Sunday, 21 December 2014

Foodie Secret Santa - Easy Festive Dark Chocolate Shortbread Recipe - December 2014

Image: Willunga Wino

The festive season is all about time with friends and family, relaxing and sharing a meal. 

Such is the philosophy behind the Foodie Secret Santa.

Food bloggers Australia wide register to participate in the ultimate treat swap via good old Australia Post.

In giving a gift of a foodie treat to your three assigned bloggers, via Foodie Secret Santa, you also receive. Three other bloggers will send you a treat in the post.

On one of my last packing days before moving home, after a sweltering day of lugging dusty boxes, the postie rang the doorbell. 

With a smile he handed me a parcel - my first Foodie Secret Santa! 

Sweet gift in the mail. Photo: Willunga Wino

What perfect timing, I popped them in the car and took my carload of boxes over to the new house, where the willing hands of my friends and family helped to unload. 

So pretty inside. Photo: Willunga Wino

Soon we were reclining on our new deck, a glass of bubbles in hand, and beautiful homemade caramel blondies - white chocolate brownies - to enjoy. Thank you Roxanne @ The Baking Dentist!)

A quick snap of the last bit left! Photo: Willunga Wino

Then once I'd given up hope of any of my other goodies finding their way to my new address, arrived a mystery parcel (no blogger name on it!) with the cutest little card saying just Merry Christmas and a motherload of delicious mini-gingerbread men, each carefully decorated! 

Some of them made it intact, but the limbs and heads made tucking in straight away an easy choice. Thank you!

An army of tasty gingerbread men. Photo: Willunga Wino

Due to the move, the last one of my Foodie Secret Santa gifts went missing ( I suspect into the new tenants' tummies), but nonetheless I enjoyed and shared the ones I did receive!

For my gift to three lucky recipients, I decided upon super fine dark chocolate and cinnamon shortbreads.

 Easy Festive Dark Chocolate Shortbreads

Inspired by the recipe from Mandy @ Lady & Pups, available on Food 52

Yield: Around 22 biscuits

Ingredients: (approx $15)
180gm unsalted butter, left out of fridge to soften 15mins (I use B.D Farm Paris Creek)
90gms brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract (I use Queens)
3/4 teaspoon salt (I use Murray River Pink Salt)
1 2/4 cups (250gms) organic plain flour
1/4 cup (20gms) cacao powder
1/2 cup (85gms) fair trade organic 85% dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon

1. First finely grate the 85gms of chocolate. 
2. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a mixer until creamy, this takes around 2 minutes.
3. Add in the flour, cacao, grated chocolate and cinnamon until the dough comes together into a ball.
4. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees.
5.Turn out the dough onto baking paper, form into a ball, then wrap in the paper and rest the dough in the fridge for an hour before rolling.
6. Roll the dough until it is approx 4 mm thick. Cut out shapes from the dough (one larger and one smaller inside) to create rings. Place rings on a baking tray lined with baking paper in a single layer.
7. Gather offcuts into a ball, roll again, and cut shapes from the dough with biscuit cutters again.
8. Continue till all dough is used up.
9. Bake shortbread in the oven for 20-22 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.

Packaging: (approx $27)

Ready for packaging. Photo: Willunga Wino

I gathered four biscuits, and then tied them with festive bakers twine. I nestled them amongst lots of tissue paper, in a Christmassy box, adding a note from rocking horse notepaper and my business card.

Postage: (approx $27)

Ready for their new owners! Photo: Willunga Wino

I sent the boxes inside Aus Post postage boxes, to make sure the cookies didn't get crushed. They were sent regular (not express) mail. 

I hope that my three recipients enjoyed their shortbread and that they arrived intact!

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What would you make for Foodie Secret Santa? 

See more Foodie Secret Santa 2014 treats here.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#tasteoftravel Best 3 Courses of My Life - Celebrity Cruises - December 2014

Image: Willunga Wino

Through my life of travels, I've had some extraordinary meals.

That's why the Celebrity Cruises #tasteoftravel blog challenge caught my eye. 

Remember your most memorable entree, main and dessert of all time and record it in a blog post, referring four other bloggers to the challenge while you are at it. 

