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Competition Heats Up For 2005 Regional Cuisine Cook-Offs
Paul Stoddart, Steve Gudzinski, Brad Clark and Ramon Whitton 26th February 2005: A raft of hot new talent will ensure Steve Gudzinski faces tough competition when he tries to sweep all three categories of the PCA South Burnett Regional Cuisine Cook-Offs on March 12th. The competition pits all of the region's best chefs against each other at the Kingaroy's annual Tarong Mine Wine and Food in the Park Festival in Kingaroy. Gudzinski is Head Chef at the Burke and Wills' Explorers Restaurant and has taken the Grand Champion title for the past two years. He's now determined to win the other categories (Best Food and Wine Match and Best Use of Peanut Products) but it's a tough task. The region has attracted talented chefs in the past year and a record field will be contesting the 2005 event. "I want to take all the titles in the competition but I'm having fun," Gudzinski said. "It's more about having an expression session. I've got nothing to lose so this year I'm upping the ante and going all out to impress." But Brad Clark, owner and head chef of the Bell Tower Restaurant plans to make an even greater impression on the judges. Clark moved to the South Burnett last July and is a former Sous Chef of the Gold Coast Marriott and Hayman Island Resort. Early in his career he represented Australia in competition at Singapore for the world's Hyatt chefs and was a member of the third placed team. He's been in many competitions since and is determined to give Gudzinski a tough fight. "But I'm also looking to have fun," he said, "and I see it more as a way to help educate people about how much talent and great produce we have here in the South Burnett." Ten other chefs will be competing including Paul Stoddart from Burning Beats, Larry McPaul from Cider Gum in the Bunya Mountains, Ramon Whitton from Stuart Range and Peter Eaton from Captains Paddock, amongst many others. Bob Hansen, the General Manager of the PCA, said he was proud to sponsor the competition because it gave the South Burnett "a real boost". "The South Burnett is becoming a major player in the Queensland tourism industry and we want to help it along." he said. "There's so much to see and do and the food, wine and produce we provide in this area is brilliant. The competition also allows the cooks to showcase all the great things you can use peanuts for." Photo: (l to r) Paul Stoddart, Steve Gudzinski, Brad Clarke and Ramon Whitton preparing for the 2005 PCA Regional Cuisine Cook-Offs.
Wine Liquor Law Reforms In The Pipeline?
Minister for Wine Margaret Keech 23rd February 2005: With no disrespect to our State's legislators or any of the people who have to enforce the law, Queensland's current liquor laws - particularly the way they apply to wine - could do with a little sensible reform. Here's a case in point: Tipperary Estate opened their new cellar door at Moffatdale in November last year. The cellar door fronts a picturesque vineyard planted by owners Craig and Pauline Gillett. But because their vines won't start producing good quality grapes for a few years yet, right now Craig and Pauline buy in grapes from other South Burnett vineyards and then get our wineries to brew them up under direction. They're both very committed members of our region's wine industry (Craig is president of the South Burnett Wine Industry Association and Pauline has been studying winemaking at university for years) and they're both very good at what they do. So good, in fact, that when they entered the Queensland Wine Awards for the first time last year they walked off with a bronze medal for their Tipperary Estate Shiraz. But if you visit the Wine & Food In The Park Festival this year you won't be able to try it. In fact, you won't be able to try this brilliant little red anywhere except their Moffatdale premises. Why? Because under our State's current liquor laws the only wines that can be sold at events like Wine & Food In The Park are wines that fall under the two types of licences that currently prevail in this area - and Tipperary Estate's situation falls right through the cracks of this arcane licensing system. I can't see any good reason for this and apparently neither can Minister for Wine Margaret Keech, who's currently looking at a number of reforms to Queensland's liquor laws. Minister Keech has been taking advice from the State's wine industry and they're hoping she'll be tabling some much-needed reforms a little later this year. Like the Minister's investment in this region's wine industry development since her appointment almost year ago, I'll be keeping you posted on developments. Photo: Queensland Wine Minister Margaret Keech
2005 Vintage Quickly Drawing To A Close
