Category Archives: Fresh food

They do have a winter

Yes it does rain, winter (relatively speaking) is part of the Queensland experience. Best part of the morning spent exploring the foreshore in Bongaree. This location named after the aboriginal who travelled with Matthew Flinders while he mapped the area. Names aside, while the sun shone we did plan to go to the beach but by the time we got home clouds were gathering and it was much too cool. Some good, some bad – non beach day. Our plans included going to Mooloolba but a minor medical emergency meant sampling the excellent support services on the Bribie Island.

Bongaree Jetty
The Bongaree Jetty, many a pleasant afternoon spent here

We are enjoying – as part of house sitting- the joys of a fully equipped gourmet kitchen. Instant heat under high-tech stove top hot plates, homemade yoghurt, obscure products, seasonings, garnishes and gourmet, organic or even freshly gathered, locally sourced food. The surrounds provide us with papaya, passionfruit, mint, herbs, rouquette and spinage. So I can be creative. Results include a mandarin slice and green papaya salad.

Another grey day and we drive north to Mooloolaba, apparently holidaying. What used to be little more than one bakery, plank footpaths and a caravan park, largely surrounded by swampland is now an up-market, bustling café strip. More crowded, more resort towers than we are used to, this is a bonsai Gold Coast. Still some shabby areas though, the Aquarium centre, or down on the spit where the fishery/ seafood area. The adjacent foreshore has a sheltered swimming area but the chilly air puts us off.untitled (320)

Being deep in Maroon territory when the State of Origin Rugby happens is a new experience. Many in the neighbourhood deck out houses, buses, offices in their team’s colours. Queensland having won eight years on the trot are very popular. They are definitely walking the walk of winners. The whole state rivalry is much less noticeable south of the border, or perhaps we just live in the wrong area.

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While Queensland has adopted the Cane toad as their emblem, and with no love lost those from south of the border are aligned to cockroaches, we have our own invasions to deal with: tiny ants along the hand basins in the guest’s bathroom and perhaps kindred NSW cockroaches. House sitting does have its down side.

Cane toad
Great invader, taking over so much.

When we eventually explore the coast Cotton Tree and Maroochy Surf club do not live up to the hype. Much of the foreshore is being rebuilt and heavily dressed in construction site garb.

A garbage truck stalks us northwards. My memories of a lovely family lunch in the Surf club on a previous business are destroyed by insistent jack-hammering.

Much of the façade is the ‘same-same’ as all along the coast. Why do people come here? Scratch just below the surface, behind the shops, sparkling businesses, and gleaming towers are still garages, back alleys and waste areas.

Much changed Mooloolaba foreshore

A favourite up away from the coastal strip is the Kunrana Organic Supermarket – Brownies worth the drive. (featured image) They have bulk bins and paper bags for customers to fill, mark the product code and you are charged accordingly. The range is enormous, everything squeaky-clean and good for you. Now the complex has been extended to include café, garden centre and even an organic butcher. I notice a sign indicating they now sell, “Grass fed Lamb”, and wonder; is there another sort? Do they eat something else?

We are frequently asked, ‘how long we’re staying or what are we doing here?’ Which leads us to feel we are being judges as clearly not locals! As far as I can see the only evidence to support this assumption is that we are clothed in shorts and T shirts, obviously damming evidence, when others around us are in more wintery outfits. When we get a chance to respond to this curiosity any mention of house-sitting is greeted with platitudes.


Bumming in Burleigh

There was a man doing a needlepoint tapestry in the Surf side Burleigh Hotel.

I drew parallels between the Gold Coast and Florida or Miami; don’t know if they have surf beaches, but in terms of resident retiree populations. They must be hot and sweaty too.

Mondays and Wednesdays means a morning Tia chi group. taichi-burleighGold Coast Council pays a leader to come out and makes this activity free to all. I found out about energy systems and feeling ones extremities. Lots of people gather no matter what weather. This is all part of the many free services provided to ensure a richer quality of life. Those busy foot paths are also dotted with gym equipment. Plenty to watch in the form of a passing human parade.

We decided to drive to Coolongatta, but found the breeze was stronger there. It wasn’t even comfortable to walk to Rainbow Beach, let alone sit in the sand, or swim. We were not drawn into shooting the waves. The main beach is being prepared for an operatic production of Aida, complete with mini sphinx and very Egyptian looking stone work. All made of plywood, but still very sandstone look-alike.

Aida at Coolangatta
Not quite the same set, but you get the idea.

