A discovery of the St Andrews village

Words by Della Vreeland

A one hour drive north-east of Melbourne, St Andrews is a small rural township that is characterised by its lush native bushlands and charming village aesthetic.

While its bustling weekly market acts as one of its major drawcards, the town is fast becoming known as an all-around hub of creativity, with a range of boutique businesses showcasing the versatility of talent and wonder inherent within. We give you a glimpse of exactly what this quaint community has to offer travellers with this specially curated itinerary.

The OHO Itinerary of Hurstbridge

A bit of a well-kept secret just outside of Melbourne is the quaint village of Hurstbridge. Most people will only have heard of it as it’s the end of the train line but believe us this small community is bursting with world-class restaurants, diverse shopfronts and heaps of walking and biking trails.

So jump on the train or take the scenic drive out to explore the foodie, art and cultural scene of this vibrant community.

We’ve even made it easy for you to get started with an itinerary of restaurants and storefronts but believe us you will find heaps of delightful places to visit.

To flee the coop: Small producers calling it a day in exchange for family time

Words by Della Vreeland
Images Supplied

Eight years ago, Bruce and Roz Burton transformed their 20-hectare acreage into an operational farm growing award-winning Sommerlad chickens, and occasionally some sheep, cattle and old-fashioned fruit and veggies.

Just as nature intended, slowly and tenderly, the couple spent years finding the best produce with truly unique textures and flavours, and supplying some of Australia’s best chefs and restaurants under the name Milking Yard Farm.

Now, almost a decade later, and following two years of financial difficulties as a result of the health pandemic, the Burtons have made the decision to close up their beloved venture.

‘The business really wasn’t at a sustainable size in its current shape, so what that meant was I couldn’t afford to have enough help to allow me to get off the tills and spend more time running the business. It needed to be bigger,’ Bruce says.

‘Another of the challenges was that supply from the abattoir and boning room was at risk because they’re growing so much they couldn’t really handle us, so we were asked to find somewhere else if we could. That meant we’d have to build our own abattoir or coop and it’s a big investment.

It just wasn’t profitable enough.

According to Bruce, Milking Yard Farm lost all its restaurant revenue overnight once the COVID pandemic hit. ‘That was half the business,’ he recalls. While he says the farm did indeed ‘pivot’ – introducing the Community Sustained Agriculture model, as well as online sales – he says the business would need to expand significantly in order to remain viable.

The closure of small regional businesses is a familiar story in the current climate. The health pandemic, the soaring cost of fuel, the overseas war crisis, and even the interstate floods all have ripple effects when it comes to how businesses are coping. At the end of the day, business owners simply yearn for space to breathe and time to spend with their loved ones.

‘We will keep farming , running sheep and cattle, and growing food and spending more time with our expanding pool of grandchildren,’ Bruce says. ‘We’re looking forward to that.’

The tale’s the same in Healesville, where Yarra Valley Pasta has decided to close up shop after 25 years.

While the providore’s retail offering was consistent during the pandemic, owner Lisa Giffard says it was finally time to focus on her boys, her mum and her dad and diminish some of her stress for her own sake and that of her family.

She says with the rising price of fuel, and with the demand on wheat crops – particularly with the floods and overseas war crisis – now was a tough time to be a food producer.

‘When we opened in 1997 there was nothing in Healesville. You couldn’t get a decent cup of espresso anywhere, so we were new and exciting. Of course [the business] has had lots of different lives, but it was time to reinvent again and in order for the business to thrive, I would need to dig a lot deeper and find a different energy and headspace.’ she says.

‘All those floods in the northern rivers where our wheat comes from, and all the stuff happening in the Ukraine and overseas – the government could quite possibly want to allocate wheat to them and not to us. It’s interesting to see how the events in the world affect a little food producer like me. I know all those stresses coming up that are going to really affect me and ultimately my family.’

