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Next Asian Banquet In Kingaroy: Saturday 21st August
31st July 2004: I've had cause to write about Kingaroy's Burning Beats Cafe several times in this column. This isn't because I'm related to owners Paul Stoddart and Kerry Cotter but simply because they seem to be doing more to push the envelope than any other restaurant in our area at the present time. Unlike some establishments (no names named!) who've had the same menu since Noah built his ark, Burning Beats change at least a few items on their menu every week. They also run cooking schools from time to time where you can learn how to prepare Indian and Asian foods just the way they do. They operate a little deli on the side where you can get the hard-to-find ingredients they use in their recipes. They run an opt-in email list where you can get each week's menu mailed to your in-box as soon as it's prepared (handy if you want to order take-aways!). And every month they run a Banquet Night or when the weather gets warmer, a music afternoon in their rear courtyard. With so much interaction with their customers - coupled with a consistency that's hard to fault - it's not difficult to understand why this little hole-in-the-wall cafe has grown so steadily over the last two years. It's also easy to see why it's one of only three restaurants in our region to win a top rating in the Good Life Restaurant Guide. So if you're a fan of the Beats you'll be pleased to know that after an initial trial in June, they'll be running another Asian Banquet on Saturday 21st August. For $35 per head (BYO) you can tuck into 11 prepared courses and eat as much as you want. Burning Beats are also running a Thai Cooking Class on the 24th August but if you're reading this you're already too late: the class was booked out within days of it being announced. If you want to find out when the next one is and/or go onto the Beats' mailing list, phone the Cafe on (07) 4162-3932 or email them.
Kingaroy Big W Annual Charity Fundraising Dinner Is On Again!
Big W28th July 2004: Readers of this web site may recall a story this time last year about Big W's special fundraising dinner and charity auction to help newborns in the South Burnett. The 2003 Big W dinner raised $7000 and helped buy a humidicrib oxygen regulator for Kingaroy Hospital. Well if you enjoyed that function or were disappointed if you missed out, I'm happy to report that it's on again! Right now the generous folk at Kingaroy's Big W retail store are hard at work planning the next dinner which will be held on Saturday night, September 4th at Kingaroy Town Hall. For the second year in a row Nanango's Copper Country Restaurant will provide the catering - this time however, the restaurant's new owner Frans Staats will be at the helm. And if the food served at Copper Country is anything to go by, the Big W function will be a bit of a gastronomic extravaganza. An alternate drop menu of Baked Fillet of Barramundi or Grilled Tenderloin of Beef will be served-up for mains, followed by a selection of mouth-watering desserts like traditional Apple Strudel, Banana Bread and Butter Pudding and Apricot Crème Brulee - YUM! Event organiser Darhnell Bywaters told me that Big W supports major children's hospitals nationally and in rural areas they try particularly hard to support the community at a local level. That's why the children's ward at Kingaroy Hospital are going to be this year's beneficiaries too. Tickets to the dinner are on sale right now for $35.00 (that's a steal!) and they can be purchased be phoning Darhnell on (07) 4162-3935.
Pub Grub: The Quiet Revolution
25th July 2004: Over the last 18 months there's been a quiet revolution going on in our region's hotel industry. Without much fanfare, several of our hotels (such as the Kingaroy Hotel, Carrollee Hotel and Club Hotel in Kingaroy; the Royal Hotel in Murgon; the Tingoora Hotel at Tingoora; Yarraman's Royal Hotel and Nanango's Palace Hotel) have either reopened their dining rooms as serious eating enterprises or poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into refurbishments that just happen to include greatly expanded and improved eating areas. Hotels were once centres of social life in rural areas - often the only centres of social life - but this concept slipped went out of vogue several decades ago and their focus narrowed to liquor and gambling. Now, thanks in part to strict drink-driving laws and in part to a new breed of hoteliers keen to plug into trends already so evident in the cities, we're starting to see the concept of a hotel as an "all-in-one" family entertainment area return to our region. To their credit, a number of our hoteliers are doing quite an excellent job of bringing good quality eateries under their roof. I've already written about the Red Earth Restaurant at the Kingaroy Hotel and hope to write about several of our other hotel eateries in the future. In the meantime - if you've not considered pub grub as "real food" - I can only suggest it may be worth taking a peek at these new eateries at some time in the future. If your concept of hotel food is tough steak and greasy chips, I think you may be pleasantly surprised!
New Operators At The Bell Tower Restaurant
Brad and Megan Clark22nd July 2004: It may have come as a shock to many South Burnett locals to find the doors shut at the Bell Tower Restaurant since last Sunday. But I can assure all of the restaurant's loyal fans that this is only temporary. As of Saturday 31st July the doors will re-open with a change of management, an exciting new menu and a re-vamped premises. The restaurant is now under lease to the restaurateur team of Brad and Megan Clark (pictured at right) and they're bringing a wealth of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry with them. I recently met with the duo and was quite staggered by their work history. Brad is coming to the Bell Tower fresh from the Marriott Hotel chain were he was Sous Chef at their luxurious Gold Coast resort. He's also cooked in wide range establishments from Hayman Island to the ski slopes of New South Wales. Megan (originally from the South Burnett) has an equally impressive CV and has worked in luxury resorts and hotels throughout Australia. What can you expect at the new Bell Tower? Brad said "Our new all-day café menu and the a-la-carte dinner menu will make good use of our region's abundant quality produce. You can also expect to see South Burnett wines having a strong presence on our wine list". They apologised for any inconvenience caused by the brief closure but said they were looking forward to meeting all their patrons when the doors swing open again next week. The Bell Tower Restaurant is located at the corner of Shellbachs and Haydens Road at Booie (just outside Kingaroy). Bookings can be made by phoning (07) 4162-7000 or via email.
Barrels To Breakers Goes Off Like A Rocket!
Kate McGhie and Jason Ford

Photo above: I met famous food writer Kate McGhie at Dusty Hill on Friday night. By pure coincidence, Kate was one of the judges who awarded gold to Kingaroy Cheese at the Australian Specialist Cheesemaker Awards in Melbourne recently. She took the opportunity to visit the factory in person while she was here!

Peter Howard and friends


19th July 2004: On Friday night - like a number of other people - I attended the launch of the South Burnett Wine Industry Association's inaugural Barrels to Breakers promotion at Dusty Hill. The function was the prelude to the gala official launch of our region's new season wines at Noosa's Relish Restaurant on Saturday (see story 4th July) and for a first-up event I must say it went very well indeed!

Eight highly respected food and wine journalists from various media outlets were taken on whirlwind tour of several South Burnett cellar doors and wineries before they attended the Dusty Hill dinner where I took the opportunity to speak to most of them.

The general consensus around the journalist's table was very encouraging. Many of those who came up for the promotion had never even heard of our region before, much less set foot in it, and they were astonished at the beauty and charm of what we do here. Many of the night's guests attended the follow-up breakfast at Bridgeman Downs Cellars the following morning before making their way to Noosa, where a crowd of 60 people wined and dined until the small hours of the morning.

Although I was unable to attend the Saturday function myself, those who did told me that the food was superb; the wines were demolished in short order; and compere Peter Howard did a wonderful job keeping everything running smoothly. I think everyone involved in Barrels to Breakers should be applauded for a really outstanding effort. And if you start to see South Burnett stories erupt in the capital city broadsheets and glossy travel, food and wine magazines over the next few months you'll know where it's come from.

Photo at bottom right: Peter Howard and friends cutting loose at Saturday night's Barrels to Breakers dinner at Noosa's Relish Restaurant. A righteous good time was had by all, I hear...


A Cellar Door's Best Friend...
Maryanne Pidcock and Merlot the wine dog16th July 2004: If you've been to Captains Paddock Vineyard and Cafe at Booie in the last year you've probably already met Merlot. She's the fifteen-month-old Red Kelpie-cross (and resident pup) at the cellar door. Merlot was born on Valentine's Day 2003 and has has entertained thousands of tourist and locals alike with her wonderfully good-natured antics ever since. Now it looks like she could even become a national celebrity when the second edition of the best selling book Wine Dogs is published around Christmas this year. Wine Dogs is a unique 144-page full colour book about the dogs that are so often part of Australia's rural wineries. Merlot's owners Maryanne Pidcock (pictured at right with Merlot) and Peter Eaton recently had a photo shoot for the book's publishers. So Merlot seems set to become Queensland's first official wine dog in a few months. Last weekend I went to Captains Paddock with my wife's family. There were six young children in our party and Merlot was hard at work keeping the kids occupied right through our visit. This happy puppy enthusiastically welcomed us in the car park and her energy seemed infinite as she chased her favourite torn-up ball around the lawns and amused the children. This allowed the adults to relax and take in the scenery while we enjoyed the cellar door's café menu and award winning wines (including a drop of the Paddock's own bottled merlot and - wait for it! - Merlo coffee from Brisbane). When I read through the Paddock's visitor's book I wasn't all that surprised to find that Merlot was praised just as often as the owners. Dogs of Australian vineyards stand up on all fours and rejoice… maybe its time for a pay rise?
Kingaroy Cheese Wins Golds In Melbourne
Chris Ganzer and Kingaroy Cheese products13th July 2004: Kingaroy Cheese added to its impressive tally of medals over the weekend by walking away with golds for its Brie and Camembert at the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers Awards. The awards were held at Melbourne's Sofitel and attracted a highly competitive 280 entries from all over Australia. In the white-moulded cheese category, more than 50 "name" entrants faced the scrutiny of some of Australia's most renowned cheese judges and the competition really couldn't have been any tougher. In fact only two other white mould cheeses won gold at this year's event: King Island's Black Label Triple Cream Brie and Milawa Goats Camembert. Kingaroy Cheese's master cheesemaker Christopher Ganzer (pictured at right with some of the company's products) said he was overwhelmed with excitement at the latest gongs. "I can't believe we won a gold medal at such an important event. The white mould category is so busy. You simply couldn't ask for a better result for a little company like ours. Most of our product is used in Queensland restaurants and they're very demanding of high quality, so an award like this helps confirm that Queensland really is starting to lead the way in producing great food". The cheese factory is based at the Stuart Range winery in Kingaroy and tastings of their great cheeses are available at the cellar door. You can also order Kingaroy Cheese by phoning them direct on (07) 4162 5990.
Stop Press: How To Celebrate Barrels To Breakers In The South Burnett
10th July 2004: Readers who've been following my column this last month know that the South Burnett Wine Industry Association had originally planned to hold a two-ended Barrels to Breakers promotion this year: a gala function in the South Burnett for locals and the big degustation dinner at Noosa for non-locals (see story 4th July). The South Burnett end, unfortunately, fell over when the Kingaroy Rotary Club found they were unable to organise a Vintage Wine Dinner in time (see story 11th June). And that seemed to be that. But at the SBWIA's most recent meeting on Thursday night it was decided that this simply wasn't good enough. So I'm pleased to announce - admittedly, at short notice - that there are now two South Burnett functions you can take advantage of if you want to join in the fun. The first will be an informal $25 per head dinner at the Dusty Hill Vineyard in Moffatdale this coming Friday night 16th July at 7:00pm. You can get to enjoy the Hill's legendary hospitality and all the wine you can drink for the price. The second is a slap-up $15 breakfast at Bridgeman Downs Cellars in Moffatdale this coming Saturday morning 17th July at 9:00am. Again, it's a great value affair and - like the dinner at the Hill - is open to anyone with an interest in our region's great wines and foods. Attendees at either function will also be getting to rub shoulders with many of the renowned wine and food journalists who are coming to the region to cover Barrels to Breakers. And if you're a die-hard foodie this could be reward enough! To get into either event you'll need to book and be pretty sharp about it, though: Dusty Hill for the dinner on (07) 4168-4700 or Bridgeman Downs for the breakfast on (07) 4168-4784.
SBWIA Creating A South Burnett Wine Industry Code Of Conduct
Uncork The Magic - South Burnett7th July 2004: In addition to the inaugural Barrels to Breakers promotion (see story below), the South Burnett Wine Industry Association is about to reach another milestone in its development. Right now the SBWIA is circulating a draft Code Of Conduct to all its wine industry members. When adopted, the Code will regulate not only how the industry will conduct itself with the general public but also how industry operators will work together as a united group to promote South Burnett wines (and the South Burnett region) as a tourist destination. The Code stipulates that the SBWIA and all its members will use our new regional logo on every bit of media they produce; that the group will work in tandem with the South Burnett Tourism Association and the Fraser Coast-South Burnett Regional Tourism Board on promotion and development; and that the industry will work in closely with local accommodation, hospitality and tour operators to help spread the benefits of wine tourism as far as possible through our communities. All the big wineries have already signed up and the Code is expected to get virtually universal agreement this week. Why is this news? Because I think it marks the smartest and most progressive thinking the SBWIA has come up with yet. The simple fact is that the South Burnett wine industry isn't in competition with itself: it's in competition with every other wine region in Australia. So the SBWIA is turning its back on pointless internal competition and going for gung-ho co-operation instead. Our savvier tourist operators came to the same view several years ago. And the year-on-year growth of our local tourism industry is hard proof that this approach generates real results. This s an initiative that deserves to be applauded and supported.
The Noosa Degustation Dinner: 6 Courses, $65..... Fabulous!
4th July 2004: Regular readers of my site will probably be aware that the South Burnett Wine Industry Association's inaugural Barrels to Breakers promotion is going to be held at the Relish Restaurant in Noosa on Saturday 17th July. The purpose of Barrels to Breakers is to showcase just how wonderful our region's wines actually are - to capital city and national journalists, foodies and the general public. And the way the SBWIA have chosen to do it is to hold a lavish 6-course degustation dinner at a top Noosa restaurant where South Burnett wines will be matched with individual courses that highlight regional produce. The reasoning behind holding the event in Noosa is twofold. Firstly, the capital city media tend to pay more attention to stories that have a Noosa tagline. And secondly, to highlight just how close the South Burnett actually is to the Sunshine Coast. The evening will kick off with tastings of all the region's wines and guests will be free to talk with the winemakers about any or all of them. This will be followed by the dinner at 7:00pm which will be hosted by famous foodie Peter Howard. Today I received a copy of the menu planned for the evening and it looks mouthwatering! I've made a quick PDF of it that you can view here. While I realise that Noosa may be just a tad too far for some people to drive to - especially considering the state they're likely to be in by the time the dinner is over - I can thoroughly recommend this event to anyone who's planning a weekend away. Providing you're quick, you can book tickets to the $65 per head dinner by phoning Noosa Springs on (07) 5440-3333. I've also been told that Australis Noosa Lakes Resort are offering special Barrels to Breakers accommodation packages for the weekend. You can find out more about these by giving them a call on (07) 5447-1400.
South Burnett Winter Dessert Round-Up
1st July 2004: July is the heart of Winter and the big chill is well and truly upon us. It's the time of year when restaurants all around our region start to throw on Christmas In July functions and/or whip out the big guns on their dessert menus to tempt diners out into the cold. What can you find on regional dessert trays right now? Here's a quick overview:
  • Burning Beats BYO Café are offering a delicious Steamed Fig Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Whipped Cream
  • The Left Bank in Kilkivan are satisfying their frostbitten customers with a traditional Bread and Butter Pudding, Warm Vanilla Custard and Cream from Kingaroy Cheese.
  • Nanango's Copper Country Restaurant are serving up a trendy Chocolate Fondue made of melted Toblerone and accompanied by seasonal fruit dippers.
  • Explorers Restaurant at Kingaroy's Burke and Wills Motor Inn are offering Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce and Crème Fraiche. And for Cuisine readers, Steve Gudzinski has whipped out another special item: Warm Chocolate Tart with Raspberry Caramel Sauce and Kingaroy Cheese Cream.
  • Various other establishments are also dishing up another old Aussie favourite: Hot Plum Pudding and Custard (I don't think it should ever be taken off the menu!).

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