If you like fine food, Australian cuisine is probably not the first thing that pops into your mind. Italian, yes; Thai, yes; French, definitely; but Australian, not unless Paul Hogan’s “Put another shrimp on the barbie” slogan is your idea of cuisine. However, Australia is more than fish and chips and meat pies and in fact, sometimes even these can be prepared so well even hardened gourmands often warm to them. These are just a few places in New South Wales alone where you can find gourmet Aussie ‘tucker.’
You have to be a bit of an insider to know why the Riverina district serves up such delicious tucker. Located almost exactly between Sydney and Melbourne, this region is one of Australia’s biggest produce and wine regions. This puts all the raw ingredients for delicious food and wine within easy reach. From there, it’s just a matter of preparing and serving it. Two places to try if you’re passing through the Riverina district include:
· In Wagga Wagga, Charles Sturt University is the unlikely venue for some great cheese and wine tasting. Although they modestly call their brand of cabarnet sauvignon ‘Just too Hard’, it’s actually quite delicious, especially when served with crackers and cheese.
· Griffin, west of Sir Donald Bradman’s home town of Cootamundra, has a rich Italian heritage. Where you find Italians, you also find fine food and wine. While you may not consider Italian food synonymous with Australian food, consider this: many inhabitants of Griffin are second or third generation Australians and have come up with fusion recipes with a distinctly Aussie edge.
Australia is home to what are arguably some of the worst meat pies in the world. It is also home to the best in the little town of Kangaroo Valley. One of the most picturesque villages (population, under 400) you’ll ever see, it’s worth going out of your way for and is a popular getaway spot for Sydneysiders. On the edge of town is the Barrengarry Store. Quaint, but otherwise undistinguished looking, you may wonder why there are always so many cars parked outside the store and so many people leaning against their cars eating meat pies. It’s because they are the best meat pies in the world.
Many travelers on the Pacific Highway pass straight through the mid-north coast. Even Australians, who should know better, have their eyes and stomachs fixed on Byron Bay and save their appetites for a gourmet meal in Australia’s favorite beach town. It’s a shame, because when you pass through the mid north coast, you pass through Australia’s largest oyster producing area and virtually every café, pub and restaurant in town has its own special way of serving them. Cheap and thoroughly delicious, mid north coast towns from Port Stephens to Nambucca offer some seriously delicious Aussie tucker. You may want to spend a few days in one of the many Port Stephens holiday accommodation options available before heading further north up the coast.
While you’re on the road north, don’t forget that macadamia nuts, blueberries and other delights are also grown in the rich farmlands of the coast of New South Wales between Port Stephens and Coffs Harbor. Unlike the agribusinesses of America, many of these are small farms and other food producers who pride themselves on the quality of their produce, meat, fish, eggs and other foodstuffs. You’ll find fabulous Aussie tucker just about anywhere you go, so before you settle for a burger at a fast food outlet, take a walk down the main street in town and find a place that’s popular with the locals. It’s bound to be delicious.