Fast food to master chefs: snow now a foodie's paradise
Expect queues at Falls Creek's Huski Lodge for the pop-up restaurant from Tetsuya's former head chef, Darren Robertson.
'Food, not so glorious food' has long been the catchcry of on mountain snow food at the Australian and New Zealand ski fields.
Many a time I have resented handing over buckets of dosh for buckets of high fat, high sugar, week old food served up by a seasonaire who cares more about their days on snow than the tastebuds of those they’re sharing the slopes with. Yes, there are exceptions, and you can read about them in past blogs here and here.
But it’s not like the mountains don’t have access to fine produce, the alpine valleys and high country of Victoria in particular are known for exceptional artisan providores but clearly you have to travel down the hill to get them.
Dare I hope that 2012 will be different? As my grandmother used to say, every season starts with hope even if it ends in despair, but even she’d turn in her grave at some of the prices on the menu.
There are however some promising changes in the snow fields of Australia with celebrity chefs, pop-up restaurants, alpine food festivals and gourmet village bakeries. Don't be surprised if you share the chairlift with Frank Camorra of Movida and MasterChef fame or the host of My Kitchen Rules, Pete Evans, this winter and feel free to judge them on their pressure-test turns.
What's the food news from Australia's slopes? Thredbo’s Denman Hotel fine dining Terrace Restaurant scored the first alpine hat in Australia in the Good Food Guide in 2011. Hatted chef Hayden Ellerton (yes I am 'personally' acquainted) left after The Terrace surprisingly closed only a month after the hat was awarded. The closure sadly made them ineligible for a second hat, so now it's any chef's game for the next one. We're on the prowl to see which year-round restaurant steps up to the mark.
Inside word on the street in 2012 is that The Terrace will now re-open for the ski season under former Horizons chef Karen Forsstrom with a focus on a menu designed more for the masses than fine dining, similar to The Old Pool, The Denman and Ellerton's successful casual dining restaurant from last season (which won't reopen this season).
The Summit Ridge in Falls Creek, also known for fine alpine dining, has changed hands. Simon and Wendy Rawlings will now concentrate on their Hakuba venture in Japan, The Phoenix Hotel, home to two hat consultant chef Michael Ryan’s (from The Provenance in Beechworth) Mimi Restaurant menu.
The good news is Three Blue Ducks will pick up where Summit Ridge left off. The Sydney bistro was founded by former Tetsuya head chef, Darren Robertson, with Mark LaBrooy and Shannon Debreceny, and scored high marks (15/20) from Terry Durack in The Sydney Morning Herald. The boys will be opening a three-month pop-up restaurant in Huski Lodge. We are predicting queues.
The bakery at Thredbo has also been sold and the Californian Bautista brothers from Canberra’s Bean and Grain gourmet café in the heart of the Fyshwick markets are moving in. Trust me, this is brilliant news that will hopefully challenge the common pre-frozen Danish pastries that are reheated around lodges and hotels at breakfast. You can’t pass off a croissant from a Sara Lee box with single-serve packets of jam when these boys are throwing around ginger brulee tarts in town (no pun intended).
From MasterChef to My Kitchen Rules. Pete Evans is returning to Thredbo this season, this time taking his pans to Lake Crackenback with a one-off celebrity chef dinner on July 7 with Voyager Estate Wines and the resort's Executive Chef Greg Pieper. Tickets are $140 and available online.
There’s still time to make it to Dinner Plain’s annual "Snow Excuse" opening weekend food festival just down the road from Hotham. Two-hatted Melbourne chef, Frank Camorra from Movida will cook at Cilantro Restaurant on Saturday night. Tetsuya sous chef, Nick Gardener, then showcases his talents alongside Sam Aisbett from Darley’s at Alphutte Restaurant on Sunday night.
Rundells will also host a dinner on Sunday night with three-hat Sydney chef Mark Best’s head chef from Pei Modern in Melbourne. Monday night then features two-hat chef Michael Ryan from Provenance in Beechworth with Dinner Plain’s Hamish Nugent as they serve up a Japanese influenced dinner. Check out the Snow Excuse website for bookings.
If you miss this weekend then June 23 is Great Alpine Roast Day at Hotham with Cilantro, Graze at Rundells, The General at Mt Hotham and Hamster Bar at High Plains lodge battling it out for the best roast in the village.
Foodies at the Melbourne’s Good Food Festival will need snow boots for the 1234 dinner on June 24. The three-course candle-lit roast dinner is held at 1234 metres altitude in the Mt Stirling crosscountry area. Mansfield’s Regional Produce Store chef, Gillian Belle, will serve up a feast focusing on fresh produce and local wines.
The truth is skiers and snowboarders are a discerning lot. We pay big money for a snow holiday and food and wine is a big part of the après experience. It doesn’t always have to be hatted or fine dining - there’s nothing better than a good fondue with home baked bread at Thredbo's Black Bear Inn or tapas served with a side order of Donna and schnapps at Bernti’s.
Yes, there are challenges at any seasonal tourist resort but I’ve witnessed enough microwaves in kitchens and three-day oil in deep fryers that turn my stomach for days. I understand - you've got to make your money in a short time - but customers can be discerning and there are also the haters: self-appointed food critics that turn to social media to rant, whether they have a palate or not.
But you can’t tell me the owner of a food business honestly thinks we can’t tell the difference between a microwaved dessert and one made on the premises. The trouble is, when you're in a captive market you put up with crap because you have to. Thankfully the good shine through every year.
I have a feeling 2012 will be a food game changer at the snow and I for one am VERY excited.
Where is your favourite place to dine at the snow? Have you had any fabulous experiences you’d like to share? Any disasters? What do you love and loathe about snow food at home and abroad? Post a comment on our blog and you could WIN WIN WIN one of four Brookfarm Winter Hampers filled to the brim with Brookfarm tasty macadamia energy food perfect for the snow. Terms and conditions.
Winner of last week's Samsonite competition is Barras from Melbourne. Look out for an email to claim your Cubelite Spinner suitcase worth $899.
FIT TO SKI & SNOWBOARD
Two more sleeps to opening weekend. Are your legs ready?
Snow It All has teamed up with Mark Richardson from Body Language Personal Training to create four simple three-minute video workouts you can do at home – lower body, upper body, core and cardio.
This week we focus on the legs. Any production value complaints see the manager of No Budget Productions.
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