With a passion for photography, food, travel and writing, Julie has combined her loves into an online blog, Gourmet Getaways, featuring the best of local food, wine, recipes and local festivals.
First off, where did your love of food and wine come from?
I have always enjoyed cooking and eating delicious food. Living in Sydney’s inner city for 10 years really awakened my desire to experience all foods types.
Moving back to Coffs Harbour, I discovered that our own regional food had come a long way. There are exciting chefs in modern restaurants and specialty food stores stocking a much wider range of ethnic or difficult to source items. We have producers who are passionate about delivering quality fresh goods and unlike in the city, we have the luxury of choosing food which has not travelled very far to be on our plate.
My love affair with wine began during a trip to the Hunter Valley, where my journey commenced at Cassegrain Wines. I listened with great interest as the wine making process was explained to me by enthusiastic staff and fell in love with the Verdelho and Semillon.
Since then, visiting vineyards has become a favourite pastime of mine. In the Clare and Barossa Valley, I discovered the joys of a full bodied red wine on a cold night. A few years later, a trip to Tasmania and the Tamar Valley gave me a look at the lighter side of red wine, and I gained an appreciation for Pinot Noir. I enjoy the distinctive flavour of our very own Villard Blanc and Chambourcin used by the local vineyards. With each region I visit, my appreciation for grape varieties and different styles of wine grows.
Tell us a little about your blog, Gourmet Getaways.
Gourmet Getaways is about promoting luscious food, great getaway destinations and the perfect drop of wine. By sharing delicious experiences, I hope to entice my followers to book a romantic B&B and spend a weekend exploring the area themselves.
By giving a ‘shout out’, I want to arouse local and holiday interest in the Gourmet Getaway possibilities available outside the capital cities. My site has highlighted restaurants, pubs, vineyards, cooking schools, festivals, breweries, micro breweries, art galleries and even a coffee plantation with the most delicious ‘all you can eat’ chocolate tour.
How long have you been blogging about food and wine?
Gourmet Getaways is now one year old. It has grown and evolved a lot over the year, due to the feedback and encouragement I have received from readers and industry.
You also have a great selection of recipes too. Tell us a bit about these …
There are so many things which inspire me to cook and share recipes with readers.
Sometimes a dish will appear on my site as a result of a gorgeous meal I have had in a restaurant.
I tend to frequent quite a lot of farmers’ markets and festivals, so I amass a collection of condiments and gadgets which need to be put to use.
The first recipe I featured on Gourmet Getaways resulted from a weekend escape to Peregian Springs, where we visited the Eumundi markets. I was given a tub of Kettle Corn and spent the next two days experimenting until I had the perfect Kettle Corn. The recipe then accompanied my story about the Eumundi markets.
I also participate in cooking challenges. These events allow me to network with people who share an avid interest in cooking and food.
Other times a dish is featured simply because it is a personal favourite, and I want to share it with readers. My recipe for Maple Syrup Lamb Shanks is a delicious winter warm up meal and receives more views than any other on my site.
What’s your own personal favourite cuisine?
I really enjoy Indian cuisine, especially vegetarian Indian dishes. I find this style of food so appealing, because I simply cannot recreate the flavour of the dishes.
While living in Sydney, I had two favourite dishes; the first was a Malai Kofta and the second was Mumtaaz Tikki. The Mumtaaz Tikki is a pan grilled potato patty served with spiced lentils, chickpeas, mint and tamarind chutney. I adore both these dishes, but I have not been able to make them myself.
My latest Indian addiction is Oberois’ Lamb Korma in Coffs Harbour. I would love to be able to cook this dish myself; it is creamy with a hint of lemon, but try as I might, I just can’t nail the flavours. Thankfully, the chef from Oberois has graciously offered to take me under his wing for an Indian master class.
You’ve travelled to quite a few places and events. What have been the highlights?
Three events instantly spring to mind: the Greek Food Festival in Townsville, the Tastings of the Hasting in Port Macquarie and the Woolgoolga CurryFest.
I adore Greek food and hospitality, and the atmosphere of the Greek Food Festival was amazing. It was as if we were part of a large family gathering. The Festival showcased everything Greek – being the food, music and dance. I couldn’t help thinking we may have been on the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The CurryFest is a sentimental favourite of mine, because I grew up in Woolgoolga. The event becomes bigger each year, and this year featured Jimmy Seervai from Masterchef giving cooking demonstrations. Like the Greek Festival, Curryfest showcases a rich local culture.
I also attended the Tastings of the Hastings last year and was impressed by this week long celebrations. The highlight was a Six Degrees of Degustation dinner at Rydges, featuring six chefs from six restaurants, each responsible for one of the courses. We were treated to matching wines from the local vineyards, along with beer from The Little Brewing Company. The dinner was elegantly brought to a close with chocolate coated macadamias from the Lorne Valley Macadamia Farm.
Ok, we’re going to ask you to go out on a limb here, but what was the most memorable foodie experiences you’ve had in Greater Port Macquarie?
My most memorable food experience in Port Macquarie was being asked to attend a ‘Slow Cooking with Wagyu’ class at Cooking With Company. Chef Lisa Ryan prepared five completely different dishes, including a rich Thai Wagyu Rendang Curry with fresh ingredients sourced from The Company Farm garden.
Once the dishes were complete, the class sat down to a scrumptious meal, including a lovely bottle of Villard Blanc from Two Tail Vineyard in Nana Glen.