annual “Truffle Kerfuffle” in Western Australia; and cuddling a koala in Queensland. (No, seriously, you can actually do this!!! Brilliant, eh?!)
As if I needed more reasons to be convinced, the question arose: “Why should I go to Australia?” Here, my friends, are a few reasons, right out of the mouth of the Aussie chef himself: 1. You’ll have a spiritual connection with a spiritual land, 2. It’s a country built on an amazing energy, and 3. You’ll be a richer person and a happier person having connected with Australia. I would say I was sold on the answers, but quite honestly, they already had me at their food, wine, and koala cuddles.
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen