Last week I was blessed with the experience of visiting Tasmania. They say that Melbourne has the best restaurants, Sydney has the best chefs, but Tasmania has the best food. I’m totally convinced this is true.
We found a gorgeous river home in a place called Ranelagh in the Huon Valley to stay in through Air BnB. The Huon, also known as the “apple isle” is a place that seems to rewind you back two hundred years to a time where the air was crisp and clear, and civilization was largely at the hands of nature. If you live in the Huon, you could safely bet that you would never have to buy an apple again. The roads are dotted with overhanging old apple trees; producing varieties far more intriguing than the shiny supermarket commoners like Royal gala and Granny Smith. Here you’ll find varieties like the Cox’s Orange, the Democrat, the Alfriston and the Cleopatra.
I was amazed on our first minus-one-degree morning drive through the frosts of the Huon to see elderly, withered looking trees completely hunched over by the weight of hundreds of bright red and green apples. They were perfectly formed bulbs, juicy, and perfectly crisped by the natural refrigerator of Tasmania’s winter air. Naturally we bounced with excitement and pulled over to the side of the road to collect the wild bounty. At the slightest touch of a branch, ten or twenty lusciously ripe apples would plummet to the ground to join the fate of their rotting friends.
One of our most frequented food discoveries was a tiny little haven called the Summer Kitchen Bakery in Ranelagh. The entry way was minute, and in the mornings was full of locals and tourists alike; seeking to warm their hands with one of their spectacular organic coffee’s, accompanied by beautiful pastries, tarts, danishes or pies. I was initially captivated by a dainty little blueberry custard tart; selecting it for breakfast. I felt very French indeed. The custard was light and creamy, with a texture like heaven. It wasn’t overly sugary and it’s adornment of blueberries were all individually perfect, ripe and juicy. We enjoyed our baked goods and steaming hot drinks graced by the warmth of the bakeries fireplace, in an atmosphere of old-world, antique charm.
The absolute highlight of the bakery was their apple turnover. I’ve never really been a fan of bakery food; it seems to be riddled with quick rise breads, violently bright yellow custards of brick-like consistency and cheap ingredients. Particularly, when I think of a bakery apple turnover I think of small little chunks of tinned apple swimming in a slimy swamp of sugary-something, encased in ‘blah’ pastry. My experience at the summer kitchen bakery has ruined me. Local, fresh apples; still retaining their tartness. Compared to other baked apples, these tasted innocent and alive. It was covered in a light and airy puffed pastry, with a dollop of the purest, thickest Tasmanian cream. Unbelievable!
Another highlight was the Willie Smith’s Apple Shed and museum. Full of history, delightful cookbooks and scrumptious food, we enjoyed ploughman’s platters, organic apple cider and Huon Valley mushrooms sauteed in apple cider, on rye sourdough. I might also add that I spotted my celebrity foodie-crush Matthew Evans (the Gourmet Farmer) enjoying an apple crumble in a mug, topped with a monstrous heap of ice cream melting over the top. I contemplated stalking him, but Grant suggested no. The last time I was in Tasmania I ran into him in his store in Salamanca; and the words “You’re my best friend!” burst forth from my school-girl giggling mouth. I agreed with Grant, that this time it would be better to remain quiet, and simply enjoy the obvious fact that whenever I go to Tasmania, I am a magnet for the Gourmet Farmer.
To celebrate my Huon trip, we’ve put together a classic apple crumble for our readers. I’ve often contemplated what my death row meal would be, and apple crumble would definitely make the cut. If possible, try to source some organic, un-waxed apples from your local farmers market, and if you can get more unheard-of varieties, it’ll make the crumble all the more memorable.
Classic Apple Crumble