We followed the food and wine trail down to the Southern Forests in Western Australia and were amazed by the variety and abundance in natural produce – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, beef, lamb, poultry, cheeses and wines – we encountered along the way.
It’s a road less trodden but the Great Southern Development Commission plotted the route, ensuring our group of chefs, food importers and writers from Malaysia and Singapore had the widest exposure to what the southern region had to offer.
The first stop was Kattaning, where the chefs were keen to visit a lamb abattoir operated by WAMMCO (Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-operative Limited).
Then it was to the West Cape Howe Winery in Mount Barker, Albany, where the daunting experience of our morning at Kattaning was erased by an awesome lunch, with superlative West Cape Howe wines.
Here we tasted barbecued Mount Barker free-range chicken, Bremer Bay abalones, creamy and sweet Albany rock oysters, WAMMCO lamb racks and Handasyde XXL strawberries in ice cream as well as dipped in chocolate.
The abalones grow in seawater in tanks close to the coastline in Bremer Bay in Albany. “It’s the cleanest water in the world and is best for aquaculture,” said Bruce Manning, chairman of the Great Southern Development Commission. A total of 70 tonnes of abalones are harvested a year.
“The free range chickens in Mt Barker are unique as they are fed a variety of organic grains grown here,” he told us.
The huge Handasyde strawberries, grown in a nearby farm on 36 acres of land, were solid fruits bursting with sweetness and complexity. They are certified organic, with the strawberry season from September to March or April.
Plump, smooth avocados and fat asparagus spears grown here were in salads at our lunch table.
West Cape Howe winemaker Gavin Berry makes very good wines from the fruit of a vineyard very close to the Southern Ocean. There was the very delicate West Cape Howe 40G Riesling we had with oysters, the Two Peeps Sauvignon Blanc Semillon with the abalones, the Old School Chardon-nay with the chicken and the Shiraz with the lamb.
“Shiraz is our point of difference,” said Berry. “It’s more subtle and has a lovely texture and colour.”
After Albany we were at Manjimup, 295km south of Perth, centre of a thriving fruit and vegetable industry, with dairy and cattle farms, marron and trout farms, and vineyards. It’s also home to black truffles.
We got up close with cattle and trudged down rows of cabbages and cauliflower at a farm. We tasted potato chips hot from the fryer at Bendotti Exporters Pty Ltd, which grows potatoes and produces a wide range of potato products under the WA Chip brand.
We watched avocados hand-picked, with the picker lifted up to the tree in a machine.
We had lunch at Chestnut Grove Winery, known for its acclaimed Verdelho, Merlot and Pinot Noir. We tasted these exceptional wines.
Then it was a stopover at a marron farm where the pristine waters sustain the growth of these freshwater crustaceans so sensitive to the environment.
Hands up those who have tasted baby food and liked it. We did at Fresh Produce Alliance whose facility produces natural and nourishing food with avocados, fruits and vegetables under the Avovita, Truu and Born Pure brands.
Born Pure is about baby food, so delicious and nutritious that even adults can enjoy it. The food range begins with apple and pear, at 4+ months and pumpkin, mango and avocado at 6+ months, among other flavours. At 10+ months they can have this totally yummy mango, beetroot, red kidney beans and quinoa chunky blend. I could have this for breakfast!
This range was launched in five Watson stores in Singapore in early December and will soon be on Malaysian stores.