8 October 2012, 23:59
STARJUMP!!! So like, the boy and I usually celebrate our dating anniversary instead of our wedding anniversary and a coupla weeks ago to celebrate we took some days off and escaped to the Hunter Valley for some wine, cheese and r&r. Prepare yourself for an epic amount of photos guys!
We were taking the F3 so of course we had to stop at the Caltex Stopover at Wyong. Cafe F3 is neighbours with the McDonalds but the roast pork sandwich was calling my name and while the piece of crackle was not as massive as last time
, the juicy pork shreds sandwiched between buttered white bread was just so damn satisfying. Breakfast of champions!
A couple of hours passed with me chanting Gangnam Style nonstop until Noods couldn’t take it anymore and stopped at the Hunter Barn (2320 Broke Road, Pokolbin) in hopes of plying me with candy to shut me up. Obviously this is what happens when you feed me candy. Oh and that there behind me is Lollyhop, nominated into the Guiness World Records as the largest lolly Kangaroo in the world. I kinda wished that it was entirely made of jelly beans instead of stuck on but hey, it was still pretty impressive.
I’m totally hugging the gumball machine but you can’t really tell cos it’s too big for my arms to wrap around! Oh giant gumball machine, if only you were mine.
Lunch was at Robert’s Restaurant (Halls Road, Pokolbin) mainly because I knew their new head chef was George Francisco (formerly of Jonah’s at Whale Beach). It is a gorgeous restaurant, with rooms filled with leather armchairs, bookshelves and a fire place. The main dining room opens out to an amazing view of vineyards and the service is faultless.
I start with the Charred Garam Masala Scented Foie Gras
($28) the cubes of foie gras have been skewered and grilled till the edges are crisp but the insides still rich creamy. Candied lemon slices with a hit of cinnamon help to balance the richness.
Noods has chosen the Spanner Crab Pasta
($25) which is packed full of shredded crab meat and just enough chilli to leave my tongue tingling. I haz food envy at the cloud of parmigiano–reggiano cheese until I see my main…
! The (entree sized) Twice Baked Gruyere Cheese Souffle
($27) smashes my food envy out of the park and I just about swoon with every spoonful of gooey, cheesy souffle. There are shavings of Manjimup Black Truffles which are whisper thin but their aroma is intoxicating and heady.
Noods’ Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder
($40) is a playground of colours and textures with confit potatoes an almost neon purple, amaretti cookie crumble, a pile of vivid green kale and topped with golden potato crisps. The hunk of pork was so freaking tender that one stab and it tumbles into glorious shreds that were ribboned with creamy fat.
We were full but knew it was time to activate the emergency dessert stomach because the whole point of coming to Robert’s was for the Vanilla Panna Cotta
aka the wobbly nipple
!!! Served with pomegranate molasses and lavender honey this dessert was the perfect end to our meal.
The next day we were up bright and early to visit Bimbadgen
(790 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin) where we had been invited to stay for the weekend.
Shelf o wine. Bimbadgen is taking a strong stance on environmental sustainability and their new bottle is 28% lighter than the previous bottles used for its wine range, saving 140g per bottle. Which also means I can now carry more wine muahahaha
The very awesome Karen who is the Marketing Manager at Bimbadgen leads us through a wine tasting. Her approach is refreshing and sets us immediately at ease. The boy and I have moved up slightly in the food chain and while not quite wine noobs we readily agree that we still have much to learn but Karen reassures us to trust our taste buds and only we can tell what we like.
We take a lil tour of the winery, stopping to peer at the tanks displayed. We check out the area where the choppers land which is near where A Day on the Green, an annual festival at Bimbadgen looks set to be another sell out event this year.
Esca, Bimbadgen’s award winning restaurant, uses produce that is sourced locally or grown on the estate including lemons, figs and fresh herbs.
There’s just something about actually seeing a veggie patch filled with leafy greens that makes me yearn to have a green thumb!
What’s that, it’s lunch time already? We decide to go with the Degustation Menu with matching wines ($120) knowing that we/Noods wouldn’t be driving after lunch. With views down the valley it was all too easy to relax and forget about work. (Ahem, hi Al! Hi Steve!)
An amuse bouche starts us off, a curl of cured salmon with hazelnut nubbins and a cider dressing has our tastebuds ready and waiting.
Fat slices of seared tuna sit atop an enoki mushroom and daikon salad with ginger dressing. There is a citrus note that shines through with the Bimbadgen Regions 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and I relish in popping each pearl of salmon roe individually, the salty brine bringing out the flavour of the tuna.
Ahhh I do love a cheese souffle and I reckon I could’ve eaten about 5 of these in a row! Light as a feather the souffle was the perfect balance of cheesyness and the cauliflower and black truffle emulsion had us scraping the plate clean. The Bimbadgen Regions 2011 Pinot Gris has a crisp finish and tastes like summer.
A palate cleanser of sorbet of Bimbadgen sparkling Semillon was light and refreshing and full of bubbles.
A rare vertical photo because we were absolutely blown away by the Bimbadgen Family Collection 2009 Bald Crusader Shiraz and the Byron Bay pork belly! The flavours of everything combined was just incredible and even a couple of weeks later we are still raving about that course. The perfect tile of crackling, the perfect ratio of meat to creamy fat, the perfect accompaniment of hearty cassoulet filled with butterbeans, kassler nubbins and caramelised pear and the most perfect glass of red I have ever had.
Our final savoury course! Tender Cowra lamb loin with the cutest baby carrots and freaking juicy Bimbadgen Fortified prunes aaaand a Bimbadgen Estate 2010 Shiraz that Noods promptly steals from me. Tch.
Dessert was a deconstructed lamington- fresh coconut shavings, chocolate jelly, rich chocolate ganache, a quenelle of vanilla cream and a ball of coconut ice cream sitting on sponge crumbs. Eaten all together it did indeed taste like a lamington though I am old school and kinda prefer my desserts minus too much novelty. A matching glass of Bimbadgen Estate 2006 Botrytis Semillon lends the perfect sweet note to the not-so-sweet dessert.
A stay at the Bimbadgen Cottage
had been arranged and we marvel at its location, just down the driveway from the Tower and with uninterupted views of the vineyards. The cottage would be perfect for 2 couples and the next door Homestead perfect for a group of friends.
With temperatures soaring all over the place I just couldn’t resist going for a dip in the pool. Summer is nigh my friends!
Instead of teevee time we spent quite a while sitting near the window and watching the kangaroos come out and play at dusk.
The kitchen has all the necessities should you want to cook up a feast.
And a feast was indeed to be had! A dinner hamper was delivered to us by Karen and straight away we tucked into the cheese and meats, washed down with a bottle of the complimentary Bimbadgen Shiraz. Later we quickly pan fried the salmon and the prawns and um drank the other bottle of the complimentary Semillion before falling into a wine induced snooze :P
Nursing minor headaches the next day, we stare at the complimentary breakfast foods we had found in the kitchen when we arrived. The yoghurt is attacked, straight from the tub but we save the muesli and coffee beans for later.
We check out of Bimbadgen but not before buying some more bottles of wine for presents/our growing collection.
Armed with several ice packs and an esky, we visit the Smelly Cheese Shop (3/188 Broke Road, Pokolbin), the Hunter Valley Cheese Company (47 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin) and Binnorie Dairy (Corner of Hermitage Rd. and Mistletoe Lane, Pokolbin) in quick succesion. Much cheese was procured. My lactose intolerant gut was both happy and sad.
I couldn’t leave Hunter Valley without visiting Cafe Enzo (Broke Road, Pokolbin) for their famed scones which were seriously incredible, so light that I barely felt the urge to smother in craploads of jam and cream, it was really just that awesome.
Of course Noods requested a visit to the Blue Tongue Brewery (917 Hermitage Road Pokolbin) for a paddle of beer. By the time I got someone to take a photo of us Noods had very sneakily already downed a shot without me knowing haha
A beer paddle and a free Middie each later, we were on the road and headed back to Sydney when we saw the Potters Hotel Brewery (430 Wine Country Drive, Hunter Valley) and thought well why not get some food before the long trek back. A plate of fish and chips for Noods and a beef and Guinness pie for me.
Several hours later we arrive back in Sydney with quite an impressive haul. Happy 11 years Noods, I less than 3 you!
ChocolateSuze and Noods received complimentary accommodation and lunch at Bimbadgen.
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