Harvesting Chambourcin at Kingsley Grove 20th February 2005: The South Burnett's 2005 vintage is rapidly drawing to a close and many of our smaller vineyards will be finishing up their harvests over the next few weeks. As I reported last month (see story 31st January 2005), this year has been a particularly bumper crop. Nearly all the local grape growers I've spoken to have reported better than average yields and probably the best quality fruit they've grown to date. Over the weekend I got to see some of this myself when I spent a couple of days at the Kingsley Grove Winery getting a little hands-on experience. Owners Mike and Pat Berry showed me through process of picking and crushing 3.5 tonnes cabernet sauvignon and 3.2 tonnes of chambourcin. The whole process was astoundingly quick with the berries being harvested, transported up to the winery, crushed and vatted within 3 hours. Mike tells me that his state-of-the-art winery was specifically designed for a fresh crush. "I wanted to build a facility that reduced the kind of delays which result in fruit degradation", Mike told me. "Fruit degradation is a common experience amongst wineries that purchase and transport most of their fruit from other locations," he said, "and the end result is nearly always inferior wine". Like most other local wineries, Mike expects the last of his shiraz, merlot and sangiovese to be in the fermentation vats within the next fortnight. And with bang-on sugar and ph levels in their grapes, the Grove is anticipating some spectacular wines to come out of the 2005 vintage. The first of these will be a 2005 verdelho they're expecting to unveil a couple of months from now. Photo: Harvesting Kingsley Grove's chambourcin grapes.
South Burnett Hosts Nationally Recognised Olive Oil Course
17th February 2005: One of the things that makes the South Burnett a unique Queensland wine region is that we also happen to be an olive-growing region (something I don't think any of the other wine areas in the State can lay claim to). And I'm pleased to report that our local olive growers are getting more professional about their business with every passing year. Last weekend, for instance, the South Burnett played host to the Australian Olive Association (AOA) when they conducted an olive oil tasting and blending course in Kingaroy. Three half-day modules were led by Margaret Kirkby from Northern NSW, a member of the internationally-accredited AOA's Organoleptic Panel. The first day of the course introduced local producers to the techniques required to assess olive oil quality and to identify faults like rancidity, mustiness, fustiness and muddiness. Each participant was presented with five oil samples for tasting and the session was followed by a simple introduction to olive oil chemistry. Queensland AOA representative Dan Burnet of Goomeri's Spring Gully Olives told me that in order to produce olive oils for the marketplace it's often necessary to blend oils from different cultivars. "So the remainder of Saturday was devoted to the art of blending and we were required to blend a selection of four oils to meet a certain specification", Dan said. On the second day, attendees learnt the art of judging oils for a competition and awarded marks to the oils entered. "Queensland presently has no members on the Organoleptic Panel and only one Associate Judge," Dan told me, "but as a result of the course two participants offered themselves as volunteers for the role of Associate Judges at future olive oil shows". The weekend was considered extremely valuable and I hear all participants returned to their groves feeling much wiser and better able to supply the market with quality oil.
Feijoa Field Day At Lower Wonga On Saturday 5th March
14th February 2005: Readers with a long memory will recall that back in April 2003 I broke the story that Australia's biggest feijoa plantation was under construction at Kilkivan (or to be more precise, Lower Wonga). Feijoa fruit isn't very well-known in Australia at the present time but it's hugely popular in New Zealand. And - as it turns out - it grows very well in the South Burnett! The Casey family have been quietly putting their Feijoa Australia plantation together for several years now. And on March 5th they're going to be holding their first ever Field Day so that any other producers interested in looking more closely at this fascinating fruit can do so. Field Day attendees will be able to take a good look over the plantation; hear details about the industry's prospects from local and overseas experts; get first hand information about the industry's entry costs and returns; hear more about a processing plant the Casey's intend to establish on their property a little later this year; and register for supply of the first available feijoa grafted seedlings (there are lots of different feijoa varieties, so you need to get the right seedlings if you want to achieve particular outcomes). Judging by the way the plantation has come along since I first saw it almost two years ago feijoa fruit could well become another of our region's exciting new niche food industries. The ones that deliver up better returns than the staple commodity crops so many farms used to raise. This Field Day won't be for everyone but it could well be very interesting for some of you. It'll be held at 243 Harvey Road in Lower Wonga from 10:00am onwards. You can get more information from the farm's web site or by phoning (07) 5486-1280. You can also pick up a press release about it in PDF format by clicking here.
