4 off-the-radar destinations in South Australia

harris smokehouse While many people who travel to South Australia visit the popular regions of Adelaide and the nearby Barossa Valley, there are many off-the-radar destinations that are also worth exploring. Whether you love wine tasting, unique restaurants, adventure travel, craft beer, architecture, art, or culture, there is something for everyone to experience through these lesser-traversed regions down south.

Hahndorf

Located about 30 minutes north of Adelaide, Hahndorf offers scenic hillside views as well as a strong German influence through the city’s timber-framed buildings, German restaurants, and German-inspired art galleries. The old-world charm brings you back in time while trendy boutiques and restaurants help to keep the city modern. For wine-enthusiasts, the wineries and cellars of Hahndorf give a great opportunity to sample the region’s cold-climate varieties, which are my personal favorite because of their intense flavors. Make sure to stop at Harris Smokehouse, a fourth-generation family-owned restaurant that serves high-quality smoked fish specialties, like smoked kingfish, hot smoked barramundi, and smoked oysters from Coffin Bay. I would also recommend visiting The White House, an 1858 cottage that features everything from rustic and ethical cuisine like coddled free-range eggs with spinach and pork fennel sausages with asparagus and mushrooms, an impressive wine cellar, live music, and a Secret Garden Cinema on Friday nights in the summer and fall. As a nature and outdoors lover, I also love the country-fresh treats of Beerenberg Farm like chutneys, jams, honeys, oils, and other sauces (try the molasses!), as well as getting to pick your own strawberries.south australia McLaren Vale

While you’ve probably heard of the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale is also a haven for oenophiles everywhere. Located on the Fleurieu Peninsula about 45 minutes south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is a beautiful food and wine destination with opportunities for wine, cheese, and craft beer sampling, various tasting trails, farmer’s markets, and even art and coastal activities. The opportunities for oenophiles are endless, with more than 65 cellars and family-owned wineries. If you’re more of a beer person, McLaren Vale Beer gives in-house tastings, including their Vale Ale, which own a gold medal at the International Beer Challenge last summer, as well as serves gastro-pub type food like mushroom pizzas and shucked Coffing Bay oysters. I would also recommend trying one (or all) or the tasting trails to get a variety of experiences, like the Cadenzia Grenache Trail, Wine and Cheese Trails, McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Shiraz Trail, and the McMurtrie Trail. If you only have time to do one thing, my top pick would be a visit to Bella Cosa, as it’s not only a Bed & Breakfast but also a winery, tapas bar, and sculpture park where you can stroll around and enjoy outdoor art. On the weekends, visitors to the area can drive about 2 miles to nearby Willunga and enjoy the Saturday morning farmer’s market. You can also bike to Willunga, as the towns are connected by a cycle path. Once you feel like you’ve eaten and drank enough, enjoy the outdoors by treking through Onkaparinga Gorge, relax on the beach, or go fishing or surfing.

australia Clare valley

While most people wanting to experience south Australia’s wine country opt to visit the Barossa Valley, another option that’s just as beautiful but a bit off the beaten path is Clare Valley. Located about 2 hours north of Adelaide, this is one of the more historical wine regions in South Australia and visitors can experience this through tastings at unique wine cellars. I love this region for its countryside ambiance and the way life here seems simple and organic. While there are many different vineyards and wine cellars in the area, there are a few that stand out from the rest. First there is Sevenhill Cellars, which is the oldest winery in the region and was built by Jesuits in 1851 for the purpose of making sacramental wine. Jesuits actually still work there, and along with tastings in the cellar you can also visit a historical crypt that resides underneath the on-site church. Another winery I really love is Knappstein Winery, mostly because I’m a big craft beer fan and there is a micro brewery in their wine cellar. Moreover, Annie’s Lane is a great stop when checking out the Clare Valley wineries, not only because they have delicious Shiraz but also because they have a free art gallery with works from local artists as well as a complimentary wine museum where you can learn more about vino production through the ages. To sample an array of wineries, I would suggest doing the Rieseling Trail, as Clare Valley is famous for its German Rieselings.

