Alpaca, truffle, shimeji... all discovered along "a foodie trail through the Southern Highlands"...

"Our cool climate and rich soil produce excellent fresh food and superb local wines of exceptional quality...The main defining theme for its designation as a wine region is its cool climate and high altitude vineyards which produce world class cool climate wines of distinction..."- Southern Highlands Food and Wine Association, 2014

The smell of freshly baked bread wafts around the room... as the Tertini 2009 Sparkling Cuvee Pinot Noir Chardonnay is being poured. A wintery night, reminiscent of my drive down to the Southern Highlands just a few weeks ago... you could faintly make out your breath as you spoke..


Appropriately gloved and scarved guests piled into the venue.. eagerly awaiting their first taste of the Highlands. They were met with a generous spread of locally sourced oils, jams and pestos with chef's housemade flat bread to soak it all up! With bubbles in hand, the night was off to a great start...

Antipasto Board sourced from The Highland Hamper Co.
Antipasto Board sourced from The Highland Hamper Co.

Once the platters were devoured... and the bowls licked clean.. the guests were seated...


I introduced the night and quickly ran through the evening's format before handing over to our guest speaker Jill Dyson from FoodPath Culinary Tours.

Jill spoke about her involvement in the region and how her tours allow visitors to meet the producers and learn about what the Highlands has to offer!

Yours truly... introducing the night...
Yours truly... introducing the night...
The Menu
The Menu

As our first entree landed in front of our guests, Michael from Tertini Wines began the wine journey with an explanation of the Sparkling wine and an introduction to the Arneis. "Tertini Wines is dedicated to producing premium, cool climate wines with a particular interest in alternative varieties." Tertini Wines, 2014. Arneis is one of those alternative wines in Australia. Not something you often see on your local restaurant wine list and I think we now know why...

"Arneis is named ‘rascal’ or ‘little bugger’ in its original home in Piedmont, Italy where it almost became extinct due to its temperamental nature"

- Tertini Wines, 2014

Michael of Tertini Wines imparting his knowledge on our guests...!
Michael of Tertini Wines imparting his knowledge on our guests...!

It is a fragrant wine and offset the first course beautifully. With a textural richness this wine was able to stand up to the meatiness of the mushroom tempura. This first entree of Li Sun Exotic Shimjei Mushroom Tempura on a bed of kale and quinoa salad was drizzled with a Sutton Forest Olives Pomegranate Caramlised Balsamic Vinegar. The vinegar cut through the earthy kale salad and added a sweetness to the crunchy tempura.

With the last drop of Arneis, the next course was served - Fish Mousse with green apple sprout and pinenuts.

The smooth texture of this dish was exceptional. The balance came from the tart green apple which lifted the creamy fish mousse. The acidity of the Reisling served with this dish similarly cut through the creaminess to create the perfect pairing. The lime and lemon citric intensity of this wine, complemented the dish nicely.

Next up was the hero dish.. the Alpaca...

It was an Illawarra Prime Alpaca Osso Bucco served with Li Sun Exotic mixed mushroom sauce and  a creamy polenta crunchy gremoulata. This dish challenged a number of guests who were pleasantly surprise upon tasting.. We paired it with the 2013 Tertini Nebbiolo and 2013 Tertini Hilltops Shiraz. The crowd favourite of the night had to be the Nebbiolo!

Michael spoke about these pairings briefly, followed by Jill detailing her experience and tours in the mushroom tunnels in Mittagong and her knowledge of Alpaca meat! These tunnels were really put on the map when TV chef Jamie Oliver paid them a visit!

These full bodied, rich red wines married beautifully with the gamey Alpaca meat. The pepperiness of the Shiraz and subtle spices complemented the Osso Bucco and the earthy mushroom sauce. Another unusual wine, Nebbiolo, also from an Italian grape varietal, gave our diners a chance to experience a new wine - which as I said, they LOVED! (and so did I!) It is a wonderfully aromatic wine... yumm.... a MUST TRY!

While the Alpaca digested, our guests were greeted with a refreshing mint and lemon granita to cleanse the palate. This prepared everyone for the sweet finish.. Southern Highland Organic Egg Custard Blueberry Bar infused with the famous locally found truffle! The Head Chef from Centennial Vineyards in Bowral purchased this record breaking truffle and offered it for sale per 10g piece. So naturally, I put it on the menu! This rich, soft custard packed a punch with the truffle aromas...

This dish was paired with a Tertini 2012 Noble Riesling. This naturally acid wine was not your typical Botrytis wine, it was much lighter in texture and balanced perfectly with the custard. The aromas of pear and tropical fruit soften the sweetness of this rich dessert nicely.

With Jill and Michael concluding the evening, it was on to the always popular.. cheese board! We paired a Tertini Pinot Noir to this course to complement the softer cheeses on the board. With dark fruit notes and smooth tannins this wine went down nicely. A fruity, medium bodied red to finish off the night  - bliss!

Our wines for the night from Tertini Wines
Our wines for the night from Tertini Wines

The cheese board... was a selection of Small Cow Farm cheeses from the Southern Highlands. These were served alongside fresh and dried fruits and locally sourced raspberry paste and quince pastes. A generous spread of over 2 kilos of cheese.. devoured within minutes!! I am always shocked to see it all go!

Cheese Board from Small Cow Farm Cheese in The Southern Highlands
Cheese Board from Small Cow Farm Cheese in The Southern Highlands

- Small Cow Blue - blue mould cheese with a slightly crumbly texture - perfect with the raspberry paste!!

- PetitVache Brie - creamy, oozy crowd pleaser

- Fettice - soft and creamy fetta - a nice change on a cheeseboard, it had a beautiful soft texture to it

- Redella - nice, punchy washed rind

Overall, another great night of food, wine and learning!

We hope to see you at the end of the month at our next event.. check our facebook page for updates!

Until next time, happy eating xx