It’s rare that you can strike gold on the South Coast but for those prepared to go on a bit of a hunt, opportunities abound thanks to a new venture announced ahead of the launch of an initiative promoting the region’s quality and diverse producers.
And while gold nuggets might still be rare, culinary gold – in the form of truffles – will have prospectors salivating.
Gulaga Gold, the first truffiere on the South Coast, was established by Fiona Kotvojs and Alan Burdon in Dignams Creek at the foothills of Mount Gulaga and has produced truffles commercially for the last three winters.
Their truffles and new truffle hunt will form part of the Gourmet Coast Trail to be launched in May, which is an initiative by Dr Kotvojs, Mountain View tomato grower Greg Lissaman and Breakfast Creek winemaker Lucy Wilson and is designed to showcase the region’s incredible food and beverages.
“This area, people just don’t realise what we’ve got,” Dr Kotvojs said.
“I hadn’t realised how much we had or the diversity and quality until I started this.
“We have more than any other area of Australia. We need to put it together and use it as a resource.”
More than 30 businesses have joined the venture and range from Batemans Bay to Eden then east to Nimmitabel, featuring cheese, gin, oysters, abalone, wine, beer, dairies, gelato and, of course, truffles.
It will even feature a business allowing people to have a picnic with gourmet produce in a field of flowers – so once you finish eating you can pick daisies.
“Basically, you name it and I think we’ve now got it somewhere on the trail,” Dr Kotvojs said.
The trail will feature member businesses on a website to show users where they can find quality produce, then will also suggest a huge range of food trails.
For instance, if you follow the dairy trail you could watch poddy calves being fed, go for breakfast or dinner at venues with a focus on dairy and find businesses selling cheese or gelato.
There will also be geographic trails such as what to do if you are staying in Bermagui, as well as suggested day itineraries for groups like cyclists or families with children.
Dr Kotvojs said the aim of the Gourmet Coast Trail is to move the region beyond a summer-based tourism season to one that will provide year-round jobs and increase employment, as well as to provide better returns for local primary producers for their products.
“It all comes back to how I want kids to have the option to chose to stay and enjoy the area, I don’t want them to have to go away like I did,” she said.
Dr Kotvojs said her truffle hunts were something a family could enjoy as it was an outdoor experience, while those without children would find there was a romance to the activity.
“There’s a mystery to truffles, we still don’t know all the elements of why they form,” she said.
“We’re improving our understanding of truffles all the time – 10 years ago it was very much a black box. But we still don’t know everything about them.”
Part of the romance behind the fungi is that they are a hidden produce and cannot be found without dogs.
Dr Kotvojs said those on their hunting trips will see locally-trained truffle dogs in action – the cunning canines walk up and down sniffing for their prey, then signal a find by putting their nose on the ground or staring.
If the truffle is ripe it can be harvested, but if not ripe then it is left there because they will not ripen if disturbed.
At the end of the hunt people can taste foods based on truffles like cheese and even vodka or gin.
Dr Kotvojs said the truffle industry was taking off in Australia and the country was fast becoming a major player internationally.
Her truffles have been served at local restaurants since 2018 and those exported to the North American market have been recognised as of the highest quality.
While the industry is booming in places like Tasmania, Western Australia and Canberra, Dr Kotvojs said truffles were like oysters in that they tasted different depending on the location they were grown – the different soil, sun and air resulting in unique products.
To learn more about truffle hunting with Gulaga Gold click here.