After being nominated to participate in the challenge, I started to reflect on exactly what it is that has made my travel meals so memorable.

Image: Willunga Wino

The location - Crisp snow fields, glorious sunsets, azure seas, vine clad hills. Location adds the non edible, essential setting for the meal. Memories of flavours can fade, but where you were, who you were with, and how it felt, will never leave you.

Image: Willunga Wino

The people - connecting with other humans is one of the gems of travel. Language is no barrier when it comes to cuisine. I've found that when you attempt to use the language, nine times out of ten, it is received with warmth, and returned to you tenfold. Speaking to locals, eating where the locals eat, making connections. This is key to the travel dining experience. How you felt is often what you remember most clearly. Your travel companions are also a key part of the experience, be it your partner, your family, or friends, this creates unique atmosphere and background to the meal.

Image: Willunga Wino

The food - the third piece of the puzzle is of course, the food. Is it all about the texture with delicate flavours? Does the look of it leap off the plate with its' prettiness? Dazzle with colour? Make your mouth water with aroma? Sizzle, crackle or steam? The proof is in the tasting, and food is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Discovery of new fruits, vgetables, legumes, grains and nuts. Textures, techniques, and tastes. The important third plank to a memorable travel meal.

Now, to the entree, main and dessert that combined would be my ultimate taste of travel.

1. Entree of my #tasteoftravel

Image: Willunga Wino

Chef Ito is over 80 years old, and is one of the most personable and gracious hosts I've ever experienced. You feel you are being welcomed into his home, in your own private tatami mat dining room, complete with flower arrangement to ponder. Itosho's signature dish is his rice bubble tempura. Tempura is not usually one of my favourite dishes - I have an aversion to fried things - but this is unlike any other I've tried. Instead of a batter, tiny puffed rice bubbles are used to coat hand selected, perfectly sweet and crisp baby vegetables. There are two rectangles of tofu, a shitake mushroom, sweet potato, white potato, baby eggplant, and a tiny chilli pepper. It is served simply with salt to sprinkle. An outstanding example of innovation, simplicity, texture, and taste. No wonder Itosho's has a Michelin Star. May we meet again, Chef Ito!

Tempura, Itosho, Azubu-Juban Tokyo, Japan

2. Main of my #tasteoftravel

My food discovery of 2014 was the newly re-launched Leonards Mill, on the historic old flour mill site near the slate-strewn Second Valley Beach, halfway between McLaren Vale and Kangaroo Island. 

Having lured a husband and wife chef / patissier from the Lake House in Daylesford, Leonards Mill are now producing high end cuisine in a typically Fleurieu relaxed outdoor setting. A perfect complementary contrast. 

Local, sustainable produce, including that from the kitchen garden, is used in this dish of earthy-sweet baby heirloom beets. They stand up in a forest floor of earthy, mushroomy pearl barley risotto, beetroot puree, cool tart clouds of goat cherve and crunch from walnuts and toasted crisped grains and seeds. It is beautiful to look at, full of interesting textures, and taste.

Leonards Mill, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

3. Dessert of my #tasteoftravel

This shiny, sexy little number is my most memorable dessert. A perfect cylinder of no less than 2 inches of glossy, dark, smooth ganache. Hidden in its' centre is a secret core. Molten salted caramel oozes out as you reach the dessert's heart. Perfectly balancing the ganache is a base of hazelnut toffee, taken to the point of adult bitterness, then smashed into tiny chards and formed into a contrasting, crunchy base.

Choc-Hazelnut Delice, Altar Bistro, Willunga (McLaren Vale), South Australia

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe via email to stay up to date on other sustainable foodie wino things that make you feel nice, and also to make me feel good about myself!

What have been your favourite eats of 2014?

I was referred by Lucy @ On The Luce travel blog

UK bloggers can enter to win a seven-night European cruise and a £150 voucher to one of the Great British Chef’s restaurants.  

The closing date for entries is 12 January 2015 and entries will be judged by two of the Great British Chefs and the Deputy Editor of Food and Travel Magazine. Their favourite menu will win.  Good luck!


