2 January 2022

2021 Year in Review: A dozen food and wine stories to sink your teeth into

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2021 may have been the year of the air fryer but, when it comes to food and wine, it seems the palates of About Regional readers are far more sophisticated.

From a food-lovers guide to Bungendore, to truffles, cider and sweet treats, we had it all. Pour yourself something cold and enjoy a taste of a dozen of our favourites from across the region.

12. Margaret’s brainchild guides visitors along a high country trail

Margaret Sedgwick standing next to Batlow sign.

Margaret Sedgwick is the brains behind the High Country Cider, Wine and Food Trail map. Photo: Supplied.

It’s the apple of Batlow’s eye, and there are high hopes a new self-guided High Country Cider, Wine and Food Trail will help clinch the Snowy Valley town’s spot on visitors’ agendas in coming months.

The freshly minted idea is the brainchild of one of Batlow’s long-time residents, Margaret Sedgwick, and it comes in the form of a map being distributed to shops, countertops and visitor centres in the region in a bid to get business booming.

“It was one of those ideas that comes to you in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep,” Margaret said. “I was thinking about how we could help the town and then it dawned on me.”

11. Hot in the country: discover The Baker at Sutton

Baked sweet goods at The Bakery at Sutton

Freshly baked sweet treats fill the counter at The Bakery at Sutton. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

Let us introduce you to Nick Smith, the owner of The Baker at Sutton – the popular and delicious bakehouse in the village north of Canberra.

The Sutton bakery is not big on self-promotion. In fact, a quick Google search can leave you wondering, “Who is The Baker at Sutton?”.

While its website is like a baker’s Pinterest board, revealing photo after photo of perfectly baked sourdoughs, Danish pastries oozing with boysenberries, and cakes you want to stick a fork into, there’s nothing about its people.

10. Sue’s big plans to bring South Coast cheese factory back to life

Sue Melotte sitting at table reading development application.

Sue Melotte is aiming to revive a historic cheese factory in Moruya, and add a microbrewery by the end of 2021. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

When Brigadier Sue Melotte considered her retirement, the ACT woman approached it with all the planning and precision that stood her in good stead as the Department of Defence Director General Logistics Systems.

She knew whatever she chose would have to be a passion; a project that would challenge, but not consume her.

“I’d been looking to buy something down the coast, looking for opportunities, for some time,” says Sue, who has big plans to revive The Cheddar House historic cheese factory in Moruya, and aims to add a microbrewery as part of the project.

9. A food-lover’s guide to Bungendore

The Gathering, Bungendore

Corn fritters with poached eggs, home-made relish and parmesan at The Gathering. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

Just half an hour’s drive east of Canberra, the pretty town of Bungendore has morphed into a gourmet food destination without us even knowing it.

From cooking classes and cellar door experiences to authentic French food and pub grub that’s a cut above your usual fare, Bungendore has all the ingredients for the perfect gourmet getaway.

Follow our itinerary for a fully formed weekend (or midweek) break, or pick and choose your favourite epicurean experiences to enjoy over several visits.

8. The hunt for truffles ripens in Snowy Mountains and Bega Valley

Truffle grower Olivier Kapetanakos with his partner and dog.

Truffle grower Olivier Kapetanakos with his partner Jacquie and dog Rocko. Photos: Supplied.

Australia is predicted to become the second-largest global producer of truffles within 10 years, and growers located in NSW’s cooler climates are establishing truffières (truffle orchards) in preparation.

Olivier Kapetanakos and his partner planted 400 trees, mostly French oaks and some hazelnuts, on two hectares on their farm stay, Avonside Alpine Estate, near Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, in 2020.

They hope to harvest their first truffles in winter 2024, and see potential in selling their Snowy Mountains Truffles to domestic restaurants and establishing a truffle hunt for tourists.

7. Jugiong: the jewel of the South West Slopes

Exterior of The Sir George in Jugiong.

The Sir George has stood on this corner in Jugiong since the town’s early days. It is a little upstream from its predecessor, which washed away in floods. Photo: Supplied.

In the South West Slopes town of Jugiong, there’s so much to see and do, you can arrive for breakfast and leave five days later.

