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It’s not every day you get whisked away to Australia for an afternoon.

No twenty(plus)-hour flight.  No having to figure out how to drive on the wrong side of a car on the wrong side of a road (which may be especially problematic given that your driving skills have acquired four years worth of rust).  No koalas hanging from tree branches outside your window.

Just a crosstown cab ride on a rainy day, and there you are.

(Although, for the record, once you’ve spent an entire afternoon immersed in Australian food, wine and culture, you will pretty much be begging for the opportunity to go and spend a few weeks there.  Or at least, I’m not ashamed to say, I did.)

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Okay, what am I talking about?

Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend a luncheon sponsored by BlogHer and Tourism Australia at The Sunburnt Calf in NYC, where I got to learn about why I need to go to Australia immediately (and I do), all while eating food that was inspired by Australian cuisine and hanging out with some of my favorite bloggers.

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While those who have never been to Australia don’t tend to think of its food as being exceptional, travelers who have vacationed there pretty much unanimously say otherwise.  One of my coworkers who dines at high-end restaurants in New York almost every weekend just came back from a three-week vacation Down Under and said she did not have a single bad meal during her entire stay, which is really high praise from her.  So to say I was excited at the prospect of a meal based entirely on Australian ingredients and specialties is an understatement.

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Our meal began with a splash of Australian wine and an array of shared appetizers.  There were mushrooms stuffed with mushroom mousse and topped with Manchego, steamed bao with both meat and vegetarian fillings, fried oysters atop a bed of pickled mushrooms and bacon-infused butter, and a classic prawn cocktail.  I tasted both the stuffed mushrooms and the vegetarian bao, and both were incredibly delicious. I am typically a bit squeamish about mushrooms, but I absolutely would have eaten a whole tray of both of these!

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For our main course, we were given a choice of a barbecued Barramundi fillet (a fish caught in the waters surrounding Australia), grilled Australian rack of lamb, or a Moroccan vegetable tagine.  I opted for the last of these and was so happy with how richly flavored it was – I could literally smell the spices coming off it from across the table.

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In addition to getting to eat delicious food, one of my favorite parts of this event was getting to hear from native Aussies about what living and eating in Australia is like.  A representative was present from each of the nation’s states, and each one talked to us about what made his or her region unique.

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To be honest, I’m not even sure that I knew before this that Australia even HAD states. (My geography-obsessed boyfriend is hanging is head in shame at the thought of such ignorance.)

However, now I know that North South Wales (and Sydney in particular) is rife with cultural diversity and, food-wise, there is a huge emphasis being placed on garden-to-plate eating and vine-to-glass wine drinking.

Queensland, while largely known for the Great Barrier Reef, also boasts award-winning restaurants, wineries and alehouses.

South Australia has a ton of food events going on: Savour Australia, which is going to be Australia’s first ever global wine forum; Tasting Australia 2014; and, if you’re in Adelaide, the Central Market, which is filled with a huge range of fresh and locally grown produce and meats, seafood, gourmet cheeses, and baked goods, among other things.

Melbourne, located in Victoria, has a rich coffee culture (so you know that’s where I’ll be beelining as soon as I set foot on Australian soil).

Western Australia is home to many a black truffle mushroom.

In the Northern Territory there is a big push to encourage indigenous chefs to cultivate their skills.

And last, but certainly not least, is Tasmania, which, with the world’s cleanest air and purest water, sounds like a paradise unto itself.

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We also got to hear from Australian chef Michael Moore, who is a leader and innovator in the Australian culinary scene.  He owns O Bar and Dining, where guests get to eat with gorgeous views of Sydney right before their eyes. He was extremely enthusiastic about Australian food and wine, describing Australian food as a state of mind.

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It was a wonderful afternoon, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end.  We were treated to a lovely dessert of pavlova with kiwis, mangos and passion fruit sauce; and peach melba with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.  They were the perfect sweet bites to end such a lovely experience.

All in all, after eating and learning everything I had, I have a much better appreciation for the Australian food and wine scene and am convinced that it is something I need to experience at least once in my life. Not only that, but the country is a natural wonder filled with stunning landscapes and wildlife that you just can’t find anywhere else.  It is certainly a destination worth considering when planning your next vacation, and I really hope I have the chance to go in the next few years.  It was fun for an afternoon, but such a short time just wasn’t enough…and now I definitely want more.

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You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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55 Responses to The Great Down Under

  1. grace says:

    what! i’m so envious right now, joanne! australia is the bee’s knees. 🙂

  2. Wow, what an amazing evening! Each one of those dishes is so beautiful! Makes me want to go to Australia 🙂

  3. Seriously, when do we get to go? I am completely sold.

  4. What a wonderful meal and event! How FUN!

  5. Johanna GGG says:

    Oh I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear the presentations – I suspect I might have had a different take on Australia – esp as I would give you a Melbourne-centric presentation – sounds like yours was Sydney-centric – but at least you were savvy enough to know to make a beeline for Melbourne when you arrive – I do agree that you should get over here and look around – there is lots of fascinating culture and food to see – just let me know and I will give you some recommendations and show you about 🙂

  6. Faith says:

    Ok, I’ll be hanging in Melbourne with you. 🙂 What a beautiful meal and incredible experience.

  7. Sara Potter says:

    OMG. I was there for a month in May 2009 and have been trying to figure out a way back ever since. The food was indeed amazing, but it was the passion fruit in particular that I still dream about. This was so simple, but passion fruit + yogurt + drizzle of honey (all from a farmers’ market in Byron Bay) = best. breakfast. EVER.

    Also, if you’re in Melbourne…I loved the Vegie (sic) Bar in Fitzroy. Absolutely go if you can!

  8. Everything looks/sounds delicious but I wonder how Australian is Manchego and steamed bao:)
    North South Wales – New South Wales:)

  9. That looks like a stellar meal – my mouth is watering! Would LOVE to go to Australia one day…

  10. Amy says:

    I know everything about Australia from watching The Thorn Birds mini series 57 times. Surely I can’t be the only one? Um…. Paul and I were supposed to go to New Zealand and Australia for our honeymoon, but it never happened. I’ve probably told that story about 57 times. Zzzzz. Still want to go. And now I want to go even more!

  11. I would have loved this event. Australia is at the top of my list of places I want to visit. My sister may be studying abroad there in the fall. I am so jealous!

  12. Natalie G says:

    All of that food looks incredible. Never been to Australia but would love to visit one day.

  13. Mary Younkin says:

    The food all looks incredible, Joanne. What a fun night.

  14. Danielle says:

    sounds like an amazing experience.

  15. sandra says:

    wow – that sounds so scrumptious. I wish I could have been there. I never thought of Australian as the culinary hub it appears to be. Thanks for enlightening me.

  16. Erica says:

    Wow! What an amazing meal!It sounds like a wonderful event,Joanne!Thanks for sharing!

  17. Foodycat says:

    Yeah, looks about right. Which is nice, because as an ex-pat it can be really embarrassing seeing “Australian” food done outside Australia.

  18. Pam says:

    What fun! Everything looks absolutely delicious! Going to Australia is on my bucket list.

  19. Beth says:

    Australia is pretty much at the top of my wish list. I’m dying to go there – Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania are the places I HAVE to see, but I’d gladly visit anywhere. Loved the rundown of the food too!

  20. Eileen says:

    What an amazing experience! I have to admit, at first I thought that slice of strawberry was perched on a perfectly poached egg. But the pavlova makes a whole lot more sense, especially considering Australian cuisine. I wonder what excuse we can make to jet off to Sydney… 🙂

  21. Wish we could eat like we did everyday…sigh. Love your photos!

  22. what the what?!?!?! girl, you are so lucky! evert single picture is dreamy! this makes me want to go to australia, not for the big waves but for the food. yum!

  23. Jeanette says:

    What a fun event – I learned so much – had no idea how diverse Australian food was! Vacationing and eating my way through Australia is on my bucket list.

  24. Karen says:

    That’s some beautiful food!

  25. Guru Uru says:

    Aaaaah welcome to my country my friend 😀
    Enjoy it!

    Cheers
    CCU

  26. Anonymous says:

    As I am from New Zealand, I would just like to throw out there that the Pavlova is a NZ dessert! I am glad you got to visit Aus though, some other (truly Australian!) great foods for sure.

  27. OohLookBel says:

    That food looks utterly delicious and fairly typical of what you get over here in Aust. You’d love Melbourne, too – it has the best coffee and little cafes.

  28. What a delicious lunch! I have a few friends who live in Australia and I definitely want to visit someday, too!

  29. Erica Louise says:

    Yey! Glad to read this blog post Joanne, greetings from Melbourne, Australia! Hope you do get to visit one day, you’ll love Melbourne, a foodie’s dream, with lots of delicious vegetarian options.

  30. Lisa Scully says:

    I arrived here 21 years ago in May for a 6 month holiday 🙂 I met my husband the day I got off the plane and am still here in the beautiful sunshine and on the beach!!!
    http://www.sweetsofstyle.com

  31. Monet says:

    What a wonderful meal! Some of our best friends live in Australia. I can’t wait to visit and try some of this cuisine! Thank you for sharing, sweet friend. This whetted my appetite for dinner (and dessert!)

  32. When I was in Sydney, it seems like every restaurant was Asian, so I had fantastic Thai food, Malaysian food, etc., but I can’t really recall something purely “Australian” that I ate. It was all great though, and everything you ate looks fantastic too!

  33. That Girl says:

    Mostly what I know about Australian food is relegated to their lamb!

  34. Dining Alone says:

    Everything looks delicious! I am geography challenged also, I told my husband I don’t even remember them teaching us world geography in school!

  35. Holy crap, I want every single plate! And who knew that Australia had states? You learn something every single day.

  36. What a fantastic experience! Having travelled there often I can imagine how much you enjoyed this 🙂

  37. What a delicious and great culinary experience! I love those vegetarian pao sandwiches! The scallops looks terrific too.

  38. Donna says:

    OOOh OOOOOOh – can I go with you when you go Down Under???

  39. You can’t eat clean air and clear water ;). Down here in Tassie we have a plethora of gorgeousness and our wine it amazing. You might want to postpone your trip till it warms up a bit. It’s officially the vernal equinox and autumn has finally hit here HOORAY! Time for all kinds of lovely things for winter…come and share in spring and summer but winter is ours 😉 Glad you enjoyed Aussie food and good to hear that the word has gotten out about how great our food is down here. It’s quite a way to come for a shrimp on the barbie though 😉

  40. Kari says:

    This post was so exciting! It is definitely not every day that I get to see my country mentioned on an American blog in such a favourable way 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed it – and please do come visit! We’re an awfully long way away, but I promise we’re nice.

  41. P says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Australia…especially when it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere :P!

    Looks like the event was a blast!

  42. Colynn O says:

    Delicious! Your pictures are amazing. What a great experience. I would also lovvvve to get over to Australia in the near future. Everything about it is so intriguing, from its food and wine scene to its natural wonders. Nice post.

  43. Reeni Pisano says:

    Everything is mouth-watering delicious! I would love to eat my through Australia!

  44. What a fantastic opportunity to experience the flavors of Australia! The scallops made me stop dead. Just love ’em. Everything looks perfect.

  45. Umm that food looks incredible. Now I want a second dinner…

  46. Glad you enjoyed your experience. It is very important that you now know we have states in our country for without that information you would have had all kinds of trouble. Our food is very influenced by Asia, which is good because our climate is more suitable to growing Asian vegetables. That said that is not all we do well. I am sure you would have no end of people willing to show you around…get to it. BTW if you thought that food looked good it is nothing on the real thing. Sydney, Melbourne, Tassie go to ALL

  47. You totally need to come visit 😀 !!!!!!!

  48. Karis says:

    What a fun event! If I could tolerate long plane rides I’d book a trip to Australia today.

  49. Candace says:

    I’m pretty sure I need to hop the first plane to Australia. The food not only looks amazingly delicious; but it’s so beautiful too!

  50. ah, more reasons i need to get to australia!! what a fun event 🙂

  51. Laura says:

    I want to live in a city! Where thingslike this happen! And there is more than 6 restaurants! OK not really, you know I love my creek, but still. Jealous.

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