Yarra Valley Pasta was integral in cultivating the town’s reputation for artisan produce and global dining, so choosing to close its doors took a lot of courage on Lisa’s part. But she says she’s eager for the next chapter.

‘You have to have the confidence to do it,’ she says. ‘A lot of people are scared, and of course there are financial commitments and I get that.’

25 years is a long time. My time’s up. It’s alright to change and to do something different. When you close one door, another one opens.

For Bruce, he too is maintaining a positive outlook for the future.

‘The way it needs to be for small producers is to have direct relationships with customers,’ Bruce says. ‘Community Sustained Agriculture is the way of the future. It was evidenced in the pandemic. People are now prepared to buy online and have their food delivered to their home while they’re not there and have it sit at their doorstep.’

‘Our other hope is overcoming structural inefficiencies by having shared abattoirs and boning facilities available for multiple facilities because what’s holding our industry back is a lack of access to those facilities.’

‘Our final hope is that the genetics of birds like ours don’t get lost as growers like ours switch off their businesses. Ours was one of three heritage breeds in Australia, and we need to share and propagate the genetics broadly so reach is greater to consumers across the country and more people can experience chicken how it should be.’

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

OHO Markets – Mother’s Day Collection 2022

Celebrate your Mum this year with a unique gift from our regional Victorian makers and producers.

There are heaps of lovely gifts to choose from to show your Mum how much you love her and you’ll also be supporting our regional community at the same time.

Happy Shopping!

Introducing Athletes of Wine new Pet Nat

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

From Melbourne sommelier turned winemaker Liam O’Brien comes this tight, bright, cheery pet nat from the Macedon Ranges. A few years back Liam (Cutler and Co.) and Matt Brooke (Crown) decided to spread their wings and do a crash course in winemaking that saw them immerse themselves into the arcane art and explore every aspect from viticulture to bottle ferment.

We saw ourselves as if we were in training. So we called ourselves the Athletes of Wine.

Matt stepped away 12 months ago but Liam carries on the ethos of spartan winemaking working with Brian Martin at Kilchurn in Romsey.

This week Liam released his latest wine, Vino Atletico NV Macedon Pet Nat. It’s a beautiful expression of cold climate Chardonnay grapes, grown at 560m altitudes in the Macedon Ranges. Low-yield, fully-ripe grapes were hand-picked then whole bunch press and fermented in a tank using Champagne yeast. Whilst still undergoing fermentation the young wine was transferred to bottle for further fermentation in a manner the French refer to as method ancestrale.

The wine was then stored in bottle, on lees, for 7 months. The result is a straw-coloured wine that is more misty than cloudy. The bottle fermentation gives the wine bubbles that are fine, which give way to reveal a clean line of acidity. This marries the fresh green apple aroma and the richness of the living yeast. There’s some soft tannins on the front of the palate and a gentle round richness. One mouthful and this wine is screaming out for a food friend. Think seared scallops and cauliflower puree; a bite of pork belly and roast apple sauce; or gnocchi frito with green olive mortadella.

This is a beautiful example of a pet nat, or petite natural wine. A lot of criticism has been thrown at this style of wine-making as there have been a lot of sloppy Australian versions of this old method of putting bubbles in wine. But here Liam is at the top of his game when it comes to understanding how wine is enjoyed. He has gone out of his way to make a pet nat that suits the palates of a broad range of modern diners, who enjoy their wine in the context of dining, not just quaffing. This is a young, fun wine that will stand up for itself in a serious dining context, whilst not taking itself seriously for one moment. It hits the shelves this week and you can order online direct from $35 per bottle.


THE DETAILS:

WHERE: Online and Woodend Wine Store; Union Wine Bar, Geelong; Winespeake, Daylesford.
WHEN: From April 4
MORE INFO: Athletes of Wine

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Butchers of the Bush

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

Once they were part of the very fabric of every town, village and community. Butchers were as integral to life as the local pub, the church, the footy club. A decline in the consumption of meat and a rise in the number of supermarkets has seen a strong downturn in the number of butchers across regional Victoria. Many, however, continue not only to survive but thrive. We spoke to four around the state to see what is the secret to their meaty success.

