The Independent

We’d heard whisperings about The Independent since it opened. Carnivore friends had raved about the meat offerings. They were right, as it turned out, but what they failed to mention was the extraordinary vegan menu. We found this completely by accident after a particularly meat-heavy week. We were treated to one of the most extraordinary slow-cooked corn dishes we’ve ever tasted. It was slow cooked, but still had crunch. Chef Mauro Callegari is Argentinian, and proudly brings those flavours to his menu. The corn dish was a revelation in spices and flavours. Now, you’d never accuse us of being vegan, but that’s a menu I’d happily order from again.

Until the meat came out.

The lamb shoulder was generous to say the least. It was most of a lamb from the shoulder back, and came with some amazing carrots  that had Mauro’s Argentinian flare for spice. Broccoli, chilli, walnuts, and tahini dressing made for a stunning salad. Desserts were the kind you’d travel across the state for. It’s only an hour away though, so there’s no excuse not to get a little Independent love.

Go Direct – Grassroots Bushfire Relief Fundraisers

Words by Ruth Meighan 
Images supplied

I think it’s safe to say that all of us have been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the 2020 bushfires that are still burning. The silver lining in all this devastation is the incredible upswell of support from the Australian and international community.

It really does make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to see so many people, from all walks of life, dig deep into their pockets in order to help out those who have lost so much – including such great losses to wildlife.

However, questions have been raised in the media about how much of these funds actually reaches the intended target. It’s a touchy subject and not our role to dig too deep there; instead, we thought we would put together a list of grassroots fundraising activities that aim to support the affected communities directly.

Please email hello@ohomedia.com.au if you know of any others.

High Country Comeback
#notevenanhourout

So much of the prolific tourism trade of January was lost when the evacuation notices were given to the North East of Victoria. Visitors to the region had to cancel their holidays and locals had little to no income. High Country Comeback is an event that brings the food, drinks and fun of the High-Country to your doorstep!

On Sunday, Feb 2nd 2020, you can see all that the North East has to offer, with no need to pack the car and get a dog sitter! Head to The Timber Yard, Port Melbourne – Door entry is a donation to the NE Vic local CFA brigades and wildlife rescue organisations. 

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/high-country-comeback-tickets-91107518039

Gather Festival
#fourhoursout

Showcasing more than just music, Gather Festival (Feb 08 2020), embraces the “sweet life” of the high country, with a family-friendly vibe. Take your mountain bike and enjoy the trails before putting on your dancing shoes and revelling with some delicious ales! You’ll be supporting local musicians, the hospitality industry and boutique crafters.

Hosted by the fire-affected community of Mt. Beauty, come and soak in the beautiful surroundings whilst grooving along to the likes of Dallas Frasca, Sarah McLeod, Richard Perso and many more. Bring the kids, a picnic rug and support this beautiful little town. All profits will go to local emergency services. 

https://www.gatherfestival.com.au/

Art Aid Gippsland
#threehoursout

For a bit of culture whilst on your #roadtripforgood visit the Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale and view the Art Aid Gippsland exhibition (15th Feb – 15th March 2020). Numerous artists have donated works – over 500 in fact! These works will be auctioned at the conclusion of the exhibition. 

Entry is free with the auction taking place at 4pm of March 15th 2020 at The Wedge Performing Arts Centre. All funds raised will go to  Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF), supporting those who lost their homes in the devastating bushfires.

http://www.gippslandartgallery.com/exhibitions/

King River Brewing
#threehoursout

The day before having to evacuate, the brewers at King River Brewing had already added #thankscfa to their barcodes! Now that they are back in the brewhouse and making the most of what’s left of the summer trade, they are allocating 50% of profits from sales of their Summer Ale to the CFA Relief Fund.

Before you head off on your road trip, check out #beerforbushfirerelief to see who else is doing an ongoing fundraiser.

http://kingriverbrewing.com.au/

Hitch to the Sticks – Bushfire Benefit
#threehoursout

Superjesus Official, Dallas Frasca, Barry Morgan’s World of Organs! Does it get any better? Yes, it does…this family-friendly fest is setting out to raise lots of coin for Victorian Bushfire Appeal and Blaze Aid. 100% of profits from merch and donations on the day plus profits from the event. 

But wait, it keeps getting better – kids under 13 are free! If you’re quick enough you can even book the bus and stay overnight in the Mohyu locale – the gateway to the King Valley. This will be a day of celebration, and you can bask in the knowledge that you will be directly helping communities in need.

https://ahitchtothesticks.com/hitch-series/

Brighter Days
#threeandahalfhoursout

Since its inception 7 years ago, the Brighter Days Festival has always had community & family support at its heart. A 3-day event combining music, bikes & cars into a family friendly atmosphere.

Initially set up to give support to The Cooper Trewin Memorial (SUDC) Research Fund, DEBRA Foundation and The EB Research Foundation. Every year the foundation looks to give additional funds to those in need and 2020 will see them contributing to the CFA Ovens Valley Group of Brigades – you can support the local bushfire relief effort by purchasing a festival ticket, raffle ticket or merchandise.

https://www.brighterdays.org.au/

Shop 2 Support
#everywhere

A Facebook-based platform for fire-affected businesses to make their presence known. If you’re planning a holiday check out the numerous posts – you’ll find everything from online products to amazing accommodation deals.

The beauty of this platform is you get to directly support the people who are doing it the hardest, which then feeds back into the local community. 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/S2SBFC/about/

It’s My Shout
#fourhoursout

At a time when East Gippsland should have been booming with tourists, the bushfires were tearing through the landscape. Leaving local business owners with not only the possible loss of their homes, but also their livelihoods. 

This is where #itsmyshout comes in. This online initiative creates a way to pay it forward to the many affected small businesses. Purchase a virtual item and know that your donation will go directly to the respective business. 

https://www.itsmyshout.com.au/

Spend With Them
#everywhere

It’s one thing to donate to a worthy cause, but many retail and produce companies are sitting on stock that they haven’t been able to move due to the bushfire emergency that hit Victoria in January. Inspired by #buyfromthebush a support network for drought-affected areas, “Spend With Them” gives fire-affected businesses the opportunity to showcase their wares to a larger audience. 

Highlighting brilliant regional products like, ‘Better than Sex’ brownies from @milchcafebar in Falls Creek Victoria and ‘Memphis Style BBQ sauce @alpinesauceco. These are both perfect examples of the entrepreneurialism required to keep small, family-owned cafes afloat. 

https://www.instagram.com/spendwiththem/

Go Fund Me
#everywhere

Even though GoFundMe take a percentage of donations, at the very least you are able to read the personal plights of the individual or organisation. Do a search with the keywords, “bushfire” “Victoria” “wildlife” and see how you can make a difference. 

https://au.gofundme.com/

Basils Farm

The Bellarine Peninsula is home to some amazing little finds, most of them set away from the main roads and found by local knowledge or that article you read once somewhere. Basils Farm is a vineyard and restaurant at the end of a spectacular driveway, through the vines, and almost on the beach overlooking the water to Queenscliff. Getting out of the car and discovering where you are is just the start of a beautifully surprising adventure.

With an almost Royal Mail–like attention to the provenance of their produce, they are crafting tasty dishes with veg from their extensive garden (a small section of which you are free to roam). The wines made on the estate are equally as fine and detailed. Two styles of chardonnay are particularly interesting, as is the maritime influence seen in the pinot noir.

Noble Monks

Shepparton is not blessed with street after street of stunning gold-rush architecture like, say, Ballarat. So the enterprising and stylish types here have to take a different approach. At Noble Monks it’s the semi-industrial bare brick and steel vibe. It works. You’re instantly reminded of your regular Yarraville haunts. The coffee here is from Bean Around – roasted locally by John at the Last Straw. The menu is driven by fresh local fruit and veg.

We had corn fritters made fresh – this is generous country hospitality. Big fritters with a soft poached egg.

Local seasonal fruit is the kind of fresh and easy breakfast you want in the country. When you go to the ocean you want fresh fish. When you go inland to the state’s food-bowl you want fresh grown produce.

A selection of humorously named,  deliciously fresh juices keeps the morning healthy and clean. There are good beers on tap and a respectable wine list if you have other ideas.

Little Prince Eating House and Bar

Walking into Little Prince in Traralgon was, to put it mildly, a surprise. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled upon Chin Chin’s little brother. It has that busy, diner-esque vibe with bustling staff, tiles on the walls, and a bit of quirkiness. The quirk carries to the menu, with a solid hint of dude-food. Pinch yourself for the reminder that this is Traralgon, on the way to Lakes Entrance, not Melbourne or Sydney. Dishes like the crab sliders – with legs out the sides, about to walk off – bring a sense of humour to the place, as well as deliciousness. The salmon sashimi was fresh and clean, like it should be. Salted caramel and popcorn ice-cream was designed to kill, as it should.

The cocktail list includes proper alcohol-free alternatives, a welcome sight for some. The cocktail and wine list is extensive and well sourced.

Yering Station

There’s something lovely about plated single dishes from an à la carte menu, and professional, attentive service. In contrast to the ‘all dishes on the table, share the love’ approach, there’s an almost quiet, contemplative joy in studying the menu, ordering for yourself, and then talking with your company about all the elements in your meal as it comes out.

The Rathbone family have been custodians of this vineyard and property since the mid ’90s, though there has been wine made here before then. Very good wine, in fact. The Ryrie brothers, then the De Castella family, made some impressive red wines here. Sadly, with the destruction of the wine industry from a little bug called phylloxera, the property moved to other agricultural practices. The vision of a few pioneers in the 1970s and ’80s saw the first returns to grape growing and winemaking.

