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Story by Vivienne – of Course

An old school pal of mine regularly visits us over Christmas/New Year but this time we decided to get a cabin near Beechworth and tour from there.  As it turned out I was to be the itinerary designer and driver.  Being driver meant I had to avoid mountains and stick to the valleys (I’m no good at heights of any kind).  So I spent considerable time poring over maps and reading up on what was where and when open.

We met up at the cabins on time and unpacked and headed off to the famous Stanley Pub for lunch.  The day was New Year’s Eve which unfortunately meant that their usual flash lunch menu was downgraded as they were preparing for a bumper party later that day (who would have thought).  Fortunately we still scored well and had excellent fish and chips!

The next day we headed in the direction of the also famous Milawa district.  I managed to get us to the Milawa Cheese Factory and the last remaining park in a bit of shade.  The first stop was a cheese tasting which turned out to be excellent and not stingy.  I knew some of their cheeses but there were so many more including goat.  We also had tastings of local jams and chutneys.

The place was busy so we moved out to the attached wine tasting room of Wood Park Wines.  Very pleasant and quiet with an attentive chap only too happy have a chat (everyone was having lunch next door).  I have now discovered a lovely ‘new’ summer red – Tempranillo.  It is rather Italian (as are most of the wineries in the area of the King Valley) and I thought ideal as a chilled drop.  He agreed.

I decided to buy a few bottles and one each of two other reds.  Lucky me as he packed them in a 6 pack box and gave me an extra bottle for no charge.  We then toddled over to the restaurant and ate outdoors at the Cheese Factory – nicely cooked tucker but nothing special.  They were run off their feet with families (accompanied by their dogs too).  Then back to the cheese counter to make some purchases and into the cooler bag in the car.  Overall it was most enjoyable.

Next stop that same day was to find La Cantina winery which make proper preservative free wine – my friend was in desperate need of supplies.  After a couple of circular drives when I missed the turn off twice we finally headed in the right direction (having stopped to get said directions at an olive speciality outlet).

Ah, we see the winery and the sign is out at the front.  Pull in but no sign of life.  Get out of car anyway and then a lovely old chap comes out and opens up the tasting room.  A building which he built himself – all wonderful stone work and huge solid wooden benches.  Just him and us and a lot of wine tasting for my friend.  She rewarded him with a $510 purchase.  Car boot rather full by now.  We managed to get back to our cabin with no detours.  The countryside was lovely and the weather remained perfect.

The next day we did Yackandandah and had a delightful lunch at the Sticky Tarts, bought some Lavender products and some gifts at the Buddha Shop (run by a couple of lovely gay guys who also organise their annual festival).  Back to the cabin for a freshen up and change of clothes for we were off to Provenance restaurant for dinner.

Provenance is a Hatted restaurant and fortunately I had booked for us before Christmas.  They were booked out.  People actually were dressed up and were serious eaters.  A la carte or degustation and a huge wine list.  We decided not to have the degustation as it looked seriously like it would have been a bit much.  Well, the food was divine.  The offer of house bread came with what I found out was curds (from Myrtleford Butter Factory) – it was glorious.

Then I had the pickled vegetables for starters (yum) and then on to an entrée of smoked quail and pea puree.  It came with walnuts and another sauce.   I was speechless – the smoked quail was unique and to die for.  The pea puree was something else.  A slightly wobbly square of slightly green stuff which tasted like it must have had a lot of butter and cream in it but was out of this world.  Next I went for the snapper with various just cooked vegetables served with dashi.   Lovely and I could only just finish it.   I also had Tempranillo wine during all this.  The extraordinary thing was that the whole bill did not shock – just over $150 for the two of us.

Next day we headed off to the Myrtleford Butter Factory.  A lovely building which sat doing nothing for decades.  A local women finally decided to buy it, do some restoration work and open up a restaurant.  She then decided to make butter as well.  It is a lovely story of her dedication and she is still making improvements.

We had a butter and curd tasting.  Her butter makers can be seen making the butter but only she makes the curd.  They were out of curd but she made a pot just for me.  The place was very busy (lot of cyclists in their lycra) but we stayed for lunch as the lure of breakfast for lunch cooked by her chef mother was impossible to resist.  The freshest of local eggs, slightly garlicky mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, generous rashes of local bacon and Milawa’s famous bread all washed down with fabulous fresh juice of one’s own choice.

I came home the next day as temperatures were soaring and it was just too hot for me and I had a nasty blister on one toe !   Next night my daughters came over for dinner when we sampled the cheeses and the curd (it is a unique experience and delicious as part of pre dinner nibbles).  I did the prawns and scallops in Myrtleford butter of course (served with chilled Tempranillo).  Declared to be fantastic – it does taste so so good.   Note:  they supply restaurants around the country and you can’t find it in any supermarket.  You will have to go there to buy it !

(PS I also came home with coconut rough chocolate from the Beechworth Sweet shop – forgot how good it is – totally gorgeous.)