And the Rake-man’s temporary art is on the beach as part of the preparations.

A two-for-one voucher from a local discount magazine came in handy, so we were able to partake of the Chief Burgers in Coolangatta. Just down the road from where Rod says, ‘the chew and spew’ used to be. Important location for $2 rissole and vege dinners during his surfer days. While ago now.

Chief burgers coolangatta
Advertising does lie.

Backpackers sold strawberries $1 more than in the fruit shop. A lost dog wandered about, no collar or tags, happy as.

We spent late afternoon back on the Beach in Burleigh. As you do, when staying here.

Coolangatta used to be the Gold Coast location of choice, since Rod and I have been taking holidays in Queensland. Initially this was an effort to rekindle the memories of his early years as a long-haired, blond surfer type. ‘We slept in our vans, parked under an empty Queeslander house,’ he reminisced. Not many of them left now. And these days it simply wouldn’t be possible to just take shelter under some stranger’s home. Now the apartment towers that can hold a multitude make for busy sidewalks, too few interesting shops and traffic flooding pavement seating with noise and fumes. We have been converted to Burleigh snobs.

Queenslander house
architectural masterpiece – a queenslander


Mixed Bag of Fish and Chips

Cardwell. A must stop half way between Townsville and Cairns for the famous Crab sandwich. Also available under the equally as big crab in Miram Vale. Further south, closer to 1770/Agnes Waters. (featured Image) Cardwell offers a choice of grams depending on how much crab you want, more cost more, obviously. Fresh white bread, some butter crab and lettuce. Can’t help thinking this needs mayo.

We missed so many chances to further our fish and chips challenges due to efforts to counter expensive accommodation by cooking at home.

Madigans Hervey Bay. Pronounced Harvey. A mere 2 doors down from our apartment. Touted as the “world’s best” by our apartment management, and the neat sign outside. Large generous serves – $9.90 = three pieces of mackerel and chips. Extra for the additional piece of fish – local varietal. No tartare sauce, that costs extra $1.70 for small serve. They also sell fresh fish. Salt and Pepper Squid on the menu. Can’t help thinking that the “best” title equates more to the size of servings rather than the quality.

Noosaville Fish and Chips
Weird little shop – great food

Noosaville Fish and Chip shop. Right next door to our temporary abode. They do Whitebait fritters! A strange facial haired, checked flannelled shirted mannequin stands outside, if he’s supposed to encourage customers, there might just be the opposite effect. ½ serve of chips available tossed to aerate through the salt before packing. Fresh fish fillets of a reasonable size lemon included. $1 for tartare sauce. There was a $5 lunch special, but this was our dinner.

Yamba Shores Tavern. Crumbed flathead on the menu $18.50. I ordered the Mulloway – $25. More chips than fish arrived, I expected a larger portion as this is a big fish. Served with salad. While this was a casual tavern they could probably go under the restaurant category. A dish called Seafood Delight on the menu – whiting, prawns, scallops, calamari – way too much fried food.

Apollo Bay Fisherman's co-op
Great View and produce.

Great Ocean Road Apollo Bay. Otway light seafoods, as in light house. Right at the harbor’s edge. Blue Grenadier is fish of the day! Fish and chips for two $16. They also sell South Melbourne Markets Steamed Dim Sims for $2.50 – legendary! Help yourself to the lemons on the counter, so we do. Homemade tartare sauce. Thickish batter, I don’t want to eat it all, but do. Waiting for our food a group of young guys buys 8 flake fillets, 500g of prawns, which amounts to $65 of seafood. Someone else, obviously local, buys 300g of scallops. There was a gob smacking moment when the orders were almost handed to the wrong person. That was going to be embarrassing for both parties.

The scallop purchaser in this exchange discussed eating the scallops on a bread roll. How he used to work on a boat and came to like the catch. Putting some down the boots to get a ‘booty’ (pardon the pun) to take home. He had to take care not to rattle the stash as he left the boat. The shop assistant recounts how her father-in-law said, ‘that’s not how you shuck scallops.’

To which she replied, ‘do it yourself then.’

So he shucked scallops for an hour.

I am sure there will be more fish and chip entries somewhere in my notes journal. They will figure here when I come across them.

Apollo Bay Fisherman's co-op
Typical Nosh from Apollo Bay Fisherman’s co-op

Cheese and the Highlights

What was that infamous Monty Python misquote – “He said, blessed are the cheesemakers…”

With six weeks on the road about to come to an end, as we head back to our Sydney home base to shelter during school holidays, it is time to reflect on some of the highlights. High on the list are the chances we’ve had to taste some fantastic dairy foods. images6IK0EZQN

From near St Helens – What was the name of that place? That’s right it was Pyengana – where they had a pig in the paddock. Some Europeans asked, ‘what happens to the whey?’