Monday, 1 December 2014

Victory Hotel - Sellicks Beach - October 2014

Image: Willunga Wino

One visit to "The Victory"with views like these, and you'll wish it was your local.

No wonder it's one of my "go to" places when I have out-of-towners come to visit. 

Looking south, where the Mt Lofty Ranges trickle into the sea. Photo: Willunga Wino

Perched high on Sellicks Hill, The Victory sits proud, as she has since 1858. 

A modern makeover has resulted in a beer garden perfect for watching the sunset, a sports bar with it's own verandah, a chic dining room and restaurant bar, outdoor dining under the patio, and one of the best, underground,  restaurant cellars in Australia. 

Friendly locals in the sports bar. Photo: Willunga Wino

Our usual routine is to arrive in the late afternoon for a tipple and a nibble in the beer garden.

Garden of delights. Photo: Willunga Wino

Views from the Victory are straight out into the Gulf of St Vincent, and Sellicks Beach.

Local beers are on tap, as well as an ever changing handwritten list of wine specials buy the glass. I usually opt for a local, crisp, alternative varietal white, such as a vermentino or fiano.

Lucky drinks with such a nice view. Photo: Willunga Wino

There's a selection of bar snacks available to enjoy in the beer garden. 

Pan fried mushrooms are crumbed and fried to dark brown, sprinkled with porcini salt and with garlic aoli for dipping ($10). They are juicy inside but a bit naughty due to being deep fried and served with rich mayo. Share with friends. 

Crumbed mushrooms $10. Photo: Willunga Wino

Andy Clappis - the local bread guru - supplies the decliciously warmed pita bread, served with a trio of dips ($12.50) that change regularly.

Today they were hommus, carrot & cashew, and beetroot & mint. Great for nibbling.

Colourful dips $12.50. Photo: Willunga Wino

The garden is fenced, but some kids can't resist adventuring beyond that. It certainly keeps them occupied while the parents enjoy a meal, a drink and the view.

Fairy in the garden. Photo: Willunga Wino

Before too long, Nature's show will be in full swing. 

A few clouds make for the most stunning sunsets.

Just another sunset in paradise. Photo: Willunga Wino

With Doug & Nikki Goven, taking ownership in 1989, the pub had a makeover of food and interiors. 

Semi alfresco dining in the patio. Photo: Willunga Wino

The Goven's also own Star of Greece, the other Vale eatery of note with ocean views. Whilst smart, the Victory is the more casual venue, with keener prices, and larger serves, happy days!

The sports bar has it's charms too, you can order any restaurant meal to eat at the counter in this more casual setting - including the famous "Victory Burger". 

Look behind the sports bar to admire the beautifully restored wooden refrigerator cabinets. There can't be many of those around these days! 

Most tables have a view. Photo: Willunga Wino

Corkage of $15 makes this a local winemakers' favourite. On any given night you will see two or three of them with several (or more!) bottles of special wines.

Otherwise, the Victory is home to one of the most impressive restaurant cellars in the country. 

Barrel furniture in the cellar. Photo: Willunga Wino

Access is via a staircase behind the restaurant end of the sports bar.

Home to more than 8000 cellared bottles and magnums, with prices starting from $20, you can pick an old favourite or new to suit every taste and enjoy in the restaurant upstairs.

Imagine the party you could have in here! Photo: Willunga Wino

If that is too hard, there is always a great selection by the glass, including now the 2010 Rockford Basket Press for $15, and just have a stickybeak at the cellar.

What a collection. So tempting! Photo: Willunga Wino

Specials based on what's been freshly caught from the ocean or plucked from the earth are handwritten on butchers paper in the main dining room. 

A venue after my own heart, the dessert special is always top of the list. 

I'm still kicking myself that I didn't have room for the coconut and mango sago pudding!

That sago pudding - it will be mine! Photo: Willunga Wino

The specials are in addition to the regular, seasonally changing menu. 

The regular menu. Photo: Willunga Wino

The Victory desserts are always something special. 

Victory desserts. Photo: Willunga Wino

Despite the Victory being permanently busy, service is swift and friendly, and apologetic while keeping you informed if ever a little slow. Staff have a chat and a joke with you but never intrude on the conversation. 