Tom McGillivray from G & G McGillivray, Gunbower

When I started I was 15. Now I am 67. Back then, every family in town would have a roast for Sunday lunch. Women, generally, would turn the oven on, put the roast in and go to church with the family. After the service, they would come home to a ready roast.

Lamb was always popular but there would be rolled beef roast as well. This is a cut of beef where the meat from the top of the ribs is rolled around and held together with loops of string. It can be slowly cooked in a pot in the oven, and it is one of the most tender cuts. You don’t see it much anymore but we still do it here. We’re on the Murray downstream from Echuca, right on the edge of Gunbower Island. This is a beautiful part of the country, with lagoons and river red gum forest.

When I was younger there were not the number of takeaways there are now. Today young families will drive the 20 minutes into Echuca to buy McDonald’s, instead of cooking a home-cooked meal. Until a few years ago my cousin Jack had an abattoir down the road. We’d get beef and lamb off cattle and sheep from local farms and it was so much better. More tender and better-tasting because the animals were not as stressed- they didn’t have to spend hours on a cattle truck.

We get a belting from the supermarkets these days – and their specials – like steak for $10 a kg. I can assure you they are not making money out of that! We’re still doing a good trade here because we look after the locals and source really good quality beef. I have a buyer who goes to the markets and selects the best British breed cattle, all grass-fed. I age the carcasses here for a bit and butcher it the way the locals like it. For me the best cut is always rump – it has great flavour, cuts well and is perfect when grilled. We are still known for our sausages which are a mix of pork and beef made to our own recipe which is pretty simple.

G & G McGillivray, Gunbower St, Gunbower,  (03) 5487 1220
Google Map

Scott Reid from Avenel Meats, Avenel

Dad was a butcher on the Queen Mary. He’d load up Aberdeen Angus from Scotland (dad was from Glasgow)  and sail from Southampton to New York feeding the passengers. We came to Australia and dad wanted to semi-retire to this little historic town in 1987.

I worked with him and took over in 1990. It was like two bulls in a paddock, but I learned so much from him. Firstly – you need to have good mince and sausages. I make pork sausages using free-range pork from McIvor Farms in Tooborac. They supply all my fresh pork. I need to have a point of difference from the supermarkets in Nagambie, Seymour and Euroa so I make a lot of my own small goods. From bacon to hams to kabana and smoked chicken. I know my customers; I know how many are in their family and what they had last time so I know how to look after them.

Part of the job is knowing how to cook each cut and being able to pass on simple but effective recipes to the customers. I have learned that to be successful in a small town like this, there are only a 1000 people here, is to keep focused on quality and not try to do too much. Don’t get greedy. I have very strict buying rules for my lamb and beef, and I know how to butcher and age it well. So yes, I do have a strong clientele who swing in off the Hume to buy from me.

Quality and service. It is that simple.

Avenel Meats, 10 Bank St, Avenel

Brandon Lang from Crackling Smallgoods, Warrnambool

I am a smallgoods butcher and charcuterie in the historic centre of Warrnambool. I took over a 160-year-old sandstone building that had been a butcher’s shop for generations and spent the best part of 2019 bringing it up to Primesafe standards (the state meat regulator).

I built a brick smoker, with the help of a local bricklayer, in the back and fired it up with red gum and sugar gum and that is where I smoke my hams et cetera. I opened in December 2019 and quickly developed wholesale with restaurants and cafes buying my hams, terrines, and bacon.

And then COVID hit. I am rebuilding my business now. I started off doing in house butchery in a supermarket in Horsham but realised there was a whole lot of creative technique that could be learned working with pork and lesser loved cuts. I did a lot of self-training and worked with Ralph Finke from Oakwood Smallgoods in Castlemaine.