‘We give it back to the cows.’

Which meant the whey, considered waste, is pumped into the paddocks.
We had to wait in line and get the tasting order correct.

Ashgrove, just near Devonport where the samples were unpoliced, Rod in revolving, I will just sample that again, mode. 

ashgrove cheese Devonport
Unsupervised tastings , so Rod cuts loose

Tilba, – the ABC cheese with array of flavors and variety.

Bodella – today, just north of Narooma, with dessert pots and I try chili flavour. Flavoured milks, even plain milk which we could buy from local supermarkets. Tastes fantastic, nothing like the product we get back in the city. 

Bega – uncontrolled again. Featuring sliced and tinned cheese. The latter with Arabic lettering and exported to the Middle East.

Bega Cheese
Huge restaurant, museum and tastings centre – Bega Cheese

Sheep’s cheese,  Grand-ewe…south of Hobart, toward the Huon Valley.

Duck river butter in Tasmania, and now Western Star, again nothing like what we can usually get.

Burnie Art Group – self-service again. Were we sampled South Cape Victorian products in surroundings like a bonsai-ed Mona.

Burnie Arts center
All sorts of samples and hands on things await inside.

I discovered ants in my dirty washing bag. So it must be time to go home.


Lower NSW

We headed into Central Tilba for more cheese samples. Cute historical town that we’ve made a point of visiting a few times before. This time I notice the exposed rock topped hills and green pastures more. That and the Bega cheese signs on farm gates. That and the Devondale signs on the farm gates so I guess it really is dairy company owned by farmers. See advertising can be real sometimes.

Post Office B & B Central Tilba
Upstairs to the b & b – central Tilba

A little post-office, general store, B & B shop at one end of town is like a picture book. ‘You can have a look if you like,’ the manager says. Then adds, after I want to show Rod, “10 minutes and stay off the beds.” It’s so cute, like a movie scene, or from another historical period.

The leather shop sells deer pelts, I am told, ‘are culled from the National Parks.’ But can you really be sure? Everything is peaceful quiet until a huge bus arrives. We are told there are always people checking out the shops. The varying population is very different from our other trips with crowded parking areas, packed pathways and no spare tables in all the cafes.  untitled (250)

Disappointingly the ice cream is not a local brand.

Everyone from our Narooma home base is in the Golfer’s Lodge at the Golf Club. Makes perfect sense as we all have a membership token on our room keys. Meaning we can avail ourselves of nightly member’s special cheaper meals. The points for signing into the club are apparently accrued by our host; once a month he and wife get a free dinner at the club. Rod and I partake of that club institution, the meat raffle. To win absolutely nothing. As we depart, ahead of us is a fellow who has filled up his pockets with chocolates from a machine where you drop coins and it pushes sweets out. A contraption that took my money for no return the day before. He also carries two bags of meat trays. We learn latter, that this bloke, let’s call him Garry has a track record of always winning something.

Club house behind the 18th green

We spend the afternoon swimming beside the rock wall at Kianga – just north of the Narooma bridge. A storm is arriving. Fish are hovering around the “shark net” as if to visit. I put that into inverted commas because there seem to be more holes than net. Functioning not to prohibit the sharks, but to let them get out of the area. Locals arrive and test the temperature, 20 degrees. Noice! We are pondering what to do with the day when there seem to be no more sights to see. No more day trips to make.

A new mantra: “It’s been an excellent adventure.”

A minor shock in that we discovered we have missed whole television series.

Kianga beach Narooma
Such pretty beaches, why would you go elsewhere?
Paynesville founder

To Paynesville

To honour the brother-in-law we must go to the town bearing his name. But this isn’t the only reason for our visit – on the previous slow trip south (one week Sydney to Melbourne) we’d heard about the scenery and location. Now we sit in the sunny board walked shoreline and make the call to Christopher Payne. My sister and her husband are entertaining friends ashore from around the world cruise. ‘They must be fabulously well off?’ No they are just spending the inheritance.