Something New: Coffee With Sylvia!
Sylvia Parsons11th February 2005: Kingaroy TAFE Hospitality Teacher Sylvia Parsons has just launched a fantastic new South Burnett enterprise. Coffee With Sylvia is a mobile coffee shop that serves up beverages like cappuccinos, flat whites and lattés to anyone with a craving for caffeine (and isn't that most of us?). Hot chocolate and speciality teas are available, along with cakes, pastries and sandwiches. Sylvia became passionate about starting the business when a similar mobile coffee van had a successful but very short-lived career in Kingaroy's O'Neil Square about a year ago. Everybody she spoke to, she told me, said it was a shame that the coffee van didn't stay around for long. "They made a great coffee and it was so relaxing to sit in the fresh air on a Saturday morning sipping espresso", she said. But that was all the inspiration Sylvia needed! Over the last six months she's constructed a purpose-built trailer from scratch, and if you want to try it out it's currently located next to Andersson's Fruit Mart in Markwell Street, Kingaroy every day. The van will also be making appearances at the Yarraman Boutique Markets (see story below) and the upcoming Tarong Mine Wine and Food in the Park Festival on March 12th. Coffee By Sylvia can also booked to serve up percolated delights at other local festivals and events by phoning (07) 4162-7167.
Yarraman Boutique Markets Open This Saturday
Roger Smith on the site of the new Yarraman Boutique Markets8th February 2005: I've often wondered when the South Burnett would have a regular farmers-style market. Farmers markets have become hugely popular in both major cities and rural areas throughout Australia as consumers look for alternatives to hectic supermarkets and mass-produced (often unhealthy) food. Our region has an embarrassment of culinary riches with a wide array of boutique and niche foods. So I was very excited to hear that the beautiful South Burnett town of Yarraman is going to open just such a market on Saturday 12th February 2005. The new Boutique Markets will be located at the intersection of the D'Aguilar and New England Highways. This prime corner once had a hotel on it, but it's now been fully cleared in anticipation of the markets' commencement. Well in excess of 10 000 cars pass by this location daily. The new markets will showcase the finest boutique products and services that our region has to offer including foods, wines, coffees, organics and fresh produce. There'll also be live entertainment and a few surprises as well. Boutique Markets owner Roger Smith tells me that for both the selection and maintenance of the markets, he's put strict quality controls into place to help ensure that these markets are quite different from any of the others that currently operate in the region. The Boutique Markets will be held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from the 12th onwards - and you can find out more about them on their web site. Photo: Roger Smith on the site of the new Yarraman Boutique Markets
Alistair McLeod and Nick Bray To Judge 2005 Cook-Off
Jason Ford, Nick Bray and Alastair McLeod5th February 2005: The 2005 Tarong Mine Wine & Food In The Park Festival is going to be held at Memorial Park in Kingaroy on Saturday 12th March - a little over 5 weeks away - and the third annual PCA South Burnett Regional Cuisine Culinary Competition is going to be held there the same day too. So I'm overjoyed to announce that this year Queensland’s best known chef Alastair McLeod and Courier-Mail Good Life writer and well-known food critic Nick Bray will be the special guest judges who'll be joining me on the podium when we put our region's top chefs through their paces. Alastair is the Executive Chef at Brett's Wharf in Brisbane (one of Australia's best restaurants) and is recognised as "the master of fine inventive cuisine". Nick Bray, meanwhile, has built up a solid reputation as a food critic and connoisseur through his work on the Courier-Mail's Good Life. Nick has also reviewed the South Burnett twice in the past three months and believes the region could become a premier destination for tourists providing we keep growing our wine and food industries the way we have over the last 4 years. This year's competition looks like being the best yet, BTW. A number of very promising newcomers will be making their debut in the cook-off against some more seasoned hands and in addition to the honour of taking out the top gong we have an expanded range of prizes too. Once again, the Peanut Company of Australia are providing the means to do it - and judging by crowds who attended last year's event I think we're in for a great day indeed! Mark this one in your calendar. Photo (left to right): Jason Ford, Nick Bray and Alastair McLeod discussing the format for this year's PCA South Burnett Regional Cuisine Culinary Competition