australia Flinders Ranges

While this Outback mountain range is a bit further from Adelaide (about 4-5 hours from the central area), it’s a great way to experience the rugged beauty of South Australia. The experience literally feels like going back in time or a trip to a different world as people live in the bush among wild kangaroos and emus with little signs of civilization and modernization. The landscape of the area is extremely unique, with glowing red rocks, vast desert, jagged mountains, and bright starry skies at night thanks to little light pollution. In the Flingers Ranges National Park you will still find a rich Aboriginal culture as these people have lived in the area for thousands of years. The Aboriginal rock art that you will find is impressive as well as the ancient ruins. Another unique outdoor experience is visiting the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary , where bird watching, off-roading, and hiking are popular activities. Explore precarious-looking mountain peaks, scenic lookout points, ancient seabeds, radioactive hot springs, and see the endangered Yellow-footed Rock-Wallaby in Bararranna Gorge.

New smartphone app helps food enthusiasts with all of their olive oil needs

olive oil iq A new smartphone app for iPhone and iPad has just been released that will help food enthusiasts answer all of their questions and solve all of their problems concerning olive oil. The app, Olive Oil IQ, was created by luxury travel writer and olive oil aficionado Sharri Whiting. Every November, Whiting spends time in Umbria, Italy, growing, harvesting, and pressing olives to make fresh olive oil. Now, she shares her knowledge on this app.

On her blog, Whiting writes, “Like grapes, the taste of olives develops according to geography, soil, air, altitude, time of harvest, type of tree, and climate. [Also,] there’s a lot of talk about fraud and certainly some of it is true. It’s really important to read the labels, but it’s even more essential to try the oils.”

Tips on how to choose, buy, taste, and use olive oil are given to users, as are recipes and cooking tips. And, for those who want to make an olive oil inspired trip, there is information on Italy’s Olive Oil routes, farmstays, museums, and cooking classes.

History is also offered through the app, as users will learn about the past and present of the olive oil trade in the Mediterranean. And for those who love fun facts, the app includes interesting conversation starters like superstitions regarding olive oil and how the product is related to sex.

Olive Oil IQ is $2.99 in the App Store. Click here to learn more and download the app for yourself.

Raw Fusion popup brings sustainable cooking to Orange County, California

raw food Beginning in January, 2012, residents and visitors to Orange Country, California, can enjoy Raw Fusion cooking at the PALMO kitchen popup restaurant every Monday night.

Raya Belna, the creator of the popup as well as a Food Network award-winning Raw Foods and Vegan chef, is passionate about locally-grown, organic ingredients. The popup will feature a menu consisting of uncooked foods as well as cooked gluten-free vegan cuisine. Each week, a new venue will be used as well as an original menu created based on what produce was picked that week.

“I want to give our guests as much information about the ingredients as possible, where they were picked and what day they were picked on, in hopes of creating a strong connection between farm and table,” explains Belna. “Our mission is to bring awareness to the natural beauty and abundance that surrounds us here in Southern California and to really connect with our food source.”

The first evening of the PALMO kitchen will take place Monday, January 2, 2012, from 5PM-9PM at the TEE Room at the Newport Beach Golf Course. For more information, visit the PALMO kitchen website or e-mail Raya Belna at raya@palmofoods.com.

The sport you probably haven’t heard of: Rutabaga Curling

While many people use rutabagas as food, there are some that like to use them for sport. Wooden planks make up the “field” for playing the game, with the pitch being around 79 feet and a circular target at the end. The game involves throwing your rutabaga towards the other end of the field and trying to knock opponents vegetables out of the way. And if you’re thinking about using unconventional methods to try to win, think again. In the official rules, it clearly states that “steroids are prohibited and any such use will subject the rutabaga to immediate withdrawal”.

In Ithaca, New York, in particular, Rutabaga Curling is an annual tradition that marks the end of the market season. Since 1996, the town has been playing with rutabagas, although the first official Rutabaga Curl was held in 1998. Why rutabagas? They are just about the only vegetable left in the market that time of year. And, no one wants to eat them.