One ferry we watched but didn’t do – over the lake to Raymond Island from Paynesville

Paynesville is another hamlet on the Gippsland lakes system – pretty, with a history of plentiful fishing and Bacchus like harvests. Boats, specially built herewith a shallow draft and low sides that would allow the heavy nets to be pulled aboard. Boats are a big part of local activities. A ferry still plies between the shore and Raymond Island, $10 a car for a distance I estimate is about 200meters. Free for pedestrians. Before the train lines (which are now rail trails) steamers used to connect villages and even as far as Melbourne. Now road transport has replaced other methods. You can still use the rail lines but on cycles or horseback. Rod talks about using these major trails to perhaps go one way or the other, even explore the Great Ocean Road, maybe something we can do later in the with our Great Roads Road Trip.

Eagle Point - Gippsland lakes
How it all used to look, way back when.

We explore Eagle Point and The Bluff Lookout which makes the scope of the Gippsland lakes evident. Our little self-drive tour also included heading down Dawson’s Point. (Memories of the 2nd head of English Keanan College) A narrow spit of land jutting out towards the Silt jetties. We encounter historical information about the area being settled in 1800s. The police station at Eagle Point built in 1864.  imagesJEY9IHGY

A must stop is Bumberrah Orchard. Signs say, ‘don’t squeeze the fruit’ as this is not a self-serve store. Here we stock up on pears, peaches and nectarines. A young guy from here who spent a great deal of time in Coffs Harbor, and looks like a Coffs local says he couldn’t find permanent work. He is a chef and baker but could only find part time, casual work, so took a positon in Port Hedland at a mine site. Now he owns both a house and boat; loves Metung, the beach, and has a job.  untitled (246)

Our host Dorothy at Maeburn Cottages is a South African who lived in NZ at Lake Taupo, then the Kapiti coast, and then showed truly transient colors by moving to the Gold Coast. ‘but it was too hot, and we couldn’t run the business from there, so they moved to Metung. Now run the cottages and a clothing shop at Paynsville. ‘No need to take a water bottle everywhere here, and people can be asked to work at the cottages without a huge call-out fee.’

Metung headlands – out into the Gippsland lakes

Last days before the Boat

Off to Turner’s Beach – of course – Rod’s name beach. Wide, pebble strewn beach, plenty of driftwood. Nearly no one is there, perhaps due to the drizzle? There has been a bad fire in an empty garage/store business, now being offered for sale. I wonder if squatters were responsible. We take lots of photo opportunities at the quaint change shed/toilet.

From my reading, an apt description of that day on Turner’s Beach….The Dancer Upstairs, …All I could hear were the waves stampeding on a dirty grey beach…(see below)

Ok so, on that day everything was grey, even the water, we did stick our toes into the clear liquid so I have to concede it wasn’t dirty. But the way tiny waves roll over rocks did make them seem thicker.

Berry Haven Turner Beach
Rich earth, bright fat strawberries

Travel articles report this area as ‘a hamlet…kid friendly beach..La Mer Café…’ but we have our targets here too – At the Berry Haven we gorge ourselves on strawberries and late raspberries I seriously have to hunt for. Instead of having to bend and work as a team while Rod holds the container, and I offer my flexibility towards berry gathering the plants are growing in waist high planters, fantastic.

We check out Ulverston Markets which proves to be an excellent growers gathering with foodstuffs and fresh produce. Even though Penguin Markets was recommended as the ‘largest crafts and antiques markets’. Closing in on a state election every local representative is mingling with

Ulverston Markets Tasmania
Few stalls, but great products.

the shoppers, someone remarks, ‘you never see them at any other time…’ There seems to be a bit of name-calling and heated opinions about local politics. The candidates have that – we are only mixing with you lesser beings because we have to – look about them.

The turning tide in Forth River entertains, and we explore the shoreline with its tall trees and tall houses, and faced with limited lunch choices including expensive options found at Café @ Pier; Gourmet Waygu, $15 for 5 Oysters – when we are used to paying that much for a dozen. Even Pedros Fish Shop is more costly than expected. We remind ourselves that so close to the boat prices must be inflated to catch out innocent tourists.

Beside the Forth River Tasmania


We make a decision to get lunch from market stalls. After all those berries, we don’t need much. So a sample of Beef Curry, sausage sizzle for Rod, and sharing a spinach and feta roll, we feel the local gourmets have been tried.

Almost at the end of our Tasmania Time we now recognize how fertile this is this area. Something I later have confirmed in Michael Jacobson’s Windmill Hill …The soil is rich in this part of the world, billionaire rich, richer than anywhere else in Tasmania. It’s thick and chocolaty and fertile…

Turner's Beach
Rod on Turner’s Beach, Tasmania: Is the water calling for swimmers? I don’t think so.