New Owners For Crane Wines
Judy and Bernie Cooper2nd February 2005: Over the summer break a number of people told me that the South Burnett's pioneering winemaker John Crane had sold his flagship Crane Wines cellar door and winery at Booie. Today I can report that these rumours are 100% true. The successful business has been purchased by Judy and Bernie Cooper (see photo at right) - and what a fascinating and pleasant couple they are! Bernie is a highly qualified scientist who (until recently) worked as International Marketing Manager for Agenix, a biotech company that develops new technology for the pathology industry. Wife Judy, meanwhile, worked for Queensland Medical Laboratories as a medical laboratory technician for 25 years. Why did they buy Cranes? Bernie and Judy told me that it was because they'd begun to seriously question the direction of their lives. "We were looking for a change and I didn't think I was going to enjoy the last decade or so of my working life doing what I was doing," Bernie said. "We'd both simply grown out of the mad corporate scramble." They'd both been contemplating life in the country for some time and Cranes just happened to present itself. "It had an enormous reputation and we believed we could maintain its success and build on it to make it what we want it to be", they said. Bernie and Judy also told me that they found the South Burnett a delightful surprise too! But because they arrived mid-vintage, they haven't really had a moment to themselves since they took the helm. "John and Sue Crane have been a tremendous support to us and they'll continue to be involved in a consultant and supporting role for some time,"' Bernie said. "So you can expect to see John about the place for some time yet!"
South Burnett Heading For A Bumper 2005 Vintage
31st January 2005: Hello everyone! South Burnett Cuisine is returning to life today after our traditional 5-week summer break. As is the case every year, we're doing it smack bang in the middle of vintage - and what a bumper harvest the 2005 crop looks like it's going to be! Thanks to cooler weather early this summer, many of our growers began pulling down the first white grapes in the second week of January (roughly 10 days earlier than they usually do). And providing we don't get too much more rain or the devastating hail storms that turned almost 600 tonnes of grapes into landfill last year, the harvesting process will continue right through to March when the last of the red grapes go to the wineries. As South Burnett Online reported in their daily news a few weeks ago, the early forecasts for the 2005 vintage are quite astonishing. Clovely Estates alone expect to harvest about 2,000+ tonnes from their Moffatdale vineyards (which is 150 tonnes more than the State's entire grape harvest in 2003). And all the other growers I've spoken to are expecting big increases as well. Even more importantly, the quality of our region's grapes is continuing to improve with each succeeding harvest. This means that many of the wines that are likely to emerge from the 2005 juice will be absolute corkers. Of course, we're unlikely to see most of the reds that will be brewed from this year's vintage until 2006 and 2007. But one thing we can all look forward to this year is the release of some of the very best 2003 reds which will be starting making their appearance towards the middle of the year. 2003 was a hot, dry vintage that was pretty well perfect for driving up baume (ie sugar). The early 2003 reds that have been released to date have already picked up a bushel of medals. But the real supremos are the ones that have been tanked even longer. And those are the ones we'll all be getting to try in 2005!

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