Of course, at the cellar door you can sample the excellent wines made on site by chief winemaker Willy Lunn. The cellar door is one of the older buildings on site, formerly the winery from 1859. Now it does triple-duty as cellar door, gallery and produce store. The produce is a representation of the monthly farmers market held in the barn. It’s all local, all lovely.  The gallery showcases artworks from emerging artists and also hosts the annual Yering Sculpture Prize. Money from the gallery’s sale commissions go to the Children’s Leukaemia charity, Larch – a long-standing Rathbone family commitment.

All that makes for interesting conversation over a meal at tables set in a mighty glass, stone and steel structure overlooking the rolling green pastures, vineyards, hills, and skies until tomorrow. When the food arrives at the table, you’ll be tempted to whip out the phone and Instagram it, but resist the urge. Just take in the view, the setting, and the beauty, and re-post someone else’s picture.

 

Chrismont Winery

The King Valley is home to some of Victoria’s oldest vineyards. Settled by Italian migrants, it’s probably fair to call it ‘The Home of Italian Wine Styles’ – if you don’t count Italy. Chrismont wines boasts a stunning new cellar door and restaurant, with a menu designed for sharing. It’s inspired by Italian flavours, and goes well with the classic Italian varietal wines on offer. The Sangiovese is particularly gorgeous. For those who enjoy the stunning views and long lunches more than most, the option to rent the guest house is an attractive one.

Best’s Wines

If you’re new to wine, this is a must-visit for a lesson in the history of wine in Australia. If you’re a seasoned wine-lover, then this is a pilgrimage.

Best’s is like walking into a piece of Australia’s post-goldrush past a time when wine growers had little idea what would grow well or what would make a good wine in a country so far from the indigenous soils of grapevines, so they planted one of everything.

Now Best’s is a modern wine-making facility owned and operated for four generations by the Thomson family after a series of Best family splits, deaths and sales. It is a complex history which Viv will gladly regale you with. The property is set on the flat land of Great Western, at the foot of the Grampians. Beneath the rustic log-cabin cellar door there are the original dug-in storage vats, lined with years and years of paraffin wax. You are free to walk down to explore among the museum stock, the old barrels and vats, and the ancient wine-making machinery.

The wine here is a happy place for this author. Old cabernets so fragrant they could be worn as cologne, and intriguing white blends worthy of the high scores given by revered wine writers like James Halliday. The museum tasting experience of six old wines is a rare treat. It’s not often you’ll get to taste a 1999 cabernet at a cellar door. For beginners, it’s a treat to see how wine ages, and the virtues of cellaring.

Go for the history lesson, stay a while for the wine.

LiveWire Adventure Park

High-wires, swinging bridges, and zip-lines. It’s tempting to say ‘Not for those afraid of height’, or ‘Not for the feint-of-heart’. Actually, if that describes you, then LiveWire in Lorne is absolutely for you. It’s super-challenging to face your fear of heights, but oh gosh, the rewards for giving it a go and succeeding are so worth it.

The concept of a high ropes courses is not a new one. You might recall it from school camps, where you climbed a few metres in the air and walked across a wire or took a zip-line flying-fox ride through the trees. What’s new about LiveWire is the sheer scale and audacity of the build. There are three circuits plus a zip-coaster ride. The Canopy circuit is free with your basic entry-fee to the park, and is a series of swing bridges in a loop that takes in the treetops of the famous Otway Forest’s tall timbers, ten metres off the ground. It’s peaceful, and only the sounds of wildlife and of people enjoying other adventures punctuate the sound of the breeze in the leaves.

The Short Circuit and the Super Circuit are designed to challenge you in different and ever-increasing degrees. The Super Circuit is well worth the (mental and physical) effort required for the two hours it takes to complete. There are 53 mid-air trails, bridges, and swings to negotiate. Then there’s the zip-coaster. It’s one of the biggest in the world at 525 metres long, and it’s fun to see different people’s reactions to the hard turns, drops, and the force of gravity. Not as much fun as taking the ride for yourself though!

Standing high in the canopy, safely harnessed with no way of falling any further than your short tie-line, you could take a little time to consider the tiny environmental impact of this remarkable installation, or the bright future for eco-tourism. Honestly though, you’re probably just having the time of your life.

Jones Wines

Mandy Jones is a fifth-generation winemaker. She’s been making wines in her self-described “modernist” style in Rutherglen since she and her brother Arthur took over the business from their uncle in the late 90s.

The history lesson begins as soon as you walk in to the cellar-door building at Jones Wines. The handmade bricks and bark slab roof hint at the legacy carried on by Mandy and her brother.

The wines here are rich in full-fruit flavour, but show balance with acid and tannin. Look for the ‘Correll’, named for their mother. It’s a vermouth-style aperitif, with beautifully fragrant botanicals. We also had a pannacotta made with this drink, which blew our minds.

The restaurant opens for French-style lunches, but also provides picnic hampers for the romantic.