December 30, 2008
I saw my first roos today, three of them. Only problem was the first two kangaroos were road kill. The third, well, I saw only a piece of him or her, lying in chunks on my plate, covered with plum sauce.
We were in the dining room of Fergusson’s winery, one of the many small wineries scattered around the Yarra Valley. Our hosts, Charles and Judith Watson, were introducing us to more of the outer suburbs and the country towns and valleys that lie to the northeast of Melbourne. When we stopped at the winery for lunch, Charles encouraged me to try the kangaroo fillet.
I hadn’t been able to taste anything since a bronchial infection invaded in mid-December and was reluctant to waste a taste exploration. So first I sampled the soda bread waiting for us on the table the Watsons had reserved. Since I could actually taste it, I opted for the culinary experience of native meat.
The flavour of the kangaroo was surprisingly subtle, the meat completely devoid of fat. The Fergusson’s chef had roasted the lean fillet gently, leaving it slightly pink. The meal was accompanied by rich potato gratin and a salad of baby spinach, pecans, and roast pumpkin.
So I’m sold on ‘roo as an option for the rare red meat we eat. Since kangaroos are native and don’t fart methane, they’re a more environmentally sound choice anyway.
As to the salad, I can’t recall ever seeing pumpkin on a North American salad menu. What we call “squash”, Australians call “pumpkin”. No matter the variety of squash (and there are fewer than in Canada), it is all “pumpkin”. Here in Oz it is used more extensively than in North America. Pumpkin shows up in soup, salad, and casseroles, as side dishes and main courses. It’s all delicious for those of us who love the sweet flesh of this long-lasting vegetable.
The day with the Watsons was my first chance to see cockatoos in the wild. They were in Warrandyte, a suburb on the north side of Melbourne. The birds were drawn to the seeds provided by the owners of an antique store with attached restaurant.
Sharing the seeds that dropped from the feeders was a galah. I’m enchanted with the pink-chested, grey-backed birds, but the truth is they’re about as useful as starlings. Calling someone a “silly galah” is common slang and definitely not a compliment.
But I’m getting ahead of myself because on the 27th Darren and Nat drove us out into the countryside northwest of Melbourne to visit Daylesford. It’s another of the lively small communities “the kids” (Robin’s children and their partners) think might be the kind of place we’d enjoy calling home.
This being school holidays, Daylesford was packed with visitors, many of them families. Set in spa country and home to a growing gay community, the town is a hilly, tree-lined charmer. It’s about an hour and a half out of Melbourne, but it is definitely a good candidate for a livable, small town.
On the 29th Richard and Marie Clivaz took us on a drive through countryside that reminded us of the Okanagan. That’s not homesickness talking here. You can see by the view from the Yarra Valley division of the French winery, Domaine Chandon, that the region has many vistas that resemble our British Columbian wine valley. The flora are different, but the views are similar.
Although this was not our first foray into the Yarra Valley, we saw many parts of it for the first time and other parts from different directions. Yarra Glen was one of those. Approaching from a new direction made the town more interesting. We saw enough of the surrounding neighbourhoods to see it as a town with possibilities large enough and far enough from Melbourne (so not just a bedroom community) to be a place where we could get involved with the community. One more option to consider.