For our chardonnay loving dining companion, we ordered the Taswegian Bay of Fires Chardonnay.

Delicious creamy cedar on the nose, pawpaw, green almond and a hint of struck match get your mouth watering before the first taste.

Integrated oak makes for a mouth coating juiciness and a little grip at the finish.

Bay of Fires chardy. Photo: Willunga Wino

To nibble while we wait for entrees, butter churned in house with oven fresh casalinga bread. If butter is off limits, a little dish of sea salt, olive oil and sweet balsamic are also provided ($1pp). 

There is little better than really good fresh bread & fresh butter! (Except maybe Vale olive oil!)

Casalinga bread, butter, olive oil & balsamic $1 pp. Photo: Willunga Wino

Entrees hover around the $15 mark, and there are seasonal changes to the menu. 

In Winter, I had this delectable Epoisse double baked souflee, with leek sauce and basil oil. It was delicious!


Photo: Willunga Wino

Big pillowy, pan fried gnocchi regularly feature on the specials and as the vego option of the seasonal menu. This one in May featured sweet potato purree, cherry toms, olives, snap peas and cherve. 

I've also had a yummy winter version with beetroot and asparagus. 

Gnocchi ($24.50). Photo: Willunga Wino

Tonight our entree of buffalo mozzerella, carrot puree, roasted heirloom carrots and smoked almonds ($15) came out like art on a plate. This is also a good dish for sharing as a little nibble before mains. 

The carrots were beatifully sweet and spiced, and the smokiness from the Willunga almonds shone through. Buffalo mozzerella has a slight tang making it creamy and even more interesting than the usually cow variety.

Buffalo mozzerella art ($15). Photo: Willunga Wino

Mains followed at the perfect interval after. 

French lentil and pumpkin pie with haloumi, witlof, preserved lemon and hazelnut salad ($24.50) looked lovely. 

I've had the vego pie option before, last spring, when it was a different version completely, using puff pastry on a bed of sweet potato puree, beans and broccoli.

Lentil & pumpkin pie $24.50. Photo: Willunga Wino\

This version was tasty and filling, the fresh salad lightened things up with the tang of preserved lemon and bitterness from the witlof. 

The pastry was double thickness at the top though, and a little dense for my tastes, while the filling was spiced and rich. A good contrast with the salad.

Inside the pie. Photo: Willunga Wino

Kangaroo Island King George Whiting and chips ($31) is never taken off the menu as it is a firm favourite. Served with irresistable house made tartare sauce, you can choose from Coopers beer batter, crumb, or have your fish grilled. 

Mr Wino can't resist the beer batter. Photo: Willunga Wino

Given the local bounty from the sea, there are always a number of interesting fish dishes.

On special tonight was snapper fillet, with roasted capsicum and herb couscous, golden beetroot, beans and romesco sauce ($27.90). It tasted as good as it looked!

Snapper special $27.90. Photo: Willunga Wino

Braised duck leg ragu, house made chive gnocchi, spring peas and roasted cherry toms ($32) was morish and warming. 

The ragu was flavoursome and rich, and the gnocchi pillow light.

Duck leg ragu ($32). Photo: Willunga Wino

If you need it, the Victory Hotel, handily, has three self contained, B&B cottages overlooking the vineyards and ocean, within stumbling distance of the pub.

Ghosts of parties past. Photo: Willunga Wino

The Victory is an institution, and no visit to the Vale is complete without taking in a sunset from it's lawns.

Rating 4 Glasses 
Price: $
Menu: Salads, curries, burgers, specials, juices, desserts.
Meal Size: From snacks to full meal size.
Atmosphere / Ambiance: Outdoorsy, popular, relaxed.
Standout Dish: Veggie slice $15.
Service: Friendly, chatty table service.
Online Booking: Bookings by phone 
(08) 8556 3083 or (08) 8556 3072.
Restaurant Details and Location:
Tel No(08) 8556 3083 or (08) 8556 3072
Opening Hours: 
Lunch 7 days a week from 12 noon until 2:30pm and for dinner from 6pm to 9pm.
Access: Large onsite carpark.

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