Among the attractions is The Sir George. The impeccably restored old pub has led the renaissance of the little town that used to be a dot on the Hume Highway. Its thick-stoned, double-storey occupation of the corner of Jugiong Road and Riverside Drive is as good a citadel for the little colony that swirls around it.

6. A food-lover’s guide to Braidwood

The Albion Cafe, Braidwood

Bridgette Sly at Albion Cafe with a plate of her carrot cake made with a family recipe. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

The small town of Braidwood in the NSW Southern Tablelands, less than an hour’s drive from Canberra, is not just a pretty face. A burgeoning food scene has cool cafes and eclectic restaurants sitting side by side with producers of everything from honey and black garlic to mountain pepper-flavoured pastas.

Among Braidwood’s gourmet highlights is the Albion Café, housed in a beautiful state heritage-listed building on Braidwood’s main street. Owners Bridgette and Brendan Sly have sustainability down pat, sourcing locally grown, seasonal ingredients and letting the flavours shine.

5. The Institutions: Queanbeyan’s Melita Coffee Lounge still going strong after 33 years

Denis and Eleni Sakkas at Melita

Denis Sakkas and his mum Eleni, 95, who still works in the kitchen at Melita Coffee Lounge. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Blink and you might miss it, but Melita Coffee Lounge has been serving Queanbeyan’s busy Monaro Street for decades.

The unassuming cafe on Queanbeyan’s busiest street wouldn’t win any awards for its décor. Beige walls completely unadulterated by pictures, a smattering of bare wooden tables and chairs lining its periphery, and a drinks fridge and a small display of cakes and slices at the service counter are pretty much the shape of things as you step inside Melita Coffee Lounge.

But looks clearly aren’t everything because, in the notoriously fickle world of hospitality, where cafes can come and go in an instant, owner Denis Sakkas and his parents have been part of the local landscape for 33 years.

4. Nostalgic nights at Jameson’s On the Pier

Nick and Pat Jameson

Nick and Pat Jameson at Jameson’s On the Pier. Photo: Supplied.

In the 1990s, back when going out to a restaurant was something we took for granted, there was still something special about a night at Jameson’s On the Pier.

As the only truly waterfront restaurant in Batemans Bay, Jameson’s was the place for celebrations – engagements, wedding anniversaries, birthdays and date nights were all marked by lunch or dinner literally on the pier by the northern edge of the Clyde River.

Nick and Pat Jameson ran the show, welcoming hordes of Canberrans each weekend eager to enjoy their famous seafood platter or crème brûlée.

3. Hot in the country: Boorowa’s new chic cafe and wine bar

The Marsden St General owners Isabel Gorham and Toyha Williams Johnson.

The Marsden St General owners Isabel Gorham (left) and Toyha Williams Johnson (right). Photo: Hannah Sparks.

If ever there was a breath of fresh air in Boorowa, it was the opening of The Marsden St General cafe and pantry, and The Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar.

These two businesses are reinventing what was once a bush town reliant on groceries, fuel and rural supplies.

Bright and chic, The Marsden St General is a contemporary cafe and pantry that’s lifting the face of the main street.

2. Justin Hemmes set to bring city chic to Narooma

Justin Hemmes, CEO of Merivale

Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes. Photo: Supplied.

When Justin Hemmes joined a 11 am interview via Facetime, we expected him to be sitting inside a flash Sydney office.

Instead, he appeared at ease in a sunny room at his Glasshouse Rocks property in Narooma which he purchased in 2015.

Some were surprised by the hotel billionaire’s recent move onto the unspoilt coastal town’s bar scene, but for Hemmes, this is his second home.

1. Braidwood Bakery moving to new home after 89 years

Croissant in oven

After 89 years, Braidwood Bakery is moving to a new location, allowing more goods to be baked on-site. Photo: Braidwood Bakery Facebook.

After 89 years, Braidwood Bakery is set to move from its home at 99 Wallace Street to a new, larger building down the road.

Bakery owner Keith Woodman has been waiting on council approval to start construction on a new site at 87-91 Lascelles Street.

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