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Festival promises a day filled with fun, food and music

29 Aug

The Penns Valley Conservation Association (PVCA) is hosting their annual outdoor event “Crickfest” this Sunday, Sept. 2, at the community park in Coburn.

The small village of Coburn is not much different than it was 50, or perhaps, 100 years ago.

Roomy Victorian style houses line the main street, and Penns Creek sits to the south side of the town, winding its way through this very rural part of Centre County.

Finding Coburn is fairly easy if you have a GPS, or even just a basic knowledge of the area, and most who make it there will agree that the journey to the little, old fashioned, looking community is a large part of the joy of visiting there.

The picturesque drive takes travelers through the lush, green, Penns Valley farmland, complete with ganders of not only the aforementioned Penns Creek, but also a spectacular view of its sister waterway, Elk Creek.

Coburn is typically a quiet haven, with the most activity on any given day coming from a group of locals making use of the park with a game of Ultimate Frisbee, but each year, on the first Sunday in September, that changes. Hundreds, and quite possibly upwards of one thousand, people flock to an extraordinary festival in Coburn where art, community and nature all come together on a small plot of ground on the backside of this one horse town.

The festival is simply called “Crickfest,” and it will blow your mind and refresh your soul in one swift, sun-covered, swoop.

This coming Sunday marks the 16th year for Crickfest, and as in years past, it promises to be a day filled with fun, food, and music, and will take place rain or shine from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All of the proceeds from Crickfest will go directly to fund the Penns Valley Conservation Association’s Environmental Education Classes that are taught in the Penns Valley School District. Each year since 2003 the PVCA covers the salary for a part time teacher to educate students about the benefits of preserving the area’s natural resources.

Crickfest 16 will be as terrific as the past 15, with live entertainment and delicious food.

Guests are encouraged to kick back and have a relaxing time and bring along their fishing gear, or just simply play in the beautiful, trout filled waters of Penns Creek. There will be kayaks near the creek’s edge to use at your leisure and an instructor to assist first timers.

As in previous years the menu features a broad selection of cuisines to suit any taste, with everything from barbecue to stew.

EcoVents Catering and UpTexas BBQ in Millheim will be serving up BBQ Brisket and pulled pork from their handmade, steampunk-esque portable roaster named “LeRoy.” EcoVents and UpTexas BBQ uses locally sourced beef and pork as well as local, in season produce and other foods.

For those who want something a bit spicier, Brazilian Munchies from Bellefonte, is cooking up some Brazilian Beef Stew and Pao de Queijo (cheese bread).

And if you are really adventurous, travel to North Africa as Nittany Catering, also from Centre County, offers up the classic dish, Morocco Tagine. This lovely, flavor-filled stew will be served in a waste-free, acorn squash bowl.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the Sweet Creek Cafe will be on hand with an array of unique and delicious baked goods donated by members of the Penns Valley community.

Kids will find fun, educational crafts and activities in the Children’s Creativity Tent. Helpers will show children how to make hands-on art work using items from the environment.

Other stations for kids can be found around Crickfest with past year’s all around favorite being the “water bottle rockets.” And all youngsters will agree that it’s not Crickfest with out the duck and zucchini boat races.

Volunteers from the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey will be presenting a wildlife demonstration, and Millheim resident, Max Engle will be educating everyone on how to build a bat house.

Master Falconer, Mike Dupuy, of Middleburg, will give a falconry and birds of prey demonstration where he will captivate the audience through his knowledge of the age old sport.

Dupuy has decades of experience and is one of the nation’s top falconry/birds of prey experts. He is a very sought after public speaker who consistently draws his audience into his world by teaching them about the benefits of getting involved in falconry. Through the sharing of his personal experiences, he inspires and motivates others to follow their own dreams.

A musical variety show will begin at 11a.m. and will feature local bands and artists that include the Poe Valley Troubadours, Richard Sleigh, and the Unbanned. The final act of the day will be a Ukulele Jam with Mary Anne Cleary. Cleary invites those with ukes to bring their instrument and a music stand along to join in on a jam session.

As per Crickfest tradition, there will be a silent auction where bidders can try their hand at taking home a hand crafted piece of art or a gift certificate for local businesses along with many other wonderfully donated items.

The Penns Valley Conservation Association serves as a steward for the natural and cultural communities in the Upper Penns Creek watershed.

The event is free and open to everyone, from everywhere.

The Age Good Food Guide 2017: Full list of award winners

18 Oct


Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year

Ticks every box. The winner does not need to receive three hats but must capture the mood of the city right now and exemplify what it means to be a world-class restaurant.

Brae, Birregurra

Where to start? New accommodation that means no driving and post-lunch playings of Marvin Gaye original pressings on your room’s record player? The fact that Dan Hunter just keeps on marching down the path of deliciousness, channelling his impressive artillery into flavour over show-off moves? How about Simon Freeman and his floor team who carry out seamless service in the most relaxed and engaging way possible, all while you look out over the Birregurra restaurant’s gardens, the aroma of woodsmoke in the air? It’s all part of it and then some. Destination dining doesn’t get better.

Best New Restaurant

The most exciting  opening in the past 12 months, this restaurant  sets the eating agenda and starts conversations. Represents everything that’s fresh, hot and interesting about eating.

Embla, Melbourne

Everyone expected big things from the Kiwi collective behind Carlton’s Town Mouse when they announced a city venue. Instead, we got huge things. And this is just the downstairs bar, with the restaurant proper still to come. Even so, it’s become a magnet for inner-city snackers as much for the heat of the hospitality (all respect to Christian McCabe, an owner who still works the door on freezing nights) as for simpler-than- Town-Mouse but still razor-sharp take on bistro from chef Dave Verheul. That means crisp-skinned chicken, stracciatella lightened with camomile, and veg-based genius in the form of salt-baked celeriac. But you might never even eat when there’s that dark bronze-toned bar to hold up and a hell of a wild wine list to investigate. Bring on phase two. We can’t wait.

Citi Chef of the Year

To acknowledge those with the craft and ability to make a real difference to the way we dine now and in the future.

Aaron Turner, Igni

He was already a gun chef, evidenced by The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Regional Restaurant of the Year award for his much-missed Drysdale restaurant Loam. When it closed he spent a year cooking in Nashville before returning to introduce Geelongsters to spice-licked Nashville-style bird at Hot Chicken Project.

But this is the year Aaron Turner discovered fire. At Igni, which opened in a former electrical goods showroom in Geelong’s backstreets in January, Turner has been cooking entirely over wood – often fruit wood such as apple and olive – making subtle adjustments to dishes daily in response to a fire that changes every day. It’s forced him to rethink his methods, stripping dishes back to their essence to let the produce shine.

“The cooking needs to be a lot more precise. There’s nothing to hide behind,” he says.

In his new digs, Turner has enjoyed experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients brought in by locals, including hamburg parsley root with a flavour like parsnip; sweet, football-shaped cumquats; and burr comb, a kind of free-form honeycomb. The resulting dishes show the chef’s innate ability to read ingredient potential so that even a potato becomes an unbelievable spaghetti-like showstopper. So many plates in the air, rarely a miss among them.

Santa Vittoria Regional Restaurant of the Year

The best outside Melbourne. The winning establishment must provide a restaurant experience comparable to anything in the city but remain uniquely regional.

Igni, Geelong

You could feel a gale of bated breath being exhaled when Igni proved to be not only as empathetic towards ingredients as chef Aaron Turner’s much-missed Loam (native and foraged meets impeccably sourced, be it pigeon and marron or grown-to-order oyster leaves), but in some ways better, with an added focus on cooking over an ironbark-fuelled grill. Add the room in its grey, charcoal and ashen palette and the soothing hospitality stylings of Andrew Hamilton and Joanne Smith (fellow ex-Loamers) and you have one heck of a new destination restaurant for Victoria (and Australia).

Young Chef of the Year

To acknowledge our best and brightest rising star of the kitchen.

Jarrod Di Blasi, Ezard

It’s the tale of slow and steady for Jarrod Di Blasi, the head chef of Ezard. Di Blasi has always believed in the long game, setting sights on working for his Michelin-starred idol, Tom Aikens, in London from the second he started his apprenticeship at 16. There he found his mission – to not only be great, but consistent, humble, produce-worshipping and above all, a teacher, so that the industry has chefs for the future. Back in Australia, Di Blasi has risen through the ranks, becoming head chef at Ezard in 2014. For our panel of judges, industry legends Alla Wolf-Tasker, Frank Camorra and Philippe Mouchel, Di Blasi is a chef they’d hire in a heartbeat.

Food for Good Award

An award celebrating innovation and charity. The winner goes above and beyond to contribute to the community.

StreetSmart Australia

In 2003 former businessman Adam Robinson started StreetSmart Australia, throwing his business and marketing smarts at the growing problem of homelessness. Since then, StreetSmart programs such as DineSmart and CafeSmart have raised more than $2 million for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, mostly through gold coin donations by diners and cafe-goers.

People’s Choice Award

A reader-driven award that allows the public to name their favourite restaurant. Voted by the people, for the people.

Ezard @ Levantine Hill, Coldstream

They come by helicopter and they come by car to this Fender Katsalidis-designed dining room among the vines. A collaboration between Yarra Valley winemaker Levantine Hill and chef Teage Ezard (Ezard, Gingerboy), it combines a cellar door, tastings in barrel-like booths, and a fine-dining restaurant.

Wine List of the Year

A diverse and high-quality  by-the-glass selection alongside an accessible bottle list that displays a good range of vintages and complements the restaurant’s food and style.

Marion, Fitzroy

In a year when the bar for drinking has never been higher, it’s the drinks list at Andrew McConnell’s Marion that’s come out on top for so easily riding the line between trends and traditional. Whatever your hot take on sulphites or biodynamic horn-burying practices, Marion has you covered, and there’s a lot to be said for that ability to challenge and cosset simultaneously. It’s truly the bar that’s there for its drinkers, staffed by a pro team who can get you where you need to be and serving everything you want to eat…

Baked ham with muntrie berries and roasted vegetables

21 Dec


Serves 12

1 smoked ham (7 to 9kg net weight)
1 ½ cup muntrie berries

½ tsp saltbush
½ tsp native pepper
½ tsp sea parsley
½ tsp bush tomato, ground
50ml orange juice
½ cup honey

Roasted vegetables
6 carrots
6 parsnips
6 onions (small)
½ kg chat potatoes
½ pumpkin, sliced into four

Preheat the to oven 180C. Take the skin off the ham to expose the fat. If you take the ham straight out of the fridge, sit it in warm water for 5 minutes to soften and the skin will peel off easily. Score the fat.

To make the glaze, mix the saltbush, native pepper, sea parsley and bush tomato with the orange juice and sit for 5 minutes to let the herbs swell and release their flavours, then and honey. Brush the ham with the glaze.

Drop the oven temperature to 150C and cook the ham for 1 to 1½ hours, or up to 2 hours depending on the oven. Brush the ham every 15 to 20 minutes.

Sear the vegetables in a nonstick frying pan until they take on a bit of colour. Brush the vegetables with olive oil, place in the oven and they should be ready when the ham is cooked.

If you have any leftovers at the end of the Christmas meal, the ham can be wrapped in a clean wet cloth, placed on a tray, covered with clingwrap and stored in the fridge.

The ham can be sliced off and used in sandwiches, salads, fry-ups and ham and eggs for breakfast. Leave a bit of meat on the bones then freeze them to use later in a hearty pea and ham soup.

Pork chops with apples and black grapes

26 Nov

When placing pork chops in a pan, I often put them in on their edge, holding the chops upright with my kitchen tongs, to get a good golden colour and a little blistered crispness to the rim of fat. I then lay the chops down flat to lightly brown them.


olive oil 2 tbsp
butter 20g
pork chops 2 (250g each)
small apples 2
apple juice unfiltered 250g
sage leaves 4
black grapes 100g

Pour the oil into a shallow pan set over a moderate heat. Add the butter, then the pork chops, seasoned with salt and black pepper, and the whole apples (halving the fruits if necessary.) Leave the chops to colour lightly on the underside, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Pour in the apple juice, add the sage leaves and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chops are cooked through.

Halve and seed the grapes, then add them to the pan. Remove the chops to a warm plate and cover with foil, to allow them to rest. Turn up the heat to let the apple juice and pork juices reduce to about half their volume. As it reduces, the liquid will become shiny. Serve the chops and apples, spooning the pan juices and grapes over the top.