A lot of my time is spent working with customers getting them to understand that I hand butcher everything, hand brine or salt, smoke everything slowly over real smoke. When they understand the quality of the product and the level of skill needed to achieve that then they have no trouble with the prices we ask. We are not after supermarket customers – we could never compete on price.

We are always offering something new, such as the chicken and thyme terrine and there is always new stock – like our prosciutto moving through the display. We can do bespoke orders like smoked pork bones or whole pork leg on the bone as we did for a wedding recently. There are people from Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula who holiday here, and they are now coming back with their Eskies, filling them up until their next trip. Our customers care about where their pork comes from and how their product is made.

They are the ones we concentrate on.

Crackling Smallgoods 84 Liebig St, Warrnambool 

Andrew Parniak from Butchers on George, Moe

People think of Moe and they say, “that is a depressed area” or “there is a lot of poverty there”, and I go “yeah, but there are an awful lot of fully employed tradies who love their meat”.

I have a love of the American BBQ scene and I have spent a lot of time learning about it. I suppose that through talking to blokes in the shop and going online I have taken people on that journey with me. So now, while other butchers struggle to move their brisket and ribs, I need to order more in, whole boxes each weekend. I also carry rubs, sauces, smoking chips and books on BBQ.

That said, I am also catering to people who don’t have a lot of money but who are willing to spend on quality – my trick is to make products they can’t get in the supermarket – like crumbed pork chops. They look great and we sell them for $24.99 p/kg. Supermarkets can’t package them without looking like a sponge squashed under plastic so they don’t bother.

We also do crumbed lamb cutlets for around $40 p/kg. I saw them in Melbourne for close to $70 p/kg. Our meat is generally 30% cheaper but of higher quality. I am known for my aged beef – which is always local, always grass-fed and always dry-aged. It is really funny here – people will spend $90 per kg on wagyu for a special, they are happy, but I can’t be seen in a community like this to appear expensive. I am known for quality and value. This means people buy a lot of meat from me. And people know that I am just off the Princes Freeway and will make the detour on their way back to Melbourne or heading east to get quality for a bargain.

Butchers on George, 26C George St, Moe

We wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Granite: 12 month cheddar style cheese from Long Paddock

Words by Richard Cornish
Images Supplied

They say patience is its own reward. We have been watching these beautiful big wheels of cheese slowly mature over the past 12 months. Every time we visit Long Paddock Cheese in Castlemaine we have asked, “are they ready yet?”. And now Granite is ready.

Granite is a cheddar style cheese that has been wrapped in cloth and sealed with lard to allow the 8kg cheese wheels to slowly mature. This method also helps the rind develop a complex community of moulds, yeasts and bacteria that help promote the complex flavours within the cheese.

‘A lot of cheesemaking is about the development of micro-organisms’. says French-born cheesemaker Ivan Larcher.

Ivan and his wife and fellow cheesemaker, Julie Larcher, relocated to Castlemaine from Limoges in France two years ago to found Long Paddock Cheese and cheesemaking school. Despite COVID, their cheesemaking school has been a run-away success with classes booking out shortly after opening to sales. Long Paddock cheeses have met with similar acclaim gracing the tables of some of Victoria’s best restaurants and sold through topline cheesemongers, as well as factory sales through the Long Paddock store in the Mill in Castlemaine.

Granite is a triumph of cheesemaking. It is named for the granite that dominates the hills around Castlemaine and refers to the colour and texture of the rind, a stony looking grey. Cheddar cheeses undergo a technique known as cheddaring in which the curds are milled and stretched which leads to the distinct cheddar texture. Granite has a semi-hard, dense yet crumbly interior that is daffodil yellow in colour, and moist and buttery on the tongue. Its flavour is complex with grassy and buttery aromas, a hint of earth, a clean line of acid and long satisfying umami deliciousness.

Grill it, put it in a toasty, serve it in a ploughman’s platter, put it on a cheeseboard or do the English thing and eat it alongside a fruity eccles cake. This is a great iteration of the famous Cheddar cheese that is distinctively its own beautiful creation.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Cloth bound cheddar cheese
WHERE: Available from Maker & Monger, Prahran Market, Ripe Cheese, Queen Victoria Market, K-sein Fromagerie at South Melbourne Market, Harper & Blohm, Brunswick and Alphington, Abbotsford and Bendigo Farmers Markets and Long Paddock, Castlemaine
WHEN: From April 4
MORE INFO: Long Paddock Cheese

We wish to acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

St Huberts reopens as Hubert Estate after multi-million dollar development

Words by Jay Dillon

Locals of the Yarra Valley have been observing the slow rising of the ground from the Maroondah Highway for the last two years. It’s either a giant mole that’s dug its way from the UK or there’s a new cellar door on its way. 

The St Huberts vineyard was established in 1862 by Charles Hubert de Castella, contributing to the first wave of vine planting which began with Yering Station to the west. The estate built a huge reputation for high-quality cabernet wines, particularly in the late 1970s and 1980s. Through these years the estate passed through many hands, most recently; publicly listed winemakers and distributors Treasury Wines Estate.

Around 2016 the vineyard property was sold to entrepreneur Gerry Ryan, who was responsible for the $16 million redevelopment of Mitchelton Wines, Nagambie. Treasury Wines has clearly not been willing to give up the heritage wine label and instead will continue to own the St Huberts brand and rent back the newly developed property, renamed as Hubert Estate, from Gerry Ryan.

‘For visitors, it will be an fantastic proposition, as you go there and do a number of interesting things across the day. Rather than just a tasting at the cellar door’. Explains Tony Layton, Business Manager St Huberts.

The property’s soft launch today (March 31) will focus on the ‘mole mound’ centrepiece building which will house St Huberts Cellar door on the top floor and a wine retail shop called Notes. Here visitors will be able to access over seventy different labels from the Treasury Wines portfolio, as well as the ‘Notes’ brand of wines that targets emerging varietals and unorthodox winemaking techniques. The basement level opens as a gallery space featuring indigenous artists from Victoria and beyond.

Quarters at Hubert Estate restaurant will open on April 8, which is built around a fast-casual and high-quality menu. Expect pizza, pasta, burgers, salads and of course an extensive wine list. As the team finds their sea legs, the restaurant will open for five days for the first month.

It’s a massive investment into the Valley, with a function and event space called ‘Harriet’ and an eighty room hotel slated to be completed by the end of the year. There are other food and wine offerings to be added in the future, in addition to a high-end day spa.

Hubert Estate is shaping up to be a centrepiece of the Yarra Valley’s ‘golden triangle’, bringing something new whilst paying respects to the heritage of the site. One imagines Charles Hubert de Castella would approve.


THE DETAILS

WHAT: Hubert Estate
WHEN: Cellar door, retail store and gallery open today March 31. Quarters at Hubert Estate restaurant will open on April 8.
WHERE:3 St Huberts Rd, Coldstream
MORE INFO: Hubert Estate

We wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Introducing exceptional salami from Colin and Sally’s Organic Farm

Words by Richard Cornish 
Images Supplied

Out in the green rolling hills at Dollar, between Mirboo North in the Strzelecki Ranges and Foster in South Gippsland, is a farm where Sally Ruljancich and Colin Trudgen raise their Angus cattle and Wiltshire Horn / Poll Dorset cross sheep.

They have been instrumental in the direct-from-farm movement in that part of the world for over a decade and are known for the exceptionally flavoursome lamb and beef. Ethics are essential to their operation from caring for country, soil regeneration, flock and herd health, and community care.

“In some farming models breeding cows and ewes are bred into the ground,” says Sally.

They are not cared for. All our animals are looked after throughout their life. Traditionally, old breeders are in bad conditions and sent to the market where there is not much return.

But because Colin and Sally look after their ‘girls’ so well, they are in such good condition when they are no longer able to breed that they still have high-value meat. “And I had always wanted to make small goods,” says Sally.

This is where champion salume maker Robbie De Palma comes in. The 7th generation Sydney small goods maker is a perfectionist. “He made it clear he would not take any trim,” says Sally. “He told us that salami is not a dumping ground for old, cheap meat,” she says. Colin and Sally sent their best rump and topside to the Padstow-based De Palma. “Beef is quite lean, so we also sent up back fat from the pigs raised by our friends at Amber Creek Farm,” says Sally.

Robbie De Palma is a traditionalist and uses the bare minimum of ingredients to make the salami. The meat is ground, mixed with fermenting culture, salt and pepper, then stuffed into natural skins. The salami is allowed to ferment at a reasonably warm temperature until the lactic acid bacteria produce enough acid to stop the bad bugs from getting hold. The salami is then slowly air-dried for weeks, preserving the salami.

The result is a great-tasting salami where the beef does the talking with a lovely hit of salt, a rich mushroom note from the naturally occurring beneficial mould on the outside, and a clean lactic acid tang. Slice fine and enjoy with crusty bread and a glass of wine from Dirty Three or Waratah Hills in South Gippsland. The salami is joined by beef bresaola (sold out) and in three months’ time, lamb culatello – salted and air-dried muscles from the hind leg.


THE DETAILS
WHAT: Exceptionally good salami from South Gippsland
WHERE: Online from Prom Coast Food Collective, or instore at Stella’s Pantry and Leongatha Health Food
WHEN: Now and June 22 for the culatello
MORE INFO: colinandsallys.com.au

We wish to acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.

Healesville says farewell to Yarra Valley Pasta after 25 years

Words by Teyha Nicholls
Images Supplied

They say all good things must come to an end, and the same is true for one of Healesville’s most iconic and longstanding providores, Yarra Valley Pasta.

It’s the end of an era for fans of artisan, hand-made pasta, both in the Yarra Valley and beyond. After 25 years in business, owner Lisa Giffard says her choice to close the doors is led by her heart.

 

“It’s time for me to focus on my family. I’m going to just enjoy my boys, not rush around, and spend more time with my mum and dad,” she explains.

The providore was well known for its traditional Italian fare, praised by locals and critics alike for its authentic flavours, passed down from Lisa’s mother, Maria Colaneri, and their ancestors in the Molise region of Italy.

Throughout the pandemic and afterwards, the business continued to trade consistently with support from locals. Their pasta and sauces could be found in shopfronts across the state, while plenty of home-delivery services approached Lisa for partnerships.

“Covid was actually very good for our business. There was that really big push towards supporting local. I think people were finding empty shelves at Coles while the little guy down the road was still employing people, so our retail side went gangbusters, but our restaurant obviously took a big hit.”

But between running the business, keeping staff employed during the lockdowns, homeschooling her children and caring for her ageing parents, Lisa found herself — very understandably — exhausted. As any business owner will know, staying open requires innovation, and innovation requires energy.

“When we opened in 1997 there was nothing in Healesville. You couldn’t get a decent cup of espresso anywhere, so we were new and exciting. Of course [the business] has had lots of different lives, but it was time to reinvent again and in order for the business to thrive, I would need to dig a lot deeper and find a different energy and headspace.”

The future for Lisa looks like more time spent with family and recharging the batteries for business ventures to come.

Yarra Valley Pasta has been integral in cultivating Yarra Valley’s reputation for artisan produce and excellent global dining. While their closure is a loss for the region, theirs is a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.


THE DETAILS:
WHAT: Yarra Valley Pasta closure
WHERE: Healesville, Yarra Valley
WHEN: March 2022
MORE INFO: Yarra Valley Pasta

We wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.