Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.
The first time I ventured over to Tasmania was a foodie holiday with @brhinos in 2012. We packed our sense of adventure, flew into Launceston and booked a hire car. Our intention was to fly into Launceston, doing a big loop around the state via Hobart, then fly out again out of Launceston at the end of the week. We only made it half way. Who would have thought there would be so much food, wine and scenery to be consumed in Tasmania?
Every subsequent visit to Tasmania, I discover a new food or eatery that I need to try again. No longer is Tasmania the “Apple Isle”, known just for apples. Their local products expand far beyond what I imagined.
For example, Tasmania has been producing saffron for over 25 years, including Category 1 Saffron, the highest standard in the global rating system. Tasmania grows highly sort after local wasabi, to the quality and quantity that meets export demands overseas. And there is always space in my suitcase to take home some Tasmanian honey.
When I travel, I love filling my suitcase with what I refer to as “food souvenirs” – transportable local foods to take home. Much like the magnets my wife buys in every city she travels to, I buy edible souvenirs that remind me of the uniqueness of a region. That being said, sometimes I think a particular food souvenir is so special that I can’t bring myself to open it. So essentially it just becomes a pantry souvenir, to my wife’s (the magnet collector) frustration.
The honey that Tasmania is most famous for is it’s signature leatherwood which has distinct floral notes. The leatherwood tree is only found in Tasmania, making Tasmania the only place in the world that produces this unique honey. As a result, leatherwood commands a premium price tag, with the 750g Leatherwood Tasmanian Honey Company tin we bought as a food souvenir costing $25.
We found even more honey food souvenirs at an unassuming honey shop in Launceston called OzHoney. While it wasn’t the easiest place to find (mid-building, near a hospital), they have an impressive range of products. The owner is a passionate honey expert, with large acreage of apiaries, and is a keen brewer. We were given the full experience, basically sampling all the products in their large range, from different honey varieties, to tasting honey beers, honey wine and mead.
While I enjoy Tasmanian food souvenirs, one of my favourite local specialties are unfortunately not transportable. Scallop Pies. These heavenly food packages have to be the most anticipated food I hunt down when I fly to Tasmania. I’m not sure why it’s not very common on the mainland of Australia, but they sure know how to make a good one in Tassie!
The best scallop pies we can find in Tasmania are located in the historic, nineteenth century town of Ross, about an hours drive outside of Launceston, en route to Hobart. Having landed in Tasmania the opening weekend of scallop season, we made an extend detour to revisit the 100+ year old Ross Village Bakery, and trust me, it is worth the travel. While pies are $8.95 a pop, the curried scallop and scallop mornay pies are just delicious! Tender, juicy scallops, flavourful sauce and flaky pastry – all the right elements of a complete pie. Additionally, the Ross Village Bakery is famous for it’s signature vanilla slice, it’s traditional semi-scotch brick oven and it’s striking resemblance to a bakery in a 1989 Japanese anime movie called Kiki’s Delivery Service (which happens to draw thousands of Japanese tourists to the bakery! Tip: If you are familiar with the movie, ask to see the room upstairs if they aren’t too busy). Ignoring the novelty, the Ross Village Bakery is the bakery to visit in Tasmania!
In terms of our favourite Tasmanian dining out experiences, we scoured the state for it’s finest. Surprisingly our most memorable meals weren’t at the now defunct Garagiste, MONA’s The Source, or Stillwater, it was at some local favourites.
In Launceston, our most memorable meal was at an Italian restaurant called Novaros. While we haven’t revisited since 2012, the first time we ate at Novaros, I recall the flavourful, almost melt in your mouth, hand made ravioli. There were two tempting options which we couldn’t decide between, so we ordered both ravioli entrees. We literally couldn’t stop talking about it the whole meal. We ate the mains, talked about the ravioli. Looked at the dessert menu, talked about the ravioli. Just couldn’t stop talking about the foodgasm inducing ravioli. So we made the call to sacrifice dessert and ordered both raviolis again. We were like full, fat and happy pigs in mud. After woofing down the second round of raviolis, in our state of food delirium, we glazed over the dessert menu. We couldn’t go past their impressive desserts and went against all rational sense and ordered dessert. It was the end of an epic meal where we had been seduced by their food.
In Hobart, our most memorable meal was at a cafe called Berta. It was a hot local tip from our Uncle Mike, and it didn’t just meet our expectations, it exceeded them. Sitting in the Berta back courtyard one sunny March day, we struggled to order from the menu of endless flavour possibilities.
We were absolutely floored by how good the food was. Super flavourful Texas smoked beef brisket with creamy but crispy potato was just outstanding. As was the crunchy potato rosti with sweetness from red apple, acidity from pickled shallots and powered by the smokiness and saltiness of Bruny Island bacon. One of the best breakfasts I’ve had so far in 2016, found in the humble streets of North Hobart.
I am a big fan of Tasmanian wine. For a state that produces less than 0.5% of the total Australian wine production, it certainly holds it own. Tasmania is known for it’s cool climate varietals and high quality wines, with approximately 10% of the Australian premium wine segment. Wineries thus can command a premium – a Tasmanian bottle of wine averages around $22, more than double the Australian average.
Tasmania has seven distinct wine sub-regions, with the Tamar Valley being the largest and oldest. My favourite bottles of wine from Tasmanian are either Pinot Noir, Sparkling or Riesling, but varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are also fantastic. Interestingly, while only 2% of Australian wine production is Pinot Noir, 41% of grapes in Tasmania are of the Pinot Noir variety. That’s a good thing for Pinot Noir lovers like myself. Below is a running list of vineyards I have visited and recommend, in order of preference:
#1 Frogmore Creek Vineyard, Coal River Valley
It was one of our favourite Tasmanian vineyards in 2012, and four years later in 2016, it’s better than ever. Stunningly good 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Merlot. We also love their Forty Grams Residual (FGR) Riesling, and the 42 degrees South sparkling.
#2 Josef Chromy, Tamar Valley
My first visit to this winery in 2012 was ambitious. In between dropping @brhinos off at the Launceston airport and catching my flight, I had just over 1 hour to kill. I decided to race over to Josef Chromy, where I had roughly 1/2hr to smash through their large tasting selection (about 19 wines). With a great cellar door host, I covered the list, purchased a couple of cases and made my flight with minutes to spare. I am a fan of the fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparkling white, Riesling (try their Delikat SGR) and stickies.
#3 Pooley Wines, Coal River Valley
A multi-award winning vineyard, which has also won best cellar door experience over a number of years. We bought their trophy Late Harvest Riesling, which was deserving of its accolades. Pooley Wines have trophies and awards coming out of their ears, particularly for their Rieslings and Pinot Noir.
#4 Puddleduck vineyard, Coal River Valley
Nice little boutique vineyard with a relaxing setting by a pond. Check out their Pinot Noir and wine dogs out the back!
#5 Springvale Wines, East Coast
A beautiful cellar door with high end Pinot Noirs
#6 Freycinet Vineyard, East Coast
An approachable vineyard with friendly staff and a good range of tasting options. We enjoyed the 2014 Freycinet Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
#7 Devil’s Corner, East Coast
A Brown Brothers acquisition in 2010, the East Coast site is a newly built $1.8 million modern facility with a watch tower and space for local producers Freycinet Marine Farm and Tombolo Freycinet Café. We enjoyed their photographic views of the Hazards, tasty pizza and 2014 Pinot Noir
That’s it for this Twin Discoveries travel chapter of Tasmania – please let us know if you have any other suggestions!
Until next time, happy eating!
Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne