A word from Desi…Eating her way through The Granite Belt (Stanthorpe) – food, wine and exercise!
For foodies like me, Stanthorpe is a local retreat for relaxation, warm atmosphere, good wine and good food. The granite belt is 800-940 metres above sea level. This elevation produces a cooler summer climate which makes it the wine capital of Queensland. The winter cold and frost boosts the performance of apples and stone fruit trees. As always, I research ahead of time the best food places, attractions and wineries I wish to visit. I then plan out the days adventure around this. My children joined me on this occasion to Stanthorpe.
Stanthorpe is a 2.5 – 3 hr drive from Brisbane. So stock up on water and some snacks for the journey. Be mindful on what you bring into the car and make sure you have a full tank before you leave. All these little tips help to stop temptations of fast food and high calorie treats along the way. I packed fruit and nuts, homemade muffins, water and multigrain rice crackers in the car.
How lovely are the town’s folk! So hospitable, helpful and uplifting of each other to create business for everyone. We stayed at Diamondvale B&B cottages on recommendation. The stay was lovely with amazing facilities warm hosts (Kerrin and Tony Cridland). The kids were treated to feeding chickens and horses, roasting marshmallows in the fireplace at the Bark Hut which was situated along the creek. We literally had to pry ourselves away from the accommodation to visit the carefully marked out attractions I wanted to see. My preference is to always to seek out self contained accommodation. This helps to control in a positive way most of our eating (but not all). I needed some relaxation time also and didn’t want to cook the whole time I was away. So choosing easy options for meals that did not require a lot of preparation and minimal ingredients was essential.
My plan included having breakfast in the cottage to take advantage of the beautiful sun hitting the porch in the morning. This included sourdough bread with either fat reduced feta, bocconcini, light cheddar or eggs or baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Of course our Tree of Life muesli was also an option and travels with me everywhere. A high fibre easy and filling choice is needed when traveling. Enough ingredients were packed to prepare 2 dinners. Ravioli from PJs at West End (my favourite premade pasta- the vegetarian options are the lowest in calories and in my opinion are the best tasting of the range). So easy to prepare…. Boil for 12 minutes. In the meantime, take 2 tsp EVOO (we bought some oil from Mt Stirling Olives at Stanthorpe) and 1 tsp crushed garlic and sauté. Add a bottle of Passata and if you have some fresh basil, add this and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix the Passata through the ravioli and grate your favourite strong cheese from Stanthorpe cheese on top (the Rex was sensational). The second night I bought Italian pizza bases from Aldi and spread 1 large tbsp of salt reduced tomato paste on each base. I added 1 tsp of crushed garlic and spread this over the base. As this is a quick dinner, I added some ham off the bone and grated reduced fat cheddar on the kid’s pizza and just Kraft higher protein grated cheese on mine. These were perfect flavour filled and easy dinner options for this trip. I later found out that the Bark Hut at Diamondvale B&B cottages had a BBQ facility, so our next trip will include fish/steak/chicken on the BBQ served with a Greek or green salad.
During our travels from Brisbane to Stanthorpe we stopped for lunch at Warwick and scoured the town for a cafe. Not much was open but boy there was every fast food outlet available in this town. We chose subway, it was the best on offer. 6 inch multigrain, chicken teriyaki, no cheese, all the salads and sweet onion sauce. It already sounds like I better keep active this weekend to burn up these carbs!
We arrived at 1pm at Stanthorpe on Saturday, checked in, settled in and crosschecked my choices of food and attractions with Kerrin. She added some extra ideas which was fabulous. That afternoon we headed to Bramble Patch for a very nice coffee and the kids had an amazing berry fruit ice-cream. Of course I had to taste test. This is a great way to have a little to try without having the whole dessert. I also ordered waffles with berry coulis to share among 3 people … for tasting purposes. I felt good that I was able to try these beautiful treats without feeling guilty that I consumed a full dessert.
We ran around with the kids in their beautiful outdoor area for a while. Great family time for usually very time poor parents. Plus burning calories incidentally and in a fun interactive way. The bramble patch had award winning jams, vinegars and relishes. I bought one of each to try. Raspberry Vinegar to try on salads, eggplant chutney as a side to meals and blueberry fruit jam to have with cheese and crackers.
We then head off to Mt Stirling Olives. 500 olive trees and by olive oil standards a small olive plantation. Here we tried many varieties of olives, our favourite being the Manzanillo variety. Some cold pressed EVOO, pressed within 1hr of picking the olives and of course I had to buy kalamata olive tapenade to spread on sourdough or serve with cheese and crackers. What a fantastic start to our weekend. High antioxidant berries and high monounsaturated fats from the olive products added already to our food list.
Sunday, was a lazy start, breakfast, small bush walk around the cottages and off we travelled to Ballendean. Our contributor to our cookbook Peter Scudamore-smith, a wine master, recommended a visit Ballendeans winery, the oldest winery in the region. Stanthorpe wine is largely influenced by its strong Italian migrant community, coming to this region after WWII. Ballendean estate is 5 generations old and we were greeted by a 3rd and 4th generation Ballendean, an Italian family. The wine was fantastic our favourite being the 2014 Merlot and Shiraz Viognier. Even the white Fiano was superb.
We then indulged in the Barrel Room cafe. What a treat… A must try. Make sure you book! I chose sword fish lightly pan fried and served in a seafood bisque with fermented vegetables. Devine! All produce used in the cuisine is sourced locally.
We then changed into our walking gear and headed off to Girraween national park where we undertook 1.5 hours of walking. The whole family enjoyed this and helped with certainly helped diminish our feeling of fullness.
We checked out on Monday and off we went to visit Stanthorpe Cheese, Sutton’s Farm and lastly Ravens Croft winery for some Pinot Gris tasting. Stanthorpe cheese highlights included their mild cheese, mild blue and pepper cheese. Perfect for my cheese platter served with Mt Stirling olives and fresh fruit and sourdough from Sam’s produce. Beautiful Stanthorpe apples and fresh produce such a treat compared to supermarket grade ‘apparently’ fresh produce. The differences here will be further explained in my next blog. At Sutton’s Farm we went apple picking, fruit juice testing, and ate the BEST homemade apple pie you will ever try! We shared the huge portion between four of us. We also indulged in some great coffee before our venture home.
Stanthorpe… Loving your style, food, wine, cheese, fruit and veggies and walking tracks to burn it all off! Perfecto! See you again soon.