To see this intense sport for yourself, as well as hear the melodic rutabaga choir, head over to Ithaca on December 17, 2011 and attend the 14th Annual Rutabaga Curling Championship. Or, if you can’t make it in person, check out this video:


Eating historically in New York’s Chinatown and Little Italy

little italy As a native New Yorker, I’ve spent many afternoons wandering the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy, stopping to get some dumplings or some pasta and wine. While I had always kind of thought of these places as tourist hubs with delicious food, I never realized just how much history belongs to these areas, and how much of this history is still alive today.

After going on a walking tour with Ahoy New York Tours and Tasting, I now look at Chinatown and Little Italy with a new appreciation. Alana, the tour guide, led the group through each area, speaking about how the regions came to be and letting everyone sample from historical eateries.

As Alana likes to say, “If a restaurant has been around for 40 years or more, you know it’s good because it has stood the test of time.”

Around the time of the United StatesIndustrial Revolution, southern Italians began coming over to get away from high taxes and low wages. In order to help ease their culture shock they began importing foods from their homeland and opening restaurants that reflected their heritage. Lucky for us, a lot of what was created back then is still around today.cannolis The first stop on the tour was Alleva Dairy to sample prosciutto and homemade mozzarella. Opened in 1892 by the same family that runs it now, this is the oldest Italian cheese shop in America. Fun Fact: Mozzarella originated in Naples, Italy, when a monk accidentally dropped a cheese curd into a pail of hot water.

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe was the next stop, where the group got to taste their world famous cannolis. My grandmother, who is from southern Italy, actually used to swear by these, and my father still refuses to eat cannolis from any other bakery. This eatery was opened in 1892, and during WWII many Italian families would purchase Torrone, a nougat confection, from here to send to their loved ones who were fighting because the treat wouldn’t spoil.

After our sugar indulgence, the group traveled to another continent and headed over to New York’s Chinatown. People first started to notice the Chinese coming into the United States in the 1840’s. While they first tried to settle in California, they were not socially accepted there and so they came to New York in an attempt to better assimilate. While the original Chinatown was made up of only 3 streets (Mott, Doyers, and Pell) and consisted of mostly immigrants from southern China, today the area has grown to encompass 2 square miles and 200,000 Chinese-Americans from diverse backgrounds.

orange chicken chinatown A family-style lunch at Pongrsi Thai Restaurant, the oldest family-run and operated Thai restaurant in New York City, allowed the group to sample 40 years of delicious hard work with rice, Orange Chicken, Pad see ew, and a spicy Chicken Pra Ramm.

In order to let the group digest, Alana took us to visit Columbus Park, a cultural hub for the Asian community where people go to play Mahjong and checkers, practice Tai Chi, and relax. Standing there today, you would never know that the area was once considered the worst slum in the history of the U.S., and possibly even the world.

No tour of Chinatown would be complete without eating some dumplings. What many people don’t realize is that dumplings aren’t just delicious, they’re an important part of the Chinese New Year as they symbolize wealth with their ancient silver and gold ingot shape. If you’re looking for taste, try Tasty Dumpling on 54 Mulberry Street. However, if you want a front-row view of how they are made, go to Fried Dumpling on 106 Mosco Street. Hint: It’s actually a lot more complex than you probably think.

everything frostedTo end the tour, the group was taken to a place that isn’t known for its history but for its flavor. Everything Frosted sells cupcakes with an Asian flair with choices like Lychee, Red Bean, Jasmine Tea, and Black Sesame.

While the tour tells a lot about food and its historical significance, you will also see a lot of other notable points of interest, such as the Transfiguration Church, which services the most Chinese-Americans than any other church in U.S., the former Bloody Angle, which is said to be where the most murders in America have ever occurred, and the oldest tenement building in New York at 65 Mott Street.

For more information or to make a booking with Ahoy NY Tours & Tasting, click here.